v 20 – Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
- Where is the…? > The wisdom of the world is as nothing before God and his wisdom. God, as the author of wisdom – the creator of knowledge and whom Proverbs touts as the master of all wisdom, laughs on those who see themselves as “wise” in their own sight. Wisdom is not merely knowledge of things, scenarios, or events, but is the combination of that knowledge and the capability to know how to act appropriately. God, who knows all things, and who understands all situations and all the underlying conditions which we may never even know exist, always knows how to apply his knowledge of all things to the result of his glory and our ultimate good in every situation.
- God, by contrast, makes the “wisdom” of mankind – wisdom rooted in the fallen and self-driven world in which it is founded, seem like stupid, and worthless, nothing. It removes from it all of its authority, all of its power, and all of its perceived impact. Like a lowly employee, who operates in the depths of the business empire and who doesn’t understand all of the various implications across the whole organization, nor its direct impact among the world market, nor the changes in flight that are going to have future impact in the weeks and months to come, yet still speaks up in an all-hands meeting to ask why the company did thus and so, his wisdom, likely lauded by his peers, is shut down by the response from the top as the CEO, who has no requirement to explain his decisions, replies and stops all questions. We may never even know 1/1,000th of the myriad connected decisions which are impacted by the control and hand of God directing the lives and events around our lives, but we trust that God’s plan is better than anything we can come up with because he, as our creator and king, knows things that we can never know.
v 21 – For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
- This can also be read, “God, through his wisdom, commanded that the world, bred in its own worldly wisdom, would not come to know God.” Allowing them to think that they had borne this decision of their own understanding, yet it was in the wisdom of God to allow this people, the worldly-focused people (The Worldly Wise-man), those whose worldview is focused on their own self-preservation and their own self-worship – literally anyone who sees themselves as outside the power and authority of God, to cause them to not seek him. They cannot know God because God is not found in self-worship and self-discovery, but in the discovery that God exists not within but without. It is because of this that they cannot see God in this world, because God is not of this world. God exists outside of this world and is not constrained by it.
- Therefore, knowing that the “wisdom” of mankind would reject the preaching of foolishness – the foolishness of the cross of Christ – that he chose this method by which to reach his people. It can only come from God because it makes no sense in any other context. Let’s expand on that:
v 22-24 – For indeed Jews seek signs, and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified – to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called (elect), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
- The cross of Christ, which, to the world appears to be dead-end (literally), it was the bursting of the bonds of death for God’s elect. In worldly terms, it makes no sense. Jesus died, and, as was the hope of the rulers of the Jews, so did the message of Christ. But his resurrection, proved both his power over death, and the truth of his message to all who believed. To his detractors, it was a battle cry to come to the aid to destroy his church, and we see this time and again in the New Testament. Paul, under the power and authority of these Jewish leaders, sought out all who were saved by God’s mercy through Jesus’ work on the cross, to bring them in chains to Jerusalem to be tried and ultimately executed for their belief. But they could not crush this rebellion against their worldly-based system of works and self-directed penance. To the Gentiles, the thought that anyone would serve a God who died – that one even was capable of death – removed their belief that it was any real “God” at all. Moreover, if this God were to die, even if it were to come back from the dead, it was something that was kept in the realm of the gods and had no impact on the realm of mankind. Zeus could transform into animals and even to the form of man to copulate with women, but this had no impact on the realm of man (unless you were a woman in Greece – eek), but this message of a God who died in the place of mankind only speaks of a weakness in God in that He did not create people who are able to raise themselves up to meet his standard.
- But to those who belong to God – to those we are “the called” – his elect, the power of the cross is an amazing testament to God’s love for his people, and to his dedication to the satisfaction of his wrath and the completion of his justice – three of his communicable attributes by which he addresses his creation. The triune God, serving to save his mere creation, died to itself in place of that creation, to save some and to provide faith and power to believe in this saving God, to the whole and final redemption, so that some of his creation could be welcomed into the family of God. Not all, as God’s wrath and justice are still poured out to reveal the holiness and the full extent of his power – but for those who are in his merciful hands to salvation for his name’s sake – this is the power by which we believe. It is, as Paul states in Rom 1:16 – The power of God for salvation to all who believe.