1 Corinthians 1

Remember, the church at Corinth had the most problems of any in the New Testament by far, having been sent at least four corrective letters that we know of.  This is not a church from which we should be taking our personal or corporate theologies without knowing the context of what is said, and who is saying it, and why it is being said.

Paul’s words here are directed at reality, but in such a way as to expose what the problems and errors in Corinth were.  Sometimes he would simply state the problem and the solution, sometimes it would be stories or situational instruction, but sometimes he would attack with logic, under the original kind of an ad hominem argument.  I know in logic today, it means to attack the man instead of the position, and is usually seen as a weakness in that you are not dealing with the argument (implication being you can’t deal with the argument).  What the original ad hominem argument was meant to attack the man by adopting his position and then taking it to its natural and usually insane (or at least inane) conclusion.  Paul is saying that if they want to follow the divisions on the basis of who taught what and when, that it was foolishness – but then he says, look we’re all fools – so if we are all going to be fools, let’s be Christ’s fool.

This kind of ad hominem is what Paul does throughout chapter 1, as we goes, so anything I say should be in that context unless I say otherwise. 

I broke the chapter down like this:

KV:  28 – If you’re going to be a fool, be Christ’s fool!

“…and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are…”

1-9:  Greetings and Blessings in Christ Jesus

10-17:  Divisions outside of the cross of Christ are foolish

18-25:  Jewish Scholar or Gentile Genius Wisdom, God makes both morons by His “folly”

26-31:  It is ALL GOD’S DOING, so leave the praise and glory for Him

KV:  28 – If you’re going to be a fool, be Christ’s fool!

“…and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are…”

I don’t exactly understand why my brain makes the connections that it does on occasion, but this title brings to mind a song done by Michal Card, titled God’s Own Fool.  It goes, “Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life/As the wisest of all of mankind/But if God’s holy wisdom is foolish to men/he must have seemed out of His mind.  The last lines of the final verse go, “So surrender the hunger to say you must know/Have the courage to say I believe/for the power of paradox opens your eyes/And blinds those who say they can see.”

As I read through this chapter, I heard that refrain clearly in my mind as I proceeded, and given my own knowledge of music and experience with it, I somehow feel that this is an important concept to understand.  In short, what I have come to see is that EVERYONE is a fool of some kind.  Well, if I have to be a fool, I’ll be God’s fool, because His foolishness checkmates the wisest chess master.  Even better, I can extend it as an opportunity to join me as a fool for Christ through the gospel.

Do you know the Gospel?  Christ was crucified on a cross by the Romans at the request of the Jewish national leaders, and was buried, carrying with Himself into death our sins, and then was raised to new life three days later.  In placing your faith in Him for that completed sacrifice to pay for all our sins, you too can become God’s fool like the rest of us here.  With that, let’s jump into the chapter.

1-9:  Greetings and Blessings in Christ Jesus

Paul begins this letter as a any other letter, by identifying himself and credentialing himself to his identified audience.  It is clear that whatever was wrong in Corinth, that Paul loved the saints there, and this is at least partly because he planted that church himself, and laboured there for at least a year and a half.  Let’s hop in to the text.

1:  Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

  • For the record, an Apostle is a messenger sent on a mission, who by Paul’s words, is Jesus Christ Himself.  That mission for Paul started on the road to Damascus, and ended in Mamertine Prison, the worst place to be in Rome.
  • There is a mention here of Sosthenes, who we also meet in He is the brother that was the leader of the Synagogue in Corinth in Acts 18:17 that they beat up to try to get some action out of Gallio, the proconsul of the Roman colony.  Of course, he gave them nothing.  However, we learned from this verse that Sosthenes was in fact our brother in Christ.  Who says you can’t get information from a greeting?

2:  To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

  • Okay, the letter is to the church at Corinth.  This is a commonality between letters that gives us a window into how the churches gathered in New Testament days.  Did you notice any denominational affiliations in any of this?  Or any of our other previous studies?  No, they were “the church AT.”  They were named not by denomination, but by location.  Interesting thought.
  • The “to” part of the address also suggests that the church contained “those who have been sanctified,” which speaks to that idea of the general life change in direction and priority we’ve been seeing over and over in Paul’s other letters.
  • Saints by calling – well, Paul was referring to something he had written to the Romans – that those who are saints by calling were also foreknown from all of eternity and predestined to adoption into the family of God through the calling of Christ, justified, and glorified, and for God at least, all in the past tense to indicate to us how God considers this a completed work!  
  • With all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.  This is where Paul opens the letter up to everyone else who has that same sanctified calling in Christ as they did, and how it opens the letter to apply to us, though I don’t personally think that important.

3:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • This is Paul’s classic opening line.  And really, what could be a better prayer and greeting for the saints that are called like in the previous verse?  It’s really encouraging and appropriate.
  • I’m going to add a bit of a personal note here.  My week has been more than challenging in a time sense because of these woke leftist liberals that want to argue about Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality in the CBOQ, and it has even shown up on some of the bodies on which I sit.  Yet, all through it, at least so far, I have been able to maintain real peace, that sense of well-being, and that it is all going to be okay, by nothing but the grace of God.  Amen, I wish that same charis [grace] and eirene [peace] to you.  At a certain point, it will all be done with and you will know that grace too.

4:  I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,

  • Here is thankful Paul, thanking God (or my God, the manuscripts are split on whether the possessive is there, and that matters in my reading not at all) for His grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus.  This is something that Paul says over and over and over again throughout all of his letters, that God gave us His grace in Christ Jesus.
  • Ever wonder what that means?  I means in brief that God has by faith justified all those that will believe in Him by His grace.  Grace by definition is the receiving of something you have not earned and do not deserve.  (Contrast the concepts of both Justice, the receiving of what you deserve, and mercy, receiving of less than you deserve.) God has always had a plan to save his chosen people, and it began in eternity past.  This is called the Redemption Covenant by theologians.  Mankind had nothing to do with it, and it was only between members within the triune Godhead.
  • Ultimately, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, and the earth was cursed because of that sin, we ALL became sinners.  The wages, that is what we earn for ourselves by our sin is death.  The only way to be free of this is to somehow satisfy the justice of this holy God.  Enter God the Son, who became a man, lived a perfect life (like we should have but are not capable of in an unsaved state).  When He had done that, he willingly and knowingly had himself crucified to satisfy the justice of God.  In doing so, he exchanged the penalty due us for the rewards due Him, and the great exchange was made, resulting in our acquittal before God, assuming we could believe in Him.  And we couldn’t!  So God gave us by His grace, that faith required to believe in Him as our Saviour, and the will to follow Him as our Lord (and the two of those are supposed to be the same thing).
  • Paul uses the phrase Christ Jesus, and this is unique to Paul.  Everyone else says Jesus Christ, and I think it has something as to how Paul encountered Christ as compared to how the other Apostles did.  Most of the Apostles met Jesus the man first, and as they were taught by Him, discovered that He was the Christ they were looking for.  With Paul, it was the exact opposite.  When Paul met the Lord on the road to Damascus, he met the resurrected Christ, and then walked with Jesus, so He met the risen Christ first.  So he uses the title first, not the name.  And Paul is not consistent in that usage.  This might mean that when he is using Jesus first, he is concentrating on the man Jesus, and when he uses Christ Jesus, He is concentrating more on the divine aspects of our understanding.

5:  that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,

  • All of that grace gives us enrichment, or literally a “making rich” in two specific areas – speech and knowledge.  In other words, God teaches us what we need to say and then makes sure we can say it well.  It’s a great thing for those who preach the Word, or evangelize, or teach the Scriptures, like that.

6:  even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,

  • The testimony, the Greek word marturion, where we get our English word martyr, or witness, one who gives testimony about.  What is that witness concerning?  Christ – and it was confirmed in you, according to the Apostle.  Paul is saying to the believers at Corinth that He knows they are believers because it was confirmed.  What?  You can know people are Christians?  Yes, they way the Lord Jesus said – by their fruit.  Look for expressions of love, joy peace, meekness, kindness, patience, self-control – like that – and you can verify another person’s claim about being a Christ-follower.  It isn’t about the ads that people make for themselves, and it isn’t about all the good works, it is about the attitude they display while doing it, and that is hard to hide, though not impossible.  Just pay attention.

