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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians 1and2 - Foolishness of Preaching

INTRODUCTION: The congregation at Corinth of Jews and Gentiles had the benefit of teaching from the Apostle Paul as he laid the foundation of faith to receive the Holy Spirit. He taught them for eighteen months, showing how prophecies in Scripture about Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus; with the key element for saving faith being the cross. Paul left Corinth to travel to Ephesus, accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla, his workmates in their trade and in their faith. After Paul left Corinth, there is no indication of any specific person who became the leader of the church. Several years passed, and Paul had traveled to many places before he wrote his first letter to the church to address some troublesome matters. Apollos was a dynamic Christian teacher who spent some time at Corinth defending the gospel of Christ. Some very strong divisions had developed within the congregation, and Paul wanted to bring the believers back to center their faith and practice on Christ.

NOTE: All scripture is from the 1965 Bible in Basic English.

A - PAUL WROTE A VERY WARM OPENING TO HIS LETTER

1 Corinthians 1 "1 Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the purpose of God, and Sosthenes the brother, 2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been made holy in Christ Jesus, saints by the selection of God, with all those who in every place give honour to 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. 4 I give praise to my God for you at all times, because of the grace of God which has been given to you in Christ Jesus; 5 So that in him you have wealth in all things, in word and in knowledge of every sort; 6 Even as the witness of the Christ has been made certain among you: 7 So that having every grace you are living in the hope of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 Who will give you strength to the end, to be free from all sin in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is true, through whom you have been given a part with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

COMMENTS: Paul opened this letter with an affirmation that his authority as an Apostle of Jesus Christ was by the purpose of God, not through an appointment by any man. He addressed the letter to those who had been made holy in Christ Jesus and were part of the church body at Corinth. Paul reminded them that they had been made saints by the selection of God, which he said was the same for all others everywhere, who give honour to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of all who believe. Those elements of truth stated by Paul about those who belong to Christ, still apply all around the world today. God combined the preaching of the chosen apostles and the former prophets to make a firm foundation of faith, with Christ as the chief Cornerstone. Since the time of Paul, the writings of the prophets and apostles, as guided by the Holy Spirit, are the source of truth to lead to salvation in Christ. The inspired truth of the Holy Scriptures must be revealed by the Spirit of God to those who have an open heart, because it cannot be believed and accepted through the wisdom of the world.

Paul referred to Sosthenes as a brother in Christ with him, as he wrote his greeting of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Sosthenes had been the Synagogue leader who tried to bring public charges against Paul with intent for bodily harm, not long before Paul left Corinth. We have no detail anywhere in scripture about his conversion. Paul seemed to have no doubt that the people of Corinth would know Sosthenes, and the significant change in him.

Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to know he continually gave praise to the Lord for the grace of god that had been given to them in Christ. The witness that Jesus is the Christ had been made reliably certain among them; and since they were now in Christ they had a wealth of spiritual things. By living in His grace with the hope of the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, all believers can know that God will provide them strength to the end of this present life. Believers will be free from all sin in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ; and there is no other outcome possible because God is true. Every Christian has been given a part with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!


B - PAUL BEGAN TO ADDRESS THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THIS LETTER

1 Corinthians 1 "10 Now I make request to you, my brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you will all say the same thing, and that there may be no divisions among you, so that you may be in complete agreement, in the same mind and in the same opinion. 11 Because it has come to my knowledge, through those of the house of Chloe, that there are divisions among you, my brothers. 12 That is, that some of you say, I am of Paul; some say, I am of Apollos; some say, I am of Cephas; and some say, I am Christ's. 13 Is there a division in Christ? Was Paul nailed to the cross for you? Or were you given baptism in the name of Paul? 14 I give praise to God that not one of you had baptism from me, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 so that no one may be able to say that you had baptism in my name. 16 And I gave baptism to the house of Stephanas; but I am not certain that any others had baptism from me. 17 For Christ sent me, not to give baptism, but to be a preacher of the good news: not with wise words, for fear that the cross of Christ might be made of no value. 18 For the word of the cross seems foolish to those who are on the way to destruction; but to us who are on the way to salvation it is the power of God."

