1 Corinthians 1:18 “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.”
Let’s say that you are an ambitious and powerful European dictator, and you would like to conquer Russia. Your army is vastly superior in numbers and equipment. Your military strategy surpasses that of the opposing generals. Your siege of Moscow is going to take you well into December and January, but what’s a little cold and snow when you have everything else in your favor?… Underestimating the power of a Russian winter would be a fatal mistake, wouldn’t it. Just ask Napoleon or Hitler what a difference it makes.
Let’s say that you are a multinational fast food chain, and you keep receiving irritating letters from a little girl in grade school about the potential dangers of your Styrofoam packaging to the environment. Someone in customer relations is given the task of sending her a few patronizing letters thanking her for her concern, but you don’t intend to do anything about it. After all, she’s just a little girl… But underestimating the power of a sweet little girl’s face to sway public opinion would be a big mistake. And today, if you order a Big Mac at McDonald’s, the box it comes in will be made out of cardboard, not Styrofoam.
Let’s say you are a member of the human race, and you want to find the meaning of life. You want to know God. You want to find some escape from death. Lined up in front of you is an impressive array of wise sages and sometimes powerful leaders offering their lists of principles and secrets for finding spiritual happiness and eternal bliss.
Then there is this quaint little story about a man who was falsely accused, tortured, and executed thousands of years ago on a cross. The story is filled with blood and suffering. It doesn’t seem very spiritual. But underestimating the power of the cross would be a big mistake.
Let’s say that you and I owed someone a debt far beyond anything we could ever pay. We’re not talking possible bankruptcy. We’re talking about a debt that makes the 22 trillion-dollar national debt look manageable. Then he not only forgives it. He so loves us that he gives his own life to pay it off. Isn’t that the message of the cross? And doesn’t that do something to us inside?
This is why the Apostle Paul doesn’t describe the gospel as a mere offer, a reasonable possibility, an option worth considering. It is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The gospel he preached to the Thessalonian Christians came to them “not simply with words but also with power” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). And here in his letter to the Corinthians Paul affirms that the preaching of Christ crucified is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:24).
The message of the cross answers the challenge because it saves those who believe. Don’t underestimate its power.