In an effort to expose the error of division among the Corinthian believers, Paul set in contrast the wisdom of this world and the power of the cross of Christ. It pleased God to save believers through what seems foolish to the people of this world. Paul now continues the theme of God’s wisdom in salvation. As evident in the believers’ own calling and in the preaching of Paul, salvation through Jesus Christ is not based on human wisdom. The wisdom in the gospel is a secret and hidden wisdom of God, unknown to those who are wise by worldly standards. But God has revealed this wisdom to believers through the Spirit.
Did You Know...?
- “Demonstration” (2:4): The Greek word is defined as “a pointing away to something for the purpose of demonstration” [ref]
- The Greek word for “discerned” in 2:14 is the same word for “judges” and “judged” in 2:15.
Identify in this passage the things this world values.
What is Paul’s purpose in asking the Corinthians to consider their calling?Hide Answer
Paul reminds the believers that God did not choose them based on the things the world values. On the contrary, God had chosen the weak, the foolish, and the ignoble of the world into His kingdom (cf. Jas 2:5). Remembering the nature of their own calling should help them see the drastic difference between how God and men judge things. Therefore, believers should all the more shun division based on secular values.
Why does God shame the strong and bring to nothing things that are?
Explain what it means that Christ became to us wisdom from God.Hide Answer
From man’s perspective we who are called may be weak, foolish, and ignoble. Yet God has given us believers what is of much greater worth, namely our Lord Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life. Hence we glory in the cross of Christ even though the world despises it. For the same reason Paul counts everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Php 3:7–8).
What do we learn from this segment about how God and men look at things very differently?
How does the shift to first person (“I”) in this segment indicate a shift in content?Hide Answer
Paul now shifts his focus to his preaching. He will show that his preaching, like the Corinthians’ calling, is also not based on what the world values.
What can we learn here about the nature of evangelism?Hide Answer
While we do our best to preach the words of God clearly, our goal is not to impress the hearers with how eloquent or wise we are. If hearers are drawn to the message because of the preacher’s wisdom, they will rest their faith in the preacher. But the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). The power of the gospel comes from what Christ has accomplished on the cross (1 Cor 1:18).
How do we proclaim the testimony of God without lofty speech or wisdom?Hide Answer
To avoid lofty speech or wisdom does not mean to abandon reason or coherence when we speak. In the present context, the point is to direct our hearers to the power of God rather than our eloquence or wisdom. Evangelism should be a proclamation of what God has accomplished rather than a showoff of how great the preacher is. The salvation of Christ through His crucifixion must always be at the heart of our preaching. As witnesses sharing the testimony of God, our primary responsibility is to tell others the truth of what God has done.
How do we let our speech and message be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power?Hide Answer
As the Greek word for “demonstration” reveals, to speak in demonstration of the Spirit and of power means to point others to the Spirit and power of God. When we tell others how great our God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ, they can come to seek God and experience God for themselves. In doing so, they will also experience the Spirit of God and His power. The result is that their faith does not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (2:5).
Who are the mature Paul speaks of?Hide Answer
“The mature” (2:6) are “those who are spiritual” (2:13) and those who “have the mind of Christ” (2:16). Based on what is taught in this segment, these are believers who have received the Spirit of God and have been taught by the Spirit of God. Their values are not of this world but are built upon the wisdom of God.
How does God reveal to believers His wisdom of salvation?
Why is receiving the Spirit of God necessary to understanding God’s gift of salvation?
Explain the meaning of verse 15.Hide Answer
The word for “judge” in this verse is also used in the previous verse, where it is translated “discerned.” The judgment that Paul is speaking of, therefore, is about the discernment of the things of the Spirit of God. Going further back in the context, we understand that the things of the Spirit of God pertain to the gift of salvation for believers. In short, the message here is that those who have received the Spirit of God and have been taught by the Spirit of God understand the greatness of God’s wisdom as displayed in His salvation. On the other hand, the spiritual person is judged by no one. This means that the world does not understand him because the things he values and speaks about are looked upon by the world as foolish (2:14).
In what sense do believers have the mind of Christ?Hide Answer
The question “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him” is taken from Isaiah 40:13 in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). The point of the rhetorical question is that God is infinitely greater than mortals. No one can possibly teach God what He does not already know. Hence, the phrase “the mind of the Lord,” which Paul equates with “the mind of Christ,” is connected to the surpassing wisdom of God. As believers, we are able to share in the infinite wisdom of God because the Spirit of God whom we have received has taught us what is in the mind of the Lord, namely His marvelous salvation.