The Cross as an Instrument of Power

Dr. Rob Green March 24, 2019 1 Corinthians 1:18
Outline

3 truths that will help us value the power of the cross

I. Reject the Deceitfulness of Worldly Power

A. Despite the attractiveness of some gifts

1 Corinthians 1:12 - Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

B. Despite the connection with certain leaders

1 Corinthians 1:13-16 - Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

C. Because it results in divisions

1 Corinthians 1:10-11 - Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.

D. Because it results in minimizing the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:17 - For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void…

II. Embrace and Communicate the Power of the Cross

A. Because the message of the cross results in salvation to those who believe

1 Corinthians 1:18b - …but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…

Romans 10:9-10 - …that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…

1 Corinthians 1:21 - For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 - …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.

B. Because the message of the cross remains foolishness to those who reject

1 Corinthians 1:18a - For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…

1. The cross was an instrument of death, not life

2. The cross was an instrument of shame, not glory

3. The cross was an instrument of ending things, not beginning things

Acts 5:34-39 - But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

4. A savior crucified does not rescue because He dies

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 - For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 - 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…

III. Praise God for the Results of the Power of the Cross

A. Knowing that God chose you so that He would get the credit

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 - For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

B. Knowing that you are in Him

1 Corinthians 1:30 - But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…

C. So that we would have a unifying purpose

1 Corinthians 1:31 - …so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Good morning. I think it is fair to say that one subject that we discuss fairly regularly is the subject of power.

Baseball seasons starts this week and we will hear (or talk about) power.

  • We will hear about pitchers that can throw the ball over 100 mph.
  • We will talk about those men who launch home runs that travel outside the stadium.
    • We will be impressed with the power.
  • Earlier in the year we heard about polar vortexes.
  • A couple weeks ago two dozen lost their lives in a group of tornados.
  • Just recently was the bomb cyclones in the middle of the country.
    • We marvel at the power exhibited.
  • We want to know when we will have it back on.
  • One person can hold another captive through the power of their words.
  • We think about it through the lens of what someone can compel us to think or do.
  • However, what I failed to recognize at the time is that the transformer to convert their power to the kind that my fan could use also had power ratings.
  • It was not just a matter of stepping down the voltage from 220 V to 110 V, one also needed to set the power rating on the transformer according to the device.
  • I failed to do that. Do you want to know what happened?
    • Shortly after I plugged in my fan enjoying the breeze in this stuffy room very foul odors started and culminated in the end of my fan. The rest of the week was a continual reminder that power ratings were also important as I was no longer enjoying my fan.

Or we will talk about the weather we talk about power.

When a strong wind gust takes out our power then we really talk about power.

But we also think of power in relational terms. We will speak about someone who exerts power over another individual.

Power is an important concept in our world. Do you know what happens when you tap into the wrong kind of power? Bad things. Very bad things.

My first experience with this happened on one of my very first international trips. I was going to Moldova. We were staying in a building with no air conditioning so I brought a travel fan.

Let’s just say that you want the right power source driving the right equipment. If that is true for little travel fans, then it is certainly true for our lives.

With that in mind please turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1:10. That is on page 130 of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are getting there our annual theme this year is Growing What God Has Given. Our most recent series helped us understand how to grow in our personal relationship with the Lord. The last message focused on our hearts and the things that we valued most.

That question of what we value most is answered in this series … Embracing the Cross. Pastor Viars started the series explaining that the cross was a place of peace. Today, I have the privilege of talking about The Cross as an Instrument of Power.

I would like us to consider this morning three truths that will help us value the power of the cross.

I. Reject the deceitfulness of worldly power (vv. 10-17)

Power brings control and control brings safety. As long as I am in charge, my world seems safe. It is one of the reasons that human beings love power. We also love being around power.

As I was preparing for this message I remembered a little Disney clip that I think illustrates how we relate to people with power.

Mufasa … Mufasa … Mufasa video

I love the contrast … Scar … it’s just you rather than someone important. But Mufasa, now that is power! That mentality is the picture of human wisdom and power.

We know that the Corinthians were divided, but this passage explains a bit more about the reason for those divisions --- Worldly power --- or the word that is used most often in this passage (wisdom).

In the church context worldly power is centered on gifts and relationships. God warns us not to be deceived …

A.     Despite the attractiveness of some gifts

1 Corinthians 1:12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

Some people have amazing gifts. There are some teachers who have an amazing ability to communicate truth. They are entertaining, clear, truthful, and when they speak something happens.

