"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
"Those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson describes what the Apostle Paul meant by the phrase, "the word of the cross." God loves us so much that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, and purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will also study why for some people, the word of the cross is foolishness and for others, it is the power of God.
Consider. When the Apostle Paul wrote the phrase, "the word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18), what did he mean? In your own words, how would you explain "the word of the cross" to someone else?
Definition of "word." The Greek word for word in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is logos. Logos means something said, a message, reasoning expressed by words, and instruction (Ref. 3). Acts 13:26 and 2 Corinthians 5:19 provide examples where logos is translated as message.
Definition of "cross." The Greek word for cross is staurós. Staurós has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. Christ was crucified on a literal Roman cross (Ref. 4). According to HELPS Word-Studies, "Staurós was the crosspiece of a Roman cross; the cross-beam was placed at the top of the vertical member to form a capital 'T' (Ref. 4). "This transverse beam was the one carried by the criminal" (Ref. 4, Matthew 27:31-32, John 19:17). In addition to the shape of a capital "T," researchers also discuss the cross in the shape of a cruciform ("†" or "✚") and as a vertical stake (Ref. 5). Most Christian denominations present the Christian cross in the shape of a cruciform (Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
Staurós also has a figurative meaning. Jesus spoke about the cross each believer bears to be his true follower (Ref. 4, Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Thayer's Greek Lexicon describes the figurative cross as an expression used by "those who, on behalf of God's cause, do not hesitate cheerfully and manfully [courageously] to bear persecutions, troubles, distresses — thus recalling the fate of Christ and the spirit in which he encountered it" (Ref. 4, brackets added).
What is meant by the expression, "the word of the cross"? The word, or message, of the cross is that God loves us so much that his Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified and died on the cross for us. Through his sacrifice, Jesus Christ has purchased the forgiveness of our sins. Through Jesus Christ, those who believe in him receive salvation and eternal life.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Foolishness to those who are perishing. The Greek word for foolishness is mória. Mória means folly, absurdity, foolishness (Ref. 7). The Greek word for perish is apollumi which means destroy utterly (Ref. 8). HELPS Word-Studies further defines apollumi as "to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction" (Ref. 8).
Why would Paul write that the message of the cross "is foolishness to those who are perishing" in 1 Corinthians 1:18?
1. "To the Jews 'the cross' was the tree of shame and horror; and a crucified person was 'accursed of God' " (Ref. 9, Deuteronomy 21:23). To the Jews, the thought of "a crucified Messiah" seemed "a revolting folly" (Ref. 9).
2. To Paul's Greek audience, the cross was the punishment for slaves and murderers (Ref. 9). The cross meant shame and agony. To the Greeks, worshiping "a crucified malefactor" was superstitious (Ref. 9).
3. Paul explains, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural man, who is "not truly enlightened and renewed by the Word and Spirit of God, and therefore has no other way of obtaining knowledge but by his senses and natural understanding … does not understand or apprehend the things of the Spirit of God" (Ref. 10).
To us who are being saved it is the power of God. The Greek word for saved is sózó, which means rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety (Ref. 11). The Greek word for power in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is dunamis. Dunamis means (miraculous) power, might, strength (Ref. 12).
The cross is much more than a decoration. "The cross is God's saving power" (Expositor's Greek Testament, Ref. 13). For us who are being saved, the cross is the means by which Jesus has forgiven our sins and rescued us from the path of destruction. By the cross, God offers us the gift of eternal life when we believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son. When we share the "word of the cross" with others, we share not a fable but God's mighty plan for saving people.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Apply. God gives us only two choices. Either we are on the path of perishing or we are on the path of salvation. On which path are you? If you do not know Christ, put your faith in him today, and receive from him forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life. If you do know Christ, thank him for his sacrificial death on the cross to forgive your sins, and for his power working in you each day.
5. (Ref. 5 begins on the next line)
Copyright: leonidtit / 123RF Stock Photo
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
This article is the fifth and final article in the series on the topic, “About the Way.”
Consider. The eternal Jesus Christ is the road, the path, the journey to the Father, and to the Father's dwelling place, heaven.
Immediately before Jesus said "I am the way" (John 14:6), Jesus told his disciples, "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).
Jesus is eternal. Jesus Christ is the same "I AM" that appeared to Moses in the burning bush (John 8:58; Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:14).
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Jesus is the way. Jesus invites us to follow him to the destination. Jesus is the road, and the journey to the destination.
The Greek word for "follow" is akoloutheó. Akoloutheó means to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany as a disciple (Ref. 1).
The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Mark 10:21 describes Jesus' invitation to the young man to follow Jesus. "Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, 'One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' " The young man refused Jesus' invitation to accompany Jesus as a disciple. Mark tells us the young man "was saddened, and he went away grieving" (Mark 10:22).
Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, to the Father's dwelling place, heaven. Jesus is the only way to the Father because only Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin.
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, ... let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22).
"But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"Unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (John 8:24).
Copyright: halfpoint / 123RF Stock Photo
Our Response to Jesus
What is your response to Jesus? Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). Are you ready to believe in him? Are you willing to follow Jesus to our heavenly destination?
If you do not already trust in Jesus, then I encourage you to pray through these steps in your own words.
Believe in Jesus.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).
"Teach me your ways, O Lord; make them known to me. Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you" (Psalm 25:4-5).
Now that you have put your trust in Jesus, I encourage you to:
To learn more about the following topics, please visit the About the Way page or the previous posts with dates noted:
Daily Bible Verse (click)
Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
I plan to provide postings every two weeks on Sunday evenings at 9 pm eastern U.S. time.
(subject to change)
(most recent three months)
1Jul18 - "There is a Balm in Gilead"
The ScriptureWay site provides Bible Teachings that point to Jesus. The Bible teaches that believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." -- Jesus speaking in John 14:6
Contact or Follow
Alternative to providing an email address -- to see the planned posting schedule, you can check the side column on the Home Page.