The Cross is the Concentrate
Man’s Glory outside it = ZERO
I Corinthians 1
1. ENERGY WITH LIMITS 1:1-12
First we notice the universality of Paul’s teaching – “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” There is nothing local about it. It is (I Cor. 14:37) the command of Christ through His apostle. This is important in seeing the relevance of I Cor.14 to the current all too frequent disobedience met in Pentecostalism.
Next we see the eager work in the Corinthian church, but it is becoming too divisive about personalities, something not uncommon today, in this or that person’s theological ‘system’. Despite this lapse, Paul speaks to those who are willing to hear him, trusting the Lord “will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord.” God in His faithfulness, he says, will do it!
In the process, Paul exhibits the folly of following ‘names’ other than Christ’s, asking, “Was Paul crucified for you …?” How much less is the pretension of the papacy or the bread it serves as if it were Christ being sacrificed, to be heeded. That, it is not merely putting a ‘name’ other than Christ’s, that of someone NOT crucified for you, where it cannot belong, but bread in the name, where it would have meant Christ committing suicide at the last supper!
2. UNITY IN TRUTH 1:13-25
Thus sacramentalism is dismantled in vv. 13-15, the very idea of baptism at the hands of this one or that, being irrelevant BECAUSE “Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel.” It is not a matter of inventing new super-immersionist methods of baptism (remember John 13:10 with Exodus 40:31 and Numbers 8:7). We need no charm or innovation, incantation or desperation: it is the cross of Christ which would merely be set aside by such preoccupations. It is reality, not symbol, that no charges the air, staring you in the face, and HIS face was smashed up, requiring resurrection, the shape of sin and the signal of sovereignty of the Lord God.
I Cor. 1:21ff. pursues the theme. The message of the Cross is
v madness to philosophers, sunk in a mire of words, and
v folly to Jews who like miracles like medicine (and many as in Romans 10, go about, says Paul, to demonstrate their own righteousness, being ignorant of the Lord’s precious gift of it). Power is relatively easy: love’s cost is far more.
If, the point is, you have the prodigy of divine love and power in the Cross and the resurrection inseparably annexed to it, what more do you want ? (cf. Romans 8:34, 10:9). In it are the wisdom and the power which others seek to extract from this world, without the Lord. God’s ‘weakness’ (on the Cross), says Paul, is stronger than man, and His “foolishness” (in being so generous and gracious) is wiser than man ().
RICHES FOR THE POOR 1:26ff.
There is in fact in the plan of God, a relegation of the flesh to virtual irrelevance, so that the grandeur of the realities of God may be realised and life lived through them (cf. Galatians ). Weak things God uses, lowly things, showing the power which is His and available to man. Few are the Christians (in percentage) who are glorious in this world, and the perversity of pride finds antipathy to the will and ways of God.
It is however through this same Jesus Christ that there comes the whole array of vigorous virtues from the Lord, to be revealed, accepted and sealed (Ephesians 1:6). Christ is our wisdom (in incarnation and illustration), our righteousness (in redemption as in Romans 3 and 5), our sanctification (inhabiting what He buys in redemption, He brings peace, purity, holiness and unspeakable joy, which is a strength).
Is there then something left out ? is there a place for man’s glory ? Alas for man, it is only when He ceases to imagine glorious things for himself (cf. Isaiah ,20-22), that the glory of God shines through him.
Does a great oak bask in its own glory, or gleam in green and hang its delicate tassels with unconscious kindness and delicacy with strength mixed ? Imagine now that it ‘forgot’ itself by remembering its gifts, and using them as a sort of eau-de-cologne spray for vanity! He who loses his life for Christ, gains it, and he who gains it for himself, loses it (Matthew -26). He who gains Christ, finds God, for in Him is all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). Where do you find ? At the cross (Galatians )
Here, at the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, are the cross-roads to glory where, sin cancelled, the Lord as one’s resident President, as a new road, theme and inspiration, draws the loving heart home (John 14:1ff.). This path, it is well prepared, so let us continually prepare our hearts for Him, whose saving plans and actions were from eternity (Micah 5:1-3, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:17,29-30), whose life is eternal (I John 1:1-4), and for whose children, “Your joy no man takes from you” (John 16:22). It is then that you realise, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah ).