We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block
and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24
Foolishness! It is utter foolishness—to preach Christ and Him crucified! It is a stumbling block! Who wants to hear such things? It doesn’t “grow” the church.
Such is the way many perceive the preaching of Christ. Of course, we should expect nonbelievers to take such a position, as St. Paul the apostle describes. They do not believe in Christ. They seek their own way, their own means of salvation. The salvation of God they deplore. But within the church? How could this be?
Within the church, there is a battle going on. Many would like to deny this and say that “all believe the same thing.” But is this the truth? Should we ask, “What is the Bible?” various answers will be given. Should we ask, “What is the purpose of the Bible?” not all would say the same. Should we ask, “What is Christianity?” we would hear a divided, not a united, response.
These “differences” demonstrate, not a unity, but a disunity. They are not positives, but reveal the sinfulness of man, for if true external unity did exist, we would all say the same thing and be saying the same thing. Our doctrine and confession would be one. But as it is, we do not all confess the same doctrine. Nor do Christians everywhere teach the same thing.
These things are so, not because of so called “interpretation” as many presume, but because not all take Christ at His Word—not all believe what Christ did and how He works. Not all believe what God says. It is a question of belief vs. unbelief.
Christ crucified is a stumbling block and foolishness because His way is not according to our way. God saves by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Reason and human nature would lay salvation on us somehow. But God speaks differently. He reveals life in death; strength in weakness; wisdom in folly; and honor in what is despised. Thus do we see Christ, God in the flesh, dying for the sinner; strong, yet weak; wise, but foolish; honorable, yet despised.
God and His ways are opposite from our own ways and the ways of the world. And thanks be to God that this is so, for those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God!
“True Christian theology does not present God to us in His majesty, as Moses and other teachings do, but Christ born of the Virgin as our Mediator and High Priest. Therefore when we are embattled against the Law, sin, and death in the presence of God, nothing is more dangerous than to stray into heaven with our idle speculations, there to investigate God His incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty, to ask how He created the world and how He governs it. If you attempt to comprehend God this way and want to make atonement to Him apart from Christ the Mediator, making your works, fasts, cowl, and tonsure the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall, as Lucifer did (Is. 14:12), and in horrible despair lose God and everything. For as in His own nature God is immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, so to man’s nature He is intolerable. Therefore if you want to be safe and out of danger to your conscience and your salvation, put a check on this speculative spirit. Take hold of God as Scripture instructs you (1 Cor. 1:23, 24): ‘Since, in wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, it please God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 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.’ therefore begin where Christ began – in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts. For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and died, so that in every possible way He might present Himself to our sight. He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself and thus to prevent us form clambering into heaven and speculating about the Divine Majesty.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p29).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us from presuming Your Word to be our own and Your ways to be our ways. Humble us that we turn away from our self-righteousness and look to You alone for comfort and salvation. Keep us in the true faith, that denying ourselves, we confess our sins and trust only in Christ for help and strength. Amen.