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October 18, 2014

First Corinthians – Part 5


Last time we looked at the topic of Baptism and noted that Paul did indeed baptize in the Acts period but this was not what he was called to major on. The fact that he baptized so few gave Paul occassion to thank God because it would reduce the chance that any could say that he baptized in his own name. Paul did not separate his essential message from that of the others. Unity is what he was after, in this state there could be much productive ministry. We finished woith a comment about vs 18 where the structure of the vesre brings out the comparison between foolishness and the power of God.

This lesson is about the wisdom of the world and the times of the Acts.

Chapter 1:18-31

Those who reject the message of the cross are perishing  ἀπολλυμένοις (present tense), they have not perished yet and have the opportunity to see past their own moronic (moria)  attitude. The day of grace will close of course and it is apparent that human beings will want to put off this consideration. We should find ways of helping them see the truth that saves and to facilitate their repentance.

18  Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστί, τοῖς δὲ σωζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις Θεοῦ ἐστι. (1Co 1:18 TBT)
18  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

The word or message of the cross is to us who are saved the power of God.  It “is” the power of God, it continues to be so in this age after the decline of Israel Acts 28. Paul now turns to those who appreciate the scriptures:

19  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
19  γέγραπται γάρ, Ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν, καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1Co 1:19 TBT)

This passage is taken from Isaiah 29:14, lets read around the context:

9 ¶  Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
10  For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
11  And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
12  And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
13  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14  Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
15  Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
16  Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
Isaiah 29:9-16

Notice that the passage is addressed to “this people”, a spirit of deep sleep has been poured on them by the LORD, not only this but their prophets, rulers he has covered. The vision (book) is sealed and kept from the learned and when delivered to the unlearned they claim that they are unlearned and cannot read it. The nation is all talk, their hearts are far from Him and “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” 

The context is clear, Israel is being judged, Paul is using this passage to help all the Corinthians and especially the Jews among them, let us not forget that the context of the Acts was “Jew first” and God was wanting Israel to learn from their prophets of old and realize that Israel’s leadership was by and large asleep to the reality of the cross and its true meaning. Those Jews who claimed that the message of the cross was foolishness should consider Isaiah’s prophecy and the Lords own words Mr 10:31  But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

20  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
20  ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ Θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου; (1Co 1:20 TBT)

Verse twenty turns the wisdom of this world on its head through the example of the wise, scribe and disputer. Now we see that God has made foolish the wisdom of this world (kosmos) which includes not only the wisdom coming from the Jewish contingent but the Gentiles also. The verb used here is ἐμώρανεν “to make foolish” aorist tense, he has made it so, we are not waiting for the job to be done, the wisdom of this world is now foolish.  

21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
21  ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν Θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ Θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας. (1Co 1:21 TBT)

It was God’s wisdom to have the world incapable by its own wisdom to know Him. God was pleased to use the “foolishness” of the message of the cross to save any and all who believe. The word “preaching comes from κηρύγματος , which is the message preached. The act of preaching can be foolish, but the text is talking of what is preached. Below is one of Leedy’s diagrams detailing the grammatical structure of verses 21-25

22  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

The Jews ask for a sign, the Greeks seek after wisdom. This is the trail that you find through the Bible. The signs were to verify the Messiah, after all the miraculous signs that the Lord had done this was his statement

Lu 11:29  And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

After the death burial and resurrection of Christ where the sign of the prophet Jonas was accomplished we have a resurgence of the gifts after Pentecost. Paul qualifies these gifts in 1Cor 12-14.  There is no doubt that the gifts were all a part of the ministry to Israel. That is not to say that they had no effect on Gentiles — the question is what was their prophetical importance — why were they given?

1Co 14:22  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

Tongues functioned to impress an unbelieving Jew. Notice how the passages here are addressing Jews and Gentiles separately. They are not all simply Christians in one Body where the enmity has been abolished. The middle wall of partition is still upright.

23  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
23  ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, Ἕλλησι δὲ μωρίαν· (1Co 1:23 TBT)

The Jews saw Christ crucified as a stumblingblock (skandalon) — why? Because they wanted a mighty ruler to destroy the yoke of their oppressors instead they had a man of peace tortured to death on a crucifix. The Gentiles wanted wisdom after the order of Socrates not life through the cross.

24  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Things of course change for those who receive this calling — both Jews and Greeks! This calling brings unity in this respect — Christ the power of God and Wisdom of God. True wisdom is found in Christ and both Jew and Greek would agree on this. The Gentile would agree with all of God’s wisdom and agree to Israel’s pre-eminence in the Acts while rejoicing in the “no-difference” in the matter of Justification. God’s wisdom is displayed in the right division of His word and this wisdom must be received at the earliest opportunity by all Christians.

25  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
25  ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστί, καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ Θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστί. (1Co 1:25 TBT)

An interesting construction appears here — the foolish thing of God and the weak thing (neuters)  of God, after each of these come the comparatives .. wiser and stronger than men. There is no-thing foolish oe weak in God but through this figure of speech we recognize God’s almighty righteous power.

26  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Verses 26-27 reveal the truth that not many of the world’s elite are called there are some! Not many, it doesn’t say “not any”! That Christ has entered the world has meant that the eternal and perfect has become a part of man’s history. We can see the action of God in Christ as being interpreted as foolish, weak and base (ἀγενῆ of no noble lineage, without family) but this can also be seen in the ministry of the cross when we look at the action of God’s followers in general who are defamed misrepresented and as Paul says the offscouring of this world:

1Co 4:13  Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

30  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

In verse 30 Paul says we are of God in Christ who in turn is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. This is what he is made to us — of course to those who perish it is all foolishness. he then quotes from the message of Jeremiah 9.23. That in ascribing the worth of something we must first glory in the Lord. What is great comes ultimately from Him.


Today we examined many practical truths, about the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world has some important things to say about this earthly life and how material things work. If you need energy to make things function then you will need to study the wisdom that the world has gathered on the subject, you may need to become a nuclear Physicist, obtain a PhD and study at some appropriate university. This is not the wisdom that will however take you beyond matter to the reality of life eternal. To attempt to know God by the wisdom of this world will fail — God has ordained it so. 

Many of today’s people are enamored by the “success” of science and feel that since the Bible is not a scientific book it cannot be true or logical. This is a mistake for the Bible is not addressing the same subjects as science, though it does touch on issues scientific it is emphatically about God’s red pill, the way back home, to awaken people to the reality of their spiritual condition.

There is a wisdom of God found in the scriptures that is both deep and logical, it is brought to the surface by rightly dividing the word of truth. The deep wisdom of God is seen in the revelation of “THE MYSTERY”, to PAul the prisoner.




From the Study: First Corinthians