The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
In this lesson we hope to help us all grow more and more into the likeness of God’s Dear Son and our Wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). Our text for study will be 1 Corinthians 1:17-31. We intend to discuss “The Cross - The Power of God” and “When Foolishness is Wisdom.”
Probably the primary weakness of the church today is our failure to live surrendered, spiritual lives for Jesus. A religion that’s not rooted in Jesus Christ is without life, growth, fruit, and permanence. God’s goal for every Christian is that we “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29), or in other words, we are to WALK like Jesus Christ (1 John 2:6).
The Christian's life is in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27); for Paul said Christ is to be formed in us (Gal. 4:19), and Christ is to be our life (Phil. 1:21). “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30). Thus, we are in Christ and Jesus Christ is in us (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5).
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). What He is saying is, “I am the way; without me there is no going. I am the truth; without me there is no knowing. I am the life; without me there is no living.” Therefore, Christianity is NOT a creed to live by (Nicene creed, Apostles creed, Articles of faith, etc.) but a person to live within - Jesus!
Becoming a Christian is not like passing a comprehensive, theological examination. It’s more like getting married and living in a holy, happy relationship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit said, “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead” (Rom. 7:1-4).
In verse 17 of our text, Paul reveals his principal work as that of preaching the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). This is the same as the “preaching of the cross” in verse 18, and the preaching of “Christ crucified” in verse 23. Paul's chief concern was that he should see to it that he proclaimed, not only the right message, but that the message BE expressed in the words which would in no sense detract from its central theme, which was the cross of Christ, or “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Loved ones, the death of Christ was absolutely essential to the salvation of the human race, and that truth must be understood and appreciated before any individual is prepared to accept the overtures of the Gospel. There is no event in all recorded history which is better attested than the crucifixion of Jesus. His death, burial, and resurrection (which made Him the conqueror of death, Hades, and the grave), are the central events in the human experience, and the fundamental truths of the Gospel (Read 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Therefore, the Gospel is to be preached, but not with the wisdom of man’s words. Man’s wisdom simply makes the cross of Christ of none effect (vs. 17). A classic text of Scripture which shows conclusively that the power to save is NOT in the wisdom of man’s words, but in the Gospel or good news of the cross is Romans 1:16. The Bible says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
One of the great tragedies of our age is the inability of so many, even some professed Christians, to understand the central and basic meaning of the cross. While not professing to explain the full meaning of the cross, there are, nevertheless, some fundamental truths regarding its significance which we can all understand, and which have a practical meaning for us today.
First Corinthians 1:18 teaches that the message or word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. However, to believers the message of the Cross is God’s Power to Save - the Gospel saves (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16). Paul here discusses two groups of men and their attitude toward the Gospel; one is proper, the other is not. Those who are perishing look upon the words from God (the Bible) as being the course of folly; without learning and with no benefit, and they have their scribes and disputers to defend their ideas. But those who are true believers look upon the message of the Gospel as being the power of God to save (cf. James 1:21).
To those who reject the story of the cross, the death of Jesus for the deliverance of man from sin is all foolishness. They regard it so, treat it so, and it, standing to them as foolishness, has no influence or power to save. But to those who have come to a knowledge of the truth, who love truth, obey and honor truth; there is demonstrated in the cross of Christ the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24).
The cross, which stands for the facts and truths of the Gospel, is the power to save from sin. Jesus, a short time before His death, said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." And John adds, "This he said, signifying what death he should die" (John 12:32-33).
If we look at these words of Jesus from the purely human point of view, it is difficult to imagine a more unlikely prophecy. The idea that to humble Himself as a servant (Phil. 2:5-8), and to suffer and die as a criminal is the way to exert influence and power to lead man away from selfishness and sin is a paradox. It is contrary to our “common sense” - contrary to all feelings and tendencies of our human nature.
