Commentary on 1st Corinthians

 August 5, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #2: The Problem of Divisions, 1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21

 


Lesson 2.2: Jews and Greeks and Wisdom
 
Scripture 1 Corinthians 1.18-1.25


1 Cor 1:18-25 (KJV)

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


Introduction

Paul had the best Jewish education available at that time; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the essential point and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, and the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if put in plain words by a child of God, appears foolish to those on the road to destruction. The immoral, the greedy, the self-righteous, and pompous, know that the Gospel opposes their favorite activities. But those who receive the gospel with faith, and whose minds are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God has allowed most of the world to follow the dictates of man's corrupt nature, and the outcome has shown that human wisdom is foolishness, and is unable to discover or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased Him, through the foolishness of preaching, to save those that believe in Christ. By the foolishness of preaching, I don’t mean foolish preaching; what I mean is that the subject matter of the message was foolishness to men who were wise by the world’s standards. The Gospel has always been, and forever will be, foolishness to all who are on the road to destruction. The Gospel of Christ, plainly preached, has always been a decisive factor by which men may determine the road they are travelling. But the despicable doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Savior, who was God in a human being, and who purchased the church with his own blood, to save all that believe in Him from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed by Holy God in every age. And the weakest instruments used by God are more powerful and effective, than the strongest men can use. It is not that there is any foolishness or weakness in God, but what men may consider foolishness or weakness, overcomes all their wisdom and strength.


Commentary

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

For the preaching of the cross
The cross mentioned here is not the Christian’s cross, which He must take up and bear for Christ’s sake; although it is a doctrine that Christ and His apostles  taught, and all His saints down through the ages have found to be true.  It is the cross that was held in contempt by those who love the things of the world instead of Christ. It is the cross of Christ; the doctrine of salvation through faith in a crucified Savior; or the doctrine of peace and reconciliation with God by the blood of the cross, and the doctrine of righteousness, pardon, and atonement by Christ offering himself on it as a sacrifice for sin.

What follows in this verse are the two effects of the preaching of the cross. To those who perish it is foolishness, but to those who are saved it is the power of God. It is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God, v. 23, v. 24. Christ crucified is a stumbling-block to the Jews. They could not get over it. They had a smugness that came from the belief that their expected Messiah was to be a great earthly prince, and therefore they never would accept One who had such a poor appearance in life, and died such a shameful death, for their deliverer and king. They hated him, and thought He was despicable, because he was hanged on a tree, and because he did not humor them with a miracle, though his divine power had been on display in numerous miracles. The Jews require a sign (See verse 22 and Mt. 12:38).

Today, there are those who like to say that Christ died as a martyr on the cross. But that is foolishness, because if that was all it amounted to, there would be nothing that would appear contemptible, or would excite the opposition any more than the death of any other martyr. The statement that Polycarp, and Ignatius, and Paul, and Cranmer, died as martyrs, does not appear to be foolishness, because it is a statement of an historical truth, and their death excites the high admiration of all men. And if, in the death of Jesus on the cross, there had been nothing more than a mere martyr's death, it would also have been the object of admiration for all men. But the "preaching of the cross" must mean something more than that; and must mean:
(1.) That Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men, and that it was this which gave such significance to his sufferings on the cross.
(2.) That men can be reconciled to God, pardoned, and saved only by the merits and influence of this atoning sacrifice.

Matt 12:38 (KJV) Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. we would see a sign from thee -- "a sign from heaven" (Lu 11:16); something of an immediate and decisive nature, to show, not that His miracles were real, because they seemed willing to concede that, but that they were from above, not from beneath. These men were not in the same class with those who charged Him with being in league with Satan (as we see from Lu 11:15, 16); but since the spirit of both was similar, the rebuke they received from Him was similar.

is to them that perish
There are only two classes of men known to exist in those places where the Gospel is preached: the unbelievers, who are perishing; and the obedient believers, who are in a state of salvation. To those who will continue in the first state, the preaching of salvation through the merit of a crucified Savior is stupidity. To those who believe this doctrine of Christ crucified there is the power of God to their salvation; it is divinely successful in delivering them from all the power, guilt, and pollution of sin.

All mankind, male and female, at one time or another, are in a lost and perishing condition, because of sin, and a lack of righteousness. There are some, however, who will not perish; because the Son has redeemed them, and the Spirit sanctifies them; but there are others who do perish in their sins; wicked and ungodly men, captivated by their own lusts and blinded by Satan, the god of this world. These people are lost, and the Gospel that they consider foolishness is hid from them; but why should we care what they think about it, since they are no more capable of judging the wonder and wisdom of the Gospel, than a blind man is of identifying the color of something. But for us who are saved by faith in the Son of God; whose souls are securely kept for eternity in Christ, for whom Christ has fashioned and worked out our salvation; and to whom it is applied by the Spirit of God; we are able to enjoy fellowship with Christ and abundant grace.

them that perish (see 2 Cor 2:15-16)—is better stated, "them that are perishing," namely, by preferring human "wisdom of words" to the doctrine of the "cross of Christ." It is not the final state that is referred to; but, "them that are undergoing the process of perishing.” The reason men perish is simply because they stubbornly reject the only name whereby they can be saved.

2 Cor 2:15-16 (KJV) For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

foolishness;
A lot of people don’t like the preacher when he uses the cross as the subject of a sermon; and the reason they don’t like it is that it didn’t originate from man's wisdom, and man didn’t have a part in designing it or discovering it; and when it is revealed it is very disagreeable to carnal minds. They say this way of preaching is very impolite and out of fashion, and therefore it is despised; it is a doctrine which is not acceptable to the wise and highly educated. In every age it has been disliked and stigmatized as either a strange or shameful doctrine.  But it is the only doctrine God has given for conversion, which gives comfort to troubled souls, and is food for the faith of believers; it contains the highest wisdom; is wiser than the wisdom of men; it has made foolish the wisdom of this world, and is the only thing able to make a man wise unto salvation; and yet this doctrine is labeled foolish by those who are perishing.

The Greek philosopher and the Jewish scribe scoffed at the thought of a Savior who had been crucified. They said publicly that his crucifixion proved that he was not divine.

To the great mass of the Jews, and to the heathen philosophers, and indeed to the majority of the men of this world, the preaching of the cross appears to them to be distasteful and foolish, or unworthy of belief. It has always been considered foolishness, for the following reasons:
(1) The humble origin of the Lord Jesus. They despised him because he lived in Nazareth, and was poor; he had no home, few friends, no wealth, and little honor among his own countrymen.
(2) They despised him because he was put to death as an impostor by his own countrymen. It was a disgraceful death, because he was crucified like a criminal.
(3)  They did not see any particular usefulness in his death. They thought it was incredible for anyone to think that he could save them, when he couldn’t save himself.
(4) They were blind to the true dignity of his nature; to his power over the sick, the lame, the dying, and the dead; they don’t see the bearing of the work of atonement on the law and government of God; they did not believe in his resurrection, and his present state of exalted glory. The world looks only at the fact that the despised man of Nazareth was put to death on a cross, and smiles at the idea that such a death could have any important influence on the salvation of man. Therefore, his death on the cross was associated with the idea of all that is shameful and dishonorable; and to speak of salvation only by the sufferings and death of a crucified man, could only excite feelings of unmingled scorn.

but unto us which are saved
This clause is a reference to the initial salvation experience of the believer when he receives Jesus by faith. This truth is given to us in Ephesians 2.5-9 (see below). The word saved describes the present condition of the believer’s life here upon the earth, and it points to the final and permanent deliverance of the believer which occurs when the Lord Jesus comes for His saints in the Rapture. Between these two great events, we are being saved moment by moment by the blood of Jesus Christ which covers all our sins, past, present, and future.

The pronoun “us” is in a position of emphasis, suggesting the joy in the benefit bestowed upon the writer (Paul) and the reader (the believers in the church at Corinth, as well as you and me). Paul does not say “to THEM that are saved,” but “to US”, making himself one with the believers in Corinth, and also one with believers today.

Eph 2:5-9 (KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

it is the power of God.
The preaching of the cross, or what is called “The Gospel” is the means of making men alive when they are dead in sin, of enlightening their dark minds, of unstopping their deaf ears, of softening their hard hearts, of making them friends with God, Christ, and his people: and it is also a wonderful display of the power of God; which can be observed in those that were the first preachers. They were, for the most part, men who were poor, illiterate, and unimpressive; they were fishermen, tent makers, tax collectors, etc.  Into these earthen vessels was put the treasure of the Gospel, so that the success they achieved would appear to be of God, and not man. The doctrine they preached, of a crucified Christ, was disagreeable to men; as was the method they used to spread it—not with the force of worldly weapons, but with spiritual ones; moreover, they withstood opposition from rabbis, philosophers, princes, kings, and emperors, and all the countries and powers of the world; and yet in just a short time they managed to carry the Gospel throughout the world, and to convert millions of souls, and to plant churches everywhere.

The Gospel is the only message that contains the dynamite of God (see 1 Corinthians 4:20). God's power is shown in the preaching of the Cross of Christ through all the ages, and it has never changed. No other preaching takes men and women from sin to holiness or can save them. The conclusion of Paul here is the verdict of every soul winner through all time

1 Cor 4:20 (KJV) For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. For the kingdom of God—The religion of the Lord Jesus is not in word—in human eloquence, excellence of speech, or even in doctrines; but in power, in the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit; enlightening, quickening, converting, and sanctifying believers.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

For it is written,
The passage referred to is Isaiah 29:14 (see below) where it says, "Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear” (NLT). It is rendered this way by the Septuagint, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will hide the understanding of the prudent": which is very similar to the apostle's version of it: and the gist of the prophecy is, that during the present Gospel dispensation, the mysteries of grace would be hid from the wise rabbis of the Jews, and the Scribes and Pharisees, who, despite all their wisdom and learning, would not be able to comprehend the doctrines of the Gospel, and consequently they would call it foolishness and reject it. It has been true for as long as the Gospel has been around.

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
This clause continues to replicate Isaiah 29.14 with only slight alteration. The Hebrew is, "The wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is making GOD the cause of their wisdom perishing, when he says, “I will destroy.” God will set aside the wisdom and understanding of wise men; these will not save; but he will save by what the world called foolishness. The wise men are the philosophers who try to find God in their research, and whose greatest discoveries amount to nothing in comparison to the magnificent truths concerning God, the spiritual world, and the true destiny of man, which the Gospel has brought to light. Let me add, that the very discoveries which are really useful have been made by men who feared God, and conscientiously credited Divine revelation for their achievement: for example, consider Newton, Boyle, Pascal, and many others. But all the skeptics and deists (see below), through the ruse of a universal church and the morality of men, have not been able to save one soul! No sinner has ever been converted from the error of his ways by their preaching or writings: the Church of Scientology is such an organization.

There is such a thing as the ignorance of the learned, the wisdom of the simple-minded. God's wisdom as found in the preaching of the Cross rises above human philosophizing which is still making fun of the Cross of Christ, the culmination of God's power.

Deist—a person who believes there is a god, because there is order in nature; but, doesn’t believe in any formal religion.

and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Here, those who are wise in the estimation of the world are called “prudent,” and God says He is going to destroy their wisdom (their opinion of Him and His kingdom.). The apostle proves that this should not seem strange, seeing that it was predicted so long ago by the prophet Isaiah: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (Isa. 29.14)… Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (Isa. 29.19, 20)”. God often punishes the wise of the world in such a way that everything they worked for and considered to be important becomes worthless. This is the triumph of the cross over human wisdom, according to the ancient prophecy (Isa. 29:14). All the valued learning of this world was confounded, baffled, and eclipsed, by the Christian revelation and the glorious triumphs of the cross. The heathen politicians and philosophers, the Jewish rabbis and doctors, the curious searchers into the secrets of nature, were all put to shame. This Theology of the Cross was out of the reach of the deepest statesmen and philosophers, and the most respected men of learning both among the Jews and Greeks. Its success managed to confound and perplex them. They despise it, and they do not see its secret power: they witnessed its effects, but are unable to explain them. It has always been a mystery to philosophers why the gospel met with such success; and the various attempts to account for it, which have been given by its enemies, show how much they have been embarrassed. The reception of the Gospel demands a humble mind, (see Mark 10:15, 16). Sensible men with humble hearts and child-like temperament embrace it; and they see its beauty, and are won by its loveliness, and controlled by its power. They give themselves to it; and find that it is able to save their souls.

 In this one respect, Christianity is like all science: “The new discoveries of science are just as likely to bewilder the wise, and change their opinions as the gospel is, and consequently to show that both are from the same God; the God who delights to pour such a flood of truth on the mind, so that a person is in awe of Him and becomes convicted of his own littleness.” The most profound theories in science, and the most subtle speculations of brilliant men, in regard to the causes of things, are often overthrown by a few simple discoveries--and discoveries which are at first despised as much as the gospel is. The invention of the telescope by Galileo was, to the theories of philosophers and astronomers, what the revelation of the gospel was to the systems of ancient learning, and the deductions of human wisdom. The one confounded the world as much as the other; and both were at first equally the object of opposition or contempt.

Mark 10:15-16 (KJV) Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.


20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

Where is the wise? where is the Scribe?
These are the apostle's own words; though he may allude to Isaiah 33:18 (see below), where there are some words similar to these, but the meaning is very different. There is no doubt that the apostle has the Jews immediately in view. Paul is saying, "In light of what God says in Isaiah 29:14 (see below), where is your 'wise' man? Where is your scribe? Where is your disputer of this age? God has made them all foolish through His wisdom. He has destroyed the wisdom of the wise, just as He said He would." In this quotation, Paul shows that in spiritual matters, God opposes the wisdom of man. He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, not bow down before it. The deliverance of Judea from Sennacherib is what Isaiah refers to; in a bold and beautiful allusion to which, the apostle’s inspired words triumph over all the opposition of human wisdom to the victorious gospel of Christ. What could the wise men of the gentiles do against this? or the Jewish scribes? or the disputers of this world?

The apostle seems to allude to a distinction that was prevalent among the Jews between wise men, Scribes, and mystical interpreters of the word. They had their "wise men", which was a general name for men of learning and knowledge; the Greek philosophers. In Greek, the term "philosopher" means a lover of wisdom. This wisdom of theirs induced them to search through the sacred oracles for any rationalization but the true one; and they made the word of God ineffectual by their traditions. They had their "Scribes", the Jewish learned class who interpreted the law in the literal and grammatical sense. They had their "preachers, or disputers", who diligently investigated the hidden implications of the Scriptures, debated about them, and taught them in their schools. These three are sometimes regarded as one group, and at other times they are treated as distinct from each other.

Centuries later, but modeled after the Jewish wise men, there arose a class called the schoolmen; and they rendered the doctrine of the Gospel of no effect by their hypercritical questions, and endless distinctions without differences. By the preaching of Christ crucified, God made the wisdom of the Jewish wise men simple foolishness; and, after the pure religion of Christ had been corrupted by a Church that was of this world, God rendered the wisdom and disputing of the schoolmen foolishness, by the revival of pure Christianity during the Reformation. The Jews themselves claim that nothing is wise, nothing strong, and nothing rich, without God.

The point made is this: THERE IS NO WISE MAN, NO SCRIBE, AND NO DEBATER WHO CAN DO WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE.

Isaiah 33:18 (KJV) Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?

Isaiah 29:14 (KJV) Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

where is the disputer of this world?
The disputer is a reference to the Jewish world, where there were men who pretended to possess knowledge of the more obscure principles, and of concepts that are difficult to understand; which some call mysteries; where are these men? They are not to be found among those that God uses to preach the Gospel; he has moved them out-of-the-way, and chosen others. Where are they? What use have they been to mankind? Are the men that follow their instructions better off, either in principle or practice? Where are the thousands that have been brought to Christ by their wisdom, like those who have been born again through the preaching of faithful ministers of the Gospel? Where are they? Let them come before the Judge and present their cause, and give their strong reasons against the Gospel they consider foolishness, and try to stand before its superior power and wisdom; where are they? They are fools, with all their wisdom and learning? The clause may be restated this way, "where is the searcher, or inquirer of this world?" They may be like those persons whom the Jews call, "the wise men of search, or inquiry", and sometimes, "the men of search, or inquiry"; they are those who investigate the nature of things, and who study natural philosophy. Probably the Greek teachers who "disputed daily" in the public places, were this type, as well as the Jews that gave daily dissertations in the synagogues.

