For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

1:1.  “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,”

Only three Sauls are mentioned in Scripture, and significantly all are evil.  The first is an Edomite king mentioned in Ge 36:37, and it is to be remembered that the Edomites, although descended from Esau (known also as Edom), and therefore related to Israel, were her bitter foes.

The second is Saul, the first king of Israel, inveterate enemy of David, and type of the beast emperor who will rule in the coming Tribulation, and who will be cast into the lake of fire by the Lord re­turning in power and glory to establish His Millennial kingdom.

And the third is he who here can describe himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”  This is he who consented unto (took pleasure in, heartily approved of) Stephen’s death, and was the murderous enemy of the Christians until the time of his conversion as recorded in Acts chapter 9, after which his name was changed and he became Paul the devoted follower of Christ, and great Apostle to the Gentiles.

What a trophy of grace was this third Saul!

We remember that in Scripture a change of name always accompanies a change in state or character, and so was it with Paul who was formerly Saul, meaning requested.  Paul means little, and surely no life, except perhaps that of John the Baptist, ever demonstrated more clearly that he was willing to be little, nothing, in order that Christ might be exalted.

Having declared his insignificance as a man (by using first his name Paul), he must, however, also assert his authority in view of the appalling state of the assembly addressed in this letter, for the evils found there could not be dealt with by a mere man.  This Paul who was little in his own estimation, was great in the estimate of the Master he served so faithfully: he was His Apostle.  But he wasn’t just an apostle in the sense of being a messenger or sent one.  That he was, but in the ranks of those messengers he was a spiritual giant, standing head and shoulders above them, as his namesake Saul had towered physically head and shoulders above all the men of Israel in the days of Samuel.

Regarding that apostleship, he was careful to make clear that it was “through the will of God,” and not because of any virtue in him.  God, in His sovereignty, had called him to that high office.  It is to be noted, however, that it was by God’s calling, and Paul had been obedient to that call, as he declared to Agrippa, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Ac 26:19).  Believers are no more compelled to serve, than are sinners to believe.  The will of the saint is no less involved in his service than is the will of the sinner in responding to God’s call in the Gospel.  God will compel no man’s service.  It must be rendered willingly as the grateful response of a redeemed heart.  Paul’s obedient life was the tangible evidence of his gratitude to God for His “unspeakable gift.”  The gratitude of every believer ought to be similarly expressed.

His being an apostle of “Jesus Christ” would remind us that everything begins for the believer with Jesus, for that name, meaning Savior, is peculiarly linked with His humanity; but Christ, a title rather than a name, and meaning the anointed, would remind us that He Who stooped to become man, never ceased to be God.

“... and Sosthenes our brother.”  It is unknown whether this is the Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, mentioned in Ac 18:17, and it isn’t necessary for us to know.  He must have been someone, not only known to the Corinthians, but also highly esteemed by them.  His name means saving strength: strong savior. Undoubtedly there was good reason for Paul’s associating this brother with him in his letter, but that reason isn’t dis­closed.

1:2.  “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”

The church or assembly is literally a “called out” company, as for example, Israel in the wilderness, called out of Egypt’s bondage to be God’s “peculiar people.”  The believers in Corinth were a part of that vast company being called out from the nations in this age bounded by Pentecost and the Rapture, to be the Church, the bride of Christ.  Nor should we miss the significance of the meaning of Corinth satiated.  No more fitting name could have been found for a city so debauched that the name Corinthian had come to be synonymous with every form of licentiousness.  It pictures the world in which the Church has been placed as salt to retard the corruption; as light to illuminate the darkness; as life in the midst of death - in a word: to be a witness for God.  The same picture is found in Revelation where the seven churches addressed are located in Asia, which means slime: mire, and is another figure of this corrupt world.

But the believers were sanctified, i.e., set apart from the corrupt mass of unbelieving humanity; set apart for God, their sanctification having been made possible through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And not only are they sanctified, they are also in Christ Jesus, possessed of His very life and nature, part of Him, joint heirs with Him of all that is God’s, in God’s sight as righteous as He.

