For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:19-20 (NKJV)
The cross has the power to humble proud humanity. To make his point, Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:14. The context of the quote from Isaiah is that Israel is facing an invasion and they are rejecting God’s help. Instead of turning to God, they are planning on going to find help from Egypt. They reason that humanly speaking, it makes more sense to get help from a powerful nation with a large army than it does to pray and ask God to help them. God replies that He will humble them by bringing their man-centered wisdom to naught.
In a similar way, today’s man centered wisdom says that man can cure all the evils of the world. With enough money, education and effort, man can fix everything that’s wrong with the world around us. While a lack of money, education and effort can be a problem at times, there is not enough money, education and effort in humanity that can fix the world. No matter what humanity does, we will never create utopia. The reason that human wisdom fails to fix the problems of the world is that human wisdom has no answer for the problem of sin. The sin of man prevents the utopian ideal from ever being more than a dream. In order to deal with the problem of sin, we have to look to God. Since man’s wisdom rejects any concepts of sin or God, then man’s wisdom always ultimately fails.
Paul goes on to explain that those this world promotes as great and wise are shown to be foolish in light of the wisdom and power of God that is seen in the message of the cross. Man’s dependence on his own wisdom has left him in a place where he does not and indeed cannot know God through his own power and wisdom. Before man can know God he must be humbled by the cross. How and when does the message of the cross humble us? While the cross sort of humbles believers all through their lives, there are two specific times the cross destroys the pride of man.
The cross humbles us at salvation. A person must be humbled by the message of the cross before they will believe on Jesus. When a person repents of their sin and believes in Jesus it is in response to the work of the Holy Spirit in making the message of the cross real to the person. The Holy Spirit takes the message of the cross and reveals to us our sin, guilt and utter helplessness to save ourselves.
Once we are convinced of these things, the Holy Spirit then points us to Jesus as our only hope for salvation. All those who have been saved by Jesus were humbled by the message of the cross. Those who will not be humbled by the cross will not be saved.
The cross will humble us when we stand before Jesus. The Bible tells us that eventually the world will come to an end. At that time every person will stand before Jesus and give an account for their lives.
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11 (NKJV)
The cross is central to everything. Everything in the Old Testament points to the cross and everything in the New Testament flows out of what happened on the cross. The cross will even be central to everything in eternity as Jesus is exalted on because He came to earth and died on the cross. On this day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When this happens, the wisdom of man that says there is no God will seem so foolish. When this happens, the pride of man that says we don’t need a Savior will seem so foolish. On this day, the wisdom of man will be fully destroyed and the proud will be humbled. The message of the cross exposes us to the power of God because it has the power to humble is in ways that nothing else can.
For further study read Luke 18:9-14.
Who are the two people central in this story?
What difference do you see in their attitude as they stand before God?
Who went away justified?
What does this teach you about how the cross humbles us before salvation?