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1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - The Foolishness of the Cross
by Gary Sims
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The Letters
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - The Foolishness of the Cross


Paul is writing to the Greeks in Corinth where intellectual debate and human wisdom are celebrated as the best human attributes. Due to this, the Corinthians are debating which teacher exhibits the greatest intellectual gifts. Paul argues that a person cannot come to know God through human wisdom and debate. Instead, truth resides in the recognition that Christ was crucified in order to assure our salvation.

Key Verses: (NRSV)
  • 18: "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." – The full extent and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross cannot be discerned through debate and sophistry. The truth of the cross is revealed through belief.

  • 19: "For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise…'" – Paul brings out these verses from Isaiah 29 in order to stress that God’s ways are not fully comprehensible by humans.

  • 22: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom." – Paul points to two methods that ineffectively are attempting to discern and explain God’s wisdom. One looks to miracles and signs while they wait for the promised Messiah to free them from Roman rule, and the other focuses on human wisdom and debate in an attempt to explain God.

  • 23: "but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block…and foolishness…but to those who are called." – Unless we believe in Christ and repent of our sins, the message of the cross will remain meaningless.

  • 24: "For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength." – How could we possibly think that we had the ability to second-guess God?
Points to Contemplate:
  • Do you ever attempt to second-guess God? When you witness His creation, read of His promises, hear His guidance, and feel His love, do you tend to filter out messages through your own biases and preferences? Do you attempt to explain God’s actions through a set of values that you have established? When you attempt to rationalize God are you guilty of creating a "World According to Me?" What dangers arise when this happens? Do you end up limiting God’s purpose for your life? Do you restrict His love and bounty? What can be done to avoid this?

  • How often have you experienced the over-turning of a truth? Have you ever had situations occur in your life where you were absolutely certain of a specific truth, only to learn later that you were mistaken? Is this not how we grow in our understanding of God by continuously replacing one truth with another? Does this reveal that we must never cease in our attempts to learn more about God and that our faith development is a life-long adventure?

  • Do you accept the "foolishness" of the cross? Can you see that the message of the cross can be a "stumbling block" to those who have not accepted Christ as their savior? What can be done to overcome this barrier? Do we avoid discussions of the crucifixion and remove the symbols of the cross from our churches because they are not understood and create barriers to unbelievers? Or, do we focus our energies on proclaiming the Gospel and the promise of salvation that is available through Christ in order to bring people closer to the wisdom of God? Is the Cross a barrier or a doorway?
Promises of the Gospel:

The wisdom of God comes to us through the foolishness of the cross. It is a foolishness to accept a gift so great that its magnitude cannot be measured. It is a foolishness to believe that God would send His Son to live among us and then allow Him to be killed just so our sins could be forgiven. It is a foolishness to think that God, creator of the universe, would provide each us with the Holy Spirit living in our hearts in order to help us grow closer to Him. We are fools to believe that eternal life comes simply from our belief in Christ. And, yet, the wisdom of all humanity cannot begin to comprehend the capacity God’s love for us. Believe and live forever.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Rita Garcia 25 Jan 2005
Gary, Love the title, a real attention getter! Even more I enjoyed this bible study, filled with food for thought. Blessings, Rita


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