“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.”
1 Corinthians 1:17-21
I have been greatly encouraged lately by the fact that we don’t have to be an intellectual ‘Einstein’ to be faithful and fruitful workers for God. It’s not by our wisdom that people are saved by God, but by the work of the Holy Spirit through the redemption Christ has provided. It’s by God’s grace alone that we can do anything of eternal significance God, otherwise we run the risk of boasting in our achievements as opposed to God’s. For whatever reason, God has some of us take on more responsibility in the church through the gifts and abilities He fosters within us then others. He also clearly equips different people to feed the church in different ways, ie different parts of the body have different function, but all are necessary for the body to work effectively. However we mustn’t forget it’s God at work in us, not our own ability/skills in themselves, that sees changes in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
This humbles those of us who may be more intellectual and skilled in doing God’s work, and encourages those of us who feel we don’t have as many ‘abilities’ at our disposal. Regardless of our ability to serve God, it’s a reminder to us all that it’s only by God’s grace that we can do it effectively. We simply need to be obedient to God’s call on our lives and trust that He will give us the tools to see His work done. We shouldn’t fall into trap of comparing ourselves with others, but focus on investing into the church in the ways God has gifted us to do so.
From my experience it’s those who exhibit a child-like faith in their obedience and dependence on God, that has the strongest influence on others for God. These people may have many gifts, skills and intellect at their disposal, but they are also those who may not be so gifted and more ‘simple’ in the eyes of the world. God humbles the proud and raises the humble. I think this is particularly important for those of us in leadership, as it’s easy to become proud of our efforts and gifts rather then acknowledge, depend and thank God for them. Whatever we do for the church, it’s to build the congregation up and exult Christ, not draw attention to our abilities and so called ‘godliness’.
This passage is also a reminder that we shouldn’t rely on our ability to persuade and convince people of God’s truth. As this passage clearly says, the gospel message is folly to the so called wise people of this world. “I’m a good person… I don’t need saving… I do a lot of good in the world… God loves me no matter what, I know I will be going to heaven” typify some of the folly that comes out of the mouths of those who think they know better. It’s a reminder to us who facilitate and lead church services and ministries that our job is simply to be faithful to the Word and not try to water things down or tickle people’s ears in order for others to “like church” more. Our role as the church is not primarily to win a popularity contest, but to see people’s lives transformed by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. We need to be discerning on how we engage people of different cultures and demographics, but fundamentally teaching and equipping people with the Word is sufficient across the board of diversity we will see within our church. It’s through the teaching of the Word, and our faithful response and application to it, that leads to life change. We mustn’t forget this foundational basic requirement in church and replace it with a fancy alternative that we think might appeal more, or offend less.
There are so many ways in which we naturally tend to take our dependence and focus off God and put it onto ourselves. Church is always about putting the focus on Christ and our need for Him in our lives, as well as being agents of God’s mercy towards one another as we seek to serve God faithfully with what He has graciously given us.