“... called to be saints,” i.e., sanctified ones, for that is the literal meaning of saint.  Every sinner becomes a saint the moment he puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Their lives ought to have been the outward demonstration of what they were by God’s reckoning, and so should ours.

Since all that is true of them is true also of us and of every other believer, it follows that our lives too ought to be the demonstration of what we are as men and women in Christ.  As God sees us in Christ, so should the world see Christ in us.

1:3.  “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace and mercy are sometimes regarded as being the same thing, but they aren’t.  Grace transcends mercy, for whereas mercy withholds deserved punishment, grace bestows undeserved blessing.  It was grace that Paul desired for the Corinthian saints.  They had already obtained mercy, for through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all their sins had been forgiven, so that they were for ever delivered from the just punishment due to those sins.  Since they had already received grace when they became believers, it is clearly additional grace that Paul seeks for them, and their low spiritual state declares the need of such additional grace.

Another blessing he sought for them was peace, for by their disobedience they had forfeited the peace which is normally concomitant with salvation.  Disobedience and peace can’t dwell together.

“... from God our Father” would remind them, as it should us, that faith in Christ has brought us into a new relationship with God, as the Lord assured His own on the morning of His resurrection, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jn 20:17).  He is now also our Father, the full implication of that relationship transcending the ability of the finite mind to grasp.

“... and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  This declares His equality with the Father.  He is God.

1:4.  “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;”

It is obvious that Paul didn’t spend every waking minute thanking God on their behalf, but rather that he returned that thanks every time he prayed.  We would do well to thank God more often for Christian friends and fellowship, an impetus to such thanksgiving being the consideration of what it would be like if we didn’t have them.

He is careful to acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Source, not only of grace, but of every blessing, and the fact that Jesus comes before Christ, would remind us again that everything begins with our coming to know Him as Savior.

A more accurate translation of this verse is “in” rather than “by” Jesus Christ.  Our blessings are not only because of His work at Calvary, but through faith we are in Him, and He in us: the life and nature within us are His: we are part of Him: He is the Head of which we are the body.

1:5.  “That in everything ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;”

There is no circumstance of life that isn’t enriched by our knowing Christ as Savior.  And the Apostle’s particular reference to their speech and knowledge ought to remind us that an essential part of salvation is the verbal confession of our faith, as it is written, “That if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Ro 10:9). 

As for knowledge, all worldly knowledge is worthless apart from the knowledge of Christ as Savior.  It isn’t to be inferred that they already possessed all spiritual knowledge, but rather that there was the potential for that knowledge through the indwelling Holy Spirit, for it is He, and He alone, Who makes that knowledge possible, but it is to be remembered that if we are to have the benefit of that ministry, He must be unquenched and ungrieved.  We must be obedient to God’s Word.

1:6.  “Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:”

The testimony referred to here is the Apostle’s testimony in the Gospel, which had resulted in their being saved, their conversion being the proof of the power inherent in the Gospel, as it is written, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Ro 1:16).  The outward confirming evidence of the new life within them was displayed in the spiritual gifts with which they had been so liberally endowed, see verse seven.

1:7.  “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:”

It would appear that every spiritual gift had been bestowed on the Corinthian church, to be used during the period of their waiting for the Lord’s return, yet that hadn’t preserved them from a great deal of sin, reminding us that it is one thing to have been given a spiritual gift, but quite another thing to be using that gift.  It is to be feared that today in many churches spiritual gift lies similarly neglected.  Time and effort must be given to the development of spiritual gift, but few seem willing to expend the time and make the effort, hence the low spiritual state of the Church.

