1 Corinthians 1:18-30
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. 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. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Over the last two weeks we have been studying the truths taught in 1 Corinthians 1:18-30. The Bible clearly reveals that God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom are at war, and our minds are the battleground.
We’re focusing on four of the truths the Lord gives us through Paul’s letter.
- The first truth is that God cannot be understood by the natural man. His wisdom is beyond human logic.
- Secondly, God actually opposes human wisdom and He will ultimately destroy it. Man’s wisdom carries him further and further away from God and the truth.
Now, let’s consider two additional truths found in this text.
- Here is the third truth God decreed in His Word: humanity will never find Him through their own wisdom!
When I first learned this truth, I was somewhat taken aback. I thought, “Well certainly some people over the course of history have found God through their intellect, and their knowledge, and their own understanding.” But as I have studied God’s Word, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot come to God through human wisdom. Why? Because God says so! In fact, He has decreed it.
1 Corinthians 1:21 states, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” The world through its wisdom did NOT know Him! In John Piper’s book, Think, he writes this: “God decided, in His wisdom, that human wisdom would not be the path to knowing God. God’s wisdom dictated that He should hide Himself from ‘[the world’s] wisdom.’”
Paul writes in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians, “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ but God has revealed it (wisdom) to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:7-10).
God’s wisdom comes by the Spirit. And God has hidden His wisdom from the proud. The only path to understanding God is with the eyes and ears of the heart. This is why Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18 that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” The path to God is not by way of human reasoning. The path to God is by way of belief. One must come by the path of faith and be led by the Spirit.
Read the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:11-16: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them… This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”
The bottom line is this: People who try to wrap their minds around the mystery of God through their own logic will be forever hearing, but never understanding (Isaiah 6:9-10).
John Calvin said, “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” The other screen that blocks out the Spirit is confidence in our own religiosity, morality and the degree of self-confidence that misplaces our own wisdom to be above the Lord’s sovereignty. Thankfully, we do not bow to a God of our own making.
Human wisdom, human logic, and human learning blind the heart. Human reason tells us that we are basically good. Human logic tells us that we must earn our way to heaven. Human wisdom results in pride, and resists the truth of God’s Word. And thus, God has decreed that those who walk along the path of human wisdom will never know Him.
- Finally, here is the fourth truth we discover in this text: God only reveals Himself to the humble, and He takes great delight in this.
Listen to Paul’s call to those of us who are in Christ: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. 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. He 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.”
When you think back over your life, many of you came to Christ when God stripped away your pride. You may have had some financial crisis that took away your wealth. Or you may have lost your family through divorce. Or you may have been stripped of your health. Or maybe you were just born into a poor family, and you never had much materially. Maybe you never received much education.
God has graciously peeled back the layers of identity our fallen world has attempted to adorn us with. He has, in His infinite, unsearchable wisdom, taken us back to be His Own.
Your weakness and your need are what made you a great candidate to receive the wisdom of God. And when we get to heaven, I feel strongly that we will all thank Jesus forever for making you so weak and helpless as we’re renewed in His strength.
So, right now, thank Jesus for the struggle you are going through. Thank Jesus for your weakness. When you are weak, you have a better chance of turning to Jesus. And He is the One who makes you strong.
In fact, He prays this very same prayer for us, and continues to intercede on behalf of us to the Father. Luke 10:21 states, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”
Jesus is thanking the Father for revealing Himself to us through the Spirit (not our own wisdom), and the Triune God takes great delight in this.
When you come to the end of your human reasoning, and find yourself perplexed, turn to Jesus. When you come to the end of your pride, and find yourself all alone, turn to Jesus. When you come to the end of your success, and find yourself empty, turn to Jesus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Know He is praying on your behalf as we seek His wonderful face. Amen.