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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From: Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, and something he said early in his first epistle caught my attention. "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." He decided not to see, not to consider or make any effort to be aware of anything among these Corinthians except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That word for crucified is 'stauroo' in the Greek. It means to subdue or extinguish passion or selfishness. It's the method by which the power of the natural desires of human flesh are destroyed.

The people in this church had been influenced by Greek philosophy, Greek and Roman pagan culture of idolatry as well as sensuality. They had been influenced by the thirst for worldly wisdom and knowledge these cultures promoted, as well as eloquent speaking, highly educated speakers. Throw in the mix Judaizers who were man centered, preferring certain speakers, and forming their own little cliques in the church, listening only to the speaker that most gratified their carnal ideas of how a speaker should speak. Being used to the sophisticated speakers and philosophers of Greece and Rome, these simple and plain disciples, such as Peter did not appeal to some of the Corinthians' educated minds. Some preferred Apollos because he was an eloquent speaker, well educated in Alexandria, (Act_18:24)but they did not care for the simple message of the cross. Flesh always wants to do something to help God, amen? The cross says flesh can do nothing, it has no part in the spiritual kingdom of God. Apollos was very educated, and had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament, and was instructed as far as John the Baptist's ministry but at Ephesus was taught the deeper Christian life and the baptism of the Holy Spirit by Priscilla and Aquila. People come into the church and bring their likes and dislikes with them. Many loved to hear Apollos speak because he was very educated, and spoke very well. But in so doing, they were relying on human words and presentation of the Gospel message, and flinched from the message of the cross.

There were divisions in the church, rejecting authority, especially Paul's, because he was not a direct eye witness of Christ as were the other apostles. All the division in this church led to confusion, and questions. Who is right? Who should be listened to? Did Paul really know what he was talking about? He hadn't been with Jesus as had Cephas, or Peter as he was known.

Paul challenges their divisions, explaining to them Christ is not divided, and neither should they be. They should all speak and have the same mind. Paul said "I wasn't sent to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, for then the cross of Christ would be made to appear of none of effect." The message of the cross would be neutralized in their minds. Human nature is to focus on other humans which are seen, and to elevate certain of them who seem to be more accomplished than others. It's one of our most basic flaws. But Paul was trying to tell them, it's the preaching of the cross that is important. The preaching of the cross is to those who are dying in their sins, foolish, but to us who are redeemed, it's the miraculous power of God. He calls them out. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where are those who think they are so sophisticated they would rather dispute? God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. Everybody is seeking a sign, they want to see miracles, signs and wonders. But we proclaim Christ, crucified, and to the Jews that is a snare, an offensive truth they stumble over. Unto the Greeks who consider themselves so intelligent and sophisticated, it's absurd.

God has chosen to select the foolish things of the world to shame and dishonor the wise. He has chosen that which is without strength, impotent, feeble, to shame those who are strong in the flesh. That which the world despises and least esteems God has selected. He picks the nothings and nobodys to do away with things that are something in the eyes of the world. No flesh, no human nature, no human wisdom or strength will have anything to boast about in His Presence. It's because of Him we are secure in Christ, who because of God's will is made unto us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption. We have nothing of our own. We can't say we did anything to accomplish this. HE did it all. If you want to boast in something, boast in HIM.
Paul reminds them when he came to the Corinthians before, he did not come with fancy words, or wisdom when he told them evidence given as the testimony of God. He decided not to be aware of anything among them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. There was so much wrong with this church, so much flesh and carnality in this church. Yes, they had the spiritual gifts, which they were abusing, not understanding their errors. But what does the message of the cross really mean? That which is carnal, natural must be put to death because flesh cannot inherit and neither can it build up the spiritual kingdom of God. That which is had by natural means, accomplished in human strength, without the leadership and governing of the Holy Spirit is useless to God. He will accept nothing spotted by the flesh.

Paul was living the example of Christ crucified among them. He came in weakness, his body sick and frail, which inspired disdain and contempt among many of the people, betraying a heart that admired human strength. Remember the disciples, upon seeing a display of the power of Jesus wanted to know when He was going to put down the Roman rule over the Jews? Human nature admires such displays. It leads to pride and arrogance. But Paul stands before them weak, sick, afraid. Afraid of what? He knew and understood the wickedness of the human heart in the sight of God. He distrusted his own ability to get the message across to these people, instead depending not on attractive words or speech patterns, not on men's wisdom, but in the manifestation of the Spirit of God and HIS miraculous power to work the works of God in and through the people. He so trusted the Word and the Spirit of God that he got up and spoke the Word and did not harangue the people with stories, did not accuse or condemn them for their failures, he merely pointed them in the right direction, preaching the truth, writing them the Epistle, trusting the Holy Spirit would deal with their hearts, knowing the issues of each heart much better than Paul.

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