- The Corinthians:
- ruling city of southern Greece
- center for philosophy
- bustling town
- very talented congregation, but proud
- they were divided
- wanted to follow a more rhetorically talented leader…they were Greek
- easy conscience about sin
- Some have called them Paul’s “troubled child” because Paul started the church there but it had many problems he tried to address in his letter.
- Paul is about to rebuke them later in the letter, but he still talks to them as believers, the ones being saved. Note also that he says “being saved.” The action is done to believers. They are saved–they do not save themselves. Christians know God does all of the work in salvation–they have no participation in the action.
- There are many things unbelievers consider “foolishness” about the Christian message:
- Jesus died and we worship Him.
- Do we really need that much help from God? Is our sin that awful?
- He is the Creator and God and He died.
- He rose from the dead.
- God freely forgives us for nothing.
- See also v.23.
- Things are topsy-turvy in God’s kingdom: what man considers foolish, God proves is wisdom (grace and forgiveness); what man considers weak, God proves is strength (a Savior…dying).
- The gospel message is the same message and has the same power, but it is perceived in two different ways by the believer and unbeliever.
- See also Ps 32:10.
- See also Is 29:14.
- God prevents us from thinking we can think or reason our way to him. The foolishness of the cross puts a roadblock in that thinking. Sadly, the unbelieving world thinks, “If the truth is getting in your way….change course.”
- What if God did make the message only understandable by the wise and learned? What if only the smartest people in the world could understand God’s message of grace, as if it were an extravagant math problem? It would be a pretty sad state of affairs for the world. But God is far too gracious to let that be the way to heaven. So why then do people hold onto the world’s wisdom? Because they want to hide from what the Bible does say. They don’t want to believe.
- In the original Greek, there are no verbs until the last phrase. This means Paul is speaking with high emotion. People tend to clip words when they really want to say something.
- Why ask “where?” They’ve possibly been pushed aside by God with his victory. Or Paul is possibly challenging them, as in, “Where are they?….God has made them foolish. People who hold to wisdom want to hold themselves up and show how smart they are….so where are they?” One human observes the world, then the next comes along and debunks the former, and so on and so on, so where are they? See Isaiah 33:17-19.
- “Pleased” is the same Greek word used by God the Father at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration (Mt 3 and Mt 17). It is also used in a fulfilled prophecy in Mt 12:18.
- “Preached” shows that God wants it to be known. When you send out a herald you want people to hear an important message! He puts roadblocks in every other path (v.19), but then freely preaches the TRUTH, the true power to be saved.
- All of the Socrates in the world will not get you into heaven. But as a result of God’s wise plan, you can get there simply through believing in his seemingly “foolish” message. This is why Scripture is to be taken as the number one source above all. It is the only source that tells us what truly matters: the wisdom for salvation.
- Jews were known to demand miracualous signs. See Mt 12:38, Mt 16:1, and Jn 6:30. They wanted to be amazed into the kingdom of God, not hear about forgiveness and grace. What did Jesus tell them? No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah, the sign of the resurrection. The resurrection proves the wisdom and power of God. Paul, therefore, is simply following Jesus’ lead by giving the message of the cross.
- “Wisdom” for the Greeks/Gentiles at this time was rhetoric (reason). This is similar to the unbelieving world. Much of the world trusts only in the 5 senses, not the message of God and his Christ. This is why you should not try to reason someone into the kingdom of God. You have to trust in the power of the gospel message on the person’s heart.
- Paul is warning both the Gentile and the Jewish believers in Corinth to rid themselves of the seeds of rejecting the gospel. They were choosing leaders and apostles based on their knowledge, power, or rhetoric instead of concentrating on the gospel message because it seems like foolishness! Paul reminds them it is the power of God! Jews wanted to be “emotioned” into heaven. Greeks wanted to be “cognitived” into heaven. Both were wrong.
- Jews and Greeks think these things, yet we keep preaching Christ crucified. It sounds foolish, but wait until what comes in the next verses.
- See also Mt 27:42 and Lk 24:21.
- Why “Christ crucified” and not “Jesus crucified”? Paul is pointing to Jesus’ purpose in being crucified, not just the fact that he was crucified. Christ means “anointed,” set apart for a special purpose for God. It is the same word as the Hebrew word “Messiah.”
- Greeks saw the gospel as proof of absurdity, but God made that gospel the greatest truth of mind a person can have. Jews saw the cross as weakness, but God made that cross the world’s most powerful instrument for good.
- “Called” is used 10 times in the NT to refer to Christians.
- In the original Greek, “of God” is emphasized both times AND mentioned twice. Paul didn’t need to do that, but he really wanted to emphasize it.
- If people keep hating this message and its foolishness, why keep preaching it? It is the POWER of God, oh and it is the WISDOM of God.
- Paul is telling them to name anything that belongs to humanity…God’s foolishness and weakness are wiser and stronger. He’s daring them to find anything that is greater than God. He is essentially saying, “You want to call this God’s foolishness and weakness? Ok, well name anything that is stronger and wiser.” He’s using the Jews’ and Greeks’ terms to make his arguments.