Let us look at the first book of Corinthians chapter 1 from verse 18-31. In this first part we will look at verses 18-21. From verse 10-17 of this chapter, Paul addresses the issue of divisions Within the church. It appears that Christians at Corinth were dividing themselves up into those following Paul, Apolos and Peter. It appears it had something to do with who baptized them, hence Paul says that he is happy that he baptized none of them except for the two that he mentions. He then in verse 17 told them that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the word of God. Not only to preach but, not preach with clever speeches which might render the cross of Jesus Christ powerless. This leads to our verse to day, verse 18.
1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (ESVST)
18 For the word of the cross is folly 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.”
After Paul made it clear that he is here not to baptize but to preach the gospel not with clever speeches, he than makes statement that to those who are perishing, the cross is foolishness but to those who are being saved, the cross is the power of God. By the cross, Paul refers to the death of Jesus. The two words “perishing and being saved” are in the continuous tense, meaning that it is a process that is taking place. Then Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14 where God said that he will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the intelligence of the intelligent. The word discernment in Greek also means understanding, knowledge or intelligence.
The word used here for perishing is a very strong word in Greek for destruction. So, Paul is saying to those that are headed for this massive destruction, meaning those that will be destroyed by fire in hell, to them, the death of Jesus is utter foolishness. They are too wise and intelligent to beleive it. It does not make sense to them. In their intelligent and wise minds, the death of Jesus means nothing. God promises to bring to nothing the intelligence of the wise. The word “thwart” is the same word in Greek used for perishing. It means violent massive destruction.
However, for those that are being saved from eternal destruction, the elect of God, to them the death of Jesus is the power of God.
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, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Paul quote Isaiah 19:12
Isaiah 19:12-15 (ESVST)
Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you that they might know what the Lord of hosts has purposed against Egypt.13 The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger. 14 The Lord has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. 15 And there will be nothing for Egypt
that head or tail, palm branch or reed, may do.
As you can see in the verse Paul quoted, the wise men failed to deliver what was promised and as a result Egypt was going to stagger like a drunk man in his vomit. Paul is using the same analogy and challenges the wise men, scribes and debators at Corinth. A scribe in the Bible, was a man learned in the Mosaic law and in the sacred writings, an interpreter, teacher. Paul is saying that has God not made foolish the wisdom of this age. Paul says, he showed how foolish this world’s wisdom is for the world did not know God through the wisdom of this world but they knew God through the foolishness of what Paul and the other apostles preached and this pleased God. This was so that those that believe can be saved.
Paul says no clever ideas or worldly wisdom was used in bringing the knowledge of God to the people. God used what the world considered foolishness to bring those that beleived to the knowledge of God and to salvation. The very things that the world and it’s wisdoms called stupid, useless, lacking in sense and so on, it is the very thing that God used to bring forth the knowledge of him. This brought to destruction the wise and their intelligence. It brough to destruction those that rely on their wisdom and not on the wisdom of God.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Paul says, the Jews demands signs and the Greek seek wisdom. Jews have always demanded that Jesus give them a sign throughout his ministry and the Greek are known for their learning or education. To both of them these attributes became stumbling blocks to their recievingand believing in Jesus. However to those that are called or are being saved, the elect of God, Jesus Christ our Lord is the power and wisdom of God.
So, day after day, we preach to you in churches and in social media, this word of God. To others, we are wasting our time and to others we are spreading the good news.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLTse)
Our lives are a Christ- like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life- giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
The question is, to you as a person, when you hear the word of God, do you smell a life giving perfume or a dreadful smell of death and doom. Is the word of God a stumbling blockor foolishness to you?