The Foolishness Of God

by William J. Stewart

There are many today who have no regard for the Bible. They believe the Scriptures to be a “crutch” for the weak, a book of “fairy tales.” They would be quick to declare the message of the gospel to be foolishness. The apostle Paul reveals that such a consideration by the opponents of the gospel is actually a demonstration of the manifold wisdom of God. Notice:

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. 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? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Note a few examples of the foolishness of God.

Noah’s Ark
God revealed to Noah that all flesh would be destroyed, and thus commanded him to build an ark according to the specific directions given (Genesis 6:14-16). Imagine the reaction of Noah’s neighbours as he sought to warn them. Here he was, speaking about excessive rain (did they even know what rain was???), a worldwide flood (had they even seen a local flood???), and constructing a monstrous boat (certainly of no use in the local rivers or lakes). Doubtless, Noah looked foolish before men as he obeyed the voice of God.

How foolish did the message of the flood seem when the rain began to fall? How silly was the idea of a flood when the water began to slosh around their ankles? How ridiculous was it for Noah to build such an enormous boat when all was gone, even the mountain peaks?

To those who were perishing, it was “foolishness,” but to Noah’s family, it was “the power of God.”

Moses’ Serpent
After being delivered from Egyptian captivity, the children of Israel were frequent complainers. On one of those occasions, the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and many died from their bite. Having admitted their guilt, the Israelites plead for the plague to be taken away. The Lord had Moses make a fiery serpent of bronze and set it up on a pole (Numbers 21:8). Whoever was bitten, if he looked to the serpent on the pole would live.

Can you envision the objections? “We need an antidote, not a bronze statue!” “Take the serpents away, don’t memorialize them!” There are all kinds of challenges which Moses may have heard from those who were perishing. But, those who looked at the bronze serpent lived. Jesus, making reference to that very incident said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Will we be like those who looked and lived, or those who sneered and died?

March Around Jericho
The children of Israel had just crossed into the promised land. Their first Canaanite foe was before them, the great city of Jericho. What wonderful strategy would be used to defeat this formidable foe and to show the predominance of the Israelites? For six days, the men of war would march around the city, one time each day. And then, on the seventh day, they would march around it seven times, and then at the blast of a horn, they would all shout! And so Jericho would fall (Joshua 6).

If there was any objection on the part of the Israelites, we are not privy to it. Imagine the people of Jericho, having sealed up the city tight, fearing the coming of Israel. They had heard God had given them victory over the kings on the East side of the Jordan; they heard of the plagues in the land of Egypt; they were afraid! I am curious whether the men of Jericho began to laugh and taunt when day 3 or 4 came along.

How wonderful that the people of Israel had faith to follow God’s plan to the end. Had they stopped on day 5 or 6, Jericho would not have fallen. Had they stopped on lap 5 or 6 on day 7, they city would have stood firm. But when they did what God said to do, regardless how strange it sounded, Jericho fell!

Wash In The Jordan
Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army was afflicted with leprosy. He went to Elisha, the prophet of God, expecting a great cure. Instead, a servant met him with simple instructions, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean” (1 Kings 5:10). Naaman went away in a rage, disgusted and disappointed. He expected something great, not to be told to go dip in the murky waters of the Jordan River. Foolishness!!

Fortunate for Naaman, his servants convinced him to do as he was commanded. Such a simple act, why not obey? He dipped in the Jordan, and was made clean after the seventh time, just as the prophet’s servant had said.

Necessity of Baptism
Being convicted of their sin, the men of Jerusalem inquired, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Hear Peter’s response, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (v 38). Why is it that so many, especially those who are religious, who claim to believe God’s word, scoff at the necessity of baptism?

Naaman was commanded to dip seven times in the Jordan River to rid his physical body of leprosy. Had he not done so, he’d have died a leper. We have been commanded to be baptized, not seven times—just once; not in the Jordan River, but any place where there is sufficient water (John 3:23; Acts 8:36-38). If we will do so, the result will be the “remission of sins”; if we will not, we will remain in our sins.

“Ah, so you believe your saved by water,” some will scoff. No, I believe we are saved by the Lord. Was Naaman’s body made whole by the waters of the Jordan Hardly. He was cured of leprosy because he obeyed the word of God. When one is baptized, it is not the water which affects the saving of the soul, but the obedience to the will of God. There are an infinite number of things the Lord could have commanded to result in the remission of sins; the Scriptures reveal that He commanded us to be baptized. Which is the Lord’s command to you, foolishness or the power of God?

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