The “Foolish” Message

Basis: I Corinthians 1:26-2:5

Tonight we revisit this book which we studied weeks ago. In the Ancient Greek world, greatness was defined by three words: Intelligence, Money and Position. These concepts shaped what’s great and noble. This is the world’s concept even until today. However, their concept of greatness was turned upside down by the so called “Foolish” Message.

For the Greeks, a man is great when he possess superior intellect or banks huge amount of wealth or properties. A person is great wen he is powerful, influential- whether because of his position, connection, looks or talents. That’s why their concept of gods were defined by these characteristics- their gods are beautiful, rich and powerful. Even our unbelieving culture today portray the concept of greatness by becoming rich, beautiful or handsome and powerful.
When the Gospel was preached to the Greeks, they heard of a God who became a man, they stumbled. The message also tells that this God suffered under a brutal punishment as a criminal, and his death was the payment for the wrath of the Father for our evil. His death is our salvation. Hearing this “foolish message”, their concept of greatness was even more offended.
For them, it is foolishness to follow a God who was weak and was murdered like a criminal. However, for those who believe that good news, that message was the power of God. It is a message that gives overpowers the current powers within us, and overrides the prevailing dominions that keep their hearts in bondage.
But the Christian Life has a different message. It’s the opposite of what the world considers great. It’s a paradox. It’s something like you have to die, in order to live; Surrender, in order to win; Stoop down, to be lifted up.
When the Corinthians became Christians in Corinth, Paul seemed to note that some of them in the past were: famous, wealthy, educated, powerful or influential.
Two things:
  1. The new Christians, before they met Christ, were influential, wealthy or powerful but they lost it when they followed Christ.
  2. Or they look at themselves powerless compared to the world.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble; (1;26)
“Consider your calling” (v.26)
They believed Christ but they also began to see themselves as small and invaluable, or at least to the world. They see the unbelievers as powerful and great, and they became discouraged and belittled by the world’s greatness, power and wealth.
Paul told them to “consider their calling”, which means they have to turn away from the world and look towards their calling. To consider means to “look at, perceive, realize, regard” their calling. When you begin to see your “smallness” as a Christian and compare yourself to the “greatness” of those who don’t believe God, consider. Turn your eyes from the world, and turn it to your calling- and that involves the Caller. Who is your Caller? How were you called? From where were you called out?
Calling refers to the saving call of God. It’s also called effectual calling. It is an event in our life where we were called out of darkness into the marvelous light of God. It was the moment of Exodus, a moment when we were set free from the chains of Pharaoh and were given freedom. A moment when we were unchained from the wearisome tasks of Egypt and were led to the Promised Land that was flowing with milk and honey.
Paul said: Remember this. Consider this. Above all the achievements, the wealth, the fame of the world, above all greatness of Egypt, look at your Exodus. It’s a call to take away our eyes on yourself, seeing how small your are, how weak you are, how powerless you are; it is also a call to take away your eyes from looking at the intimidating roars of the world, the loud and proud shouts of their so called success, the boastings of unbelieving Pharaohs; and it is a call to look at how God marvelously rescues us from the power and tragedy of sin. It is a call to stop looking at the smallness of our wilderness experience, stop looking at the attractiveness of Egypt, and start looking at the beauty and glory of our Deliverance and Destination.
Overseas Filipino Workers and Bad Employers
I remember watching news about Overseas Filipino Workers who risked their lives trying to find a better life and job abroad. Some unfortunately fell into the hands of abusive masters. Some go home without anything at hand except scars and bad memories. When they arrive at the Philippine airport, their faces display visible signs of relief, knowing that they are now out of the hands of their cruel master and into the loving arms of their home.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that you were saved not because you were wise, rich, or famous, or brilliant. Paul said that if any of you are, God saved you not because of these, but in spite of these. In fact, they have to be thankful, because if they were brilliant, famous or rich, that could have been a hindrance to Grace and Salvation. It’s more likely that they self-sufficiency hindered them from coming to Christ. When people are drowned in the sea of intelligence, money or power, these often keep them from realizing their need for salvation. Riches or fame have often blinded people from begging for mercy.
God is not looking for millionaires to save and to do his work; we should remember that Christ both loves the rich young man and the poor people of His time. This doesn’t mean that all great men won’t be saved. But this means that people won’t be saved by their money, fame or wisdom, but we will be saved by Christ alone. Poverty or insufficiency in this life are often times the things that give us that sense of inadequacy and draws us to the gospel.
One time, Jesus prayed, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes” (Matt. 11:25). Jesus prayed this publicly for men and God to hear. He wanted to know that God only wanted their faith and nothing else. Some millionaire or intelligent person might breed pride that keeps them from knowing the Savior. Poverty, weakness and insufficiency are oftentimes the climate that make man’s faith thrive. But of course, there are exceptions. Christ emphasized it that it’s human intelligence is not the measurement of God’s calling to salvation.
The Christian Life, again, is a paradox. The strongest things in the world, are the weakest things to God. The weakest things in the world, are the strongest things to God. The richest people of the world without Jesus, are the poorest people in God’s eyes. The poorest people who believe in Christ are the richest people in God’s eyes.
