- Sermon Notes
The Wisdom of Believing
1 Corinthians 1:1-31
This is our first study through the books of first and second Corinthians. Because of its strategic location, Corinth was a center of world commerce. It was an extremely luxurious city. It was located in southern Greece just on the southern end of the Isthmus, or land bridge, connecting the mainland of Greece with the Peloponnesus.
Today there is a canal connecting the two oceans, but used to be that captains would rather have their ships dragged across the Isthmus than go around the treacherous Cape. It had a reputation for extremely high quality exports. Even in modern times I remember Ricardo Montalban advertising the Chrysler Cordoba with Corinthian leather.
But it also had a reputation for everything worldly and sinful. Around the Roman Empire they could use the name of that city as an accusation. If a daughter was about to leave the house dressed inappropriately, her mother might say, “You go change your clothes, young lady, you look like a Corinthian hussy!”
Paul started the church there on his second missionary journey. He was the first to introduce the gospel, to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Paul had actually written a letter to the church prior to this letter and this one was written about 5 – 7 years after the church was founded. It was a young church with young Christians. They came from the Greek culture and brought a lot of their past with them when they became Christians.
In other words, they are immature in their faith and Paul writes these letters to correct their ways and to build maturity in their faith.
The Greek culture they came out of loved to debate the philosophies of the day. Some followed Socrates, others took up the philosophy of Plato, or Aristotle, or Sophocles, or Euripides; men who established patterns of thought and have affected human learning for centuries. Almost all philosophies can trace their roots to the teaching of these men.
The word ‘philosophy’ literally means ‘the love of wisdom.’ Everyone has a philosophy of some kind that guides their lives. It may come from parents, from the culture we live in, from books, or movies or from the Internet.
The problem is that the wisdom of the world stands in direct contrast to the wisdom of God and Paul addresses that point head on. The world’s wisdom cannot save and in fact stands in the way of authentic faith.
Colossians 2:8, See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Paul is writing to build and strengthen their faith and so, right out of the gate, he’s dealing with that which stands in the way; the worldly perspectives they brought with them.
I. Faith must Rest on the Power of God
- Paul is asking them to come together in unity, in the maturity of faith and to stop all these quarrels.
- Some were of Paul, some were of Apollos, some were of Peter, and others of Christ. They brought all this with them from the world.
- The philosophers of the day showed their cleverness in the eloquence of their debating.
- Christ did not send Paul to preach the gospel in cleverness of speech, if that were the case, then the power of the cross would be unnecessary.
A. The cross makes worldly wisdom foolishness
- To those who are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness. In other words, the notion that God sent His Son to pay the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross is offensive to their sensibilities.
- The notion, then, that God gave proof to all men by raising Jesus from the dead is equally as preposterous.
- There are many people today, so-called philosophers, otherwise known as university professors and hosts of late-night television programs, who would say, “Do you actually believe in these fairytales?” To them it is foolishness.
Illus – When I was in Russia we were invited to speak to a large class at a local university. However, the professor went first without me because I had to attend to some details in the hallway. When I came in I was given the opportunity to speak…
Romans 1:20, Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Psalm 14:1, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
Illus - That reminds me of one of the stories Ronald Reagan loved to tell … The commissar in the Soviet Union went out to one of the state collective farms…
- How does God make the world’s wisdom foolishness? By making it completely empty and void of power to transform the soul or give eternal life.
Illus - The wisdom of man sees selfishness, but has no cure for selfishness. It sees that hatred brings destruction, but has no cure for hatred. It sees that man cannot get along with man, but cannot see that the root of the problem is that man is estranged from God.
Romans 1:21-22, For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,
- Vs 20-21 - the world, in its wisdom, did not come to know God.
- Where is the wise man? If Job lay his hand on his mouth, how much more the foolish debaters of the day?
Illus – A famous story is commonly used in Eastern philosophy to illustrate that men in their blindness cannot know God. Each religion only has one part, one aspect and misses the greater truth; four blind men and an elephant… The problem with the story is that, in fact, God makes Himself known.