Relative to their “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the “coming” refers not to His descent to the air to rapture the Church to heaven, but to His visible appearing with her in power and glory at the end of the Tribulation, to establish His millennial kingdom.  As to why they should have been waiting for that coming, Dr John Heading writes, “After the rapture there will take place the judgment seat of Christ.... Saints will then receive the great variety of rewards that He has for those who display faithful conduct and service.  The display of these rewards will occur at His revelation, when the saints, blessed after the judgment seat of Christ, will be united to Him in glory and in rule over the earth.... as far as gifts are concerned, it is His return in glory one waits for, since our rewards and our close association with Him then will enhance His own glory” 

1:8.  “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is encouraging to be reminded that it is not we ourselves, but the Lord Who accomplishes the work of bringing us safely to heaven.  Certainly there is no possibility of a believer’s ever being found unfit to enter heaven - as to that we are blameless - but the degree of our reward given at the Bema will be determined by how we have lived our Christian lives.  It is to be feared that there will be much adjudged as worthless at the judgment seat of Christ.  The day of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the present context incidentally, is the day of His return to rapture His Church, and should not be confused with the “day of the Lord,” which relates to the outpouring of judgments in the Tribulation, followed by the judgment of the nations, the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, and finally the bringing in of the new heavens and the new earth.

1:9.  “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

There is encouragement in remembering that in spite of all our failures, God remains faithful.  This verse reminds us too, that salvation begins with God’s call in the Gospel.  All who will be in heaven will be there because of their having responded believingly to that invitation to trust in Christ as Savior.  Salvation involves the exercise of man’s free will.

In regard to fellowship, it is possible only between those who are of the same “kind.”  Men and angels for example, can communicate, but they can’t have fellowship because they are of different kinds.  But a further necessity is that there must be agreement, harmony, between those who would enjoy fellowship.  We can have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, because the new birth has made us of the same “kind.”  The nature and the life within us are the life and nature of God.  And the death of the Lord Jesus Christ has abolished the enmity that makes it impossible for the natural man to enjoy fellowship with God, as it is written, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity ... for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both (Jew and Gentile) unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby .... For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph 2:15-18).

1:10.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

Sadly, the fellowship that Christ’s death has made possible for all believers, wasn’t being enjoyed by the Corinthians, for the lack of fellowship among themselves made it impossible for them to enjoy fellowship with God.  The same sorry state is all too evident today also, as is witnessed both by the fragmented state of the professing church, and of bitter disagreements even between believers in the same local church.

While Paul, as an Apostle, might have commanded them, he choose rather to implore them to walk in peace, but he was also careful to remind them that he implored them as the Lord’s representative, for the order of Christ’s description is to be noted: it is first Lord, the title which is synonymous with authority, and then Jesus, the name uniquely associated with Him as Savior, followed by Christ, the anointed One, none other than God the Son.  The three combine to offer the strongest inducement to obedience.

“... that ye all speak the same thing,” declares the need for unity in their corporate witness, for lack of unity undermined the effectiveness of that testimony, as it will ours also.  We might note also that essential to their testimony was holy living, it being no less necessary for ours.

The existence of divisions among them testified to the presence of sin in their midst.  Division is Satan’s work, and the countless divisions amongst Christians today testify to the effectiveness of his evil work.  The prayer of every believer ought to be for the preservation of harmony, not only in the local church, but also amongst the churches.

The need to have “the same mind and ... judgment” warns us that it is not only necessary to be agreed as to doctrine, but also as to the application of that doctrine in relation to the life of each member of the assembly.  Sometimes disagreement over very minor matters can kindle great conflict, e.g., all agree that bread is needed for the Lord’s supper, but there may be different opinions as to the type of that bread - individual wafers, cut cubes of bread, leavened or unleavened bread, etc.  There is agreement as to the need of wine, but there may be disagreement as to whether it ought to be unfermented grape juice, and whether the cup should be communal or individual, etc.  Matters as seemingly small as these have caused bitter division in more than one assembly.  And these are only a few examples.  There are countless others.

As believers form the individual members of the mystical body of Christ, which is an indivisible, harmonious unity, so must believers seek to preserve that same unity in the local church, as Paul also exhorted the Ephesians, “I ... beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).

