Fools for Christ

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Christian faith is not the best known ‘philosophy’. Nor is it seen as the most watertight system for viewing the world. So why do people persist in identifying as Christians? What kind of wisdom is it?


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Bible passage 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:5


Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
 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. 19 For it is written:

   “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 2

 1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Explore the Bible


Humble leader…
The gospel turns the world upside down. In the so-called ‘real world’ people seek status, qualifications, rank, evidence and certifiable wisdom as their source of authority and personal guidance. Unless you accept Christ as Lord, Jesus had none of those attributes.

A humble beginning, an absence of occupational prestige, none of the normal marks of success such as possessions or wealth; he had disreputable friends and, in the end, suffered the most humiliating rejection and execution. None of these things would enhance the reputation of a man in either the first or the twenty-first centuries. So why look to such a life for spiritual salvation or wisdom?

…wisdom-less followers
What sources of wisdom did people respect in Paul’s day (1:22) and why did they reject God’s wisdom (1:23)? What sources do we seek out today? What impresses people most? Now consider God’s choice (1:26–29). And consider Paul’s own unimpressive record (2:1–5).

Well, Paul spent his whole life as a Christian leader trying to explain to people why the cross of Jesus is the ‘saving power of God’ (1:8). Why do you find the gospel so attractive, over the wisdom of the world?


Respond


Spend some time trying to express why you find Christ and his cross such a compelling sort of wisdom.

Robert Willoughby


Deeper Bible study


Imagine yourself standing at the foot of the cross and picture Jesus dying there for you.

After more than 20 years of debating with unbelievers, Paul asks (v 20) ‘Where is the wise person?’ (of the Greek academy) and ‘Where is the teacher of the law?’ (from the Jewish synagogue)1? This is God’s great reversal of all that was commonly called wisdom. The Corinthian church has been too easily persuaded by the teaching of these people. The key is that Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God for those who are called (v 24). The gospel of the cross of Christ, preached even in weakness and through suffering and pain, is the call of God to his people in every age. Who are the people of God? Are they the high and mighty, wise by human standards, influential or noble by birth? Well, a few may be (‘Not many of you’; v 26), but on the whole God delights to choose the weak and lowly in this world’s eyes – and even some who are despised – and lift them up as the display of his wisdom and grace.

I visit a drug rehab unit occasionally to teach in their school of ministry. I love to be in their morning devotions as these ex-addicts pour out their gratitude to God in worship and prepare to serve him with such passion. Together, we make a royal procession – of those who have heard the call of the gospel and said ‘Yes’ to what the world calls foolishness.

Paul was consistent in his preaching of the cross. He did not seek the acclamation of the Christian hierarchy of his day (such as it was). His words may never have greatly impressed some anyway, but there was a demonstration of power in his teaching that was the stamp of his apostolic authority in Corinth and beyond.

Eric Gaudion

 

1 Paul Barnett, 1 Corinthians: Holiness & Hope of a Rescued People, Christian Focus, 2011, p32


Cultural background of Corinth


Oratory at Corinth
Oratory in the Greek world was something of a sport. We have descriptions of oratorical contests at Corinth from eyewitnesses:

• The statesman, Dio Chrysostom, recalls the fierce rivalries in Corinth. Orators attracted clients, who became passionate devotees. He describes the ‘crowds of wretched Sophists who gathered around Poseidon's Temple, shouting and reviling one another, while their followers came to blows’.
 
• Seneca the Elder describes how orators would ridicule one another and vie for prestige while the crowds cheered on their favourites. The rivalry was so intense that the different groups were referred to as ‘sects’. 

I am writing this at the time of the run-up to elections both in the US and in Canada. It all sounds remarkably familiar. In Corinth, these attitudes and practices had infected the church.

Philosophy at Corinth
Greek philosophers debated the nature of the world, what the gods were like, what type of government is best, how we ought to live, why we should not fear death, whether the soul is immortal, and so on.

Their ideas are rational and intelligent and have had enormous influence, much of it for good, in the Western world. But their wisdom is not like biblical wisdom, because it does not look to God as its source.

Our culture today
Think of what influences people today:

• television

• movies

• advertising

• celebrities

• sport
 
• our self-projected image (eg Facebook)

• success of all kinds 

If we allow these things to mould our thinking, do they distort the gospel? How can we think like Christ in the midst of our own culture?

Annabel Robinson


Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Joel 1,2

Psalm 139
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Wise foolishness


Reflect on the image and consider your own feelings about wisdom and value compared to these verses.

