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Christ the Wisdom and Power of God June 18, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that the Gospel is foolishness to those who will perish, while it is the means by which the power of God is exercised for those who will be saved. He then quotes from Isaiah to show that God has clearly stated that human reason alone cannot reveal the method of salvation. Paul challenges the wise man of this world – whether he be a learned Jew or a Greek sophist – to refute what he has just stated, since God has rendered human reason useless. Now it should also be noted that even though the world was surrounded by the manifestation of God’s wisdom, the world refused to understand it; thus, God put all human wisdom to shame by using the Gospel message, which the world regarded as absurd, as the method of salvation. Indeed, the Jews required supernatural support for their faith while Greeks needed to base their faith on rational principles, yet the Gospel message insulted the Jews and seemed absurd to the Greeks. On the other hand, those who have been effectively called by God can see that Christ, in His person and work, is the highest manifestation of God’s power and wisdom. The power of the Gospel lies in the fact that the lowest form of divine wisdom is higher than man’s wisdom, and the lowest form of divine strength is higher than man’s strength. Paul then further demonstrates the uselessness of human wisdom by challenging the Corinthians to recall their station in life when they were effectively called by God; not many of them possessed human wisdom, authority or a high rank in society. Yet God chose those without human wisdom to put those who possessed it to shame, and He chose the weak to show the strong the uselessness of their strength. Indeed, God chose those who were ignoble, contemptible and even completely insignificant to make their polar opposites see the lack of importance of the attributes that they valued. In this way, nobody could claim to be meritorious before God. Now God has caused the Corinthians to be united with Christ – and so they can

  • truly know God
  • be justified and be transformed into His likeness
  • be finally delivered from evil.

The obvious conclusion is that the Corinthians must glory only in the Lord, and not in themselves. Hodge offers his thoughts on the rest of the passage:

1. The proper method to convert people in any community, Christian or pagan, is to preach or set forth the truth concerning the person and work of Christ. Whatever other means are used must be subordinate and auxiliary, designed to remove obstacles and to gain access for the truth to the mind, just as the ground is cleared of weeds and brambles in order to prepare it for the precious seed.
2. The proper state of mind in which to preach the Gospel is the opposite of self-confidence or carelessness. The Gospel should be preached with a sense of weakness and with great anxiety and solicitude.
3. The foundation of saving faith is not reason; that is, it is not arguments addressed to the understanding, but rather the power of God as exerted with and by the truth on the heart.

Thoughts: In 1:26-31, we see that in general, God effectively calls those who are not “wise by human standards,” “influential,” or “of noble birth.” This got me thinking as to whether those Christians who 1) are regarded as “intellectuals,” and/or 2) hold some sort of political office, and/or 3) come from well-known families comprise only a small part of the worldwide body of Christ. The church that I attend has many members with a good-to-excellent educational background, which has, to some extent, distorted my view on this subject. One thought is that a good education, while being a blessing from God, can be manipulated by Satan to produce feelings of pride and superiority in the hearts of those who can claim it. It is important for a believer who has attended a “prominent” university to use their educational background for His glory and not to solely derive personal pleasure from it.

In 2:3, we see that when Paul delivered the Gospel message to the Corinthians, he did so “in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” Hodge offers some thoughts on this interesting quote:

It was not in the consciousness of strength – self-confidence and self-reliance – that he appeared among them, but as oppressed with a sense of his weakness and insufficiency. He had a work to do that he felt to be entirely above his powers.

This got me thinking about those who have successfully delivered the Gospel message to others – in that their audience actually accepted it as the truth. Did these believers actually speak the words of life with a sense of their own weakness and inherent inability to impact the hearts of their audience? Can God still work through a believer who preaches the Gospel in a rather arrogant manner – thinking, “I’ve converted so many people in the past that I’m sure that I’ll be successful this time?” One wonders if Paul’s evangelistic approach is meant to be followed by all believers.

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