7:  so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

  • This is interesting to me, since the Corinthians were pursuing gifts, and with wrong emphases.  It doesn’t mean that they are NOT Christians, but it means that they need to learn right practice, and right doctrine, in the context of Christian, Love, and that always seems to be the way of it every time.  It is, however clear that we should be pursuing – well, something for now – while waiting for the Lord to return for us.
  • As we go on into the letter, we’ll say more about this.

8:  who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • That word “confirm” means to “make secure.”  Christ will make us secure.  That phrase used in that context means to “make and keep safe from  harm or capture.”  This means that the Lord will keep His believers in His hand and secure from real harm right up until the end.  He WILL keep us blameless right up to His return for His church.

9:  God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Why?  Because He promised.  He will keep His promises.  And it is God who called you into fellowship with His Son, as we discussed a little earlier.  Who is His Son?  Kurios Iesus Christos.  None other.  What a great way to open a letter – to remind them that they have been called into fellowship with His son, and that God is faithful to protect them from really eternity-wrecking harm until the Lord Jesus returns for us.

It is important to note that for a letter that is to become completely corrective, the Apostle is so kind and loving at its opening to remind God’s people in Corinth (and us as well) that the Lord has all of them safe in His hand, and that no one can snatch them away.

10-17:  Divisions outside of the cross of Christ are foolish

Here, Paul just jumps right in to the correction of the church at Corinth.  The first thing that he is addressing is the idea of division in the body of Christ.  Historically, what apparently happened to cause the issue in Corinth was that after a the great Old Testament Scholar Apollos had spent about 6 months teaching in the church there, a small group of his fans fell into a clique of sorts, and stopped having a lot to do with the church as a whole.  Now I’m not talking about friends that naturally gravitate toward each other (though that is also an area for caution), I’m talking about a group of people that began to hold the rest of their brothers and sisters as not worthy of fellowship, because they just didn’t know.  They didn’t understand the OT like they did.  There was an element of Gnosticism I suppose, but I think this was likely a group of Judaizers that found some commonality from some obscure reference that Apollos never intended.  That is conjecture, but it is based on some education and understanding of what was going on in Corinth, so I’m fairly confident of my assertions here.

As a response, other groups began to form, beginning with Paul, the original Pastor/Teacher in the church there, Peter, another Apostle of note, and finally even the Lord Jesus Himself – all of the reasoning sounding very good, all of these men being mighty teachers of the Word of Christ, but never intending this kind of thing in their most obscure teaching.  Let’s get into the text.

10:  Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no  divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

  • That word “exhort” is the Greek word parakaleo.  I want to spend a minute or so defining this, because there are those that whenever they hear the word “exhort,” take the occasion to reprove or rebuke and call it “encouragement.”  The Greek word used here literally means to come alongside for aid, not a tongue lashing.  That kind of thing is sometimes necessary, but not as often as it is used sometimes.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is called the Paraklete, the one who comes alongside to render aid.
  • Now this is something known as corrective encouragement.  It is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul does it here.  The encouragement here is for the saints to stand united and thus quash all the divisions that had arisen because of what we discussed a moment ago.  We are to “be united” [or made complete in the text] in both the same mind [understanding, reasoning] and the same judgement [purpose, opinion].

11:  For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.

  • Paul had his sources within the church, and he named them as “Chloe’s people.”  Other than that Chloe is a female that fellowshipped in Corinth, we don’t know much more about her.  We can assume that she had people that surrounded her that were sincere believers, and that they were concerned at the evident and growing state of affairs in Corinth.  She was concerned enough to report on the atmosphere of tension that must have been growing to Paul, either directly, or more likely by letter, about the growing strife.

12:  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

  • That strife was something that was dividing around specific teachers that had been through Corinth over the time it had been in existence, and was quite a heady list of names.  We know this started with Apollos’ followers.  However, it spread, and that was the problem.  None of the men that taught there would have wished for this kind of division in a church.  Paul will explain why.

