“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” -1 Corinthians 1:18-25
If God could do something dumb, it would still be better than the most profound thought anyone could muster apart from Jesus. If God, for whatever reason, decided to emulate Jim Carey in “Dumb and Dumber” and light farts on fire, it would be infinitely more magnificent than the greatest feat by the greatest man who refuses to follow Jesus. His foolishness is better than the wisdom of men. God on his worst day is better than us on our best.
The Corinthians who Paul wrote to loved their wisdom. They would often hang around and shoot the breeze about the cool new philosophical movement of the day. Logic and rhetoric were in a lot of ways the status symbols of the day.
Given their affinity for wisdom, the Greeks were a little thrown off when early Christians began boasting in a savior who died a criminal’s death on a cross. Crucifixion was so egregious that it was considered uncouth to speak of it. It was inappropriate and offensive. To think, speaking of the cross would offend people. I guess some things really never do change.
The supposedly wise people of Corinth could not see past the social faux pas of the Christians and thus saw the message as foolish. They wanted a grand new idea that they could use to puff themselves up even more. A crucified messiah didn’t fit their mold for conventional wisdom and would seemingly lower their standing if they were to discuss it.
I love Paul’s tone in verse 20. He uses rhetorical questions, looking for the wise who refuse to entertain anything that they can’t reconcile intellectually within their limited perspective. Thus they don’t know Jesus. God wrecks the wisdom of those that don’t follow him (verse 19) and Paul knows it. He’s almost mocking those people as if to say, “You call yourself wise yet you can’t see past yourself.”
If you step back and think about it, on the surface the cross doesn’t make sense. I have heard the arguments. Am I really that sinful? Even if I am, why can’t the sin just go away if God really is good? Furthermore, why did the Son of God have to pay that sacrifice? Why would he even choose to do such a thing? These are pertinent questions that should be addressed.
For those of us “in the loop,” it makes perfect sense. Yes, I am that sinful. Yes, something had to be done to pay my debt. Yes, the Son of God chose to die for me for no other reason than that he loved me while I was still weak and sinful. And yes, it makes no sense that the Son of God would love me that much, but He did and He still does and He will forever.
But I didn’t come to those conclusions on my own. The wisdom of man did not make those murky waters clear. Instead it was the wisdom of God. Any sort of understanding we have attained is because God, in his grace, chose to reveal a piece of wisdom to us. It pleases God to draw people to himself through a seemingly foolish message (verse 21) because it further proves that we can’t save ourselves and can’t grasp his ways. He is so much wiser than us that we could have never guessed His method for salvation without on our own. We can’t understand the cross without God helping us to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s wisdom doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world because they are looking to lean on their own knowledge while God deals in revelation. The cross is foolish to those out of the loop, but to those in Christ, the Lord has revealed it to be His power and love on display for the salvation of His children.