Tag Archives: pride

True Wisdom

While I was a trades teacher in a shop, the opportunity arose to very naturally explain the essence of the gospel. Never before have I received the reaction I did that day from two men in particular. They found what I was saying incredibly stupid as, in a very distinct “New Joisey” twang, one carpenter exclaimed to the other, “Ain’t that somethin’ man? Ain’t that somethin’?” This man’s reaction to the gospel was far more honest than most, for a great many non-Christians feel exactly the same way about the gospel but are simply too polite, or too afraid, to say so. In the confines on that job, those two men could have cared less about what I thought of them, and so they very plainly expressed exactly what they thought of my religious beliefs.

In the first chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul exposes and then confronts the problem of divisions within in the church at Corinth. He renounces divisions as contrary to the gospel. Further, Paul implies that the underlying problem is pride. Individuals took pride in the one whom they chose to follow. As Paul later says, they have “become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (4:6). In verses 18-31 of the first chapter, Paul argued that pride and the gospel are incompatible. The world will never esteem the gospel or those who embrace it because it is contradictory to all they highly esteem. The Jews, who are impressed by power, wanted signs (of power). A crucified Christ was certainly not a demonstration of power but of weakness. The Greeks were impressed by intellectualism, by wisdom. To them, there was nothing wise about the gospel. It was foolishness to believe that faith in a crucified criminal could save anyone from their sins.

Paul has challenged the Corinthian saints to look around the church and observe that those most esteemed by the world are strangely absent in the church. By and large, the church is not composed of wise men, scholars, and debaters of the day. The church is not made up of the cultural elite. In verses 26-31, Paul urges the saints to look around them in the church to see who is present. The church is not made up of the upper crust of society but rather the rejected and despised of society. Of course there are exceptions, but the rule is clear: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are” (verses 27-28). This is so that no man may boast, but God may receive the glory for what He accomplishes through those most unlikely to succeed in this world.

One might conclude from what Paul has said that the gospel really is foolish and weak. Not at all! This is only the way the world perceives the gospel. In chapter 2, Paul reveals that weakness and simplicity are not the end of the story but the beginning. It is through the weakness of proclaiming the gospel that the wisdom and power of God are made manifest. The world regards God’s wisdom as foolish because it is incapable of comprehending or accepting its truths. God’s wisdom is a mystery which the unsaved cannot grasp, and no one would have known apart from divine revelation. Through His Spirit, God has revealed Himself to men. The Spirit who searches the depths of God has been given in a special way to the apostles. Through these inspired men, divine thoughts have been translated into divine words. Those who possess the Spirit by faith in Christ can appraise the spiritual truths of Scripture; those who are unsaved, and thus without the Spirit, cannot. No wonder they think God’s wisdom is foolish. They cannot understand it—or God. But we who have the Scriptures and the Spirit have the mind of Christ.

Paul’s Conduct at His First Coming
(2:1-5)

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

The Corinthians now look upon Paul somewhat like a teenager views his or her parents. Paul is not wise but simplistic. He lacks the charm and charisma which makes his spiritual children proud of him, and thus they have begun to listen to others who have a higher level of esteem, especially by their peers. Paul seeks to correct their wayward thinking by reminding them that he is the same Paul who came to them at the beginning, preaching to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was through his simplistic message and methods that the Corinthians, once pagans, became saints. Paul now reminds them of his message and manner when he first came to them which resulted in their salvation.

When he came, Paul did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom. He did not come with “high fullutin” words or thoughts, nor did he employ oratorical embellishments which would draw attention to himself and to his methods. Paul came with a simple, straightforward approach which sought to make the message, not the messenger, primary. He came to them “proclaiming the testimony of God” (verse 1). That is, he came to them preaching the gospel in simple terms, without sensationalizing it.

In verse 3, Paul turns his attention from his message and method to his mind set. He describes the attitude with which he came to the Corinthians with the gospel. If the charlatans of that day had lived in our own time, they would have worn expensive clothing, had a recent face-lift, a self-assured manner, and an omnipresent smile. They would have exuded confidence and composure. But this would not be so with Paul. When Paul first came to Corinth, he worked as a blue collar laborer making tents with Aquila. His mind set was characterized by his threefold description: weakness, fear, and much trembling. He may have come with a physical weakness, for it does seem as though Paul suffered from some physical affliction (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In addition, I believe Paul came to Corinth with a clear sense of his own limitations, knowing that the salvation and sanctification of men could only be accomplished by the miraculous intervention of God.

