Big idea: The cross replaces all human wisdom.
When you hear the word “wise,” what do you think of? A person who is intelligent may not be wise, and someone who is quite ordinary in raw brainpower may have a great deal of wisdom. Wisdom could be defined as the skill of living; a wise person knows how the world operates and how to function in it. A lot of what passes for wisdom is based on sinful ideas of what it means to get ahead, and what it takes to do so. In this age, wisdom often includes deception, self-promotion and taking advantage of other people to serve our own purposes. It certainly is not wise to try to start a movement by being publicly executed; great causes are worth killing for, but it does not do any good to die for them.
But the Bible takes a radically different approach. The wisdom of God seems like foolishness in the rubric of our world, because God’s idea of success and the methods to attain it are radically different. Paul and the other apostles did not use elaborate oratory to show how the gospel was the logical solution to mankind’s problems. No, the cross is a mystery, only possible because god directly intervened to change the course of history. Although Paul had a first rate intellect, he knew that attempting to win people tp Jesus through that kind of argument would only be effective until the next great debater came and swayed them once again. Real conversion had to go deeper and be accomplished by the work of God’s Spirit. There is no space for pride in our own accomplishment in figuring things out. God uses our weakness and our inadequacy to teach us to depend fully on Him.
In our lives, we are always tempted to give into worldly wisdom. Everyone has advice on how to have a good marriage, successful kids and accomplishments in the workplace. But often that advice is based on a defective understanding of how the world works, which leaves God out of it. Real wisdom is found in a goal that we cannot see: glorifying God forever. Real wisdom requires a method that seems counter-intuitive: humility and self-sacrifice. Do not let familiarity disguise the radical nature of the Bible’s claims here. Eye, ear and imagination could never touch God’s plan for us, but He has revealed it by His Spirit. If our human intellect could never even imagine the goal, how could it find the way? But the way is revealed in the cross: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but for us the power of God.
Discussion idea: What are some areas where we are tempted to rely on human wisdom? How does God’s method, supremely revealed in the cross, contradict the worldly strategy?
Prayer focus: Ask God to reveal the subtle areas where your thinking and priorities are being shaped by human wisdom, and for Him to give you true wisdom.