Editorial: The Foolishness of the Cross -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 06:3 (Fall 2002)
Article: Editorial: The Foolishness of the Cross
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner


Editorial: The Foolishness of the Cross

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is a professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary. He is the author of Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and co-author of The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. His most recent book is Paul, the Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. In addition, he is serving as the preaching pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Paul proclaims that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). When unbelievers hear the message of the gospel, it does not strike them as intellectually compelling. The word of the cross, to their way of thinking, is utter foolishness. We had a vivid example of such an assessment of Jesus a few years ago. Geoffrey Fieger, a former democratic candidate for governor in Michigan, said that just as Jesus Christ was deified in the past so also Elvis might be deified in the centuries to come. He proceeded to suggest that Jesus was a “goofball.”

Perhaps Fieger was simply more honest than many in his assessment of Jesus. Apparently many in Paul’s day found the gospel of Christ to be strange. We see this in 1 Corinthians 1:22–23, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (NASB).

Christians proclaimed that the world would only be transformed through a man who was crucified. Such words must have sounded bizarre to people 2000 years ago. We are accustomed to the message of Christ crucified because of Christian tradition. Imagine if someone said today for the first time, “A man who was executed by the political authorities in a small Middle Eastern country is the Savior of the world.” How strange it must have sounded to people in Corinth when Paul began to proclaim the crucified Jesus as Lord of all.

The Jews expected God to bring in the kingdom forcefully and dramatically. Paul preached that God chose to bring salvation through a Galilean peasant who was crucified during the Passover feast, and God quietly raised him from the dead (not in the sight of the whole world) three days later. In the second century a Jew by the name of Trypho had a debate with Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist. Trypho said to Justin during the debate, “Prove to us that he [the Messiah] had to be crucified and had to die such a shameful and dishonorable death, cursed by the law. We could not even consid...

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