13:  Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

  • When I read this verse, I hear the questioning that Paul is suing like this:  Is this what any of these men would want for you?  He is employing a technique we have seen him sue before, that of the rhetorical question, in which the answer is either self-stating from the question, or that it is so obvious, no answer is required.  Either way, it is meant to shock the saints awake from the spiritual stupor they were falling into.
  • Of course we know Christ was not divided.  We know that Paul was not crucified for anyone, nor was anyone baptized in his name.

14:  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

  • Now, Paul had baptized some believers there, and Paul is thankful that he had not really baptized everyone at large, with some notable exceptions.  This will become clear momentarily.  I will comment on the exceptions.
  • Crispus was the leader of the Synagogue in Corinth, whose whole family became believers with him (Acts 18:7), and Gaius was the man whose house was used to meet as the church in Corinth (Rom. 16:23).

15:  so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.

  • This lack of baptizing by the Apostle seems to have been deliberate so that no one could claim special status from such a baptism.  Remember, Paul wrote no less than 4 corrective letters to Corinth, even though only two were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  He knew them intimately as their pastor for 18 months, and he knew the kind of thing to which they were prone.

16:  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

  • Paul must have been searching his memory as he dictated the letter here, as this sounds like something he might say if he were just thinking about the issue aloud.  “Wait, I also baptized the household of Stephanas…but I think that’s it.”  It shows that thinking out loud and a real care to be accurate and truthful, something all preachers everywhere should emulate.  “If I did baptize anyone else, I don’t remember…”  and this verse gives way to a very important verse.

17:  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

  • What Paul is saying here is that if you are focusing on who baptized you, you are focusing on the wrong question to begin with.  Focus instead on the GOSPEL.  That’s what matters.  In a strange way, I feel a certain strange and sad affiliation with Paul on this.
  • I have been accused of two specific things that I personally find insulting.  Now, the people that accused me of these things were actually trying to offer some constructive criticisms for me to improve my preaching, and for that I am appreciative.  But I need to explain to everyone why I do things the way I do.
  • First, I have been accused of speaking over people’s heads, in a language called “Christian-ese” or “Bible-ese” with words that are too big for the crowd.  While I will take that as a constructive criticism, I will explain why I find that kind of insulting.  I am a pastor and theologian.  Sometimes, the only words I have are big words, so what I will choose to do is define them for you.  And if I fail in that respect, please feel free to ask me to do so after the meeting is over.  I will happily do so.
  • The second criticism of my lectures being too long to hold peoples’ attention.  I’m not sure if you all know this, but I have taught courses at the university level in Biology.  I won’t bore you with the specifics.  I regularly gave 1- or 2-hour lectures, and no one was ever bored or lost focus.  Now I know, this isn’t something that would interest this crowd here, so I won’t get into detail.  But when people start to mention “studies” to me about what the average attention span is and how it is decreasing over time, I would suggest a couple of things.
  • First, you better have those studies either with you or a list I can search and read.  I have a degree from an accredited Canadian university in Biology.  I am a trained AND certified scientist.  Don’t tell me about your references without telling me where I can read those articles.  I want to understand their experiments and analysis methodology as well as their conclusions.  If you can’t provide those to me, then you had best say nothing if you don’t want a lecture on the need to read the actual studies yourself and how researchers can introduce bias by poor methodology.
  • Also, and this is kind of my point, the listener ALSO has some responsibility in a lecture that they attend voluntarily.  If big words and the length of lectures are too much for you, I understand – but as you stick to it, both your vocabulary and your capacity for paying attention will increase.  All you’re really saying by telling me that attention span is decreasing with time, is that people are more distracted today than they ever have been.  This we know.  You know, Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John, and Luke et al., never ever paid attention to either of these things.  Why?  Because this is something that EVERYONE understood was the responsibility of the listener, and to allow these distractions to throw you off the ministry, it just shows that you are focusing on the wrong issue.
  • And that issue, according to Paul, was to preach the good news of the kingdom, which I am always attempting to do.  I’ll leave this point here.

