Christ alone is the Power and Wisdom of God…
1 Corinthians 1
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth while he was visiting Ephesus during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:1–20:1).
Corinth and Ephesus faced each other across the Aegean Sea.
Paul knew the Corinthian church well because he had spent 18 months in Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18).
While in Ephesus, he had heard about problems in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11).
Around the same time, a delegation from the Corinthian church had visited Paul to ask his advice about their conflicts (16:17).
Paul’s purpose for writing was to correct those problems and to answer questions church members had asked in a previous letter (7:1).
Corinth had a sordid history.
Strabo (a Greek geographer, philosopher,
Archaeologists, who lived between 64 or 63 BC to 24 AD) claimed the city had one thousand temple prostitutes servicing the temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth.
Archaeologists have discovered many clay models of human genitalia offered to Asclepius, the god of healing, presumably to petition him to heal venereal disease. But that perverse city was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.
The Corinth Paul knew had been rebuilt on the site of the ancient city by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.
It was populated largely by freemen whose status was barely above that of slave.
It was a center for international trade, attracting people from all over the world.
It followed Roman laws and culture and Greek philosophy and art.
Corinth’s religious composition varied greatly, including worship of the Roman and Greek gods, the mystery cults from Asia and Egypt, and Judaism.
Because of its commercial strength, the city possessed wealth.
These riches brought all kinds of people to populate the area: the educated and sophisticated; people seeking their fortunes; prostitutes and criminals.
The Corinthian church itself contained people who had been sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals offenders, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers (see 6:9-11).
Not many were “wise by human standards,” “influential,” or “of noble birth” (1:26).
Rather, they were “foolish,” “weak,” and “despised” (1:27-28), and some were certainly “slaves” (7:21-22; 12:13).
Given the nature of Corinth and its people, and of the Corinthian church itself, it is no wonder that Paul reminded the church that it had been “sanctified” or set apart as God’s people, and was “called to be holy” (1:2).
“Holy” referred to the fact that the church was to remain dedicated to God as His people, and that it was to be pure.
It may have been a remembrance of the church’s formerly deplorable members that caused Paul to be so thankful for the “grace” given to the Corinthian church (1:4), and for their spiritual gifting which “confirmed” that they had believed the gospel (1:5-6).
Paul reminded them that Christ would keep them strong until the end because their past lifestyles tugged strongly at them through the influence of the Corinthian society and culture (1:8; cf. 12:2).
Central to Paul’s thinking in all his letters was the concept of being “in Christ” (1:2, 4).
He used this exact phrase seventy-three times and frequently employed related phrases and concepts.
This complex idea incorporates both a legal and an experiential aspect.
On the one hand, “in Christ” refers to the fact that believers are covered by Christ’s imputed righteousness (Rom. 5:15-19; Gal. 2:17).
Because Christ has died for them and imputed His righteousness to them, believers stand before God’s judgment throne with Christ’s own status.
They are accounted righteous because Christ stands in their place as their representative.
On the other hand, “in Christ” is also much like John’s term “abide” (John 15:1-7, NASB), meaning that Christ lives within believers, and they live in Him (Rom. 6:23; Gal. 3:28).
It refers to an intimate union that affects believers on the level of their very being.
(1:4) Having concluded his salutation, the apostle now turns to thanksgiving for the Corinthians and for the wonderful work of God in their lives (vv. 4–9).
It was a noble trait in Paul’s life that always sought to find something thankworthy in the lives of his fellow believers.
If their practical lives were not very commendable, then he would at least thank his God for what He had done for them.
This is exactly the case here.
The Corinthians were not what we would call spiritual Christians. But Paul can at least give thanks for the grace of God which was given to them by Christ Jesus.
(1:5) The particular way in which God’s grace was manifested to the Corinthians was in their being richly endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Paul specifies gifts of utterance and all knowledge, presumably meaning that the Corinthians had been given the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and knowledge to an extraordinary degree.
Utterance has to do with outward expression and knowledge with inward comprehension.
(1:6) The fact that they had these gifts was a confirmation of God’s work in their lives, and that is what Paul means when he says, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.
They heard the testimony of Christ, they received it by faith, and God testified that they were truly saved by giving them these miraculous powers.
(1:7) As far as the possession of gifts was concerned, the Corinthian church was not inferior to any other. But the mere possession of these gifts was not in itself a mark of true spirituality.
Paul was really thanking the Lord for something for which the Corinthians themselves were not directly responsible.
Gifts are given by the ascended Lord without regard to a person’s own merit.
If a person has some gift, he should not be proud of it but use it humbly for the Lord.
The fruit of the Spirit is another matter entirely.
This involves the believer’s own surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle could not commend the Corinthians for evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, but only for what the Lord had sovereignly bestowed on them—something over which they had no control.