Hebrews 11:1-2, God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
- God was well pleased to save those who believe, through the foolishness of the message preached.
- Paul said those words to a gathering of intellectual debaters of philosophy. As soon as he said that God raised His Son from the dead, some became indignant, but a few believed and joined Paul.
- That which the world calls foolishness is the very thing that God uses to save those who believe.
- Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ and Him crucified, Paul wrote.
- To the Jews, Jesus is a stumbling block; and to Gentiles, Jesus is foolishness.
- But to those who are saved, both Jews and Greeks, Jesus is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
- Some of the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; and yet no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet.”
- It was a stumbling block even to the disciples. When Jesus explained to them that He would be arrested, turned over to the Gentiles and crucified, Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke Him, “God forbid it, Lord, this will never happen to you!”
Matthew 16:23, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
- Jesus is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Acts 17:30-31, “Having overlooked times of ignorance, God is now declaring to all men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
- What more proof is needed?
- Verse 25 –people call the death and resurrection of Christ foolishness, but it is the wisdom of God that puts their wisdom to shame.
- Verse 25 – On the cross, Christ appeared weak and defeated, but it was the wisdom and power of God revealed, infinitely wiser and more powerful than anything men can do. Every self-proclaimed prophet remains in the grave, only Christ has been resurrected.
John 11:25 -26, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
II. God has Chosen the Foolish Things
- It’s interesting that Paul then takes that principle and applies it to us. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
- God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.
A. We are the foolish things God has chosen
- God chose the weakness of the cross to demonstrate His power and He chose the foolish things to demonstrate His glory.
- Can you imagine God turning the world upside down with a few fishermen and a despised tax collector?
- Why not use the clever and eloquent debaters of the day? Because their so-called wisdom blinded their eyes; no, God chose the foolish things.
Illus - Can you imagine God taking the number one enemy of the church, a man who was enraged at Christians, knocking him off his high horse and then making him the greatest advocate and preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Illus - Can you imagine God taking hippies and druggies to lead a worldwide movement of teaching God’s word verse by verse and leading hundreds of thousands to faith? I have fun imagining God explaining that to the angels…
2 Corinthians 4:7, We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
- You might look at yourself and think that you’re nothing, you’re one of the foolish things of this world. Then please know that you’re just who God is looking for.
- Why does God choose the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised things? So that no one may boast – before the Lord.
- God has kept the gospel so simple that a child can grasp it, but based on a wisdom greater than the wisest of men.
Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Illus – Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven is like; a mustard seed, like a farmer sowing wheat, like a treasure hidden in a field. The simple can grasp it. Aren't you glad He didn’t say that the kingdom of God is like the Pythagorean theorem? Or quantum mechanics?
- God chose the simple things, the foolish things; that no man should boast before the Lord.
- We have a tendency to boast of ourselves by changing the story a bit to make ourselves the hero…
Jeremiah 9:23-24, 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.
Illus – When God wanted to give Israel a victory through Gideon, he deliberately reduced the army from 32,000 to 300.
The Wisdom of Believing
1 Corinthians 1:1-31 May 9-10, 2015
1Corinthians is very important and very powerful. The title of our message is, “The Wisdom of Believing.” First let’s understand the kind of setting and the context and the culture. The city where the church is found is located in Greece, southern Greece actually. It was, because of its location, Corinth was the center of world commerce and shipping. It was on the southern end of the isthmus, that little land bridge. If you know your geography, the main land of Greece, then on the southern end there’s a little tiny land bridge that connects to the Peloponnese. Now today there’s a canal there connecting the two oceans but in that day, just a narrow band of sand. Captains would sometimes prefer to have their ships dragged across the sand rather than going around the treacherous cape. As I mentioned, Corinth was the center of world commerce, trading and shipping. Because of that it was a luxurious, wealthy city and also had a reputation for very high quality exports.
