The Cross Divides…and Unites

The Cross Divides…and Unites

Sermon Series: A Church with Problems

Sermon Title: The Cross Divides…and Unites

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

We live in a world which seems to thrive on division.

  • Some have even gone as far as to say that at this moment in history our nation is more ideologically divided than ever before.
  • According to a Pew Research Study, the political parties of the Democrats and the Republicans are much more sharply divided today than they were even 10 years ago.
    • Liberal and conservative have always been words used to describe major political differences, to be sure, but it seems as if the lines are much more deeply drawn now than ever.
    • QUOTE: “In 2004, 68 percent of Democrats were more consistently liberal than the median Republican, and 70 percent of Republicans were more consistently conservative than the media Democrat. Today, virtually all Democrats, 97 percent, are more liberal than the median Republican, and 95 percent of Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat.” (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/05/poll-americans-divided-party-lines-243466)
  • In many people’s minds, the political divide which exists is among the most important.
    • There are many others things which do divide.
      • Race is a huge divider.
      • Economic situations divide greatly.
      • Religious preference is also a major place of separation.
    • But in America, ideas of conservatism and liberalism seems to cross those lines.
      • There are conservatives and liberals of all colors, and economic positions.
      • Likewise, every religious system has within it those who claim a conservative or liberal positions.
        • There are conservative and liberal Roman Catholics.
        • There are conservative and liberal Muslims.
        • Did you know? There are even liberal Southern Baptists!
          • Most people would probably assume Southern Baptists as being fairly conservative boasting the likes of Jerry Falwell known or his Moral Majority Coalition.
          • But it may surprise some that when Albert Mohler first went to the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville Kentucky to become the President in the early 90s, he was opposed because he was considered too conservative. There was so much hatred pointed in his direction that he and his wife could barely go to dinner in the surrounding area without having invectives hurled in his direction and he recounts one Easter party where his own children, then less than six years old, were treated poorly by those who were in attendance (http://equip.sbts.edu/publications/towers/twenty-years-%E2%80%A8and-counting-%E2%80%A8mohler-reflects-on-his-presidency-of-southern-seminary/)
  • The divide between those who identify as liberal and conservative runs very deep.

The problem, however, is that this line has become for some almost a religious one in itself.

  • For many conservatives, it is this line that would almost make one right with God.
  • If you are a conservative, you are automatically a godly individual…
    • The problem is, this is not true.
    • Among conservatives, there are many who have no affection for Christ.
    • To be a conservative does not mean you are a Christ-follower.
      • Illustration: “Trump Rally Argument” When the current president was running for office, I went with a small group to the rally to distribute tracts. You would think, as a conservative group, there would be a welcome to the Gospel… but there was not. One man in particular made it his mission to dress me down before the crowd, expressing loudly how he was a “free thinker” and “not bound to myths” and how I religion was just “an attempt to control people”. All the while he was saying these things, a girl behind me was shouting out “we are all energy, we are all one with the universe!”
      • It was a good reminder that ‘Conservative’ and ‘Christian’ are not synonyms.

While the world is divided in many areas — Conservative vs. Liberal; Racially, Economically, Religiously, Socially — the Bible declares only one division that will stand in eternity: The division between those who are in Christ and those who are not. 

We are in our ongoing study of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.

    • We have examined his opening words where we showed that he focused on the lordship of Jesus Christ (using His name 8 times in 10 verses).
    • Last week, we began to look at the meat of his letter which begins with his addressing the problem of DISUNITY within the church.
      • He pointed out their self-righteous pride in attaching themselves to various figureheads in the church.
      • And he called them to be of one mind and one judgment in their unity of faith.

At the end of last week’s message, we stopped at v.17.

    • 1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
    • It is with this verse that he launches into his next set of arguments.
      • Paul is addressing DIVISION within the local church.
      • He tells them that their UNITY should be in Christ.
      • Now, he is going to show that this UNITY IN CHRIST creates a DIVISION WITH THE WORLD.

