Main point summary
My purpose among you is to plainly proclaim the cross of Christ as the wisdom and power of God for salvation, even though the world calls it foolishness.
1 Corinthians 1:17-25
For Christ did not send me to baptize
I was not sent by Christ to baptize as many people as possible
but to preach the gospel,
Rather , I was sent to proclaim the gospel
and a not with words of eloquent wisdom,
and I was not sent to convince you by the use of many wise sounding arguments and rhetorically powerful sayings
lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
so that the power would come only through the the message of Christ's work on the cross
For the word of the cross is b folly to c those who are perishing,
Let me explain what I mean. The message of salvation through Jesus' work on the cross sounds silly to those who don't believe it and remain under God's wrath
but to us d who are being saved it is e the power of God.
But for those of us who believe the gospel, we recognize that it is powerful to save.
For it is written, f “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
See how this truth is consistent with how God has worked in the past as you consider these words from Isaiah. "Those who thought they were wise will be shown to be fools."
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
and "those whom everyone thought had discernment, I will show that they knew nothing."
g Where is the one who is wise?
Where is the wise person?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the learned man who understands the Torah?
Where is the debater of this age?
Where is the great philosopher of this time?
h [God has] made foolish the wisdom of the world.
God has made all of mankind's great wisdom look like utter foolishness
For since , in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom,
Because , in God's great wisdom, he did not allow the world to know him by the power of their own wisdom and learning,
it pleased God through the folly of what we preach 1 to save those who believe.
Instead , God was delighted to use what the world considers ridiculous to save those who humbly trust his wise plan.
For i Jews demand signs
For Jews, in their supposed wisdom, ask for miraculous demonstrations
and Greeks seek wisdom,
and Greeks want to hear powerful philosophical rhetoric
but we preach Christ j crucified,
but we stick to the basic message that Christ was crucified
a stumbling block to Jews
It is an offense to the Jews which they cannot get past
and folly to Gentiles,
And the gentiles just find the idea absurd
but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ k the power of God
but that is not true of every Jew and Greek, rather, those who respond to God's call in the gospel discover that it is powerful to save
and l the wisdom of God.
and they are able to recognize the wisdom of God in it
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
For even if you were to call it foolishness, it is infinitely wiser than man's wisdom because it is of God
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
and even if you call it God's weakness, it is infinitely stronger than man's strength
The background for this exhortation is a growing division among the believers in Corinth. Paul pleads with the Church to be unified in the gospel. There are some there who emphasize their spiritual heritage as though it makes them superior to those who were baptized by other leaders. This is leading to quarrel between brothers. Paul calls them to unity, since even those he baptized, were not bsaptized into his name, but into Christ. Therefore, they should be unified.
This particular quote is from Isaiah 29:14. It comes in the context of the impending siege against Jerusalem. Before this verse, the people are likened to the drunk and blind. They honor God with their lips, while their hearts are far from him. They have not believed God's word about judgement and continue in their path. The result is that all their "wisdom" will be perish under God's righteous wrath, because ultimately, "their fear of me is a commandment taught by men." It is not a truth of the heart. You can see the connection that Paul is using. Like the Israelite, who recounted the word of God for their own wisdom, so now the Jews and Greeks follow the same pattern. They prefer their own "wisdom" other God's true wisdom revealed in Christ. It is also stirring to see that in the midst of this warning, God declares, through Isaiah, "I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder;" Oh how he has done wonder upon wonder in Christ! And as Isaiah continues, he follows this judgement with a proclamation of hope. The deaf will hear, and the blind will see, and Jacob will no longer be ashamed, but the people with sanctify God's name. What more perfect passage of Scripture could Paul bring to mind?!?
Though, Jews seek signs and Greeks seek wisdom, yet, we will faithfully proclaim the message of the cross! Even though it results in the Jew's stumbling, and the Greek's division, still, we will focus on the cross! This further supports Paul's claim above that his main purpose is to proclaim the gospel. If his main goal was to win many converts and baptize them all, he would have adjusted his message to be more popular for each group. But his goal is not popularity, but faithfulness to the truth. And though many stumble or deride him, there are those who believe and experience new open eyes to see the glory and wisdom of God in the cross.
