Preaching the gospel of Jesus the Christ is a challenging undertaking. How do you get people to see that God’s message for them is the most important thing in the world when there are so many competing ideas and philosophies floating around among human beings? Every one of those ideas presents itself as not only worthy of consideration but to be the basis upon which life itself is to be built.
Some of these ideas totally reject the existence of God or deny that he is a loving, forgiving being who wants to have an ongoing relationship with man. Some present a warped vision of the nature of God, seeing him as violent and vengeful, ready to strike down anyone who doesn’t live up to his high standard. Yet others view God as far away and disinterested in his creation like an absentee landlord. These kinds of gods do not have much to say to us today. We just have to muddle through and do the best we can with what we have been given.
The early Christians faced many different ideas about God that presented a challenge to the preaching of the gospel in that day. Paul said that the Jews sought after signs and the Greeks sought wisdom, but when he preached Christ crucified it was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness. Yet, he said, Christ is both the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For him and for those who believe the gospel, its message is greater than all the philosophies man ever has invented.
“Where 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? For 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but 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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).
How is Christ the wisdom of God? How can this one person be greater than all the wise men and philosophers who ever lived – greater even than their philosophies?
He is God’s wisdom and greater than the wisdom of men because no human philosopher through their philosophy ever made a connection between God and man. Man can only speculate about God and what is pleasing to him or about how to approach God or how to placate God, but no one of them nor all of them combined by their wisdom ever has been able to bring even one person into a relationship with God. It is only through Jesus that God has brought us to himself.
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Christ – the Messiah – is the ultimate interpreter of God to the world and of the world to God, of God to man and of man to God. Indeed, he is the only adequate interpreter of ourselves to ourselves, for whoever could face up to what we have become in view of what we are intended to be? Jesus revealed what we are supposed to be – the very image of the invisible God – and in doing so revealed our desperate plight as sinners against God as well as against ourselves.
Christ is the wisdom of God in his plan of redemption because man could not save himself. All man-made religions believe man has to save himself. All human philosophies believe it is up to man to make his own happiness and to answer his own needs. But through Christ he has shown us our own inadequacy to be able to be reconciled to him. It took the blood of the innocent Son of God to redeem us from our sins.
Paul takes this further in Ephesians 1:7-10 where he says…
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
So not only is redemption or forgiveness of sins in and through Christ a manifestation of divine wisdom, but the cosmic purpose of bringing all things in heaven and earth together is according to his wisdom and also to be accomplished in Christ. When you think about all of creation – not just the earth, but heaven also being united into one harmonious whole, what wisdom does man possess that could accomplish this? Can he climb up into heaven to bring Christ down? Must we perform some super-human feat to bring the two realms of creation into harmony? Yet God is doing this through Christ.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20).
Here is the dark theme of suffering that Paul refers to so often. It too is a part of the wisdom that is to be found in him. We look in vain for an answer to the problem of suffering, but it is only in the love of the suffering Savior that meaning is to be found. The one who went to the cross to die for our sins did so out of his love for us.
There is something else that shows the wisdom of God that no mortal would ever have conceived. That is what God has chosen to confound the wisdom of the world. God did not choose to make his wisdom known in some mighty man. He did not inscribe his wisdom on monuments of stone nor etch it into golden plaques. He chose the weak things of the world to show his wisdom.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
By his wisdom he chose a fisherman by the name of Peter to preach the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost. He chose a despised tax collector by the name of Matthew to write one of the records of the life of Jesus. He chose a violent persecutor to become the greatest evangelist of all time – the man who came to be known as Paul the apostle. By that same wisdom he chose you and me, no matter how insignificant we may be in the world’s eyes, to do his work today.
But how do we grasp such a weighty matter? How can we begin to understand how we fit into God’s wonderful scheme of things? The apostle Paul prayed for some Christians who may have been having just such a problem understanding just how it all fit together and where they fit into God’s plan. He prayed…
“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3).
And when we understand that we are in Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” we can begin to gain some insight into how he can use us to further his purposes on earth. As long as our faith is in him and not in ourselves he can use us powerfully for his purpose. With Paul we can confidently say…
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).
With the apostle, we can only exclaim…
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).