To have a Corinthian whatever, reminds me of modern times. I can remember hearing Ricardo Montalban advertising that the Chrysler Cordoba had the Corinthian leather. And I thought, “Oh, I want to have a Chrysler Cordoba because it smells like Corinthian leather.” I mean there’s just something quality, you know, about that.
But it also had a reputation for worldliness, sinfulness, everything worldly. In the Roman Empire it could almost be used as an accusation. A girl, let’s say, was getting dressed to go out, her mother might say, “No you’re not wearing that young lady. You get yourself upstairs and you dress better than that because you look like a Corinthian hussy.” You know, something like that. So it was an accusation.
Now Paul is the one who started this church on his second missionary journey. He brought the Gospel to them for the first time. No one in Corinth had heard the Gospel. So he went to the Jews, explained the Scriptures that Christ, the Messiah, would be raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. Went to the Jews and the church was formed out of this.
Now there was a letter that he wrote prior to this. We don’t have that letter, this one was written about five to seven years after the church was founded. That tells us that it’s a young church with young Christians. So a young church with young Christians are going to have issues and problems and this church did. The issue was a lack of maturity in their faith. So Paul is going to write to mature and strengthen their faith but the problem was that they brought a lot of the Greek culture with them. And we mentioned this when we were going through the latter chapters of the book of Romans. When a person comes to faith in Christ they come out of the world with a lot of their past with them and this is what God wants to transform, to mature us. We come with all of that stuff as infants in Christ. Babes in Christ. But maturity is the transformation, by renewing our mind and strengthening our faith.
Well, what was wrong with the Greek Culture, what did they bring with them? They brought with them the idea of debating different philosophies. It was very common in that Greek culture to take your favorite philosopher and to kind of expound on his particular philosophy, whether it be Socrates or Plato or Aristotle orEuripides. These men have established patterns of philosophical thinking for many years. In fact, almost all modern philosophies can trace their roots to the teachings of these men in that culture, in that city, in Athens and other cities in that area. And so this is the nature of what they came from.
Now the word philosophy, which we’ve been using a lot here, has particular meaning in Greek. It means, “The love of wisdom.” Now, we should love wisdom but it’s also come to mean, “The principles that guide your life.” In other words, everyone has a philosophy of some kind that guides their lives. Where does it come from? Where do we get our philosophy? How do we make our decisions? What guides our thinking? Well we get it from our parents, we get it from the culture which we live, books, movies, TV, internet. The society and culture around us just fills us with the philosophy of the day. The problem is this that the wisdom of the world is in direct contrast to the wisdom of God. And the world’s wisdom cannot save. In fact, the world’s wisdom stands in the way of authentic faith because it’s in contrast to God’s wisdom. Let me give you a great verse. Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception. According to the tradition of men. According to the elementary principles of the world. Rather than according to Christ.”
I.Faith must Rest on the Power of God
So he’s going to write these chapters to build and strengthen their faith. Well we need that too. So let’s read this first chapter and be strengthened in our faith. He starts out with his name, Paul. A little cultural background, when we write a letter or an email, we put our name at the end. When they write a letter, they didn’t write email, but they wrote letters with their name at the front.
So it starts out: Paul. Called as an apostle by Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother. Now that right there is interesting. Sosthenes, we read in Acts, was an interesting fellow. He actually was the head of the Jewish Synagogue there and was against the Gospel at first. But God moved in power and he became a believer, an advocate, actually was beaten for his faith. And so he says, “Hey. Sosthenes is with me. He greets you also.” Well that’s kind of a neat little thing.
Written to the church of God, which is at Corinth, “To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. Grace to you and peace in God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always, concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you, in Christ Jesus. That in everything you were enriched in him, in all speech and in all knowledge. Even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you so that you are not lacking in any gift. Awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end. Blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Now I exhort you, brethren, and I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree that there be no divisions among you.”
In other words, he’s given us a wonderful nine verses of opening statements of welcome and grace. Then he goes right after it, “Brothers. I am beseeching you. Be of the same mind. Be complete in the same mind, for in the same judgement. I’ve been informed concerning you my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. What is this? Some of you say ‘I am of Paul.” Others say ‘Well I am of Apollos.’”
He was a man that came to Christ through Paul’s ministry and he would minister there also. He was very eloquent of speech. Some of them say, “I like Apollos. I’m following his way.” Then someone said, “Well you know what? Cephas, Peter, he’s over both of them.” And then somebody else said, “Well I’m of Christ.” He’s got the trump card there. So he goes on, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you was he?” Or “We’re you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, expect Crispus and Gaius, that no one should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize, also, the household on Stephanas. Beyond that I don’t know if I baptized any others.”
I like that personal touch there. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Not in cleverness of speech but the cross of Christ should not be made void.” People come to faith in Christ not because of the wonderful turn of their faith but the power of God. God moves in his spirit, that’s how people are transformed. And it goes in verse eighteen, “For the word of the cross,” – the Gospel, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, being raised from the dead on the third day. This is the word of the cross.
A. The cross makes worldly wisdom foolishness
The word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, bunch of foolishness. But to us? Who are being saved? It’s the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise” – Quoting from Isaiah – “And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of the day? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world, through its wisdom, did not come to know God. God was well pleased, through the so called foolishness of the message, to save those who believe. For indeed Jews asked for signs. Greeks searched for wisdom. But we preach Christ and Him crucified.” That’s power.
To Jews this is a stumbling block. To preach Christ and to preach Him crucified, this is a stumbling block to Jews. And to Gentiles? This is foolishness. But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and Christ is the wisdom of God. Because the so called foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
“For consider your calling, brethren. There were not many wise, according to the flesh, not many might, not many noble. 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. And in the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not so that He might nullify the things that are.” But why? “That no man should boast for God. But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
Very powerful chapter. A lot that applies to us, strengthens our faith. See this is what we need to see and apply to our lives as they were to apply it to theirs. Faith must rest on the power of God and nothing else. The power of God, Paul is saying to them, “Look can you come together in unity? In the maturity of faith can you arise here and stop all these quarrels?” They were doing the same thing that they did in the Greek culture: starting to debate. “I’ll pick Paul. I like his way. I approach God through that method.” “Well I like Apollo.” Someone said, “He’s just better at the speech. His sermons are much easier to listen to.” What? He says, “I got Peter. He’s actually over all – he was with Christ Himself.” Then someone says, “Well I’ll just pick Christ.” What is this? The philosophers of the day showed their cleverness and eloquence in their debating. Stop the debating. Christ had not sent Paul to preach in cleverness. If that’s the case then there’s no need of the power of the cross. No it’s the power of the cross. And this is what he says, “Listen. It’s the power of the cross.
The cross makes the worldly wisdom foolishness. It turns it right on its head. Oh you call the Gospel foolishness? Well the cross makes worldly wisdom foolishness. See to those that are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness. In other words, the notion that God sent His Son to pay the penalty for sin by dying on the cross. This is offensive to their sensibilities. And then, the further notion that God gave proof to all men by raising Jesus from the dead is as equally preposterous. There are many people even today, so called philosophers, otherwise known as university professors and hosts of late night television programs, who would say, “Do you guys even believe this stuff? Do you actually believe this stuff? I mean are you so foolish? I mean are you believing – This is in fact fairy tales. Do you believe this?” They mock it because, in their minds, it’s foolishness.
You know, when I was in Russia, early nineties, we were invited to speak at a university. I was absolutely amazed at the openness. Here’s an atheistic society allowing us to come in schools, in universities, and so absolutely. We came into a class, pretty large class, and the arrangement was that the professor would get to speak first and then I would speak after him.
So he got up to speak and unfortunately I got called out to the hallway. Something had arisen that I needed to settle. Some problem that I needed to solve. So I go out to the hallway and I’m solving this and I’m trying to get it done quickly, and I go back into the room and now I’m supposed to go up and speak having not heard one thing he said. But I knew it was a room of atheists, so I said, “I want you to understand what the Gospel is. I’m going to explain to you what it actually is so you can understand. But I first want you to understand that some of the greatest minds of our time, some of the greatest minds of our history, have taken hold of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, become believers and saved into eternal life.
