Preaching again in 1 Corinthians 1 today [AM listen/save | PM listen/save], following the concept of “those who are perishing” from 1 Corinthians 1:18:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Note the parallels to:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life (2 Cor 2:14-16)
As well as to:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor 4:3-4)
And likewise, outside the Corinthian correspondence, we have this from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians:
and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess 2:10)
Each of these passages sheds light upon Paul’s stark (and very unpopular, at least in today’s inclusivistic, post-modern context) delineation of those “perishing” and those who are “being saved.” Indeed, in light of his usage, one cannot help but see the wrath of God and His activity in both groups, i.e., if He is the one behind those who are being saved, then likewise it is His wrath being poured out upon those who are perishing (being destroyed). And how a person responds to the “message of the Cross” (1 Cor 1:18), the gospel (2 Cor 4:3-4), to those who preach that message (2 Cor 2:14-15), the truth itself (2 Thess 2:10–terminology almost foreign anymore to some who were once Reformed in their proclamation), is indicative of one’s spiritual state. To those who are being saved, the word of the cross is the power of God, a sweet aroma of life unto life, the light of the glory of Christ, and they remain steadfast, unmovable in their love of the truth. But for those under the wrath of God, the message of the cross is silly. It is the stench of death itself, and hence repulsive. It is hidden from them: they see no glory in the great truths of God’s work of redemption in Christ Jesus, and they refuse to love the truth of what God has done in His Son.
These strong words from the Apostle make no sense at all outside of his doctrine of election. Those who wish to sweep that great truth under the carpet and refuse to give God glory for it cannot make heads or tails of such passages. “Well, the gospel is a stench to some, but they can choose to change and embrace it on their own.” Will those who find the cross foolishness all of a sudden change their own wicked and rebellious hearts so that it becomes to them the wisdom of God? Is this not why Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 1 that it “is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus” (1:30)? And can we not see that if we do not embrace the fullness of these divine truths, we lay ourselves open to the temptation to modify the “message of the cross” so as to pacify the natural man? The message of the cross is offensive to him, foolishness, a stench. But we want the natural man to like us and to find us acceptable, so, why not just remove those elements of the gospel that offend him, at least at first (you can always sneak them in the back door, right?). And is that not what we see around us in our post-evangelical world? Most assuredly we do.
Please be warned! It is impossible to work through these texts without talking about “truth,” how truth is known, can be communicated, defined, lived out, etc. This will undoubtedly offend certain folks. Which is a good thing.