Problems Plaguing a Local Church, Part 3

In our message, THE POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD (1 Cor. 1:19-31), we continued our new series in the book of First Corinthians. After his greeting to them and thanksgiving to God for their salvation, Paul started to address the first problem at the church in Corinth dealing with party factions and schisms (1 Cor. 1:1-17; Gal. 5:20; James 4:1-5, etc.). He then points them back to their identity in Christ via the gospel (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:20, etc.). “CHRIST [and what He did for us in saving us (the gospel) is] THE POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD” (1 Cor. 1:24b, caps my emphasis). The Bible shows us here “the message of the cross” will have one of two effects on people: it will be considered “foolishness to those who are perishing,” but to Christians it “is the power of God” (not just when we were saved [justified] and, in the future, when Christ comes for us [glorification], but NOW when/if we walk with Him today -1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 10:12-14; 1 John 1:9; Eph. 5:18, etc.).

God’s plan of salvation is simple so anyone can understand, and it is a free-gift that discards “the cleverness of the intelligent” bringing to nothing the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 1:19 NET). Verse 19 is a quotation of Isaiah 29:14 which also reminds us we cannot reach God by human wisdom (i.e. “the commandments of men” Isa. 29:13), nor can we tell Him what to do because He made us and is the Creator of all things (Isa. 29:15-16; Col. 1:15-17; Rev. 4:8, 11, etc.).

“So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? …” (I Cor. 1:20a NLT). Today this would include university professors, those with doctorates, engineers, scientists, politicians, news media and all other ‘experts’ in our culture WHO RELY ON HUMAN WISDOM to try to answer the questions of life… God’s Word says they remain lost because they have refused to hear the only message that saves: “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:18, 23; John 3:16; 14:6, etc.). The brilliance of man cannot appreciate the plan of God (1 Cor. 1:21; Isa. 55:8-9, etc.), nor can it save him because it refuses God’s gift of eternal life found in the only Savior of the world (John 1:12-13, 29, etc.). “We preach Christ crucified” because only “the message of the cross” (i.e. the Gospel) solves the human problem of sin before holy God (1 Cor. 1:18, 23). Tragically, many religious people still stumble and refuse this simple message today as they try to work their way into heaven (Titus 3:5, etc.), and multitudes of non-religious people also still mock this gift from God saying it is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23b). But the so-called “foolishness of God [i.e. dying on the cross] is wiser than men, and the [so-called] weakness of God is stronger than” the greatest human achievements of history (1 Cor. 1:25; Phil. 2:5-8, etc.). The truth is Jesus went to the cross for them also to die for their sin because God loves the whole world (John 3:14-18). Sadly, only someone who realizes his or her need for a Savior will have the opportunity to come to Him (John 16:8-11; Rom. 3:23, etc.), and those who refuse to come to God His way will be lost (1 Cor. 1:18; Acts 4:12; John 3:7; 8:24; Rev. 20:11-15, etc.).

The brothers and sisters in the Corinthian church were then reminded by Paul of their human condition when they first became saved: “not many [of them were] wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, [and] not many noble…” (1 Cor. 1:26). In fact, the majority of the church there came from the lowest rungs of the culture in that day- the “base” and “despised” positions (1 Cor. 1:28). Yet many of these same people were fighting over who was to be in charge and wanting to lord it over others! (1 Cor. 1:11; Gal. 5:20; Matt. 20:25-26, etc.). God sovereignly “chose” them BY GRACE as part of His divine plan “to put to shame” those people who considered themselves “mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27), and our “calling” as Christians is to reflect God well- so light can shine brightly in the darkness of our culture (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20; John 119:105, etc.). Since our salvation is wholly of grace, it is absolutely certain we will have nothing to boast of in that day when we stand before the Lord (1 Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Cor. 5:9-10, etc.).

Paul then closes out this chapter reminding them (and us) of all we have in Christ. Because we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, we have “wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). And we also by grace possess “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). That is, we have been saved from the penalty of sin (righteousness); we are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification); and we shall be saved from the presence of sin one day (redemption) when Christ comes for us (Rom. 4:24-25; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 8:23, etc.). In view of all we have in Christ, we are called to have lives that boast in Him today- filled with “Christ the power… and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24; Amos 3:3; 1 John 1:9; Eph 5:18; Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:20, etc.).