Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 3 * BOOK 26
I CORINTHIANS 1:1 – 2:7
Now back to I Corinthians Chapter 1, and we’ll look at verse 17 again. Here Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to forget about their divisions concerning who they’re following. Always remember the central theme for all of us, whether we’re rich or poor, Gentile or Jew, black or white, makes no difference. We’re all subjects of God’s Grace which brings us not to a water baptism, but to the Gospel, and Paul tells us:
I Corinthians 1:17a
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: …”
Remember when John the Baptist was commissioned to Israel? What was he commissioned to do? Well, to baptize. The Scripture makes it so plain that John baptized with the baptism of repentance.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. And saying, `Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
“And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance:…”
Now that was the mission of John the Baptist. But Paul comes along and refutes that now and says; “God didn’t send me to baptize, but instead to preach the Gospel, that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again.” And the last part of verse 17 that we didn’t cover in the last lesson reads:
I Corinthians 1:17b
“not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
You and I can talk until we’re blue in the face, and that won’t get anybody, but it’s when the Holy Spirit opens the heart that results take place. Do you remember I so often go back to the Book of Acts where Paul met Lydia up there in Philippi?
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
Well this is what Paul is saying here in verse 17. Paul didn’t come with the wisdom of human mentality, or come with intellectual degrees behind his name, but rather he came with the simplicity of the Gospel into this pagan, ungodly city. And it was that Gospel that transformed those Corinthian people. Now verse 18 as one of those choice verses that is so appropriate today.
I Corinthians 1:18a
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;…”
Do you see what that says? To the lost world all around us, and again I go back to the hustle and bustle of freeways and highways, but to that lost mass of people around us, this Cross of Christ is so much foolishness. I think I’ve used this next illustration before, but it’s such a good one that I’ll use it again. I had this one gentlemen that came to our class for a long time, and he came to my place one evening. I had been bailing hay all day long, and it was late at night about 10 P.M., and when I came in there he was waiting for me. So I took him into the kitchen and I put on a pot of coffee, and the first thing I asked him was, “What’s on your mind?” And I’ll never forget, and I wish to God that more people would ask the same question. He said, “Who in the world is Jesus Christ?” A good question, because that gave me the wide open opportunity to not only tell him Who Christ was, and is, but to show him from the Scriptures all that had been accomplished because of Who He was.
A lady told me just the other night, and this just shakes us to our toe nails. She said, “Les, I was in Church all my life, and until I came to your class, I never knew why Christ died.” Now think about that, and she’s not alone. We’ve got millions out there sitting in the pews. Oh they have a mental comprehension that, “Yes, Jesus of the Bible was crucified, and yeah I can go along as my creed says that He was raised from the dead.” But most of them don’t really know why, they have no affinity to the fact that when He died, He died for them. And this is what this lady said: “When I suddenly realized that He died for me then that made all the difference in the world.” So that’s the preaching of the Cross, and the world out there wants nothing to do with it, because it’s foolishness to them. That somebody died 2000 years ago? My land, thousands and thousands of people were crucified by the Romans. That wasn’t a singular event, but it was a singular Individual Who’s crucifixion did make a difference, and has impacted the world ever since. So reading verse 18 again:
I Corinthians 1:18a
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;…”
Most don’t want to preach that any more, but they would rather help people with all their problems, or to have a better family life, and that’s all well and good as far as it goes, but that’s not the preaching of the Cross. And when you preach the Cross all these other things fall into place. Now verse 19.
I Corinthians 1:19
“For it is written (Old Testament), I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Now of course that’s looking toward the end-time when Christ will return and set everything straight. And it won’t be based upon the intellectual, or academic, or scientific achievements, but rather it will be based on His absolute, righteous rule. So all these things will come to their end. And now verse 20. You see he’s smacking these Greek philosophers right head on:
I Corinthians 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?”
