(i) True Wisdom = Divine Wisdom (1:12-3:4)

Map of Corinth / Map of Corinth's Location / Picture of the Temple of Apollo / Outline Chart/ Read The Letter


Paul here shows real wisdom. God's wisdom seems upside-down to what we naturally consider to be wisdom. There is a danger for the church today in using the world's wisdom in place of God's. Can you think of examples of this ?

Paul introduces the stupidity of these divisions by asking obvious questions...

1 Cor 1:12-17

12Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."

13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

15lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.

16Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

(NKJ)

List out the questions Paul asks and the obvious answers to them. What is Paul's main point ? Paul is basically stating that in Christ they are in one body and to say they are only of one allegiance (with a party spirit attitude) is dividing His body and forming mini-bodies! How can the church today be guilty of doing this ?

The Nature of True Wisdom

True wisdom is seen in three ways as we look at how Paul continues...

(i) The message of the Cross is foolishness to man: (1:18-25)

1 Cor 1:18-25

18For 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.

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

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

21For 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.

22For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

23but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

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

(NKJ)

Think how foolish many find the gospel message...yet it is the POWER OF GOD (v18) (Christ dying so that we may live). Think for a while about what the 'message of the cross' actually is. It is denial of self, dying to self and allowing the life of Christ to operate in and through us by His Spirit. Actually it is the giving up of all earthly 'wisdom'. It is saying 'In myself I am nothing and can know nothing of true worth'.

Paul states that earthly wisdom (look up the Greek word used for 'understanding' in verse 19) will ultimately be destroyed (v19) and will not be found (v20)! When man dies so does their earthly wisdom - but when those who are 'being saved' (in body, soul and spirit) die God's wisdom continues in resurrection life (v18,21).

The Jews represent the Asian mindset - seeking after a sign, whereas the Greeks represent the western mindset, seeking after false wisdom (v22) - what's wrong with both of these 'seekings' ? Asians tend to seek for dramatic proof supernaturally (signs) whereas westerners tend to look for rational arguments to persuade them - the message of the cross is a stumbling block to Asians as a dead Christ does not fit in to their picture of the supernatural hero they look for!

It is foolishness to the westerner because it defies logic and reason! (v23).

 

The message of the Cross (v18) = Christ Crucified (v23)

Christ Crucified = The Power of God = Wisdom of God. (v24)

The Corinthians were moving away from the preaching of 'Christ Crucified ' as they considered it foolish! In the Church today much teaching and preaching is lacking the real power of God as the message of the Cross is often left out! Isn't it true that the once cheering crowds surrounding Jesus became the jeering crowds once He started talking about sacrifice, commitment and taking up the cross!

Paul states that God's apparent foolish ways are true wisdom and His apparent weakness (exemplified in Jesus on the Cross) is true power! (v25)

(ii) God chooses NOBODIES: (1:26-31)

1 Cor 1:26-31

26For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

27But 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;

28and 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,

29that no flesh should glory in His presence.

30But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption--

31that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

(NKJ)

God doesn't choose as man chooses (man looks at all the external qualifications but God looks at the heart). How were the Corinthians using human wisdom in their division ? They were looking at who the teachers were in themselves and judging by external appearances! Apollos was an eloquent speaker trained in Greek thinking and many of the Corinthians were swayed merely by his style! They did not look deeper to the heart of what was being taught! They were running after a particular teacher because they met their earthly requirements in terms of the ability to communicate - however, they were ONLY sticking to those teachers that pleased them so the message they heard was only a part of the story, Paul held another Part and so forth (see 1:12).

Paul uses their own conversion to show them that God chooses nobodies and is no respecter of man (v26) !The majority of the Corinthian church were from low backgrounds ('not many wise...mighty...noble'). Again Paul states that God uses what seems foolish, weak, base, despicable in human terms to shame those who are truly foolish, weak, base and despicable in the eyes of God (with the intention of saving them) (verses 27-28).

Paul's main point is that 'no flesh should glory in His presence' (v29). No one should claim 'special place' in the Kingdom of God, indeed 'the first shall be last'! If we truly see the depravity of ourselves without God we will not be able to glory in our 'flesh' (e.g.. qualifications, gifting, natural talent in speaking, ability to reason etc..).

This means that we should not elevate one teacher's teaching from Scripture above anothers as though it's more 'spiritual' - if we do this we can move into error (error is often truth taken to the extreme). Gnostic influences in the early church led Christians to believe that particular teachings were of a higher level than others any only special people could attain to it!

The key is letting Christ live through us (See Galatians 2:20) - He is our right standing (righteousness), He is the one who is holy in us, he is our salvation (v30) - not some great teacher of God's word, not some new doctrine! Living this way will mean we look to Him in the teacher, Him in the teaching! Then all glory goes to Him! (v31)

(iii) Paul's preaching lacked eloquence: (2:1-5)

1 Cor 2:1-5

1And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.

2For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.

4And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

(NKJ)

Often we look to teachers/preachers who speak beautiful words and make us laugh. However, the main point is : are they inspired by the spirit and does their teaching have power to see people set free to do God's will ? (are they anointed).

NB. Noise is not anointing! (not how loud one is) - God often uses stutterers etc. to shame those who think they are wise!!

Paul's speech was not 'excellent' (v1). The Greek word used means it was not high ranking, using special terminology and that which the Greeks considered the most eloquent. He came to declare the testimony (or mystery) of God. To the Greek, mysteries were only for a select few to solve, but Biblically we, the church, are to make plain the mystery of the Gospel to the world (Ephesians 3:10)!

All teaching and preaching must be along one line - Jesus Christ and Him crucified (v2) - notice Paul 'knew' this as a reality among them (he lived what he taught). He did not want his own life to distract from the message so he came in weakness (the Greek word means a disease or sickness of body) and trembling (fear of God)(v3). If teaching /preaching does not point people to Jesus and the Cross then it is misguided - see this devotional thought from Spurgeon.

Again Paul stresses that his own preaching was nothing to do with his own ability to convince them with a cunning and enticing argument - it was entirely the Spirit of Christ manifesting His power! (v4).

Verse five concludes that our faith should be in God's power, not in man's reasoning power. This means that we will be able to listen to the worst (naturally) preacher but be touched by the Spirit of God by faith.

The Source Of True Wisdom

1 Cor 2:6-3:4

6Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

16For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

CHAPTER 3

1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

(KJV)

Paul states that the wisdom he speaks with (that truly perfects us) is not worldly, even that of the highest princes of this earth will come to nothing eventually, but it has been around since the beginning (2:6-8). This wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit if indeed we have been born again. He delights to make know his hidden plans to us by His Spirit (2:9-12).

The source of true wisdom is therefore the Spirit of God! We are to speak forth these truths by the Spirit who ultimately is our teacher (v2:13)

Verses 2:14-16 show the difference between SPIRITUAL and NATURAL man. The SPIRITUAL man can be wise because he has the SPIRIT. However, the NATURAL MAN (non-Christians) cannot truly be wise as they have not received the Spirit of God.

In 3:1-5 there is now a contrast between the CARNAL and the SPIRITUAL Christian. Look at the meanings of the words by clicking on the links.

The CARNAL Christian has the Spirit but still acts and thinks like a non-Christian in certain issues. (another term for CARNAL is WORLDLY). He is more 'soulish' rather than spiritual. Look at the following diagram...

Diagram to show the differences between Natural, Carnal and Spiritual Man.

Paul has only been able to give them 'milk' from the Word of God rather than solid food because they are babies (literally the Greek word means 'non-speaking' - they do not speak with the wisdom of God). What is the difference between milk and solid food ? Solid food is a greater degree of understanding (that has come by meditation and revelation) the same idea from the word of God (e.g. 'Christ died for our sins' can be MILK to the carnal Christian or SOLID FOOD to the Spiritual Christian due to their different level of revelation). It is not a different truth that can only be grasped by the more mature but the same truth only a more mature understanding of it.

The problem with the Corinthians is that they were thinking as the world thinks and not as CHRIST thinks. We must yield to the Spirit so that we have 'the mind of Christ' (2:16) and have true wisdom...not false wisdom.

When you hear teaching and preaching you should not measure it in the world's terms (e.g.. "that was a boring sermon..he was not a very good speaker...the teaching was not exciting enough") just as the Corinthians were doing. You must have the mind of Christ and listen to WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING! The Holy Spirit is the source of all true wisdom. He will teach us to go the way of the Cross - His teaching will often be hard to stomach and will not be always what we want to hear, but what we need to hear!

In Conclusion: One major reason for division in the Corinthian Church was a misunderstanding of Paul's anointed teaching on the Cross (True Wisdom). They had elevated the teaching itself and the teaching style and made it into an art and not a LIFE CHANGING SPIRIT EMPOWERED MESSAGE. Make sure you don't do this!

Another related problem that we shall now look at in this section is that they had a misunderstanding of the TEACHERS themselves. They almost IDOLIZED them and had wrong standards for measuring their effectiveness.

Click here for (ii) The Wrong Concept of Teachers/Leaders


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