The Gospel divides, as the Apostle Paul would like to remind us in 1 Corinthians 1:17,18! “Christ sent me … to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”. There are only two sides for mankind, namely, those who are being saved and those who are perishing who reject the Gospel as foolishness. Which side are you on?
Why is the Gospel foolishness to those who are perishing?
The good news that the cross is about a crucified King Jesus, who died as a Roman prisoner on behalf of those who would believe and commit themselves to him, leading to reconciliation with God the creator, is considered as foolishness to those who are perishing. Why so? We need first to understand what the world’s message or “wisdom of words” is in verse 17. Essentially, the world’s message is a message that is centred on oneself with regards to ability, glory, honour and success or anything that brings happiness to oneself as the King! The world talks about loving things and exploiting people all for the gratification of self, based on the YOLO mantra. Some time back I read an article in The Straits Times that delved into the issue of finding personal happiness. The author mentioned that the usual way people find happiness is through loving things / material possessions and using others for self-gratification. It appears that empirically this does not work so he proposed a new formula: happiness that can be found in loving others and using things / material goods for others! This is a little bit closer to the Gospel, isn’t it? But it is still not the gospel. (Perhaps, the author is a Christian disguising his beliefs!)
The world as such finds the Preaching of the Cross to be repugnant and foolishness because (1) it is not about self-glory or gratification, (2) it is so simple and one that does not require their wisdom or works, (3) it requires one to admit that one is undone because of sin, (4) it requires repudiation of self and submission to our King Jesus who had to die a terrible death to save us from our sin, and finally, (5) it calls believers not only to believe on the Lord Jesus, the one hanging on the cross, but also to suffer for Jesus’ sake because he is now our King (Philippians 1:29)!
Are you among the perishing?
Those who are perishing are those who say, “I am the captain of my soul and the master of my fate”. Those who are perishing are those who seek after the world’s glory, honour, power and fame. It is all about myself, my wealth, my family, my work, my comfort, and my increasingly exotic holidays where the richness of Singapore could afford them. Not least it also encompasses those who gave some to God, but God is not the centre of their life and is only one among many who competes for their attention.
Or are you among those being saved?
Then you would exhibit the wisdom of God which results in brokenness, in humility in complete trust in our Saviour Jesus. Then you would exhibit the power of God in a changed life, in a life that is given completely to the Gospel, given to the seeking first of the kingdom of God; then you would exhibit it in the tenor of your life as described by Paul’s beautiful picture of a Christian life as the world is passing away very rapidly. You might be 18 years old, 25 years old, 35 years old, 45 years old, 55 years old and in the blink of an eye you are almost done! Please heed the words of the Apostle Paul!
“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
(1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
There are no two ways about it; I am persuaded that some of you think there are. The question is, are you a new creature? “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Let’s also heed the admonition of Isaac Watts and ponder the thought that The Gospel Divides in our remaining days and make sure that we are indeed on the Lord’s side.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
This article was first published on August 28, 2016. A version of the article may be found online here.
About the author: Wilson Oon is an engineer by training and currently serves as an Elder in First Evangelical Reformed Church (Singapore) leading the work of follow-up ministry and Church contact committee. He occasionally preaches and contributes to the pastoral voice in the weekly church bulletin.