What mental image comes into your mind when you try to visualize the meaning of power? Perhaps a jet plane speeding through the air at more than six hundred miles per hour. Perhaps a diesel engine pulling a string of cars at one hundred miles per hour. Maybe you think of the authority of an absolute monarch, or the reign of absolute law. What about the movements of the planets through space, or the forked lightning which is seen in the clouds?
These are all symbols of great power, but who, left to himself, would ever think of looking for the symbol of God's power in the body of a man, dying a shameful death on a cross? Yet, the truth of this paradox stands fast; for the Son of man was also the Son of God, and death had no dominion over Him. Peter, in the first Gospel sermon, declared that God raised Christ from the dead, "having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
Thus, Christ reveals in His humanity a new power to men, through whom we can lead others away from sin. Christ also reveals to men a new and living way to happiness (cf. John 14:6). The only way to true happiness is to help others in the name of Him who became a sin offering for the whole human family (2 Cor. 5:21). Yes, there is power in the blood, which is just another way of saying, there is power in the Gospel of the cross of Christ.
But for anyone to understand and really appreciate the truth regarding the power of Christ, he must realize Who it was that died on the cross. To help you know who the victim was, please read the following three Scriptures: John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-17; Revelation 1:12-18. This man, this Word, the image of the invisible God, the first and the last, this man Jesus the Christ, is our power source!
The Bible says, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Corinthians 1:19). Paul here cites Isaiah 29:14, where the prophet sets God's might and power against those who have followed the precepts of men (cf. Matt. 15:8-9). Paul shows how God demonstrated the foolishness of the statesmen and kings who were in rebellion against Him and His ways.
Those wise in terms of this world, and those with understanding and learning of solely a worldly, temporal sort can avail nothing. Their might, wisdom and power are seen to be worthless. The wisdom of the world is folly in the sight of God. The great living principle of salvation is that man must hear Christ and be guided by God's wisdom (cf. Heb. 1:1; Prov. 3:5-7).
God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe and all things must be brought into harmony with His will and be subject to His laws (Gen. 1:1; Matt. 7:21). All God's dealings with man are intended to bring about this end. But the trouble with man is that he prefers to walk by his own wisdom rather than surrender to the wisdom of God (READ Jeremiah 8:9).
All God's dealings with man from the beginning have been to show that man's own wisdom has brought him to ruin. Therefore he must avoid it and seek the wisdom of God (Read Jeremiah 10:23). God has foretold that he will bring all the devices and inventions of human wisdom to nought by the things that seemed to men weak and foolish.
Paul now gives us understanding by asking four questions in 1 Corinthians 1:20: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” We ask, where is the man with this world's wisdom who can surpass God? Look around in the world today...where is the writer who has produced from a wisdom of the world that which is superior to the wisdom found in the Scriptures? Where is the man in this world who has such power in discussion, in questioning, that he is superior to God? The clear implication is that such a man cannot be found! God, in His wisdom, has made the wisdom of this world to be a foolish thing.
Friends, many of you are allowing yourselves to follow the wisdom of men. Men who teach that a soul can be SAVED before and without submission to water baptism (immersion) are teaching the wisdom of men. God plainly says in the Bible (His Wisdom) that baptism is one of the many things by which man is saved (READ Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Whose wisdom is right; man or God?
Those of you in the many man-made churches throughout the world are following the wisdom and false teachings of men by refusing to be baptized for the PROPER reason, i.e., to wash away your sins by the blood of Christ (Acts 2:38; Matt. 26:28). Those of you in the Catholic and Lutheran church are even refusing to be IMMERSED or buried in the water as the word “baptism” demands (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4). Instead, your man-made wisdom tells you and your infants to be “sprinkled” with water.
Loved ones, the churches of Christ know and believe that Jesus is the Savior (Matt. 1:21; cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). We also know that the Bible says “salvation...is IN Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:10). So the question is, “How does one get into Christ?” The wisdom of God teaches that one is BAPTIZED into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Thus, one is SAVED when he is baptized because he is now IN Christ.
