Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 67
BUT GOD! (Where Sin Abounded) – Part 4
Rom. 5:20, Rom. 6:22, I Cor. 1:23, I Cor. 1:27
Okay, we’re still on the “But Now’s, But God, But – whatever.” In our last program, we just got started with the next one that we want to look at. It’s in I Corinthians chapter 1 and I’m heading down to verse 23 where Paul said, “But we preach Christ crucified.” You know, this is the thing that I cannot comprehend, and I still run into it all the time. Why do people detest Paul and his epistles? And if they don’t detest him, they at least ignore him. Why? In fact, we were just talking about it at break time. Why is Christendom so adamantly against Paul’s gospel of salvation? Paul isn’t elevating himself. He’s lifting up the crucified and resurrected Christ. I just can’t comprehend it. But it’s evident almost everywhere we go.
All right, back to I Corinthians chapter 1 and we might as well retrace our steps in the closing minute of our last program. Let’s go down to verse 17 where, contrary to John the Baptist who was sent to baptize the Jews with “the baptism of repentance,” Paul goes on the other side of the coin and says:
I Corinthians 1:17a
“For Christ (Not some man, not some organization, but Christ Himself) sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:…” Now, isn’t that simple? To preach the gospel of salvation, and that’s all it takes. Because when the gospel of salvation that Paul preached takes a hold of people, it transforms lives. All right, so he was sent to–
I Corinthians 1:17b
“…preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words,…” Not as a showoff order, not as a pulpit pounding preacher. I think Paul simply laid out the truth in language that anyone could understand. In fact, on our Aegean cruise, Bill, didn’t you appreciate when the fellow dramatized Paul? I was really impressed with the young man. He was dressed as Paul probably was dressed and believe it or not, in one of his dissertations, he quoted almost, not quite, but almost verbatim all of I and II Timothy. It was like a sermon. I mean, I just soaked it up.
Well, same way here. I don’t think Paul ranted and raved at people. I don’t think he tried to show his intelligence. He didn’t try to show people how much more intellectual capacity he had. He simply got down on the ordinary man’s level and preached the gospel that “Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again.” All right, now let’s read on. Verse 18, this is why he preached the gospel.
I Corinthians 1:18
“For the preaching of the cross (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is to them that perish (the lost world, it’s a bunch of) foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.” And as I mentioned in my closing remarks in the last half-hour, the power that it took to save every one of us in this room; the power that it took to save all of you out there in television; it was a power exhibition. How all of the forces of sin and death and Satan were broken when He brought us into salvation. All right, now let’s read on in verse 19.
I Corinthians 1:19-20
“For it is written, (Now, he goes back to the Old Testament.) I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 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?”
Now again, Bill, I’m picking on him because I know he was along on the cruise with us. You remember at Mars Hill, Bill, there was only one big bronze plaque, and it wasn’t to any of the Athenian philosophers. It wasn’t to Archimedes. It wasn’t to Homer. It wasn’t to any of the others. Who was it to? Paul. Here’s this brass plaque commemorating that it was on this Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul confronted the intellectuals of his day. Whenever you read these verses, this is what you have to understand. All of the intellectual big-wigs of Athens came to nothing. They aren’t even remembered by the secular world for tourist’s sake on Mars Hill. But here’s this bronze plaque commemorating the Apostle Paul. This is exactly what I think he’s referring to.
I Corinthians 1:21a
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,” Now, I’ve got to think. Let’s go back to Romans, and I think it’s in chapter 1. Romans chapter 1 verses 21 and 22. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t ridicule educated people. That’s not the point. The only time I make it a point of ridicule, is when they think their education is superior to the Word of God.
Yes, then I ridicule it, because they don’t know what they’re doing. And that’s what Paul is referring to. How the philosophers that he confronted on Mars Hill were so arrogant that they looked down at the little Apostle who was God’s instrument for that day and what did they call him? A babbler. Today, we’d almost say “somebody who wasn’t all there.” That’s how they looked down at him. All right, but look what the Apostle is led to write.
“Because that, when they knew God, (In other words, conscience had made the presence of God known to them.) they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Now look at it.) 22. Professing themselves to be wise, they became (What?) fools.” Fools. Why? Because they’re putting the intellectual things of this world above the things of the Creator Himself. And listen, they’re just as guilty today as they were in Paul’s day, or in the days of the flood, or as far back as you want to go. All right, back to I Corinthians, again, chapter 1 verse 21.
I Corinthians 1:21
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, (Because they got puffed up in their own self importance.) it pleased God by the foolishness (That is in the eyes of the world.) ofpreaching (or proclaiming the Gospel) to save them that believe.” And again, like I did in the last taping, can you add anything in there?
Is there anything else in there? Does it say to them that believe and are baptized? No. Does it say to them that believe and join the church? No. Believe and whatever else you can think of? No. It’s not there. And I use the example of plain arithmetic. If you’ve got a one digit number, we’ll say five (5), and you put a plus zero (0), what’s the answer? It’s still five. That’s plain arithmetic. Five plus nothing is five. The gospel of salvation plus nothing is still the gospel! You can’t add anything to it. Reading on in verse 22.