Paul also characterized his coming as “in fear and much trembling.” We know there were fears, as Luke indicates to us. After previous persecution in other cities, Paul came to Corinth where he again faced opposition. But the Lord appeared to Paul with these words of assurance: “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9b-10).

I have always thought of Paul as a kind of “pit bull” evangelist. Some dogs have no courage at all, while others may sound awesome but when threatened or harmed they protect themselves by backing off. Still other dogs—like the pit bull—will continue to fight until they are dead. How easy it is to think of Paul in this way, as invincible and undaunting. But Luke’s words indicate otherwise. Paul was a man of like passions with our own. He too had fears. But our Lord’s words of assurance enabled him to press on in spite of his fears.

The expression, “fear and trembling,” seems to mean more than just “fear” and “trembling” combined.

33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth (Mark 5:33).

15 And his affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling (2 Corinthians 7:15).

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ (Ephesians 6:5).

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling” (Hebrews 12:21).

The expression seems to convey the realization on the part of the person fearing and trembling that he or she is of a lower rank, a lower position than the one who is feared. The woman who had been healed by touching Jesus (Mark 5:33) seems to have realized not only that she had been healed, but in being thus healed, she came to recognize the greatness of the One who produced the healing. Slaves should submit to their masters with fear and trembling, recognizing that God has put them under the authority of their masters. We are told by Paul to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” knowing that it is ultimately not our working or even our willing, but God’s sovereign work in us which causes us to will and to work His good pleasure.

Pride was the underlying reason for the divisions in Corinth. People took pride in following the right leader, the leader who spoke words of wisdom with oratorical skill who also had status and esteem among the unbelievers. Paul speaks of himself as a humble man, a man with no confidence in his own abilities, in his own message or methods, but whose trust is in God alone. Paul proclaims Christ, knowing that apart from the working of God in the hearts of men, nothing eternal will happen.

Paul’s actions in Corinth were purposeful, not accidental or haphazard. It was not that Paul was ignorant or uneducated, nor was it that Paul only knew about Christ and Christ crucified (verse 2). Paul determined that this was all he would know while ministering in Corinth (or anywhere else). He chose to limit his knowledge to those truths which would save men from their sins and transfer them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Even though many would be impressed by his knowledge in areas which the unbelievers believed to be wisdom, Paul determined not to know such things and thus not to preach them.

Paradoxically, Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness, fear, and much trembling so that the power of God might be demonstrated (verse 4). If Paul’s human skills were dominant in his preaching, Paul’s power would be displayed. But when Paul came in weakness proclaiming a message men deemed foolish and men were converted, it was evident it was the result of the supernatural power of God and not the merely human power of Paul. Paul has much more to say on this subject later, especially in 2 Corinthians 12, but for now we should note that Paul’s weakness was not a hindrance to the demonstration of God’s power but the means through which God’s power was displayed. God’s power is manifested through human weakness.

Paul did not want to make disciples; that is, Paul did not want people to be his followers. His goal was for men and women to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation and to become His followers, His disciples. If men were converted because of Paul’s wisdom and because of his persuasive skills, they could then be led astray by anyone who was wiser and more persuasive. Paul’s desire was that men would place their faith in God and in His power (verse 5).

God's WisdomGod’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of This Age
(2:6-9)

6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

At verse 6, Paul changes from the first person singular (“I”) to the first person plural (“we”). Verses 1-6 spoke of Paul’s mind set, message, and methods when he first came to Corinth with the gospel. Now in verse 6, Paul speaks for more than just himself. I understand the “we” to refer principally to the apostles.30 As further developments in this epistle and 2 Corinthians will show, the real struggle was not with Corinthian cliques, each of which had chosen to follow a different apostle, but with those in Corinth who had turned from the apostles to other teachers, of which some will prove to be “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

What characterizes Paul that is so offensive to some of the Corinthians, causing them to follow other leadership? It is Paul’s “simplistic” devotion to Christ crucified. Paul has chosen to be a kind of “Johnny-one-note,” and the note he continues to play is offensive to both Jews and Gentiles. Consequently, for a Corinthian Christian to identify with the apostle Paul is to embrace that which is foolish and weak to the unbelieving mind, whether Jew or Gentile. To identify with Paul and his preaching is to become a fool in the eyes of the world, which has no status. And so some are tempted to identify with new leaders whose methods and message are far more acceptable. Associating with them gives one a much higher status.

