• Matt Beaney

#444 (23/9/21) - TRUE POWER AND WISDOM (1 COR. 1:22-24)



This week our devotions are based on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

'Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.' (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

Different people want different kinds of evidence as to the truth of whether there is a God and who God is. When I was exploring the Christian faith, I wanted to see something that would prove that God - who is invisible - was real. I wanted my questions about the Bible and suffering etc. answered so that I could understand and see that it made sense.


Paul speaks of Jews demanding ‘signs’ and Greeks looking for ‘wisdom’ so as to be convinced about spiritual things.


LOOKING FOR SIGNS

‘Signs’ are great miraculous acts. The Jews of Jesus’ day kept asking for signs to prove His identity. Moses had given them signs to prove to them that God was sending Him to bring them out of slavery and now they wanted Jesus to do the same. On one occasion, we read,

‘Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ (Matthew 12:38-40)

Here, Jesus is saying that the principal sign that He is the Son of God and Saviour is His death and resurrection. This concurs with What Paul says in today’s text: ‘Jews demand signs … but we preach Christ crucified’. This is not to dismiss miracles. We do pray for miracles that show the reality of God as we read in Acts,

“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3)

However, God wants you and I to know that signs do not Save! A person becomes a Christian through the miracle of regeneration, which is brought about by the message of the cross. Miracles can create a following; miracles can create a hearing; however, miracles cannot save! Signs need to be followed up with the preaching of the gospel.


On top of this, the Jews were offended at a weak and suffering Messiah and wanted a Messiah with power and so were offended at Christ. He’s a stumbling block to Jews because Jesus was not the triumphant king that many were expecting. They were expecting a David-like character.


To add to this, being ‘hung on a tree’ was a sign of being cursed by God. (Dt 21:23; Gal 3:13).


So, in summary, Jesus is not the kind of Saviour that the Jews were expecting and He’s not the kind of Saviour that many of our friends think that they need.


LOOKING FOR WISDOM

Referring to the second group of people, he says that ‘Greeks look for Wisdom’. Regarding this wisdom-seeking culture we read of the Athenians,

‘All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.’ (Acts 17:21)

This search for wisdom had led to them having a great range of gods and temples.

This sounds a lot like a pre-internet version of much of the debate that happens on the web. The web is full of people searching for wisdom so as to live their best life. Much of it - even that which purports to be Christian - is not centred on the gospel.


This second group is looking for a god, spirituality, and lifestyle that seems wise to them. This group is broad but, put simply, invent ideas that do not honour the message of the cross which appears foolish.


BUT WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED

Christians, and Christian teachers, preach Christ crucified - the gospel - as God’s sign and wisdom. We are not looking for a new wisdom that will really give us the power to enjoy life. If we are missing joy, hope etc. it’s because we are not embracing the power of the gospel as we can.


APPLICATION

In application, we need to remember that praying for the sick - as we should - will not save anyone. We must be ready to share the gospel which is God’s wisdom and power to save.

We must persevere because this message is a stumbling block to many. However, we are promised that there are those whom ‘God has called’; they will listen and see that ‘Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.'


COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY

1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

2. Icebreaker

How has God spoken to you from the Bible this week?

3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday we continued in our series in 1 Corinthians. The title of the message was, 'THE WORLD NEEDS A CHURCH THAT PREACHES THE GOSPEL'.


Please read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.


The divisions in the church in Corinth come from the message of the world creeping into the community. This world has many competing philosophies for the best life. One very powerful idea which often infects the church is that of a legalistic approach to God and life. We are told that we can be in a right relationship with God or the 'universe' or any number of spiritual powers if we do good. We are told that we can improve ourselves through focus and discipline into good people. Another message that is infecting the Corinthians and is common today is that the gospel is only powerful if it comes with eloquence and is dressed attractively. These kinds of ideas pervert the gospel so that the message no longer has the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and bring hope. We need to be alert to how the world's message is affecting us and is maybe making us ineffective in preaching the gospel to a world that needs the true good news of Jesus.

We need to be soaked in the message of the cross so that we can tell others and know when the message is being corrupted.


Discussion questions

1. Did God speak to you, or what do you plan to do in response to Sunday's message?

2. Do you have any questions about this text?

3. v. 18 - If we are Christians, we believe that the gospel is God's power to save people. Do you feel confident to share the gospel? Why or why not?

4. v.18 - Why is 'the message of the cross foolishness' to non-Christians?

5. v.19-21 - Those who don't believe the gospel 'don't know Him'. What are the kinds of alternate philosophies that those around you choose to believe?

6. v. 21-23 - It's through the apparent foolishness of the gospel that God saves us. Do you feel confident to share the gospel? How would you summarise the gospel message to a friend?

5. SIV

Finally, it would be helpful to talk and pray about how we are doing in regard to Serve, Invest and Invite. Do you have any encouraging stories or any plans in this regard? How do you want to pray in regard to our mission?


Let's be praying and actively preparing to invite friends to our carol service on 5th December. Please make sure this is in your diary.







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