The Folly of the Gospel

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

1 Corinthians 1:23

I have been active in church for over fifty years. Forty-seven years ago, I came forward at a Billy Graham crusade and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have heard the Gospel preached hundreds of times and preached it about that many times myself. Thus, like most Christians, I relate to the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ as a familiar friend. It comforts me, encourages me, and motivates me. But it does not perplex or scandalize me. The Gospel doesn’t shock me or confound me.

Perhaps it should. Perhaps I’ve let my friendship with the Gospel get in the way of seeing its oddness, even its offense, and ultimately its inexpressible wonders.

When the Apostle Paul preached the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, most of those who heard him were unimpressed. “Who cares about what happened to some unknown Jewish rebel?,” they might have scoffed. Others who heard the Gospel were offended. Jews, in particular, were scandalized by the thought of a crucified messianic pretender being the Lord and Savior of the world. The Greek of 1 Corinthians 1:23 says that the Gospel of Christ crucified is a skandalon to Jews, a stumbling block that kept them from following Jesus.

Gentiles were equally unimpressed with the message of a crucified savior. For them, it was “all nonsense” (1:23). The original Greek behind “nonsense” is moria, from which we get the English word “moronic.” Since crucifixion was the cruelest form of capital punishment in the Roman Empire, something reserved for the lowest of criminals, the notion of a crucified savior was, quite understandably, foolishness to Gentiles.

1 Corinthians 1:23 reminds us that, in many ways, the Gospel is peculiar and unexpected. The fact that God would become human in order to save sinful human beings is at first a mystery, and then a source of wonder. The fact that God accomplished our salvation by taking our sin upon himself in Christ and dying the cruelest of deaths should at first stun us, and then fill us with wonder and gratitude.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever thought of the Gospel as a stumbling block or even as nonsense? Do you know others who think this way? How does the unexpected and counterintuitive nature of the Gospel impress you?

PRAYER: Gracious Father, I must confess that I am so familiar with the good news of your Son that I can take it for granted. It seems so ordinary at times. In my nonchalance, I forget the extraordinary miracle of the Incarnation, not to mention the crucifixion. Forgive me, Lord, for trifling with one of the most precious mysteries of the cosmos.

Give me fresh eyes to see your amazing grace in Christ. Help me feel the scandal, yes, indeed, even the “nonsense” of the Gospel so that I might marvel at your plan of salvation. Help me to sing anew the classic words of Charles Wesley:

And can it be that I should gain,
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.

’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.


“And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” by Charles Wesley, 1738.