1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (NIV).
When we consider the spiritual condition of the world, our mission can appear to be futile. But there is good news! The message of the cross is the message of salvation (1:18). Too often “salvation” is an empty word that is spoken as a password to be accepted as a Christian. Its meaning is neglected. Salvation means that a person has been rescued by God from sin, guilt, and their consequences. It tells us that our future is horrible, unless God himself delivers us.
The world does not mind hearing a message of limited change, even if it requires a small amount of religion. Most people will admit that they and their society “have a few problems”. They will even seek help when the problems start to cause pain. Think of the multitudes who run to therapy sessions or take legal drugs everyday. The patients are seldom told, “Don’t worry sweetheart; we’ll deal with your liver and kidney problems in a couple years. Oh, and by the way, these drugs treat physical symptoms and in no way, should be considered curative.” Most people will even admit that some small changes need to be made in their lives or in the way that society is operating. This is a “Band-Aid” approach.
But the message of the cross is intolerable to the world apart from God.
- It is unbearable because it reveals the depth of the human problem. People are perishing! This speaks of what we are, and not merely what we are doing. Humanity is a perishing race. This speaks of the need for God to rescue those who are perishing. “What? Go to God for help? No way. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do, especially God.”
- It is extremely painful, because it speaks of human responsibility. People do not like to hear that they are blameworthy. “It’s not my fault! It’s my parent’s fault or my siblings’ or my children’s or my teacher’s. But I didn’t do it!” They do not want to hear that they must answer to their Creator.
- It is totally disgusting to them because it divides people into two categories: those who are right with God and those who are condemned. They do not like to hear that they are lost. They do not like to hear that God has found others by his grace.
However, the message of cross is God’s way of salvation. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV).
Grace and peace, David
1 Corinthians 12:3
Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (HCSB).
To understand the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, we need to comprehend the spiritual condition of fallen people. What has happened to fallen mankind? Through Adam’s sin, all humanity is born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). It is not pleasant to be among the dead. The sights that can be seen can make even the strongest stomachs feel squeamish. This is the natural condition of humans since Adam’s sin (Ephesians 2:3; cf. Romans 5:12). It also is an active condition. Spiritual death manifests itself in the practice of rebellious, anti-God ways of living. We must understand that a person in this condition loses none of his or her humanness (Ephesians 2:3; cf. Ephesians 4:17-19).
Here are five characteristics of spiritual deadness:
- The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of separation from God (Ephesians 2:12). This means that they are in the realm of God’s wrath (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6).
- The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of sensuality and not spirituality (Jude 1:19). The material part of reality dominates their lives.
- The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of non-receptivity (1 Corinthians 2:12). They do not listen to God’s words, supposing them nonsense or incredible.
- The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of hostility toward God (Romans 8:7). Though they may talk about God, their belief is in a remade God, who only does what people like. They do not want to hear about the true God’s sovereignty and justice.
- The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of spiritual bondage (2 Timothy 2:25-26). They are slaves to sin, while supposing they are free.
As we tell others the gospel, we must realize their condition. What hope do you have about seeing you friend turn to Christ? There is hope, but it’s found in the Holy Spirit and not in you. Those who don’t know the Lord view themselves as whole, while they are terribly broken. This part of the message is very unpopular to those who are self-reliant.
What is the extent of sin’s corruption of human hearts? There are eight actions that fallen humans cannot do. Years ago, Steele and Thomas made a list of these actions. We have already mentioned two of them (call Jesus “Lord”, 1 Corinthians 12:3, and understand the things that come from the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14). Now let’s look at the other six.
- He or she cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)
- He or she cannot come to Christ (John 6:44, 65)
- He or she cannot hear (John 8:43)
- He or she cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17)
- He or she cannot be subject to God’s law (Romans 8:7-8)
- He or she cannot please God (Romans 8:8)
So then, what can you do? You can do nothing to save yourself, but the Lord Jesus Christ is a very able Savior. If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I urge you to call on Him and be saved. You say that you can’t, and I agree. But neither could dead Lazarus come out of the grave, yet he did when Christ called him to come out. The Spirit of God uses the word of God to create life in spiritually dead people. He calls the dead to live through the Scriptures. Listen to the word, and may God give you grace to respond (Romans 10:13).
Grace and peace, David