The wisdom of men (which is being followed by the majority in the religious world) teaches that baptism is totally unnecessary in God’s Plan of Salvation. “If you believe in Jesus just accept him into your heart by repeating after me this ‘sinner’s prayer,’” says Billy Graham and other such false teachers. According to man’s wisdom, as soon as the believer says this so-called “sinner's prayer” he is saved or born again. Rubbish! How can one be saved or born again if his sins have not been washed away? (cf. Acts 22:16; John 3:5).
Remember now, the goal of this lesson is to help each of us grow more and more into the likeness of God’s Dear Son and our Wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).
Before the above necessary diversion, we were discussing 1
Corinthians 1:20: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe?
where is the disputer
of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this
The true wisdom and strength of God are seen, not in trying to prevent
enemies from crucifying His Son, but in allowing them to accomplish His
purpose in making the SALVATION of the world possible through the death
of Christ. When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and the
multitude with swords and staves came to arrest Him, Jesus said to His
“Put up again thy sword...thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my
and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be”
One of the common failures of mankind is their unwillingness to take into consideration the true function of power, namely, the ability to achieve a goal or a purpose. Many people imagine that they are exercising power aright, when they attempt to force their wills upon others. That, however, is not true power, but weakness.
With these truths in mind, let us ask: “Why did Jesus allow Himself to be put to death?” Again, the answer - "to accomplish the purpose of God in making the salvation of the world possible." You see, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself...For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:19-21).
None of the classes of the learned and wise of their nations would accept this truth. Jesus therefore said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes: yea Father; for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight" (Luke 10:21).
When properly used, learning, instead of being a hindrance, is a great help in coming to a knowledge of the truth. But if a man is puffed up by it, so as to think he is wise and not dependent upon God, it hinders (READ 1 Cor. 8:1-2). God has shown by His teachings and dealings with the world that all such wisdom is foolishness.
The Holy Spirit then says, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Keep in mind that this verse has reference to the inspired preaching. By God’s wisdom, He has decreed that the world through wisdom would never come to know Him. No wisdom of the world could ever discover God's plan for saving the fallen race, for His thoughts and His ways are so much higher than mans (Isa 55:8-9). Paul agrees with this by saying, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
There are those today, who talk a great deal about God, but in reality do not know him or honor Him, and are just another group of the world. This was true of the Jews who disputed with Jesus. “Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (John 8:19). These same Jewish teachers branded Jesus as having a demon and accused Him of being an agent of Satan (John 8:48). Did not God demonstrate to them and to us that in reality they were the foolish ones?
It was a part of the wisdom of God, in ordering all things, that man by his own wisdom should not know God. To know God is to know His character, His will, His judgments, and His manner of dealings with man; when He will bless and when He will curse. Nothing in man can teach him these things. He is dependent upon God's wisdom made known "by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." God decided that only through the message of the cross (what the world looks at and calls foolishness) will the believer be saved.
The Gospel is a revelation of God and of His will made known through Christ (cf. Eph. 5:17). Those who believe in Christ and accept Him, by obeying His teachings as the true wisdom of God, will be saved by it (Heb. 5:9); while the things suggested by human wisdom can never save. The world, in following its own wisdom, and thus in rejecting the wisdom of God, found itself going away from God, and proceeding until there was complete rejection of God. Romans 1:22 speaks of those who professed themselves to be wise, yet they became fools. The degradation into which these Gentiles proceeded came about in their rejection of God and in following the wisdom of the world.
The Bible says, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22). As Paul continues to show us the difference between man’s wisdom and Gods, he takes us back into the Lord's own ministry, wherein He had to deal with the sign-seeking Jews. Their desire for signs was so strong that they could not see their Savior (READ Matt 12:38-39).