Paul does not deny that his message and methods are foolish; rather, he emphasizes this is so. But in moving to the first person plural (“we”), Paul links himself, his message, and his methods with all of the other apostles. Paul’s message and methods are no different from those of his fellow apostles. He speaks with and for all the apostles as he admonishes the Corinthians.

At verse 6, Paul makes another shift in his emphasis. Up to this point, Paul has granted the fact that his gospel is foolish and weak. Now he begins to clarify and expand his instruction. The apostolic gospel is foolish and weak to unbelievers, but it is neither foolish nor weak in the sight of God. Neither should it be regarded as foolish nor weak in the sight of the saints. In verse 6, Paul insists that the apostles do speak wisdom. This wisdom is not for all, however. There are two groups from whom apostolic wisdom is withheld. The first group is those who are immature (verse 6). In chapter 3, verse 1, Paul plainly tells the Corinthians they are “men of flesh,” “babes in Christ,” and in verse 3, he contends that they still remain in the same condition. Did the Corinthians chafe because Paul’s message was too simple? It was because the simple things were all they were able to grasp. The problem was not with Paul or his colleagues; the problem was with the Corinthians.

The second group from whom apostolic wisdom is withheld is those who are unbelievers (2:6). Paul says the wisdom the apostles preach is not of “this age.” Consequently, the rulers of “this age” are not able to grasp it. Even those who are the wisest and most powerful people of this age are unable to grasp it. This is evident at the cross of Calvary. There, at the cross, the rulers of this age rejected Jesus as the Messiah as God’s means of salvation. God’s “wisdom” was never more clearly manifested to men than in the person of Jesus Christ, but the best of this age were not able to see it. It is obvious that they did not receive this “Wisdom” because they crucified Him.

Paul’s words here help us to distinguish between God’s wisdom and worldly wisdom. God’s wisdom was revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ at His first coming, but the world rejected Him and the wisdom He manifested. The wisdom of God is “eternal wisdom,” a wisdom established in eternity past yet to be fully implemented when Christ’s kingdom is established on the earth. The wisdom of this world is “empirical wisdom,” based upon that which can be seen and heard and touched. The wisdom of God is otherwise. It is not seen by the naked eye, it cannot be heard with the ears, it cannot be fathomed by the natural mind. It surpasses even man’s imagination. It is other worldly. This should not come as a surprise to the Christian, for the prophet Isaiah indicated as much in the citation which Paul includes in verse 9.

Let me pause to reflect further on this concept of the “other worldliness” of God’s wisdom. Do we not tend to think of heaven as an extension of earth’s joys? Most people who believe in heaven think of it as the place where they will be reunited with their family and friends. And yet, when Jesus spoke to the Sadducees, he chided them for their ignorance because they supposed marriage would continue on into eternity (Matthew 22:23-33; see also 1 Corinthians 7:25-35). Are we perplexed when we find prophecies which describe things of which we have never seen nor heard? For example, there are Ezekiel’s wheels (see 1:16, 19-21; 3:13; 10:2-19; 11:22), and there are the “living creatures” of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-9; 5:6-14; 6:6; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). Nothing in this life can be compared with such things. Heaven is not just an improved earth; it will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) where there will be no sea (21:1), no temple (21:22), no need for sun or moon (21:23-25; 22:5). The streets, we are told, will be paved with gold. This may be a way of telling us that what we value most highly on earth will have little or no value in heaven. Heaven, that biblical “new age,” is nothing like the present age, and thus no mortal can conceive of what it will be like. The things of God are other worldly, and thus we cannot even guess as to what they will be like.

How God’s Wisdom is Revealed
(2:10-13)

10 For [But]31 to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Paul has just shown us why God’s wisdom, the wisdom which the apostles proclaimed, is rejected by the great but unbelieving men of this age. Men of this age are limited to temporal, human wisdom. They cannot grasp God’s eternal wisdom. They cannot see, hear, or comprehend the things of God. How then can mere mortals ever know God’s wisdom? The answer is found in verses 10-16. In verses 10-13, Paul expounds the doctrines of inspiration and revelation whereby God has made his wisdom known through the apostles who have inscripturated the “depths of God.” In verses 14-16, Paul turns to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, enabling him to comprehend the things of God which He revealed in the Scriptures through the apostles.

