11 Christ Crucified \ God's Saving Work in Christ
Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Jews are the representatives of' 'homo religiosus.' Within the current evolution of the Homo genus, 'Homo sapiens' exists as the 'homo religiosus' to whom religious activities are necessary and indispensable means for the unity of a community. Through religious activities, these men try to maintain a good relationship with some form of supernatural powers in order to be repaid in benevolence and blessings. 'Homo religiosus' seek signs.
On the other side we have Greeks, who are typical 'homo sapiens' whose morals are defined by empirical wisdom and knowledge. The search for wisdom is called 'philosophy,' love of wisdom. Greeks were people of philosophy, and in Paul's time, Greeks were regarded as the representatives of other nations who were not Jews(heathen). Jews called all the people of religions other than their own 'Greeks.'
Paul preached the gospel both to Jews and Greeks alike. He says,gWe preach Christ crucified.hAll of the apostles, including Paul himself, preached 'Christ crucified.' This is the center of the gospel. But now Paul emphasizes that he dares to preach this 'Christ crucified,' a stumbling block to Jews who demand signs and folly to Greeks who seek wisdom. Jews can not accept the savior of their nation who has been killed on the cross by the heathen. The messiah crucified by the heathen! This is a horrible notion for Jews and they can only reject such form of preaching. Paul, nonetheless, is undeterred in preaching 'Christ(Messiah) crucified' to the Jews, because this Christ is the power of God for the salvation of Jews first and foremost.(Rom.1:16, see Message no.1)
Paul also preaches this 'Christ crucified' to Greeks who seek wisdom, because this Christ is the wisdom of God. God, the creator of this entire universe, has hidden His ideas and plans for His creature, mankind, deep inside His bosom. The Bible calls this hidden idea or plan of God's 'mysterion'. God revealed His plan for the salvation of mankind in Christ. The act of God revealing His mysterion in Christ is referred to as 'God's revelation'. Christ is the 'mysterion' of God and the historical facts of Jesus Christ is 'the revelation' of God. We understand this mysterion of God only through the working of the Holy Spirit within us(1Cor.2:6-16). Christ is the true wisdom when man lives in a fellowship with God.
God worked out or finished His plan for the salvation of human beings in Jesus Christ crucified. Now 'Christ' is the title of the resurrected one. God raised Jesus crucified from the dead and designated him as Christ by resurrecting him from the dead(Rom.1:4). In Paul's preachinggJesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.h(Gal.3:1) In the gospel, Jesus crucified is preached as Christ resurrected. Now Christ, the resurrected Savior, appears as the crucified one. When Christ is revealed to our spirit by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, he appears in the life form of a crucified one. Maybe we can say, "Christ, the living One, appears in the form of a cross.hPaul expresses this mysterious experience 'Christ crucified.' The participle form of the verb 'crucify' to describe Christ is a present perfect form of the passive verb, showing the raised Christ in the form of a crucified figure at present. For Paul the gospel is the preaching of this 'Christ crucified.' Paul did not preach anything other than 'Christ crucified' (1Cor.1:23, 2:2).
The preaching of 'Christ crucified' is 'the word of the cross' (1Cor.1:18). This word of the cross is the final word of the creator who called us into existence. This final word is, therefore, God's decisive word to divide us. If we reject this word as folly, we will perish. Those who reject this final calling of God will not have any chance to reconcile with God and to enter a fellowship with the fountain of their life. If we accept this word as God's final gracious calling for us, we will be saved, because this word, the gospel, is the power of God for our salvation(Rom.1:16). The gospel, the gracious final word of God, is also the dividing and separating word for all people. Of course God wants all the people to hear this voice of calling, accept the reconciliation with Him and attain eternal life.
In 'Christ crucified' God worked out everything necessary for the reconciliation between God the creator and man, His creature of betrayal.(2Cor.5:19) We have done nothing; God has done everything. The Bible calls the work of God toward reconciliation, 'redemption.' God has done everything necessary to redeem or rescue those who are captives of the power of sin. In the religious tradition of Jewish people, the act of rescuing captives by the payment of a ransom was codified into a sacrificial worship system. Within the context of God's work of redemption in Christ, Jesus' death on the cross was interpreted as the ransom and Jesus as the ransom lamb. Pointing to Jesus, John the Baptist cried,gBehold, the Lamb of God, who takes(or carries) away the sin of the world!"(Jn.1:29). When we point to 'Christ crucified', we are testifying, from our experiences, God's gracious act in Christ to reconcile with us, the betrayers, and to invite us into His fellowship, into the fountain of life. It is the invitation to eternal life!
This reconciliation is the basis for our salvation and for us to attain the reality of life. Paul, in one of the climactic sections of his Roman letter, said, gFor if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life"(Rom.5:10). Here is stated the two essential sides of 'Christ crucified'; by his death on the cross we, enemies of God, are reconciled with God and led into the fellowship a God, and, by his life that the risen Christ is living now, we are being given the eternal life which will lead us to the resurrection from the dead. The risen Christ who appears in the form of the cross gives us these two realities.