The Message of the Cross

One of my favorite Bible verses is the following:

1Co 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

All of 1 Corinthians 1 is a strong message for today, as well as it was back then. Ray Stedman’s commentary brilliantly explains why!

The entire Stedman ministries essay is so vitally important that it is difficult to choose just a few excerpts. However, I will share a few of them.

Excerpt #1:

The apostle [Paul] says it is impossible that we can ever arrive at a solution to our needs on this level, because there is something vitally missing. That missing element is the life of the Spirit in man, and without this, he can never solve all the riddles of life. So the apostle answers these schisms and factions and divisions by confronting them with the word of the cross—the word that presents the cross [of] Christ as that instrument by which God cuts off all human wisdom, not as being worthless in its own narrow realm, but as being useless in solving the major problems of man.

When we understand this, we realize that we will never begin to learn until we first learn that we do not know anything. When we come to appreciate the word of the cross, we understand that in the cross of Jesus Christ, God took his own Son, now become man like us, identified with us in every way, and nailed him up to die as being useless as far as solving any of the problems of mankind is concerned. That is the word of the cross; that is why it looks so foolish to the natural man; that is why it proceeds on a totally different principle than the wisdom of the world. And when we accept that, the apostle says, we begin to discover that true, secret, hidden wisdom that unfolds little by little the answers to the problems of life. We begin to understand ourselves and to see why this world is what it is, and where it is heading, and why all the confusion and the difficulties and the problems exist, as the deep things of God, the wisdom which God has hidden in Christ, is unfolded to us through the teaching of the Spirit by the word of God. It is a wonderful section.

And Paul says, “I’m not going to waste any time at all arguing with you about Socrates or Plato or Aristotle, or any other wisdom of men: they have their place, but when it comes to solving the deep-seated problems of human nature, there is only one wisdom that can touch it, and that is the word of the cross.” This becomes, then, one of the mightiest answers of all time to the intellectualism that constantly hounds the Christian church and attempts to undermine it—a false intellectualism. I mean by that that the word of God never attempts to set aside or call worthless the pursuit of knowledge. God intends men to learn things, he designed us that way, but it must be knowledge based upon a right beginning and we are called back to the principle set forth in the Old Testament, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10); that is where we begin.


Here is the entire verse:

Pro 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

To truly understand what “the fear” means in Hebrew, seek out Strong’s Concordance.

Lexicon :: Strong’s H3374 – yir’ah





yir·ä’ (Key)

Part of Speech

feminine noun

Root Word (Etymology)

From יָרֵא (H3373)

Dictionary Aids

TWOT Reference: 907b

KJV Translation Count — Total: 45x

The KJV translates Strongs H3374 in the following manner: fear (41x), exceedingly (with H1419) (2x), dreadful (1x), fearfulness (1x).

Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

I.fear, terror, fearing

A.fear, terror

B.awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)

C.fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety


Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

יִרְאָה yirʼâh, yir-aw’; feminine of H3373; fear (also used as infinitive); morally, reverence:—× dreadful, × exceedingly, fear(-fulness).

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon

Also notice what Strongs tells us about the word “knowledge.”

Lexicon :: Strong’s H1847 – da`ath





dah’·ath (Key)

Part of Speech

masculine/feminine noun

Root Word (Etymology)

From יָדַע (H3045)

Dictionary Aids

TWOT Reference: 848c

KJV Translation Count — Total: 93x

The KJV translates Strongs H1847 in the following manner: knowledge (82x), know (6x), cunning (1x), unwittingly 2 (with H1097) (2x), ignorantly (with H1097) (1x), unawares (with H1097) (1x).

Outline of Biblical Usage [?]


A.knowledge, perception, skill

B.discernment, understanding, wisdom

Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

דַּעַת daʻath, dah’-ath; from H3045; knowledge:—cunning, (ig-) norantly, know(-ledge), (un-) awares (wittingly).

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon


The importance of the verse stresses knowledge from God because the verse tells us it’s the knowledge from the Holy One [which is] understanding!


A.knowledge, perception, skill

B.discernment, understanding, wisdom

Where do we get such knowledge? From God’s Word – the Bible!

Stedman covers many of the pitfalls of human sin and how such sin (which is not confessed to God and repented of at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ) would be the greatest mistake any man or woman could make in their lifetime.  All of our human accomplishments will one day fall to dust and blow away.  But belonging to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within is for our spiritual salvation and will make the difference for all eternity!

Second Excerpt:

But one of these days you are going to come to the end, and the testing, the analysis of what your life has been worth, and in that day you will see that if you have been living in the flesh, it is all wood, hay, and stubble. It is burned up, completely worthless, and your life—except for the fact that you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior—is a wasted enterprise. It is possible, even in the religious realm, to gain the approval of men and to be accepted as quite a figure in the church, and to enjoy the favor of others and the prestige that comes from position, and to come to the end, only to discover that the absolutely relentless judgment of God has not been impressed in the least degree by that which originates from anything else but the work of the Spirit of God in you—it has to be the Spirit and not the flesh.

This is exactly why no Christian can EVER take credit for “the work of the Spirit of God in us!”  We are just vessels, as 2 Co 4:7 says “jars of clay”):

2Co 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

This is why the book of Revelation tells us that the “crowns” we receive in heaven will be cast before the throne in an act of worship of Jesus Christ!

Rev 4:9

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

Rev 4:10

the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

Rev 4:11

“You are worthy, O Lord, [fn]
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist [fn] and were created.”

Third Excerpt:

But what a triumphant paean of proof and praise is in this chapter concerning the resurrection. Paul closes it with what is his whole point. Everything in this whole letter comes right down to this one verse (verse 58):

Therefore, [because of all he has said up to this point] my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.


Chapter 16 is just a postscript in which he catches up certain little things that the church needed to know, very important to us, but then he comes back to this theme again:

Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong, Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 11:13, 14)


Hat tips to all links.

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