1 Corinthians 1:18-251NIV New International Version Translations
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. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Paul had been raised in the Jewish tradition. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences. Paul was likely born between the years of 5 BC and 5 AD. While he was still fairly young, he was sent to Jerusalem to receive his education at the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most noted rabbis in history. The Hillel school was noted for giving its students a balanced education, likely giving Paul broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. However, later, after an encounter with the resurrected Christ on a road to Damascus, Paul would become know for his plain style of preaching about Christ.
Paul’s writings were known for their summation and substance of the gospel. “Christ crucified” is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys, and by His death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those on their way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious see that the gospel opposes their favorite pursuits. Paul would expound that those who receive the gospel’s message and were enlightened by the Spirit of God would see more of God’s wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ being crucified, than in all His other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man’s worldly will, to boast on their worldly joys. This event shows that human wisdom is, in itself, the folly; that mankind is unable to find, accept or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator.
It pleased Paul, by the foolishness of his preaching, to save those that believe. There is a notable subtlety here: It is by the foolishness of preaching NOT by foolish preaching. The message of Christ and the gospel are only foolish to those of this world who prefer what this world has to offer. The gospel’s message has been and will forever be foolishness to all well on their way down the road to eternal destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, is the only sure method by which people can learn which road they are travelling on. Paul makes it clear that the road for our journey is a choice. The dangers Paul talks about is that our choice of roads do not lead to the same place. Only one choice leads to an eternity with God.
The doctrine despised by our world is that salvation comes only by faith in a crucified Savior. God became human, purchasing the church with His own blood, to save multitudes, all that believe, from their ignorance, delusion, and vices. This is the message of Paul: Christ’s death is a blessing for every time and age. When God uses the weak, they become stronger in their effects, than the strongest people. There is no foolishness or weakness in God, only in what worldly people consider as such. Paul knew that Christ’s story would overcome all the admired wisdom and strength contained in our world.
Items for Discussion
- What wisdom is most sought after in our world today?
- How would your examples above prove to be misleading when it comes to salvation?
- Do you think that science leads people toward or away from God today?
- Why do you think people are often quick to believe worldly wisdom and discard the gospel’s message?
- In what way do you think the “simplicity” of the gospel’s message frightens people?
- How is complexity used to hide truth?
- How do you think a well stated and simple message of Christ can bring peace to our nation and world?
- How do we simplify the gospel for our community around us
- 1NIV New International Version Translations