How can men know of a God who cannot be seen and whose provisions are beyond human thought? The answer: through the Holy Spirit, who has imparted the knowledge of God to and through the apostles in the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit is theSpirit of God.” Just as man’s human spirit knows the deep thoughts of the man, so the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, knows the intimate things of God. When the Lord Jesus was on the earth, He spoke many things to His disciples which they did not understand or even remember. Jesus told them that after His departure, He would send His Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not only call the things He had spoken to their remembrance, He would also enable them to understand them so that they could record them for others. In addition, the Spirit would reveal things to come, things of the coming age:

25 “These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:25-26).

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you” (John 16:12-15).

Paul has already spoken of the wisdom of God as a mystery (1 Corinthians 2:7). A mystery is something God reveals concerning the future, which is not fully grasped before its fulfillment because it is beyond human comprehension. The apostles played a unique role as “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). After God has completed a work that was formerly a mystery, He fully discloses that mystery through one of His apostles. Paul was surely one of the great “mystery apostles” in that it was his privilege to speak of several mysteries. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul spoke of the privilege God had given him as an apostle to reveal some of these mysteries (Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:1-13; 5:32).

In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, Paul describes the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to His disciples (remember that Paul was divinely added as the twelfth apostle). Man, Paul is saying, could never know God on his own. But God has chosen to make Himself known through His Word and through His Spirit. His Spirit was given to the apostles in a special way so that the things of God might be inscripturated, divinely inspired and recorded as a part of the Bible. The apostles have been given the Spirit in this unique way so they “might know the things freely given to us by God” and might communicate them to us. The Spirit superintended this process by “combining spiritual thoughts (“the depths of God,” verse 10) with spiritual words” (the words of Holy Scripture).

Here is a very crucial difference between the apostles and the false apostles. The apostles claimed to speak for God, and they did! False apostles claimed to speak for God, and they did not! God can be known intimately because He has chosen to disclose His innermost thoughts and being to men by means of His Spirit working through the apostles, resulting in the New Testament Scriptures. To reject the apostles and their teaching as the “wisdom of God” is to reject God, for they are the only ones through whom God has chosen to disclose Himself. Is the gospel simplistic? It is because God’s way of salvation is simplistic—one way (see Matthew 7:13-14ff.; John 14:6). To reject the apostles’ teaching is thus to reject the God who disclosed Himself to men through them.

There may be a secondary interpretation of Paul’s words in verses 10-13, but, if so, it is surely secondary. Many interpret these verses as speaking of God’s direct disclosure of Himself to men, through His Spirit. I do not think so. I believe these words make sense only as interpreted above. This same thought is taught by Peter as well in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The work of God the Spirit in the lives of Christians in general is spoken of in the closing verses (14-16) of 1 Corinthians 2.

Spiritual Insight: The Haves and the Have-Nots
(2:14-16)

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:1-16).

God has disclosed Himself to men through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knows the intimate things of God and, by inspiring the apostles, has translated spiritual thoughts about God into spiritual words—the New Testament. In the Old Testament period, God revealed His Word through the prophets. In the New Testament times, this revelation came through the apostles. Yet the unbeliever seems blinded to the truth contained in God’s Word. How can this be? How can some find in the Bible a rich source of revelation which enables them to know God more intimately, while others find the Scriptures a senseless mixture of writings which cannot even be understood? Why are some drawn to the Scriptures and others repulsed by them?

The difference may be summed up in terms of the presence or the absence of the Holy Spirit. We see in verses 10-13 that Paul speaks of the Spirit’s work in conveying God’s thoughts to men by inspiring the apostles to convey spiritual thoughts through spiritual words, the words of the New Testament. Now, in verses 14-16, Paul writes of the work of the Spirit, enabling men and women to understand the Scriptures and thus to know the mind of God.

Previously, Paul has divided mankind into two groups: (1) those who trust in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for their eternal salvation and (2) those who do not. Another way of viewing these two groups would be: (1) those (unbelievers) who do not possess the Holy Spirit, who cannot understand the wisdom of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and (2) those who do possess the Holy Spirit, who therefore have the capacity to understand the Scriptures.