Suffice it to say that the main point will always be the main point, regardless of what you choose to focus on.  Rather than picking a particular teacher to love at the expense of all others, why not just admit that Steve Lawson, for example, is as good as John MacArthur or R. C Sproul?  All three men have doctorates, and apart from minor doctrinal differences, what’s the argument about?  There was nothing among those men in NT times or in this present day to keep them from fellowshipping with each other.  If they aren’t arguing, you shouldn’t either.

It is this elevating of the teacher involved (without the teacher’s okay or knowledge apparently) that caused this problem.  Even Christ never said to reject all other teachers but Him.  Who do you think sent Paul, or Apollos, or Peter?  HE did!  This smacks of an immaturity of the person doing the elevating in the first place.  Each teacher can and should be evaluated on his own ministry, and all of them have good things to say.  Obey the good stuff.  And before you say it, I’ve never heard any garbage come out of their mouths.  Are there things I don’t agree with?  Sure!  Are they essential issues of fellowship, as these followers of Apollos were behaing?  Certainly not.  Grow up, gentlemen.  Even Apollos disagrees with your behaviour.  And there are reasons for this.

18-25:  Jewish Scholar or Gentile Genius Wisdom, God makes both morons by His “folly”

You have to understand that the Word of God cannot be evaluated fairly by those who do not have the Holy Spirit living inside them to guide them.  It was the same for the church in Corinth.  The thing to realize is that God’s word is to those who are perishing, foolishness.  This is the section that has that in words, by the way.  We’ll look at this as we go.

18:  For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

  • See?  The word of the cross specifically is the stumbling block for those that will not believe.  I’m sure you’ve actually heard people say things like, “That’s the most horrible thing anyone could ever do – allow His son to die so horribly for me.  I didn’t ask Him to do that!”  They seem concerned that someone else had to pay their own penalty, and that’s just the selfish nature of humans coming out.
  • To a Jewish Rabbi or Scholar, this brings up visions of being cursed by God.  In Deuteronomy 21:23, it says, “his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.”  No one cursed by God could possibly help, he was cursed by God!  All we can do is bury him on the same day so that the land itself is not defiled by that curse of God!
  • To the Gentile Genius/Philosopher, how could a criminal executed by the Romans give any help to me in terms of salvation and renewal?  I’m sure (says the philosopher) that He died for His own sins, or for someone’s political expediency (a concept that was not lost on Gentiles, ask Pontius Pilate).
  • But to us who believe – oh but to us who believe – it is another story!  It is the very power of God that results in Salvation – therefore I am NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God resulting in salvation to all those who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile! (see Romans 1:16).

19:  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

  • In fact, it is the intention of God to take all the very cleverest of arguments of both the Jews and the Gentiles, from the very wisest of them, the best they can offer, and to destroy it with this word of the cross.
  • Now this is a partial quote of Isaiah 29:14, which reads, “Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”  Isaiah in context is talking about the people who do things by rote, that is memorized prayers (a reason I am not pleased when someone uses as a public prayer the so-called “Lord’s Prayer”), memorized ceremony and ritual.  No beloved, the Christian faith is one of a heart reality, not of ritual and liturgy, and I don’t care who thinks otherwise.  NONE of that can save you.  Only faith in Jesus’ death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection can do that.

20:  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

  • Here, it’s like Paul is issuing challenge for these guys to show themselves and is challenging them to a battle of wits or something.  Notice his challenge, too – first the wise man.  You think you’re wise?  Okay, let’s chat.  How about the Scribe?  That’s a Jewish religious order that began with a gent named Ezra.  They had the sacred duty of knowing the Law of Moses and had to be able to interpret it.  Ezra did it really well – our idea of expository preaching comes in some sense from him.  But the guys after him really went off the rails.  They became experts at getting around the Law with tradition.  So where is the Scribe?  Then to the debater of this age.  Here, Paul is addressing the Greek philosophers.  He is challenging the students of Socrates.  Of Plato.  Of Aristotle.  He issues his challenge question – Has not God made all your wisdom and knowledge of no account by His message of the cross?

