Text: 1 Corinthians 1-2 (Acts 18)
Paul greets the Corinthian church and expresses his gratitude that they know Jesus and have his enriching grace and gifts. He then appeals to them to live united with the same mind and judgment.
Paul relays how he has heard of divisions among them because some of them are boasting about their preferred preacher: “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Cephas” or “I follow Christ”. Paul asks them: Is Christ divided?
If Paul had preached to them with eloquent words of wisdom, the cross of Christ would be emptied of its power. He says Jews look for signs and Greeks look for worldly wisdom but it is the cross where God’s supreme wisdom is demonstrated. To those perishing, the cross is foolishness but those who are being saved recognize the power of the cross. God’s foolishness is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
God chooses the foolish and weak in the world to shame those who are wise and strong. This is so no human can boast. It’s all God’s doing – he demonstrated His true wisdom in Jesus, who became righteousness, sanctification and redemption for all who believe. So if anyone wants to boast, they should boast in the Lord.
Paul himself, when he first brought the gospel to the Corinthians spoke of Christ’s crucifixion with his human weakness and fear but through him, God demonstrated the power of the Spirit so that they would come to know God.
Through the Spirit, God has revealed his secret and hidden supreme wisdom – what no one in their human wisdom could have imagined. The Spirit of God knows the depths of God and imparts and reveals God’s wisdom to those who are spiritually discerning.
We can look back at the origins of the Corinthian church in the book of Acts, chapter 18. When Paul first came to Corinth, he met Pricilla and Acquila and worked with them and began ministry with them, starting a church community. After he moved on to other cities to preach the gospel, Pricilla and Acquila met Apollos, who was a very eloquent man, competent in the scriptures. He came to Corinth after he had been ministering to people in Ephesus about Jesus but he only knew the baptism of John. So Pricilla and Acquila explained to him more accurately the gospel. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he came across some of those believers who had received Apollos’ message of Jesus but only the baptism of John. When they were baptized again in the name of Jesus, and Paul laid hands on them, they received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Some of the believers in Corinth were probably Jewish and these had heard Peter’s testimony of Jesus.
So, we can see there were some differences how the Corinthian believers first heard about Jesus. Perhaps Apollos was a more gifted speaker than Paul was. But Paul is trying to show them how trivial it is to boast about another human’s appearance of eloquence or wisdom because these mere servants of God were all empowered by the Holy Spirit, by God’s wisdom. The Corinthians believed the message that was preached to them because it was laced with God’s power…and this had nothing to do with Paul, Apollos or Peter.
Jews valued supernatural signs—appealing visuals, and Greeks valued wise philosophers who could skillfully lay out logic, but the true wisdom of God was demonstrated through foolish means: Jesus, a state criminal died a gruesome and humiliating death on a cross and so defeated death, the Devil and sin. This act of salvation and redemption defied human wisdom and this is precisely how God’s supreme mind works.
Paul is appealing to these new believers to put down their worldly human ways of thinking and reasoning because these only foster division. Instead, they should embrace the miracle of their new reality: as those who have become spiritually alive, through the message of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, they all have unified access to the profound and supreme wisdom of God; as Paul says, “We have the mind of Christ.”
It is so like us humans to look for and align ourselves with appealing and logical reasons and beautiful ideas. This is how the wise of the world live—but as believers, we have something better! We have the mind of Christ. Because our belief in Jesus grants us the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have access to the supreme wisdom of God!! How amazing is this!?
But there is a caution: this supreme wisdom of God can seem like foolishness when contrasted to the world’s logical reasons or appealing ideas. If/when we follow the mind of Christ, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves on a path counter-cultural to the world.
In Proverbs we read of the world’s wisdom and we are told to seek God’s wisdom instead:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (14:12)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (3:5-7)
Is there a situation in your life where you have been searching for wisdom and guidance? Is there a path that seems appealing or logical? How can you trust the Lord’s leading in this situation?
Father God, thank you for allowing me the amazing access to the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Help me recognize when the wisdom of men is really foolishness and lead me with your supreme wisdom, even though at times it may seem to go against logic and what appeals to others. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who guides and protects. Help me to be submitted to the Spirit’s leading and authority.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.