  • People respond like the Hyenas in Lion King … “Mufasa”

It is fun to be around people like that. It is fun to talk to others about the fact that you attend the church where that person speaks.

Others have incredible gifts in music. They play or sing in amazing ways. We take pictures with our concert tickets or we post a selfie with the musician and watch 20,000 people like our picture on Facebook. We are happy.

That is exactly what was happening inside the church at Corinth. It is profitable for us because we often act the same way.

We are not only attracted to the power of certain gifts, but we must also guard against the deceitfulness of worldly power …

  1. Despite the connection with certain leaders

1 Corinthians 13b-16 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

That is a very interesting passage. We even have this really strange note of running consciousness where Paul is trying to remember who he might have baptized. Apparently associations with leaders were important and a display of power.

The closer the association you have with a particular leader the more powerful you become.

Here you are having a conversation about something and a person says … man I really love John Piper. Your chest expands a bit and you are thinking … I know John Piper. You wait for the opportune moment and then bam … you are like “Yea, John and I go way back” and you start telling your story.

  • You have immediate respect in the room.
  • I have immediate respect in the room
  • If you are in the marketing department of another institution, how do you compete with that?
    • 98% of our graduates have jobs … that is normally impressive … but it just doesn’t sound very impressive when the Purdue brochure comes out … “Our graduates drive the Lunar Rover.”
  • There is power that tears people apart and gives them different goals, purposes, and concerns.
  • What happens if people in our church started saying that well we get Pastor Viars live 2 Sundays rather than 1?
  • He wanted all the praise, glory, and reputation to go to the Lord.
  • We diminish the cross of Christ because we are attracted to the worldly expressions of power and wisdom.
  • There is no better day than today.
  • You can pray right there … we do not do formal alter calls but we are accessible after the service.
  • It is well worth the 2 hours to learn how one man learned to debate the atheists. From a pure debate perspective Bahnsen (the Christian) clearly wins the debate.
  • Does that mean that every atheist in the room bowed and prayed a prayer of repentance? Did revival at the University of California ensue after that debate? What did the atheists do?
    • Well Dr. Stein was clearly not prepared, but that was his fault. I still believe atheism is correct.
  • Until the full meaning of Christ’s ministry was understood, the cross was the same thing.
  • The message of salvation was not going to come exactly like the world wanted it. It would not come the way the world views power and wisdom.
  • The normal wisdom plan was to make alliances with people stronger than you. That makes perfect sense right. No one can pick on me because my big brother is over there.
  • Except that ultimately the stronger party in the alliance decided that the deal was no longer acceptable and became oppressive.
  • What seemed like human wisdom did not work out so well.
  • If you are a student and you happen to be good in school then it is possible look down on others who are not. If you are an athlete then it is possible to look down on those who are not athletic
  • If you are a husband it is possible that you think you do much more for your family than your wife does and therefore you are better than her … she is lucky to be married to you
  • If you are a wife it is possible that you think you do much more for your family than your husband and therefor you are better than him … he is lucky to be married to you
  • We are given the righteousness of Christ … what other person can give that?
  • We are given sanctification … what other person can give that?
  • We are given redemption … who could have possibly paid for our sin beside Jesus?

Or, in the case in Corinth, it had to do with baptism. They assigned a certain value to who actually did the baptism. The point was simple … I was baptized by Pastor Viars

This is how life normally works. Purdue University is the alma mater of the first man who walked on the moon, the last man who walked on the moon, and 37% of all manned space flights were done by Purdue graduates. Purdue is known as the “Cradle of the Astronauts.”

Gifts and associations are how we determine power and wisdom. God warns us not to view the church in the same way. The first reason …

B.      Because it results in divisions

1 Corinthians 1:10-11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.

There is a power that brings people together … to rally around the same cause [hint for later … it is the power of the cross].

The Lord tells us that when we worship the power of amazing gifts or we worship associations with people that are viewed as important, we will inherently create divisions.

That can even happen at Faith. What happens if our church starts talking about how amazing one campus is OVER and against the other?

What would happen is that no one would care about anyone else. At a leadership level we would be one church with three campuses, but functionally we would act like three churches.

Divisions are bad in and of themselves, but there is actually something worse …

C.      Because it results in minimizing the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void

Paul makes it clear that he wants the Lord to receive all the glory and that the cross would be recognized for what it is. Paul did not want people to talk about his gifts or Apollos’ gifts or Peter’s gifts.

