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1:10-4:21 True Christian Ministry
1:10-17 No Divisions
1:18-2:5 The Reason: The Cross Destroys Boasting in Human Wisdom
1:18-25 Human Wisdom Betrays the Gospel of the Cross
Detailed OutlineIntro:This passage is an elaboration and explanation of the contrast Paul introduced in v. 17, between the Gospel and
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words of human wisdom.Paul rejected human wisdom so that the cross would not be emptied. For Paul, it is either the cross of Christ or human wisdom, and that is the contrast he emphasized throughout this passage. The cross destroys the need to rely on false human wisdom, because it is the power and wisdom of God. Paul was not arguing against wisdom per se, but against false human wisdom, which was subjectively conceived by its own standards, and without reference to the objectivity of God and His standards. Such human wisdom was prideful in its own ability and therefore, was a hindrance to receiving true wisdom and salvation from God.18-21 The message of the cross is purposely opposed to human standards18 The message of the cross is received differently by different groups18a Neg: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyedPaul literally used the phrase
the word of the crossto contrast with the phrase
wisdom of wordwhich he had just used in v. 17. This emphasized the mutually exclusive options of trusting in human wisdom and accomplishment, or trusting in the cross of Christ. And the cross is the dividing line.
The cross is foolish to those who are perishing. The philosophers at Athens (see Acts 17:16-34) and Festus at Paul's trial (see Acts 25:23-26:32) called Paul foolish because they did not understand or believe what he was talking about. But that demonstrated more about their own ignorance and pride than it did about Paul and his message.18b Pos: But to us, to those being saved, it is the power of GodThe cross is the power of God, but it does not seem powerful to sinful humans at first glance. We need new eyes as part of the new birth for us to truly see how wonderful the cross really is. What the unbelieving world thinks is wise is really foolish. And what the world thinks is foolish is really wise.This inversion of conclusions happens because of the inversion of the foundational standards on which we make these conclusions. You may have noticed that many times, different people see the exact same thing, or hear about the exact same event, and come to completely different conclusions. And this usually shows that the way they thought about this event was colored by their worldview - by their underlying standard with which they understand and judge everything. Everyone does this to some extent. Everyone has mental goggles through which we see the world. And we all have a standard by which we measure what is right and wrong. The real issue is having the right foundational standard. We need to have the correct worldview glasses that let us see the world clearly, and not distorted in some way.
At the heart of the issue for Paul is whose standards are used to determine if something is wise and strong or not? Whose definition of wisdom should be used? The Corinthian definition, which came from their pagan background? Or God's definition, shown in the crucified Messiah?
This passage is somewhat negative to make a positive point - Their standard and evaluation is wrong! And therefore, here is the true standard and evaluation. The message of the cross is received differently by different groups, and one group is wrong! Because their standard is wrong! Because it is built only upon subjective human wisdom, and not on God's wisdom shown in the cross.19-21 God purposely made the standard for salvation opposed to human standardsThis differing reception (v. 18) is part of God's plan. God purposed to highlight the massive difference in standards of evaluation. He designed to show that mere human wisdom is not the same as God's wisdom. His purpose was to confront merely human wisdom as inadequate. God invalidated human merit and standing as the reason for salvation, and even as the requirement for understanding salvation. God judges human wisdom. Human wisdom does not judge God.19 God promised to invalidate human wisdom and intelligence for salvation19a For, it is written:This is a standard formula introducing the following quote from Isa. 29:14.19b-c God promised to invalidate human wisdom and intelligence19b I will destroy the wisdom of the wise19c And I will invalidate the intelligence of the intelligentThese two propositions are in parallel, and basically restate the same overall truth using two similar assertions. God promised that He would bring human intelligence and wisdom to nothing. This raises the question
Why would God do this?Aren't wisdom and understanding desirable and good? And why did Paul quote this verse here in Corinthians?
The issue being addressed is, what kind of wisdom and understanding is being talked about? Is it the kind of wisdom and knowledge that pridefully evaluates human achievement without God? Or the kind of wisdom and knowledge that depends on God and submits to God? Can we even have true knowledge and wisdom independent from God? Or are we dependent on God for true wisdom and knowledge?