The first group Paul refers to as “the natural man” (verse 14). The “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The natural man, who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot understand the Scriptures (“the things of the Spirit of God”). God the Holy Spirit conveyed the “deep things of God” to the apostles, who by the Spirit’s inspiration, recorded them as Scripture. The Scriptures are thus “the things of the Spirit of God,” the things which the Spirit of God has originated and communicated. How can one “devoid of the Spirit” (see Jude 19) grasp the things of the Spirit? No wonder the wisdom of God seems foolish to the unbeliever. They cannot fathom anything which falls within the realm of the Spirit.

More than a year ago, Dr. Jim Lopez visited while interviewing for a position at the University of Texas Medical School in Dallas. A part of his interview process involved making a presentation of his research. After Sunday dinner, he wanted to “run through” his presentation one last time, and so we set up the slide projector in the living room. I must confess I did not understand a word Jim said. It was completely over my head; it was a different world. Both of our cats perched on the coffee table beside the slide projector and were fascinated with the slides. Jim’s research was done with rats, and the cats found the slides of great interest.

True wisdom cannot be grasped by those who are unsaved, by those who do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them illuminating the truth of the Scriptures so they can know the deep things of God. True wisdom speaks of things which pertain to a future age and of things which no man has ever seen, or heard, or is even able to imagine. The only way this kind of wisdom can be known is for men to trust in Jesus Christ so that their spiritual eyes may be opened to see the wonders of the wisdom of God and the world to come.

The Christian is the one who is called “spiritual” (verse 15) here by Paul. Most often, we understand the term “spiritual” to refer to those who are mature, who manifest the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Paul seems to use it here to refer to those who possess the Spirit, who live in the realm of the Holy Spirit because they have trusted in Jesus Christ. The one who possesses the Holy Spirit is able to grasp and to appraise both temporal and eternal matters. The Book of Proverbs, for example, is divinely inspired and provided so that we may see life clearly from God’s point of view. The prophetic books have been given to us so that we may look at the eternal dimension of God’s plan. Thus, Paul can say that the Christian who possesses the Holy Spirit is able to “appraise all things,” things earthly and things eternal, things pertaining to this age, and things pertaining to the next.

While the Christian—“he who is spiritual”is able to appraise all things and thus to understand the beliefs and the behavior of the unsaved, the unsaved (“natural”) man is unable to understand the Christian (“he who is spiritual”). No wonder Christians are misunderstood and even persecuted. No wonder they are considered foolish and weak. This is the best the unaided mind of the natural man can do.

In verse 16, Paul closes our chapter with the words of Isaiah 40:13: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:1-16). These words sum up the difference between the non-Christian and the Christian. God has revealed Himself to all men in the person of Christ and in the Scriptures (see verses 10-13 above). The Scriptures make no sense to the unbeliever. This is because it is impossible for the unbeliever to grasp the things of God apart from the Spirit of God. Who can know the mind of the Lord? No one can, apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God through the apostles and in illuminating the Scriptures to the individual believer. Note that the words of verse 16 indicate not only the natural man’s ignorance but also his arrogance. Who would think that any man could instruct God? But this is precisely what the unbeliever does think. This is why they think the Christian is foolish and weak.

In contrast to the unbeliever, who is oblivious to the mind of God, the Christian can say confidently, “We have the mind of Christ.” The “we” may refer either to the apostles, who alone can speak the “mind of Christ,” or more generally, of all the saints who possess the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. It is through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit that the “mind of Christ” is conveyed to the saints. The Christian has both the Word of God and the witness of His Spirit, the Author of that Word. What more can one ask for than this?

This final statement sums up the vast difference of opinion which exists between Christians and unbelievers over “wisdom.” The unbeliever is incapable of understanding God’s wisdom and so is confined to a very limited, distorted temporal wisdom. The Christian has the means for knowing the mind of God and thus has access to the wisdom of God. The Christian should not be surprised by the reaction of the unbeliever to the preaching of the gospel. And the Christian should not forsake the vast wisdom God has made available to us in order to pursue the wisdom which the world seeks.

Conclusion

What a blow this chapter strikes at human pride. Paul’s coming to the Corinthians was far from prestigious. He came in weakness, fear, and much trembling. He came with a message offensive to both Jews and Greeks. He refused to “know” anything other than the crucified Christ, for he came to bring the Message of Salvation. His message was not one of superior wisdom, one that would appeal to the intellectual curiosity or headiness of the Corinthians. His method of presentation was not one that would naturally draw a crowd or attract a following. From a merely human point of view, Paul did everything wrong when he went to Corinth. But what happened? A number of his readers came to faith in Jesus Christ because of Paul’s mind set, message, and method!

How could Paul do everything wrong (from a worldly point of view) and yet sinners be converted and a church born? In verses 1-5, Paul indicates that he purposed to come to the Corinthians as he did so that the Corinthians’ faith would “not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (2:5). How does this happen? How is the faith of men and women turned God-ward by a mind set of weakness and humility and by a message and method which runs contrary to human wisdom? The answer is implied here and clearly stated later by Paul:

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

In God’s economy, divine wisdom is foolishness to the secular mind; divine power is weakness to the unbeliever. Paul’s weakness and simplicity were not obstacles to divine wisdom and power; they were the means through which God’s wisdom and power were demonstrated. Had Paul come with self-assurance and confidence preaching a “wisdom” applauded by the world, through a method which ranked with the best secular communicators, the best that could have happened was that men would place their confidence and trust in Paul. But when Paul came as he did, only God could convince and convert the Corinthians, and their faith must therefore be in God, not in Paul.

How does this happen? How can human weakness be transformed into divine power? How can human foolishness become divine wisdom and pagan sinners become saints? The answer: The Word of God and the Spirit of God. The gospel is the means by which men are saved: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). And how can the gospel become the “power of God for salvation?” Again, the Spirit of God:

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:7-11).

The Corinthians had become mesmerized by men and by human wisdom. They were wrong. What had saved them was the Word of God and the Spirit of God, working through humble men who proclaimed a straightforward, simple message of Christ crucified, even though their message and their methods were unappealing to unsaved men.

If the Word of God and the Spirit of God were sufficient to save the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear to them that the teaching of the apostles does convey wisdom, but a wisdom of a different order (verses 6-9). It is a wisdom which even the cultural elite (“the rulers of this age,” verses 6, 8) could not comprehend. Indeed, when wisdom was personified in the person of Jesus Christ, they crucified Him. Why would the Corinthians be so enamored with secular, human wisdom? It cannot lead us to God; indeed, it will turn us from God. Human wisdom cannot comprehend God or the things which He has for men. Human wisdom is of no eternal value, and its temporal value is limited.

At verse 10, Paul turns us once again to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. What men could never have known about God (see verse 9), God has chosen to reveal to men. This He has done through His Spirit. His Spirit knows what no man can know about God. His Spirit took these spiritual thoughts, spiritual realities, and translated them into spiritual words, the words of Scripture. This He did by His Spirit, who inspired the apostles who were the human authors of the New Testament.

Men can come to know God in only one way—through His Word and through His Spirit. There are many different beliefs about God, but there is only one true God. This is the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. All views of God which originate with men, rather than with God, are false. All views of God which come from some other source than the Bible are false. How often I hear people say something like, “Well, I like to think of God as… .” It does not matter how you would like to think of God. Paul’s words inform us that the way we think about God is certain to be wrong, for true wisdom comes from above, not from below. True wisdom flows from God to men, not from men God-ward. The Bible reveals to us a God that we would not have imagined, a God whom we would not have wanted, a God whom we would not have received. Apart from the Spirit of God and the Word of God, we could never have come to know God.

If anyone can appreciate this truth Paul is teaching, it is the teacher. Think about Paul. He was a devout Jew, deeply religious, committed, and sincere. But he was dead wrong. When God revealed Himself to Paul (it is always God who initiates a relationship with man and who initiates the revelation of Himself to man), everything suddenly changed. Indeed, all was reversed. The things he once prized, thinking they won him favor with God, Paul now counted as “dung” (Philippians 3:1-11). Now Paul is a new man in Christ. Now he has come to know God through His Word and through His Spirit. That is what Paul wants for each one of us.

