“18 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. “
Paul makes a clear distinction between two groups here. Those who are perishing and those who are being saved. The only difference that I can see here between the two is the group being saved has had salvation initiated in them by God who makes His light shine into the heart to bring the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). God is the one who gives eyes to see and ears to hear (Proverbs 20:12). When God reveals the truth to a man, the man sees Christ and the cross for what it truly is: the power of God unto salvation.
“19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
God chose to bring judgment against the wise and those who understand according to the knowledge of men. We see the reason in verse 21.
“20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”
The work of God in Christ through the cross is the complete opposite of what men would devise. For the Jew, the Messiah would be a great and powerful warrior king. He would free them from the yoke of oppression and bring all the promises of God to fulfillment. Of course, Christ will do that at the Second Coming, but the wisdom of the Jewish leadership led them to ignore the suffering servant passages revealed in the prophets. Even the disciples of Jesus asked when He would restore the kingdom of Israel and fulfill that role (Acts 1:6). The gentile nations always followed the conquering leader. Strength in leadership. For Christ to be put to death was something they would never have imagined.
“21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
Paul clearly gives us the reason why God chose to destroy the wisdom of the world because through the greatest earthly wisdom, men did not know God. Therefore God is pleased to carry out His plan of salvation to save those who believe when the world considers it foolishness. They see the truth of Christ as something to be ridiculed. This fact is true even in our day. If you watch any of the secular shows about Jesus and the Bible they always have liberal “scholars” in interviews saying that Christ isn’t what the New Testament claims. Many say He never died on the cross. Many say that He never rose again. They sit there with a smirk and a look of contempt on their faces. It is a shame. For us, who are being saved, we see and know the truth. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and He was resurrected proving everything in the Bible true. From the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. We see it and believe it because God reveals it clearly to us.
“22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; “
The Jews did request signs, and even when Jesus performed miracles that no one else had ever done they didn’t believe. An example would be when Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth (John 9). No one had ever done that before. The Greeks who represent the enlightened, educated Gentiles of the day seek after wisdom. But they can’t accept Christ crucified as true wisdom because it doesn’t line up with what they believe. They want to believe what they have been taught growing up (tradition), what they believe to be wisdom (man made), or what they want to believe about (a) god(s) (man made religion). They will not believe the true word preached.
“23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,”
Men will not accept God’s plan. It is His design and His purpose. It is not what men want to believe. For the Jews, Jesus became the stone on which they would stumble. Which points to Jesus being God (Isaiah 8:13-15). And of course, Jesus is not what the Greeks wanted to believe. Anything men do not want to believe they will call foolish or other worse terms. When Paul preached the message at Athens he was mocked by a number of those who heard him (Acts 17:32).
“24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. “
The difference between those who are perishing and those being saved is shown in this verse. It is those who are called who see Jesus as God’s salvation and wisdom. And men do not see unless God reveals it to them, nor can they know God unless Christ reveals Him (Luke 10:21-23). Jesus is the power and wisdom of God in all things. Also, we see that God chose to save Jews and Gentiles through Christ. I love the text in Isaiah 49:6. It is too small a thing for Jesus to only bring salvation to the nation of Israel, therefore God made Him a light to the gentiles so that God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth. All glory be to His name.
“25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. “
I would say that the wisdom and strength of God can’t even be compared to men. His wisdom is so far above ours, and His strength can’t even be comprehended by us. Our brains are too small to conceive of Him in the fullness of His wisdom and strength. I do understand what Paul is saying here.
“26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. “
This section of 1 Corinthians is the only part of the New Testament where we get a little insight into God’s will and purpose in calling those He did. We get a very small sliver of understanding of God’s will and purpose in His election. We know He did not call many according to wisdom, strength, or nobility. Though He did call some because it is His desire that all classes of men are saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
“27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
God’s purpose in choosing those He has chosen is so that no one will be able to glory in His presence. So no one will be able to come before God in pride and arrogance. God hates the look of the haughty (Proverbs 6:16-17). God chose the foolish, the weak, base things, those who are despised, and those things that are not. Those few who are called from the noble, mighty, and wise will recognize that they really are not noble, mighty, and wise. They will see that they are really nothing just like everyone else. For the truth of the matter is that God has created all men equal and we are nothing but dirt. The only reason we have life is because God breathed life into us. We live because of Him.
“30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— “
The ESV says, “because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” This gives us a clear understanding that it is God’s choice, it is His calling, His election, and His work that brings us to Christ. We belong to Jesus because we were given to Him by the Father (John 17:6-11). Jesus is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption. He has done it all from beginning to end.
“31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” “
We cannot take credit for any part of our salvation. God and Christ did it all. All glory for our salvation goes to God. All glory and honor are due to Him. Our part is kneeling at His precious feet in worship and honor. Giving back to Him everything He has given us. Even the rewards and crowns we receive from Him are placed at His feet (Revelation 4:10). All glory and honor be to the name of Jesus Christ. Praise Him all you people from the least to the greatest.