It is said that in our modern world that Christianity is losing its influence on individuals and on nations. Humans must not allow that to happen. A Christless community or nation is doomed to fail without His influence. That is why these verses from 1Corinthians 1:18-24 are so important. They describe Jesus Christ as being the wisdom of God and the power of God.
The Bible has much to say about wisdom. In James 3:13-18 James describes the wisdom of the world as being opposed to the wisdom of God. He declares that the earthly human wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.“
“Earthly” is from [epígeios; ἐπίγειος ] from [epí, upon,] and [gḗ the earth.] It means belonging to the earth and limited by its very nature to earthly ways of thinking.
“Unspiritual” is [psychikos; ψυχικός] of the lower or bestial nature, natural, sensual. Such knowledge is contrary to the Spirit.
“Demonic” is from [daimoniōdēs; δαιμονιώδης] meaning of the devil. Devilish. It is opposed to the wisdom of God.
By contrast the wisdom from above [the wisdom of God] is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Or as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” All of God’s purposes were centred in Christ and fulfilled by Him. That’s why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18 about the message of Christ’s redemptive activity as being folly to those perishing but the power of God to those being saved.
Christ The Power Of God And The Wisdom Of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
Paul stressed the power of the gospel message which he calls “the word of the cross.” “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 18. The message about a so-called crucified Messiah made no sense to those whose eyes had not been opened to understand God’s plan of redemption through Christ. It was sheer folly. [Note 1].
Paul in the next verse quotes 2 Old Testament passages to show that God’s purpose was to thwart human wisdom as He established His purposes in His world, 19 “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” [Isaiah 29:14, 2 Kings 18:17-19:37.]
Paul then asks a series of questions to show the inadequacy of human wisdom “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? “ 20. The so-called wisdom of the world is foolishness when compared with God’s wisdom in executing His plan of redemption for the world. [Note 2].
He then followed that up with how God in His wisdom, knowing that the world did not understand the wisdom of God, would in His wisdom bring the message of salvation to those who would believe. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.“ 21.
Why did so many fail to understand the message of the cross and God’s plan of redemption through Christ? He gives the answer, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom.” 23. It was true that the Jews wanted signs to occur before they believed any message. As Jesus said to the Capernaum official whose son was ill, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48. Fortunately in his case he did believe and saw his son healed by Jesus. But throughout Jesus’ ministry the Jewish nation as a whole wanted Jesus to establish His credentials by doing signs. Yet as John recorded in John 12:37, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.”
It was true also that the Greeks sought wisdom. But this was the wisdom of human teachers whom they valued for their learning. But this wisdom was a far cry from the wisdom of God. In fact, their wisdom ignored the wisdom of God. So Paul added, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”
It was obvious that the preaching of a crucified Messiah would be a stumbling block to the Jewish people. Their expectancy was for a conquering Messiah to come to Jerusalem to restore a kingdom where the Messiah would reign in majesty. But the message of a Messiah dying on a cross made no sense to them. The same message in the ears of the Greeks would have appeared as sheer folly or nonsense.
The success of the wisdom of God
The message of a crucified Messiah might have been ignored or overlooked by most of the peoples of that time, but there were some from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds who heard the message and believed in it, in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 24.
Paul says they were “called.” Every believer is a person who has responded to the call of God through the gospel. They have been called out of the unbelieving world to become the ekklesia, the “called-out ones,” the church, who belong to Christ.
They had experienced the power of God as they embraced the gospel and were made new creatures in Christ.
They had no trouble believing that Christ was the power of God and the wisdom of God.
It is true that knowledge has expanded in recent years. Many discoveries and inventions have added to our knowledge of the world and we have utilised this expanding knowledge for our benefit. But can the same be said of wisdom? There are many in today’s world who would say that wisdom is a lacking characteristic in many nations and individuals. That is understandable if Christ is our wisdom. If we ignore Him then we are the ones who suffer loss. If nations ignore His claims then they will inevitably become weaker and less powerful. If Christ is our power, then to ignore or overlook Him is to deprive oneself of the power to live as we should to the glory of God.
Saul as a Pharisee had great knowledge and an abundance of power. But he was a menace to human society when he lived before his conversion. People lived in fear of him and of his anger for Christ’s followers.
It was only when he submitted to the Risen Christ that his life began to have real meaning and purpose. Only then did he discover the power of God in his life. He became a new creature in Christ with a new message. His message was of a crucified Messiah whose victory on the cross had brought a whole new creation into being and who had the power to transform even persecutors into outstanding preachers and pastors of the church.
May it happen today that people like Saul of Tarsus are changed by the wisdom and power of God to become like St Paul the apostle. It is possible by the love, mercy, grace and power of God! If we become willing to receive Him as Saviour and to enthrone Him as the Lord of our lives in order that He might do in us and through us what God has planned for us to be and to do, for His glory! God is working His purpose out and we can become instruments in His great plan and purpose as we remain totally committed to Him. May it be so, to His glory!
[Note 1]. “Folly” is from [mōria; μωρία] meaning absurdity or foolishness. It made no sense to the natural mind.
[Note 2]. The “foolish” wisdom of the world in verse 19 is described as such as God Himself had made their wisdom foolish. “Made foolish” is from [mōrainō; μωραίνω] to become a fool, to make look simple.
Blog No.414 posted on Saturday 13 August 2022.