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, you do not know God. You cannot know God apart from Christ, and you cannot know Christ apart from His Word and His Spirit. Hell will be populated with countless souls who served a “god” of their own making, and such “gods” are not God at all but only idols of our mind. We cannot know God through our own wisdom or insight. We cannot see, hear, or touch Him. But He has revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible. By the ministry of His Spirit, we can come to know God personally as the One who has provided for the forgiveness of our sins and for eternal life. God has revealed Himself in His Son, who died on the cross of Calvary, bearing the penalty for our sins. He has raised Him from the dead, as proof of His satisfaction with the work of Christ. All we need do is to believe the One whom God sent, that we are sinners, deserving eternal punishment, and that through the death of Christ, we have been punished and raised to newness of life. I urge you to view God through the pages of Holy Scripture and to trust in His provision for salvation in Jesus Christ.

My Christian friend, do you believe wisdom comes only from God, through the Scriptures, by means of the Spirit? If so, where are you seeking daily wisdom, the wisdom to understand the events and crises of daily living? Where are you seeking a knowledge of God and of His “mind”? Where do you go to learn of the glories of the coming age and of His promised kingdom? Do you read the Bible, or books about the Bible, or do you read “Christian books,” sparse with references to the Word of God or the Spirit of God? God has revealed Himself through His Word and through His Spirit, and we do well to take heed:

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:1-4).

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord (1 Peter 2:1-3).

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Thank you!


30 Would the Corinthians segment themselves into factions; would they distinguish their groups by individual leaders? Paul speaks of and for the apostles as a group, with no distinction. There may be divisions in the church concerning apostles, but there is no dissention among the apostles.

31 It is baffling to see the translation “for,” chosen as the reading of preference by the translators of the NASB. The KJV, NKJV, NIV, and Berkeley versions, and even J. B. Phillips’ paraphrase all begin verse 10 with “But.” The editors of the NASB do indicate in a marginal note that some Greek manuscripts read “but.” The fact is that most all of them do so with very sparse support for the reading they have selected. In addition, the context calls for a more decisive break here, indicating the beginning of a new paragraph.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of 1 Corinthians

Multiplying Divisions

During my trades teaching days, I referred to one of my superiors as an “unbeliever” in correspondence with another Christian. Through a sequence of events, this “unbeliever” read my letter and was greatly offended by what I said. Though he was a religious man, one could not think of him as a Christian. My relationship with this man was greatly impaired, and another Christian gave me this advice: “Bob, ________ is a very proud man. The only way to reach him with the gospel is to appeal to his pride.” Even at the time, I knew this advice was unbiblical, and now, studying Paul’s words in the early chapters of the Book of 1 Corinthians, I am even more convinced that my friend was wrong—dead wrong!

The first nine verses of 1 Corinthians 1 are Paul’s introduction to the entire letter. In these verses, we have been told that Paul is the author and that he is accompanied by Sosthenes. Paul’s epistle is addressed not only to the saints in Corinth but to all saints everywhere. Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God for the Corinthian saints, for the sufficiency of God’s provisions for them, and for the certainty that God will complete what He has begun in them by calling them to faith in Jesus Christ. Based upon this foundation, Paul now moves on to reiterate the call to Christian unity (verse 10). He then points out the ways in which this unity has broken down in the Corinthian church (verses 11-12). In the remainder of this chapter (1), and in the next three chapters (2-4), Paul shows how disunity is a contradiction of the gospel and how unity is a manifestation of the gospel.

The lessons Paul has for the saints of his day are most applicable to our own lives as well. The conflicts which existed then are still very much with us today. We have conflict and strife in the church, in the home, and at work. Paul will have us see that not only are such divisions contrary to the gospel, they should be set aside by the gospel. The gospel strikes at the heart of inter-personal conflicts, then and now. Let us listen and learn, for the lessons Paul has for us here are those which we should apply moment by moment.

A Biblical Challenge Regarding Corinthian Conflicts
(1:10-12)

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

Paul does not begin with the problem of divisions but with a positive exhortation to maintain Christian unity.22 Paul’s call to unity in verse 10 sets the standard. His exposure of divisions in the church at Corinth in verses 11-12 shows a specific deviation from God’s standard.

I am most reluctant to challenge the translation of the text of Scripture, especially in a version like the NASB, which attempts to be literal in its rendering of the original text. Here, however, I must raise the flag. Paul is not exhorting the saints to “all agree” on every subject, as our translation suggests.23 We will soon come to chapters 8-10, which deal with matters of conscience. Paul expects Christians to disagree as to matters of conscience. He will speak of the diversity of spiritual gifts which are evident in the church, and he does not suppose that this will result in total agreement because our gifts influence our perspective and our viewpoint.

