By Pastor Jerry Donovan
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 that God set out to turn the normal way of thinking on its head. And so we have foolishness. At the very core of things, we have foolishness.
What else would you call it? To win through surrender. To conquer enemies by loving them. To transform our world through humility. To lead by serving all.
Foolishness. And Christ’s followers are just the ones to do it! That’s Paul’s point: we are the ones chosen to live this foolish life in the world around us. We weren’t chosen because of our smarts, or our strength, or our status in society.
You can’t help but take offense with those statements. We like to be chosen because we’ve got something special. We like to be the center of everyone’s attention. You might be the strongest one in town. You might be the one everyone turns to for advice, for knowledge. You might be the one everyone hopes their kids grow up to be. But none of that matters. Not when it comes to faith. Not when it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
But for any who might be feeling low, or feeling despised, the good news is, you are chosen. Chosen by God who is turning wisdom on its head. You have something more important than strength and wisdom and status. You have foolishness at the core of your identity. And even that isn’t your own foolishness; it is HIS. Paul says, God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus. And this source reformats our understanding of what is wise and what makes for a good life, a full life.
Paul stereotypes Jews and Greeks that were admired by the citizens of Corinth as they are in our world today. Those whom he calls Jews, probably because those he had in mind were Jewish, yearned for signs, especially miracles as proof of God’s support. They will be winners because God, the winner, the magician is on their side. But he refused to make such miracles the foundation for his theology, which would be to make a power-model the framework for this thinking about God. It was probably actual Greeks whom Paul thinks of when he sets up his second stereotype: Greeks seeking wisdom. He is addressing the issue in Corinth elevating those claiming knowledge and wisdom and finesse in speaking.
Against this he sets the powerlessness of the cross. Power matters, as does wisdom. But for Paul it is the power and wisdom evident in the cross. Real greatness is the life poured out in love. That is also the heart of the real God. But for any who might be feeling low, or feeling despised, the good news is, you are chosen. Chosen by God who is turning wisdom on its head. Verse 27 says, “The weak and foolish nature of the gospel gathers weak and foolish people.” Yet, God has a purpose in this. God’s intention is to expose the lack of substance in the wisdom of the world.
The point is simple, no believer can boast of any achievement, human wisdom, rhetoric, special abilities, or congregational success; since all that we are in the sight of God comes from Christ and him alone. Let us therefore, glory in him.