This is an interesting, and somewhat scandalous way to make his point. By calling God's plan foolishness and weakness, it puts our plans in perspective. Maybe you want to call it foolishness, but it's God's plan, so do you really want to go that route? I can imagine what my muslim friends would say about this use of language. They would be shocked and offended that someone would dare line those word up on a page. I imagine it was very similar in Paul's day. The implication is clear, God cannot actually be foolish or weak. Otherwise, he wouldn't be God! so it follows, the gospel cannot actually be foolish or weak. It is wisdom and power!!!
Father in heaven, you are good, beautiful, wise and true. We ask you today for you're help as we dig into your word. Make us truly wise by it, and strengthen our trust in your true wisdom. Holy Spirit come and encourage our hearts with the words of Paul as you carried him along. We ask this in Jesus name and for his glory, amen. Have you ever been mocked for your faith? When you go onto twitter are bombarded with endless musings and clever sayings that make you feel silly for trusting Christ? Have you ever felt the discomfort of being humiliated by strong rhetoric that you know is wrong, but have trouble pinpointing the problem? You're not alone! You are not experiencing something new, and today, I want to encourage you from 1 Corinthians 1:17-25. Please go there and read a long with me, it's found in the New Testament just after the book of Romans. Read the passage Vs17 In the time in which Paul is living, it was common for teachers to travel around trying to make a name for themselves. The more followers they had, the more they fame they acquired, and the better they did for themselves. I think you can empathize with the feeling. Platforms like twitter, instagram and tiktok are built on this human desire for mass approval. But Paul goes a different direction. "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the word of Christ be emptied of it's power." Baptism is a good thing, but it was not Paul's first purpose. His goal was not to baptize as many people as possible and accumulate followers, but to preach the cross. BUT again here, he goes about it in a radically counter-cultural way. Just a few verses down Paul writes, " And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. " Why? Why not be clever? Won't we win more people if we're clever? Maybe... So what's the problem? Paul does not want empty the cross of its power. you see, Paul understands something about the human heart. We are drawn to charismatic personalities. There is the problem. If Paul doesn't want to draw people to himself. He wants to draw them the Jesus Christ. If they are won by his clever speech, they would only rally around him and his ideas. He may win their minds, but what of their hearts? Vs. 18 He chose to plainly speak the reality of the forgiveness of sins by Christ's death on the cross. His teaching was considered foolish by many. He continues, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing," Many of you have grown up in the church, and the cross doesn't seem like foolishness to you. But take a moment to consider what it was. Jesus was humiliated, stripped bare, beaten and died like a common criminal. That is the God you serve. In his humiliation, he seemed to be a fool who didn't;t know when to keep his mouth shut. Even those tormenting him mocked him, "if you're really the son of God, why don't you get yourself down?" Why would I trust that guy to save me? Folly! But to those of us who are being saved, it has been revealed that we didn't stay on the cross for lack of power, in his wisdom and love he accomplished our salvation and paid the price we owe. Vs. 19 In verse 19, Paul brings in Isaiah 29:14 in to round out his point. This is not something new that Paul thought up. From of old God has stood against proud human wisdom. He will show it to be what it is... foolish when compared to God's revealed wisdom. Where is the wise person? Where is the learned man who understand the law of God? Where is the great philosopher? God has made all their genius look like the babbling of fools, because for all their learning and knowledge and wisdom, they can't know God unless he reveals himself to them. Instead, it delights God to show up in such an unexpected way that anyone who sees it has to say, "only God could have done this." And so, almighty God was pleased to save those who believe through his own suffering, humiliation and apparent failure. Things haven't changed much today. Just as the Jews demanded a sign, so men today ask, why doesn't god write his name on the moon? Just the Greeks sought wisdom, so we find ourselves scouring the internet hoping to find a teaching that will lead us to a good and full life. But the response remains the same. Even though some stumble over the message and call it foolishness, the message cannot be made more palatable. We cannot change it so that it sounds better. God took on flesh and died a gruesome death that those whom he called might believe and discover that through apparent weakness, Christ, in reality is a powerful, wise and victorious savior! We are left with a choice. Trust in God's plan and power, or trust in man's strivings and strength. But is it really choice? God's foolishness is wiser than men, and God's weakness is stronger than men. Just take a moment to consider the world. Thousands of years applied to learning and growth, and are we closer to figuring out the secret? When I look around I see a big mess, and I'm part of it. Our only hope is to throw our selves on the mercy and the wisdom of God as revealed in Jesus Christ on the cross. And in the preaching of that message, lies the only hope for the world. Pray with me. God help us! We are so prone to assume we know best. We are constantly reminded of our own foolishness. Through social media, there are more voices in our ears than ever before accusing us and calling us fools. Grant us grace to trust you and your wisdom revealed in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.
