18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."  Version: New Revised Standard Version.

COMMENTS

General:

  • Paul has urged the Corinthians to remain united in heart because of their common salvation (1:10-17). The Cross of Christ should keep all true Christians connected. Continuing the theme....
  • The message of the Cross is foolishness to the perishing (v.18ff).
    • The message is nonsense to them not because God rejected them or interfered with their understanding.
    • Rather, they are perishing because they reject the Cross.
    • The Cross is a reversal of worldly values (e.g. Matthew 5:3ff).
  • It is not true wisdom that is rejected (v.20), but the false wisdom of the world.
  • Jews and Greeks alike reject the cross (v.22) -- generally speaking. (Many in each group embraced the message of the Cross.)
    • The Jews (theists) took great pride in miracles and signs.
    • The Greeks (atheists and polytheists) put their confidence in education and culture.
    • Thus a crucified Savior is nonsense to both.
  • Not many of the Corinthians were wise, or powerful, or noble (v.26).
    • Demographically speaking, most of the church was part of the working class, and would also have included many women, slaves, and foreigners.
    • This also means that some were. While most of the people we reach with the gospel will be "ordinary" people, the Cross is powerful enough to reach a few of the "extraordinary" ones as well.
  • Christ is all we need (v.30).
    • In Him we are wise, even if we never finished our schooling.
    • In Him we are upright (righteous), even if we were not "brought up right."
    • In Him we are set aside for greatness, even if there are no great persons in our ancestry.
    • In Him we are valuable -- worth redeeming, even if our "net worth" is small.
  • No wonder the leaders of the people did not recognize their glorious Messiah! The thought will be sustained throughout chapter 2...

Advanced:

  • The O.T. passage cited in verse 19 is Isaiah 29:14. This follows the well known verse 13, quoted in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 in relation to the tendency to follow human religious traditions instead of placing our trust in the Lord. Just as in Isaiah's day (the 8th century BC), Israel is misguided, putting their trust in their scholars' erroneous ideas. And yet there is hope (Isaiah 29:22-24).
  • In regard to verse 26, Erastus (2 Timothy 4:20; Romans 16:23) is one example of a wealthy Corinthian. A large pavement inscription in Latin (bearing his name)has survived and is in plain view at the ruins of Corinth. Click here to see it.
  • For more on redemption, click apolutrosis.
  • The O.T. passage cited in verse 31 is Jeremiah 9:24. Be sure to skim all of Jeremiah 9 to see the context, and how the citation is appropriate in 1 Corinthians 1.

Thought questions:

  • Do I trust Jesus' promise that the power of the Cross will bring the world to Him (John 12:32), or do I put too much stock in impressing those I am reaching out to with my sophistication or worldly wisdom?
  • In light of 1:26, in our evangelism are we reaching out to people in all strata of society? Are we showing any sort of favoritism?
  • Am I a confident person? Is the source of my confidence Jesus Christ?

Corinth is in southern Greece. Click here for more.