1:11.  “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.”

Chloe was a woman, and her name means verdant.  She wasn’t afraid to have it known that she had reported this to Paul, and we may conclude that her motive was pure.  She wished to see harmony restored to the assembly, and realized that Paul was the one most likely to be able to bring that about.  She wasn’t just passing on gossip.

1:12.  “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

These were the parties into which they had divided, and those who superciliously claimed to be “of Christ” were no better than the others.  They were all of Christ, and should, therefore, have been united.

There is warning here relative to setting on pedestals men whose ministry brings them into public view, as for example evangelists, elders, teachers.  One servant is not to be preferred above another.  Each has been given his measure of gift according to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and however much that measure may differ from servant to servant, and the men themselves may differ as individuals, it is to be recognized that each has his appointed place and ministry in God’s great scheme of things.

1:13.  “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”

The impossibility of Christ’s being divided is declared in the assurance that all believers constitute the body of which He is the Head.  The unfitness of any man to be their head is disclosed in Paul’s question “Was Paul crucified for you?”  Only the crucified and risen Christ can be the head of the Church which is His body, for only He could make atonement for sin, and fit men to be members of that body.  All others, even Paul, are members of that body, and cannot therefore be the head.

As for their being baptized in the name of Paul, it is written in Mt 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  No believer can be baptized to any mere man, not even one as great as Paul.  The very fact of their all having been baptized ought to have prevented the development of sectarian spirit, for baptism signifies complete identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and excludes the possibility of such divisions as had come into the Corinthian assembly.

1:14.  “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus crisp: curly-haired; seed of a ram, and Gaius, (meaning on earth);”

1:15.  “Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.”

Paul obviously had been careful to guard against the very possibility that anyone might seize upon his having been baptized by the apostle, and thus imagine that it gave some superiority over others.

1:16.  “And I baptized also the household of Stephanas crowned: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.”

The fact that he had baptized so few, automatically discounted the possibility of their being able to form a party.

This division in the Corinthian church points up the danger of putting men on pedestals.  We are all too prone to elevate the servant into the position of master.

1:17.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Paul wasn’t disclaiming authority to baptize, but rather declaring the paramount importance of the Gospel.  Apart from the preaching of the Gospel, there can be no baptism; but the other side of that coin is that once the sinner believes the Gospel, and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, then he must be baptized.  While baptism has nothing to do with saving a sinner, it is one of only two ordinances given to the Church, and a careful reading of Acts reveals that those who believed were immediately baptized.  It is disobedience for a believer to remain unbaptized.  The other ordinance, incidentally, is the Lord’s supper.

We shouldn’t forget that all of us have been commissioned to preach the Gospel “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15); and we should note that in Mark also the importance of baptism is emphasized, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk 16:16).  This seems to say that baptism is essential to salvation, but the verse must be understood in the context of the rest of Scripture.  The truth being declared here is that obedience is the evidence of a genuine conversion, and the first step of obedience is to be baptized.  Baptism is in the same category as works, for works don’t save, but they too constitute the evidence of a genuine conversion.  As James says, “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:20).  We have no reason to accept a lip profession of faith if it is divorced from obedience.

Paul’s emphasizing that he was sent to preach the Gospel “not with wisdom of words” i.e., with oratorical skill, is meant to teach what is frequently overlooked.  It is the Gospel itself that is the “power of God unto salvation” (Ro 1:16).  The power lies in the Gospel, not in the man who proclaims it.  This would teach us the folly of attempting to make the Gospel palatable to sinners, or of trying to make it “reasonable” to them.  It is never palatable or reasonable to the unconverted.  No one likes being told that he is a sinner without a shred of righteousness, on his way to hell; nor does it make sense to him to be told that he can be saved by simply believing that the Lord Jesus Christ died for him.  We may not leave the Holy Spirit out of the salvation equation.  Only He can lead the sinner to repentant faith.  That is His work.  Ours is simply to proclaim the Gospel.