Later in the Epistle the apostle will have to reprove the saints for their abuse of these gifts, but here he is content to express thanks that they had received these gifts in such unusual measure.
The Corinthian church members had all the spiritual gifts they needed to live the Christian life, to witness for Jesus, and to stand against the paganism and immorality of Corinth.
But instead of using what God had given them, they were arguing over which gifts were most important.
Paul addresses this issue in depth in 1 Corinthians 12 through 14.
(1:7-9) Before tackling the problems, Paul described his hope for the Corinthians.
He guaranteed these believers that God would keep them strong to the end and consider them free from all blame when Christ returns (also see Ephesians 1:7-10).
This guarantee was not because of their great abilities, spiritual gifts, or shining performances but because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for them through his death and resurrection.
All who believe in the Lord Jesus are in partnership with Him and will be considered blameless when He returns (also see 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 9:28).
Today’s struggles, difficulties, and failures don’t tell the whole story. Keep the big picture in mind.
If you have faith in Jesus, even if it is weak, you are and will be saved.
(1:10-11) Like a frustrated coach watching his team bicker on the court, Paul called for a time-out.
He saw the danger of divisions and arguments.
The Corinthian believers’ lack of unity was obvious.
They may have been playing in the same “uniform,” but they were doing as much as the opposition to bring about their own defeat.
The problems weren’t so much differences of opinion as divided allegiances.
They were arguing over which position on the team was most important in a way that made them ineffective as a unit.
Harmony is beautiful—in families, in friendships, at work, at church.
Harmony, however, does not require everyone to hold the same opinions about everything.
There is a difference between having opposing viewpoints and being divisive.
A group of people will not agree on every issue, but they can work together harmoniously if they agree on what truly matters—Jesus Christ as Lord of all.
Focus on Jesus and the purpose He has for you.
Speak and act in a way that will reduce arguments and increase harmony.
Petty differences should never divide Christians.
(1:10) Paul founded the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey.
Eighteen months after he left, arguments and divisions arose, and some church members slipped back into an immoral lifestyle.
Paul wrote this letter to address the problems and to clear up confusion about right and wrong so that the believers would remove the immorality from among them.
The Corinthian people had a reputation for jumping from fad to fad; Paul wanted to keep Christianity from degenerating into just another fad.
(1:10) By saying “brothers and sisters,” Paul was emphasizing that all Christians are part of God’s family.
Believers share a unity that runs even deeper than that of blood brothers and sisters.
(1:12-13) In the large and diverse Corinthian church, the believers favored different preachers.
Because as yet they had no written New Testament, they depended heavily on preaching and teaching for spiritual insight into the meaning of the Old Testament.
Some preferred Paul, who had founded their church; some who had heard Peter in Jerusalem followed him; others listened only to Apollos, an eloquent and popular preacher who had had a dynamic ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:24; 19:1).
Although these three preachers were united in their message, their personalities attracted different people.
At this time the church was in danger of dividing.
By mentioning Jesus Christ ten times in the first ten verses, Paul makes it clear that all preachers and teachers should emphasize God’s message, which is much more important than any human messenger.
(1:12-13) Paul asks whether the Corinthians’ quarrels had “divided” Christ.
This is a graphic picture of what happens when the church (the body of Christ) divides into factions.
With the many churches and styles of worship available today, we could get caught up in the same game of “My preacher is better than yours!”
To do so would be like trying to divide Christ yet again. But Christ cannot be divided, and His true followers should not allow anything to divide them.
Don’t let your appreciation for any teacher, preacher, or author lead you into false pride or misplaced devotion.
Maintain your allegiance to Christ and to the unity He desires.
(1:17) When Paul said that Christ didn’t send him to baptize, he wasn’t minimizing the importance of baptism.
Baptism was commanded by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19) and practiced by the early church (Acts 2:41).
Paul was emphasizing that no one person should do everything. Paul’s gift and calling was preaching, and that’s what he did.
Christian ministry should be a team effort; no preacher or teacher is a complete link between God and people, and no individual can do all that the apostles did collectively.
We shouldn’t compare ourselves with others, and we should be content with the contribution God has given us to make and carry it out wholeheartedly. (For more on different gifts, see 1 Corinthians 12–13.)
(1:17) Some speakers use impressive words, but they are weak on content.
Paul stressed solid content and practical help for his listeners.
He wanted them to be impressed with his message, not his style (see 2:1-5).
You don’t need to be a great speaker with a large vocabulary to share the Good News effectively.
The story, not the storyteller, has the persuasive power.
Paul was not against those who carefully prepare what they say (see 2:6) but against those who try to impress others with their own knowledge or speaking ability.
(1:19) Paul summarizes Isaiah 29:14 to emphasize a point Jesus often made:
God’s way of thinking differs from the world’s way (normal human wisdom).
God also offers eternal life, which the world can never give.