21:  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

  • Paul goes on to make his point before this world of Scholars, Rabbis, wise men, and philosophers – for all of your reasoning, for all of your knowledge, for all of your wisdom, even regarding the Law of God in some cases – NONE of you find God.
  • And for this specific reason, God Himself found it pleasing through the “foolishness of the message preached” to save those who believe.  Well, that explains why I feel like a singin’ fool when I preach.  The message of the cross is foolish to the world, and there are not many people that will believe it.  Some will though, and that’s who I am addressing.
  • This brings me to another point of applied theology.  Look, if you don’t like what I’m saying, it’s okay for you to stop listening.  Don’t get me wrong, you will be forever lost if you die without placing your faith in Jesus Christ and His work on your behalf, but that’s your right.  Remember lessons from previous studies – no violence will ever be done to the sill of the creature.  Everyone will ultimately get what it is they want.
  • My encouragement to you is this – fast-forward the tape to the end.  See how each alternative ends.  THEN make your choice.  I can respect your use of free will.  And I am using that phrase on purpose.  ALL men have it.  And God will hold us accountable for how we use it.  Moving on.

22:  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;

  • Paul speaks here I believe of how he personally has encountered the world, and if you pay attention to this as you read through the Scriptures you can see it.  The Jews were always seeking some sign from God.  I think this one of the reasons that the original Apostles, capital A, were given these miraculous powers to uses and confirm the power of God in them.  These were all signs from God.  However, they were not the signs that the Jews were looking for, or they were coming from a source that was unexpected and disagreeable, and this produced hostility.
  • The Greeks on the other hand were those that had to make sense of things.  They had their philosophies, and if you couldn’t have a coherent view of the universe, you were to be ignored (or worse – they made Socrates drink Hemlock, a poison – or he would have been thrown off a cliff).  Interestingly, I have been kind of a student of these philosophies as a hobby.  No worldview seems more truthful than Christianity if you can accept the historical record of the New Testament, but that’s a big conversation for another time maybe.

23:  but we preach  Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

  • At this point, Paul states his own position (and mine, I will add) – WE preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED.  To the Jews who were looking for a political saviour, the very idea that the suffering servant of Isaiah in chapters 52 and 53 was the looked-for Messiah was SO foreign to them that they rejected it out of hand (and violently).  To the Gentiles who looked for order in the universe as a part of a coherent worldview, it made no sense, so they laughed it to scorn (or worse, see to riot that Alexander caused in Ephesus over the loss of his idol trade as people became believers).
  • What is the message that God has US preach?  CHRIST CRUCIFIED.  God become man to pay for our crimes against Him and redeem us to Himself.  (15 words.)  It is literally the center of all our arguments, and Paul will get into this later.

24:  but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

  • However, to those who are called, as Paul put this in verse 2, regardless of being Jew or Greek, I might add because it is here in the text, Christ is both the power [dunamis] and wisdom [sophia, skill, learning; used here in the sense I think of supreme intelligence as belongs to God] of God.
  • I also want to say a word here about how these “called” includes both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles).  There seems to be a movement today that wants to separate everyone into identity groups and somehow attach this garbage to the Gospel.  It is given the name “Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.”  This verse says that you cannot do that, because Paul is including everyone here.  Two verses:  Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Colossians 3:11 says in reference to having put of the old sinful nature and commanding us to put on the new nature in Christ says, “a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised,  barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
  • What is this saying?  It is saying that in Christ, in the context of the church gathering, that Christ Himself has taken away any trace of identity groups.  There are no cultural differences.  There are no economic differences.  There are no educational differences.  There are no ethnic differences (this means race, which doesn’t really exist – there is only the human race).  There are no gender differences.  No national differences.  Christ is all, and is in all.  Anyone who says different is a heretic, and you all know I only use that word when I really mean it.

25:  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

  • Paul’s assertion here is that even on His worst day and our VERY best day, God is infinitely better than any human save Jesus (who was God Himself) – bar none.  I don’t care who you are, or what you say you can do, or how many times per second you can end my life.  God is better than you at everything.  Stop trying to be better than Him – you just don’t measure up! 

