- 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.
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.
speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly
the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful,
through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels
among you. 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.” 13 Has Christ
been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 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. 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.
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. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles
foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of
God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
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, 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, 29 so that no man may boast
before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31
so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”