Some of the greatest minds.” Later, one of the teams said, “You have no idea what he said before you got in here.” I said, “Really what’d he say?” He got up and he said, “Now listen, these guys are going to come up and speak. I’ve got to tell you, no thinking person actually believes these things. And then you walked up and said that.”
We took questions and we had an open discussion. Finally the professor comes up and says, “Okay, that’s enough. I think we should close this down.” To which I said, “You know what? We’ll be out in the hallway. Anyone who wants to speak to us, we’ll be there.” The whole class, after it was dismissed, got up and went out to the hallway. All of us were surrounded by a big group of people asking us questions, wanting more information.
Finally I stood up and said, “Listen everybody we really have to clear this hallway but we’re going to be at such and such place tomorrow night. We’re going to give a concert. We’re going to speak more about this. Come and hear.” Many of them came and many of them received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Amen, because God has made Himself known. I love Romans 1:20. “Since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power, His divine nature have been clearly seen. Being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse.” No one will have an excuse.
Psalm 14:1 is a powerful declaration just like it. “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” Which reminds me of one of my favorite stories about Ronald Reagan. He used to love to tell stories. And one of my favorites is the story he tells of this commissar of the Soviet Union who went out to visit one of the state collective farms. He took hold of the first worker he found and he said, “Tell me. How are the crops?” “Oh the crops. The crops are wonderful, never been better.” Then he goes, “How are the potatoes.” “Oh, comrade commissar, why the potatoes? If we were to put them in a pile, why they would reach so high they would reach the foot of God.” The comrade commissar said, “This is the Soviet Union. There is no God.” “That’s alright.” The man said, “There are no potatoes.” I love that story.
The world in its wisdom did not come to know God. This is really important to understand. You see, the Scripture says in verses 21 -22, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of the day?” In other words, “They can’t stand. They will never be able to stand before the living God.”
Reminds me of Job. Job the righteous one who went through all those things and then he would sometimes say, “Oh I have some things to ask God. I have some things that I want to speak my mind when I see God.” Finally, you know at the end of that book that God makes Himself known to Job. Reveals the power of His nature. The sovereignty of His hand. And said, “Job you wanted a chance to speak? Well speak.” And Job responds, “No. I lay my hand on my mouth. I say nothing but bow before your hand, God.”
Can you imagine? Here’s Job, righteous Job says, “I lay my hand on my mouth.” How much more the debaters of the age should lay their hand on their mouth. See there is a very important understanding here. Maybe we can see it through an analogy.
Eastern philosophies enjoy using an analogy to illustrate that men in their blindness cannot know God. The analogy is that four blind men were brought together and asked to define an elephant. So the first blind man had a hold of the trunk and he said, “An elephant is like a great and strong snake.” The second man, having a hold of his legs, said “You are very wrong. Quite wrong. No an elephant is like the trunk of a great tree.” The third one, standing at the side of the elephant, “You are both very wrong an elephant is like a great wall.” Finally the fourth one said, “I don’t know what you’re all thinking of, you’re all very, very wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Having a hold of his tail. And thus the story is applied in eastern philosophy. You see, my friends, that this is a story that helps us to understand that no religion can fully understand God. God is greater than all of them. Well oh my goodness, this is a great wisdom.
Until we understand something, “Wait a minute there’s something wrong with the story,” God reveals Himself. We’re not blind men trying to define God, God defines Himself. And in fact, it’s very important to understand. In Revelations 11:1,2, “God, after He spoke long ago to the prophets –” Defies, in many portions and in many ways, “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son whom He appointed heir of all things and through Whom He also made the world.” God sent His Son. Jesus said, “The Father has sent Me. All the words that I speak the Father has asked Me to speak them.” That’s why He said to His disciples, particularly Phillip, “If you’ve seen Me you have seen the Father. All that I see My Father do, I do. All that He says, I speak.” Jesus is the revealed God among us. See God is well pleased to save those who believe through such foolishness. That which the world calls foolishness is the very thing that God uses to save those who believe.