COMMENTS: Paul has made preparatory statements and then presented a request for positive actions that were needed among the assembled believers. It is important to notice that Paul wanted them to reach common agreement in spiritual matters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Divisions had come to Paul's attention as reported to him by members of the household of Chloe, with no other detail given by Paul. Some in the church family were identifying themselves as followers of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or some even said that they distinctively belonged to Christ. Paul firmly told them that there are truly no divisions in Christ. No one else could ever be nailed to a cross to bring about the victory in God that was accomplished by the sacrificial death of Christ the Son. And when baptisms are given to those who profess Christ as Savior and Lord; they are to be made in the name of Christ to honor Him, not in the name of any man who administered the baptism.

Perhaps in anticipation of examples being raised, Paul reviewed with praise the names of some he baptized such as Crispus and Gaius, and the house of Stephanas; but he was not certain whether any others had baptism from him. Paul didn't want anyone to be able to say that they had baptism in his name. All honor for being identified with Christ in that manner was to be directed only to Christ. Paul stated that his purpose of being sent by Christ was not to give baptism, but to be a preacher of the good news. That preaching was not to depend on wise words, for he was concerned that emphasizing an intellectual approach could actually make the cross of Christ of no value. Presenting the message of the cross seems foolish to those who are on the way to destruction; but to any who are on the way to the salvation only possible because of the cross, it is indeed the power of God!


C - GOD USES THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING TO CONFOUND THE WISE

1 Corinthians 1 "19 As it says in the holy Writings, I will put an end to the wisdom of the wise, and will put on one side the designs of those who have knowledge. 20 Where is the wise? where is he who has knowledge of the law? where is the man of this world who has a love of discussion? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For because, by the purpose of God, the world, with all its wisdom, had not the knowledge of God, it was God's pleasure, by so foolish a thing as preaching, to give salvation to those who had faith in him. 22 Seeing that the Jews make request for signs, and the Greeks are looking for knowledge: 23 But we give the good news of Christ on the cross, a hard thing to the Jews, and a foolish thing to the Gentiles; 24 But to those of God's selection, Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. 25 Because what seems foolish in God is wiser than men; and what seems feeble in God is stronger than men. 26 For you see God's design for you, my brothers, that he has not taken a great number of the wise after the flesh, not the strong, not the noble: 27 But God made selection of the foolish things of this world so that he might put the wise to shame; and the feeble things that he might put to shame the strong; 28 And the low things of the world, and the things without honour, did God make selection of, yes, even the things which are not, so that he might make as nothing the things which are: 29 So that no flesh might have glory before God."

COMMENTS: Paul made reference to scripture from Isaiah that had been written centuries before the time of Christ, to demonstrate the consistent way the LORD sets aside in foolishness the wisdom of this world. Isaiah "13 And the Lord said, because this people come near to me with their mouths, and give honour to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and their fear of me is false, a rule given them by the teaching of men; 14 For this cause I will again do a strange thing among this people, a thing to be wondered at: and the wisdom of their wise men will come to nothing, and the sense of their guides will no longer be seen." By the purpose of God, the world, with all its wisdom, did not have the knowledge of God. Therefore, it was God's pleasure, by so foolish a thing as preaching, to give salvation to those who had faith in him. The traditional Jews made request for miraculous signs for their belief, and the sophisticated Greeks looked for that which they discover for themselves through great knowledge. The good news of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (the Messiah promised in prophecy), is a hard thing to accept as good and true by the Jews. It is a completely foolish thing to well educated Gentiles that the death of a man on a cross could be something victorious with everlasting value. But to those of God's selection, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. Because what seems feeble in God is incomparably stronger than men; and what seems foolish in God is wise far beyond the scope of man's understanding.

