20Where 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? 21For 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. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)
Where are wisdom and power found? Surprisingly for those accustomed to seeking power in shows of strength and wisdom in learned halls, it’s found in the preaching of the cross. And we’re not talking about any kind of power or wisdom, but the power and wisdom of God.
Can the world produce one wise man, scholar, or philosopher whose intellectual achievements can rival those of God? After all, the best sages and seers could not scale the heights of heaven and take hold of glory by the productions of their minds. “The world through its wisdom did not know God.”
God is pleased by something else–by being known, showing his power, revealing his wisdom through the foolishness of preaching. It pleases God to do it this way. Why doesn’t what pleases God please men? Isn’t that the surest evidence that something has gone wrong with humanity? What pleases God–who is full of beauty, goodness, truth, and holiness–does not naturally please us. How fare we’ve fallen from that original righteousness, knowledge, and holiness!
what pleased the Jews of Paul’s day? Miraculous signs, powerful displays, shows of force. They loved these things. These signs established the credibility of the speaker. They refused to believe unless such signs were forthcoming (Matthew 12:38; John 4:48). Today, we have many sign seekers, searching in every crevice and peering over every fad on the horizon for a sign, a show, a display, power. They travel to this ministry and that, to this conference and that, follow this “super apostle” and that, looking for a sign.
Yet, every day and every time Christ crucified is preach, power from God is present. This past Friday and Sunday, for example, the world was full of the display of God’s power as pulpits all over the world proclaimed Christ crucified and resurrected! Did we see, did we notice, did we feel, did we bow before the power of God? Do we know the miraculous sign of God’s power when we see and hear it? It’s in the preaching of Christ crucified, in the edification of the saints by that message, in the conversion of sinners by that same gospel, in the hardening of the reprobate by that same message. The power of God over every human heart and life reveals itself as it accompanies the “foolishness” of preaching Christ crucified. Do we stumble at this? Let all the earth be silent.
The Greeks/Gentiles look for wisdom. Who can be against wisdom? No one really. But the more salient question is, who can find wisdom? There is wisdom of a sort in books. There is wisdom of a sort to be gained from grandmothers. There is wisdom born of living. But what we need most is wisdom from God. If we want that wisdom, we must look to Christ crucified. “That’s foolishness,” says the Greek seeking wisdom. “That’s ridiculous,” says the skeptics of our age. “That makes no sense,” says the man who already confesses his need of wisdom. How can a man, aware he has no wisdom, finally judge that the cross cannot be wisdom? Humility demands a different poster. For Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. Christ crucified is the revelation of God righteousness, holiness, and redemption for those who believe (1 Cor. 1:30). Can there be a greater display of the intricate and exquisite wisdom of God than the simultaneous punishment of sin and clemency of the sinner through the crucifixion of God’s perfect Son? Can there be a greater display of God’s wisdom than that singular act wherein the unrelenting holiness of God is satisfied even as the untiring grace of God redeems the guilty?
“The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
Indeed. The cross turns the world upside down. Those who would know the power and wisdom of God must seek wisdom and power no other place than in the foolishness of God revealed in the foolishness of Christ crucified. Then we’ll know.