THURSDAY, MARCH 1
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Our opinions can blind us to God’s intentions if we are not prepared to let them be changed – especially by the Gospel
|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.”
|18-19 Paul is loosely quoting Isaiah 29:14 and allowing God to speak these words again to the Corinth church which like its city, was characterised by people holding strong opinions, with some arrogance.|
|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?||
20 The Athenian statesman Aristides said that on every street in Corinth one would meet a so-called wise man who had his own solutions to humanity’s problems.
20 “Philosopher of this age” refers to a kind of dispute using clever but devious logic, called sophistry, which the Greeks liked to engage in.
20 Paul uses his own brand of straightforward oratory – four rhetorical questions together with the anaphora of “where is… where is… where is…” to drive home his point to Greeks who expected this form of persuasion.
|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.||21 The preaching is not foolish, but the message of the Cross doesn’t at first make sense to people of the world – whether Jews or Greeks, in this context.|
|22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom…||22 Different cultures have different starting points. The Jews’ history was miraculous deliverance (Red Sea, Jehoshaphat’s deliverance, Gideon), encounters (Abraham, Mount Sinai) and signs (e.g. through Elijah and Elisha). The Greek nation had a long background in philosophical debate and oratory. Jesus’ self-sacrifice in shameful, if sinless, death didn’t satisfy either Greek intellect or Jewish desire for God’s intervening hand.|
|23 …but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…||23 “Stumbling block” originally meant a tree-stump. In Scripture it meant an attitude or action that obstructs others and causes them to sin. The Jews looked for a Messiah of political power. Jesus – in their unbelieving view – had not only failed to remove the Romans, but had been put to death by Romans, the Roman way.|
|24 …but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.||24 Those with spiritual eyes to see, recognise the true power, the power of God in Christ crucified, and the true wisdom of how God saves in Christ.|
|25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.||25 God’s order has the effect of turning the world’s order upside down. Paul is using irony here, a figure of speech that was much used by the Greeks.|
When Paul had a dream in Troas that led to his mission crossing the sea to the Greek and Roman culture of Macedonia, he needed to connect with people in different ways. The Greeks were great debaters and they looked for logical, rather than historic, support for the message they were hearing.
The story of Jesus’ sinless life and then horrific death as an innocent victim who became a sacrifice for sin for all who would believe, is a story that defies logic. It can only be grasped by faith. And the more we seek to understand it and find grounds for it in the way that philosophy demands, the more we distance ourselves from the faith that brings revelation.
Paul is meeting his new Greek converts where they are in their understanding and speaking their kind of language – to tell them, “It doesn’t work that way!”
God’s purposes are higher than our purposes and of course the heavenly perspective is like the view from an aircaft window seat compared with a walk in the valley far below.
Only prayer and an openness to the bigger picture that the Holy Spirit gives us, if we ask Him, can show us how to relate Jesus resurrected, to a world cynical and demanding of proof. Paul knew those barriers too, and he consistently relied on demonstrating and proclaiming Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God, to overcome them.
For reflection and discussion
How difficult do we find it to stand up for what seems to others to be foolish, illogical, and just not ‘cool’? Who helps us to be credible and relevant?
Also published on Medium.