Friday, July 21, 2006

Foolishness, part 2

A second common misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 is found in verse 21. Here’s how it reads in the King James Version, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

This sounds like God is saying that he has ordained preaching as the method of saving those who believe and that preaching is a foolish method from a human perspective.

But here’s how this reads in the NIV, “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 believe.”

Here’s one more version (The English Standard Version), “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.”

What Paul is saying is that God has confounded human wisdom by proclaiming a message that seems foolish by human standards. What is that message? Paul says that it is “Christ crucified” (Verse 25). Of course there is more to the message than these two words. But this is the essence of the gospel message.

Paul is not saying that when he preaches the message of the gospel that “those who are perishing” have no idea what he is talking about. Rather he is saying that
they think his message is unsophisticated, simplistic and reckless.

This is not a statement about human reasoning ability. It is a statement about human pride.

And Paul is not saying that human reasoning is unable to process truth about God. He is talking about something very specific here. He is talking about the foolishness of saving creation by the Messiah dying the humiliating death of crucifixion.

Let’s follow this through. In verse 18, Paul says that the “message of the cross” is how God unleashed his power in defeating sin and death.
It was in the apparent defeat of Jesus that God won over his enemies.

Paul then quotes from Isaiah 29:14 where God says that he will “destroy the wisdom of the wise.” When Isaiah wrote this, God was talking about those who sought protection from Egypt (Isaiah 30:2), who tried to make their own arrangements and hide them from the Lord (29:15). But now, Paul is giving these words a new meaning. While God’s plan for protecting his people was “counter-intuitive” because it involved them being carried off into exile, the ultimate “foolish strategy” was allowing the Messiah to be crucified. In this apparent failure God demonstrated his power.

No wise man, biblical scholar or flashy orator could have come up with this plan.

But God’s seemingly foolish plan is superior to man’s most cunning strategy. God’s apparent weakness is far stronger than the greatest power humanity can muster. Paul is not saying that God is foolish or weak. He is only saying that he appears to be. He will pick this up again in chapter two.

So Paul is not saying that God has ordained
expository preaching (or any other type) as the ultimate means of proclaiming the gospel.

Paul is not saying that “those who are perishing” are unable to logically process the claims of the gospel.

He is saying that God works through weakness and humility. And if that is so they should not be jockeying for prestige and power within the church. (Notice the context of this passage.) “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

No comments: