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Who is Wise?

1 Corinthians 1:20-21
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher 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 know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (NIVUK)

Wisdom is more than knowledge.  Yes, it is full of truth, but wisdom knows how to apply truth in such a way that God's purposes are fulfilled and people are blessed by Him.  So wisdom must start with God.  God is the only person who is always wise and never foolish (Romans 16:27), and so we must listen to Him.

By contrast, the church in Corinth was listening to different voices.  Travelling philosophers made a living by sharing their opinions.  Pagan temples spread their cultic (and often immoral) teaching about lifestyle.  The thriving sea-port was a magnet for worldly-wise people who created wealth through corrupt business practice.  So 'wisdom' was considered to be proved when it resulted in pleasure, riches, honour or power.  But Jesus achieved none of those things (Philippians 2:6-8), nor did His chosen apostles: so the Corinthian church was attracted to 'gospels' which claimed to give prosperity and popularity (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Paul reminded them that God's wisdom is very different: it leads to heaven and not hell.  Although Christ's death on the cross was foolishness to Corinthian culture, it is the only way for sinners to be forgiven and have peace with God.  No philosophy could work that out.  It was revealed by preaching the gospel (Titus 1:3).  When people believed the gospel they were saved and found that only through God's wisdom could they know Him personally, and have eternal life.

False gospels still plague the church.  Seeking the world's approval has encouraged 'gospel-modification' to appeal to people who thrive on pleasure, wealth, popularity and power.  It is a temptation for some church leaders who believe that they have to say what people want to hear.  But the reward of knowing God, and leading others to know Him, far outshines the temporary glitter of powerful money and prestige (1 Peter 1:3-9).  Choose God's wisdom.  Leaders: preach the cross of Christ, repentance, forgiveness and costly discipleship.  Believers: trust that the Lord has given you all that you need in Christ and be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).  Most of all, honour the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save you.

Only wise God. Thank You for having chosen a unique way to save the world, through preaching about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners. Forgive me for those times when I have changed the simple gospel message for myself and others – taking away the humility and suffering of Christ and adding personal glory and power for myself. Please help me to accept Your wisdom in every matter, in the church and at work. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams