Jews and Greeks and Wisdom Part 4 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1st Co.)
by John Lowe
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Quarreling and divisiveness had erupted among the Corinthians in the name of “wisdom.” The people within the church had aligned themselves with various Christian leaders, boasting in the wisdom of one over the other. The theme of wisdom dominates Paul’s dialogue in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul argued that God’s wisdom is foolishness to humanly-conceived wisdom. On their own, people fail to know God. They can only gain a true knowledge of God through the Spirit, whom they receive upon believing the “foolishness” of the gospel. Paul asserted that it pleased God to arrange things in this manner. If God were to be found through human wisdom, He would only be accessible to the elite. But by extending salvation through His “foolishness” (which is wiser than men), God forces His creation to trust and glory in Him, and not in the wisdom of sinful flesh: “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor 1:29; KJV)
For after that in the wisdom of God
The wisdom of God has definitely made the wisdom of men appear foolish, and this passage gave a reason for the infatuation of men for the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God means one of two things:
1. It is Christ, who is the wisdom of God; who was in the world, and yet the world of the Jews, and their chief Rabbis, with all their wisdom, neither knew him, nor God his Father.
2. Or, it is the Gospel, which is also called the wisdom of God; and although it had already come into the world of the Jews and the Gentiles, yet neither of them knew the God of grace, by their natural wisdom, even though He is so obviously revealed in it. And they did not know the God of creation or His works of creation, even though there is in nature such a visible display of the wisdom of God: yet "the world by wisdom knew not God." The Gentiles did not know Him in any spiritual and saving manner, as He is in Christ, or as the God of all grace; and, they knew him not as the God of nature, or as the one, only, true God; they did not glorify him as God, or worship him in the right way.
Worldly wisdom did not search for the true God, because if it did, it would have found Him; because the entire creation declares its creator; and He declared Himself by all the prophets He sent to them. But it pleased God to save them that believe, by a way which those who perish consider to be mere foolishness...
the world by wisdom knew not God,
The world by wisdom becomes clearer when revised to say "by its wisdom," or "its philosophy" (see John 1: 10, Romans 1:28 ).
knew not God—whatever knowledge man has acquired, it does not include a personal knowledge of God (see Acts 17. 23, 27). The deistic theory that man can by the light of nature discover his duty to God is disproved by the fact that man has never discovered God without a revelation from God. The moon and all the stars and cannot make it day; that is the prerogative of the sun. Nor can nature's highest gifts make men and women acceptable to God; that is the office of Christ. Even the Jew missed this knowledge, because he sought after mere carnal world wisdom.
The world through wisdom did not know God. There is a constant tendency to think that the smartest and wisest humans will know the most about God. But God cannot be found through human wisdom, but only through the message of the cross. The pursuit of human wisdom may bring an earthly contentment or happiness (though this is rare), but in itself, it can never bring the true knowledge of the true God. It amazes me that often the most educated people have the least regard for God. This is not always the case; some of the most brilliant men of history have been Christians (such as Isaac Newton). But for the most part, the "smarter" one sees himself as, the less regard he has for God. Human "wisdom" is constantly rejecting God and opposing Him, and ultimately showing itself to be foolish and perishing!
One day, students in one of Albert Einstein's classes were saying they had decided that there was no God. Einstein asked them, how much of all the knowledge in the world they had among themselves collectively, as a class. The students discussed it for a while and decided they had 5% of all human knowledge among themselves. Einstein thought that their estimate was a little generous, but he replied: "It is possible that God exists in the 95% that you don't know?"
John 1:10 (KJV) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He was in the world—From its very creation—he governed the universe—regulated his Church—spoke by his prophets—and often, as the angel or messenger of Jehovah, appeared to them, and to the patriarchs. The world knew him not—Did not acknowledge him; for the Jewish rulers knew well enough that he was a teacher come from God, but they did not choose to acknowledge him as such. Men love the world, and this love hinders them from knowing him who made it, though he made it only to make himself known. Christ, by whom all things were made, John 1:3, and by whom all things are continually maintained, Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:3, has his way everywhere, is continually manifesting himself by his providence and by his grace, and yet the foolish heart of man refuses to honor him!
Romans 1:28 (KJV) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; God gave them over to a reprobate mind. The man who turns from the truth will be allowed to have his way, will fall deeper and deeper into error, and will reap all the evil consequences of loving darkness rather than light. Those who hate the truth are “given over” to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one that has rejected God. Which are not convenient? Not decent, or honorable.
Acts 17:23, 27 (KJV) For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you... That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;
It was God’s plan and He decreed it within himself; it was his sovereign good will and pleasure; it was without mankind having any worth or good points, that He resolved that he would "save", throughout eternity; not the wise man, the Scribe, the disputer of this world, the rationalist, the talker, or the worker; but he would save "them that believe" in his Son, that look unto him when they need help, submit to him, and commit the care and keeping of their souls to him, regardless of how weak, poor, and despicable they may otherwise be. It doesn’t matter whether they believe with a weak, or a strong faith, because it is still true that God saves by grace through faith. The Ethiopic version reads, "that believe in this foolish doctrine"; and He determined to do it, and He did it, "by the foolishness of preaching"; which the wise men of the world reckon foolishness; consequently they do not believe in Jesus Christ; so the wise men of the world, are ignorant of God, and perish in their sins, while the Gospel they despise is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe in Christ. It is only through the effectual grace of God that any man can be saved.
it pleased God--Paul refers to Jesus' words in Luke 10:21: “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.—That is, thou hast not revealed them to the scribes and Pharisees, who idolized their own wisdom; but thou hast revealed them to the simple and humble of heart, by that preaching which the world (unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike) deem foolishness. to save them that believe—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16; KJV)