1 Corinthians 1:24
But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
The power of God is seen in nature and in providence, but here we have a new conception of it. Jesus Christ is that Power. In his person, as God manifest in flesh, there resides the potency of the Highest; but the apostle is here thinking mainly of him as crucified. In that cross, which seems to us the culmination of weakness, he sees the very power of God. Consider -
I. THE ELEMENTS OF DIVINE POWER TO BE FOUND IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
1. The death of Christ manifests the power of God's love. As soon as we understand the meaning of the cross, we cannot help exclaiming," Herein is love!" Nor is it merely the fact of his love to men which it reveals, for this might be learned elsewhere; but it is the greatness of his love. It is the "commendation" of it (Romans 5:8) - the presenting of it in such a way as to powerfully impress us with its wonderful character. Here is the Son of God dying for sinners; and on whichever part of this statement we fix attention, it casts light on this marvellous love.
(1) The Son of God! The strength of God's love to us may be gauged by the fact that he gave up to death his own Son. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," etc. (John 3:16); "He that spared not his own Son," etc. (Romans 8:32). What a power of love is here! Not an angel, nor some unique being specially created and endowed for the mighty task, but his one only Son. Human love has rarely touched this high water mark.
(2) For sinners! "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Human measures and analogies fail us here. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13); but here is love for enemies. And love, not in mere sentiment, not in simple forbearance, but in self sacrifice - love persisting in its purpose of salvation in the face of hatred and scorn. Thus on both sides the love of God is seen in power. And what a battery to play upon the hearts of men!
2. The death of Christ manifests the power of his justice. No reading of the cross that leaves this element out of account can explain the mystery. In a work the professed design of which is to restore men to righteousness, there must surely be no breach of righteousness; yet it is here put to a severe test. Is the Law impartial? Will it punish sin wherever it is found? What if the Son of God himself should be found with sin upon him? Shall the sword awake and smite the man that is God's Fellow (Zechariah 13:7)? Yes; for he dies there as one "bruised for our iniquities." Surely justice must be mighty when it lays its hand on such a victim. If that modern description of God as a "power making for righteousness" is applicable anywhere, it is so here; for nowhere is he so severely righteous as in the working out of salvation for men. Nothing can more powerfully appeal to conscience than his treatment of the sinner's Surety; and nothing can more thoroughly assure us that the pardon which comes to us through the cross is righteous.
II. THE POWER OF GOD IN THE CROSS AS SEEN IN ITS PRACTICAL EFFECTS, Our readiest measure of any force in nature is the effect it produces, and in this way we may gauge the power of the cross. Take it:
1. In regard to the powers of darkness. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:15; comp. Hebrews 2:14). The execution of this purpose is intimated in Colossians 2:16, "Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross]." It is as if ten thousand fiendish arms were stretched out to pluck him from that cross; but he strips them off him, and hurls them back into the abyss. It cost him much to win that victory, even "strong crying and tears" and an agony of soul beyond all human experience; but the triumph was complete.
2. In regard to the actual salvation of sinners. To deliver a man from sin in all respects, undo its direful effects, and fit him to take his place among God's sons, - what power is adequate to this? Take Paul's own conversion, on which apologists have been willing to stake the supernatural character of Christianity. And every conversion presents substantially the same features. It is nothing less than a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) - a calling of light out of darkness, order out of chaos, life out of death; and this is a more wonderful exercise of power than that which gave existence to the universe. The fair temple of God in the soul has to be built, not out of fresh hewn stones, but out of the ruins of our former selves. A poor weak man is rescued from corruption, defended "against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12), and presented at last without blemish before God, - what but Divine power can accomplish this? Add to this the exercise of this power in a countless number of instances. From the steps of the throne survey that radiant multitude, beautiful with the beauty of God and noble with the nobility of Christ, and the might of the cross will need no other proof.
3. In regard to what he enables his people to do and suffer for his sake. Take an active missionary life like that of Paul. Read such a catalogue of afflictions as he gives us in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, and ask why a man should voluntarily undergo all these. Thousands have followed his example, meeting toil, privation, death, for their Lord's sake. Nor does the power of the cross shine less conspicuously in the sick chamber. How many a Christian invalid exhibits a patience, a meekness, a cheerfulness, which can be found nowhere else! - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.