Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

The Cross and Human Wisdom

For the sake of argument, let’s just say for a moment that you did not know anything about the Gospel of Jesus or His story. There is no Scripture to tell us anything about it. You have no concept of a crucified and risen Savior.

If there is a God who wanted to show grace to humanity, save people from evil, and give them true purpose, how would he do it? What ideas would you bring to the table to make this a palatable action on His part? How do you think it ought to have been done? Again, you don’t know anything about the story of Jesus. How would God do it? How should God do it? What is the best way to get this done? What, in your own wisdom and understanding, would work best to deal with evil?

Whatever you just came up with is an idea that was derived purely by human wisdom. Would anyone have actually come up with the idea of taking a Jewish peasant from Galilee, making outrageous claims of being divine, constantly offending people, and then having him crucified as a criminal in the most shameful, humiliating way and then raising him from the dead? Neither Jews nor Gentiles of the first century would have done so either.

Compare the world’s wisdom with what the Gospel teaches:

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).

There is no way to arrive at knowing God through human wisdom. Why, then, would God have actually done it the way He did it? Why do it in a way that human wisdom would not have created or fabricated? Why do it in a way that offends the most basic sense of human wisdom? Because…

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:28-29).

God chose what is low and despised in the world to carry out the plan. By human wisdom, no one would have liked this. Coming up with a way to come to God by human wisdom would also lend itself to boasting. The cross gives us nothing to boast about from human wisdom.

Yet the shame and humiliation of the cross is why we need to pay attention here. The story of the cross of Jesus is not something human wisdom from any age would have dreamed up and tried to pass off as God’s plan. Would you have done it that way? Neither would they have done so. By all human standards, it is foolish. How could anyone possibly believe or accept it? Yet, here it is.

Crucifixion was so heinous, so terrible, that it was impolite even to discuss it (Cicero). There was no way to describe it in humane terms. Crucifixion was reserved for criminals and slaves, for the worst of the worst and lowest of the low. In what world would Gentiles accept a crucified Jewish Messiah from Palestine to be their Savior? In what world would the Jews have accepted a cursed Messiah as their Savior and Lord? By all accounts, this cannot work. An uneducated Jewish peasant from Nazareth of Galilee going to a cross as a criminal becomes the Savior of the world? Come on. Surely we can come up with something better than that!

This is Paul’s point. No community in their own wisdom would have invented this story to pass off as true. To the Gentiles, this was utter foolishness. To the Jews, it was a stumbling block, a terrible offense and curse. Yet, in the first century within a short time of the events, both Jews and Gentiles were indeed accepting it, converting, and spreading the news about it. How in the world could this have happened? What is the best explanation for this?

Calling it a mere human invention does not explain it. How could it? This, again, would have taken an invention from communities that saw crucifixion as only belonging to the cursed, the criminals, the lowest of society and then turning such a person into the Savior of the world. On its face, it makes no sense. Human wisdom always shuns this story, even as it does today.

The best explanation is that this is what actually happened and there was more to the story than a crucified Jewish man who was humiliated as a criminal. Much, much more.

Once we get this, perhaps we can begin to understand Paul’s other point in 1 Corinthians 1:24: “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

For you, is the cross folly, a stumbling block, or the power of God? Your answer to this question will guide the rest of your life.