These words of the Apostle Paul encourage we who have faith. They affirm to us that no matter what others think or say or believe, no matter the lack of conviction or lack of faith of others, the reconciling message of the Cross of Christ is powerful to us, even if it isn’t to them.
But most often in our conversations and in our emphasis, we place a little too much distance between verse 18 and verse 17.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with words of wisdom, lest the Cross be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17
Now don’t think for a moment that the Apostle Paul is downplaying the role of baptism in one’s response to the Gospel. Rather, I believe what the Apostle is emphatically seeking to convey is the overwhelming centrality of the message of Christ and the total reliance upon the power of God – that completely rests within the content of the message itself.
Paul strips away anything that we ourselves could add to the message by assuring that it is not with anything that we bring to the table that makes the message more influential. Not by any oratory prowess or skill, or by any honed, tactical argumentation – but rather the power lies within the message. “…not with words of wisdom, lest the Cross be emptied of its power.” It is the shock of the story of the Cross. And the shock of the story of the God of the Cross that motivates and prompts response.
The Gospel has always been scandalous, because it is a message of grace. Grace is scandalous because it releases control. It relinquishes control to the only One who truly possesses it. The scandal of the Cross is that it is God Himself who “is both just and the One who justifies” (Romans 3:26).
Christ brings the Kingdom (Reign) and the Cross (Sacrifice) together, which no one can fathom. Therein lies the power of its message.
Glory to God!