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Thistletown Baptist Church
March 15, 2009
You Shall Be My Witnesses V – A Resolute Spirit
1 Cor. 1:18-2:2 (ESV)
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.  For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
 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?  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.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
 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.  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;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
[2:1] And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
a.As part of our look at what an effective witness of the Gospel is and does we find ourselves today in I Corinthians 2:1-2. The phrase I want to get you to is the opening phrase of verse 2 … .
b.In order to understand how Paul got to the place where he could say 2:2 we need to consider the whole context of this section of Scripture.
c.But let’s start with a story – another story out of Ken’s illustrative life.
i.I don’t like to be called stupid. Even when I have earned the title I still do ot want to be labelled “stupid”. In 1972 I managed to procure a job at a U.S. Naval Base in Argentia Newfoundland, washing dishes, washing floors and doing general cleaning. One of my jobs was to take the garbage out and on one occasion I was carrying a large metal margarine container to the trash. The lid on the margarine was metal and the margarine made the tin slippery. As I was carrying it, it began to slip and it slipped through my hands and the metal lid sliced open my thumb. When my boss heard it he made the comment that I was stupid.
ii.I came across a video on You Tube while preparing this message entitled “Christianity is Stupid” … .
The text we read this morning speaks much about foolishness and wisdom. See 1:18, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27 … . This is an important aspect of what God is teaching us here through Paul regarding giving the Gospel. And the whole section works its way to 2:1-5.
The title of the message is “A Resolute Spirit” and to see what that means we need to have a look at the whole section of 1:18-2:2. If we look at it properly and God gives us understanding of it to our minds and hearts then I think we too will say with Paul “I decided to know nothing among people than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
a.the world considers the message of the cross foolishness. If you don’t want to be thought stupid or mindless or hanging on to an old fashioned system of thought that is no longer useful or helpful – then you are either going to give up on the Gospel or you will keep quiet about it in non-Christian company. The Gospel, to the unbelieving world, is stupid. And you are stupid for believing it and stupid, rude, … for trying to convince others to believe it with you.
a.the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is foolish to the world. “Stupid is as stupid does” Forrest Gump tells us and the world tells us that it is stupid to preach a stupid message.
a.No matter who people are, they are fundamentally opposed to the Gospel. Jews do not want a Messiah who suffered and Gentiles do not want a Saviour who does not meet their standard of intelligence. The Greeks want science. The Jews want political power. Jesus offers salvation from sin through one death and resurrection and it does not cut muster with either of them. POINT? The world does not want Christ.
i.Dear ones – if you want to give the Gospel but only want to give it to those who have no opposition to it, you are going to be disappointed and discouraged and hurt. People do not want the Gospel. The Gospel works against their thinking. Even among those who will give you audience you often discover that what they want is not the Gospel, but something else – food, for you to buy something.
a.But we preach Christ crucified … Why? Why preach this if the world does not want it? See the verse. It makes Jews stumble and it makes Greeks laugh. ( See 2:14)
i.Because this is the only Gospel there is. We do not have the option of changing it. We cannot invent some other Gospel. We can only give that which was once for all delivered to the saints. We give this Gospel because God says to give it.
a.But is it just an exercise of obedience? Is there no point to it other than our relationship to God? Then why deliver it at all? If people do not want it. If people think it is stupid. If people find it too old fashioned, too western, too tied to political power … … . then what is the point of delivering it to anyone?
i.Paul gives the answer – Because there are people who are called to believe who God is going to save through this Gospel. They might start out believing it is stupid, but they come to believe it. Because God calls them.
b.To those who are called the Gospel becomes the power and wisdom of God. Paul does not mean here that call that is given to all people on all the world – the call to repentance, to faith (Acts 17:31). No, he is speaking of the call that comes from God and is directed right to the heart and produces what God wants it to produce – see 1:9. See also – Rom. 1:7; 8:28, II Thess. 2:14, I Peter 2:9, Rev. 17:14
Enter providence – this church is here. We have a Gospel message that people need to hear and believe. We believe that God is not sending us on a fool’s errand and we therefore believe that He is going to save people through the efforts of this church in giving the Gospel. But how shall we reach them? How do we show them that Christ is better than their gods, than their lifestyle, then money, power, sex … . What does Paul say in 2:2? “I was coming to people who thought the Gospel was both difficult and stupid. Then what was I going to do. Why not just stick to making tents? Because there are people God is calling and He is going to call them through your preaching of the Gospel.