I Corinthians 1:22a
“For the Jews require a sign,…” Now, think about that for a moment? When did signs become a part of the spiritual life of Israel? When? Way down in Egypt! Now, think a minute. What kind of signs did God use for the Jews in Egypt? Well, you remember when Moses came and had to prove that he was God’s messenger, what did he do? He threw the rod on the ground, and it became a serpent. He put his hand in his breast, and it became leprous. He put it back in and took it out and it was perfectly whole. Now, what were those? Those were signs to prove that Moses was God’s instrument.
All right, they came to the Red Sea. What happened? It opened up by the power of God. What was it? It was a sign to Israel that they were now under the power and control of the Creator. So, all the way up through Israel’s history, it’s the revelation of the power of God through miraculous signs and wonders. But, it hit a crescendo, when? When Jesus began His earthly ministry. The very first miracle, what was it? Transforming water into the best wine that they had ever seen, heard of, or tasted. For what purpose? Again, just like with Moses, to prove to Israel who He was. So, the Jews were just saturated with that concept, you’ve got to show me a miracle or I can’t believe. Well, God did, over and over and over. All right, so now Paul is rehearsing that. “The Jews require a sign.” Those are not empty words. It was a fact of life. They did. But, now look at the next part of the verse.
I Corinthians 1:22b
“…and the Greeks (Gentiles, they don’t look for miracles, they’re all hung up on what?) they seek after wisdom.” Philosophy. Now again, I’ll take you, in your mind, back to Paul in Athens. My, it tells you as plain as day that those philosophers gather up there on Mars Hill, overlooking the city of Athens, for one purpose. What was it? To tell anything new that they had heard or seen that would add to their wisdom. That’s all they were concerned about – wisdom. Earthly wisdom. Man’s wisdom.
All right, so you’ve got the two concepts now. Israel is constantly looking for a sign or a miracle to prove God’s existence or His presence. On the other hand, the pagan Gentile was looking for wisdom. Got the picture. All right, now we’re ready to go on, verse 23.
I Corinthians 1:23a
“But (Paul says we don’t pay any mind to either one of them. We’re not here proclaiming miracles and signs and wonders. We’re not here proclaiming our intelligence in the affairs of humanity.) we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews (Who are looking for a miracle, he became what?) a stumbling block,…” A stumbling block.
Now remember, the Scripture also refers to Christ as the chief cornerstone. The analogy is that as the builders were building the Temple and the cornerstone came in – I’ve got to watch my grammar, I’ve got English professors watching me – as they saw these stones come in, here came one they didn’t know what to do with. So, what did they do with it? They cast it aside. Well, the symbolism was that when Christ, who is symbolically the chief cornerstone, when He came, they cast Him aside in the same way. They didn’t know what to do with Him. They cast Him aside, and He became a what? “A stumbling stone.” Okay, that’s all the analogy that’s brought in here?
I Corinthians 1:23
“But we preach Christ crucified, (buried and risen from the dead) unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;” They stumbled over who He really was. The Greeks look at the preaching of the cross as a bunch of what? Foolishness. Now, do you see the two different concepts? The Jews looked at Christ crucified as a stumbling block, something cast aside for which they didn’t know how to use or wear. The Gentile, on the other hand, cast it aside because it was just a bunch of foolishness. It didn’t fit their philosophy. Oh, but now I love the next verse. Here’s the frosting on the cake, if I may use that expression.
I Corinthians 1:24
“But unto them who are called, (that is into salvation, the believers) both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God,…” Now, the power is a reference to the what? The miracles. Now, I’ve got to take this slowly, or you’re going to miss it. Christ, as the power of God, was evidenced in Israel’s miracles. The greatest one, I think, was the Red Sea. What a miracle that the Red Sea opened up wide enough for the children of Israel to come through in a matter of hours. Water piled up miles down this way and miles up this way. What a miracle! The power of God! But now look, as a believer, you have that same power! It’s within us. And it’s going to culminate in eternal life in His presence for eternity. All right, now look at the other side of the coin.
I Corinthians 1:24b
“…both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” To us, Christ is the power of God. He’s the miracle working God, but He’s also what the intellectual was looking for, and that was what? Wisdom. Now, turn with me to II Peter. I wanted to get there all afternoon, and here’s my opening. II Peter chapter 3, now we’ve used these verses over and over. Primarily I use them to confirm Paul’s authority as an apostle of the Gentiles, and that not just part of his writing, but every last word of it is Scripture. And we know from other portions of Scripture that Scripture is inspired of God. So, when Paul says something like “my gospel,” was that his idea? No. That’s expressly what the Holy Spirit wanted him to say.
Turn to II Peter 3 verses 15 and 16. Now, this is Peter writing at the end of his life. He’s probably martyred in a matter of weeks or days after he finishes this letter. I think I mentioned in one of my recent programs, have you ever stopped to think, and I’m going to keep reminding people, I tell them on the phone over and over – have you ever stopped to think that everything that needed to be done before the temple would be destroyed was accomplished within a year or two of the temple destruction. Just think about that.
