1 Corinthians 1: The Foolishness of God

This entry is part 137 of 154 in the series 365 Key Chapters of the Bible

Finding your life by losing it. Gaining a reward without earning it. Receiving someone else’s righteousness. These things seem like foolishness to the world. But Paul makes the case in 1 Corinthians that the “foolishness of God” is more powerful than any human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25).

A Problematic Place

In order to understand the issues Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians, it is helpful to look at the culture that surrounded the Corinthian church. The city of Corinth was perhaps the most important city in Paul’s day because it was a hub of worldwide trade. But it was also morally degraded and idolatrous, known for its sexual immorality and pagan practices.

Because of the church’s location, Paul found it difficult to keep these practices out of the Corinthian church. The way of the world was a constant temptation to them, so Paul’s letter is more disciplinary in nature than some of his others. He dealt firmly with their problems in order to help the Corinthians see that the “foolishness of God“—the power of the gospel—is better than the world.

God’s Faithfulness

Despite the prevalent problems in the church at Corinth, Paul still opens his letter to them by calling them “saints.” This identity transcends what we do—it is a matter of our position in Christ. The Corinthians were clearly tempted to allow the world to define them, but Paul reminded them of their fundamental identity in Christ. Only He is sufficient.

Even though the Corinthians were not living as they ought, there was hope for them because of God’s faithfulness. After all, God is the One who sees us through to the end; He is faithful to confirm us as blameless before His throne because of Christ’s righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:8). His fidelity is what counts, not our performance.

The Folly of Pride

As Paul addressed the Corinthians, he was clear in pointing to God as the source of hope and security. Some in the church had experienced divisions in who they followed—Paul or Apollos or Cephas. Paul, however, pointed out that the gospel is about Jesus. His is the name we ought to exalt, not the names of our pastors or favorite speakers.

Paul also cautions the Corinthians against listening to human wisdom. Many false teachers sound eloquent, but the gospel does not rely on eloquence for its truth or its wisdom. Instead, it is a higher revelation, the “foolishness of God” in which Jesus Christ came to save us. We could not keep the standard of perfection, so He kept it for us. He redeemed us, purchasing us with His own blood. This is foolishness to the world, but salvation for those who believe.

For this reason, if we boast, we ought only to boast in the Lord. Life is not about our wisdom; it is about the wisdom and grace of God.

This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture

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