SIMPLE THESIS: While the cross DIVIDES the saved from the unsaved, it should also UNITE the saved with the saved. 

    • The cross is the place that divides the world.
    • The cross is also the place that unites the church.

Paul spends several verses describing this division that the cross brings…

1 Corinthians 1:18–31For 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.

The “word” of the cross means the message of the Gospel. 

    • This includes the entirety of the message concerning Jesus.
    • Illustration: “Do You Understand the Gospel?” One of the signs we use when we have our witnessing table reads “Do You Understand the Gospel?” The reason for this is that so many use the word Gospel and really do not understand what it is.
      • The Gospel includes man’s predicament in sin.
      • It includes the wrath of God which aimed at the sinner.
      • It includes God’s plan to send His Son to be the sin-bearing substitute,
      • It includes his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection.
      • The “word of the cross” is the Gospel.

The Gospel is “mwri÷a” to those who are perishing.

    • This is the root word where we would get our word “Moron”
    • It has the idea of something that is ridiculous, ignorant, stupid, and contemptible.
      • Illustration: “A Donkey on the Cross” Among the earliest pictures which relates to Christian worship in history is an inscription carved in plaster known as the Alexamenos Graffito. It depicts a man worshipping at the foot of the cross. On the cross is a figure with the body of a man, but with the head of a donkey. Below this is a description, “Alexemenos Worships His God”.
        • It is believed by many that this ancient piece of art was intended to denounce Christian faith by depicting the one on the cross – Christ – as a foolish beast rather than a Savior worthy of worship.
        • The implication is evident: To worship Christ is to celebrate stupidity.
    • The Gospel message is foolish to those who are lost (the perishing).

The ones who are “Being Saved” see the Gospel differently.

    • To us, it is not moronic.
      • It is a difficult truth.
      • It is hard to receive.
      • In fact, it would be impossible to receive if not for the Spirit.
      • But because of the work of God in us, we see the Gospel as it truly is.
    • It is “The Power of God”.
      • In Romans 1, Paul uses a similar statement about the Gospel:
        • Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
        • The Gospel is not simply a piece of good advice, or a helpful life addition.
        • It is the power of God unto salvation for the believer.

This is why the message is hated so much, and thought to be so foolish.

    • How could anyone rest their entire eternity in the promises of an executed Jew?
    • How could we be so juvenile as to believe in a singular method for reaching God?
      • Illustration: “Oprah Says There Cannot Be Just One Way” This week, Oprah Winfrey made news with some speculating she may make a run for the presidency in 2020. This brought to light an old video of her discussing spirituality with a group of women on her television program. Oprah said, “There is not only one way to live life. There are millions of ways to reach what some people call ‘god’ others may call ‘the light’”.  One of the ladies said, “But there is only one way, and that way is Jesus.” Oprah said, “There just cannot be only one way!”
      • You see, to Oprah and much of the world that proclaims itself wise, if there is any way to be saved from sin and death, it certainly cannot be limited to a singular way.
    • To the perishing, the Gospel is just foolishness.

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

This is a quotation from Isaiah.

    • Isaiah 29:13–14And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
    • This quotation is Paul’s transition to discussing the differencing between WORLDLY WISDOM and GODLY WISDOM.

Paul then calls out for the worldly wise…

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 

Paul is asking who among the church is the wisest? 