Anything other than the simple declaration of the Gospel tends to diminish the importance of the cross, for it is faith in the One Who hung on that cross that saves the believing sinner.  Eloquent theological reasoning directed to a man’s intelligence will never achieve that objective.  The conscience must be pierced before there can be conversion.

1:18.  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

What is the difference between those to whom the Gospel is foolishness, and those to whom it is the power of God?  Both the Holy Spirit and the individual’s will are involved, for there must first be the conviction produced by the Holy Spirit’s activity before the sinner will ask “What must I do to be saved?”  There can’t be conversion apart from conviction.  Those who believe are they who are saved, and to them the Gospel is the power of God.  Those who refuse to believe are they to whom the Gospel is foolishness.

But another reality must be faced.  There are millions who die without ever having heard the Gospel, much less having known the Spirit’s conviction.  How do we account for this, other than by concluding that those who do believe were predestinated to be saved - a conclusion refuted by Scripture?  The explanation is that we must take account both of God’s sovereignty and of His foreknowledge.  By His foreknowledge He knows who will and who will not believe the Gospel, and in His sovereignty He chooses to withhold it from some of those who, He foreknows, would reject it, while bringing it to others, who He also foreknows will reject it.  Why He makes this choice we don’t know other than that He has a perfect right to exercise His sovereignty, but having also the assurance that all His choices are made on the basis of perfect wisdom and perfect love, both of which are beyond the ability of finite minds to understand.

Those hearers therefore who perish are they who hear the Gospel, but who, resisting the striving of the Holy Spirit, remain unconvicted, and conclude that it is foolishness.  Those hearers to whom it is the power of God are they who submit to the Holy Spirit’s striving, obey the Gospel, trust in Christ, and are saved.  It is apparent therefore that apart from the Holy Spirit’s striving, no one can be saved, hence the necessity of heeding God’s warning “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Ge 6:3), and repeated in Pr 29:1 “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”  See also Ac 7:51.

1:19  “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

The reference is to Isa 29:14.  Human wisdom concludes that the Gospel is utter foolishness, but when the unbeliever goes from time into eternity he will learn the truth of what is written in Ps 53:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”  The wisdom of the world declares that there are many ways to heaven, but Scripture asserts that there is only one, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The first part of this verse has reference to philosophical reasoning, but the second part, to sagacity relative to earthly things.  The one as much as the other is worthless when it comes to spiritual matters.

1:20.  “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

The multitudinous methods of salvation conceived by men, are exposed by the Gospel as utter foolishness.  Scripture itself refutes the theories of those who maintain that there is no hereafter, or that there is no hell, and that everyone will eventually reach heaven.  It is not only that prophecy leaves man under the necessity of explaining how any mere man could have so accurately foretold the future, but it requires him also to explain the consistency of the Bible’s typology, numerical structure, etc.

1:21.  “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

God in His wisdom has decreed that man can know him only through faith, and not by means of mere human wisdom.  Were it otherwise, multitudes would be unable to know Him, for not all are endowed with wisdom, but no one is incapable of exercising faith.  And it is clear that the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness only to those who refuse to exercise faith.

It is to be noted also that faith saves, and in this we are warned that terrible eternal consequences attend refusal to believe, for the essence of the Gospel is that every unbeliever will first enter hell, and following the resurrection of damnation spoken of in Jn 5:29, the lake of fire spoken of in Re 20:14-15.

1:22.  “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:”

The sign required by the Jews conveys the idea of miraculous manifestation, and God’s attitude towards that skepticism is declared in the twice-repeated words of the Lord Himself “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas” (Mt 12:39), see also Mt 16:4, the prophet’s experience in the belly of the fish, of course, being a type of the Lord’s death and resurrection.  The sign would be given when it was too late to do them any good, for their rejection of Him would fulfill the type, and confirm their condemnation. 

