Lesson 4

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not in wisdom of words, so that the cross of Christ wouldn't be made void. 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. 1:19 For it is written,

 "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
      I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing."

1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn't God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1:21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn't know God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. 1:22 For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks, 1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Today's Lesson 

Paul knows that God has blessed the Corinthians with every gift. He has given to them abundantly so that they lag behind no other assembly in regard to the gifts of the Spirit. Even so, there are now divisions among the Corinthians. One group follows Paul, another Cephas, another Apollos and finally another follows Christ. But such divisions do not come from God the Father. Such divisions are based on the wisdom of men, not on the truth of Christ that is revealed to us from the Father.


Paul reminds the Corinthians that God sent him to preach the gospel. In preaching Christ, Paul did not rely on persuasive words and powerful logic. Paul writes that "the word of the cross is foolishness" to those that are lost, "to those that are dying." God does not rely on men's logic or wisdom for many reasons, but Paul's purpose here is not to justify God's actions. Rather, this passage serves as another rebuke on the divisions that have taken place in the Corinthian church.


The Corinthians have created divisions in their assembly in order to show that one group is better than another, one group more favored by God than another. Paul is trying to emphasize to them that we are granted favor by God based on the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, not based on the purity of our doctrine. It is important to have pure doctrine, but pure doctrine cannot save us. Only the mercy and grace of God that is given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord can save. That grace and mercy is not based on man's wisdom, but on what the world would consider to be foolishness.


It was foolish for God to send his Anointed One as the son of a lowly carpenter in a rural province. It was foolish for Jesus not to be part of the ruling elite, foolish for Him to set Himself up in opposition to the rulers and authorities. It was foolish that He should be crucified, a form of death reserved for the worst of criminals. For that matter, it was foolish that all of this was to take place in such a backwater place as Israel. Why not Rome or Athens or any of the more civilized places of the world?


Paul writes that God deliberately chooses to use the foolish things of the world. The Greeks sought after human wisdom. The Jews demanded a miraculous sign. God chose to use neither to any great extent. God is not anti-intellectual. God created the human intellect. Christian apologists have used human logic and intellect to support the gospel throughout its history. What Paul is affirming is that the gospel is not founded on human wisdom. If wisdom were the sole criteria, the gospel would not be believed.


Not everyone is wise. If the gospel were reserved for the wise, then few would be chosen. But the gospel is offered on an entirely different basis. It is offered on the basis of faith. Belief, faith if you will, is not based on wisdom. But, to those that have faith, God offers salvation. But through Christ we are given the power of God and the wisdom of God. That is wisdom of a different kind. The wisdom of God believes that the world can be saved through grace and mercy. The wisdom of God believes that we must give of ourselves unselfishly, even unto death.


Do you want to be wise? What wisdom are you seeking? What wisdom do you value?


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