“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22–24, AV)
When I was in my teen years, our family took their annual summer vacation at Cape Cod. We stayed in this nice little cottage just walking distance from the beach, harbors, creeks, and lagoons. On one vacation a friend of my dad’s joined us with his seven-year-old grandson. He was getting bored sitting around the house when we got back from fishing so my dad’s friend suggested that my brother and I take him for a hike. So, we headed out for a hike.
The young boy decided to wear his grandfather’s hip waders and struggled because the boots were too big. Then we came to a salt water creek. The tide was out and we could see it was muddy. The young boy decided that he was going to walk out into the mud. We told him not to go because he would get stuck in the mud. However, he did not listen and said he was going anyway. We told him that we were not going to go into the mud to get him when he got stuck and that when the tide came in it would be over his head. He still walked right out and got stuck. Of course, we said, “I told you so!”
He cried for help. We just told him again that we were not going into the mud to get him out and said, “You’ve got to get out on your own.” Then we told him we were going to leave him there and started to walk away. (Of course, we would not have left him.) This did the trick. With many tears and sweat he got back out of the mud.
This is often the way it is with people. You can tell them things. You can give them warnings. You can plead with them, but they have to hearken to what you say.
In these verses Paul presented three types of people who considered the message of the cross in three ways. Paul wrote of the Jews to whom the message of the cross was a stumbling block. The Jewish religious leaders were experts in the Scriptures. However, their understanding was flawed by their own human reasoning. To them Jesus did not fit their concept of a Messiah. They could not comprehend a suffering Messiah and thus the cross made no sense to them.
On the other hand, the Gentiles saw the cross as foolishness. The Gentiles had a variety of other things that made sense to them. They had other gods, other priorities, and other philosophies of life. The need for a Savior and God who was crucified for their sin and raised up seemed like foolishness to them. It was nonsense to them that any man might die and be raised to eternal life (E.g., Acts 17:32).
Yet, Paul referred to a third group, the “called.” To this group the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is the power of God and the wisdom of God. They see things much differently than the other two groups. To them the gospel is the perfect truth and the ultimate power. Both of these result in the salvation of a person. By God’s grace the believer experiences victory over sin and its penalty.
When we attempt to take the gospel to the world around us,we realize that there will be various responses. Some will be religious people like the Jews. Some will be ungodly people living according to the pleasures of the world. Others will listen and hearken to your words. The point is that we must just preach the word, challenge people to believe, and trust God for the results.