Now for a moment let’s go back to Romans Chapter 1, and compare some scripture. Now here of course I think Paul is reflecting all the way back to the Tower of Babel when all the false religions of this world began.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (they began to philosophize, higher thinking), and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” Now back to I Corinthians, verse 21, and this is another good verse:
I Corinthians 1:21a
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by (its) wisdom knew not God,…”
Now look at most universities today, and I say most. They teach evolution, and when you can teach and believe evolution then you force God out of everything. Now that’s the pitfall of evolution, because if evolution is true then there is no need for a Creator, no need for God, no one to account to, and of course that’s the basis of most of our problems. But this is exactly what they have done. By their own thinking they have brought about all these so-called theories that leave God out of the picture, so again he says:
I Corinthians 1:21
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by (it’s) wisdom knew not God (they have pushed God out. Evolution and secular humanism has no room for God, and that’s the core of our problem, but), it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (of the Cross in verse 18) to save them that believe.”
It’s an act of God that opens the understanding that the One who died 2000 years ago was the answer to the sin problem. He is the One Who can impart eternal life, and that’s what he’s talking about here, that through the foolishness of preaching, the preaching of the Cross will literally transform those who believe. Faith + Nothing! Now here in verse 22 you basically have the two categories of the human race. Jew and Gentile. In those two we have them all covered.
I Corinthians 1:22,23a
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom (the Jews want signs, and the Gentiles say, `Give me highly educated philosophers’); But (the flip side is we don’t pay any attention to either one of those, but) we preach Christ (not the Jesus of Nazareth walking the highways of Palestine, not the Jesus Who’s walking on the water, not the Jesus Who fed the 5000, not the Jesus Who raised Lazarus, but rather the Jesus who was what?) crucified.”
And that’s where it all begins for us today. Oh it’s the same Jesus, but it’s by virtue of Him having gone to the Cross, and being raised from the dead that now we come into the picture. Now completing the verse:
I Corinthians 1:23
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, (and indeed He was, because they were still looking for signs, and that almost makes me smile, and it should make you smile. How many more signs did they need? Didn’t He give them all kinds of signs? Sure He did, sign after sign, and miracle after miracle, and still they couldn’t believe. And the Greeks, what about them?) and unto the Greeks foolishness;”
You remember what they called Paul on Mars Hill? A babbler. Now imagine, here comes this man who had already seen multitudes saved out of pagan idolatry, had established these little Churches all throughout Asia Minor, now coming down the coast of Greece, and he comes to Athens, and by now I’m sure this man is pumped up and primed with the power of God. I’m sure Paul spoke at Athens probably as strongly as any place he had ever been, and those stupid philosophers called him a babbler. Do you get the picture? They call him a babbler. Now let’s back up a moment to verse 22. Why does Paul make this kind of statement that Jews require a sign?
I Corinthians 1:22a
“For the Jews require a sign,…”
We know that since there were those who adhered to Peter’s teaching then there must have been a Jewish element. Now as you go all the way back to the onset of God dealing with the Nation of Israel, how does He always prove to those people that He is whatever is taking place? Signs! Absolutely, and I’m always reminding people that when Moses and Aaron went into Pharaoh, and in order to get his attention what did they do? Hey, they threw the shepherd’s rod on the ground, and what happened? It became a serpent. But here’s where we have to wake up and be careful. What did Pharaoh’s magicians do? The same thing. And though the power of Satan their shepherds’ rods became serpents, but the comforting thing is what happened next. The serpent that Moses and Aaron had, swallowed up the others thus showing that God was still supreme.
All you have to do is just follow Israel throughout her hundreds of years of history to find over and over God doing the supernatural for them. One that comes to mind is Elijah up there at Mount Carmel, confronting the prophets of Baal, and Israel was at a crossroad. So he built up the altars, laid out the sacrifices, with instructions to carry water and soak the sacrifices, and the prophets of Baal couldn’t get their god to respond. But Elijah called on God, and fire from heaven fell and it licked up the water, and sacrifices. What was that? Supernatural. In that instance Israel had an awakening, but over and over God performs signs and miracles for benefit of the Jew. And then when Christ came in His earthly ministry the sole reason for His performing the signs and miracles was to convince Israel of Who He was.