Can there be anything more encouraging than that? Winning people to Christ is not a matter of the strategy, although we should use some strategy… . It is not a matter of our ingenuity, or our ability to explain things flawlessly… or … . It is a matter of the calling of God .So, when it comes to the wise what will you do? Preach Christ crucified. When it comes to the stupid what will you do? Preach Christ crucified. When it comes to the rich, the poor, the healthy and the sick, the married and the single. When you encounter someone with sins that make your hair curl and those who think that Jay walking is the worst thing they have ever done – what will you do? … … . There is only one Gospel dear ones and it – the Gospel – is the power of God to them that believe. IT – not all the other stuff we do. This does not necessarily mean that we dump everything else we are doing. But it does mean that we will never dump the Gospel and it means that we will always aim at getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to be heard – because that is where the power is.
Dear ones, are you able to use lofty sounding arguments in your defense of the faith? No? Good. Paul could – but he didn’t. Why? Because the message of the cross is its own power – The good news is the power of God. Not educated? Good, there is one less temptation for you to rest upon your brains. You are well educated? Good – use it to explain the Gospel in simple language that even a child can understand.
a.See, for example, your coming to Christ. Not many wise people here. Not many influential. Not many noble … What do we have? We have what the world considers foolish (27), weak (27), low (28), despised (28), nothing (28).
b.The wise … thought it was stupid. Why didn’t you?
i.See verse 26 – your calling.
ii.Verse 27 – 29 – God chose
iii.Verse 30 – It is because of Him you are in Christ.
a.the example of Paul in giving the Gospel when he went to Corinth.
i.Verse 1 – “and I” – since all of this is true I did not come with great lofty sounding arguments and explanations … People think the Gospel is foolish – what would be the point?
ii.I decided to give you Jesus Christ crucified and risen (See 15:3)
What I Corinthians 1:18-31 does NOT mean.
It does NOT mean that the Gospel is for simpletons only.
It does not mean that education, deep thinking, … are bad ideas. (Acts 17:28)
It does not mean that we just yell out to people “Jesus died and rose …” and just leave them … . (Acts 17:2 et.al.)
It does not mean that how you live doesn’t matter (I Tim. 4:16; I Peter 2:11-12)
It means that God demolishes the wisdom of the world with a very basic truth
It means that the power of the Gospel is not in the presentation of the Christian giving it but in the message itself (Romans 1:16-17)
It means that no matter what your education, I.Q. … you are equipped to give the Gospel.
It means that if a church is growing because lost people are truly being converted to faith in Christ that the credit goes completely to God who saves people through a very simple truth, when schemes and strategies could not do it.
It means that we must give people Jesus Christ and Him crucified because that is the God ordained means of bringing people to faith in Christ.
It means that we should give it to whomever providence puts in our path because the Gospel is the power of God and that person is not in your life by coincidence.
It means that we should never give the impression that the Gospel demands three degrees…
It means that the crucial elements of the Gospel are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It means that we should know the basics of the Gospel.
And it means, dear ones, that you should be resolved to give it. Don’t look at yourself and say “I can’t do this. Of course you can’t. But the power is in the Gospel itself, not you.
Want to be an effective witness? Have a resolute spirit to give what God uses to bring those He is calling to Himself. Plan to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People must hear the Gospel. And God saves people through the Gospel. Pray that He will save people through your delivery of it.