Remember, back in Genesis ch. 3 that the original temptation included the promise that we could gain wisdom and be like God - knowing and determining good and evil for ourselves, independent of God. And that is the same lie that God was confronting in the Isaiah quote, and which Paul was confronting in Corinth. Do we think we are smarter than God? We are the ones that need to be saved! Therefore, we are not the ones smart enough to save ourselves, and especially not smart enough to determine the best way for us to be saved.20-21 And by the cross, God has actually invalidated human wisdomThe implication in these verses, that Paul drew from his previous statements, is that mere human wisdom is not viable, it is insufficient. And this is on purpose.20a-c People of human standing are not important by God's standardsPaul used a series of rhetorical questions to show that these people are insignificant compared to the cross.20a Where is the wise man?This means that the wise man is nothing compared to the wisdom of the cross. I'm reminded of the old detergent commercial, where the shirt looks white and clean until it is compared with the other shirt that really is bright white. And then the first shirt looks dingy grey by comparison. The wise man certainly can be much wiser than other men. But he is nothing compared to God's wisdom.20b Where is the scholar?The scribe, the learned man, the legal expert, is not significant compared to the wisdom of the cross. The
wise man(20a) was the trusted expert in gentile society. And the
scribewas the trusted expert in Jewish society. Paul was covering both backgrounds. And the third term (20c) is an overarching term that apples to both.20c Where is the debater of this world?The professional communicator, the talking head of this age is not significant compared with the truth of the cross.The phrase
of this age(20c) probably goes with all three questions (20a-c), and this is the main point. These people and their approach to life comes from this age, from a merely human mentality that will always fall short of God's wisdom, power, and plan, which encompasses all eternity.
Thus Paul is asking rhetorically, 'in view of what God has done in the cross, what is left of the wise of this present age? Where now are the teachers of wisdom, both Jew and Greek; has not God by this deed not only rendered the wise as foolish but also nullified their very wisdom itself?'Gordon Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament - The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 70, emphasis original.20d-21 God has purposely excluded human wisdom as the basis of salvationThen Paul gave the general principle behind his previous questions via another rhetorical question. And then he explained the purpose behind this principle.20d Hasn't God shown the wisdom of the world to be foolish?Wisdom
of this world,like the wise men
of this age(20c), are both connected to what is merely human and finite. And so, they fall dramatically short and are inadequate for salvation. The wisdom of this world is not as significant as they thought. Rather, it is foolish, especially when compared to God's wisdom.
God fixed values without regard for human assessment and according to His own good-pleasure. Thus the wisdom of this world is folly before Him.Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 846.21 God purposed to reveal salvation in a way that excludes human merit & standingIn this verse, Paul explained the reasoning and purpose behind this principle and God's action in salvation. God purposely made salvation in a way that excludes human wisdom, merit, and standing.21a Neg: For, because in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdomGod's wisdom is to not reveal Himself through human wisdom (or else we would rely on human wisdom, and not on Him). Paul assumed as a given fact that the world does not and cannot know God on its own, by its own wisdom. And in historical fact, the world gets farther away from knowledge of God as the superstition of its own
wisdomtends to obscure this knowledge rather than revealing it. We need God's revelation in order to truly know Him.
And this happened, as Paul said, in the wisdom of God.
[in the wisdom of God] does not modify 'the world did not know,' but an understood 'God so arranged things in his own wisdom that the world did not know'Fee, p. 73.
It was Gods' wise choice to exclude human achievement and standing from our salvation. This was to protect us from pride and idolatry. No one is able to say
I found God by my own wisdomor
I earned my way with Godor
I am more qualified to be saved than the next guy.God is passionate that part of the Gospel is humbling of human pride and pretense, so that we no longer can put our hope and trust in ourselves, or in any human things (including human leaders). And God is loving to destroy this false wisdom that will keep us from Him, and from His true salvation and true wisdom. So, we can only trust in God and His provision in the cross and resurrection of Christ. He loves us too much to let us settle for a counterfeit. Salvation is not just for the elite who can figure it out and understand God by their accomplishment of wisdom.21b Pos: God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is proclaimedThis is God's good pleasure, to reveal salvation in a way that excludes human boasting. The true way of salvation is something totally unexpected and outside our ability to attain on our own. None of us would have thought up the cross on our own, not in a million years. But that is what God did. And that is what the Scripture and the church (to the extent that it is faithful) proclaim. And that is how people are saved - the only way people can be saved. It is by Christ's accomplishment, not ours. And it is simply through our hearing and trusting in what Christ has done.
It is not those who are wise enough, or strong enough, or virtuous enough, or socially connected enough, who are saved. It is those who believe the message of the crucified Messiah. And this message has proved more powerful and life-changing than anything humans have ever dreamed up, by far. No social, educational, or political idea or program has done even the smallest fraction of good for human thriving as the preaching of Christ crucified has done over the centuries.
God's wise purpose was to show that human wisdom is inadequate compared with God's way of salvation. It is inadequate even to evaluate God's way of salvation. And therefore, the Gospel divides all humanity into two and only two categories: Those who are perishing because they think the cross is foolish, and those who are being saved because they believe the Gospel.22-25 God's way of salvation is contrary to human standardsIn these verses, Paul summarized the implications of what he had just written. Because the message of the cross is purposely contrary to human standards.22 Neg: Humans value those outwardly impressive by human standardsHumans value those things and people that are outwardly impressive by our skewed standards. An important life lesson for Christian maturity is to learn to discern what is real - to find out what is true among all the noise of mere opinion, to recognize what is reality and not just appearance and image and propaganda. Often what someone puts forward as truth and reality is not genuine. Sometimes we have to dig deeper to discern what is really the case. Human wisdom often gets it wrong on mundane things, and human wisdom always gets it wrong on salvation. And even worse, we become prideful in our own wisdom and accomplishments and ignore God. Unless we conform our entire mindset to God's revelation, we will be wrong! Paul gave two examples of this:22a Because both Jews ask for signsJews desire to somehow tap into God's power for their own benefit. Back in the Gospels, the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign, even though He had already been doing many signs. They demanded signs on their own terms, when they demanded it, and by their standards, so that they could stand in judgment of Jesus. But Jesus refused and rebuked them. Because God refuses to dance whenever we snap our fingers. God refuses to be a genie or a vending machine. God refuses to do things just to impress people and live up to our standards of what is impressive. God refuses to be manipulated or controlled. We are not His boss, He is our Lord. God gently, but clearly shows that He is God, that He is in complete control, and that we are not. God is the authority standing in judgment over us, not vice-versa.22b And Greeks seek wisdomGreeks desire to somehow tap into special knowledge for their own benefit. this wisdom that the Greeks sought, was an explanation of the world in order to navigate life in conformity with that understanding. They thought that they had to figure everything out in order to bring order to the world. Their attitude was similar to the modern attitude of
if we just had enough science and technology, we could create a perfect society.But God refuses to conform to our latest principles of success. God refuses to go on the talk shows and explain Himself to our satisfaction. God refuses to be relevant by our standard of relevance. Instead, He gently, but firmly, shows that He is smarter than we are. He knows what He is doing, and He is not accountable to us to explain Himself.In other words, Paul has described humanity's two basic idolatries - power and knowledge. And we typically seek both in order to exercise control for selfish use. But God rejects all forms of human pride and makes salvation out of reach of our attainment. So, He frees us from such selfish idolatry. He will not do it that way.23-25 Pos: God values the truth, wisdom and power of His way of the cross23a But we proclaim Christ having been crucifiedAnd so, Paul said that faithful Christians do it completely opposite from the world's way. We minister God's way. We proclaim Christ crucified. Christ crucified is infinitely more important than human works or wisdom, which accomplish nothing.
And Paul proclaimed Christ crucified, even when it was not popular, and even when it was not well-received. What else could he do? What else could he possibly preach that would have been more helpful, more powerful? It may have been very popular or outwardly successful if Paul would have preached moralism or self-help philosophy or various human methods of wisdom and success. It certainly would have gotten him beat up a lot less. But Paul cared for people so much that he would not give them medicine which does not heal. And so, he proclaimed the crucified Messiah, Who is our only true hope.23b-25 This is opposed to human standardsPaul explained why He proclaimed Christ crucified, first by acknowledging some mistaken views about Christ crucified, and then stating the correct view.23b-c Neg. This is offensive to human standardsThese are the mistaken views about Christ crucified.23b This is a scandal to JewsThe word
scandalmeans something so offensive that we viscerally react against it and strongly oppose it.
