I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Part ThreeTuesday, October 25, 2005
John Chrysostom, the great expositor of the 4th century, preached,
“Paul was going to preach Jesus, who was thought to be the carpenter’s son, who was brought up in Judea, and that in the house of a [poor] woman, who had no body guards, who was not encircled in wealth, but even died as a culprit with robbers, and endured many other inglorious things."So then,
“To Pagans [the gospel] was branded as Atheism; and by the Jews it was abhorred as subverting the law and tending to licentiousness; while both Jews and Gentiles united in denouncing the Christians as disturbers of the public peace, who, in their pride and presumption, separated themselves from the rest of mankind. Besides, a crucified Savior was to the one a stumbling-block, and to the other foolishness. This doctrine was everywhere spoken against…His declaration implies that, while in reality there is no just cause to be ashamed of the Gospel, there is in it something which is not acceptable, and that it is generally hated and despised among men.” (Robert Haldane, Romans, p.45).
Why did they respond in this way?
2. Paul’s Explanation on the Rejection of the Gospel
There is one basic reason why Greeks and non-Greeks, and Jews responded to the message of the gospel the way they did. In short, I’ve already alluded to it, they thought with worldly wisdom rather than heavenly wisdom. Might meant right for both Greeks and Jews. They would serve no deity who was weak, poor, and suffering. They would follow no God whose followers were uneducated, uncouth, unlearned fisherman, tax collectors, zealots, and teenagers. But that is worldly wisdom.
It is in this light that Paul explained his gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:21 and following, Corinth being, as you’ll remember, the place from which he wrote Romans. He writes, beginning in verse 21, “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.” Verses 22 and 23 are the verses I’ve already quoted regarding what Jews and Greeks were looking for in the gospel message. Paul continues in verse 24 by saying that although these reject it, “to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
The very person of Jesus Christ is the essence of the two things the Greeks and Jews sought most – power and wisdom. And yet in seeking these two things, they reject the very Person who epitomizes both virtues, embracing instead the legends and idols - such as Athena or Sophia (the Roman and Greek goddesses of wisdom, respectively). They reject him because they are operating off of worldly standards of power and wisdom. And consequently, they reject anyone who preaches about Him.
So when Paul enters Corinth, as he records in 1 Corinthians 2, preaching the message of Christ without “lofty speech or wisdom…not in plausible words of wisdom” (vv. 1,4), but rather in “weakness and in fear and much trembling…in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (vv. 3,4), they hear something unfamiliar to them based on what their culture has taught them to believe and accept. And so they reject Paul and His Christ.
The reason behind all of this is found in verse 14. Paul explains, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” They reject the preacher and his gospel message because they are natural people, unable to accept or welcome or understand the things of the Spirit of God. The message is foolishness. They have no ability to understand the message because the message is a spiritual one, not a natural or worldly one.
In the next post, I'll continue examining Paul's explanation of why people reject the gospel.