1 CORINTHIANS 1:18∑21. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19: For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 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? 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."
This passage presents the fact that human wisdom and divine wisdom are direct opposites, and we know, from verse 18, that the dividing line between them is the cross of our Christ.
We live in a day when man's wisdom has placed itself in the highest position ever in all history.
If we go back to the beginning of things in the book of Genesis we see God making His masterpiece of creation when He created man. Genesis 2:7: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Ē This amazing creation, with itís marvelous spiritual and moral potential, seems almost godlike when compared to man today. Man had the capacity of communing directly with God; he was given great intelligence of high character and was endowed with a will of his own. That last feature was the cause of manís downfall in the Garden of Eden when the serpent beguiled Eve and tempted her and her husband to disobey God, and thus "by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death has passed upon all men in that all have sinned." Romans 5:12.
This doesnít come as too much of a surprise, in one sense, because man's mind has such tremendous capabilities that they may have thought themselves equal to God, but we must remember that man is the creature and God is the Creator. When man attempted to overrule God, it caused a great gulf to be fixed between them.
From the very beginning, man's mental capacity seemed so wonderful that there was almost no limit to the possibilities, yet in the Garden of Eden, his failure to use that intellect properly proved to be his ruin. Instead of bringing him nearer to God, man became a fallen creature under the power of Satan. As long as man is at moral odds with God, evil will increase in the world. Satan has captivated manís mind to the extent that the mental capacities of the natural man are now ruled by Satan. It wasnít long after his creation that his heart and mind were given over to evil thoughts and acts and philosophies. GENESIS 6:5: ďAnd GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.Ē
There have been inventions by man that have had a marvelous effect on mankind, but we canít look at what we call civilization today without realizing that man's ingenuity has largely been for evil and not for good. Most of his agenda has been toward devising means for human destruction and for vengeance upon those he has learned to hate and to gain independence from God. God calls it "this present evil world."
This is the sad product of man's wisdom as it is presented in this chapter. Verse 21 states, ďFor after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God.Ē
The wisdom of God, which seems so amazing to the believer, has itís source way back before the foundation of the world. There, in eternity past, the Triune Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, devised a plan. With omniscient foreknowledge They foresaw the creation of the universe followed by the disorder of the fall of Lucifer and all his angels. They foresaw the reinstatement of order to the formless and void universe as it is recorded in Genesis 1, followed by the fall of man. They went farther than that. They devised a plan where man could be brought into a realm of fellowship with God that he could never have known in the first creation in innocence. This was accomplished by sending the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, in the form of a man, to die on the cross, and by taking manís sin upon Himself, restore man to God.
It was Godís wisdom that created man but it was manís wisdom that caused the fall and manís wisdom could never restore fellowship with God. Godís wisdom devised the plan of salvation that could redeem fallen man and this began when God introduced His Son, Jesus Christ, the new Man of a new order, as the One Who would shed His blood as the blood sacrifice for sin that God has always required. Manís sins would be blotted out on a cross at Calvary by the sinless blood of Godís only Son.
The Lord Jesus accomplished a number of things at the cross, but primarily, in relation to man, it was this: He bore the penalty of man's sin, and freed him from the power of Satan. Isaiah 53:5. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquity, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed."
Through Christís work on the cross, man no longer need be a slave to the Devil. Christ brought man into a new life where he would reign with Christ.
We will never know, in this world, the immense number of believers that will be conformed to the image of God's Son through His death on the cross. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior will be brought into eternal relationship with Christ and will share His glory for all eternity.
That is just a quick look at the scope of Godís wisdom. Man's wisdom and God's wisdom are totally opposite to each other so the question asked here in verse 20 is "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"
Manís wisdom, as great as it is, can in no way accomplish anything with an eternal effect. Only the wisdom of God that devised the plan of the cross of Calvary, can bring the absolute assurance of eternal blessing in Christ to the heart of the believer.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:21-25."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. 22: For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24: But unto them which 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."
God works in a totally different way than that which men would naturally expect Him to work. Man is a finite being, God is infinite. The natural man is invariably impressed with anything that is large and/or spectacular. God, who is great beyond measure, operates in such simplicity that His dealings seem foolish to the mind of the natural man. Godís plan of redemption is so unspectacular and simple that we find it difficult to understand.
In verse 21 we see that, in spite of the wisdom of the world that knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. In other words, in divine wisdom God ordained that the plan of redemption should come to men in such a simple and unexpected way that it would, by its very simplicity, demonstrate to men that their own wisdom had gotten them nowhere as far as their relationship with God was concerned. This should prove to man that the world by its own wisdom would not be able to find out God. The reason for that is that man is a fallen creature and his mind and all his intellectual sensibilities are in themselves incapable of bringing him near to God. Man seeks the spectacular but God is not revealed in the spectacular. Elijah didnít find God in the whirlwind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the still, small voice.
Certainly man would never expect to find God being revealed in gentle human form and weakness, or to find Him nailed to a cross as a common criminal. That must have been one of the strangest sights that has ever confronted human gaze.
Verse 21 stated ďthat it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.Ē The term "the foolishness of preaching" is used here to amplify the fact that the simplicity of the gospel seems foolishness to the natural man when compared with the wisdom of men, but it is the power of God to save them that believe.
Paul goes on to say, in verse 22, "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbhngblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness."
The traditional background of the Jew naturally makes him look for spectacular signs. Some of Godís spectacular dealings with the Jews in the Old Testament are referred to in Hebrews 12:18-21, "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words; whose voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake."
Then Paul goes on in that passage in Hebrews to speak of the unspectacular things that we find in the Christian economy, Mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, Jesus the mediator, the new covenant, which all come to us in quietness, without appeal to the flesh, but in the simplicity and sincerity of the truth as it has been made manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Greeks gloried in their wisdom, and they certainly made marvelous progress in knowledge and understanding along human lines.
Had the gospel come to them with the same spectacular display as the Word of God came to Israel, they might have been attracted to it and sat up and taken notice.
Paul says "we preach Christ crucified." A man hanging on a cross would be the least impressive sight to those that looked for signs from a Supreme Being or those that gloried in their own mental prowess. Yet Paul indicates here that "Christ and the power of God and the wisdom of God" is made known in that same preaching.
God has accomplished infinitely more through the preaching of Christ crucified than has been accomplished by all the spectacular things man has accomplished throughout the history of mankind on earth. 1 Timothy 3:16. "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh, justified in Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory."
1 Corinthians 1:26-31. ďFor 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. 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.Ē
One of the most humiliating truths to be found in the Bible is presented here in verse 27. ďBut 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;Ē Manís foolish pride and man's ingenuity is scattered in the dust. Godís purpose in creating man was to bring glory to God and not to man.
I thing we need to remind ourselves of that in these days of big things and at a time when ordinary accomplishments seem to be ignored. Abraham Lincoln once made the remark ďthat God must love ordinary people a very great deal for He had made so many of them.Ē I believe that Honest Abe was telling the truth.
God made a statement in Luke 4:18 that ďTo the poor the Gospel is preached." The names recorded in Hebrews 11, commonly called the honor roll of faith, were mostly those of ordinary people in their ordinary walk of life, however, Scripture does not say that "not any noble are called" but "not many."
The true church is made up largely of very ordinary people. This has been a stumbling block to many of the more cultured and better educated people. Their intellect and culture may cause them to question if there is a flaw in the divine plan, and believe that man is required to do something to aid his own salvation. The fact is, Godís plan is an enhancement of His matchless grace and there is no defect in His plan.
Jesus was the Son of the Highest, yet He was born of humble parents. They were so poor that, when they presented the child to God, their offering was two turtle doves, the poorest offering admissible under the Mosaic law. He was not schooled by a great Rabbi nor did He attend any college or university, yet at the age of twelve, He was found in the Temple sitting among the teachers answering their questions. Luke 2:52 tells us that "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Iím sure His parents wanted to give Him the best education they could but God was demonstrating that He would be in no way indebted to man where His beloved Son was concerned. When He came to maturity, they asked "How knoweth this Man letters having never learned?"
To make men eternally rich He became poor. To set men free from oppression, He came in the form of a servant. To bring life, He died. The scholars and the religious leaders of that day plotted against Him. The lawyers and politicians joined forces to try to trap Him. Herod and Caiaphas, the Jews and the Romans, the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, the Elders, the Pharisees, all spoke out against Jesus. Most of them wanted to kill Him. But, "the common people heard him gladly," Mark 12:37. Most of those who became His followers came from the ranks of the common people.
Scripture records only one educated and prominent Rabbi, Nicodemus, who came to Jesus and he came at night while simple fishermen like Peter and James and John came boldly by day. John the Baptist was of no social standing. The woman by Sychar's well was an immoral woman until Jesus gave her the living water of salvation. Mary Magdalene had been demon possessed and was an outcast, but Jesus delivered her from demon possession. Most of the followers of Jesus were ordinary people and those who follow Him today are much the same. Had He called the noble and the wise and the mighty, there would have been little of the grace of God to display in the day to come.
God didnít choose the educated and cultured, although they were welcome. It is those who realized they were dead in trespasses and in sins that God raised up through His matchless grace "that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:7-10).
God works in the opposite fashion to what we might naturally expect. The natural man is impressed with the big things in the world, but God, in accordance with His divine wisdom, has chosen to use the small and unspectacular things as the best way to attain His purposes, and that is why His way of salvation is open to ďwhosoever.Ē
ďFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.Ē John 3:16-17