Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 5 2013 - 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 – The foolishness and weakness of God

Paul is writing to a church arguing over who was the better preacher; was it Paul or was it Apollos? Who had the greater power of rhetoric? He is writing to a church divided over who among them was the more spiritual; who had the better or deeper understanding of spiritual truths? Paul condemns such arguments as worldly; they are inconsistent with all that God has revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The gospel of Christ crucified turns the values of this world upside down. Paul says that Jews seek signs and Greeks seek wisdom. Jews looked for some great act of power by which God would overturn the human powers that had oppressed the Jewish people and would set them free – as had happened when God had rescued them from Egypt through Moses. Greeks loved philosophy and looked for some new system of teaching that would capture their attention – teaching proclaimed in wise and persuasive words. The gospel message about a crucified Messiah satisfied neither party. It appeared to show the weakness of God whose Son was crushed by the powers of this world. Its message appeared foolish to the Greeks, lacking in wisdom and being propagated by those lacking any great skill in oratory. To both parties, the gospel appeared to display the foolishness and weakness of God.

In reality, however, the gospel displays both the wisdom and power of God. The message concerning Christ crucified was accompanied by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. Paul says of his preaching at Corinth, “I came to you in weakness and in fear, and with much 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 men’s wisdom, but on God's power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). The gospel displays the power of God who gives life to the dead. The gospel displays the wisdom of God because it is about Jesus Christ “who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1:30).

Paul calls these Christian brothers and sisters to take a reality check. Look at yourselves, he says, “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” (1:26-29). You have got nothing to boast of, nothing to be proud of, except this; God sent his Son from heaven to die for you. The Gospel is not about you; it’s about Christ crucified and raised from the dead.

We need to avoid the temptation to reshape the gospel to meet the expectations and demands of the world around us – whatever these might be. It’s not about acts of power, not about signs and wonders. It’s not about dynamic, charismatic and persuasive preachers. It’s about “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:24). This message that turns human expectations upside down has power to turn the world upside down.

Father God, we stand amazed at all that you have done for us in the Lord Jesus; you have loved us,  you have saved us and you are at work among us, in us and through us to transform this proud and rebellious world. Humble us Lord; continue your transforming work in us. Remind us continually of what we were when we were called that our confidence and hope may not rest in ourselves but only in Christ our Saviour. May we be crucified with him to all that this world holds dear that we may live and work with him in the power of his Spirit for the transformation of our world to the glory of Christ.

Peter Misselbrook