Someone can spend a lifetime accumulating human wisdom and yet never learn how to have a personal relationship with God.
We must come to the crucified and risen Christ to receive eternal life and the joy of a personal relationship with our Savior.
(1:22-24) Many Jews considered the Good News of Jesus Christ to be foolish because they thought the Messiah would be a conquering king accompanied by signs and miracles.
Jesus had not restored David’s throne as they had expected.
Besides, He was executed as a criminal, and how could a criminal be a savior?
Greeks, too, considered the Good News foolish:
They did not believe in a bodily resurrection, they did not see in Jesus the powerful characteristics of their mythological gods, and they thought no reputable person would be crucified.
To them, death was defeat, not victory.
The Good News of Jesus Christ still sounds foolish to many.
Our society worships power, influence, and wealth.
Jesus came as a humble, poor servant, and He offers entrance into His Kingdom to those who humbly come to Him in faith, not to those who are wise, mighty, powerful, influential, or who try to earn salvation through good deeds.
The Christian faith looks foolish to the world, but knowing Christ personally is the greatest wisdom anyone can have.
(1:25) The message of Christ’s death for sins sounds foolish to those who don’t believe it.
Death seems to be the end of the road, the ultimate weakness.
But Jesus did not stay dead.
His resurrection demonstrated His power over even death.
And He will save us from eternal death and give us everlasting life if we trust Him as Savior and Lord.
This sounds so simple that many people won’t accept it.
They try other ways to obtain eternal life, but all their attempts are futile.
The people who may seem foolish for simply accepting Jesus’ offer are actually the wisest of all because they alone will live eternally with God.
(1:27) Does Christianity oppose rational thinking?
Christians clearly do believe in using their minds to weigh the evidence and make wise choices (see 14:15-16).
Here Paul declares that no amount of human knowledge can replace or bypass Christ’s work on the cross.
If it could, Christ would be accessible only to the intellectually gifted and well educated, and not to ordinary people or to children.
(1:28-31) Paul continues to emphasize that the way to receive salvation is so simple that any person who wants to can understand it.
Skill and wisdom do not get a person into God’s Kingdom—simple faith does.
So no one can boast that personal achievements helped him or her secure eternal life.
Salvation comes totally from God through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We can do NOTHING to earn our salvation; we need only to accept what Jesus has already done for us.
(1:30) God is our Source and the reason for our personal relationships with Christ Jesus.
Our union and identification with Christ result in our having God’s wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), being in right standing with God (2 Corinthians 5:21), being pure (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7), and having the penalty for our sins paid by Jesus (Mark 10:45).
Verse 30 emphasizes even further that all we are and have comes from Him—not from philosophy, and that there is therefore no room for human glory.
First of all, Christ became for us wisdom.
He is the wisdom of God (v. 24), the One whom God’s wisdom chose as the way of salvation.
When we have Him we have a positional wisdom that guarantees our full salvation.
Secondly, He is our righteousness.
Through faith in Him we are reckoned righteous by a holy God.
Thirdly, He is our sanctification.
In ourselves we have nothing in the way of personal holiness, but in Him we are positionally sanctified, and by His power we are transformed from one degree of sanctification to another.
Finally, He is our redemption, and this doubtless speaks of redemption in its final aspect when the Lord will come and take us home to be with Himself, and when we shall be redeemed—spirit, soul, and body.
Stewart Traill (1936–2018) delineated the truth sharply:
Wisdom out[side] of Christ is damning folly—righteousness out[side] of Christ is guilt and condemnation—sanctification out[side] of Christ is filth and sin—redemption out[side] of Christ is bondage and slavery.
A. T. Pierson (1837-1911) relates verse 30 to the life and ministry of our Lord:
His deeds and His words and His practices, these show Him as the wisdom of God.
Then come His death, burial, and resurrection: these have to do with our righteousness.
Then His forty days’ walk among men, His ascension up on high, the gift of the Spirit, and His session at the right hand of God, have to do with our sanctification.
Then His coming again, which has to do with our redemption.
(1:31) God has so arranged it that all these blessings should come to us in the LORD.
Paul’s argument therefore is, “Why glory in men?
They cannot do any one of these things for you.”
From Life Lessons, by Max Lucado
One of my Boy Scout assignments was to build a kite.
One of my blessings as a Boy Scout was a kite-building dad.
He built a lot of things: scooters on skates, go-carts.
Why, he even built our house.
A kite to him was stick figures to Van Gogh.
Could handle them in his sleep. With wood glue, poles, and newspaper, we fashioned a sky-dancing masterpiece: red, white, and blue, and shaped like a box.
We launched our creation on the back of a March wind.
But after some minutes, my kite caught a downdraft and plunged.
I tightened the string, raced in reverse, and did all I could to maintain elevation.
But it was too late. She Hindenburged earthward.
