Click here to read the passage.
This is an incredibly powerful passage that we probably all know quite well. Paul is writing to a community that was divided by boasting about who was the wisest: specifically they argued about which teacher was the best with words, and therefore that those who followed him were the best educated and the wisest. Paul wants to smash that kind of thinking by turning the whole idea of wisdom upside down.
First of all, he says that his communication of the gospel in Corinth was not about wise words. In contrast, he says he was not eloquent or persuasive, but weak and afraid. Getting better at preaching, or learning some formula for communicating the message, will not necessarily mean more people coming to the Lord. It is the cross of Jesus which saves, not smart thinking or clever preaching. Faith thus rests on the power of God, not the wisdom of men.
This appears ridiculously foolish to the wise and intelligent of this world. Some days when I post from this blog onto facebook I cringe with anxiety about what my non-believing friends might think of me. I want to show them that following Jesus, believing in God, reading the Bible is all rational and helps us lead a better life. I want them to see signs, and discover wisdom; they are just like the Jews and the Greeks of Paul’s age. But there are days when I know that my facebook friends will think that I am foolish and crazy. Those are the days when I need to trust that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
And that God’s wisdom has trumped humanity’s wisdom. As Isaiah prophesied, wisdom and intelligence are annulled in the context of God’s judgment (Is 29:14). It was God’s plan, Paul argues, that humans could not find him by their own wisdom. If they could, it would unfairly privilege the naturally intelligent, those who have access to education, those who are born in good families. It would also allow those people to boast about who they are and what they have, as if salvation was dependent on themselves. But in God’s wisdom, he chose that which is foolish, those who are weak, people who have no family. Then there can be no boasting, for those people know they are saved only because of God’s amazing grace and favor.
It is only because of God that we exist in this relationship with him. Nothing we have done, nothing we are doing, nothing we will do earns us the right to be in Christ. In our feelings of failure and weakness, in our fears of looking foolish and even being foolish, Jesus is wisdom for us, and righteousness, and powerful redemption. The power to save is his, not ours. We are holy in him, as despised and rejected as we might feel ourselves to be. All we need do, in God’s wisdom, is believe.
Prayer: God, your ways are inscrutable to me! Trusting you doesn’t always make sense. I hate looking foolish, Lord, but if that’s who I am, so be it. Your foolishness is wiser than the world’s wisdom. Thank you for choosing me, in my foolishness and weakness, and even my struggle to trust you.