18For 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. 19For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where 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? 21For 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. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, ESV)
The Wisdom of a Foolish God
I have always found the statement found here about God’s wisdom to be mind boggling. God in his most “foolish” moment is wiser than all of humanity’s wisdom put together. I know that this is classic Pauline overstatement, and yet I wonder at times if Paul’s intent is to reveal the hubris of the human heart. Too often we think that we have unlocked some secret or hidden nugget of wisdom from God’s treasure trove. I think that this is the danger in attempting to analyze or explain what is only meant to be proclaimed.
I am reminded of Dr. John Piper speaking of the time that he began to understand, too truly grasp what it meant for God to be sovereign.
“As I studied Romans 9 day after day, I began to see a God so majestic and so free and so absolutely sovereign that my analysis merged into worship and the Lord said, in effect, “I will not simply be analyzed, I will be adored. I will not simply be pondered, I will be proclaimed. My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized, it is to be heralded. It is not grist for the mill of controversy, it is gospel for sinners who know that their only hope is the sovereign triumph of God’s grace over their rebellious will.” [Source].
Do you see it. This is what it means that faith is the proclamation of the Truth of God. As we are confronted with the Truth of God, that in Christ we have new life and we who were enemies now have access to the mercy seat of God’s grace, is not something to be merely understood. This truth must be experienced. This is the nature of freedom inducing truth. The truth sets us free. This is what Jesus said, but he never went into the details of why it sets us free or of how the truth sets us free. Jesus simply states that this is the effect of truth in our lives. Why do we fight so hard at times to understand, when what God has asked is for us to enjoy. We want to dissect rather than delight in what has been provided. At the root of this attitude is an ungrateful heart. The American church is so comfortable that it fails to see it’s own tantrums anymore. Only a spoiled child will look at a perfect gift and ask for more.
Paul in his letter to the Roman church says these simple and yet amazing words.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17, ESV)
At the heart of the Christian faith is a story that must be told. It is in the telling that new life is born in the hearts and minds of sinners. We should not be surprised by this. Stories stimulate us to think beyond the hear and now. Stories transport us to far away places and help us to consider and contemplate perspectives and possibilities that are difficult, dangerous or even childish.
The Love of God Compels Us
Jesus’ story is the foundational reality of why, if we claim to have become Christ’s, we must be about the proclamation of God’s Truth. Our awareness and growing dependence upon Jesus is what drives us forward in growing boldness. There is something different in us now that we have come to know the Son of God.
14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. … 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-21, ESV)
Many today do not feel the compelling power of the Gospel. We have grown accustomed to its message. We have lost sight of its purpose. We have looked upon the broken and battered body of the Lamb of God and found it trivial and mundane. The cross is a compelling reality, not because Jesus was nailed to it, but because I wasn’t. He hangs in my place and yours.
Proclamation is the Fruit of Conviction
I think that at the heart of this expression of faith is how little conviction I see in the people of God for the Truth of God. I am not talking about believing that there is a God or even that He has spoken. There are many who have laid claim to truth. The problem for them is that the truth that they claim in not rooted in the character of God. Truth is not always about discovering what is “already there.” This is the fundamental difference between the faith of Jesus and the rest of the religions of the world. Truth is not an idea or a philosophy or a pattern of living. Truth is a person. Jesus is truth because everything that he said and did is true.
Therefore, when we make it our life’s aim to proclaim the story and life of Jesus we are proclaiming the truth of God. There is no higher truth to spread throughout the whole earth. There is no greater endeavor to which we can dedicate our lives. There is no cause more worthy of our best efforts. Truth is not just something for which me must learn to live. Truth must become something for which we are willing to die!
I think of those first few weeks and months as the young church was making sense of what it was going to look like as they obeyed the command of Jesus. There must have been times where they were still wondering how it all was going to pan out. Their only certainty was that their faith was their only hope. Here is how Luke recounts the events in Acts 4.
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:13-20, ESV)
What makes this event so amazing is not that they wiped the sweat from their brows and said to themselves, “Glad we dodged a bullet back there!” No, that is not the response of a man or woman that has seen what these disciples have seen. They go to their fellowship and they do what, under different circumstances, would be seen and understood as foolish and careless. They ask for boldness to do it again!
23When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. … 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23, 29-31, ESV)
Where is this prayer in our churches? We pray for clarity, openness on the part of the hearer and even favor with those whom we will encounter. Why do we think that disciples twenty centuries removed from the events can do better to pray for something that was not even upon the minds of those disciples that were twenty minutes removed from Jesus’ ascension?
We must seek boldness to proclaim the Truth of God, which in the end is Jesus himself.
O God, help that we who are called by the name of your Son would make boldness a virtue of higher regard than comfort, safety or even wisdom. Boldness is what is needed among the lost and the pretentious. Boldness is the antidote to pride because it forces us to trust in you to deliver. I pray for boldness. Grant that I may proclaim Your truth, the message of Jesus the Christ, to a world that prefers to turn a deaf ear to what you have proclaimed in the heavens. The works of your hands are a testimony of your majesty. O that we who are weak, would turn to you and trust in your strength and power before those who portend to be powerful and of high repute. There is no name worthy of our total alligience, but yours. In the name of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus, Amen.