1 Cor. 1:18-31God’s wisdom vs. Mans foolishness


Intro: In 1 Cor. 1:18—2:5 Paul continues to deal with the problem of division in the church,

A) In this section Paul makes a contrast between the foolishness of men, which they think is wisdom, and the wisdom of God, which they think is foolishness.


B) It is a contrast between God’s true wisdom and man’s supposed wisdom, between God’s supposed foolishness and man’s true foolishness.

1)The ancient Greeks were in love with philosophy, Their culture was 

     built around it.


C) They believed that philosophy  “love of wisdom” was all–


1)  They had perhaps as many as fifty identifiable philosophical parties or movements, which vied for acceptance and influence.


D) Each had its views of man’s origin, significance, destiny, and relationship

    to their many gods


E) Some of the philosophies had detailed schemes for the religious, political, social, economic, and educational ordering of society..

1)  Philosophy provided a view, invented by man, of the meaning of life, values, relationships, purpose, and destiny.


F) So there were as many philosophies as there were philosophers, and people

    tended to line up behind their favorite.

1)Unfortunately many of the Corinthian converts carried their spirit of 

     philosophical division into the church.


G) Some of them still held onto beliefs of their former pagan 1philosophies.  

1)  They were divided not only regarding Christian leaders (1:12) but also  

   regarding philosophical viewpoints.

Society in our own day still is enamored of various philosophies.

Tolerance is popular one today


B)  The world today, just as in Paul’s day, is caught up in the admiration and worship of human opinion, human wisdom, and human desires & aspirations.



C) Men are continually trying to figure out on their own what life is all about—where it came from, where it is going, what it signifies


D)Modern man has made gods of education and human opinion.


Just as in Paul’s time, the church today has not escaped the problem. We ourselves can fall prey to current trends in human thought.

A) One commentator commented on the problem in this way

Some Christians frantically look almost everywhere but to God and His Word for values, meaning, guidance, and help. Or they add human ideas and insights to Scripture. We sometimes are more concerned about human opinion than about God’s Word-“using” Scripture, but not fully believing, trusting, and obeying it.”


B) Martin Lloyd–Jones has commented, “The whole drift toward modernism that has blighted the church of God and nearly destroyed its living gospel may be traced to an hour when men began to turn from revelation to philosophy.”


C) But the trust in human wisdom that we call modernism isn’t modern at all  

1)  It began with Adam and Eve, when they set their own judgment above God’s, and was in full bloom in Paul’s day/ continues to this day.



Paul Challenges this problem in the passage of scripture before us tonight - by contrasting the wisdom of God w/ the wisdom of man.

A) Paul does so by taking them once again back to the cross. V.18,

18  For 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.

B) 1at understand that The word message in v. 18 is the Greek word Logos - it speaks of the sum total of Divine Revelation -

1)  And Christ is the Living embodiment of that Revelation.


C) In Philosophy you basically have theories & opinions / but in Christianity you begin w/ Facts not theories.


D) The Message of the Cross begins w/ the incarnation - God became a man. Jesus was the Physical expression of that Fact.

1)  Follow the facts & they take you to a cross & an empty tomb


D) So the word of the cross includes the entire gospel message of God’s plan and provision for man’s redemption


E) But Paul says the word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing   Why?

1)  v.23 - foolish to the Greeks - Ever study Greek Mythology?


F) The Greek gods would never have done that - become a man to save their creation.  Lower themselves / Zeus Hercules / Atlas



The idea of a God who would leave his throne & take the form of a servant & humble himself even to the point of death - was absurd.


A) It was a message that made no sense to them.  In Greek culture Crucifixion was never talked about ( Reserved for the worst of sinners)

          1)      cross was equivalent to electric Chair / or guillotine/


The message of the cross makes no sense to a lot of people today either

A) But it is a foolish idea to man in general because the basic instinct of fallen man is to say what can I do to earn it.

      1) But the cross declares - paid in full ! It is finished ! It is done !

C) Those to those who are perishing it is foolish - but to those who are being saved it is the power of God

1)  Both Brilliant & Beautiful Plan.


CC) Young old strong weak talented & untalented - good bad - pretty not so pretty / tall short / are all put on the same plain.

          1) All can be saved. 


D) What greater display of love than to die for Your enemies - God has been throughout time - seeking to convey to man his love

1)  Desiring that man would - love Him & follow Him - In giving Christ it was a radical display


E) Yet He not only provided for man’s salvation - but also for his walk

1)  Now God empowers us to live for Him & walk w/ Him - to all who believe power is available .



Now in v. 19 Paul quotes the Prophet Isa. Illustrating this point of God’s wisdom being manifested in Power by referring to a great invent that took place in the history of Israel

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


A) The Quote is from Isa. 29:14 . When Isaiah made the prophecy, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was planning to conquer Judah.

1)  The Lord told His prophet not to worry or fear, because the king’s plan would fail.


B) But it would not fail because of the strength of Judah’s army or because of the strategy of King Hezekiah and his advisors.

1)  That is when the Lord gave this word. “The wisdom of their wise men [would] perish, and the discernment of their discerning men [would] be concealed”

C) See Judah would be saved solely by God’s power, with no human

 help. And that is exactly what God did.

1)  He destroyed 185,000 men of the Assyrian army with just one angel 

       (37:36). The full account is given in 2 Kings 17.


D) This is but one example of God working in this way on behalf of His people. Joshua & Jericho / Gideon & 300 men.

1)  God continually told Israel that He would fight for her. All she had to do was trust and obey.


E) Men are all inclined to try to solve their problems and fight their battles by their own ingenuity and in their own power.

1)  But human ingenuity and power only get in God’s way.


Solomon tells us(Prov. 14:12).“There is a way which seems right to a man,”, “but its end is the way of death”


That is the plight of the man who tries to live his life apart from God.

Paul in Romans 1:18–23. Pretending to be wise, such men are fools.


Jeremiah asked, “The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” (8:9).


 If men reject God’s revelation, what truth is left, what sort of wisdom do they have? (James 3:15). It “is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic”


Note that description it is Earthly Natural & Demonic

A) Being earthly, it never gets beyond what man can see, touch, and measure. Being natural, it is based on human desires and standards.

1)  Being demonic, its real source is Satan. That is human wisdom.


B)“But James goes on to say, the wisdom from above,” “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:17).


C) In v. 20- Paul continues to contrast the wisdom of God w/ the wisdom of man.  By asking where has the wisdom of man  20  Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater  of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.


Paul asks three questions, but essentially he is asking this one question: "What true standing does human wisdom give to  you?"

A) “Where are all the smart people that have the answers?”


B) Paul asks where is the scribe ? Scribes were those who studied past history - they were the researchers of the day

          1) Problem is they didn’t learn from the mistakes of the past.


Paul also refers to debater of this age? That was the Greek approach. A)The Greeks loved to get together to debate the philosophies of their day.


B) They were the Rush Limbaughs & the Larry Kings of the day

the conflicting philosophies and opinions of the day.

1)  Paul is raising the question, "Where does that get you?" The implied answer 2 both questions is clearly: Nowhere.


B) We could ask the same questions today - We boast of our advanced knowledge yet -  How much closer to peace is man than he was a century ago—or a millennium ago?

1)  How much closer are we to eliminating poverty, hunger, ignorance, crime, and immorality than men were in Paul’s day?

C) In many ways Our advances in knowledge and technology and communication have not really advanced us.

1)We are more educated than our forefathers but we are not more moral.


D) We have more means of helping each other but we are not less selfish.

1)  We have more means of communication but we do not understand each other any better.


E) We have more psychology and education, and yet  more crime and more war.

1)  We have not changed, except in finding more ways to express and excuse our human nature. “


Winston Churchill once said these remarkable words:

Certain it is that while men are gathering knowledge and power with ever-increasing speed, their virtues and their wisdom have not shown any notable improvement as the centuries have rolled. Under sufficient stress, starvation, terror, warlike passion, or even cold, intellectual frenzy, the modern man we know so well will do the most terrible deeds, and his modern woman will back him up.


So Paul says look at man - where is the wise - Man boast of His wisdom - yet he is worse off today than he was a century ago.


I think at this point we must make a very important distinction. There is a difference between human knowledge and human wisdom.

A) Important not to confuse the two: See man has increased in his knowledge

     but he hasn’t really become wise.


B) Knowledge is the discovery of truth, and God always encourages it. He gave us minds to use. There is nothing anti-intellectual in the Scriptures

1)  God has given Man the gift of reason to search & unravel and discover the millions of secrets he has hidden in the universe


C) To give yourself to a discovery of the laws of physics and what is behind matter is good

1)  And it is Great to study human anatomy.  Astronomy There is great benefit in increasing our understanding of those things .