The disputers that I have encountered are concerned with minor issues; and they ignore the essential issues that are the basis of the Christian faith; they ask, “Did Adam have a belly button?  How many wise men were there? What came first; the chicken or the egg.” Their focus is on the gifts of the Spirit, healing, prophesy, speaking in tongues. These are legitimate topics for discussion, but don’t forget that Jesus gave us an assignment: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 (KJV). Witnessing for Jesus should be the focus of every ministry and of every Christian.

Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
There is a certain pride on display when a man proclaims, “I am a man of the world.”  By this he infers that he is worldly-wise, and sophisticated; but men of the world, the greatest minds in it, when presented with the Gospel, are not able to understand it. God will lay aside their wisdom because it is useless in the business of salvation. He shows that it is vain and empty, and of no use in things that are spiritual and divine. He can detect by their response to the Gospel, the hypocrisy and deceit of men, and show that the schemes of both Jews and Gentiles abound with foolishness, with stupid notions, and that they are full of gross errors and fatal mistakes. God has shown the world's philosophy to be foolish, because it lacks faith in Christ crucified; He has not used it in converting and saving men (see 1 Corinthians 1.21, 22).

of this world means "of this dispensation (or age),” as it is used in the previous clause, where it says where is the disputer of this world?  It is a reference to the worldly order of things from a moral point of view, as opposed to the Christian dispensation or order of things; but here, in this clause, we have the world viewed externally as part of the universe. The Almighty hath…made foolish the wisdom of this world by the originality and superior effectiveness of his plan of salvation; He has poured contempt on all the schemes of philosophers. And without the aid of those schemes of men, but in opposition to them, he has devised a plan for human salvation that proves its effectiveness and its wisdom by the conversion of sinners, and by destroying the power of wickedness. When Paul wrote this, he may have had the language in Isaiah 44:25 in mind: That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish.

History is one long dramatic denial of the world's wisdom. The pyramids of Egypt, upon which generations of men worked for centuries, are merely colossal monuments to human stupidity. The textbooks of a generation ago are worthless today. No human government has ever been permanent. Every mystery ever solved unlocks a hundred others and raises infinitely more questions than are answered, leading to the conviction that the ultimate wisdom on the part of people can never be attained by new formulas and gadgets; that the infinite wisdom is a person, Almighty God, and that people may know him only through Jesus Christ our Lord.


21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Quarreling and divisiveness had erupted among the Corinthians in the name of “wisdom.” The people within the church had aligned themselves with various Christian leaders, boasting in the wisdom of one over the other. The theme of wisdom dominates Paul’s dialogue in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul argued that God’s wisdom is foolishness to humanly-conceived wisdom. On their own, people fail to know God. They can only gain a true knowledge of God through the Spirit, whom they receive upon believing the “foolishness” of the gospel. Paul asserted that it pleased God to arrange things in this manner. If God were to be found through human wisdom, He would only be accessible to the elite. But by extending salvation through His “foolishness” (which is wiser than men), God forces His creation to trust and glory in Him, and not in the wisdom of sinful flesh: “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor 1:29; KJV)

For after that in the wisdom of God
The wisdom of God has definitely made the wisdom of men appear foolish, and this passage gave a reason for the infatuation of men for the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God means one of two things:
1. It is Christ, who is the wisdom of God; who was in the world, and yet the world of the Jews, and their chief Rabbis, with all their wisdom, neither knew him, nor God his Father.
2. Or, it is the Gospel, which is also called the wisdom of God; and although it had already come into the world of the Jews and the Gentiles, yet neither of them knew the God of grace, by their natural wisdom, even though He is so obviously revealed in it.
And they did not know the God of creation or His works of creation, even though there is in nature such a visible display of the wisdom of God: yet "the world by wisdom knew not God."  The Gentiles did not know Him in any spiritual and saving manner, as He is in Christ, or as the God of all grace; and, they knew him not as the God of nature, or as the one, only, true God; they did not glorify him as God, or worship him in the right way.

Worldly wisdom did not search for the true God, because if it did, it would have found Him; because the entire creation declares its creator; and He declared Himself by all the prophets He sent to them. But it pleased God to save them that believe, by a way which those who perish consider to be mere foolishness...

the world by wisdom knew not God,
The world by wisdom becomes clearer when revised to say "by its wisdom," or "its philosophy" (see John 1:10 , Romans 1:28 ).
 
knew not God—whatever knowledge man has acquired, it does not include a personal knowledge of God (see Acts 17. 23, 27). The deistic theory that man can by the light of nature discover his duty to God is disproved by the fact that man has never discovered God without a revelation from God. The moon and all the stars and cannot make it day; that is the prerogative of the sun. Nor can nature's highest gifts make men and women acceptable to God; that is the office of Christ. Even the Jew missed this knowledge, because he sought after mere carnal world wisdom.

The world through wisdom did not know God. There is a constant tendency to think that the smartest and wisest humans will know the most about God. But God cannot be found through human wisdom, but only through the message of the cross. The pursuit of human wisdom may bring an earthly contentment or happiness (though this is rare), but in itself, it can never bring the true knowledge of the true God. It amazes me that often the most educated people have the least regard for God. This is not always the case; some of the most brilliant men of history have been Christians (such as Isaac Newton). But for the most part, the "smarter" one sees himself as, the less regard he has for God. Human "wisdom" is constantly rejecting God and opposing Him, and ultimately showing itself to be foolish and perishing!