These little epistles at the end, I mean II Timothy and II Peter, were written just before Paul was martyred and just before Peter was martyred, which was probably about 68 or 69 AD. When was the temple destroyed? – 70AD – If you really think about that, everything was now in place for the removal of the temple and all the ramifications of the Law and Judaism and what Israel lived for. But before it disappeared, everything was in place. Okay, now Peter writes, again probably just a year or two before the temple is destroyed, and look what he says in verse 15.
II Peter 3:15a
“And account (or understand) that the longsuffering (the patience) of our Lord is salvation;…” Well, that’s what we’ve been talking about all afternoon. How Paul is showing how God wants all to be saved. He didn’t just die for a few, He died for all. Okay, so His patience is salvation. Now watch it.
II Peter 3:15b
“…even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the (What? This is what brought me here. What’s the word?) wisdom (Not men’s wisdom. Not his rabbinical education. But those revelations from the ascended Lord and his inspired writings in his epistles and then people scorn it? I feel for them. My, I’d hate to be in their shoes at the judgment seat. But here it is. Peter says you go to our beloved brother Paul.) according to the wisdom given unto him (Well, from whom? From the Ascended Lord.) hath written unto you;”
Now, Peter is writing to Jews, and if he’s referring to a letter that Paul had written to them, then that tells me Paul wrote Hebrews, even though there are a lot of arguments otherwise. I say, hey, Scripture says Paul wrote it, because there is no evidence of any other writing. So, he must be referring to the Book of Hebrews. All right, so he says, “According to the wisdom given unto him, he has written unto you.” Now, look at verse 16. For you out there that may have some friends that detest Paul and think he shouldn’t even be in our Bible, show them this verse.
II Peter 3:16a
“As also in all his epistles, (That’s Romans through Philemon.) speaking in them of these things; (Salvation – as we’ve been seeing all afternoon.) in which (That is Paul’s epistles now.) are some things hard to be understood, (Peter had a hard time comprehending the grace of God for, especially, Gentiles.) which they who are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist),…” And I’m even going to say, they go further than that. They reject it.
II Peter 3:16b
“…they who are unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures,…”
Now, what does that tell you? That Paul’s epistles are Scripture, just like all the rest of the Bible. Don’t ever let anyone say it shouldn’t be in our Bible, because Peter says everything that Paul wrote is Scripture. That’s where I adamantly stand.
II Peter 3:16c
“…they twist, as they do also the other scriptures, (But when they do, what’s their end result?) unto their own destruction.” They’d better wake up before it’s too late. Okay, let’s come back to I Corinthians again, verse 24. I haven’t gotten down to the one I wanted. I want to do that before we close.
I Corinthians 1:24b-26
“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25. Because the foolishness of God (So far as man is concerned.) is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, (Not the high IQ’s of 200 plus. They’re very rarely called.) not many mighty,(That’s why you don’t find royalty in the ministry very often, do you? Of course not. That’s beneath them.) not many noble, are called: They’re not the kind that God calls, but here it comes now.
I Corinthians 1:27
“But God (Who deals in areas totally different than humans do) 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;” Do you see what that’s saying? I don’t have to comment on it. All I have to do is read it to you. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world.” The things that the world ridicules, that’s what God uses. And what does he use them for? To confound those who are ridiculing it. That’s what it amounts to. Only God can do that. Then he goes on to say, “He’s chosen the weak things.” He doesn’t use military might. He doesn’t use political parties. He doesn’t use great outpourings of earthly power. He uses the weak things.
You know, even his twelve disciples, if you like to go back to His earthly ministry, did He go into the Temple and pick out twelve of the strongest and mightiest priests in the priesthood? No. He goes up to Galilee and chooses twelve common fishermen, and so forth, who probably barely had enough education to read. They didn’t go through colleges in those days if they were fisherman. But see, that’s where the Lord chose even the Twelve. In fact, Paul is probably the exception. He was an educated man. He sat at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the chief rabbis of Israel. But all the rest of God’s servants were common, ordinary people. It was that that He used to confound the wise. All right, let’s read on. He just keeps multiplying this whole concept.
I Corinthians 1:28
“And (He takes) the base things of the world, (The things that the world won’t even give a second look.) and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are:” Oh, I know we don’t see it that way. It doesn’t look like Christianity is making any impact on the world, and we’re not. But on the other hand, when a true believer enters into this, he knows what Paul’s talking about. The true believer has an understanding of Scripture that the intellectuals of this world will never understand. All right, why has God chosen to do it in this particular way? The next verse gives the answer.
I Corinthians 1:29
“That no flesh (that no individual) should glory in God’s presence.” So, God uses the humble things of this world so that you and I can never exalt what we’re doing before God. Never. We are just fortunate to be the clay in the Master’s hand, and that’s all we are. But don’t ever forget what the Master can do with the clay.