We Preach Christ Crucified
A six-session Bible Study by Carol Geisler
Lesson 4: “The Word of the Cross”
“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Almighty God, through the weakness of Jesus’ humble birth and his death on the cross you brought about our salvation. Help us by your Spirit to turn from the tempting ways and wisdom of the world and to find our hope and peace in you alone. Hear our prayer in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.
Recalling Lesson 1: The Penalty and the Promise
Jesus took the penalty of death onto himself, suffering death in our place. In exchange, he has given us the promise of forgiveness and life.
Recalling Lesson 2: Crucify Him! Foretold and Fulfilled
The Savior fulfilled all that the Old Testament Scriptures had said of him. The Lamb of God “was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20-21).
Recalling Lesson 3: It is Finished!
Those things commanded by God in the Law were a shadow of the things to come. Jesus finished our salvation by the shedding of his blood on the cross. Those who have received this salvation have been “crucified with him.”
Introduction to Lesson 4:
“The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). Just as Adam and Eve hid – or tried to hide – themselves from the presence of the Lord, so people today still hide in the darkness of sin and create false gods so they do not have to face the true God. Only the light of the Gospel, the message of the cross, can shatter the darkness of sin and fear. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
THE WORLD’S WISDOM
It is hard to imagine that “the word of the cross,” the message of salvation that we love, would be “folly” to anyone. Yet to those who are lost in the darkness of sin and have rejected the enlightening call of the Spirit through the Gospel, the word of the cross is just so much foolishness. They may ask: “What kind of God – if there is a God – would send his son to die? What does the death of one man so long ago have to do with my life today?” We know the truth and we know that the answers to those questions are revealed only in the Gospel message.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (ESV)
If the message of the cross is “folly” to those who are lost, what is that same message for us? It is the power of God and the wisdom of God (v.24)
Read 1 Peter 1:23-25
 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,  but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (ESV)
What is the word through which we have been born again? “the living and abiding word” – Jesus!
How has God made the wisdom of the world look foolish? God saves believers, not those who are worldly-wise. “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21 above)
Why is Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles? “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22 above)
The Jews said to Jesus, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” (John 6:30). Greek philosophers said about Paul, “What does this babbler wish to say?” (Acts 17:18).
How have you seen such attitudes reflected in our world today? People check to see if believers are “successful” in worldly ways, or they may think our faith is a substitute for reality and science.
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9
 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.  But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (ESV)
What sort of lessons do people learn according to the wisdom of the world? This chapter is filled with many “lessons” people pick up and employ. Some of these are tactics of personal survival which people will especially employ in the “last days” – when they are desperate; but others are habits and behaviors that develop when people become greedy – thinking they should “get it while they can” before their days are ended.
Where and how do you see such lessons reflected in our society today? Business, politics, communities – anywhere our hyper-competitive world pushes us toward the behaviors listed in the text.
What does it mean to say that some people have “the appearance of godliness” but deny its power (v.5)? They profit off of appearing to be godly, but don’t really believe.
According to Jewish tradition, Jannes and Jambres were magicians who opposed Moses and imitated the miraculous signs done before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:10-12). In what ways might these two magicians be similar to deceitful religious teachers or spiritual leaders today? These are “leaders” who profit off of opposing others or lifting up “truths” that are unbiblical.
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5
 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)
Paul call on Timothy to preach the Word – the message of the cross. How does Paul describe the people who would rather hear the world’s wisdom? “Having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers… and turn away… and wander off…”
What would they rather hear? Messages to “suit their own passions” and “myths.”
How would Paul’s instructions to Timothy apply to us as well? Advertising and entertainment constantly appeal to our passions. “Teachers” are constantly putting forward new narratives and cures.
Read John 10:30-42
[30 – Jesus said:] I and the Father are one.”
 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?  If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained.  And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.”  And many believed in him there. (ESV)
Where and how in these verses do you see the wisdom of the world contrasted with the “folly” of God’s truth? The claim that Jesus is God is blasphemy/folly to the world, but truth to a Christian. (By the way, Jesus quotes Psalm 82:1 in saying “you are gods.” If the psalmist can use the word “gods” to describe Israel’s leaders, surely it would be appropriate for Jesus to claim to be the Son of God)
Which people reject the truth of God? Here it is “the Jews” – meaning those Jewish people who opposed him (mostly the leaders). Other people will oppose Jesus too, for various reasons.
Which people hear the truth and believe? “Many” – and those who listen to the prophets, like John.
Read Mark 15:26-32
 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.  And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,  save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. (ESV)
What sign do the chief priests and scribes demand to see before they will believe? “come down from the cross”
How, in these verses, does Christ crucified appear to be a “stumbling block” and “folly” to those who are watching him die? Crucifixion is seen as a defeat, not a victory.
Read Romans 1:18
 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (ESV)
How do people today try to “suppress the truth” concerning the Word of God and the message of Christ crucified? They ignore the fact that there is such evil in the world, or else just accept it as what is normal rather than something God did not intend for us.
** Note: Lesson 4 continues with a section called “The Word of the Cross.” This will be saved for next week’s class. **
Lord Jesus, through your birth in Bethlehem, the weakness of your death on the cross and your mighty resurrection you won for us forgiveness and eternal life. Fill us with your Spirit so that even in the face of the world’s so-called wisdom and mocking ridicule, we will boldly proclaim the saving message of the cross. Amen.