For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
When you read carefully the first chapter of 1 Corinthians you notice that Paul talked about the cross in a much deeper manner than the conventional understanding of the cross that we have. He related the cross to the actual lives that the Corinthians lived; in this instance he referenced the cross to the Corinthians’ relationships with one another. Through associating the cross with our lifestyles, Paul shows us that the cross was not just a place where the Lord Jesus died for the remission of our sins; but it is also the place where we get the power to crucify the flesh and live a Godly life.
The Corinthian church was a ‘powerful’ spiritual church, full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But they were unable to live in unity because they did not have a spiritual understanding of the cross.
Many people boast of spiritual gifts in their lives and ministries. But Paul boasted in the cross and its power to set him free from the bondage of the flesh and sin (Gal. 6:14).
During one of our annual African conferences Brother Miki Hardy was preaching and he said, “I have discovered that the African people are proud, as proud as any other people. Despite the many good attributes that you have, yet you are very proud. Through working in many African countries, I have found that the African people, represented by leaders and pastors of churches, have much difficulty to humble themselves and repent amongst themselves.
“They shout, ‘Amen!’ for the gospel, but when they come to the reality of living the same gospel that they have approved and shouted for, there is a problem, there is a barrier.”
We think we know all about the cross – until we hit that barrier, the barrier of pride, the barrier of the flesh.
The cross is something spiritual. It is not something that has to do with the intellect, where we can know all there is to know about humility, for example, but find ourselves unable to humble ourselves. A spiritual understanding – or revelation – of the cross is the actual circumcision that the Bible speaks of. Moses also received this same revelation, for he told the children of Israel, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” (Deut. 10:16)
One of the most appalling things to happen with the gospel is when men use their intellect to try and understand or teach the gospel. When man’s wisdom is injected into the gospel, it removes ALL the power from the gospel. The gospel becomes a dead shell, whereby it has absolutely no power to change that person. In essence that person also becomes a shell of a Christian. These are the kind of people who have a powerful theology or even powerful ministries, but the works of the flesh are all too evident in their lives. They cannot forgive, they cannot repent, they cannot work in spiritual unity with others, they are proud, they are boastful and inevitably you happen to hear that they have drifted off into the deep end of sin.
God was so against the carnal factor that He had to work out a way to involve mankind in His grand plan without giving an inch of ground to the flesh and to human pride. The Apostle Paul tells us how God finally worked His way around this:
“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 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; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:26-31
You can see that the first thing that God dealt with were the intelligent people of this world. This might sound rude but God really has no use with our human intelligence. It might be of benefit to us here on earth, but the human brain is absolutely of no value to God and His purposes. The Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 3:18 admonishes us: “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” In other words, do not think of yourself as wise or knowledgeable. Say, “I am a fool!” and God will be pleased with you, even if you will most likely end up being despised by men.
Actually, human wisdom is pride; and pride is folly. That is why God – who is no fool Himself – bypasses the brain and uses the heart instead to communicate with us.
After He had dealt with the wise God then descended on the “mighty” and the “noble”. This is another group in whom pride easily resides. God declared these people persona non grata in His Kingdom. “If you think you are somebody”, He declared, “you have no place in my Kingdom”.
Having thus cleared away all this spiritual debris, God then took aboard “the foolish” folk of this world, the “base things of the world, and things which are despised.” These are the things that God chose to reveal His glory in.
Let me put this whole issue in its proper perspective. If you are rich or educated or have some royal blood in you, or if you have a high IQ, count yourself very, very lucky to have heard the call of God upon your life. Why is this so? It is because, with our flesh so closely bound to us, it is very difficult to be any of these things and still be humble. I know you might decide to become argumentative and declare that both the poor and the rich have all been saved by grace, but maybe you might need to notice also how many “not many’s” there are in that scripture – and who they refer to.
“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called…”
All of the above notwithstanding, however, the church as a whole ought to repent of any pride in their lives. That is the surest way of ascertaining that the cross is at work in our lives. We ought to be changing daily through clothing ourselves with true humility.
[Below: Some lovely kids from my hometown of Musoma.]