18For the word of the cross is folly 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 the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. Someone (Bill Gothard) once said “Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view.” This, dear friends, was at the heart of the Corinthian Church’s problems. It is also at the heart of so many of our own. They, and we, too often don’t care to see this life from any view point other than our own. We are so much wiser than anyone else … at least in matters of our own life and morals and faith. It is an easy attitude to take with people – they give us so many proofs it it not a big leap to make – but that shouldn’t let us think even for a moment that we can feel the same way about God.
God doesn’t understand me like I do. God doesn’t know what I know. God would think or do otherwise if He were in my shoes! We’ve all thought it at one point or other in our lives. About one part or other of our lives. And it is just plain foolishness! And Paul lets us know why in no uncertain terms: 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Human wisdom cannot lead to God … only away from Him. Just look at every single “virtue” our society now pursues and how each and every one of them draws us further away from God. Tolerance replaces love. Yet tolerance is blindingly intolerant to real love. Relativism replaces reality. Whatever you feel about yourself is now not only true for you but real too! Emotionalism replaces sound reasoning. Bald-faced stories replace actual history. Islam is a religion of peace and Christianity is the worst threat this world has ever faced. You don’t need to scratch very deeply to see just how foolish human wisdom really is. So what does God do in the face of such “wisdom”? God plays the fool and reveals himself through the message of the cross.
22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The wise of the world who seem to possess every advantage cannot by their wisdom find God. He comes “through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” He comes through the word of the cross. The Jews wanted spectacular signs from heaven so the cross was scandalous to them. The Greeks wanted logical reasoning so the cross was scandalous to them. God doesn’t come through terms established by human desire. He comes on his own terms and that still offends many. Yet what looks like undignified foolishness to us is far above any human reasoning. This word of the cross is the very power of God! God chose what is foolish in the world. God chose what is weak in the world. God chose what is low and despised in the world. He chose all of that so that we do not boast in our own strength (or wisdom), but in Him alone.
26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, 1 not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Thus when God proposes the doctrines of faith, He always proposes things that are simply impossible and absurd—if, that is, you want to follow the judgment of reason. It does indeed seem ridiculous and absurd to reason that in the Lord’s Supper the body and the blood of Christ are presented, that Baptism is “the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit”, that Christ the Son of God was conceived and carried in the womb of the Virgin, that He was born, that He suffered the most ignominious of deaths on the cross, that He was raised again, that He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He now has “authority in heaven and on earth”. Paul calls the Gospel of Christ the crucified “the Word of the cross” and “the folly of preaching”, which the Jews regarded as offensive and the Greeks as a foolish doctrine. Reason judges this way about all the doctrines of the faith; for it does not understand that the supreme form of worship is to hear the voice of God and to believe, but it supposes that what it chooses on its own and what it does with a so-called good intention and from its own devotion is pleasing to God. When God speaks, reason, therefore, regards His Word as heresy and as the word of the devil; for it seems so absurd. Such is the theology of all the sophists and of the sectarians, who measure the Word of God by reason. But faith slaughters reason and kills the beast that the whole world and all the creatures cannot kill. 1
This word of the cross is the very power of God! This Word of the cross is the source of our life and being. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
God grants us revelation in His Word, an acquittal won by His Son, a holiness that follows for us, and full salvation from sin and death. God made Christ our wisdom and our righteousness and our sanctification and our redemption. All these gifts are from God, therefore all pride in ourselves is just plain foolish. Even though Jesus’ death and resurrection appears shameful and foolish, it is the only basis of our salvation. We cannot boast of merits and works, if they are viewed apart from Christ’s grace and mercy. Therefore the wisest thing we can do is to avoid all pride and boasting about anything we do for God or others. We bring nothing but sin into our relationship with God but receive all good things from Him in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. The true and everlasting wisdom for you and me and this whole wide world is that “We preach Christ crucified . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”
1 Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther’s works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Ga 3:7). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.