One day, students in one of Albert Einstein's classes were saying they had decided that there was no God. Einstein asked them, how much of all the knowledge in the world they had among themselves collectively, as a class. The students discussed it for a while and decided they had 5% of all human knowledge among themselves. Einstein thought that their estimate was a little generous, but he replied: "It is possible that God exists in the 95% that you don't know?"

John 1:10 (KJV) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He was in the world—From its very creation—he governed the universe—regulated his Church—spoke by his prophets—and often, as the angel or messenger of Jehovah, appeared to them, and to the patriarchs. The world knew him not—Did not acknowledge him; for the Jewish rulers knew well enough that he was a teacher come from God; but they did not choose to acknowledge him as such. Men love the world, and this love hinders them from knowing him who made it, though he made it only to make himself known. Christ, by whom all things were made, John 1:3, and by whom all things are continually maintained, Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:3, has his way everywhere, is continually manifesting himself by his providence and by his grace, and yet the foolish heart of man refuses to honor him!

Romans 1:28 (KJV) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; God gave them over to a reprobate mind. The man who turns from the truth will be allowed to have his way, will fall deeper and deeper into error, and will reap all the evil consequences of loving darkness rather than light. Those who hate the truth are “given over” to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one that has rejected God. Which are not convenient? Not decent, or honorable.

Acts 17:23, 27 (KJV)  For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you... That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

 

 

it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;
It was God’s plan and He decreed it within himself; it was his sovereign good will and pleasure; it was without mankind having any worth or good points, that He resolved that he would "save", throughout eternity; not the wise man, the Scribe, the disputer of this world, the rationalist, the talker, or the worker; but he would save "them that believe" in his Son, that look unto him when they need help, submit to him, and commit the care and keeping of their souls to him, regardless of how weak, poor, and despicable they may otherwise be. It doesn’t matter whether they believe with a weak, or a strong faith, because it is still true that God saves by grace through faith. The Ethiopic version reads, "that believe in this foolish doctrine"; and He determined to do it, and He did it, "by the foolishness of preaching"; which the wise men of the world reckons foolishness; consequently they do not believe in Jesus Christ; so the wise men of the world, are ignorant of God, and perish in their sins, while the Gospel they despise is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe in Christ. It is only through the effectual grace of God that any man can be saved.

it pleased God--Paul refers to Jesus' words in Luke 10:21: “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.—That is, thou hast not revealed them to the scribes and Pharisees, who idolized their own wisdom; but thou hast revealed them to the simple and humble of heart, by that preaching which the world (unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike) deem foolishness. to save them that believe—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16; KJV)


22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

For the Jews require a sign
The Jews had always been the recipients of miracles, so they were used to them; miracles confirmed the mission of the prophets sent to them, and therefore, they insisted on a sign by Jesus that would insure them that He was the true Messiah. But Jesus showed them signs and wonders, and still they would not believe; and though miracles were created in great numbers, even greater than any man ever did, they remained unconvinced, and persisted in demanding a sign from heaven, and that it is done their way. It was then that Jesus told them that no other sign would be given to them, except for one, the sign of the prophet Jonah, by which was signified the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This was given to them, but they refused to believe in it, and they continued to insist on a sign; nothing but miracles would do it for them, and they must be the types of miracles that pleased them. (See note below).

There never were a people in the universe more difficult to be persuaded of the truth than the Jews: and if their religion had not been indisputably proved by the most striking and unquestionable miracles, they never would have received it. This slowness of heart to believe, added to their fear of being deceived, induced them to require miracles for confirmation of everything that professed to come from God. This was the characteristic of the Jewish people. God had manifested himself to them by miracles and wonders in a remarkable manner in past times, and they greatly prided themselves on that fact, and always demanded a sign when any new messenger came to them, professing to be sent from God. They expected a Messiah that would come with the exhibition of some stupendous signs and wonders from heaven above; they looked for the displays of amazing power in his coming, and they anticipated that he would deliver them from their enemies by mere power; and they, therefore, were greatly offended by the simple doctrine of a crucified Messiah. They were a wicked and adulterous generation, continually seeking signs, and never saying it is enough. But the sign which seems particularly referred to here is the assumption of secular power, which they expected in the Messiah; and because this sign did not appear in Christ, they rejected him.

After saying all this that appears to condemn the Jews for asking continually for miracles, I ask “what is wrong with it”. It was wrong for a couple of reasons: First; they did not ask for them for a good reason; and second, they did not use them in the right way. For, while faith ought to have been helped by miracles, their only concern was how long they might persevere in their unbelief. While miracles should lead us to an acquaintance with Christ, and the spiritual grace of God, they served as a hindrance or you might say they were a stumbling block to the Jews. On this account, too, Christ scolds them, “And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (Mark 8:12). A perverse generation seeketh after a sign. After all the miracles they had obtained, they appeared to have gained no advantages from them.