B. Jesus is the power and wisdom of God
Why is this? Because Jesus is important. This is what He says, “Jesus is the power of God, Jesus is the wisdom of God. And none other.” Jews ask for signs. Greeks seek for wisdom. But we preach Christ and we preach Christ crucified. To the Jews, this is a stumbling block. To the Gentiles this is foolishness. But to those who are saved, both Jews or Greeks, this is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Alright let’s look at the Jews. The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and they said, “Teacher we want to see a sign from you.” Prove it. You say you’re the Messiah sent of God, prove it. As if healing the blind, healing the deaf, casting out demons, raising the dead from the grave after they’ve been in the grave for four days isn’t sufficient. Jesus, however, said, “An evil adulterous generation seeks for a sign yet no sign will be given but the sign of Jonah the prophet.” What is the sign of Jonah? He goes to explain as three days in the belly of the fish. So the Son of Man will be three days in the earth, raised from the dead on the third day. That is the sign. You want a sign? That will be your sign.
It’s a stumbling block for the Jews. Actually, it was a stumbling block to the disciples. When Jesus explained to the disciples, “We’re going to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be arrested, turned over to the Gentiles. Then He will be scourged and beaten and will be crucified.” They couldn’t receive it. Peter drew Jesus aside to rebuke him. “God forbid Lord. This will never happen to you.” Didn’t grasp it at all. It was a stumbling block for him. Matthew 16:23, “Jesus turned on Peter and He said ‘You get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests but man’s.” Because before the foundation of the world, this was the desire and plan of the will of God, that the power of God, the wisdom of God would be revealed through the cross. Through the Gospel. Through the raising of Jesus from the dead.
Jesus is the Power of God. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. In fact, here’s a good verse for you. Acts 17:30-31. You might want to underline it, highlight it, dog ear the page, because it’s powerful. This is what it says, “Having overlooked times of ignorance God is now declaring to all men: That all people everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man who he has appointed –“That’s Jesus, “Having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
II. God has Chosen the Foolish Things
You want proof? There’s the greatest proof known to man. What more proof is needed? People call the death and resurrection of Christ foolishness? It’s the Wisdom of God that put’s their wisdom to shame. On the cross, Christ appeared weak and defeated, but it was the Wisdom of God revealed. Infinitely wiser, infinitely more powerful than anything men could do. This is the way that men would be saved. For every self-proclaimed prophet remained in the grave but Christ, and Christ alone, was raised in power by the Father, through the Holy Spirit on the third day to great victory. This is why John 11:25-26, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection. I am the life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
There is no wisdom in the world that can obtain this. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? Some call it foolishness. Some call it weakness. To those who are being saved, it’s the Power of God and it’s the Wisdom of God. This is an interesting thing because he then goes on to say, “God has chosen the foolish things.” God chose the foolish things. He applies it to you and me, how interesting. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the things which are strong. In other words, here’s how it gets personal, we are the foolish things that God has chosen. I’m sure you feel really great about that. God has chosen the weakness of the cross to demonstrate His power. God has chosen the foolish things to demonstrate His glory.
Let’s step back and look at the Gospel. Can you imagine God entrusting the greatest news the world has ever heard to a few fishermen and a despised tax collector? What kind of plan is this? Wouldn’t you pick the eloquent debaters of the day, the clever, the wise? Because their so called wisdom blinded their eyes. “Well why didn’t you choose the great religious leaders then of the day?” Because they’re so called righteousness was defilement, that’s why.
I’ll choose the simple ones. Turning the world upside down with a few fishermen, uneducated? Oh yes, what glory, what glory. Can you imagine, even Paul? Paul. Number one enemy. Oh what a plan is this. The number one enemy of the church. He despised, enraged, he admits it himself, “I was enraged by these people. I dragged them out of their homes. Sought their death.” Number one enemy. Can you imagine such a plan as this? I’ll tell you what, here’s a plan. Let’s take the number one enemy of the church, knock him off his high horse, open his eyes, use him to turn this world upside down. Through the writings, through the letters he has given us in the New Testament. The testimony of him going from city to city, the Gospel being spoken in power and the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Oh now that’s a plan.