We need to understand how Jewish people came to this conclusion. For a Jew of that time, a crucified Messiah was an oxymoron - like a victorious loser. All Jews knew that Messiah is a conqueror, not a victim. They could not connect the idea of a conquering King like David with Isaiah's suffering servant. How could they believe in a God who loses? They were scandalized because they did not see the entire picture. He was a conquering Messiah by suffering.23c And it is foolishness to the GentilesIt is folly, it is insanity, according to this way of thinking. Again, we can understand how they came to this conclusion. Because kings are powerful and heroic and proud, and demand that others serve them. Kings and gods don't lose and give themselves and serve others and die for them. We often forget that the cross is a symbol of a shameful execution. To be crucified was the ultimate failure and disgrace, never discussed in polite company. But now, we glory in the cross and use it as the Christian symbol, because we now see the entire story. What seemed foolish and bad was actually part of God's good wise plan all along.24-25 Pos: God's power is greater than human standardsThis is the correct view about Christ crucified and an explanation why it is correct.24 But to those that are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of GodThose who are called (both Jews and Gentiles) recognize the cross as the power and wisdom of God. Even though we don't fully understand, and it goes against many of our expectations. It doesn't make sense from a worldly perspective, but from God's perspective, it is perfect, because it puts Him at the center, and displays His true power and genuine wisdom as infinitely greater than ours. For those who are called, the proclamation of the cross shows itself to be greater than any human standard and achievement and hope.
And ethnic background doesn't matter at all. What matters is the call of God in the message of the cross. The cross divides humanity into the only division that should matter to us - those who are perishing and those who are being saved (v. 18) - those who reject the cross as foolishness and those who see the cross as God's wisdom and power. And this is humbling. We could easily get behind a powerful king who is fighting our enemies. But the cross challenges us that we are our primary enemies, and we need to die to ourselves, to our own plans and strategies and self-sufficiency. God's power and wisdom defeats all our enemies, but this includes our own sin and pride.25 Because God's ways are better than human standards25a Because the foolishness of God is wiser than that [wisdom] of humansWhen Paul wrote
God's foolishness,he meant air-quote
foolishness- foolish from a human perspective, but in reality, it is wisdom higher than anything humans could ever comprehend. There is profound wisdom in the cross. It is a
foolishnessso wise that it reconciles us to God and renews the entire universe. That is some mighty wise foolishness. And it will take us all eternity to begin to comprehend the depth of God's wisdom, even though it seems foolish to worldly people now.25b And the weakness of God is stronger than that [strength] of humansIn the same way, this is air-quote weakness,
weakfrom a human perspective. But in reality, it is infinite, divine strength and power beyond our comprehension. There is profound strength hidden in the weakness of the dying Messiah on the cross. It accomplishes eternal salvation by dying in weakness. It is a weakness so strong that it brings eternal life from eternal death. That is some mighty strong weakness. And it will take us all eternity to begin to comprehend God's power shown in the cross.Application:If the cross is God's wisdom and power (which it is), and if human wisdom and insight is weakness and folly by comparison (which is is), then those who think the cross is foolishness, they are the ones who are fools. And if we think it is weak, then we are the ones who are really weak. If we reject it as insufficient and look for something better in human wisdom and strength and technique, then we just don't get the cross of Christ to the extent that we should.
Imagine someone claiming to be a great composer when Beethoven was in the room, or claiming to be a great golfer when Tiger Woods was standing there. That person would prove themself to be a boastful fool. How much more should we not rely on our own standards of wisdom and power to stand in judgment of God's wisdom and power in the manner that He chose to save us, by a crucified Messiah!
So, we need to ask how this is reflected in our lives and ministries. Are we trying to work to save ourselves and others based on our own skill, experience, insight, or talent? Or are we fleeing to Christ and His cross and leading others to do likewise? Are we trying to win the world using the latest techniques and fads, or are we proclaiming the cross? Do we point to ourselves, or our leaders? To our methods or to our hipness and niceness? Or do we glory in Christ crucified and God's power and wisdom inherent in the cross? Can we truly say with Paul -
I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe(Rom. 1:16)? Do we trust God's wisdom and power in the cross, or do we try to supplement it with our own wisdom and power? Do we act like we are smarter than God? Don't be a fool! Reject relying on mere human wisdom, so that you don't empty the cross.
