by Mike Ratliff
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 ESV)
What is the preaching of the cross? This is God’s total revelation, the Gospel in all its fullness. This preaching or teaching is centered in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. It also includes the entire divine plan and provision for the redemption of sinners. This is the theme of all Sacred Scripture. This teaching is foolishness to those who are perishing. The Greek word that forms “foolishness” here is the root word for our English word “moron.” It means “absurdity.” Those who are perishing see the message of the cross as utter foolishness or moronic or absurd. What does it mean that they are perishing? The Greek word that is translated as “them that perish” is a present participle. It implies continuous or repeated action. Later in v18 we have the term “saved.” It is also a present participle.
What is this telling us? The Greek Interlinear for v18 reads, “For the word of the cross is truly foolishness to those being lost; but to us being saved, it is the power of God.” There are two groups of people on this planet. There are those being saved and those being lost. This is speaking of a process. Those being saved are in the process of salvation. It will not be completed until the redemption of the body. (Romans 8:23; Romans 13:11) Everyone else is in the process of destruction. What makes the difference? Those being saved responded to the message or preaching of the cross by receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour. Christ rejecters are in the process of destruction. (Ephesians 2:1,2) To them, the Gospel is nonsense. To those being saved, it is powerful wisdom.
The phrase, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” is a quote from Isaiah 29:14. This prophecy is in process and will be fulfilled when Christ sets up His Kingdom. When the Kingdom of God comes in fulfillment, all human wisdom will die.
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 ESV)
Human wisdom always proves to be unreliable and temporal. There are some comments or emails that we receive on this blog that are 100% human wisdom and philosophy. If we do not have an eternal perspective with our hearts full of God’s wisdom then we can be deceived and misled by their wise sounding words and criticisms. However, as I stated earlier, their arguments are always of the Straw Man variety and are from a temporal perspective. They sound wise, but are based on incomplete or invalid assumptions. Where is the wise? God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:27-28 ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9 ESV)
God has chosen to use the foolishness of the cross and it’s preaching to save those who believe. Why did God do it this way? It is to exclude boasting. Genuine salvation is the result of God’s work in those whom He saves in such a way that no one may boast. Therefore, we must conclude that in that process man is the object of it not the instigator of it. Natural man looks at the cross and the message of the Gospel and scoffs. However, when the Holy Spirit moves through the preaching of it, opening hearts to it, then the object of God’s love sees it as the most glorious wisdom. Then they see the wisdom of the world as the ultimate foolishness.
God’s ways are not man’s ways. Neither are God’s thoughts man’s thoughts. God saves sinners by a process that the world sees as moronic. That is why believers must abstain from accumulating the wisdom of the world and, instead, seek the ways of God and treasure up His truth in their hearts until that day when their redemption is complete.
Soli Deo Gloria!