Another part of the problem that is related to this is that the Corinthians failed to understand who God really is.  If you’re asking me, that is a problem with us today as well, and not just with Charismatics.  Nobody has a very high view of God anymore.  People tend to either see him as the sugar daddy in the sky that has an unlimited credit card and whose job it is to make everyone happy.  That’s a classic view, anyway.  Charismatics tend to think of God as wanting to replicate Himself in us, and that’s just nonsense.  God is HOLY.  He is separate.  He is so alien from us that even if we could look directly at Him, our eyes couldn’t make complete sense of what we were seeing – in the millisecond or so before we were vaporized for seeing the Ancient of Days with our flesh-and-blood eyes.  NO MAN has ever seen the Father.  Moses only got a look at Him walking away – and it made his face shine for a while!

The God seen in Scripture is absolutely SOVEREIGN.  He not only holds all power in the universe, He is using it all the time just to keep everything together, and is intimately and actively involved in everything that happens.  Nothing happens that He hasn’t already decided to let happen for our benefit, no matter how bad WE might think the situation is.  Example, my cousin Tina passed in the wee hours of this morning of cancer.  She leaves a husband behind.  But she was a believer (a fellow Baptist as it turns out, in the ABA, which I know is a theological mess, but that’s not important to the point), and because of that, I know I will see her again, and so will Townsend, her husband.  Remember, Romans 8:28 says that ALL things work together for good for those who are loving God.  And now she is with Him.  I’m frankly a little jealous that she gets to meet the Lord before I do, but that’s my issue to deal with.  But how can you say it isn’t good to be called home?  Does how we get there matter in the grand scheme?  Maybe, but only in the sense that God used it to perfect us, and that isn’t something we can recognize – because He knows and we don’t – and can’t sometimes.

26-31:  It is ALL GOD’S DOING, so leave the praise and glory for Him

That brings me to my last point.  Look, it is all GOD’S doing.  We need to keep our filthy hands off of His work unless and until He says otherwise.  Remember the story of Uzzah?  He put out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant so that it wouldn’t fall into the mud.  When he touched it, God ended his life as a direct consequence.  There were a number of reasons having to do with Uzzah knowing better, but I think the primary reason that happened is that Uzzah presumed that the mud would defile the Ark, and his own hand was cleaner than the mud.  Clearly it was not.  That story for reference is in 2 Samuel 6:6-11.  Friends, our hands are far dirtier than any mud could ever be.  God knows how to look after what is His.  Keep your filthy hands off of it until He says otherwise.

26:  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

  • Think about what this says about us.  We tend to think of ourselves as doing pretty well, we measure our own intelligence as being adequate at a minimum (and a lot higher if we’re really honest), we have our “stuff” that we “earned for ourselves” (really God gave it to us), we think of ourselves as pretty good.  But this verse is saying kind of the opposite.  Maybe we aren’t so wise.  We aren’t so strong.  We aren’t so noble.  Maybe our hands aren’t so clean as we think.  Look at us in the natural from God’s point of view for a moment.  We are filthy reprobates that God has already judged and condemned for eternity.  If we no longer are, it is by HIS doing, not ours.

27:  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

  • God chose the “foolish” things of the world to shame the wise.  Forgive me for a moment for using myself as an example here.  I know I won’t be offended by anything I can say about me.  You folks all see Gerry, Pastor, teacher, all-around good guy, hopefully understanding, more or less easy to get along with, and hopefully a good listener that can keep a confidence.  Generally, I’m a fairly confident person, and take trouble in stride. Apparently you don’t know the real me.
  • I was abused by an alcoholic father that got angry about the stupidest things.  We never knew (my sisters and I) what was going to set him off, or when.  I learned to walk on eggshells – and not look like it, because that set him off too.  His brother, my uncle told me I would be dead in a ditch before I was 18.  You’ve heard that story a couple of times.  What you missed was how he manhandled me because he could.  He once picked me up and through me about 10 feet through the air into a wall of tires outside my Dad’s tire shop.  Then he ordered me to clean up the mess I made.  He did it in front of all my dad’s employees.  That’s not great for the ego, friends.  You can imagine how much pleasure I took telling people about that to make him look bad.  Yes, I am a back-biting gossip.  I have stolen.  I have lied.  I have been angry at people without sufficient cause (Jesus called that murder in Matthew 5).  I have lusted after ladies I was not married to.  I have worshipped false idols.  I have not loved the Lord God with everything I have and am.  I have been greedy.  I could go through all 10 commandments and cite specific violations if you like.  I’m not going to bore you.
  • And through all of this, God chose me.  Chose me to be a Pastor and teacher, no less.  And the only reason I can sit here ad do any of this is because of His choice, not because of any of mine.  I suppose in some way, it’s making the enemy look bad because I was an outcast in the world.  Few friends, hostile family, all that comes with that – and here I am, and I’m even thankful for the experiences I had, though they were no fun at the time.  And I in all my weakness – shame the strong.  How does that even happen?  It MUST be the Lord.

