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Earlier today, I presented a short expository reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 and I was encouraged by a friend to blog about it. Every month or so, we are assigned a passage of Scripture and our task is to write a 5-minute exposition.

We often present a morning exposition before our day of studies with morning prayers, as we come to gather and study God‘s Word at Cornhill. As we are now second year students, we come together on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as opposed to Mondays and Tuesdays.

I find it a challenge to learn the disciplines of expository preaching. From my studies at seminary, we were mostly taught the exegesis when writing and preparing our sermons, and I always have this tendency to come across as “preachy” which is academically annoying, but in a Christian discipline, we need to pursue more of.

Below is the reading of 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 (ESV) and the morning exposition.

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God  

18 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.
19 For it is written,  

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  

20 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? 21 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.

We continue from last week’s study on 1st Corinthians chapter 1, as we return full circle towards the cross of Christ. Our reading of verses 18-21 captures the significance of Christ’s revealed wisdom, and the power of God through His Living Word.

As a brief overview to-date, Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth seeks to deploy a renewed focus on fundamental themes of the Christian faith, where Paul instructs us to respond as believers in Christ. For we are called to live holy lives and to seek out God’s faithfulness in all that we do. We are also called to dwell in Christian fellowship and unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ, for there is one Saviour and one body – that is the body of Christ.

Today’s reading is a real gem.

Paul is deliberate in his writing to address of two important items. Firstly, Paul writes of “the word,” which is emphasised immediately at the beginning of verse 18. Secondly, Paul makes use of the word “preach,” which can be found in verses 21 and 23.

Looking back to “the word”, verse 18 sees a contrasting outcome with those who see the message of the cross. The message of the cross – the Good News – God’s Living Word if you will is foolish talk to those who are lost, which profoundly contrasts with those who see the message of the cross as the saving power and grace of God. This power that God delivers is so incredible that it sets us free from the bondage of sin and saves us from eternal death.

For those who have acknowledged Christ Jesus to be their LORD and Saviour, you can appreciate why Paul is so desperate to highlight the importance of the cross of Christ – and he encourages the Church to respond as believers in Christ, and not to be consumed with the human wisdom and earthly values. There is a sincere urgency from Paul to proclaim the Gospel truth to the lost of this world, and see them come to faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.

Paul is careful in his way of words by writing in verse 18 “to us who are being saved” – it stresses the importance of our continuous walk with the LORD, as we learn to be nurtured in the love of God with much pruning and purging of our sins.

We know from our previous reading of Scripture (in Exodus 20:4–5) that the LORD God is a jealous God, for He alone should be worshipped. Verse 19 express God’s judgement and dismissal towards human wisdom, and in particular those who see human wisdom as a means of salvation.

Verse 19 is a direct quotation of Isaiah 29:14.

It’s interesting to note that Paul lists three types of people regarding the wisdom among men in verse 20. In the historical context, such “wise people” may be associated with people like scholars, or scribes and teachers of the law, or those who dwell in the teachings of philosophy, or one who debates in all things intellectual.

The three types of people who thrive in human wisdom could fit both Greek and Jew, for such “wise” occupations were popular back in the day – hence the multitude of writings that we have access to in local libraries even in today’s digital age. As we will learn in tomorrow’s reflection, we will also learn that Paul preaches to both Greek and Jew, as well as the Gentile community.

Paul proclaims to not mix human wisdom with God’s revealed wisdom, and the resulting power of God through God’s Living Word. Even in verse 21, Paul uses rhetoric language to ridicule those who oppose his teachings, which in ways is a little ironic, as it was Paul’s preaching that led people to Christ and the true teachings of God’s Living Word – and the founding of their church.

God’s love is unshakable – for He is mighty to save.

God’s love is indescribable, and He longs for us to know Him as our LORD and Saviour.

God’s divine power lies in His steadfast love – for we are saved by the grace of God through the works of salvation of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, so that we may live.

Mind you, we are all guilty of seeking out human wisdom in the intellectual sense, which is why we need to humble ourselves before the LORD and constantly root ourselves in God’s Living Word. We need to be reminded that we belong to the body of Christ.

For the Church to be effective – we must function like a body, and build one another up through Christian love, prayer, discipleship, fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ and in the study of the Holy Scriptures.

Crucially, as preachers and teachers of the word, we must preach God’s Word with boldness knowing that His Word wields the power to save.

It is only through Christ that we live.

For Jesus said previously in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Let us pray.

~Richard