An uneducated, elementary grad peasant who trusted in Christ and faithfully follows the Lord is wiser than the most brilliant PhD who mocks the Gospel. The simple uneducated believer knows God, Christ, His mercy and grace, and has a wonderful salvation and direction towards eternity; but the unbelieving PhD knows nothing but his books, his own biases and experience. He sees nothing beyond this life, and that is true foolishness.
The Measurement of Greatness
The world has different standards and set of beliefs as to what are important, but God has a different set of values. The standards of God and the world are opposite to each other. The unbelieving world has different things that they value and applaud.
The world measures greatness by many standards. The world’s top values are intelligence, wealth, prestige and position. But these standards are placed by God at the lowest. God somebodies are the world’s nobodies; His standard of greatness is not like the world’s standards.
We may often wish that powerful and famous people will become Christians- actors, actress, politician, musician- we rejoice when one becomes a follower. But Jesus did not think this way when He chose His disciples. When He chose them, he did not go to the palace of Herod, nor the noble places of his time. He went to the streets, the lake, the villages. None of those He chose are really that great. Some of them may have influence or money, but Jesus chose these 12 peculiar men.
Until today, the unbelieving world would look at Christians with mockery from their pedestal. The simplicity of the Gospel and the humility of faithful believers are just offending to the world. For them, it is foolishness to follow a crucified savior. The Lord want it this way:
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and… has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are. (1:27-28)
Despised– means to be considered nothing. Faithful followers will be considered as nothing by the intelligent world, the wealthy world and the famous world. Following Christians is not that “considerable.” They are “nobody” in the society. The original language is in the present progressive tense, meaning, Christians have been despised and will continue to be despised. We will be rejected and despised, but the fact is that God has chosen us as His.
Being despised is one of the most insulting word in the Greek because the Greeks are obsessed by becoming a “somebody” in the society. One must be an achiever, an influencer, a famous statesman, one who is wealthy or intelligent. For the unbelieving, Christianity is equivalent to being worthless.
That no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1:29-31)
Why did God chose the foolish things of the world? So that no man will boast before God (1:29-31). The first product of salvation is the Glory of God. No one and nothing gets the glory when a man is saved except God and God alone. The very first thing salvation does to a person is that he becomes a person that has seen the Glory of God.
If you face God in the next life and He asks you, why are you saved and others are not? Will we say, “because I am more intelligent, wise and powerful than others.”? Did God chose to save you because you were better than others? If someone says that, he is boasting.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “not by your works so that no one should boast.” Humility is the mark of true salvation. Nothing to boast. We are just subject of his “choosing” or his grace. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”
Sinners are not saved by their intelligence, accomplishments or human wisdom but by God’s grace, and that alone gives God the glory.
The person of the world cannot receive the wisdom of God- this wisdom refers to God’s plan for the world, His character, His Will, His purpose. This includes why we are existing and where we are going. Yet the most uneducated believer in Christ is more enlightened than all the scholars and philosophers of the world.
Three things that Christ and God’s Wisdom become of us:
righteousness and sanctification, and redemption- the package of salvation.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (2:1-2)
The division in their group was caused by human philosophy. But again Paul emphasized to them they he came with one priority- to preach the Gospel. Just like a witness a courtroom, Paul was there to give his witness, not his own speculation.
We should not come to fellowship to hear human opinions in politics, psychology, economics. We should come to hear the Word exposed through and by the message giver. God’s Word unites, human opinions confuse and divde.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (2:3-5)
Paul warned that in the future, many congregations will  not want their pastors to preach only the Word. They “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4)
It was said that the great Revivalist Preacher Jonathan Edwards read his sermons so he won’t preach anything except the Word of God.
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
This means that he preached the whole counsel of God, in which the central message was the cross. In order for a man to be saved, he must understand and embrace the significance of the cross.
In was known in the ancient world that Christians worship a dead man.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (2:3-5)
Weakness, fear, and trembling does not refer to lack of boldness of Paul in preaching the Gospel. But His fear of having the gospel rejected. He was fearful and trembling that the Gospel will not take root in the hearts of the hearers. He was not afraid of losing his own life, his own comforts, but for sure he has his own weaknesses too.
message and… preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom.
If people are saved only by man’s persuasive words, there is no true salvation. Many have responded only by emotional appeal of the Gospel; but without the true power of God, hearers will be left in their sins without a Savior. Paul had talents and abilities, but He did not rely on them. Paul did not want to rely on his own wisdom or other philosophy.
A critic once came to a pastor, “Look at your convert, look at his life and vices.” The pastor responded, maybe he is just my convert, and my follower; and not a follower of Christ.”
Only God’s Spirit and power can rescue men from the power of darkness and bring sinners to Himself. No human philosophy can do this. If the eloquence of men saves souls, then people may change intellectually but not spiritually. If man’s eloquence is the power to save souls, then we can preach until we die, but no single soul will ever be converted.
The world values a different sent of priorities. Yet the most powerful and valuable commodity the whole world ever had was that Foolish Messsage, which in turn, the wisdom that will unite us.

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