Divisions and Wisdom (Part 7 of 8) (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

It is good that we remind ourselves that when God was about to publicize his laws he chose Moses as the instrument, who appears It is good that we remind ourselves that when God was about to publicize his laws he chose Moses as the instrument, who appears to have been handicapped by some natural impediment in his speech, so that Aaron his brother was obliged to be his spokesman to Pharaoh; and that, when God had resolved to publish the Gospel to the Gentile world he uses Paul who describes himself in a very disparaging way—“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you…… For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:1, 10; KJV).


Dio Chrysostom described the Greek wise men this way: “They croak like frogs in a marsh; they are the most wretched of men, because, though ignorant, they think themselves wise; they are like peacocks, showing off their reputation and the number of their pupils as peacocks do their tails. With this rather comical description in view, it could be that Paul used the word "wisdom" in a sarcastic sense, and in this phrase, it means the same as today’s word "gobbledegook.”

lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect;
Paul is telling us to “be careful,” because certain preaching methods weaken the message and make the cross of Christ ineffective. There are styles that tickle men’s ears and fancies with the eloquence of speech, the sophistication of diction, and accuracy of expression, the cadency of words, and the beauty of the oration, so that the true use, end, and design of the doctrine of a crucified Christ is defeated; because the success of the ministry is attributed to the force of enticing words, and the strength and persuasion of oratory, and not to the force of divine power applying the doctrine of the cross to the hearts of sinners. Think about the apostle’s preaching; if he had either substituted human wisdom for the doctrine of the cross, or had presented that doctrine as a philosophy, his preaching would have been powerless. It would lose its divine element and become nothing more than human wisdom. Whatever obscures the cross deprives the Gospel of its power. The preaching of the gospel depends for its success on the simple power of its truths, conveyed by the Holy Spirit to the hearts of men; and not on the skill of the preacher.

How sobering this is! The great gospel of Jesus Christ, the very power of God unto salvation - made empty and ineffective through the pride and cleverness of men! This danger was constantly on the mind of the apostle Paul, and should be constantly on the mind of any preacher or teacher.

Paul here through this and the two following chapters, expounds a new dialogue—the effect of philosophy on the gospel. The reasons why he introduces this topic, and dwells upon it at such length, are not obvious, but are thought to have been the following:
1. He had incidentally mentioned his own preaching, and that he had been set apart for that purpose.
2. His authority had been called into question by the false teachers at Corinth.
3. The basis of this, or the reason why they undervalued him, was probably, that he had not spoken with the eloquence of manner and the graces of oratory which they held in such high regard.
4. They had depended upon their charm, graceful rhetoric, and subtle implementation for success in captivating the Greeks.
5. In every way, therefore, the high regard they had for rhetoric and philosophy in the church, had tended to bring the pure gospel into disregard; to produce factions; and to destroy the authority of the apostle. It was necessary, therefore, to thoroughly examine the subject, and to expose the real negative influence of philosophy.

cross of Christ--the essence and substance of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:2323, 2:225),

be made of none effect--literally, "be made void" (Romans 4:1426); namely, by men thinking more of setting forth the Gospel with human reasoning and eloquence, than of the Gospel of Christ crucified itself; the sinner's only remedy, and God's highest exhibition of love.

_____________________
1 John 13:34 (KJV) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
2 John 15:17 (KJV) These things I command you, that ye love one another
3 John 17:21-23 (KJV) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be

one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
4 John 9:16 (KJV) Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
5 1 Cor 11:18 (KJV) For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
6 Gal 6:1 (KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
7 Luke 6:40 (KJV) The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
8 1 Cor 7:1 (KJV) Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which tended to belittle marriage, and had implied that it was good to break it off when engaged or married to an unbeliever. good -- that is, “fitting,” because of "the present distress"; that is, the unsettled state of the world in general and the Corinthian church in particular, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties. Heb 13:4, in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is stated in 1Co 7:34, 35, "that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those times Paul lived in.
to have been handicapped by some natural impediment in his speech, so that Aaron his brother was obliged to be his spokesman to Pharaoh; and that, when God had resolved to publish the Gospel to the Gentile world he uses Paul who describes himself in a very disparaging way—“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you…… For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:1, 10; KJV).

Dio Chrysostom described the Greek wise men this way: “They croak like frogs in a marsh; they are the most wretched of men, because, though ignorant, they think themselves wise; they are like peacocks, showing off their reputation and the number of their pupils as peacocks do their tails. With this rather comical description in view, it could be that Paul used the word "wisdom" in a sarcastic sense, and in this phrase, it means the same as today’s word "gobbledegook.”

lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect;
Paul is telling us to “be careful,” because certain preaching methods weaken the message and make the cross of Christ ineffective. There are styles that tickle men’s ears and fancies with the eloquence of speech, the sophistication of diction, and accuracy of expression, the cadency of words, and the beauty of the oration, so that the true use, end, and design of the doctrine of a crucified Christ is defeated; because the success of the ministry is attributed to the force of enticing words, and the strength and persuasion of oratory, and not to the force of divine power applying the doctrine of the cross to the hearts of sinners. Think about the apostle’s preaching; if he had either substituted human wisdom for the doctrine of the cross, or had presented that doctrine as a philosophy, his preaching would have been powerless. It would lose its divine element and become nothing more than human wisdom. Whatever obscures the cross deprives the Gospel of its power. The preaching of the gospel depends for its success on the simple power of its truths, conveyed by the Holy Spirit to the hearts of men; and not on the skill of the preacher.

How sobering this is! The great gospel of Jesus Christ, the very power of God unto salvation - made empty and ineffective through the pride and cleverness of men! This danger was constantly on the mind of the apostle Paul, and should be constantly on the mind of any preacher or teacher.







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