Take it into the modern day. Can you imagine using hippies and druggies to lead a worldwide movement teaching God’s word verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and to bring hundreds of thousands of people coming to faith in Christ? What kind of a plan is this?
I take delight in imagining God explaining that to the angels. “All angels on deck. Meeting. I want to explain the plan that is going to be very glorious. Listen to this, here’s my plan, this is a great plan. Very glorious. Here’s what it is. I’m going to take druggies and the hippies and I’m going to use them to bring hundreds of thousands of people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. What do you think of that plan?” Can you just imagine the angels? “Hum, Lord, have you actually seen these people. Have you smelled these people? Have you heard these people’s music? Have you seen what they look like? Have you seen their hair? Drug people. These are broken down people with drugs and they’re like messed up. They are messed up people God.”
I just delight in the picture of that. God responding, “Oh yes I know. Because I’m going to do something that the world would never have guessed. I’m going to use broken people. Uneducated, broken, despised people. People didn’t like the hippies. Guess what? I’m going to use them. This is going to be glorious.”
See I love citing 2 Corinthians 4:7, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” What does that mean? We’re just a bunch of clay pots. Simple earthen vessels. Oh I put my treasure in that. Why? So that the surpassing greatness of the power will be in God, not in ourselves.
See now we’ve got to look at it personally. You might look at yourself and you might say, “I am of no account. I’m nothing. I’m one of the sinful ones. I’m one of the weak ones. And pastor if you knew my background, you wouldn’t make a suggestion. You wouldn’t even imagine that God could use me. Listen, you don’t know me.” I’m really messed up.
That reminds me, when I first started to go to Bible school. So excited about what God had done, how He opened doors, how He moved with His hand to make it all happen. I was sharing with a friend about all this and he said, “I’m jealous. I’d love to join you.” I said, “Really? Do you mean that?” He said, “Yeah. That would be awesome. I would love to do that.” I said, “If you mean that then do that. Come on, let’s do it together. We’re friends. We can take classes together; we’ll go on ministry together. Come on.” He said, “No. No, no, no, no. Nope. You don’t understand.” “What is it I don’t understand?” “Nope. If you knew – See you don’t even know what you don’t know – The stuff in my past? You don’t know. God wouldn’t use me.”
I was stunned. This is your understanding of the Gospel? You think we need some kind of doctorate in purity? You think God is going to search to and fro? “I’m going to find only those who have the most pedigrees, the finest intellectual prowess and I’ll use those few.” Look God says, “Oh no, no, no, no. Frankly, they’re in the way. But I choose the broken ones. The weak ones.” Why? So that God receives all the glory, that’s why. He chooses the foolish, the weak, the based, the despised so that no one may boast.
I’m so thankful for that because we tend to boast. It’s part of our human condition, we brought it with us. God has reached the simple. He’s kept the Gospel simple, so simple a child could grasp it. But so wise the wisdom of it is greater than the wisdom of the wisest man. Jesus wanted the Gospel to be given to the simplest, even the children. In Matthew 19 He said, “Leave the children alone. Don’t hinder them from coming to Me. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
You know when He spoke of the kingdom of heaven? He put it in terms that the simplest farmer could understand. The kingdom of heaven is like a farmer sowing his wheat. They can get that. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. We can understand that. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. We can understand that. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t stand up in front of the crowd and say, “The kingdom of heaven is like the Pythagorean Theorem.” “No Lord, I failed that class, please.” “The kingdom of God is like quantum mechanics my friend. If you can grasp quantum mechanics you can begin to approach the kingdom of God.” “What? God it’s hopeless then.”
