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. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
During Paul’s time in Ephesus, he received a troubling report about the state of the church in Corinth, so he wrote a letter to them, which is included in Scripture. One of the main issues facing this church was lack of unity. Many teachers, some of whom presented different messages, visited the churches in the New Testament. As a result, various factions that favoured one Christian leader over another threatened the unity of the church and undermined its effectiveness. Paul’s solution was to focus the church’s attention solely on Christ and His message, which includes the gift of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom He brings. People without Christ do not have the Holy Spirit to aid them in comprehending God’s revealed truth, which is the reason they do not receive what comes from God’s Spirit.
However, those indwelt with the Spirit of the Lord have the mind of Christ. Although no human can know everything about God, our understanding of Him and His purposes always have room to expand. God will give us the needed spiritual insight to understand more about Him through the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives.
The heart of the gospel is Jesus Christ. Everything we preach centres around Him. The focal point of His ministry is His substitutionary death on the cross. The lost have no other way to be saved, so the proclaimer must always seek to magnify and lift the Lord Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ can saved individuals be united. People are not saved by accepting a system of theological propositions, but by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. He must always be the central theme of our proclamation.
1 Corinthians 1:1-31.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother, Sosthenes. To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, He who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Church Divided Over Leaders
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptised in my name. (Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptised anyone else). For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
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 person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has God not 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 believed. Jews demand 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 human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, 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. God 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 the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human 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 with great fear and 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 human wisdom, but on God’s power.
God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love Him— these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgements about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgements, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Salvation is God’s atonement of sin through the cross of Christ. God has acted to save us, and we have accepted salvation through faith in the past. We are experiencing salvation daily through the power of the Spirit in the present. We will know the fullness of salvation at the resurrection.
The wisdom of God goes beyond the highest point of human wisdom. Those who have been saved by the grace of God have seen the true wisdom that comes from God. Christ is the outward expression of the wisdom of God.
God’s salvation comes to the world through preaching the message of Christ crucified on the cross for our sins. This Christ-centred message is the wisdom of God. Those who believe it in their hearts will be saved. Salvation, then, comes through hearing good news about Christ and committing oneself to the message.
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By Dr Joyce Aryee, the author