You can watch or read the sermon below.
To recap Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth in around the year 54AD while he was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaea. You will remember that the letter was written to this church because Paul had received reports that the church in Corinth was suffering under factionalism and placing great emphasis on the gifts certain members had over others. Others claimed superior knowledge and wisdom. While others were living immoral lives while still claiming membership of the church.
You will remember that those first 9 verses which we read in our first week involved Paul setting out who the Corinthians were in the eyes of God, and emphasising that though their knowledge and gifts are wonderful things they are all from God. They enable us to see that we are called into a whole body of believers, that we are set apart – sanctified by God, that the spiritual gifts we have are from God, that our knowledge and abilities in the faith are from God. Those first 9 verses point us to the great truth that it is God at work in us that is what redeems us – that it is God’s grace – his unmerited, or unearned favour towards us that is what saves us. Above all it shows us that though we are fickle, that we often get caught in our own desires, or think we are the ones doing great things that it is in fact God and his faithfulness that enables us to do all things.
Having set the scene for his letter to the Corinthian Church by letting them know that it is God who is at work in them, and their salvation, their knowledge and their gifts are all from God, that they are all one body – Paul moved into discussing factionalism and division in the church.
Paul called the church to unity, to be of one mind. Now remember Paul mean when he says that we as the church should all be of one mind wasn’t calling us to blind faith or conformity – rather he was calling the church to focus on the core thing – the Gospel. He was also emphasising that what we do and how we behave matters and effects how we are able to promote the Gospel.
He also gave us that model of evangelism – that being straight forward and honest about the Gospel without embellishment and without compromise.
Last week we focussed heavily on how the cross of Christ is foolishness to the world. We focussed on that cross where we are reconciled to God. That it is at the cross where the consequences for our sins are dealt with. It is at the cross where God incarnate says – even though you may think it is foolish, here I show you my love, here I do what I must to bring us back together. It is at the cross that the bill we owe is paid.
Today Paul continues talking to the church in Corinth about how the Gospel does not conform to the wisdom of the world. In the opening five verses of our reading today Paul continues to explain to the them how he didn’t come to them trying to appear wise and distinguished – he didn’t come to them trying to look and sound like someone who would be deemed respectable by the standards of the world – rather he came to them from a place of weakness – with a story that would seem implausible to them.
He came and told them that they could be set free from their fear, their brokenness and be forgiven for all that they had done wrong through simply putting their trust in what Jesus had done on the cross. He came and told them that Jesus – this guy from Nazareth, who Was crucified as a criminal – this Jesus actually rose from death – this Jesus was actually the promised one of God – This Jesus was the one who would allow them – and us –
as flawed and broken as we are – to be reconciled to God – to be forgiven for our sins – because Jesus took the consequence.
As we talked about last week – this is foolishness – it is nonsensical to the world. However What Paul does next is important. He transitions from talking about how this is foolishness – to begin to explain how it is in fact the very wisdom of God. He begins to explain to the Church in Corinth that while this may seem like foolishness to the wider world – to those of us who have been willing to open our hearts and minds to receive the Holy Spirit of God when he prompted us – it is in fact wisdom beyond anything we could ever hope for.
You see this wisdom of God, that the rest of the world sees as foolishness actually points us to salvation – it points us to a new creation – it points us to God’s Kingdom
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him’
Paul goes on to explain to us that it is through the spirit that we begin to fully understand what God has done for us. It is through God’s Spirit working through us and guiding us that we begin to comprehend the magnificence of what God has achieved.
Through opening ourselves up – being willing to hear God’s call, we begin to understand that what seems like foolishness to the powers of this world – is actually the very thing that will overthrow them. When we are willing to put aside what we deem as important and instead focus on what God’s spirit leads us to – we find ourselves drawn into an understanding of God that is astonishing.
We find ourselves understanding that God himself became a human being – we find ourselves understanding that God himself went to the cross so that we need not suffer the eternal consequence of sin. We find ourselves understanding that through Jesus God has broken into our world and a new creation has begun to dawn – a new creation that we are called to display in our own lives. When Jesus went to that cross God himself broke into the world he created – God himself came to break the corrupt powers of this fallen and broken world and draw us to him.
Paul also says something that for some people is troubling – he says that those who are not spiritual don’t receive the gifts of God’s spirit. That’s a significant statement – because Paul isn’t just speaking here about the gifts of prophecy and tongues and understanding … he is talking about the ultimate gift – he is talking about salvation – forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.
We don’t like to talk about that much do we – that there are people in the world who will not be saved – who will not be reconciled to God and thus will have to face the consequences of their sin. Paul here refers to them as those who are unspiritual – we can understand that as those who reject the call of God’s Spirit on their lives.
You see Paul isn’t saying that God rejects people – he is saying that there are people who despite God’s call – despite the Spirit moving their hearts to seek him out, choose instead to turn away – to reject the movement and prompting of the Spirit. When they make that decision they cut themselves off from God – they cut themselves off from the wisdom and understanding that would lead them to know what God has done for them.
But I want you all to understand something very important – God never stops calling us. He never gives up. If you or someone you know has chosen to reject God – it is not to late, He is there waiting for us – all we need do is turn back to him. All we need to do is open ourselves up to the prompting of the Spirit and be willing to take that initial step of faith – if we are willing to take that step when he calls us, then as Paul says we will be lead into all wisdom, we will find joy and forgiveness – we will find hope.
Brothers and sisters, we are constantly being told by the world around us that what we believe is foolish – that we are fools for even contemplating putting our faith in Jesus. We are constantly being drawn away from God – the enemy, is always seeking to pull us away. However, the Great promise of God is that he is with us always – and if we are just willing to put our trust and hope in him we will never abandon us – he will be our rock, our redeemer – he will be our guide, our comforter and friend – and he will lead us to a kind of wisdom joy and hope that we can trust in.
Let us each this week take some time to sit down and simply open our hearts up to God. Let us each take the time to reflect on what God has done for us – let us take the time to ask for a fresh movement of His Spirit to stir us, and guide us.
Let us dedicate ourselves again to seeking after the wisdom of God – given by the spirit – which sets us free through the cross – that foolish, foolish cross.
The Lord be with you.