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The Church, Culture, and the Cross: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

Question: If you could give God one piece of corrective wisdom, what would it be?

This is our tendency: to assume that we have a similar kind of wisdom as God and begin to question His wisdom on things when we don’t seem to think things are working.

This is where the Corinthian Christians are. They’ve been questioning God and His wisdom by rhetorically asking at least three questions :

Is This Really The Wisest Story? (1:18-25)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing ….. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Why the story of the cross?

(a) Is this the wisest story for people who think they’re wiser than God?

Like many people in our day, the Greeks believed that they could have a kind of divine wisdom. And in their own wisdom, they saw the cross as a place completely devoid of wisdom.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles… (1 Corinthians 1:22-23)

(b) Is this the wisest story for people who think they’re wise about God?

Like many religious people in our day, the Jews believed they were wise about God. They believed they were wise about how to find God. They believed they were wise about how to please God. The last place the Jews would have ever think to find God would be through the cross.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles… (1 Corinthians 1:22-23)

Why the story of the cross?

ANSWER: In his wisdom, God is not trying to appeal to people who think they are wiser than Him, or wise about Him— he’s trying to thwart them.

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:19)

  • God is not doing His best to appeal to people who think they are wiser than Him.
  • God is not doing His best to appeal to people who think they are wise about Him.
  • God is doing His best to confound them.

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? (1 Corinthians 1:20)

Why the story of the cross?

ANSWER: In his wisdom, God chose to save some who think they are wiser than Him, and some who think they are wise about Him, by the sheer grace that He offers through the cross.

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. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

….. but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24)

Good News: In God’s wisdom, He saved us completely by His own power, so that our faith rests completely in Him, and completely apart from us.

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. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Is This The Wisest Story? - YES. YES IT IS.

Are These Really The Wisest People? (1:26-31)

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (1 Corinthians 1:26)

Human wisdom says that if you want to build something great, you need great people—the smartest people, the most powerful people, the most well connected people with the best worldly reputations, etc.

Why the Corinthians?

ANSWER: Because no on would have expected them... so no one gets the credit but God alone.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are ….. (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)

… so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:29)

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption … (1 Corinthians 1:30)

  • THIS is the wisdom of God—taking people who could clearly never be right with God on their own, and making them right with Himself— righteousness.
  • THIS is the wisdom of God—taking people who could clearly never live lives pleasing to God on their own, and making them pleasing to Him—sanctification.
  • THIS is the wisdom of God— taking people who clearly have no worldly reason to be the ones He redeems, and redeeming them for Himself and His purposes—redemption.

… so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

Are These Really The Wisest People? - YES. YES THEY ARE.

Is This Really The Wisest Pitch? (2:1-5)

Why this pitch? Why this approach?

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (1 Corinthians 2:1)...Paul is saying, “I didn’t come to you in a very sophisticated and savey way.”

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)...Paul is saying, “All I talked about was the cross – the thing that was a stumbling block to some of you, and foolishness to the rest of you.”

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (1 Corinthians 2:3)...Paul is saying, “I’m sure you could tell I was nervous – not because I was unsure about my message, but I knew I wasn’t the kind of messenger you were looking for.”

… and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom … (1 Corinthians 2:4)...Paul is saying, “I wasn’t trying to emphasize the best and tightest arguments and apologetics.”

There is no pitching the cross, there is only proclaiming the cross.

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. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

That’s why Paul can say here in chapter 2: … and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

Is This Really The Wisest Pitch? - YES. YES IT IS.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25)