And again for the Corinthians, Paul was reflecting what had been written many years earlier in another scripture passage. Isaiah 40 "13 By whom has the spirit of the Lord been guided, or who has been his teacher? 14 Who gave him suggestions, and made clear to him the right way? who gave him knowledge, guiding him in the way of wisdom? 15 See, the nations are to him like a drop hanging from a bucket, and like the small dust in the scales: he takes up the islands like small dust."

When Paul wrote a letter to a church with some believers he knew, but that he had not yet visited; he made a similar statement about the incomparable wisdom and absolute authority of God. Romans 11 "33 O how deep is the wealth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! no one is able to make discovery of his decisions, and his ways may not be searched out. 34 Who has knowledge of the mind of the Lord? or who has taken part in his purposes? 35 Or who has first given to him, and it will be given back to him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. So be it."


D - WHOEVER HAS A DESIRE FOR GLORY, LET HIS GLORY BE IN THE LORD

1 Corinthians 1 "26 For you see God's design for you, my brothers, that he has not taken a great number of the wise after the flesh, not the strong, not the noble: 27 But God made selection of the foolish things of this world so that he might put the wise to shame; and the feeble things that he might put to shame the strong; 28 And the low things of the world, and the things without honour, did God make selection of, yes, even the things which are not, so that he might make as nothing the things which are: 29 So that no flesh might have glory before God. 30 But God has given you a place in Christ Jesus, through whom God has given us wisdom and righteousness and salvation, and made us holy: 31 So that, as it is said in the holy Writings, Whoever has a desire for glory, let his glory be in the Lord."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that God's design was not to take to himself a great number of those considered wise, strong, or who deserved honor by worldly standards: but God made selection of those considered by this world to be foolish, weak, and lowly without honor: so that he might put the wise, the strong, and the noble to shame. Indeed, God makes selection of even the things which seem as nothing, so that he might make as nothing the things which are valued in the present world. By this divine purpose no flesh can have glory before God. But God has given the believer a place in Christ Jesus, through whom God has given wisdom and righteousness and salvation, and made each one holy. therefore, believers should apply the scripture, and give all glory to God for those gifts.

Jeremiah 9 "23 This is the word of the Lord: Let not the wise man take pride in his wisdom, or the strong man in his strength, or the man of wealth in his wealth: 24 But if any man has pride, let it be in this, that he has the wisdom to have knowledge of me, that I am the Lord, working mercy, giving true decisions, and doing righteousness in the earth: for in these things I have delight, says the Lord."


E - PAUL DID NOT USE WORLDLY WISDOM WHEN HE PREACHED

1 Corinthians 2 "1 And when I came to you, my brothers, I did not come with wise words of knowledge, putting before you the secret of God. 2 For I had made the decision to have knowledge of nothing among you but only of Jesus Christ on the cross. 3 And I was with you without strength, in fear and in doubt. 4 And in my preaching there were no honeyed words of wisdom, but I was dependent on the power of the Spirit to make it clear to you: 5 So that your faith might be based not on man's wisdom but on the power of God. 6 But still we have wisdom for those who are complete in knowledge, though not the wisdom of this world, and not of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nothing: 7 But we give the news of the secret wisdom of God, which he had kept in store before the world came into existence, for our glory; 8 Of which not one of the rulers of this world had knowledge: for if they had, they would not have put the Lord of glory on the cross: 9 But as it says in the holy Writings, Things which the eye saw not, and which had not come to the ears or into the heart of man, such things as God has made ready for those who have love for him."

COMMENTS: Addressing the readers as brothers, Paul said when he arrived at Corinth he did not speak in terms of wise words to present the secret of God. He made the conscious decision to concentrate only on the fundamental importance of Jesus Christ on the cross. I wonder if at least some of tem may have been surprised to read that Paul said he preached with little personal strength, and some self-doubt, he had no "honeyed words of wisdom." Paul was making it clear that he depended on the power of the Spirit to make the message of the cross clear to those who heard him. This is important to remember down through every age, because true faith is not based on man's wisdom to understand scripture without the power of Godís Spirit. Those who are being made complete in the knowledge about things of God do have wisdom, though not the wisdom of this world. Paul said he was giving The good news of the secret wisdom of God, which god had kept in store before the world came into existence; which is completed in the gift of God's glory given to those who are saved.

