Study in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16

The Wisdom of Man Versus the Wisdom of God

We are living in an age in which some people believe the achievements of modern science have rendered both ancient wisdom and particularly the idea of divine revelation obsolete. With the explosion of science, space, and medicine, the accumulation of knowledge has created little gods among us. Divine revelation, as contained in the Scripture, is dismissed as a relic of the unenlightened past - not relevant to this enlightened age and therefore, obsolete. We have become materialistic and self-sufficient. We have come to believe that we have no need for God.


Key verses: 1 Corinthians 1:23-24

“We preach Christ crucified: unto the Jews a stumbling block […] Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Corinth was well known for its love of philosophical discussion. Christianity had come under their caustic scrutiny. They had dissected it mercilessly, piece by piece. They ridiculed its basic teachings, and rejected Christ and His teachings. The Jewish philosophies were stumbled by Christ’s teaching…it cut across their traditions. They were scandalous – it was an offense and an insult to their superior intelligence. The Greek PhD’s thought the whole idea of Christianity was foolishness; it was absurd, preposterous even.

Paul labored for eighteen months in this hostile climate. Despite the belligerent conduct of his adversaries, he preached the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17), he preached the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18), and he preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). In Romans 1:16, he writes, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” Paul believed that though his message was foolishness to the worldly wise, to those who were being saved, it was the power and wisdom of God.

As it was in the first century, so it is in the 20th. The rationalist, the humanist, and the scientist join together to categorically dismiss the facets of the Christian faith. The religionist has joined this group in denying the fundamentals of the faith, especially Christ’s Deity and atonement. [Describe this]


What is the wisdom of God? How is it made known to mankind?

God’s wisdom is the plan of salvation and transcends all human wisdom. Note the efforts of man prior to the coming of Christ. Consider Solomon’s offering of 20,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. The mind-boggling and intricate religious system as practiced by the Jews, brought them no closer to God. The wisdom of God is displayed in the plan of salvation. [Describe the activities in Heaven prior to the laying of the foundation of the earth.]

The cry…”Whom shall I send?”

The response…“Here I am. Send Me!”

See 1 Peter 1:18-19. We are not redeemed by silver and gold, but by He “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” The wisdom of God is seen in the God-man…in the hypostatic union…in His deity…in His virgin birth, His sinless life, atoning death, glorious resurrection, and miraculous ascension…in the coming of the Holy Spirit and in Christ’s second coming (firstly to rapture the church, then to come back to earth to set up His kingdom). These great truths are the comprehensive display of the power and wisdom of God.


The Message

The success of the early church was because of the purity of its message. Despite diabolical opposition, the apostles never deviated from the preaching of Christ crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again. They were strong believers of the resurrection. The early preachers combined the death and resurrection of Christ. They maintained that He not only died, and was buried, but that He rose again, and showed Himself to many believers. See 1 Corinthians 15.

Writing to the Roman church (Rom. 4:25), Paul said, “He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification.” Romans 10:9 says, we must believe in the resurrection to be saved. This was the message the early evangelists preached; there is no other.


The Members Chosen

See 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. As the pure Gospel was preached in Corinth, many were saved. The majority of those in fellowship at Corinth were from the lower strata of society. God called a few of the influential and of noble birth. He chose more of the uneducated, the weak, the lowly, the despised, and the ones who were of no account.

[Note the words calling or called mentioned three times in 1 Corinthians 1:24-26. Note also the word chosen in v. 27-28.] It is God who calls and it is God who chooses. This is a point that is often missed. Ephesians 1:4 says, “chosen before the foundation of the world.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “Because God from the beginning hath chosen you to salvation.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “It is the gift of God.” Only those who are chosen by God are members of the True Church – the Bride of Christ. [Consider the difference between professors and possessors.] 


The Method Paul Used to Win Souls

1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul was one of the most highly educated men of his day. Academic achievement was no stranger to him. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. In Philippians 3 he gives a resume of his achievements. If any man could have dazzled the Corinthians with worldly wisdom and oratory it was Paul.

See 1 Corinthians 2:1. He says he did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom. In verse 4 he continues by saying, “My preaching was not with persuasive words.” Paul came to Corinth in weakness, fear, and with much trembling, but miraculously, his simple words were filled with Holy Spirit power. Men were convicted of sin through righteousness judgment. Men and women were convinced that they were sinners and cried out for mercy. Lives were changed. Of course, there can be no salvation without a prior work of the Holy Spirit.


Spiritual Maturity

This is a facet of Christian life that is often neglected. Are you a mature Christian? Have you grown into spiritual manhood and womanhood? In your present spiritual condition you fall into one of three categories: You are (1) A spiritual babe, (2) A carnal believer, or (3) A mature Christian. Mature believers are the minority in the Church today. The church is full of spiritual babes and carnal believers. The Corinthian church was full of carnal Christians and spiritual babes. Paul had to feed them with milk. They could not digest strong food.

This is the situation presently in the church. Far too many of us are uncertain and unstable in our faith. It is true that we are saved, but our faith is secondary to many things in our life (careers, professions, sports, things, our own egos). In this carnal state, the world, the flesh and the devil control us, and there is no spiritual growth or progress. We are like children tossed about with every wind of doctrine. See Ephesians 4. This carnal state is the cause of the sterility – stagnation and powerlessness of the Church. So many miss so much. Perhaps you are one of those. Oh the blessings, beauties, and glories that are to be found in Christ for the mature believer! [Describe]

1 Corinthians 2:9 is not for the future life, but for the present. “No eye has seen, and no ear has heard, neither has the human mind conceived the things that God will give to those who love them and walk with Him.” I invite you this morning to come like Mary and sit at the feet of our Lord…Or to be like John and lean on the Savior’s breast. Then you will experience joy unspeakable and, full of glory, you will experience a peace that passes all understanding.