Series on I Corinthians, II The Message of the Gospel, B Foolishness Text: 1:18-2:5, Title: What the Gospel Destroys.


There's a lot about preaching in this text. Many people have correctly concluded that preaching has fallen on hard times and needs a revival. Here's an imaginary scenario for you. Out of every 100 preachers 60 don't believe the Bible and have nothing to preach. Of the 40 remaining 30 are more interested in flowery language, fancy rhetoric and currying favor than declaring God's Word. Of the last ten, eight are too busy to spend time in adequate preparation, and that leaves you and me brother and sometimes i wonder about you. Actually the failure to take the preached Word seriously is a problem not only of preachers but of the people to whom they preach. The challenge of preaching today is to make people think, and to get people out of the emotional concept of life. You can't do right until you know what is right for the heart thinks. The lack of Christian thinking is killing us. The fact is that true discipleship is based on hearing the Word and obeying it. The failure is not somebody else's. Paul faced this same problem 1900 years ago in Corinth. How did he deal with it? Consider the foolishness, the frustration and the faith displayed here.

I The Foolishness

The Corinthian disputes and divisions could be attributed to their pride. These Christians were acting like unconverted sinners. Fallen human nature regards the preaching of the cross, the word, the message as foolish as we read in verses 18-20, For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? Paul considers the medium and the message as one here. God has commanded that the gospel be preached because it is a message from heaven. It is not the product of human reasoning. Therefore the only way it can be learned is through preaching. The question is simple: is what you are hearing the Word of God or the word of man? The title prophet simply means one who speaks forth. The Biblical prophets always delivered their message with the words, “Thus says the Lord.” When the preacher preaches the Bible accurately he is saying the same thing. God’s message must be delivered. This does not mean that it has to be done from a formal pulpit but it does have to be done with confrontation, and the aim is that the word of the cross be seen as the power of God. In other words, everything must go back to Christ and the cross. The message never changes. The gospel is inviolable. In Christ is summed up all the wisdom of God. In Him all the promises of God are fulfilled. Here are all the treasures. Here is the pearl of great price. The Corinthians in their petty disputes had lost sight of this humbling truth. If they had seen this they would have been too humiliated to be divided, so what does Paul teach them?

II The Frustration

It may be summed up in this: God has frustrated human wisdom  and striving by the gospel. The quotation in verse 19 is from Isaiah 29. In that place God is saying the people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of the rules of men, so i will do something so wonderful they cannot comprehend it. I will destroy all their wisdom and by sovereign grace i will redeem them as is made clear in verses 20-25, Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. It is a promise of the cross of Christ, our only hope. Now in the church of Corinth their were Jews and Gentiles. The Jews wanted miraculous signs to boost their ego. You remember what Jesus said to them, This generation seeks after a sign but no sign will be given except that of the prophet Jonah. In other words the cross and the empty tomb. They didn't like that sign because it was humiliating for it was written, Cursed is everyone who dies on a tree. The Greeks thought they could figure everything out and they didn't want a gospel that destroyed all their philosophy. Today men want to be helped or healed, but they don't want to be humiliated, but that's not the gospel. Today men want to think that they have all the answers and they despise the simplicity of the gospel. There are essentially two ways in which God frustrates all this human nonsense. The first is the substance of the gospel.

A The Substance of the Gospel

In verses 20-25 we viewed the utter uniqueness of the gospel. In verse 30 Paul sums it up, It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. In Christ, as a Christian, you have found the true wisdom and the true wisdom is moral. We have a problem with unwanted children, ethics in government and education, the breakup of the institution of marriage and the family, and addiction to drugs and sex. Our answer to everyone of these problems is found either at the polls or in the lab or in the graduate school, but never in the gospel. So we've got all these moral problems for which we are seeking technological answers. but to make it more personal the second way in which God frustrates human wisdom is the sovereignty of the gospel.

B The Sovereignty of the Gospel

We see this clearly delineated by Paul in verses 26-31, Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” God not only sovereignly provides the solution, but he sovereignly dispenses it. Granted He is holy and just, nevertheless in accordance with his character He dispenses His wisdom to whom he will. Of all the things that can ever be said in human discourse or human dialogue this is the most unpalatable. But you must understand what Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand. God's predestinating love and electing mercy is not some obscure doctrine that Presbyterians hide off in a dark corner of the bed under the sheets. It is the gospel. It is grace. Without it there is no gospel and no grace. You get into bed with God and you get into bed with absolute sovereign election. God chooses whom he will. How does this help the Corinthians? it just completely levels everybody. It doesn't matter how intelligent, how educated, how rich, how powerful, how talented you are, we're all in the same ship and its sinking and it won't do any good to argue who deserves to be saved because the captain of the rescue ship is making that choice.

III The Faith

So Paul makes a resolution that their faith might not rest in the wisdom of men in 2:1-5, When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Paul will preach only the wisdom of God that is in the cross. Lately we have been inundated with debate over the gospel of Judas and the Davinci code. The gospel of Judas was written late and discovered many, many years ago. It is 1/3 the length of the gospel of Mark, and is filled with cryptic Gnostic mumbo jumbo about stars, luminaries, angels and aeons. On the basis of one line with gaps in the manuscript before and after, the authenticity of the gospel story has been challenged. The Davinci code is a fictional work. Even 60 minutes which is not known for its support of evangelical Christianity concluded that there was no historical basis for a secret organization that hid these alleged facts for centuries. People want to believe the fiction, and we should see it as an opportunity to dialogue, but we stop short of saying that this is literary license. When fiction claims to be truth and is focused on deception and destruction of that which is sacred, it is not literary license. My point in bringing this to your attention is that people are duped because they want to be. The foolishness of worldly wisdom is preferred to the wisdom of God. Paul does not want this to happen to the Corinthian Christians or to us. Faith is founded on fact; truth, not fiction. One of the saddest things was a comment by one of the many people interviewed. Sadly one Presbyterian said, “Faith cannot be deduced, and if it could be, then it is not faith.” That is exactly what our post-modern culture wants to hear. You stick to faith and we’ll stick to the facts. Faith is deduced from reliable history. There is only one reality and only one set of facts. What we call factual or true depends on our viewpoint. The pagan unbeliever refuses to believe the historical facts of the Bible and God’s message and seeks to discredit them by saying that they are not true. We believe that God is truth and that Jesus’ words are eternal. We always ask what did God say? We learn this from Christ crucified as Paul says in Chapter 2 verse 2, I determined not to know anything except Jesus and Him crucified.