Why does the word of God seem so foolish to some and so wise to others? Paul talks about this extensively in 1 Corinthians. In this passage, He points out that the wise people, the nobly born, intellectually elevated, the “beautiful” people seem to be largely absent from the believers in Christ. Why is this?
In 1 Corinthians 1:18-26, Paul explains to the Corinthian Christians what is needed to understand God’s secret code and why it is secret, though it is written in plain words in clear Greek. (Well, it was clear Greek to them, though the original languages are just Greek to most of us.) Click on the link above to view this bible passage. It will open in a new window.
Worldly or carnal (fleshly) people do not and cannot perceive the power and truth of the message of the cross. This amazes me, but Paul proclaims it and I’ve seen it. How does God do it? I simply can’t imagine. People who haven’t entered God’s kingdom may understand on a superficial level, or even a deep enough level to respond, but for some reason, the full meaning of the cross escapes them.
Paul refers to “us who are being saved”. It sounds as if he’s talking about salvation as a progressive work. When a person surrenders to Christ, he is instantly saved in the sense that he dies to Satan’s kingdom and is born to God’s kingdom. He does not instantly become a mature follower of Christ, however. If he had a problem with pornography, he may find this is still a temptation. If she had a problem with anger, she will probably still struggle with it. So, in that sense, we are being saved.
The “wisdom” of the “wise” is ridiculous before God. His true wisdom destroys it as surely as strong light destroys both weak light and darkness. Scientists are always changing their ideas based on new data. Sometimes they have to throw the old ideas away entirely because, in light of new evidence, the old ideas are shown to be foolishness.
Scholars, philosophers, sophists (debaters) seek wisdom by their own intelligence (given by God, and misused to their own hurt). Their human understanding, founded on misunderstanding, limited information, personal preferences, lies, and the desire to escape the existence of God and of moral absolutes, is so far devoid of truth as to be foolishness before God. Their pride in their intellectual “integrity”, independence, originality, and excellence prevents them from even considering the “foolishness” of the good news of God.
God doesn’t choose to reveal Himself to the “wise ones” of the world through scientific, logical, or philosophical probing. This would exclude the simple and the uneducated from knowing Him. No, He just tells us what He wants us to know. This hurts our pride. We want a part in saving ourselves; we don’t want to admit our complete helplessness.
God doesn’t ask us to blindly follow the “message preached”, however. He confirms His message in our hearts, if we are willing to hear Him. He also confirms His words with “signs following”. We don’t see a lot of obvious miracles in the USA these days (though I have seen a number of them). I don’t understand why this is, but I do know that this lack of overt miraculous signs is not a problem in third world countries. Are we Americans too sophisticated to believe?
The Jews wanted a conquering king to free them from oppression in this world. A suffering servant was not the messiah they had been counting on. The cross was, to them, confirmation of Jesus’ failure. (Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree . . . Galatians 3:13)
Likewise, the Gentiles were not impressed with a dying god. Gods were supposed to be powerful and victiorious. A god who could be killed on a cross was no god at all to them. Things are generally counter-intuitive in this world. (I wonder if that’s part of the curse?) If you slide on the ice, you’re supposed to turn your wheels into the slide to regain control of your car. If you want to receive love, you must give it away. If you want intelligent people to admire you, you must be (or at least seem) modest. And then we go into more difficult turf: “. . . whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)