HEAD WHO? Paul to the Corinthian Church Jews and greeks are his opposition Isaiah is quoted WHAT? Paul is addressing quarrels and divisions in the Corinthian church. There are those who setting themselves above others according to their spiritual heritage. Paul brings them back to the appropriate focus by expounding his goal among them, which was to proclaim the simple gospel message of Christ on the cross. He chose to speak the plain gospel rather than use "eloquent wisdom." Paul preaches plainly so that it will not "empty cross of Christ of it's power." Brilliantly persuasive eloquence may win a person’s mind but not his heart, whereas the unadorned words of the gospel, though seemingly foolish by human standards, are made effective by the Spirit of God Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians . In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 508–509). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. The true power therefore, is in the word of Christ itself, not in our ability to craft a speech. In fact, our focus on lofty speech has the ability to detract from the reality of the cross. The focus moves off of the cross and onto our rhetoric. The work of Christ on the cross is itself the power of God that saves us. This passage gives us more insight into Paul's meaning in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." We see here why Paul might start out that way, because there seem to have been people from both the Jews and the Greeks who opposed the message for their own reasons. Paul acknowledges that the gospel does seem like foolishness, but only to those who are perishing. He quotes Isaiah 29:14 to show that this apparent foolishness, by worldly standards is not out of character for God. Many time in Israel's history, God uses the weak of the world to accomplish his goals. He made the nation of Israel from and old couple without children. He used a man with a stutter to lead the people out of Egypt. He used a young shepherd boy to dominate a giant. God regularly saves his people in ways that seem impossible. God does what he wants when he wants how he wants, and we are left to sit and contemplate the glory. God sets himself apart from every God in this way. "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God beside you who act for those who wait for him." God is the alll powerful, all mighty God. he delights to flex his muscles on behalf of the weak and incapable. To him be all glory!!! Paul brings up three rhetorical questions: Where is the wise man? where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Paul is likely asking about each group's paragon of the wisest men: Scribes for the Jews and debater or philosopher for the Greeks. He follows with a question, "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the wise?" The implied answer is yes! He goes on to explain further, that God not only puts the worlds wisdom to shame, but it pleased him to save people through a means that the world thinks is foolish especially since the world cannot come to know him by it's own wisdom. The Jews want signs and the Greeks want powerful rhetoric, but Paul sticks to his purpose. He is not interested in winning every person by his own power. That would win them to himself and it would likely die with him. Rather, he plainly preaches crust crucified, in defiance of worldly expectation. He wants people to love Christ for what he has done not for what Paul says. Christ is the center of his purpose. The people must accept or reject Christ not Paul. This form of preaching leaves two alternatives. Rejection - for what ever reason, leaving them to perish in their sins. Ultimately, this rejection of Christ is because of their preference for their own wisdom. I know best. I will not submit. The power and wisdom of God for salvation - choosing the Christ who is. Choosing to trust in God's wisdom Paul finishes here with a scandlous statement: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." the audience at that point likely cried out," GOD HAS NO FOOLISHNESS OR WEAKNESS!!!" The implication is clear. The gospel is not foolish or weak, because it is of God, and to call the gospel foolish and weak is to call God himself foolish and weak. We dare not find ourselves in that column. WHEN? When I proclaim the gospel. WHY? Because winning people with eloquent wisdom would win the mind, but it may not win the heart. If Paul one them with his eloquence, he would have won them to himself rather than to Christ. Something about eloquence runs the risk of emptying the cross of it's power. Maybe this could be related to #2, that to win someone with eloquence detracts from the cross itself It is Christ's work on the cross that saves, not the speaking about it only. We do use words to proclaim the message of the cross, but it is the cross that has the power. Speaking it plainly for what it is leaves a person no choice but to believe it or reject it, regardless of Paul's skill. They cannot reject Christ on the basis of Paul's skill if he clearly lays out the gospel message. They must reject Christ. It delights God to work in counterintuitive ways. God is jealous for his glory. The message of the cross is not what anyone would expect. It is a plan that no man would think up.