    • Where within the church is the educated?
    • In v.26 he is going to state “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
        • The point of this is not to say that everyone in the Corinthian church was an imbecile.
        • Note: Often times today, people who have an active church life are looked down upon as being stupid.
        • But Paul is not saying they are stupid, but rather that the church is not made up of only (or even mostly) the world’s intellectual elite.
          • Note: Certainly they had some intellectuals (Paul says “not many” not “not any”)
          • This is similar to today; there are christian men of great intellect.
            • Scholars like James White and Albert Mohler.
            • Scientists like Jason Lyle and Jonathan Sarfati.
            • Theologians like Cornelius van Til and R.C. Sproul.
            • Preachers like John MacArthur and Voddie Bauchem.
          • Some of the greatest intellectuals in history have been a part of the church.
            • Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Aurelius Augustine, Thomas Aquinas.
            • The church has not been devoid of brilliance.
            • Neither has it been home to only the intellectually deficient.
      • ***But here is the point we must understand.
        • As brilliant as the men are I just named…
        • As much intellectual prowess is contained in just those few men…
        • THE WORLD SEES THEM AS FOOLS.
          • Why?——>>> Because they all believed in the truth of the Gospel.
          • Just look at how the world in general responds to the most famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.
    • When Paul asks “Where is the wise, where is the scribe” he is not saying that such men did not exist at all, but that such were not the norm — and those who may have such intellects would be disregarded by the world

21 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.

This is the heart of the section.

    • Paul is not saying that preaching itself is foolish.
    • Nor is he saying we should be intentionally foolish in our preaching (though I do think some men take this as a personal challenge to see how foolish they can be!).

Paul is saying that to the world, the Gospel message is foolish.

    • Yet, it is that message that God chooses to save men.
      • R.C. Sproul didn’t get saved because he was an intellectually astute man.
      • Jonathan Edwards may have been the most brilliant of men in his day, but that is not what saved him.
      • NOTE: No one has ever been saved simply because they were intelligent.
    • God saves men through FAITH in a FOOLISH MESSAGE.
      • Not truly foolish.
      • But foolish from the world’s perspective.
      • Remember: To the world, Jesus is just a donkey on a cross.
        • Those who worship Him are morons.
        • Even the intelligent among them must be dolts.

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

The Jews demanded signs… for they were the religious.

The Greeks demanded wisdom… for they were the intellectuals.

The Church instead comes with a crucified Savior. 

    • One whose signs (miracles) were rejected. [in particular the resurrection]
    • One whose wisdom was repudiated.

To the Jew, he was a stumbling block… for they had to see themselves as just as dirty and in need of a Savior as gentiles.

To the Greek, foolishness… because they were confronted with a bloody atonement made to a Holy, all-powerful God, whose wrath must be propitiated. 

But to those who are called<<<This points to a very important reality of God’s electing grace.

    • Why did you believe?
      • It wasn’t because you were wise.
      • It wasn’t because you were of noble birth.
      • It wasn’t because you were of a particular social or ethnic group.
    • You believed in Christ because God worked an effectual calling on your heart.
      • You were dead in your trespasses, and God gave you a NEW BIRTH.
      • In that moment, Christ became the power of God for salvation for you.
    • NOTE: This is why in v.30 it says “Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus”
      • You are no in Christ because of something you did.
      • You are in Christ because of something God did.
        • So we do not boast in anything we have done.
        • If we boast at all, it is what Christ has done for us.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

CONCLUSION: In v.10-17, Paul’s concern if for the disunity which has arisen in Corinth. 

    • The people are divided by self-righteous pride and aligning themselves with certain teachers.
    • Paul’s solution is to remind them of their unity in Christ.

This passage for today follows that appeal for unity with a simple reminder:

IF YOU ARE IN CHRIST, YOU ARE DIVIDED FROM THE WORLD. 

THE CROSS HAS SEVERED YOU FROM THE WORLD.

You will never be seen by the world as one of the wise.

You will never be seen as one of the strong.

You will never be seen as one of elite.

IN FACT, THE CLOSER YOU GET TO CHRIST, THE FARTHER YOU WILL DIVIDE YOURSELF FROM THE WORLD.

To the world, our message is unbelievable…

And our people are unremarkable.

THE CROSS DIVIDES THE WORLD.

BUT THE CROSS ALSO UNITES THE CHURCH. 

TRUE UNITY…

TRUE FAMILY…

TRUE SOLIDARITY…

IS FOUND AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.

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