In last week’s lesson, we began our spring quarter of Sunday School lessons under the title of Training.  Our unit of lesson for the first half of this quarter is titled:  Instructions to a Troubled Church.  In our lesson last week, we took a look at Paul speaking about divisions or sects forming within the church.  In our lesson this week, we are going to be taking a look at worldly wisdom and how it is foolish compared to the wisdom of the Lord.  This week’s lesson is being taught from 1 Corinthians 1:17-31.

The Wisdom of God

Now, this is another subject that you have heard me talk about a great deal.  I focus a great deal on worldly logic versus the logic of the Lord.  The reason as to why I focus so much on this subject is because there are far more people consumed by worldly logic compared to those of spiritual logic.  Even more, there are many who profess to be believers of God that are consumed and led by worldly logic – this should and cannot be the case.

Power of the cross

So, our lesson opens with Paul stating that he was sent to preach the gospel, not with “wisdom of words” (v.17).  So, what does Paul mean by this opening statement?  As we are going to see in the follow up verse, the message of the cross is powerful.  We would think that our faith begins with the birth of Christ.  Now, in order for us to have faith in Christ, as John states, we have to believe that He was born a virgin’s birth.

In his first epistle, John stated, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2).  So, yes, believing that Christ was born a virgin’s birth and is truly the Son of God is of the utmost importance to our faith.  Yet, I tell you that our faith begins at the cross.  You see, it was at the cross where Christ died for us and became our propitiation.

Without His death, there would be no appeasement offering to the Lord and we would still be lost in the bondage of sin.  Without Him dying on the cross, and there being no appeasement offering, there would still be a dividing wall between us and the Lord.  What this means is that we would not have an intercessor nor would we be able to go directly to Him in prayer.  Let us understand that without the death of Christ, there would be no forgiveness of our trespasses and no salvation (deliverance) from our sin.

So, we should all understand that there is power in the cross.  Now, the last thing that Paul wanted to do is take away from the power of the cross.  So, what Paul writes to us is that he did not want to take away from the power of the cross by using big words (wisdom of words) that people would not be able to understand.  Paul wanted people to clearly understand the gospel!

As we are all ministers of the gospels, we should have this same desire.  So, when we share the gospel, we should also share it in a manner where it is easily understood.  One of the greatest compliments I have ever received about my preaching of the gospel is that I preach or teach in a way where the message is easily understandable.

Foolishness of the world

Now, even though Paul preached the gospel very plainly and without big and eloquent words, there were many who were unable to understand or accept the gospel.  The gospel, I believe, is still preached plainly in our world today and yet, there are still many people who aren’t accepting of the message.  So why was that happening then and why is it still happening today?

Well, Paul tells us that those who are of the world will find the gospel to be foolish (v.18).  So, no matter how plain and simple Paul was sharing the gospel, those who were of the world found it to be a foolish message.  Let us understand, it was not that they could not necessarily understand the message, they were refusing to understand and accept the message.  

In their eyes, the gospel was utter nonsense so they ignored it and kept about in their way.  Again, the same still holds true in our world today.  There are many people who know of Christ – His birth, death, and resurrection – but to them, the gospel is just another tale (fable).  And what do we do when it comes to tales?  We pay them little to no attention.  The foolishness here is that those who are of the world are ignoring the power of the cross – the saving message of God.

God destroying man’s wisdom

 To speak further on this thought, we will see Paul then quotes from the book of Isaiah where the Lord said through the prophet, “Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden. (Is. 29:14)”

We have spoken about it before in the past, but the Lord knew that His only begotten Son would be a stumbling block for many people.  The reason why Jesus is such a big hurdle for so many people is because of the major flaw of mankind.  Mankind’s major flaw is our stubbornness.  Our stubbornness is such a big hurdle and that hurdle constantly blocks us from so many things.

Paul even questions, “Where is the wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputer of this age? (v.20)”  There were, and still are, many who are considered wise in the way of worldly wisdom, but are not to be found trying to learn and grow in the knowledge of the Lord.  

There are many scribes (or scholars) who are very smart, again, when it comes to worldly knowledge but are not to be found when it comes to learning and growing in the knowledge of the Lord.  There are many who are lawyers (disputers of this age) who, again, are very knowledgeable and studied in worldly matters but, again, are not to be found when it comes to growing in the knowledge of God.