Not one of the religious or political rulers of this world had this knowledge about Christ: for if they had, they would not have put the Lord of glory on the cross. The Holy Scriptures foretold through prophetic writings things that God has made ready for those who have love for him. For those without faith, these things could not be seen by the eye, nor heard and understood, nor received into the heart of man. Isaiah 64 "1 O let the heavens be broken open and come down, so that the mountains may be shaking before you, 2 As when fire puts the brushwood in flames, or as when water is boiling from the heat of the fire: to make your name feared by your haters, so that the nations may be shaking before you; 3 While you do acts of power for which we are not looking, and which have not come to the ears of men in the past. 4 The ear has not had news of, or the eye seen, any God but you, working for the man who is waiting for him. 5 Will you not have mercy on him who takes pleasure in doing righteousness, even on those who keep in mind your ways? Truly you were angry, and we went on doing evil, and sinning against you in the past."

But the Spirit of God provides new life in the believer, and can enable us to takes pleasure in doing righteous acts, and to keep in mind the ways of the LORD.


F - BELIEVERS HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD WITHIN

1 Corinthians 2 "10 But God has given us the revelation of these things through his Spirit, for the Spirit makes search into all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who has knowledge of the things of a man but the spirit of the man which is in him? in the same way, no one has knowledge of the things of God but the Spirit of God. 12 But we have not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which comes from God, so that we may have knowledge of the things which are freely given to us by God. 13 And these are the things which we say, not in the language of man's wisdom, but in words given to us by the Spirit, judging the things of the spirit by the help of the Spirit. 14 For the natural man is not able to take in the things of the Spirit of God: for they seem foolish to him, and he is not able to have knowledge of them, because such knowledge comes only through the Spirit. 15 But he who has the Spirit, though judging all things, is himself judged by no one. 16 For who has knowledge of the mind of the Lord, so as to be his teacher? But we have the mind of Christ."

COMMENTS: It is God who opens the understanding of those who through faith and trust receive God's mercy gift that was purchased through the cross of Christ. then the remainder of life for the believer here on earth is in anticipation of the eternal kingdom of God, rather than rewards only available until death takes away the body. These things of eternal value are revealed through the Holy Spirit, for the ways of God can never be fully understood by any attempt, however complex and esoteric, to understand the secrets of God. If we cannot know and understand the unexpressed thoughts of another person down to the smallest detail; how could we ever expect that we could know the limitless and unalterable things determined by the eternal and almighty God? The things that are revealed to those who have the Spirit of God cannot be properly judged by those who have not been given that gift. Many times a Christian may be mocked or demeaned for holding on to their faith and trust in Christ.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life, and I believe the purpose of the cross of Christ Jesus is the basic truth able to reach every type of person you have chosen. I had very little knowledge of the Holy Scriptures when I first prayed to ask you to take control of my life, and there was no immediate perceivable change in me. As I reflect on my own experience, it has again been encouraging for me to read about people who had been given the gospel message by this chosen Apostle named Paul who himself had experienced such a dramatic conversion. he then was guided by your Holy Spirit to carefully convey the foundation of Christ through his personal involvement with so many believers. Your Holy Spirit prompted me year by year to search out the scripture that I might know my Savior in greater detail, and letters written by the Apostle Paul are still a major part of that growth. . As with the Corinthians believers, I need to be on guard to counteract the wisdom of the world that could keep me from growing in the grace gift of eternal life. As I have sometimes felt the struggle that occurs between my old nature and my new life in Christ, continued study of scripture has helped me to know that my Savior will always be in control of the surrendered heart of a believer. There is nothing outside of your absolute control, but that fact cannot be measured or understood by natural evaluation of All things that take place in this temporal world. All praise to the wisdom and mercy of the only true God. Amen.

Published 22 January 2018