1 Corinthians 1:1-25 “The Wisdom and Power of God”
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
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,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Introduction: We live in a day and age of insecurity, both individually, in our society, and in the church of Jesus Christ. People worry about their place in life and their futures, our society seems aimless and worried, and even in the church, there is much division and conflict.
But the Lord speaks to us about these things when he write to the church in Corinth, to encourage them and us, that there is hope and security, both in our lives and in our society and churches as well.
He begins in the first few verses by reminding us who are believers of the kindness of God to us, in bringing us salvation. He reminds us in verse 2 that we are the church of God, that we are made holy in Christ Jesus, and that we are called to be saints. That is, he first declares what has already happened—that Christ Jesus has made us a people for himself, and has forgiven us, and so he has declared us holy. And then he says that that is our future as well—that our calling, our purpose, and our goal, is to be seek holiness, and to be a holy people, set apart to God, that is, saints. And just so that we today might understand that these words are for us as well as the church in Corinth, he says, “with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” [vs. 2]
Although he has already declared that we are holy, he goes on to describe the wonderful way in which we stand in Jesus Christ. He says in verse 4, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” In this verse he is declaring that those in Christ Jesus have the favor of God, because it has been given to us in Christ Jesus. He goes on to say in verse 5, “that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,” that is, we have the word of Christ dwelling richly within us, and his words are causing us to grow in Christ Jesus and his grace. Again, in verses 6 and 7, he declares, “even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift,” that is, the work of Christ is visible in the church in Corinth, and they have received every good gift that God has offered us. So the result of this is that we “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, we do not fear the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather, look forward to it with great anticipation. For, as he says in verse 8, that Christ “will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is so much worry in our modern age, so much insecurity, and yet, the Lord tells us that He will confirm us to the end that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. What hope we have, what joy, as we look forward to the future.
But there are still problems in our churches and lives, and so in the following verses, the apostle speaks to us about our problems. But, rather than speaking first of the problems, he declares what we should do: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” [vs. 10] Our goal and our hope is that we should be of one mind, that we should have one witness, that we should declare one word of hope to the world outside. And so he says that the problem is that there are arguments and divisions among Christians. He could just as well be speaking of the modern Christian church. We have splintered into so many groups, each holding to distinctive doctrines, often dividing over questions of little importance, or personalities. In the church in Corinth, Paul says, “that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” ” Just like to today, they have divided into groups, some saying they are of one party or another, or follow one teacher or another, and even some who say they are above the arguments, that they belong to Christ.
So the apostle Paul asks the question in verse 13, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The first question he asks is “is Christ divided?” The answer is of course that no, that there is only one Jesus Christ, and he has only one body. You cannot divide the true church of Jesus Christ, because Christ is one. And again, he asks, “Was Paul crucified for you?” because none of our leaders is our savior, none of our leaders has died for us—only Christ has died for us, and it is He who has saved us, and not one of the apostles or one of our leaders. He points our that he only baptized a few of them, and that in doing so, he was fulfilling his calling, which is not to take credit for adding people to the church by baptizing them, or to take credit for convincing people with great arguments, but rather to preach the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
In a practical way, sometimes when we meet another believer in Jesus Christ, we look for divisions. We ask what church they go to, and if its not our, we try to find out how they are different and then emphasize the differences. But what the Lord is urging us to do is to emphasize that the focus of our lives is the Lord Jesus Christ and his word. And so it should be when we meet a fellow believer. We should ask “do you believe in Jesus Christ?” and focus in first of all on Him, and not just seek to find the differences between us.
But let’s continue to be practical. A lot of people think that we are foolish for trusting in Christ, for being Christians, for going to church, for giving our offerings, for doing everything we do in faithfulness to Christ. And they think that the message that we preach is dumb—foolishness. As he says in verse 18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” They hear this message of hope and life, and they think it is foolishness. But he continues in that same verse by saying, “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That is, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is not just what unifies us as believers in Him, it is what saves us, for it is the power of God.
To make his point, he quotes from Isaiah 29:14, where the Lord says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” He is saying that no matter how smart, no matter how wise a person may be, without the knowledge and wisdom of the good news of Jesus Christ, it is useless. Wisdom without Christ is like a car in perfect working order. It has been properly made, checked out at the factory, been approved and inspected, but without gasoline. You can jump start it, you can push it, you can turn on the key, but in the end, without gas, it goes nowhere. So also is wisdom without Christ—it may come to many true conclusions, even some helpful insights, but, without Christ, it goes nowhere, it really gives no hope.
So he says, in verses 20 and 21, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God.” He is here challenging the conclusions of philosophers, not because they are wrong as such, but rather, they do not have the knowledge which is necessary to solve their philosophical problems. He says, “in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God.” You can sit in the car of philosophy all day, but without the power of God, you go nowhere.
So he now tells us how we can be saved, what is lacking in wisdom: “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” [vs. 21] He calls the message “foolishness” because the unbelievers have no use for it, and call it that. But it is not foolishness, for the preaching of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is the power to “save those who believe.” You cannot arrive at the conclusion through wisdom that Christ has the power to save you, and give you life eternal, but you can come to that conclusion—through the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
He points out that such a thing is not what the world is looking for. In verse 22, he says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom.” That is, the Jews wanted to see miracles, and there are many people like that today. Yes, Jesus had done many miracles, in the sight of all of the Jewish people, but that had not convinced them. There are many people today who are the same—they are looking for miracles, and every time they hear a report of a new healer or miracle worker, they go look for him, thinking that he can solve their problems. But miracles, even if they are true, do not change us or save us. The Greeks, however, were not impressed by miracles. Instead, they sought for wisdom, using their powers of reasoning. And, they had great powers of reasoning, to the point that even today all studies in philosophy begin with the Greeks. And Paul, and those Christian philosophers who came after him like Augustine of Hippo, have amply demonstrated that the good news of Jesus Christ is consistent with good philosophy and reasoning. But, no matter how good reasoning and wisdom is, just like miracles, it does not change us or save us.
That’s why Paul declares in verse 24, “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” That is, if you are look for a miracle, there is no greater sign or miracle that Jesus Christ himself. His God who has become man, who has fulfilled all of prophecy and performed great and impossible miracles, and who finally, has died and done what no one else could do—he has risen from the dead. And if you look for wisdom, there is no greater wisdom than the wisdom of Christ, which he taught us so simply in His words that are recorded in the Bible. And so He is the power and wisdom of God, far greater than the power and wisdom of this world.
He even goes so far as to say in verse 25, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Again, there is no such thing as the “foolishness” or the “weakness” of God. But what he is saying is that there is no comparison. Whatever power or wisdom men may have, it is nothing compared to the power and wisdom of God.
Conclusion: And that is why we are foolish when we are divided or follow after human leaders. It is Christ, and his good news, that has the power to save. When we emphasize lesser things, and focus in on them as if they are of great importance, we detract from the power and wisdom that saves not only us, but all who trust in Him—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who is himself the wisdom and power of God. Amen.