When we fall into the trap of worshipping the creature rather than the creator, we minimize the role of the creator in our life.

Thankfully, the Lord gives us an alternative way of thinking.

II. Embrace and Communicate the power of the cross (vv. 18-25)

At this point in the text, Paul explains the true power of the cross. Its power is seen in how the cross is able to bring about salvation. Those who still cling to worldly power and worldly wisdom do not experience the blessings of the power of the cross. The contrast between those who tap into the power of the cross and those who tap into worldly power occurs in vv. 18-25. I am going to emphasize each side of the equation in turn. First, the positive…

A.     Because the Message of the Cross results in Salvation to those who believe

1 Corinthians 1:18b but to us who are being saved it is the power of God

Okay great. God’s wisdom in how he orchestrated salvation did not come through normal human wisdom terms. But that does not mean it was unintelligent or overly complicated. In fact, the message of the cross is quite simple.

That we are all sinners … there is no one righteous, no not one. No one is able to say that they have never sinned.

That our sin separates us from a perfect and holy God … this shows the seriousness of sin. It is such a big deal that the Lord says it keeps us from him and results in an eternity away from the presence of God in hell.

That God’s wrath was satisfied by the death on the cross, burial in the tomb, and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ. God is angry with the wicked every day. When the unbeliever remains in their unbelief, the wrath of God remains on them.

That the message of the cross becomes meaningful to me when I repent of my sin and trust in the finished work of Christ.

Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation

God says that the message of the cross and our willingness to receive this gift from the Lord result in our salvation. Notice what 1 Corinthians says in v. 21.

 

1 Corinthians 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

In fact, the Lord makes it clear that there are no side entrances. Those who pursue the worldly wisdom do not come to know God. The path they are taking does not lead to the knowledge of God.

Instead, God used a message that the world calls foolish to demonstrate the significance of his wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

I think there are some really significant application points that flow from this point.

  1. Do you know that you know that you know you are on your way to heaven?

Friends, it is possible that you are hearing this message this morning and you do not know the Lord. The message of the cross has not been powerful to you. It has hardly influenced your life.

Maybe you are even part of a Christian family. But if the truth were told you do not see the power of the cross … you pay attention to all sorts of other worldly powers. You remain like my fan in Moldova … hooked to the wrong power source. For you Christianity is not much more than a label.

I want to encourage you to understand God’s plan … given many years before it happened … was that salvation from our sin and the wrath of God would come from the message of Christ crucified, buried, and rose to life. I am asking that you would place your faith and trust in Christ alone for your salvation.

  1. Is this message of the cross something that you personally embrace?

Let’s say the answer to your first question is clearly yes. You know that you know that you know you have a saving relationship with Jesus. Then do you have a commitment to living out the power of the cross in your life? Are you embracing it personally?

Does the power of the cross impact the many decisions of your life?

  1. Is this message the message that you share?

Sometimes we think that we have to be so sophisticated in our evangelistic strategy. I think we ought to use our God given abilities to think and reason. However, sometimes we might get so caught up in the need for fancy evangelism or life evangelism when really what people need is the message of the cross!

Let’s be sure that we do not miss the actual message of the cross when we are sharing our faith. If God works in their hearts and minds it will make sense. If not, it will remain as fools.

Let me give you an illustration. My favorite debate of all time occurred between Greg Bahnsen and Gorden Stein. It was entitled the Great Debate: Does God Exist? The debate occurred at the University of California – Irvine.

Friends, it is not about how fancy or intelligent. It is the power of God to those being saved!

Let’s be sure that while we believe our life should match our believes, our lives do not result in conversions. People still need the message of the cross.

Paul also gave us the negative side …

B.      Because the Message of the Cross remains foolishness to those who reject

1 Corinthians 1:18a For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing

The word of the cross is Christ crucified. To a person who has yet to believe, it sounds crazy. There is like nothing about the cross that sounds attractive. The world’s thinking goes like this…

  1. The cross was an instrument of death not life

From a worldly wisdom perspective and a worldly power perspective the cross was an instrument of death. It was a statement that you have no power. We will force you to submit to a horrible death.

  1. The cross was an instrument of shame not glory

From a worldly wisdom perspective and a worldly power perspective the cross was an instrument of shame.  The person hangs naked by a few nails, a few ropes and a little seat in front of whoever wants to watch. There is nothing glorious about that.

No one had cross earrings, no one had cross necklaces or tattoos, or wall hangings. Imagine if you saw someone selling electric chair earrings, electric chair wall hangings, or necklaces. You would wonder about the mental stability of such persons. The electric chair is a symbol of death, debate, torture, and cruelty.

  1. The cross was an instrument of ending things not beginning things

Rome put down many rebellions and various road shows by simply killing the leader. Earlier this year when we studied the book of Acts we learned that one of the religious leaders even said as much …

Acts 5:34-39 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35                And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36            “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

A former student of Moody Bible Institute and graduate from Wheaton College has gone on to a career of discrediting the Bible. He has rejected his faith. The statement he makes now is that “Jesus was crucified like a lot of other men and rotted in his grave just like all the others.” The cross for him was the end not the beginning.

  1. A savior crucified does not rescue because he dies

In worldly wisdom, the message of the cross with a crucified savior makes no sense. He died. Therefore he no longer has the ability to impact the living.

But instead of this being an “aha” moment. It is exactly as God designed for Paul continues.

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

In other words, Paul quotes from Isaiah to say that (1) that human wisdom has not worked so well in the past and (2) that this has been God’s plan all along.

Paul quotes Isaiah 29 to take us back to a very tumultuous time in the nation of Israel. They were divided into a Northern and Southern kingdom. Sometimes they were at peace other times there was more tension.

So God did not use that plan … notice also

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

God knew that the Jews would want to be shown. Show us … but then again Jesus performed many signs in front of them and it was not enough … They always wanted another one.

The Greeks were looking for that deep, profound knowledge and connected all the dots in the universe. So finally they could say … “that’s it.” Boom, the big bang …  a few billions years and single celled amoebas turn into fully functioning human beings.

God says this … the message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. Because without the power of the cross no one could ever come to the knowledge of the truth.

I have suggested so far that if we are going to value the power of the cross then we reject the sources of worldly power and wisdom and we embrace (in our hearts) and communicate to others the power of the cross. One more point …

III. Praise God for the results of the power of the cross (1:26-31)

A.     Knowing that God chose you so that he would get the credit

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.

I do not think that Paul is attempting to insult all of us. What he is reminding us is that man’s understanding of wisdom and power results in self exaltation. That is why we had the Paul camp and the Apollos camp and the Jesus camp. Each camp is vying for superiority.

In that church who did your baptism was a big deal. Paul baptized me … Apollos baptized me. These things led to self exaltation.

It is possible coming out of vv. 18-25 that believers could adopt the mentality of self exaltation too. Because the Lord gave us his wisdom and because we enjoy all the benefits of salvation it is possible to look down on others.

So the Lord graciously reminds us that we do not enjoy the position in Christ that we have because we are awesome ourselves. It is God’s grace and it is God’s work that brought this about.

This can have tremendous implications to the way you live …

One of the practical values of the power of cross is that you are reminded how great God is who sent his son so that you could be redeemed.

Another practical value of the power of the cross is that you learn humility knowing that the power of the cross is not that little extra that helped you climb the mountain of salvation, it was the power that picked you up from the miry clay and set your feet on golden streets of heaven.

That is not all…

B.      Knowing that you are in Him

1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

We praise God because we are in Christ Jesus. Remember how the Corinthians (and us) struggle in our associations with power? We want to be around people who have power. Check this out.

We are in Christ … here is how he is described … wisdom from God … righteousness  … sanctification … and redemption. Now that is power!

This is absolutely incredible and it is real power and wisdom. What God save me he put me in Christ who is himself power and wisdom.

Again … that is not all our reasons for praise …

C.      So that we would have a unifying purpose

1 Corinthians 1:31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Worldly power and wisdom results in divisions. We are all trying to figure out how to one up the other. But godly wisdom and power results in a common bond for everyone … talk about how awesome Jesus is.

When you talk about how awesome Jesus is that prepares you to love, care, and sacrifice for others. Instead of competing with them for superiority you are one of them going to the one who can fulfill our needs and wants.

The cross is powerful … we will recognize its power most clearly when we reject the worldly substitutes of power and wisdom. When we embrace and communicate the full power of the cross to ourselves and those around us and when we praise the Lord because the power of the cross frees us to love, care, and sacrifice for others.

 


Dr. Rob Green

Roles

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Bio

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.