1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18 For the message of 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 man? Where is the scholar? 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 miraculous signs and Greek 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 man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
There is nothing for us to boast about but the Gospel.
We do not need to add anything of our own because cross itself is the power and the wisdom of God. And our humanly intelligence cannot grasp the depth and the power of the cross, so it tells us that the cross is foolishness. However, that foolishness is of God, which is wiser than our wisdom. Preach the Gospel. We do not need to add anything to it although we might be mistakenly thinking that our words and thoughts would make it sound better. Preach the Gospel. Preach the cross of Christ.
“The cross is not something to which one may add human wisdom and thereby make it superior; rather, the cross stands in absolute, uncompromising contradiction to human wisdom” (Fee, 66).
Who could have thought of God to be crucified? It is God’s scheme. God’s promise for the redemption of His people had been foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament. Yet, crucifixion of Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Redeemer, had never come across the minds of the people who heard the message. Why? Because it is, according to Fee’s terms, “too preposterous” and “too humiliating” (Fee, 68).
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:21-23).
This is the result of human wisdom. All we can do on our own, at the best, is to create something like us and label it ‘God’ and worship our creation. As Paul wrote in verse 21 of 1 Corinthians 1, we did not come to know God. Through the foolishness of what was preached, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God revealed Himself so vividly to redeem the ones who believe. Things from our own do not help us know God. Only God shows Himself to us so that we may know Him. Then, why do we even try to add our own voice and lowly wisdom to what is so powerful as it is? Why do we try to empty the power of cross?
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians1:17).
Cross was the way of God. Cross was the way no one had expected. God works in the ways that often seem “foolish” to us. Paul in v.22-23 says, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greek look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified”
Fee informs us, “Messiah meant power, splendor, triumph; crucifixion meant weakness, humiliation, defeat. Little wonder that both Jew and Greek were scandalized by the Christian message” (Fee, 75). The Jews could not be angrier than they were about such a blasphemous message. For Greek, the message could not be crazier than it is. But that was the way of God by which He gives salvation to all who believe. For those who are called, the crucifixion of Christ is the power and the wisdom that is the greatest of all.
Sometimes, I find myself being frightened by the demands of the world. I become anxious, thinking ‘what if I do not know the answers?’ or ‘what if I cannot show them what they are looking for?’ But there is no need for me to worry. What the world really needs is not my wisdom and knowledge, but Christ crucified. Christ resurrected. Christ the living. This is a simple truth that I have known since I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, yet I often forget. This is not to say that I want to be lazy about learning and growing in my knowledge. I should not be lazy. But through this passage, God is reminding me that what I need to take with me when I go out to the world is the Gospel, the living power and wisdom of the one true living God.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans1:16).
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. In The New International Commentary on the New Testament.Grand Rapids,MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.