Note:  the Alexandrian copy, and some of the oldest manuscripts, and the Vulgate Latin version, has "signs", signifying many signs. The singular was a later correction from Matthew 12:38, “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee”;  Matthew 16:1, “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven”; And John 2:18,  Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? The signs the Jews craved for were not mere miracles, but direct tokens from heaven that Jesus was the Messiah; Luke 11:16,  And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

and the Greeks seek after wisdom;
By the term Greeks, in my opinion, Paul doesn’t mean Gentiles or the Greek people, but has in view those who had the polish of the liberal sciences, or were distinguished by superior intelligence; that is to say, men who possessed such wisdom, or philosophy, as they found in the writings of Cicero, Seneca, Plato, which was written in the beauty of the Latin and Greek languages. The Greek culture valued the pursuit of wisdom—the wisdom of the world, natural wisdom, philosophy, the reason for things, the flowers of rhetoric, the ornaments of speech, the beauties of oratory, the justness of style and diction; usually expressed in high, academic, philosophical terms. They did not value the wisdom expressed in the message of the cross. Their desire for wisdom was not bad, but their rejection of God's wisdom was. In a sense they practiced idolatry by their concept of God as ultimate Reason, meaning of course what they deemed to be reasonable. As for doctrines they regarded none, except for those they could understand and account for with their carnal reasoning; they despised everything else. We often read of "the Grecian wisdom", or wisdom of the Greeks; which, the Jews say, consisted of metaphors and mysterious sayings, which were understood only by them that were used to it; the Jews were forbidden to study Greek philosophy, though some of their Rabbis were conversant with it

Christianity does not begin with solving intellectual difficulties, but with satisfying the heart that longs for forgiveness; that's why the theocratic Jews were the chosen organ for spreading revelation, instead of the refined Greeks. Hence, intellectual Athens (See Acts 17:18-21 ) received the Gospel less readily than commercial Corinth. The Greeks seek after wisdom is a declaration that the preaching of the Gospel is foolish. It is foolish, he says, to those whom God has not endowed with new light; that is to say, to the Jews who require miracles, and the Greeks who need philosophical arguments, which they may comprehend by their intellect and wisdom: and therefore they do not believe the Gospel, and like to mock it. Nevertheless, there is the great power and wisdom of God in this foolish preaching of Christ crucified. God showed plainly, that even when mad men think He is foolish, he is far wiser than they are, and that he triumphs over all their might and power, when he uses the most vile and wretched things, such as sinful men, as His instruments for the preaching of the Gospel.

Acts 17:18-21 (KJV) Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

 

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

But we preach Christ crucified
Regardless of the sentiments and opinions of Jews and Gentiles, of what the one required and the other sought after; and in opposition to all their senseless and groundless criticism, the apostle and his fellow ministers continued preaching the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ, and him only. This doctrine met the demands of neither group. It satisfied neither the expectations of the Jews, nor the requirements of the Greeks. Instead of giving the Jews and Greeks what they demanded in deliverance and wisdom, God gives them something unexpected: a crucified Messiah. Christ (Messiah) meant power, splendor, and triumph. The word crucified meant weakness, defeat, and humiliation. Christ crucified was the ultimate oxymoron, and this was what Paul preached!


If the cross doesn't seem strange to you, then you either don't understand how the cross was seen in Jesus' day, or you don't understand who Jesus is. You don't understand the tension between Christ and crucified. The great Roman statesman Cicero said: "The cross, it speaks of that which is so shameful, so horrible, it should never be mentioned in polite society." If we were witnesses to the trial of Jesus, when the crowd was shouting out "crucify him, crucify him"; if we had our wits about us, we would have shouted back, "Don't crucify Him! If you must execute this man, do it honorably. Let him die the death of a dignified man. But don't expose Him to the horror and the humiliation of hanging on a cross." But God wanted Christ crucified, and if we don't embrace the cross, even with all its strange contradictions and demands, then we are lost. We preach Christ crucified because the cross is central to the Christian religion; no person may be a true follower of the Lord who is unwilling to take up his cross and follow the Master (See Matthew 16:24). Despite the Jewish law which declared, "He that is hanged on a tree is accursed of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23), the cross was the instrument of Jesus' atonement for the sins of the whole world. It was the place where God, having entered our earthly life as a man, paid the penalty for human transgression, bruised the head of Satan, and purchased the church with his own precious blood. The glory of the cross is seen in what it denied, what it declared, what it accomplished, whom it defeated, and whom it saved. All the human wisdom of all the ages is powerless to achieve the most infinitesimal fraction of the redemption that was achieved to the uttermost on Calvary.

We—Paul and Apollos.
Christ crucified--The Greek doesn’t express only the mere fact of His crucifixion, but the permanent character acquired by the transaction, whereby He is now a Savior (See Galatians 3:1). The crucified Savior was the stone on which the Jews stumbled (See the next line). The opposition of both Jews and Gentiles shows that a religion that was treated in such a disgraceful manner at it beginning could not have survived if it had not been divine.

Matt 16:24 (KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. If any man will come after me. Compare Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9:23-27. The conditions of discipleship are presented. Let him deny himself. Let him be prepared to say “no” to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, more particularly to earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory. Take up his cross. Luke adds, daily; not once, but all the time. The cross is the pain of the self-denial required in the preceding words. The cross is the symbol of doing our duty, even at the cost of the most painful death. And follow me. To follow Christ is to take him for our master, our teacher, our example; to believe his doctrines, to uphold his cause, to obey his precepts, and to do it though it leads to heaven by the way of the cross.

Gal 3:1 (KJV) O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

unto the Jews a stumblingblock;
The Word stumbling-block, means anything in the way over which one may fall; likewise, anything that is offensive or that causes one to fall into sin. Here it means that, to the Jews, the doctrine that the Messiah was to be crucified gave great offence; excited, irritated, and exasperated them; so  that they could not endure the doctrine, and treated it with contempt.

In Isaiah we have the prophesy that the long anticipated Messiah would cause the nation of the Jews to stumble: “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:14; KJV). The New Living Translation has it this way: “He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.” This prophesy came to pass when Jesus entered the arena of public ministry. The Jews who heard Him or heard about Him stumbled at the poor conditions of his birth, His parentage, and education, at his ministry, miracles, friendships and followers; but especially at his sufferings and death: it was a point of stumbling to them that he would die at all, since they understood from their law, that Christ would live forever; and more than anything else, they could not, and would not, accept a Messiah that was crucified on a cross, by which, according to their law, he appeared to be accursed; and furthermore, this was a stumblingblock to them, because they expected a earthly kingdom to be set up by him. The Lord Jesus spoke about “a stone of stumbling" (See Matt. 21:42) of which it was said that if one stumbled on it, it will grind him to powder.  Jesus was a stumblingblock to the Jews because they had an entirely different conception of the Christ. They had expected the Messiah would be a worldly prince, who would deliver and exalt their nation; so, to them, to present as their Messiah someone crucified as a malefactor was the greatest possible insult. Therefore, to them he was “a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall” (See Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:8). To the Greeks this doctrine was foolishness, because to them, nothing can be more absurd to rational thinkers than that the blood of the cross can remove sin, promote virtue, and secure salvation; or that the preaching of that doctrine will one day convert the world. Paul, at one time believed the same way; in fact, he was once outraged by a crucified Christ; it infuriated him that one obviously cursed by God (according to Deuteronomy 21:23) would be honored as Messiah and Lord. So, he persecuted the church before being confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

Matt 21:42-44 (KJV) Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

Romans 9:33 (KJV) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

1 Peter 2:8 (KJV) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

Deut 21:23 (KJV) His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. For he that is hanged is accursed of God—That is, he has forfeited his life to the law; for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them; and on his body, in the execution of the sentence of the law, the curse was considered as alighting.

and unto the Greeks foolishness;
The Greeks considered these things foolish-thinking and unacceptable to anyone who possessed a rational mind: that the Son of God was crucified; that riches should come through his poverty, and men be brought to a kingdom and glory through one so poor and wretched; that there was life for men in his death, and salvation through his crucifixion, or the shameful death of the cross; that blessings can come through his being made a curse; and that his death was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men; and that men can be justified by One that was condemned; and peace and pardon would come by his blood; that he was raised from the dead; and that anyone who died such a humiliating death could not be divine. These things were the subject of their ridicule and banter, and, in their opinion, deserved to be laughed at instead of admired.

Now, we should say at this point, that the feelings of the Jews and of the Greeks on this subject are the common feelings of men. Sinners everywhere have the same views of the cross; and everywhere the human heart, if left to itself, rejects it, as either a stumbling-block or as foolishness. But the doctrine should be preached even if it is offensive to some and foolishness to others. It is the only hope of man; and only by the preaching of the cross alone, can sinners be saved.

Note: The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate and all the oldest manuscripts read "unto the Gentiles."


24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

But unto them which are called,
In this clause the phrase “them which are called”, are the elect; those who are called externally by the Word and internally by the Holy Spirit, and respond with faith alone to be saved by God’s grace. These are called out of darkness to be illuminated by the Spirit of God; they see wisdom, beauty, glory, excellence, and suitableness in Christ, and in his Gospel. The Apostle has said that not many are called, and of those who are called, very few are wise: For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor 1:26; KJV). The subject of “the elect” is ignored in most protestant circles, except for the Reformed faith where I believe it is overemphasized, along with “predestination” and some other “big words.” Do you want to know if you are one of the elect? Brother, sister, if you are saved you are; if you are lost, you are not. It is as simple as that. And that is the gist of these well-known verses. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:28, 30; KJV) The called are the true Christians, both of Jews and Greeks, who were by the preaching of the Gospel called or invited to the marriage feast, and have accordingly believed in Christ Jesus and were saved to the uttermost. The called or invited is a title that is frequently used in the New Testament for Christ’s saints.

It should be noted that the elect of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, are not hindered by any stumblingblock from coming to Christ, so that they may find in him a sure salvation.
The Jews wanted a display of power; the Greeks sought wisdom. Both are found in Christ, and in the highest degree.

both Jews and Greeks,
The meaning here is “all men,” regardless of race or nation, time or circumstance.

Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Jesus Christ is "the power of God"; except for the Jews, who stumbled over his weakness, his sufferings and death, even the death of the cross; which were experienced by him as a man of flesh and blood. Here, he is revealed to be God the Son; he is Mighty, the Almighty, which is apparent from his works of creation and divine intervention; he is called the power of God; which is clearly seen by his bearing all the sins of his people in his own body, on the tree, the cross upon which he was crucified, and all the punishment that lead up to it; and yet he didn’t fail, and he wasn’t discouraged, nor did he give out physically, until he had satisfied the law perfectly, and put an end to sin, and reconciled us to God. On the cross, he destroyed death, the devil, principalities and powers; he redeemed his people from all their sins; he abolishing death by raising himself from the dead; all which show him to be the power of God, or to be possessed of Almighty power; for these are things which a mere creature could never have done. And he is "the wisdom of God", since he is the wise Creator and Governor of the universe. We see in him the wisdom of God in the way in which he has provided salvation for men. They see that the plan is wise. They see it to be sufficient to procure pardon, and sanctification, and eternal life. They see that there is a beauty in his character; an excellence in his doctrines; and an effectiveness in his atonement, to secure their salvation. We may say about this verse:
(1) that when men become Christians, their hearts are changed. The views of Christians are diametrically opposite to those of other men. To one class, Christ is a stumbling-block; to others, foolishness; to Christians, he is full of beauty.
(2) All Christians have similar views of the Savior. It doesn’t matter whether they were Jew or Greek; it doesn’t matter whether they were born in a northern or southern climate, they have the same views of the Savior. They see him to be the power and the wisdom of God.
(3) There is real effectiveness in the plan of salvation. It is a scheme of power, and it is able to accomplish the great plans of God.
(4) Christ crucified is God's answer to both Jew and Greek and the answer is understood by those with open minds.

