I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Part OneThursday, October 20, 2005
1. How Greeks and Non-Greeks Responded to the Gospel
Paul has divided up the classes of mankind into the two presumed classes of his culture: Greeks and non-Greeks, wise and foolish. These two classes of mankind are useful to us as we look at Scripture to see how people had in fact responded to his gospel message.
A. How Greeks responded to the gospel.
Remember, this was the group Paul referred to as “the wise” in verse 14. The Greeks prized wisdom. Education, philosophy, and sophistry marked their lifestyles. To be somebody in the Roman empire mean to be cultured and educated. Further, “there must have been many philosophers in such cities as Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and, last but not least, Rome” (Hendrickson, Romans, p. 59).
To preach the gospel to Greeks, then, was to preach a message of foolishness. It was a foolish message to Greeks because it meant trying to convince educated folks that the man Jesus Christ, who was the son of a carpenter, raised by a poor woman, and executed with common criminals, was God. If anything, Jesus Christ was the exact opposite of a cultured and educated and weak man. Why would anyone want to follow someone like that? Even if he were innocent, and if he had all that power to do miracles as it had been reported, why let himself fall into the wrong hands? Why allow himself to be tortured by them and eventually killed when He could have saved himself? That sounds like foolishness to any modern man today, doesn’t it? What is more, to preach that such a man could or even would rise from the dead is even more preposterous!
Paul preached this message to those who had gathered at the Aeropagus on Mars Hill in Athens. In Acts 17:32 we read, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’” Many left because the message was foolishness to them. The eternal message of God was considered foolish by finite men who considered themselves so wise and educated and cultured.
That’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that the “Greeks seek wisdom.” He then says, “But we preach Christ crucified...folly to Gentiles…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Then, is sort of a critical reminder of their own lifestyles, Paul admonishes them, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” This reminds us of the categories or classes of man that existed in his time and culture.
He concludes chapter 1 with verses 27-28, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…”
In summary, the Greek response to the gospel was expected because they were operating by standards of wisdom that were worldly, not heavenly. As a result, they missed the message and the truth.
In the next post, I'll comment on how non-Greeks responded to the gospel.