No, God chose the simple things. The foolish things. That no man may boast. That God will receive all the glory because you know we are like that; we tend to boast. We want to take credit; we want it to be about us. We love to be the hero of the story. Isn’t that true? When you tell a story and you’re relating what happened and you’re in the story and you’re relating your part, isn’t it true that you make yourself look more of a hero than you actually were when the thing actually happened. Isn’t that true? Show of hands. Praise God for all twenty of you that are honest because in fact every one of us does it. It’s the nature of humanity to boast.
And God says, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to use those who cannot boast. When I use the weak, the simple, the despised, the foolish ones, there’s no room for boasting because it was the power of God. Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom. Let not the mighty man boast of his fight. Let not a rich man boast of his riches. Let him who boasts boast of this: that he understands and knows Me. That I am the Lord who exercises love and kindness and justice and righteousness on the Earth. For I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”
B. That God receives all the glory
You know there’s a story, out of the Old Testament, very much like this. It was a time when there was no King and the people of Israel were being severely oppressed. The Midianite people from across the river were oppressing them. Raiding parties would come and they would take their crops and they were just becoming oppressed and weakened by all this. One day there was a man by the name of Gideon. Sifting his wheat in a cave, that’s not where you do that. But he’s afraid. So he’s hiding in there and an angel comes up to him and greets him this way: “Hail oh mighty warrior.”
What kind of greeting is that? You can imagine Gideon, “Are you talking to me? You’re looking for me? I think you got the wrong Gideon, I mean I know another Gideon two valleys over I think you’re thinking of him. Listen, I am of the weakest tribe of Israel and I’m the weakest family of that tribe.” The angel responded, “Have I not called you? Now arise.” Now see this is really important because it does apply to us. Have I not called you? Now arise. God knows he was of the weakest tribe of the weakest family. “Oh I’m going to reveal My glory here. Did I not call you? Now arise.”
So this story unfolds. The fleece of Gideon, you know this story. He’s convinced God has called him, so he calls out and 32000 men join him to form an army. 32,000 in that day was a huge army. God then said to Gideon, “That’s too many. Lest you think and they think and believe that it was their power or might, that’s too many.” So Gideon stands and he says, “We are 32,000 men strong but God says we’re too many, so anyone who is afraid in their heart God says you are allowed to go home.” 22,000 of them get up and go home. They got 10,000 left and God says, “That’s still too many. Take them down to the water we’ll divide them again.” So they go by the water. God says, “Whoever brings up the water to their mouth, pick him.” So he said, “That’s 300.” “Perfect.” “So we go from 32,000 to 300?” “Right.” So then God moves, His hand begins to move and the sovereign hand arranges and a great victory is brought that day. The story, you have to read it. It’s a great story. That God would get the glory.
Here’s the point. It has everything to do with faith. Faith is the question here. Because if you look at this and say, “Well, I’m weak. I’m one of the simple, the base. In fact, if you knew me, you’d know that I’m despised.” That may be so, but this is exactly what God delights to do. Faith is the difference.
You can say, “I’m one of the simple. I’m one of the weak and therefore I’m done.” And you go home. But if you have faith, then you would understand. Now listen, I know that I’m one of the foolish. The weak. The simple ones. But I see now that God actually delights to use people like that. I will believe. I know that you are able, for faith is the difference. When you believe that your God is able then you begin to arise in your faith. There is a confidence in that faith. And then God begins to move in your life, begins to build and strengthen one day at a time, one verse at a time, one chapter at a time your faith arises. He’s beginning to use you because you’re beginning to believe.
See, many in our culture, in our day in which we’re living, understand that self-confidence is kind of the mantra of the day. Either you have self-confidence or you have self-loathing, there doesn’t seem to be any other options. Is there not another option? There is. Confidence in God. It’s a very different thing. Self-confidence stands in the way. Self-loathing stands in the way. But God confidence believes that God takes the simple, the broken, the hurting and uses them. He even specifically says, “I prefer them actually because My glory is much great when it is revealed through the simple.” Would you arise in your faith? Would you believe God for your life? Did I not call upon you? Now arise. Let’s pray.
1 Corinthians 1:1-31 NASB
1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 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: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.