Like the Jews of old, many believers today are still seeking signs. Our Catholic friends seek the sign of a weeping statue (idol) or the appearances of Mary’s face. The Pentecostal believers seek their “speaking in tongues” and “healings” signs. The Mormons seek their “laying on of hands” signs. Nearly all the denominations seek the use of mechanical instruments of music as a “sign” that they are “praising God with a joyful noise.” Yes, there are still many “sign” seekers today; and like the Greeks, non-believers are seeking the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:22). This human wisdom causes them to reject the things of God.
In contrast to the expectations of both Jews and Greeks, Paul points to the message God’s servants are commanded to preach, and it CENTERS on the crucified Christ! Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ, crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). This they did (and we do also) as the only means offered to man to escape sin and it’s penalties. True believers, true Christians, true Gospel preachers are not interested in preaching the wisdom of the world. We simply preach the “foolish”message that Christ was crucified for the sins of the world.
The “sign seeking” Jews stumbled over Christ, and have continued to do so even until this day. Jesus was to them a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isa. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:8). The sign seekers of today (most RELIGIOUS LEADERS) also stumble or are offended over this sign-less message. And like the Greeks, the “wise” of this world (MOST college professors, corporate and political leaders, evolutionist, and ALL atheist) will view the saving message of Christ’s death as foolish.
The Holy Spirit continues: “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). The CALLED are those who believe in Jesus and accept the invitation to come unto Him. Those who answer the call of God, as found in the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) and are chosen (Matt. 22:14; Eph. 1:4), do so because they value the Christ, and see Him as both God's POWER and God's WISDOM.
Those who accept Jesus are NOT those filled with the conceit of their OWN wisdom and self-sufficiency; but they are conscious of their own weakness, willing to hear and be guided by God's wisdom (THE BIBLE and the Bible only). The provisions made in Christ for the salvation of men embodied what God in His wisdom saw was best to save man. In these Gospel provisions the full power of God to save is found (see below).
Reaffirming the point of 1 Corinthians 1:19-20, Paul declares that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). If one can conceive of any "foolishness" as a part of God's nature, then at the most foolish point He would be wiser than all the combined wisdom of all men who have lived or who will live. The world sees God’s eternal plan to give Jesus as the payment for man’s sins as foolishness. But again, this “foolishness” is wiser than men.
Paul also says the weakness of God is stronger than men. So, if God had any quality of "weakness" about Him, and He does not, then He at the most weakest point would be stronger and mightier than all the combined strength of all mankind both past and present. Followers of Christ are looked at by the world as following a weak message. But with God, even this “weakness” is stronger than the wisdom of men.
Men might seek after exhibitions of divine power, and may glory in that which they tend to brand "wisdom," but ONLY in Christ, and the message of the cross is the manifestation of both God's power and wisdom. Christ is the Power source!
Friends, the wisdom of God teaches that Jesus will come quickly - like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10). You need to be ready when He comes. You make yourself ready when you believe and confess your faith in Jesus as the Son of God (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), and are baptized (immersed) in water to wash your sins away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 2:38; Matt. 26:28; Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16). At the point of water baptism God saves you (1 Pet. 3:20-21), and the Lord adds you to His ONE saved body (Eph. 4:4; 5:23; 1 Cor. 12:13); the church (Acts 2:41, 47) - the church of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16).
Speaking to the Christians in Corinth, Paul said: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Beloved Christians, true believers, please consider your own calling and make it sure (cf. 2 Pet. 1:10). Because of your faith and humility you responded to the call of God through the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) - the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:17-18) - Christ crucified (vs. 23). You didn’t allow the wisdom of man’s words (atheist, evolutionist, humanist, FALSE TEACHING RELIGIOUS LEADERS) to keep you from obeying the Gospel (cf. Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Friends, for your spiritual growth and understanding we will share with you a number of doctrines put forth by the “wise, mighty, and noble” of our world. Each doctrine may appear to have merit, yet it is simply the WISDOM of men. After each doctrine we will give you the wisdom of God from the Bible. Please humble yourselves and read (study) each Scripture reference given (2 Tim. 2:15).