Miraculous manifestation is not for the Church age, and what miracles were demonstrated in the early Apostolic days were because God was still dealing with Israel and offering them the millennial kingdom, but it is worth noting that as the age progressed miraculous manifestation diminished, nor is there any evidence of it after AD 70 when Jewish autonomy ceased.

The wisdom pursued by the Greeks was the same worldly wisdom so highly valued by the present world, but it is as powerless today as then to discover God, for the more his worldly knowledge increases the farther it drives man from God.

This division of humanity into Jews and Greeks reminds us that the world is still thus divided, for the Jew speaks of religion, while the Greek is synonymous with the world’s wisdom. For all his religion, and for all his vaunted wisdom, man does not and cannot know God.  He can be known only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ crucified but risen again, delivered for our offenses, but raised for our justification.

1:23.  “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”

The emphasis is upon Christ crucified.  Apart from His crucifixion there could have been no redemption of sinners, for by the disobedience of Adam, sin came in, and therefore also death, so that if God’s moral integrity was to be preserved, that forfeited life must be given up, otherwise God is made a liar, for He Himself had declared, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Ge 2:17).  Christ’s death was first for God’s glory.  He assumed responsibility for the sin of the first Adam, and yielded up that forfeited life, thereby preserving God’s moral integrity.  But with the sentence executed, God is graciously willing to impute that death to every believer, so that, on a basis of perfect justice, He can also impute Christ’s resurrection to every believer, and deal with that man as a new creature, now possessed of a new life, and a new nature, the life and nature of God Himself.  Since that life and nature are holy, so is the believer in God’s sight, and that is what is involved in the new birth.  That new nature is incapable of sin, just as the old nature is incapable of anything but sin, and though that old nature continues to exist in the believer, all the evil that it will ever produce has been dealt with at Calvary, and God therefore no longer deals with the believer according to that corrupt nature, but according to the new nature received at conversion.

To the Jews, however, a crucified Messiah is a stumblingblock, for they have focused exclusively on the prophesies of a conquering, reigning Messiah, and have ignored the equally clear assurances of their own prophets that the Messiah must first die to make atonement for their sins, and then, return in resurrection to reign.

The Greeks, i.e., the Gentiles are equally unwilling to accept the idea of a crucified and risen Savior, for they have no concept of the enormity of sin, nor can they conceive of a God Who would love sinners so much that He has been willing to give His Son to die in their guilty place for their sins.  To them the whole idea is absurd.

1:24.  “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

The called referred to here are those, who not just with their ears, but with their hearts and minds, have heard God’s call given through the Gospel, and have trusted in Christ as Savior.  The fact that they are Jews and Greeks proves that the preceding verse isn’t all inclusive.  Some Jews and some Greeks do believe.

As to where God’s power is involved in all of this, the obvious answer is that it is displayed in His having raised Christ up from among the dead, hence the essential part of saving faith that requires the sinner, not only to believe that Christ has died, but that He is also risen, see, e.g., Ro 10:9 “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

As for God’s wisdom being displayed in Christ, who but God could have conceived such a plan, or devised such a solution to the dilemma presented by man’s having incurred the sentence of death?  Though such a plan might have been conceived, it must have remained foolishness apart from the power to raise the dead, and only God has that power.

1:25.  “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The language is figurative, for there is no foolishness with God.  What seems foolishness to unbelief, is in reality perfect wisdom.  Neither is there weakness with God.  The reference is to the fact that God’s plan of salvation required Christ to submit Himself to death, and to the unbelieving mind, that seems to be weakness, for it makes death appear the conqueror.  God’s omnipotence, however, is revealed in that He was able to raise Christ up out of death, and thereby display his power over it.

1:26.  “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:”

This is literally an exhortation to remember what they were when they were first saved, and it is an exhortation we would all do well to heed. 

It is to be noted that it is only worldly wisdom, power, and nobility that are disparaged, for, as believers, those addressed were wise, powerful and noble.  There is no greater wisdom than to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, as is written in Ps 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”  That faith enables the man to know God, and that is the epitome of knowledge.

