How to understand “the foolishness of the message preached” in 1 Corinthians 1:21? Preaching Christ’s death on the cross is not foolishness! Then how to understand this sentence?
To understand why Apostle Paul says so, we need to see how he uses the word “foolishness” in the next part of chapter 1 of 1 Epistle to the Corinthians:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ”I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31)(NASB)
We understand the following things from this text:
- the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (unbelievers and the unsaved), but for us, those who are saved, it is the power of God
- God made foolish the wisdom of this world (i.e. what the world considers wisdom) because the world through its wisdom did not come to know God in God’s wisdom and they could not be saved through their wisdom
- people call “foolishness” the wisdom of God, that is God’s word through which we are saved
- God decided to save the believers through what they call “the foolishness of the message preached” but that is, actually God’s wisdom
- preaching Christ crucified is foolishness to Gentiles
- God has chosen what the world calls “foolishness” and “foolish things” to shame what they believe is wisdom and wise things
So, Apostle Paul, made reference to how he and his word were understood by the world when he said:
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)(NASB)
What about you, what do you hold on esteem? The wisdom of God or what the world calls wisdom? In the beginning Corinthians chose to run after worldly wisdom, the one that depends on the cleverness of speech or manipulation and they refused to preach Christ crucified as He is presented in the Sacred Scripture.
Let us always choose to remain in the wisdom of God, because our Savior Jesus Christ became to us wisdom from God made and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption, so that, just as it is written: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Translated by Felicia Rotaru