All right, now Paul is bringing that into the New Testament account for us to understand that the Jew mentally was still, “Show me a sign, and maybe I’ll believe.” The Gentiles on the other hand are not hung up on signs, but rather they are hung up on intellectual philosophy. And Paul says, “I don’t adhere to either one of them. I’m not going to come showing signs, wonders, and miracles, I’m not going to come here and philosophize, but rather I’m going to preach Christ crucified, and risen again. Do you see how simple it is? And that’s all it takes. The other night I taught as I usually do, didn’t make an invitation, didn’t even stress the Gospel per se, but after we got home that night we found out that a young lady was saved. And it’s not me, but that’s the way God works.
I think of a little anecdote that I read years and years ago. These people had an elderly Grandfather, who was so belligerent toward spiritual things, they could never get him to go to church. He wouldn’t listen to anybody that tried to witness to him. But finally one day as he was way up in the nineties and they knew that he wasn’t going to live too much longer, they finally got him to go to church with them, and lo and behold the preacher preached on the genealogies way back in the Old Testament. So and so was born of so and so and he died. So and so was begotten by so and so and he died. You know what I’m talking about. And all the while this family is sitting there wondering why of all days doesn’t our pastor preach salvation instead of Old Testament genealogy? And you can understand that. Well, they took the old man home and the next day what do you suppose got to him? “And he died, and he died, and he died.” And then it hit the old man that he too was about to die. So the old fellow asked for the plan of salvation, so you see, we never know what God will use, and sometimes it’s something that we would never dream of. But here Paul is saying that the basis of it all is preaching Christ crucified. Now verse 24.
I Corinthians 1:24
“But unto them which are called (now the called of scripture are the elect, the saints, the believers, and they are all one and the same), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Now one commentator that I read sometime ago on Corinthians said, “The main theme of Corinthians is wisdom.” The wisdom of God sat apart from the wisdom of men, and I can agree to that especially in Chapter 2 where Paul stresses that it doesn’t matter how much earthly wisdom we have, it’s only the wisdom from God that makes us something that God can use, and there’s no doubt about it. Now verse 25.
I Corinthians 1:25
“Because the foolishness of God (in man’s eyes God is being foolish, how can we say that? Well, man thinks God is foolish when He says He can save a person from the most gutter type existence, and can make him a saint. That’s foolishness to mankind, but what does the Scripture says? God’s foolishness ) is wiser than men (God’s foolishness is still wiser than the greatest philosopher, or educator.); and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Now we know that God isn’t weak is He? But some of the ways He does things the world would call weakness. And I imagine that it’s based on the fact that even in the Old Testament, and in Christ’s earthly ministry, that if someone misuses you, and he strikes you on the cheek, what do you do? Turn the other cheek. Well that’s weakness in the eyes of men, but in God’s way of doing things that’s stronger than men. Now let’s look at verse 26 and 27:
I Corinthians 1:26a
“For ye see your calling, brethren,…”
Remember these Corinthians are carnal, they’ve got a lot of problems, but he says they are brethren, and they had a calling. Every believer has a calling, and that doesn’t mean that you have to be a preacher or pastor, or teacher, evangelist, or missionary, but there is something that God wants you to do. He has a plan for your life, and I think it’s up to each of us to seek it out. Here is the amazing thing, out of all the multitudes that have been on this earth before, and even today, we know that God doesn’t use the ones that we think He should use. Isn’t that amazing? Because:
I Corinthians 1:26b
“how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:”
Have you ever stopped to think about that? How many intellectuals, highly educated, highly polished, what we would called apt, and appropriate for proclaiming the Gospel are really called for that purpose? Very few, if any. Because God doesn’t use those kinds of people, God can only use that which in the eyes of the world is nothing. In the short time we have left, I want to take you back to Moses as a prime example. Here Moses had become the second man in Egypt, which in those days was the greatest nation in the then-known world. He was second to the Pharaoh, he had all the power and authority, I think over everything. He was in charge of it all. And Moses thought that he could go and lead the children of Israel out of slavery, but what happened? God had to send him to the back side of the desert to be a smelly what? Sheepherder, and sheep in the eyes of the Egyptians were an abomination. And yet it was into that place of abomination that God had to put this servant to bring him from his lofty position, and bring him down to nothing more than a low sheep herder. And out of that circumstance of being a nobody, God can use him.