What is the best way to reach our fallen world? Some advocate a clear understandable presentation of the Gospel, Others say people need to see miracles, signs and wonders. Paul did not go with either but preached Christ crucified.
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 1:22-23NIV)
Christ crucified is a stumbling block to those wanting miraculous intervention for it shows Jesus in weakness, the very condition God is supposed to find abhorrent.
Christ crucified is foolishness to those who want to show the wisdom of the Gospel. Who would choose to follow Jesus along a road that leads to the Cross?
but to those whom God has called … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24NIV)
Both our presentation of the Gospel and the miracles God performs through us bring the focus to us. The original question, ‘What is the best way …?’ implicitly focuses attention on the messenger and the skills they choose instead of Jesus.
Paul lifts up Jesus, however that makes him look – whether foolishness or a stumbling block. This begs the question, Am I willing to entrust the Gospel of Jesus to Jesus himself? Am I willing to trust him for his wisdom and follow him wherever he might lead in presenting it?
2 thoughts on “Best way to reach the world for Jesus?”
Another thought-provoking post Derek!
I’m not sure however that you can legitimately draw a distinction between a “clear understandable presentation of the gospel” and preaching Christ crucified.
I would suggest that preaching Christ crucified can only “make sense” in the context of a clear presentation of the gospel, and that what Paul is distinguishing in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 is not sharing one’s faith in God’s purpose of redemption in Christ, but contrasting human wisdom (“sophia” from which get the word “philosophy” or intellectual argument, so beloved by the Greeks) with miraculous signs and wonders.
Hi Ian, Thanks for the comment. What you are saying is clearly the commonly understood reading of the text. So, I recognise that I am being a bit controversial here. My thought stems not from looking at the immediate verses around, but at the whole chapter. Paul is writing into a situation where the church is splitting into camps, each one supporting a different church leader – including himself (v12). He in no way contradicts any of the messages of these leaders. They are undoubtedly preaching the gospel, just as a ‘clear presentation of the gospel’ is evidently a presentation of truth. The challenge here is where the attention is focused. Paul is drawing attention to the fact that when the attention is put on the church leader, then it is not being focused on Christ. So, when it comes to v22-23 he is bringing up two means through which attention can go to the leader – The cleverness of the proclamation or the amazingness of the miracles. In saying this he is not seeking to undermine the fact that the source of these is God. Rather, he is pointing to the fact that each of them has an Achilles heal found in the fact that we are following Jesus to his cross. It is in upholding this ‘foolishness’ and ‘stumbling block’ without embarrassment that we demonstrate that we are not trusting the message or the miracles for the Lord to bring about salvation but Jesus himself.