1 Corinthians 1:1-3:4, Psalm 57


The wisdom and power of this world is rendered foolish and weak by the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-23). Any serious reflections on Paul's insistence that the cross demonstrates God's strength and wisdom will acknowledge how improbable, not to mention revolutionary, this teaching would sound to Paul's hearers. For the Gentile peoples, the cross was meant for complete extermination of a person. Of course a crucified person is executed, but a crucifixion also by the nature of its brutality and shame intends to rid someone of any honor or acknowledgement that they should be treated as humans. For the Gentiles the cross was the Roman government's way of saying, “watch this naked person suffocate, writhe in agony, and forever forget about being like them.” To the Jewish person, the person who hangs on a tree is accursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). For Jesus to die on the cross would have been initially understood the Jews or Gentile as the final verdict of God, state, humanity, or the gods that this man could not have been worth much. For Jesus was treated as if he weren't even human. For Paul intends to revel in the cross' triumph over our wisdom and power, for again the cross in particular was uniquely necessary for us to realize the folly of both. If we begin to see Jesus' death in this light, we recognize how the cross has singular power to render the wisdom of human judgement foolish, for human wisdom believes such a horrific execution was fitting for the Lord of the Nations. Also the power of humanity in attempting to wipe the memory of the Creator of the universe off the planet is proven ineffective. Of course both God's wisdom and power are validated not just by Jesus dying, but also by our Savior rising from the grave. The two must go together. Still, Paul's main line of argument insists that the cross as the particular means of Jesus' atoning death is necessary to confound our wisdom and power and compel us to rely on God's power. Let us then see our power and wisdom in light of the cross and agree “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)