 

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Christ on the cross appeared to be weakness in the eyes of people; but that "weakness of God was stronger than men and everything that men could produce." The sign-seeking Jews could not comprehend the mighty "sign of the prophet Jonah," even though Christ’s death and resurrection took place before their very eyes; and the wisdom-seeking Greeks could not detect the most profound wisdom in all history, not even after it had been preached to them! Despite this, however, the rolling centuries have vindicated the truth which Paul proclaimed here.

Because the foolishness of God
Not that there is any such thing as "foolishness" in God, nor the least degree of weakness in him; but the apostle means that which the men of the world regard as foolishness and weakness, and therefore, with tongue in cheek, he assigns them to God. By this he means either Christ, who, as crucified, is deemed foolishness; however, he "is wiser than men"; wiser even than Solomon, who was wiser than all men; what's more, Christ is greater than he in wisdom, having all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in him: or he means Christ’s act of redemption by the blood of his cross, which is considered an outrageous instance of foolishness, despite the fact that there is such a display of wisdom that it surpasses all the wisdom of men and angels. There is nothing wrong with God’s plan of Salvation; the problem is the mind of unbelievers, which has not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and therefore they don’t see the wisdom of the plan or reason God does what He does.

is wiser than men;
The things that God has done, which seem foolish to men, are infinitely beyond the highest degree of human wisdom; and those works of God, which appear weak and contemptible to frivolous observers, surpasses all the efforts of human power. The means which God has chosen for the salvation of men are so wise and so powerful, that all that use them properly are saved and conveyed by the Holy Spirit into a blessed relationship with Jesus Christ, which he has promised to them who believe and obey.

God’ methods are well adapted to accomplish His plans, and they are certainly more effective than the schemes of human wisdom. This is especially true of the plan of salvation—a plan apparently foolish to the lion's share of men, but without a doubt it has accomplished more for the conversion of men, and for their decency and happiness, than all the schemes that humans have contrived. They have accomplished nothing useful towards men's salvation; but this accomplishes everything. They have always failed; this never falls.

and the weakness of God,
There is really no weakness in God, anymore than there is foolishness. Therefore, this must mean the things He has decreed in heaven, which to mere men appear weak and insufficient to accomplish His purposes. The facts, as they appear are—that God seeks to save the world by Jesus of Nazareth, who was supposedly unable to save himself, (See Matthew 27:40-43); and that He expected to save men by the gospel, by its being preached by men who were without learning, eloquence, wealth, fame, or power. The instruments were feeble; and in the judgment of men it was due to the weakness or lack of power in the God who decreed them.

According to the Jews, Christ’s crucifixion was due to weakness" (See 2 Corinthians 13:4), and yet He is able to perfect strength out of the weakness of His servants (1 Corinthians 2:3 , 2 Corinthians 12:9 ). Those methods of divine conduct that arrogant men are likely to condemn as unwise and weak have more true, solid, and successful wisdom in them, than all the learning and wisdom that is among men: "You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, (v. 26).

Matt 27:40-43 (KJV) And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

2 Cor 13:4 (KJV) For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.

1 Cor 2:3 (KJV) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

2 Cor 12:9 (KJV) And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

is stronger than men.
The weakness of God, though such a thing is impossible, is able to accomplish more than the greatest power men can design. The feeblest activity that God puts forth—so feeble that it might be deemed weakness—is able to accomplish more than the greatest might of man. The apostle here is referring particularly to the work of redemption; but it is true everywhere. We may remark:
1. That God often accomplishes his mightiest works by that which seems to men to be weak, and even foolish. The greatest revolutions the world has known have often had the most insignificant causes; God’s vast operations are often associated with very feeble methods. The upheaval of empires; the tragic effects of deadly diseases; advancements in the sciences and arts; and the operations of nature, are often brought about by means that are apparently as unsuited for accomplishing the work as those which are employed in the plan of redemption.
2. That God is great. If his feeblest powers surpass the mightiest powers of man, imagine how great His mightiest powers must be! If the powers of man, who creates works of art, who levels mountains and elevates valleys—and if the power which built the pyramids—are like nothing when compared with the feeblest efforts of Divine power, how mighty must be his arm be! How vast is that strength which keeps the sun, moon, stars, and planets in their proper place in the sky! How safe are his people in his hand! And how easy for him to crush all his foes in death.

Think about this: He has brought salvation for his people, which is something neither men nor angels could ever have done; and He did it with the Gospel of Christ, which is condemned as foolishness and weakness, despite having infinitely more wisdom in it, than is to be found in the best ideas of the wisest philosophers; and has had a greater influence on the minds and behavior of men than their ideas ever had; it is the manifold wisdom of God, and the power of God unto salvation.   

 

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