Men say, “The name by which we are called doesn’t matter; thus, it’s all right to call followers of the Lord by titles such as Baptist, Lutherans, Catholics, Mormons, Episcopalians, Jehovah Witnesses, Quakers, etc.” GOD says salvation can ONLY be found in the name of Christ (Acts 4:10-12). GOD says His followers are called Christians (Acts 11:26). God says His followers should not be ashamed to suffer as Christians (1 Pet. 4:16).
Men say, “You CANNOT get to Heaven unless you “go through” (believe and obey) this man - the pope, Joseph Smith, Martin Luther, Charles Russell, etc.” The wisdom of GOD says Jesus is the ONLY mediator or “go through” (1 Tim. 2:5). GOD says Jesus is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). GOD says men only have to obey Jesus to receive eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21).
Men say, “The law of Moses (the 10 Commandments), which includes keeping the Sabbath, is binding upon Christians.” GOD says the Old Testament law of Moses has been done away by being nailed to the cross of Christ (2 Cor. 3:6-16; Col. 2:14-17). GOD says He abolished the law of Moses so that the Jews and Gentiles (all men) could be reconciled in the ONE body of Christ (Eph. 2:13-16). GOD says Jesus died to bring into effect His new will or the New Testament (Heb. 9:15-17).
Men say, “The Bible is not complete or parts have been lost.” GOD says His word will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:24-25). GOD says everything profitable for the Christian has been declared in the Bible (Acts 20:20, 27). GOD says He has given grace, peace and everything man needs for life and godliness through the knowledge of God - the Bible (2 Pet. 1:2-3). GOD says nothing is to be added to or taken away from His word (Rev. 22:18-19).
Men say, “You should JOIN the church of your choice or the church that pleases you.” GOD says Jesus is the builder of only ONE church (Matt. 16:18). GOD says Christ has only ONE body (Eph. 4:4), and that one body is His church (Eph. 1:22-23). GOD says the saved are ADDED (by the Lord) to that church (Acts 2:41, 47). NOTE: When there is only ONE of a thing man does not have a choice! We must humble ourselves and choose God’s choice, for even Christ didn’t try to please himself (Rom. 15:3).
Men say, “A man or woman can be the head (president, high priest, holy father, etc.) of the church.” GOD says Jesus is the only head of the church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23). GOD says no religious leader should be called father (Matt. 23:9). GOD says a woman is not allowed to usurp authority over the man (1 Tim. 2:11-12).
Men say, “Once you are saved you cannot fall from grace.” GOD
says Christians should take heed to keep from falling (1 Cor.
10:12). GOD says some of the Christians in Galatia HAD fallen
Men say, “A deacon or elder can be a young unmarried boy or teenager.” GOD says deacons and elders MUST be married with faithful children of their own (Tit. 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 3:12).
Men say, “It’s all right to have only ONE pastor (elder, bishop,
shepherd, etc.) as the preacher and/or overseer of the church.”
GOD says pastors serve in the plural (Eph. 4:11; Acts 20:17,
Men say, “Women should have the choice and freedom to abort (murder)
babies.” GOD says “thou shall not kill, i.e., murder” (Rom.
Men say, “The alternate life style (homosexuality) is pleasing to God.” GOD says He made the MALE and the FEMALE to be one flesh (Matt. 19:4-6). GOD says the WOMAN was created for the MAN (1 Cor. 11:9, 11). GOD says sex is ordained for the man and his wife or the woman and her husband (1 Cor. 7:1-5). GOD says homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 1:24-32).
Men say, “Believers are forgiven of their sins or saved by faith only (without water baptism).” GOD says believers must be baptized (immersed) in water to have their sins forgiven by the blood of Christ (Acts 2:38; Matt. 26:28; Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; Acts 10:47-48). GOD says believers must be baptized in water to be saved (1 Pet. 3:20-21; Mark 16:16). GOD says forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life are IN Christ (Eph. 1:7; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 John 5:11). GOD says one MUST be baptized to get INTO Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).
