Tuesday, 25 March 2014
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. 1 Corinthians 1:21
Paul introduced the main thought of this section showing that the cross is the power of God unto salvation and that the thoughts of man, no matter how high and lofty, are foolishness when considered apart from the cross.
Thinking on the great mental achievements of man – philosophical, logical, scientific, etc., we find that none of them bring us any closer to how to actually be saved. They may be filled with incredible amounts of knowledge and yet still not explain what is truly important. Yes, it’s interesting to know about quasars in the farthest reaches of the galaxies, but if we are destined to perish apart from God, what difference does the knowledge of them make?
And so Paul begins verse 21 with “For since…” Because the sage, the scribe, and the disputer could never attain to the highest and most important knowledge of all, “in the wisdom of God” another path was chosen to reveal that knowledge. Why is that important? The reason is that salvation is completely separate from human ability, endeavor, or determination. If the very highest aspect of man (the intellectual mind) cannot attain to God, then whatever God gives to bring that reconciliation is greater than that highest aspect of man.
Though “the world through wisdom did not know God” is reaffirming the concept that the sage, the scribe, and the disputer (these highest offices in man’s understanding) still don’t know Him. They may be able to deduce there is a God. They may be able to deduce things about this God. They may even be able to know that there is a disconnect between this God and themselves. However, they have absolutely no idea how to resolve the disconnect.
The sage who gives advice can only say, “I think” this is the answer (while being wrong), or he can simply lie and make up a religion, which is why there are so many false religions.
The scribe can pull out his many texts on science, logic, philosophy, etc and say “these don’t resolve that particular problem.” Again, when this fails, he can make up a fib – “The universe created itself. There is no God. Problem solved!” Unfortunately, the problem isn’t solved.
The disputer can argue back and forth with a classroom full of inquisitive minds about a relationship with God, but the answers will always fall short of satisfying those inquisitive minds. Like the scribe, he can make up a tale and tell the world the problem is solved – “We evolved from lower species. Natural selection and evolution have brought us to where we are.” But again, we know that there is sin in the world and one cannot evolve into “sin.” There would be no consideration of wrongdoing if natural selection were true.
No matter what approach is considered, without God’s special revelation, the wisdom of the world cannot know God. And so because of this, God demonstrates His ultimate wisdom in a way which thus confounds the greatest thinking of man. In this “it pleased God.” In other words, God is satisfied in the method that He chose because it demonstrates His omniscient authority over every man and over all men. This isn’t God “lording” his wisdom over us in an arrogant way, but His demonstration to us that this way is the perfect way. It allows the young child, the jungle dweller, the man on the street, and the business executive – and any other person who so chooses to accept it – to rely wholly and solely on Him. In it His grace is seen because there is a total and absolute reliance on Him.
And this beautiful, marvelous demonstration of God’s wisdom is “the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” It isn’t the preaching which saves, it is the message contained in the preaching. Therefore, the preacher is wholly dependent on the accuracy of the message. This again demonstrates that even the preacher and the listener are altogether dependent on God for salvation. If the preacher preaches a wrong message, intentionally or through incompetence, then there is no salvation. Thus, there is the responsibility on the listener to check up on the preacher.
In this, Paul calls the message preached “foolishness.” He will explain this in the coming verses, particularly verse 25. But to consider the context now will help us think through what he means. If the greatest minds in humanity, pursuing God through the greatest disciplines, cannot find how to be reconciled to Him, then whatever He devises for our reconciliation is higher than what those great minds with their great achievements can attain. And if that immensely great plan of God is mere “foolishness,” then imagine how stunningly awesome is the overall wisdom of God!
Life application: Never underestimate the greatness of God.
Lord God, the greatest minds of humanity can solve the most complex questions concerning science, logic, philosophy, and mathematics, but they cannot conceive of how we can be right with You. And yet, the message is so simple – the cross of Jesus Christ. If this message is beyond the most intellectual of all humans without You giving it, then how great You are! The message a child can understand is out of the reach of the genius until he receives it by faith. Thank You for demonstrating Your wisdom, even to me – a mere child. Amen.