28:  and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

  • And there I am.  Base things of the world.  Despised.  And most importantly, chosen by GOD.  I was chosen by God to render inoperative or abolish the things that are, the in crowd, the cool things of the world (that strangely have lost much of their appeal for me).  Only Almighty God could come up with a plan like this and actually accomplish it!

29:  so that no man may boast before God.

  • And He has done all this to silence all the wise men of the world, the beautiful people (so-called), the haves, the important people (again so-called).  So that no one can boast that he or she has done anything in their own strength.

30:  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

  • See?  God has done it all!  It is BY HIS DOING that you (or me, or anyone at all) is in Christ Jesus!  By “calling” us from eternity past, at the right time, He changed our nature so that Christ Jesus became to US the wisdom of God!  Remember, the supreme intelligence that pertains to God.  And Sanctification.  God is holy.  He demands that His people be holy.  And so as He is apart from the profane, He has set US apart for Himself.  We are made holy.  And we even have a chance to cooperate in this sanctification, as we saw in Romans, and many other places in Paul’s letters, as well as the rest of the New Testament.  And Redemption.  He has taken what we have lost and restored it to us in full – all in Christ.  There is SO much that He has done for us!  All to silence those that might try to insist that they did it all themselves!

31:  so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

  • Here, Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9:23-24.  I think it is useful to consider the quote Paul is using.  It says, “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”  Wow, that’s a mouthful right there.  And it fits here!
  • Don’t boast in your intelligence.  No matter HOW smart you are, God is smarter, and he hates high-mindedness (haughty, proud).  Ask Solomon how much it was worth.  Oh wait, you don’t have to, he told us in the book of Ecclesiastes.
  • Don’t boast in your strength.  No matter how strong you are, God is stronger!  Where do you think YOUR strength cam from, bro?  He made you.  It came from HIM.  Ask Sampson if He can take it away if you won’t give glory to Him.  He’ll tell you.
  • Don’t boast in your wealth.  Do you think what you have is actually yours?  No, it is on loan from Him!  He’s letting you look at it, touch it, play with it, and hopefully take care of it.  He owes you NONE of it.  In fact you owe HIM for ALL of it!  Mess with it and see what happens in the end.  Ask the Rich Young Ruler if walking away from Jesus and back to his “stuff” was worth it.  Bet he tells you it wasn’t.
  • No!  Rather, let us boast in the Lord, that He chose us not because we were all that, but because of reasons that He is under no obligation to tell us at all.  Ever!  Boast that He has given you your talents while you thank Him for them!  Boast in Him for the salvation He has visited on you!  Nothing you have is worth more, I can guarantee that!  No, let he who boasts, boast in the Lord.  Anyone that boasts in anything else is somebody else’s fool.

The bottom line in this chapter it seems is that everyone is a fool.  The best human on their best day is nothing but an idiot and a moron when contrasted with a holy God.  That God is Sovereign in an absolute sense.  He is sovereign over all other sovereignties.  No one else can even come close, although they sometimes try, only to fail ultimately.  And beloved, if we are all fools, we should be God’s fools.

Come give your life for a carpenter’s son!

For a madman who died for a dream!

And you’ll know the joy His first followers did –

And you’ll feel the weight of the beam.

So we follow God’s own fool –

And only the foolish can tell.

Believe the unbelievable!

Come be a fool as well.

God’s Own Fool by Michael Card

And that’s how I saw chapter 1!

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