Chapter 1:17–31

The main theme of this part is true wisdom. Wisdom and foolishness acquire different meaning. What is wise in the eyes of the world is actually foolishness in the eyes of God; what is foolish in the eyes of the world is actually wise in the eyes of God. Here, Paul speaks about the wisdom of the cross.

Verse 1:17a - see 1 Thess 1:5 - the way to evangelize - not through wise words - “Sophia logou” - refers to oratorical skills of philosophers and preachers of different doctrines. That is not the way of evangelizing. Such preaching nullifies the “cross of Christ”.

Verse 1:18 - connect with Rom 1:21. The same message - the cross - and yet two different interpretations. One group sees it as foolishness, another as the power of God. The first group - those perishing, the second group - those being saved.

See Rom 1:18 and 1 Thess 1:10 for the idea of the wrath of God.
See Rom 3:23–24 and 1 Thess 1:10 for the idea of justification be accepting the Gospel of the cross.

Paul does not explain why some are perishing and some are being saved (see Rom 8:15–16). Note, however, that both verbs - “perishing” and “being saved” are in progressive form. It indicates that the action of the verbs can still be reversed (see 1 Tim 2:4).

Verse 1:19 - a quote from Is 29:14 LXX, with the exception of the last word. Paul has “I [God] will set aside” the prudence of the prudent. LXX has “I [God] will hide” the prudence of the prudent (Matt 13:44 - the wisdom of the cross like a treasure).

Verse 1:20 - see Is 19:12; 33:18 LXX. See John 9:39–40 for interpretation. The word “made foolish” can also mean “become tasteless” (Matt 5:13). Here, God turns the wisdom of the world into foolishness, but in Romans 1:22, the sinners turn themselves into foolish.

The wisdom of the world means a license to sin:

  1. Idolatry - refusing to acknowledge one and true God (Rom 1:21);
  2. Immorality - committing all sorts of sins and encouraging others to do that also (Rom 1:29–32).

Three groups of people:

  1. Wise - a pagan philosopher?
  2. Scribe - an expert in the Scriptures?
  3. Disputant of this age - a scientist of that time?

Verse 1:21 - Where wisdom failed, faith saves. The “folly of proclamation” - “kerysmatos” - in our notes on Romans, we have explained the meaning of this world.

The ancient Christian kerygma as summarized by one of the scholars C. H. Dodd from Peter’s speeches in the New Testament Book of Acts as follows:

Verse 1:22–24 - see John 4:48, 6:30. Greek are famous for its philosophy - phileo- love as friendship (see John 21:15–17) and sophia- wisdom. Thus, philosophy means love of wisdom.
The Jews always search for signs, and no matter how many signs they see, they still do not believe (Num 14:11).

Paul neither searches for wisdom nor for signs. He proclaims the crucified Christ. For the Greeks it is a folly (see Acts 17:30–32), for the Jews it is an offence (see John 6:60). In Paul’s understanding the cross is an offence for the Jews (Gal 5:11).

Yet, even among the Jews and the Greek, there were some who accepted this folly. For them, the crucified Christ became the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The power of God? (See Phil 4:13);
The wisdom of God? (See Col 2:3).

Verse 1:25 - 2 Cor 12:10. That is the paradox often seen in the Bible. Moses facing the mighty Pharaoh with a stick (Ex 3:10–11; 4:17). David facing the mighty Goliath (1 Sam 17:40–50). See also Judges 7:2–7. God uses small means and ordinary people to achieve great things. In this case, the simple proclamation of the crucified Christ surpass the wisdom and the power of this world.

Verse 1:26–28 - From the folly of the cross, Paul moves now to the “folly” of the Corinthian community - composed mostly of ordinary and insignificant people. But, there are some wise - educated?; mighty - rich and in the position of power?; noble - from the high class?

Now, the question is: how would those few wise, mighty, and noble feel after hearing this part of a letter in public? Stressing that they are in minority, does Paul want to teach them something? Verses 27–28, further seemed to alienates those few wise, mighty, and noble within the community. Or perhaps, the whole community got so proud that they forgot their own origins. Ezekiel has a beautiful parable showing the tragedy of forgetfulness one’s own origins (Ezekiel 16:1–22).

Verse 1:29.31. The whole point of contrast - wise - foolish; mighty - weak, noble - despised and “not being” - leads to the powerful statement in verse 1:29: No flesh should glory before God. This verse in complemented by 1:31. All should glory in the Lord. It seems that the pride was one of the main characteristics of the community.

Verse 1:30. To be in Christ Jesus is God’s grace. The meaning of “to be in Christ”. Before, we were all “in sin” or “in sinful world”. Then, by accepting the Gospel and dying to our old self in baptism, we have moved into Christ. This Christ Jesus is described as:

from God to us. Think about Christ Jesus as the gift from God that contains all these four nouns.

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