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The View of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)… “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Let’s turn our attention to what Paul has to say about the cross of Christ as the great divider of people. First, notice how the unbeliever views the cross. Paul sums up the unbeliever’s response to the cross in graphic words: ‘The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing …’ (1:18)

Take note of how Paul characterizes the unbeliever. He is ‘perishing’. That is a present participle. Christians often tell their unsaved friends to turn to Christ, or they will perish in eternal destruction, but the truth is that the unbeliever is even now in the process of perishing. The apostle John says the unbeliever is ‘condemned already’ and even now, ‘The wrath of God abides on him’ (John 3:18, 36).

With this word ‘perishing’, we already have in hand proof of the inadequacy of human wisdom. Man’s first problem is that he is utterly blind to his own condition. He has the ability to do many wonderful things. He can probe outer space, work medical wonders and make all kinds of time-saving gadgets, but he is hopelessly blind to his own nature. He constantly sees the effects produced by his evil nature: drug addiction, crime, corruption in government, deterioration of his environment, war, sexually transmitted diseases. However, he refuses to face up to his sinfulness. He looks at these and other problems and says the solution is more education. So he pours more and more money and effort into education, only to see evil flow on unabated. If man were truly wise, he would be able to see that the problem is rooted in his own nature.

The cross of Christ is God’s answer to evil. It shows evil as such a serious and dreadful reality that it required nothing less than that the very Son of God should himself become a man and die. That same cross declares that his death is sufficient for man to be delivered from evil.

When the believer looks at the cross he sees something different. To him the cross is light years away from being an object of ridicule and contempt. To him the cross is nothing less than ‘the power of God’ (1:18, 24) and ‘the wisdom of God’ (1:24).

The cross is the power of God to the believer because it is the source of his transformation which results in a new nature. This change is so great that Jesus compared it to being ‘born again’ (John 3:3). Paul went so far as to say, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new’ (2 Cor. 5:17).[1]

[1] Ellsworth, R. (1995). Strengthening Christ’s Church: The Message of 1 Corinthians (p. 29). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.


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