D) But The discovery of that truth is meant to lead us to God.   So Knowledge is the discovery of truth.

1)  Wisdom is the use of truth. Application of truth.


E) And the point that the Scriptures make is that there is something wrong about human wisdom -- it does not know how to use truth.

1)  Because in all of mans knowledge he has come to the conclusion in his that there is thinking - there is no God .


Human wisdom sometimes sees the immediate cause of a problem but it does not see the root, which always is sin. It may see that selfishness is a cause of injustice, but it has no way to remove selfishness.

It may see that hatred causes misery and pain and destruction, but it has no cure for hatred. It can see plainly that man does not get along with man, but does not see that the real cause is that man does not get along with God.


So Human wisdom cannot see because it will not see. As long as it looks on God’s wisdom as foolishness, its own wisdom will be foolish.


. In other words, human wisdom itself is a basic part of the problem.

Peace, joy, hope, harmony, brotherhood, and every other aspiration of man is out of his reach as long as he follows his own way in trying to achieve them.



And That is basically what Paul says in v. 21 21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God,

B) What is the major fault of the wisdom of man? Well, despite his claims to have penetrated the  secrets of life, he has failed to discover and acknowledge the greatest fact of all -- God himself.

C) T. S. Elliot says, All our knowledge only brings us closer to our ignorance, and all our ignorance closer to death, but closer to death, no nearer to God


Now what is God's answer to this? Well, Paul gives it to us in Verse 21: it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.


God’s whole plan was to provide a way whereby man could come to know Him.

A) Answer Jesus Christ & Him Crucified - that is what we preach.


B) Jews ask for a sign - Greeks seek wisdom - but we preach Christ - to the Jews a stumbling block to the Greeks - foolishness.


C) Stumbling block to the Jews Because that didn’t fit their view of Messiah.

          1) Peter rebuked Jesus - this is why ?


D) Greeks  foolishness Already mentioned how the Greeks felt about crucifixion - worst criminals .

1)  Today mass murders / rapist / child molesters ! cross was equivalent

     to electric Chair / or guillotine/


E) Pictures in Churches - electric chair - on roof tops - around necks

1)  Preach unless you take up your electric chair ….. disciple


F) So a stumbling block to the Jews & foolishness to the Greeks but 24 to those who 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.


So Paul in making his contrast 1st gives an illustration from O.T. history - then he asks them to consider - where mans wisdom has taken him

               And then in v. 26- 31 He ask them to look at themselves

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

27  But 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;

28  and 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,

29  that no flesh should glory in His presence.

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

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


A)     Not a who's who ! but a who's he / In heaven we are not going

          to be running around going Do you know who's here?

          1)      We might be surprised by who made it - but the focus

                   isn't going to be on who' who / but HIM!


B)     Paul the focus isn't on how wise we are  " I found it"   No I lost it

          and He found me !

          1)      Love v.27  Foolish things of the world to confound the wise


C)     the wise of the world can't figure out how God changes sinners

          into saints / they can't duplicate such a miracle



D)   We look at this & say God you are unreal / He gets the glory v.29-31

          1)      In heaven we are not going to be boasting about all we

                   did for God / and we shouldn't here !


E)      Just a bunch of foolish things / God is using!/ Don't be held

          back by your flesh!



As we come to Chapter. 2 Paul uses Himself as an example v1-5

A)     Paul says I didn't come to you w/ Human wisdom & persuasion / I

          didn't come trying to convince you intellectually


B)     I came preaching Christ / Jesus Christ Crucified / the gospel / that

          was my message ( And God worked Powerfully )

          1)      H.S. grabbed a hold of your heart & mind . You believed and

                   were changed ! Made new in Him!


C)     Does that mean that there is not a place for apologetics in sharing

          Absolutely not / doesn't mean that at all !

          1)      But that is not to be the premise from which we begin / must

                   start w/ Christ !


D)     In Yugo street witnessing ( Jesus ......  Don't believe in God or the

          Bible ) so we talked about origins / reliability of the bible

          1)      But we always came back to Christ / YOU MUST ! KEY



Paul said I came to you in weakness / preached Christ so that

your faith would be in Christ & not men !

A)     Forget about Paul , Apollos , Peter, Chuck Smith , Billy Graham ,

          John Courson - Whoever / Do you know Christ!


B)     At this Pt. in Chapter. 2 Paul focuses on the characteristics of the wisdom of God in the message of Gospel!