For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.(1 Corinthians 1:22-25)
Here, in this passage, Paul sums up the gospel that he preached in the face of insurmountable odds and extreme opposition. It is a gospel that is so radical and so extreme that it called down unbelievable persecution upon his head everywhere he went. This persecution was not only dished out by the heathen but more so by the religious folks, namely the Jewish nation. It is a gospel that is so different and so outrageous that you can really only tag it “radical” and “revolutionary“.
The definition of the word: “radical” means going to the root of a matter, even to the point of being immoderate in thoroughness and completeness. I can only say that the gospel that Paul preached was indeed both radical and extreme. He definitely went straight for the root or the heart of the matter! In other words, he went straight to the point!
The Content of the Gospel
But what exactly IS the gospel? What was it exactly that Paul preached? Let’s start out by going over what his gospel was not.
His gospel was not:
The end times
Spiritual gifts (miracles, healing, etc)
Speaking in tongues
Ministry and leadership
Evangelizing the nations
Biblical knowledge and teaching
Philosophy and psychology
Politics and believers changing the world system
How the Jewish nation could back into power
A woman’s place in the church
And on and on we could go…
No, no, a thousand times NO!
So now, the question that is just begging to be answered:
SO WHY THEN DO WE CHRISTIANS SPEND ALL OF OUR TIME, EFFORT, AND MINISTRIES FOCUSING ON THOSE THINGS?
The answer is so radical and so extreme that it baffles the most learned scholar.
The answer is so simple and yet so profound that Paul calls it a “mystery”.
I will let Paul himself tell you the content of his gospel:
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.(Colossians 1:25-29)
Did you get that? “We proclaim HIM!” Not an “it” and not a “thing”, but a HIM!
Wow! Talk about a radical and revolutionary idea! The fact is that the gospel is not about ideas at all, but only about a Person! THE Person of Jesus Christ. Only God could come up with this. A message that his sent-ones would promote, proclaim, and announce; a Person who would (and indeed has) changed everything. Not a set of ideas or doctrines. Not a philosophy, and definitely not a new religion. Not an activity or ministry. simply a new Person. Yes, something totally new has happened in the universe because of this Person.
In this Person of Christ:
- we have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God
- we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins
- he fulfills God’s goal to have an image of himself on the earth
- all things were created in heaven and earth
- he is before all things, and in him all things hold together
- he is the head of a new creation (body) called the church
- he is the firstborn from the dead so he will have the first place in everything
- all of the fullness of the universe was pleased to dwell in him
- and he is now reconciling all things to himself
- so that he himself would come to have the first place in all things
But there is a problem. It’s called: The Fall of Man
Our Natural Tendencies
Paul tells us that the “natural man” cannot accept the things of God:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14)So the problem is that our natural man cannot accept the fact that Christ Himself (the Person) is not only the gospel but also everything else related to God’s eternal purpose. The natural man says: “No! it has to be some thing, an it, a doctrine, a teaching, a set of principles or rules, an activity, a gift, a miracle, or something else. It just can’t be that simple!” But then, as we know, God’s ways are not our ways and his ways will always confound the wise of this world. He has chosen to make his Son the Center of everything! Yet we, in our natural man, are always working real hard at making it about something else… anything else!
Now, perhaps with this backdrop, we can understand what Paul was saying in the quote at the top of this post (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).
Jews Ask for Signs and Greeks Search for Wisdom
Sad to say but most Christians today are either like the Jews or the Greeks.
The Jews were the ones who were always asking for signs. They wanted to see miracles. They wanted to “feel” or experience something. They were like the modern-day pentecostals! They could not believe unless they saw supernatural manifestations.
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. (John 6:28-36)The Jews would not believe even when the Lord did perform miracles! Why? Because they were looking at the “signs” not the Person to whom the signs pointed! The bread they ate wasn’t the point. The One who came from heaven (the Real Bread) was the point!
So what does Paul have to say to the sign-seeking Jews?
CHRIST IS THE POWER OF GOD!
The Greeks were the ones who were always seeking after “wisdom” or “knowledge”. They wanted to know things. That’s why so many philosophers came out of the Greek culture. They wanted to know the secrets of the universe. They are like the modern-day fundamentalists! They want to “know” the Bible. They believe that having an intellectual understanding of the scriptures will bring them the truth.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:5-6)The Greeks wanted to discover truth through teaching and philosophy. They wanted to study hard and wrack their brains to know God. That way, the natural man could be glorified. But God loves to confound the wise! He places all truth and wisdom inside of a Person so that the only way to know God’s truth is by getting to know that Person.
So what does Paul have to say to the wisdom-seeking Greeks?
CHRIST IS THE WISDOM OF GOD!
Brothers and Sisters, let this all-glorious, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, all-pervading, all-encircling Christ be truly our All in All! Everything from God is found inside of his Christ. Nothing that is for us has been left out. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees! This one and only Christ is both the forest (the church) AND the Tree (God in the flesh).
This Christ truly is MORE than enough!