The cross of Christ is a foolish thing. The cross of Christ is a shameful thing. The cross of Christ is a hated thing.
The cross of Christ is foolish, shameful, and hated, that is, by those who are perishing, by those who are “wise” according to the way of the world. But to those who are being saved and made alive, the cross of Christ is wisdom and power (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
To those who are (eternally) dying, the cross of Christ is offensive, foolish, vanity, and to be avoided. To those who are being (eternally) saved, the cross is joy, wisdom, power, and to be embraced and loved.
Why would one embrace Christ’s cross? Why would one gravitate toward an instrument of death as a means of life? Because life is only found through Christ’s death, and if one avoids Christ’s cross, he will only keep on dying until he enters eternity and there he will continue to die eternally. Only the cross of Christ is powerful to keep one from eternal death.
In the context of Paul’s discourse on the wisdom of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), Paul points to other demonstrations of the power of the cross. He doesn’t explicitly mention the cross in all these verses, but these are benefits that are received only through trusting in Christ and His cross for salvation. These are things that only the cross is powerful enough to accomplish. Avoid the cross and you will avoid these benefits.
The cross is powerful to produce sanctification (v. 2). Only the cross can make a sinner a saint — only the cross can declare a just man to be righteous before God and only the cross can progressively transform an individual so that he increasingly becomes what God has declared him to be.
The cross is powerful to produce blamelessness at the end of time (vv. 7-8). There will be no lack for the one who is in Christ when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. There will be no remaining sin for the believer in Christ on that day. The cross is powerful to save one from God’s wrath and to keep him in that salvation.
The cross is powerful to maintain fellowship with God (v. 9). God is faithful to His promises and when He calls one into fellowship with Christ through the cross, He keeps that one in fellowship with Christ and Himself.
The cross is powerful to effect unity in the body of Christ (v. 10). When one trusts Christ, he is joined to the eternal church and body of Christ — he is unified to Christ and all who belong to Christ. Only the cross of Christ can preserve and protect that unity. Later in the passage, Paul will remind that the cross is powerful enough to even unite Jew and Gentile into that one body (v. 24). This is God’s power and God’s wisdom.
It’s possible to avoid the cross, but avoid the cross and one will also avoid God’s power and what only God can do in his life.