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Audio


Once again (Jesus, Christ)
Matt Redman
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com



  • Song: God only wise
  • Composer: Eoghan Heaslip & Nick Herbert
  • Artist: Eoghan Heaslip
  • Album: Wonderful Story
  • Publisher: Survivor Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2008 Thankyou Music
  • Buy this album here 



Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    Annabel's question: we will think like Christ when we dwell deeply in Him; when His Word is constantly in our hearts and minds, so that we automatically compare what the world finds enticing, and clever and wise, with what we know is the beauty and truth of His life in us. The upside down Kingdom is still on the nose to many, and does cause offence. Agreed Colin, but the problem is that Christians disagree on just what IS immoral today. Thank you for the wise and helpful comments everyone, and the prayers. Oh Amen for Carol, and Hilary's son. The legal age is 18 in Australia, but yes, teenage binge drinking is a real problem here, and at this time year those celebrating the end of their school lives have huge schoolies' gatherings, and parties, and much prayer is needed.

  • Sue Hanson | Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    I am impressed with our shopping centre. It has a nativity scene with figures in a glass cabinet that is moved around the area where most people walk down. The decorations are stars of different configuration and size. The only Santa is where the children are having photos done. and the large Christmas tree has only balls and stars on it a large star on top.Traditional carols are mixed with Christmas songs. Well done Erina Fair. So it may not show the wisdom of Christ, it certainly shows that Christmas is not just gifts and food.

  • Hilary Dale | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    How clear it is to me today, that God can show up the so called intelligence of the world as foolishness. 5 ambulances and several police cars all sorting out drunken teenagers at the school party I mentioned yesterday. I got called out to pick up a friend's daughter: unconscious from unaccustomed drinking. Beautiful intelligent children, smashed by the foolishness of our culture that encourages massive drinking and presents it as a normal rite of passage. Heart breaking. But God was there, and lessons on foolishness/wisdom were and will be learned by us all. My own child: by God's intervention, and thanks to your prayers: sober and happy (unaware of what had been happening to others, but very shocked to be told). I nearly hugged 2 of the bouncers cos I'm sure God was using them as angels. Complete undeserved favour of our gracious God was on me and my child, cocooning him, but also exposing him to the vileness of this cultural "norm". I have no doubt your prayers were answered! Thankyou dear family, and thankyou dear kind God.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    From the wooden crib to a wooden cross; this was the journey of our Saviour's earthly life that remained simple and true to His Heavenly Father's will. Jesus enjoyed family gatherings and parties; He celebrated all that was 'human' and loved being in the company of all people. The wise build their lives on the 'rock' of forgiveness and love for others. HANNAH - I have also noticed the similarity. Thankyou God for answered prayers. Amen.

  • Keith Civval | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Today Scripture Union celebrates 150 years of history at St Mary's Church, Islington, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. The message of the cross remains as central to our ministry - as it has been throughout. Please pray for the movement as we sing our new anniversary hymn: Come, then, to pledge anew before the Father's throne in all we think or speak or do, to make the Saviour know; his cross be still our sign, our hope his promised word, in service to the King divine, our Saviour and our Lord.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    HILARY not sure if your son has made a commitment but for any of our children a good scripture to claim is Jeri 31:16-17. Today's reading v20/21 The truths of God are very logical. However, God’s truths use a different system of logic than do man’s. God’s wisdom is based on our faith that there is a God who loves us and desires only the best for us. Man’s wisdom tries to understand things apart from God. Man’s wisdom says to stockpile all we can in hard times. That would be accurate if there was no God and we were only dependent on ourselves. But God says to give of what we have and He will bless us and give us more (Luke 6:38). God’s way is better, but the natural man cannot see this wisdom. Man doesn’t believe there is a God or trust Him to intervene.

  • Jack Russell | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Rachael, that's an important point about offence that you have made. In the light of demand to show wisdom and signs, turning up as a vulerable lover and yet not giving in to demands but pushing back against them will no doubt have resulted in the arrogant taking offence. It seems that Paul and others were being accused of foolishness where wisdom was esteemed. In his usual rhetorical response it most likely is the case that he is not arguing against being wise or strong, but against the accusations of being weak and foolish.

  • Stuart Otley | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    #ExploretheBible Salvation only through the grace of God: a total leveller, that cuts through status, hierarchies, intellectual capacity, appearance...indeed, it cuts through all of the things pursued and held in high regard in our sad and confused society.

  • Ruth Lewis | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    So true STUART and GILVIN!!!

  • Eileen Smith | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Don't seem to have seen PETER OLIVER around this past week or so----do hope all is well PETER

  • Lynda Spencer | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Bless you, HILARY. That is such a wonderful answer to prayer on several levels! God be praised!

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    I never ceased to be amazed that God sought me and found me. I was sharing with a Christian friend from the Church I just left and he remarked that in this Church everything is based on Academics not on God's grace, they see Christianity as education the higher they are educated is seen as being Christian. Such a sad state but God is his wisdom knows and he keeps on finding out the weak and lowly and making them His children. This this is the God we adore, Our faithful, unchangeable Friend; Whose love is as great as his power, and knows neither measure nor end. 'Tis Jesus, the First and the Last, whose Spirit shall guide us safe home; we'll praise him for all that is past, and trust him for all that's to come.

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