1 Corinthians 1:18-25 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
When Paul and Sosthenes write to the Corinthian church, the first thing they have to address is the message of Christ and him crucified. The brethren in that church believed the true Gospel and were saved, but in the course of time, they lost sight of that truth and focused on gifts and powers. Sosthenes, a rabbi who was beaten up for believing in Jesus, and Paul, a man who used to arrest and have Christians executed for believing until Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus, testify that their whole lives had to change for believing that Jesus died to take the punishment for their sins and then rose from the dead. The church to whom they write must not start compromising with the world to lessen that message and get distracted by cool gifts and powers.
How do we compromise this message today and how can we present Biblical truths to people today without doing so?
Let’s use the account of when Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden tree in Genesis 3:1-7.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
There is a song that I like, but it presents the message in a way that shows it might see the cross as foolishness like the Greeks. It shows a God who made a paradise and made man in his image, but suddenly, the people had low self-esteem, and now they are separated from God because they will not realize that they are not mistakes.
It is true that we are made in God’s image, and it is true that he did not make a mistake when he made us. It is even true that Eve doubted her status as made like God and knowing good and evil when she ate from the tree. However, it was not mere self-esteem that caused Adam and Eve to be cast from the garden and to eventually die. In listening to the serpent and eating the fruit, they accused God of lying by saying they would not die, and they betrayed him when they believed that they knew better what it means to be made in God’s image and know good and evil than he did.
But the writers of the song that I mentioned present people as already good and only needing to boost their positivity toward themselves.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Other teachers present this account in a way that shows that they see the cross as offensive like the Jews. Eve could eat from every tree in the garden except one, but she wanted the one tree she could not have. She was ungrateful for what she had and could not see its beauty. Later on, however, Jesus went to the wilderness to be tempted. Satan told him to turn stones into bread to prove that he was God’s Son, but he quoted Scripture and refused to do that. These teachers unintentionally give the impression that we would be better if we would follow Jesus and be content with what we have. If we resolve from henceforth to emulate his example, then we can attain self-worth and return to his presence. We can bypass the cross by being moral.
But resolving to follow Jesus from now on will not erase the fact that Adam and Eve betrayed the Lord and cannot undo their actions. Neither can I undo my grievous sins against my Lord. Anything I do in my own power is like sewing together fig leaves to cover my nakedness and hide from God. It won’t work. Our sins need to be judged, and our future good deeds cannot do that.
So what will God do? Genesis 3:14-24
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
First, God lovingly tells them that they did betray them. He could have had no interaction with them from then on but he initiated a new relationship with them by telling them that they messed up, and their error will reap consequences such as pains in having children, trouble earning food to eat, and death, which God withheld from them that day, though they did die many years later.
Then, in verse 15, God promised Eve that one of her descendants would have his heel bruised, but that he would crush the serpents head. He would defeat Satan, and that child would be the very man who defied the devil in the wilderness.
And then, in verse 21, God killed some animals and made clothes out of their skins so that they would be covered. In the same way, this child of Eve would die on the cross after living a perfect life so that those who believe in him would be covered in his righteousness and be able to come before God clothed and presentable.
And like Eve, I have many wonderful fruit trees that I can eat from and enjoy, but I want to enjoy the one tree that, for reasons known to God, I can no longer have access to for now. And no amount of thought control can make me desire that tree any less or keep me from asking day after day if I can finally eat from it. But with a wounded heart, God points me to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for me on the cross, taking the punishment that I deserve. And you must look to him to fill that emptiness in your heart that only he can fill.