As for power, the weakest saint is mightier than the most powerful unconverted man, for he has dwelling within him the Holy Spirit, Who makes available to him all the power of heaven.  And as for nobility, every believer is a child of God.  In contrast, the most noble unconverted sovereign must, like the most ignoble wretch on earth, trace his ancestry back to the same mean beginning: a fallen, ruined, corrupt Adam, whose rebellion has incurred for himself and all his posterity, the sentence of death.

1:27.  “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

Chosen is not to be construed in the sense of God’s having predestinated only the foolish and the weak, or anyone for that matter, to salvation.  It is rather that God has chosen to use what the world would call “foolish” men or things, the men placing themselves within that chosen class by a free-willed acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Confound is literally to shame or disgrace, that purpose being fulfilled when those, who having refused to believe, go from time into the eternal torment of hell and the lake of fire.  Only in eternity will the wisdom of the believer, and the foolishness of the unbeliever, be fully revealed.

It is not only that God has chosen to use weak men, but also weak things, Calvary being the supreme example, for it confounds human reason to believe that Christ could conquer death by submitting to it.  The written Word is another example.  It has by its power subdued countless millions, bringing them into a subjection far more complete than that imposed by the sword, for it has brought about a willing subjection to the Conqueror, Christ.

1:28.  “And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:”

Base is literally of unknown descent: without kin.  It is only in the blinded eyes of the world that the believer is base, the world failing to comprehend that he who knows Christ as Savior knows God as his Father; and as for his kin, the believer is privileged to be in the company of those whom Christ deigns to call “My brethren.”  The foolishness of the world is disclosed in that it also despised the Lord Jesus Christ, its failure to recognize Him, explaining its failure to know those who belong to Him.

Primarily “the things which are not” are those whom the world views as nobodies, but that doesn’t exclude the fact that man also has a wrong view of the things whose existence he rejects.  The “things which are not” are only so in the blind eyes of unbelief, but to faith, they are more enduring than the things which are seen with the natural eye.  Abraham, for example, “Looked for a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10).  The natural eye looks on the ruins of past civilizations, and fails to see written there the transience of all earthly things.  The believer, on the other hand, reads the “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Pe 1:19), and sees in what has already been fulfilled the assurance that his faith is justified, the fulfillment of the part being the guarantee of the fulfillment of the whole.

1:29.  “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

As frequently in Scripture, the worthlessness of the flesh, in contrast to the spirit, is emphasized again, it being the Lord Himself Who declared the necessity of having the flesh replaced with that which is spirit, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.... Ye must be born again” (Jn 3:3-7), Paul continuing to warn that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50).  As man fails to read the lesson of the ruins of ancient civilizations, so does he also fail to read the lesson of his own dying body.  The believer, on the other hand, finds the justification of his faith in that while his flesh grows old “yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Co 4:16).

1:30.  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:”

This reminds us that God is the Source of all our blessings, though we must be careful not to construe this as meaning that He has predestinated some to be blessed, and others, cursed.  He has chosen to leave with man the freedom to choose blessing or cursing.

Christ’s being “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” is due to the fact that God imputes all these things to the man who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  The believer has the mind of Christ, and therefore, His wisdom.  He is likewise clothed in Christ’s righteousness, that righteousness being imputed to him.  And so also with sanctification.  As Christ was set apart for God, so is the believer.  And our redemption is not the result of our own works, but of Christ’s. 

1:31.  “That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

This quotation, taken from Jer 9:14, reminds us that our salvation from beginning to end is not the result of anything we have done, but is due entirely to God’s wisdom, power, and love. Boasting, therefore, can be only of what God has done; and pride likewise, only in what He has done.  Our only part has been to accept as His priceless gift the redemption procured at incalculable cost at Calvary.  All the glory belongs to God.

[1 Corinthians 2]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough