The Foolishness of the Cross

When you run into someone who doesn’t believe the gospel, very rarely will you find that they have no opinion of it. You won’t often find people who say, “Well, it sounds reasonable, but I just don’t want to believe it.” For those who don’t believe, they find the gospel foolish. They might not be militant about it, but they reject it as primitive superstition and folly. They think it’s fine if others believe it. They might even support it, because “people just need something to believe in”. But they’re not neutral.

This is not a new phenomenon. Paul faced the same issue in the first century. He writes to the church at Corinth, “For 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” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The word of the cross (or salvation through Christ and Him crucified) was foolish for different reasons at that time. Today, the cross is venerated. But, back then, it was vile. It was a mode of punishment that was too lowly for Roman citizens. And even for non-Romans, it was only used for the worst of crimes, including sedition. It was meant to be gruesome and humiliating. It wasn’t for conversation in polite company. So, when the Gentiles heard of this story that their only hope of salvation was through a crucified God, it was laughable and/or offensive. When the Jews heard this, it was offensive that the Messiah could be “cursed” and “hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). The gospel was utter foolishness to both groups.

But for some reason, some believed it. Not only did they believe this foolishness, but they cherished it. They saw it for what it was: “the power of God”. But why? Were they smarter? Stupider? That can’t be it. The gospel pierced the hearts of the most educated Pharisee and the most uneducated laborer. No, it wasn’t by their own utilities that they believed, but by the grace of God. Paul would write to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). They believed because God gave them the gift of faith.

Today, the same is true. We have brilliant men who don’t believe and brilliant men who do. And it’s not a matter of human brilliance, but God’s grace. Some will hear the gospel and reject it as foolishness. Others will hear it, be amazed, and give their lives completely to this crucified and risen Christ. Trusting in God’s sovereignty, pray that others will see the power of God in the cross, and preach the word of the cross boldly.

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