1:26-31 Boasting in Humans Betrays the Gospel of God's Wisdom
Detailed OutlineIntro:This passage is a continuation of the previous passage (1:18-25). It gives further explanation and application of the same contrast developed there, and first mentioned in v. 17. This is the contrast between human wisdom and the cross of Christ as the way of salvation and life. Paul argued that human wisdom is completely inadequate even to understand God's manner of salvation, let alone surpass it. Because the cross of Christ is the wisdom and power of God, which nullifies human wisdom and power. In this passage, Paul applied the same contrast to the topic of boasting - what we trust and delight in, to the point of praising it. Boasting in human wisdom and accomplishment is equally empty compared with boasting only in Christ crucified.26-29 Neg: God's salvation goes against human standards and boasting26-28 God chose and saved unimpressive peoplePaul began his explanation by drawing on the Corinthians' own experience of salvation. He pointed out what the Corinthians were not and why that mattered. Their own salvation proved that God chose and saved unimpressive people.26 The Corinthians were (for the most part) not
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impressiveby human standards26a For brothers, notice your own callingThat is, notice your own situation in life when you were called, and the way in which you were called to Christ. This general statement is elaborated by the following specific descriptions of their status in life when they were called.26b-d You were not impressive by human standards26b That not many were wise according to the flesh
Wisemeans an expert in the human wisdom discussed in the previous passage.
According to the fleshmeans according to the worldly, merely human standards of that current culture, as opposed to God's standards. See v. 29 for another way that Paul used the term
flesh.26c Not many were powerfulThat is powerful in terms of worldly influence and social/political status.26d Not many were well-bornThat is, born into upper class influence, clout and money, etc.Their salvation proved that being one of those kinds of people is not a qualification for salvation.
Note that he wrote
not many.He did not write
not any.There were some rich and powerful among the Corinthian church. Being poor and uneducated does not make a person more qualified than being rich and educated. To think so would be to make the exact same mistake in the opposite direction. Our status according to human standards does not matter, one way or the other. And so, we should not pretend that it does. Therefore, we should not boast in our status.27-28 God chose to use unimpressive people to put the
impressivepeople to shameThese verses give the theological reason why not many of them were impressive people. Because God chose unimpressive people with the expressed purpose of putting the impressive people to shame. God did this to humble people who thought they were impressive by human standards.
There is a chiastic structure in each pair of lines, putting the word
Godat the center for emphasis. God is the primary actor in this choosing and humbling of the impressive people, because He is carrying out His own plan.27a-b God chose the foolish to shame the wise27a But God selected the foolish ones of the worldThe
foolishmay be those who literally lacked wisdom - the uneducated or unintelligent of that society. But Paul also may have meant this sarcastically, as he frequently did in the previous passage, to mean someone who was considered
foolishby this world's standards, but who was really wise according to God's standards because they trusted in the crucified Messiah. God specifically chose these people for His purpose.27b Purpose: in order to put the
wiseones to shameThis means that God's intention was to cause those who considered themselves to be wise to be ashamed of their pride in their own wisdom. His salvation of the
foolsis designed to (sooner or later) humble and/or humiliate those who considered themselves better, because their supposed inferiors had experienced salvation and true wisdom before and/or instead of them.27c-d God chose the weak to shame the strong27c And God selected the weak ones of the world
The weakdoes not necessarily refer to physical weakness (though that is possible). More likely, in this context, it refers to being incapable or limited in some social or economic sense - not able to be effective in their life ambitions.27d Purpose: in order to put the
strongones to shameAnd
the strongin this context probably refers to those who are socially and culturally influential and effective in carrying out their ambitions. And likewise, God's purpose is to humble them by those they consider their inferiors experiencing salvation and true strength before and/or instead of them.28a-b God chose the nobodies to shame those who think they are somebody28a And God selected the insignificant ones of the world and those of no account - those not being [anybody]Literally, this last phrase is
those not being,which could refer to thinks which don't exist. But in this context, I have taken it to mean those who don't exist in one of the categories of influence considered important in that culture. This is similar to the modern distinction between those who are considered to be
somebodyand those who are
nobodies.28b Purpose: in order to put those being [somebody] to shameLiterally, this is
those not being/existing.See the note on the previous proposition.
put to shamesee the notes on 27b and 27d.God is purposely making a distinction between His way and humanity's way, between His standards and humanity's standards, in order to demonstrate that He is God and we are not. The things that we think are important are often not the same as the things that God demonstrates to be important. And in those cases, we are wrong and need to conform our standards to His.29 Purpose: In order that all flesh would not boast before GodIn this verse, Paul tells us God's ultimate purpose in choosing the insignificant over the significant - to completely cut off the possibility of human boasting.
Paul intentionally used the term
fleshbecause it is the term that emphasizes both humanity's sinfulness and our weakness when compared with God. See also 26b.
And the term
allleaves no room for anyone to boast. Absolutely no one can boast before God. If we were chosen because we were rich or famous or smart or talented or nice or well behaved or a preacher's kid, etc., then we would be tempted to boast. We would be tempted to think that it is somehow more appropriate that we experience salvation rather than those other people. If we were chosen because we made the right decision when confronted with the Gospel, then we would be tempted to boast. We would be tempted to think that we were saved solely because we believed when others did not, and therefore were more deserving of salvation. I like the way that Carson says it:
God is not impressedand
If God accepted people on such ground, He would compromise Himself.D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 29. As we see in Ephesians 2:8-9, salvation is
by grace, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.
God is not glorified when we think highly of ourselves or of one another. But God is glorified when human pride and achievement is humbled before His infinite greatness and worthiness. We are not saved because we are worthy, but because Christ is worthy on our behalf. We have no ground to boast in ourselves concerning our salvation, and that was God's intention all along.30-31 Pos: God's salvation leads to boasting only in Christ30a And because of Him, you are in Christ JesusAgain, Paul used the Corinthians' own experience as proof. They were in Christ because of Him, or from Him. This obviously implied that it was not from themselves. Christ is the decisive factor of their salvation and continued Christian life and experience, as will be elaborated in the following verses.30b-31 Christ is the basis of all our salvation and boasting30b Who became for us wisdom from God - righteousness and holiness and redemptionIt is what He did and Who He is that mattered. He became wisdom for us from God. The wisdom that the Corinthians were so enamored with, that they sought, was not to be found in human speculation or tradition. It is to be found only in Christ, Who is the wisdom from God - the only source of true wisdom. And Paul elaborated on this by describing Christ as righteousness, and holiness, and redemption.
Righteousnessmeans the state of judicial correctness. Christ is righteous in that He has perfectly kept all of God's commands. In our cause it means the state of not being liable before God's righteous Law because this correct status has been given to us by Christ having paid the penalty for our lawlessness. We have been given the righteousness of Christ by being included in Him. So, He is righteousness to/for us.
Holinessmeans dedication to God and the corresponding consecration and purity of lifestyle, often called sanctification, where our lives are consistently conformed to God's standards of purity. While we are progressively being sanctified though our own activity in cooperation with the Holy Spirit working in our lives, this verse refers to the fact that we are already set apart and considered as completely holy and consecrated to God by being included in Christ. He has always been totally pure and dedicated to God, and His status has been given to us. So, He is holiness to/for us.
Redemptionrefers to a release from a captive condition - a deliverance from what held us captive by a payment of some ransom price, with the result of being free. We have been freed from the sin, guilt, and fear that held us captive by Christ paying the ransom price for our freedom. So, He is redemption to/for us.
And the phrase
for usmodifies how all of these things are applied to our lives from God because of Who Christ is, and what He has done on our behalf. By Christ being the source of righteousness, holiness, and redemption, He personifies God's perfect wisdom. All of this (and more) describes how Christ is the Wisdom of God on our behalf. He gives to His people all those things that the Corinthians were seeking in human wisdom, but never could find there. What we so desperately need and desire, what we could never find in any merely human wisdom, power, speculation, or project, we have only in Christ. And we have it freely and abundantly in Christ. And so, we have absolutely no need for anything offered by merely human wisdom and achievement.31 Purpose: So that we would only boast in the Lord31a So that, just as it is writtenPaul was quoting just a phrase from Jer. 9:23-24, but he was likely intending to imply all that these verses say. They say in full:
Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom,(NIV)Or the strong man boast in his strength,But let him who boasts, boast about this:
Or the rich man boast of his riches,That he understands and knows me,For in these I delight, declares the LORD
That I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth31b The one boasting, let him boast in the LordThe obvious implication is that everyone boasts in something, but we should all boast only in the Lord. The word
boastmeans more than just bragging in a negative sense (though it can mean that). It means to have confidence and pride in something, to consider something to be exceptional to the point that we delight and glory in it, put our confidence in it, and speak to others as if it is worthy of our delight and confidence. Boasting can be illegitimate, as when we boast in some ability, which we do not have, as if we had it. Or it can be legitimate, as when we tell our spouse (or others) how wonderful they are, or as when we praise God and tell others about Him. We all take delight and boast in many things. But we all also take ultimate delight and glory in only one thing above all others. Paul (quoting Jeremiah, who was quoting God) commands that we should take ultimate delight only in God.God's plan all along - in Jeremiah's day, in Paul's day, and in our own day - is to teach people what is truly important. We often strive after merely human wisdom, but that is not worth boasting in compared to Christ. We strive after merely human strength and power, but that is not worth boasting in compared to Christ. We strive after riches and influence and fame, but all that is nothing compared to Christ - Who is the personification of all wisdom, righteousness, grace, love, power, etc. He is the infinite source of all that is good and great. And He is good to us by the cross because He is great. The crucified Messiah is all the wisdom we will ever need. So, why would we boast in anything else?
2:1-5 Paul Refused Methods that Empty the Cross
2:6-16 God's Wisdom by the Spirit, Not From Leaders
3:1-23 God Builds the Church, Leaders are Servants
3:1-4 Rebuke to the Corinthians' Attitudes and Divisions
3:5-17 Proper View of Christian Leaders
3:18-23 Application to the Corinthians' Attitude toward Leaders
4:1-21 True Apostles vs. Corinthians' Leadership Ideals
5:1-6:20 Immorality in the Church
5:1-8 The Problem of the Immoral Brother
5:9-13 The Solution to the Immoral Brother
6:1-11 The High Standards of the Kingdom
6:12-20 No Sexual Immorality
7:1-14:40 Answering the Corinthians' Concerns
7:1-24 Concerning Marriage
7:1-7 Marriage is Better than Immorality
7:8-16 The Unmarried, Married, and Unequally Married
7:17-24 Remain in Your Current Status if Possible
7:25-40 Concerning Virgins
7:25-35 The Crisis and Concerns
7:36-40 Neither Choice is Sin, but Remain as You Are
8:1-11:1 Concerning Idol-Food
8:1-13 Attitude: Not Knowledge, but Love
9:1-12 Authority: Paul Argues for His Rights
9:12-23 Authority: Paul Argues Why He will not Use Those Rights
9:24-27 Paul is Purposeful and Strategic
10:1-14 The Israelite Example of Idolatry
10:14-22 Application: Flee from Idolatry
10:23-11:1 Accept Everything with Thanksgiving
11:2-34 Concerning Worship
11:2-16 On Head Covering
11:17-34 The Lord's Supper
12:1-14:40 Concerning Spiritual Gifts
12:1-11 The Variety and Unity of Genuine Gifts
12:12-26 The Metaphor of the Body
12:27-31 The Application of the Body Metaphor
12:31-14:1 The Most Excellent Way
14:1-5 Pursue the Greater Gifts
14:6-19 Build Up the Church with a Clear/Fruitful Word
14:20-25 Unbelievers and Gifts
14:26-40 Orderly Worship
15:1-58 The Gospel as the Foundational Answer
15:1-11 Rehearsal of the Gospel
15:12-19 Some Deny the Resurrection
15:20-28 Implications and Timing of the Resurrection
15:29-34 Arguments and Summary Application
15:35-41 The Resurrection Body
15:42-49 The Resurrection Life of the New Adam
15:50-58 Changed to Fit the New Creation