Remember, our goal has been to help each of us grow more and more into the likeness of God’s Dear Son and our Wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).
The Holy Spirit said through the apostle Paul, “But God hath chosen
the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath
chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are
mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). Humbleness is the Key! Not many wise,
according to human wisdom, are called. Not many of the mighty or
wealthy men are called (vs 26). Why? Because God, through
His infinite perfect wisdom, has chosen
the things looked on by the world as foolish (Christ crucified) to put
shame man’s wisdom. The “weak” message of the cross continues to
to shame the mighty signs and wisdom of men (vs. 27). God has
the lowly things (the things despised and considered as nothing
the world - the death of Jesus) to bring to nothing the things viewed
important by the world (vs. 28).
Beloved Christian, as you consider your calling, understand that God, in His wisdom, set things in order this way so that no man can work or earn his way to Heaven and thereby glory in God’s presence (vs. 29). Those who have been baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) should rejoice in the fact that Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) is the wisdom of God (vs. 30). Additionally, the crucified Lord is also our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (vs. 30). Therefore, as Jeremiah said in the long ago, “let us glory in the Lord” (vs. 31), not in the wisdom of men (Jer. 9:23-24).
Dear friends, to become a Christian, you have to surrender your life to God. You must stop depending on your own resources, and depend on God's resources. When we throw ourselves totally without reservation upon God, then we belong to the Lord of all power and might. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in Christ (Eph. 6:10). Conversely, when we think we are strong in ourselves, then we are weak in Christ and about to fall (1 Cor. 10:12). God will only fill an empty cup, and then He will fill it to overflowing (Ps. 23:5). The self-sufficient will never know the all-sufficiency of God (2 Cor. 3:5).
When Paul says, "For me to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21), the word "Christ" in that verse is not equivalent to Christianity as a system, or the church as a society. There is no life in a system or a society without Jesus Christ. Nothing can communicate life but a living person. The only reason life is found anywhere or in anything is because of the presence of the living Jesus. Christ is the promise of life, the continuing of life, the end of life, the inspiration of life, the task of life, the strength of life, and the reward of life. A Christ-centered life is not, then, obeying an army of rules and regulations, but it's a matter of pleasing a personality: Jesus Christ.
In Romans 6, Paul forcefully argues that, when one obeys the Gospel, he becomes a servant of the Lord. A Christian could no more think of arising from his baptismal grave to live in sin than Jesus could have thought of rising from the garden tomb to practice evil. The believer dies to sin, is buried into Christ's death by baptism and raises up from that watery grave to a new live in Christ (Rom. 6:2-6). By this, you obey a form of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on Calvary (Rom. 6:17).
In the 23 verses of this 6th chapter of Romans, Paul speaks of death some 15 times, and thus made clear this undeniable, irrefutable, unmistakable principle: that Christians must bear the cross to wear the crown. We must suffer with Christ in order to be glorified with Him (Phil. 3:10-11). There can be no resurrection to a new life without a crucifixion of the old life (Rom. 6:5-6). Painless Christianity is an easy-street religion, not the way of the cross of Christ.
Our greatest need in the church is not for more money, more members, more preachers, more missionaries, more buses, more buildings, more social acceptance, more government influence, but more of Jesus Christ. In A.D. 64, long before modern conveniences, science, education, medicine, communication, or transportation, Paul prayed for the saints a prayer that we believe he would pray for us all (READ Eph 3:14-19).
When the apostle prayed for the church, he did not pray for greater things, greater tools, or greater circumstances. He prayed for greater hearts filled with greater love and controlled by a greater knowledge and presence of Christ and God's Spirit. He prayed for greater spiritual power related to the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life. In Paul's prayer he showed us that the church's power is not in techniques but in God.
Today the Lord is looking for surrendered hearts. When God finds a person who will give Him first place, then God will work in that person's life. Paul summarized it in Galatians 2:20: “For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.” Are you ready to be crucified with Christ?
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