I don’t think any pastor, teacher, or member of a church has not experienced some disunity that has arisen out of a non-theological matter. In my decades in the church, I have witnessed one, maybe two theological splits from friends and fellow pastors. That’s it. The rest, well, I am sure your familiar with them all—foolish things.
Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth had similar issues: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor 1:10). Paul had been informed “that there are quarrels among you” (1 Cor 1:11). In the church today, there will be conflicts, often from different personalities, and that’s not uncommon. However, these divisions were substantial.
Many were saying they followed different men—some Paul, some Apollos, Cephas, and some Jesus. This can be deeply problematic even in today’s church, as, for instance, some men follow YouTube sensations who are “celebrity pastors.” They can say some good things, but their main interest is in gaining audiences, not followers.
What the modern-day church lacks is sound, biblical, expositional preaching from the pulpit. Many are doing this, and I am grateful for this, but what lack of this produces is exactly what Paul is dealing with, people following the most culturally-fit so-called preacher on the internet instead of a local pastor preaching the Word.
Paul explains his unpopular position on preaching, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void” (1 Cor 1:17). He knew the cleverness or wisdom in his own speech would be worthless at changing a man’s heart. Only God can do that through the Spirit of God. His proclamation was to preach Christ and nothing else.
Men have tried to reinvent the gospel over the years to make it more attractive. The world wants something new and exciting, even at church. The modern-day church-plant specialists send out questionnaires asking generally unsaved people what they want to see in a worship service. You won’t get “I want some good solid, sound biblical preaching,” but what you will get is what they want, not what God wants. Men think they are being clever or intuitive. They aren’t preaching the gospel; they are using their own wisdom.
Paul addresses this foolishness, “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 Cor 1:18). To the lost world, preaching is foolish. The cross, as the only way to heaven, is foolish. Following God in truth and holiness and not “being yourself” is foolish. It was the great missionary Jim Elliot who once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” That’s foolish to the world.
The book of Proverbs has no shortage of describing fools: “Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7), “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding” (Prov 10:21), “Fools mock at sin” (Prov 14:9). There are about seventy-six references in Proverbs to a fool. Fools mock the truth, laugh at the truth, and mock those who hold to the truth. They trust in their own wisdom.
To the Christian, it is the power of God. The preaching of the gospel bestows power to save a lost soul, to help us press on in the walk on this side of heaven. It is the power of the gospel that sends men to the mission field, to the pulpit each Sunday to proclaim the gospel.
The wise man, the scribe, the debater of this age (cf. 1 Cor 1:20) has become foolish in thinking his own wisdom is attributed to his spiritual character: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). Many sought for signs, and wisdom, but “we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23).
The gospel message preached faithfully from the Scriptures will be a stumbling block to those who want a comforting, encouraging, feel-good sermon each week. Sadly, many modern-day churches are doing just that. But the wisdom of man is foolishness because it has no answers. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). What seems right to men is to preach a gospel that fits the culture. It’s non-offensive, and it makes for good crowds. People want a gospel that fits their life, not one that requires change, obedience, faithfulness, and pursuit of holiness.
Preacher, take the pulpit armed with the Word of God. Preach it. Proclaim it. Make it known. The world is looking for comfort, and that comfort is what they want to hear. Give them what the Word of God says. It will trip some up. It may cause some harsh words towards you for taking a stand on the Word of God. In your weakness, He is strong. Preach!
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