Envision a redheaded, heartsick twelve-year-old standing over his collapsed kite.
That was me.
Envision a square-bodied man with ruddy skin and coverall, placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
That was my kite-making dad.
He surveyed the heap of sticks and paper and assured,
“It’s okay. We can fix this.”
I believed him. Why not? He spoke with authority.
So does Christ. To all whose lives feel like a crashed kite, He says, “We can fix this.
Let Me teach you. Let Me teach you how to handle your money, long Mondays, and cranky in-laws.
Let Me teach you why people fight, death comes, and forgiveness counts.
But most of all, let Me teach you why on earth you are on this earth.”
Don’t we need to learn?
We know so much, and yet we know so little.
The age of information is the age of confusion: much know-how, hardly any know-why.
We need answers. Jesus offers them. But can we trust Him?
Only one way to know.
(From 3:16 by Max Lucado)
Human wisdom tells us to get as much as we can, believe only what we can see, enjoy pleasure, and avoid pain.
God’s wisdom tells us to give all we can, believe what we can’t see, enjoy service, and expect persecution.
Faith and Trust makes all the difference!
So here’s the deal, Christ did for each of us what we could not do for ourselves.
The Bible tells us that, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; and behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17).
If we truly have had this born-again encounter with Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who now indwells each of our lives, then our lives will never be the same again.
As Paul declared, in his own faith, this is the reckoning that we each must make every single day of our lives..
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by FAITH in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
And also in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul tells us…
“…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
God tells us in His Word that His ultimate mission and design, for all mankind, is that after we are born-again, by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, (and then having entered the school of the Holy Spirit), that we each be conformed into the image of His Son – Jesus Christ!
New King James Version
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Knowing Jesus intellectually as an historic figure it’s not salvation and it’s not what being born-again is about!
I should know because that’s where I started, as a nominal Christian (in name only), who knew Jesus only as an historic figure, but did not have a relationship with Him.
Knowing about Christ is not what salvation is.. salvation happens as we come into relationship with Him and submit to Him as both our Lord and Savior.
Listen to what Jesus says on the subject…
New King James Version
I Never Knew You
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
The Bible tells us that, “…for by grace (unmerited favor) we are saved through FAITH, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9).
So it’s God’s grace mixed with our faith that saves us; and salvation cannot happen without both together.
And we learn in Hebrews 11 about how faith works, and that “Faith is ACTION, based UPON our belief in God and the truth of His Word, which faith is sustained by the confidence that when God promises something God will keep His promise.”
The word for faith, in Greek is Pistis, and by definition it goes well beyond intellectual assent, and it requires our taking action in obedience to God’s Word.
The action that we take in salvation is obeying the gospel message, receiving Christ as both our Savior and Lord, and then recognizing that having done that, that our lives are no longer our own!
The faith/obedience connection, and our dying to self and taking up our cross daily must then continue thereafter, every day of our lives, until we graduate to Glory.
New King James Version
Take Up the Cross and Follow Him
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
In John 14:15, 23 Jesus says…
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and (then) We will come to him and make Our home with him.
And finally in 1 John 2:6 we are told…
“He who says he abides in Him (Christ) ought himself also to walk just as He (Jesus) walked.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Sunday, June 19
Daily Verse and Comment on…
1 Corinthians 1:30
New King James Version
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”
Protestants hang on this verse because on its face it seems to say that Christ did all the work for us—that we are made righteous, sanctified, and redeemed by accepting His sacrifice for us, and we need do no more.
Upon closer study, though, this verse says that Jesus is our example in these matters; He embodies these virtues.
Just as He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
If we walk as He walked, we will be wise, righteous, holy, and saved!
As the whole context shows, God will amaze and shame the world by taking the foolish, weak, and base, and creating them into children like His Son (cf. Luke 10:21).
Even as nothing just appears as a finished product, so His children will go through a process of development, and this process follows the same one that Jesus Christ experienced in His life (John 8:12; I Corinthians 11:1; I John 2:6; etc.).
This is where the Protestant gospel fails. It proclaims “by grace you have been saved through faith” alone (a word not found in Ephesians 2:8, yet added by Martin Luther), and discounts works entirely as a vehicle for building character because, in their view, we are already righteous and holy through Christ.
True, we are not saved by works (verse 9), but Paul emphatically asserts that God is creating us in Christ for good works (verse 10).
James adds that works exhibit and stimulate faith (James 2:18, 22, 24, 26).
Works, then, are a tool to build as well as a product of godly character.
The gospel, then, is more than an announcement of salvation to mankind.
It is a roadmap that teaches us what we must do to be saved—not just justified by Christ’s sacrifice, but also born into the Kingdom of God!
Between justification and glorification is sanctification, the process of becoming holy and righteous as He is, and the gospel explains how that is accomplished.
Though that process does not save us, we will not be saved without it!
— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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