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"The Foolishness of the Message"
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 14, 2007
In chapters 1-4, Paul is making the case for why it is inappropriate for the Corinthian believers to follow the world's pattern of esteeming earthly teachers, and to break up into seperate factions, on the basis of teachers characterized by fleshly "wisdom". In this morning's passage, he shows that this worldly pattern of wisdom is inconsistent with the nature of God's work of saving grace--that God shows His grace to the "unwise" and "unesteemed" of this world. Thus, the call to us is to "be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time . . ." (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Note how Paul makes his case by pointing to . . .
I. THE 'FOOLISHNESS' OF THE MESSAGE PREACHED (vv. 18-25).
A. He asserts that the message (literally "the word") of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Note that he doesn't say that they are perishing because they find the word of the cross foolishness; but that the word of the cross itself reveals their destiny by the fact that they count it foolish. By contrast, this same word proves itself to be the power of God toward those of us who are being saved. Thus, God destroys the wisdom of the wise [of this world], and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent [of this world]; in fulfillment of Isaiah 29:14.
B. Paul then asks where the wise, the scholarly, and the debater of this world end up. The implication is that, on the basis of those qualities alone, they stand outside of God's saving grace; because it pleased God to save on the basis of a preached message that they find foolish.
C. Note that Paul divides unbelieving humanity into two groups. The Jews request a sign (Matthew 12:38-42). The Greeks seek wisdom (philosophy). But the message preached is a stumbling block to the Jew (Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:7-8), and foolishness to the Greek. To those who are saved by the message (both of the Jews and the Greeks) it proves to be the thing that those two groups esteem--power and wisdom. It was the plan of God that the worldly wise look at the Gospel and say, "That can't be the answer! It's too simple. It's too easy." And yet, it is by this "foolishness" that men are saved.
II. THE 'HUMBLENESS' OF THOSE WHO ARE CHOSEN (vv. 26-29).
A. Paul offers empirical evidence for his claim. He calls the believers in Corinth to look at themselves and examine their "effectual call" (Romans 8:30; 10:17; Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:7; 1 Peter 2:9). Not many are wise according to the flesh, nor mighty, nor noble. (It's not that there are not "any" of the world's 'esteemed' who are called, but that there are not "many". A believing noblewoman once read that and declared that she would be in heaven only because of an "m"!)
B. Rather, God has chosen the people that this world counts as "foolish" in order to "confound" (or "put to naught") the things that are wise. Our calling, therefore, is from ordinarily among those who are "foolish", "weak", "base", "despised"--the things that, in this world's eyes, are considered "nothing" in order to make nothing out of the things that the world considers to really be "something".
C. The result of this is that no flesh will be able to glory in God's presence on the last great day (Romans 3:19). Salvation will be of the Lord alone (Rev. 7:10).
III. THE 'GLORY' THAT ALONE BELONGS TO THE LORD (vv. 30-31).
A. Note then that we are said to be in Christ "of Him" [that is, of the Father]. It is not even our own efforts that place us in Christ; but it is all of God's grace. We will have no cause for boasting in men. We have no boast except in God's grace to the unworthy and unesteemed.
B. Note also that Christ thus becomes all to us that the world seeks. First, He is "wisdom", as proven by the result. Then, He is to us those things that earthly wisdom could not achieve: "righteousness, and sanctification and redemption".
C. Note that, thus in Christ, we experience the fulfillment of Jeremiah 9:23-24. We who boast will have cause for boasting in nothing except the Lord and His amazing grace toward us. So, how then can we ever boast in men? How inconsistant it would be with the message of God's saving grace for the recipients of that grace to do so!
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