There is a soothing simplicity to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation for all who believe. Eternal life for those who place their faith in Christ. Jesus’ blood washing away the sin of the repentant heart. Hope, joy, and peace flourishing in the mind and soul of those who give their lives to the Lord.
But to the world such simplicity is foolishness. That the sacrificial death of the sinless Christ redeems the same sin-stained humanity who crucified Him is laughable. Why would anyone die to give life to those responsible for his death? The world is confounded by that fact. That someone would selflessly submit to such a severe and senseless sacrifice is insane.
Consequently, the world rejects the gospel. It abhors the risen Christ because His message is utter foolishness, and antagonistic to worldly wisdom. As Scripture says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NKJV).
Despite its downward descent to destruction, the world refuses to consider Christ and His offer of forgiveness. Its proud embrace of academic philosophies, modern enlightenment, and worldly wisdom lead it to choose death over life, damnation over salvation.
As a result, “God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, He has used foolish preaching to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20b-21, NLT). What an incredible truth. God designed the gospel to repel the wise and intelligent in their own eyes, and appeal to the humble of heart and contrite in spirit.
What cause for celebration. Rejoice you rejected, downtrodden, despised, diseased, oppressed, marginalized, hurting, hated, and exploited; you uneducated, voiceless, and powerless persons living beyond the periphery of society. For “God chooses things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chooses things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chooses things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and uses them to bring to nothing what the world considers important” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).
These truths should inform how we share the gospel, especially pastors, preachers, and others in church leadership. The apostle Paul explains that when he “preached the Good News” he did not do so “with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17b, NLT).
Sadly, too many people in the pulpit disagree with Paul’s perspective. They soften the edges, sanitize the content, eliminate the unpalatable, and ignore the difficult truths of the gospel. They want to avoid offending their congregations, reducing church membership, and jeopardizing the weekly offering. But in doing so they compromise the gospel, stripping it of its power.
Paul adds, “My message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:4, NLT). Paul spoke truth clearly and simply, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts and minds. He knew that only the power of the Holy Spirit would convict people of their sin, reveal the truth of the gospel, and transform people’s lives. And he did not want to distract people with flowery language, funny anecdotes, and a flashy smile. He did not want to sabotage the Spirit with displays of intellect, a dynamic pulpit personality, or the cult of charisma.
In contrast, thousands of preachers across the country, and thousands more across the globe, make the message more about their engaging personalities and charismatic style than about the plain, but powerful, gospel. Sure they sprinkle their sermons with Scripture, but the message is often less memorable than the messenger, which may increase the pastor’s popularity but diminishes the power of the gospel. This emphasis on style, swagger, and seductive speech may fill churches on Sunday, but it will not change hearts, lives, or communities.
Paul’s words illustrate this. “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14, NKJV).
My friends, rejoice in the simplicity of the gospel. Embrace the foolishness of Christ and reject the wisdom of the world. Share the Good News in simple terms, not drawing attention to yourself. And avoid pastors with magnetic personalities who preach a diluted gospel that tickles your ears but twists the truth.
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19a, NKJV).