First Corinthians 1:18-25
The division of these verses:
a) 1:18-25 – the message of the cross
b) 1:26-31 – the people who heard the message
c) 2:1-5 - the person who brought the message
d) 2:6-16 – what really is spiritual and what really is wisdom
The Answer to “What is really spiritual?”
- Spiritual here are those with the Holy Spirit or all believers.
The Answer to “What is wisdom?”
- Wisdom is using the “power” (presence) of the Spirit to see life and the world from the divine perspective.
The Application of real “spirituality” and real “wisdom”:
- The spiritual person with the wisdom of God will be able to embrace values, morals, future plans, priories and world views that agree with God’s Word, God’s character and are often different and unrecognizable for the natural man using natural wisdom.
The Avenues that Paul uses to prove his point:
a) the means was the cross. . . . . . . . . . .it was simple 1:18-25
b) the people were the Corinthians . . . .they were simple 1:26-31
c) the preacher was Paul . . . . . . . . . . . .he was simple 2:1-5
Indeed human wisdom is not greater than God’s wisdom.
But the cross was not even a dispensing of God’s wisdom to men.
The cross does not count on men receiving the wisdom of God
and so become wiser.
The cross baffles men. Men do not receive a higher level of wisdom and so be able to say,
“Ah, now I have figured it out.”
The cross baffles the Jew. The cross baffles the Gentile. The cross runs contrary to the wicked
and is not the hope of the self-righteous.
To crucify the messiah or to sacrifice the hope of the world was not a concept in the realm
The Corinthians had tried to move on from the simple message of the cross to something more
profound and worthy of their time and reputation.
Imagine in the great philosophical culture of
It was simple. It was unimaginable. So it was unreasonable to the Greek mind which made
the gospel foolish.
The Corinthians had tried to move on from the gospel message as quick as they could and find
with in the Christian message something more worthy of their intellect.
Two groups in Paul’s division of people:
a) those who are perishing
b) us who are being saved
Previously to the Jew there were two groups:
a) the Jew
b) the Gentile
To the Greek there were two groups:
a) the Greek/Roman
b) the Barbarians
Isaiah 29:14 – here in 29:1 Ariel (lit. “altar hearth”
referring to temple altar) is
caught up in an endless cycle meaningless religious activities. Their attitude will put them into a stupor. When the words are read they can not understand so the revelation of God is reduced by men to simply following rules. Men can not understand God without God’s presence.
In Rabbi style Paul reaches for a text verse to build his argument around.
Is Paul’s open invitation to his now imaginary scholars and wisemen that he will debate.
Wise man = Greeks
Scholar = is “grammateus” which is the Jewish term for the experts in the Law such as the
Rabbis and the teachers of the law. This word is not used among the Greeks for their
Philosopher = means “debater” and is only used twice in all of Greek writing (here and in
Ignatius.) It is a personal word aimed at the Corinthians.
Paul has challenged his opponents:
1) The Greeks
2) The Jews
3) The Corinthians
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the Jews and the Greeks and even the Corinthians?
Paul begins his argument with a statement all sides can agree on:
“the world did not discover God through a system of wisdom.”
Distinguish between knowing God exists (Romans 1) and understanding what God is doing (1 Corinthians 1:21)
The world knows God exists that is why all cultures are religious and why false religions develop.
Paul is not saying people do not know of God.
Paul is saying once people recognize God though natural means they can not simply “know”
God or understand his ways and his plans.
After recognizing God’s existence it is up to man to pursue God for his revelation.
As Romans 2:7 says.
In Romans 1:21-28 men fail to do this. Instead they create gods in their own images from their
own imaginations. They make gods who think like men think.
“Foolishness of what was preached” refers to the proclamation of that second step to knowing
God – the proclamation and the hearing of his word.
Those who recognize and accept (“believe”) the revelation from God are saved.
Jews want to see a sign something they can physically see and trust in. Their Messiah would
manifest physically and change the world. Today’s Jew is looking for a natural man who
is a political leader to improve their world through a process.
Greeks want to hear something they consider to be wisdom from their own understanding.
Herodotus says, “All Greeks were zealous for every kind of learning.” The Greeks had
advanced logic and Sophia to the place that the world was abandoning the gods.
But a preacher is going to present God’s revelation. It is neither a physical manifestation nor is it something that agrees with men’s lower, natural reasoning. It is a revelation from God.
Thus, the preacher’s message appears to be and is counted as “foolish”:
a) This does not mean it is foolish, illogical, anti-reality, senseless, uneducated, fictional, etc.
b) It means men in their senses and in their thinking can not find it. They must hear it from God.
Crucified Messiah was not the sign the Jews were waiting for. The two things, “crucified” and “Messiah” cancel each other out.
The Jews did not crucify for public display but they did stone and then hang the body for public display. (Deut. 21:23)
“Christ crucified” does not fit the Jewish perspective. Thus Paul’s attitude in Gal. 1:13-14 and 3:13.
The Greeks considered Christianity along the same lines as all the other religions that had been dismissed as legends, superstitions. Belief in Jesus was to them as foolish as belief in Zeus or Hercules.
It seems that God may have made a mistake.
If the Jews want a sign then give them the victorious Messiah
If the Greeks want wisdom then give them some wonderful logic.
But, that would be catering to men’s natural abilities and understanding. This is the level that
idols (satan) meets man.
God is beyond man’s understanding and plans.
Through the cross God has entered the world of man with a greater plan, a greater nature and a
If man could understand it, then man would have thought of it.
Conclusion is agreeable to all:
God is better on a bad day than men are on a very, very good day.
Point: Corinthians need to loss the thought that the gospel message is too simple for them. That attitude simply means they have no idea what they are talking about.