When it comes to the Lord, our stubbornness blocks us from Him – His mercy, grace, blessings, and salvation.  So, what do you suppose we should do about our stubbornness?  I suppose we should learn to humble ourselves, right?  If we humble ourselves, then it becomes easier for us to learn and understand God’s gospel.  Yet, if we refuse to humble ourselves, then the gospel will always be difficult or foolish.

Believing what some believe is foolish

While the wise consider the gospel to be foolish, Paul speaks to how the Lord is pleased by those who choose to believe the message (v.21).  I can’t remember exactly what sermon it was that I preached because this was at the start of my preaching years, but I once preached about how I much rather revel in God’s “foolishness” than the world’s foolishness.

Of course foolishness and God certainly do not go together, but when some will say faith in the Lord is foolishness, I’m fine with seeming like I am a fool for the Lord.  Why is that the case?  For me, I would point out what I have already overcome through my faith in the Lord.  Because I know what the Lord has already done for me, I am faithful in what God will continue to do for me.  Not only that, I also know where my faith is going to take me and what my reward will be when my physical life crosses the finish line.

So, I am comforted in my faith and, again, I don’t mind appearing to be foolish to those who are of the world.  As Paul states, to those who are called, regardless of their nationality/race, the message of the cross (the gospel) truly is power and wisdom (vss.22-24).  Paul then stated, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (v.25).  Since we know this is true, why would we ever choose the world over the Lord?

Special Calling

So, someone may ask, who are the called?  A lot of times when we speak of being called by the Lord, we tie that to being called to preach the message.  Honestly, everyone has been called and this calling is to come to the Lord.  This calling is a calling to repent — to turn away from sin and to turn to the Lord.  Some will repent and some will not repent.  This is to say God has called everyone to come to Him but not everyone has answered God’s call.

God’s choosing

Paul touches on this thought when he states, “for you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (v.26).  To make this clear, this is not to say that God has not called wise, mighty, or noble people to Him.  This is to say that there are many people who are considered by worldly standards to be wise, mighty, and noble who have not believed (or accepted God’s call).

As we come to the close of our lesson this week, Paul touches on how the Lord calls us.  Paul tells us that the Lord chooses the foolish and weak things of the world to call us to Him (vss.27-28).  If we think about this for a moment, God often used people who were “nobody” to do special things.  

David may be the greatest example of this in scripture, right?  When Samuel showed up to Jesse and was looking for the next king of Israel to follow Saul, Jesse brought forth all of his sons for them to all be turned away by the Lord.  It was not until Jesse brought forth David, the little scrawny shepherd boy, that Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel.  Saul was a mountain of a man and had the look of a king, whereas David did not look like a king but he had a heart for the Lord and that was all that mattered.

Scripture is filled with many people who the Lord used that were similar to David.  I often mention the disciples and what people thought of them when they were ministering.  Most of the disciples were of Galilee and were fishermen; they were thought to be unintelligent.  So, when they began to minister, there were many people who had the notion that they were not bright people and turned away from what they would have assumed was nonsense.  Again, this is still happening in the world today when people refuse to listen to the gospel because of who is sharing the gospel.

Why God does the things He do

So, why does the Lord move in this manner?  Why does God shame the wise with things they would consider to be foolish?  Why does the Lord use the things considered to be weak to put to shame the mighty?  Paul tells us that God moved in such a way that nobody could boast about their own doing (v.29).  

You see, we are fully capable of taking credit for saving ourselves from sin if we were able to do such a thing.  Yet, the fact of the matter is that we cannot save ourselves from the punishment of a life of sin.  The only way that you and I can save ourselves from sin is through our faith in the Lord.   Again, the only way that you and I can be righteous is through our faith in the Lord.  

The Lord moves in this manner so that our rejoicing will not be something that we have done but because of what God has done.  We are righteous because God chose so.  Yes, we accepted the calling but God made it possible for us to have the opportunity.  We are sanctified, again, not because of something that we have done but all because of what the Lord did for us by giving us His only begotten Son.  Through our faith, we give God the glory (vss.30-31).


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