1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God.
There is a holy zeal of indignation in the spirit animating this passage. Paul, the rabbinical scholar, not untinctured with Hellenic culture, must have felt it hard that the life he had voluntarily adopted often brought him into disrepute even amongst his intellectual inferiors. But he had chosen deliberately and in the sight of God, and no power on earth could make him swerve from his course. His own mind was satisfied that the gospel could do for man what no other power could effect, and his daily observation convinced him that in this judgment he was right. He could afford, then, to endure the scorn of men, for the doctrine he was promulgating was attested as the power of God.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE, OR WORD, OF THE CROSS.
1. The cross had to Paul no merely material and superstitious meaning. In after ages men heard much of "the true cross," and even now relics (supposed) of the instrument of our Saviour's sufferings are treasured and revered. The cross may be reproduced in shape, in ornament, in architecture, in posture, and there may all the time be no spiritual understanding of the cross.
2. Nor did a merely sentimental meaning attach itself in Paul's mind to the cross. Suffering, and especially the suffering of innocence, awakens sympathy, and people talk about the cross they carry, with no other apprehension of the meaning of the phrase.
3. But it was a symbol of Christ's sacrifice. Jesus bare the cress before he set out for Calvary; its shadow had been for years upon his soul. In his death upon the cross he bore our sins, and secured that his people should with him be crucified unto the world. Thus the tree of death became the sign of redemption and the law of life.
II. THE OFFENCE OF THE DOCTRINE, OR WORD, OF THE CROSS.
1. In itself. The cross was associated in men's minds with slavery, with guilt and crime, with suffering, with shame, with reviling, and with death.
2. In its position in the Christian scheme. To hope to convert the world by preaching seemed to many the vainest folly; by preaching a person, ridiculous; by preaching a person judicially put to death, insanity; by preaching one crucified, a moral obliquity and infamy.
3. There was a special reason why the Jews should resent this doctrine. They cherished a carnal love of splendour and power of a manifest and impressive kind, and the word of the cross outraged their sentiments. They looked for a temporal deliverer in the Messiah, and this expectation was disappointed in the gospel of the Crucified.
4. There was a special reason why the Gentiles, especially those of education and philosophical tastes, should take offence at the word of the cross. They disdained the barbarian and despised the Jew, and they contemned the form in which Christianity was proclaimed. They loved health, beauty and power, and had no sympathy with a religion which gloried in the Crucified, and appealed to the sinful and the wretched. Their taste for speculation and for novelty was not gratified by Christian doctrine, and the cross would fit into none of their schemes of the universe.
III. THE POWER OF THE DOCTRINE, OR WORD, OF THE CROSS.
1. The source of this power. It is Divine. The word of the cross expresses the Divine mind, shows God's estimate of human sin, exhibits the Divine righteousness, reveals the Divine love, and does all this on a human platform, so that we are enabled to appreciate the mystery of heavenly counsels.
2. The sphere of this power. Unbelievers cannot recognize it; they cannot but regard it as folly, for they are perishing in the sin from which it might deliver them. But all who are "in course of salvation" are living witnesses to the efficacy of the gospel. In a free moral nature, truth and love must be received in order that they may operate.
3. The proofs of this power. Compare it with any other power, and its superiority is manifest. What else can awaken the selfish, the sensual, and the obdurate to a sense of sin; can impel the low minded and earthly to the pursuit of holiness; can guide and graciously constrain to a life of consecrated service; can enter a corrupt society as leaven, and can purify it as salt? - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.