Literally, we see from a marginal note that the text reads, “to speak the same thing.” Paul calls upon Christians to “speak the same thing.” This is quite different from agreeing on everything. When Christians have different convictions, they are not to dispute with one another over them (Romans 14:1). Rather they are to keep their convictions to themselves (14:22). We are not to speak about them in a way that disputes with others about them or which seeks to impose our convictions on others. If we are exhorted to “speak the same thing” so as to practice and promote unity, then we must speak about those truths which all Christians share.

I like what I know of Barbara Bush. I do not know if she is a Christian, but I think she is a woman of integrity. While her husband was in the Oval office, Mrs. Bush did not speak publicly about her views on abortion. I do not agree with her position on abortion, as I understand it. And from all I can tell, Mr. Bush does not agree with her. But while he was in office, she did not speak publicly about her position. She did not “agree” with President Bush, but she did “speak the same thing”; that is, she spoke of those things on which they did agree, rather than on those matters where they differed. Christians are to do likewise in the area of differences, when these areas are not fundamental areas of Christian doctrine.

Paul further defines unity as the absence of schisms. Gordon Fee writes,

Although the Greek word for ‘divisions’ (schismata) is that from which we derive the English word ‘schism,’ it does not in fact mean that, at least not in the sense of a ‘party’ or ‘faction.’ The word properly means ‘tear/rent’ (cf. Mark 2:21) or the ‘plowing’ of a field. The best illustration of the present usage is found in the Gospel of John (7:40-43; 9:16; 10:19-21), where various groups are said to have divided opinions about Jesus, meaning they were arguing with one another as to his significance. Thus Paul does not refer to distinctly formed groups of ‘parties’ here, but to divided opinions over their various leaders, which according to v. 11 and 3:3 have developed into jealousy and quarrels.24

Two further qualifications of unity are indicated by Paul. We are to be made complete “in the same mind” and “in the same judgment.” For Paul, maturity is not just an individual matter but a corporate growth. Maturity here is the process of the mending of relationships 25 that takes place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Maturity and unity are inseparable. Those who are truly growing in Christ are those who are both growing up and growing together:

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Having the “same mind” refers to the more general “disposition” or “way of thinking” of the Christian. Fee has this helpful insight when he indicates the Greek term rendered “mind”:

… here means something close to ‘disposition’ (J. Beam, TANT IV, 958) or ‘way of thinking’ (BAGGED), cf. 2:16, where in contrast to the people of the world who do not have the Spirit, Paul says, ‘But we have the nous Christ,’ which in this case means something closer to the actual thinking or plans of Christ.’26

To have “the same mind” is to have the same outlook or perspective. To have “the same judgment” is to agree as to a particular decision, to agree on a particular issue.27

When the apostles and the rest of the 120 saints gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14), they were all like-minded. They were one in spirit and in focus. And when they (rightly or wrongly) selected Matthias as the replacement for Judas, they came to the “same judgment.” They reached a particular decision with unity. The same kind of decision-making process can be seen in Acts 6:1-6 and 15:1-35. Paul likewise desired that they would unanimously agree on some particular judgments which he had indicated, such as the excommunication of the wayward brother in 1 Corinthians 5.

If we were speaking in musical terms, Paul is not calling for the church to sing in unison—everyone singing the same note at the same time—but rather he is urging the entire church to sing the same song, in harmony. This is what Christian unity is about. Unfortunately, the Corinthian saints were not living up to the standard Paul set for them. There were quarrels and divisions in the church, which he had heard about from “Chloe’s people.” The situation in Corinth can be summed up with these characterizations of the conflicts which were evident there:

(1) There are problems of division in the church which are wide spread and widely known. The strife and contention in the church is prevalent. When Paul speaks of this problem he says, “each one of you is saying …” (verse 12). This probably does not mean each member, without exception, but those who are not guilty of this evil are the exception and not the rule. The problem is so prevalent that it seems to be well-known. Even as far away as Ephesus, Paul hears of this matter.

(2) The quarrels and dissension are due to a party spirit on divisions which focus on personalities—individuals with which certain members have identified—to the exclusion of others. Every one of Paul’s examples is of a person who identifies with a particular person, and thus who stands aloof from others.

(3) Each of the divisions focuses on leadership. Each of the personalities—Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ—is viewed as the one leader that the individual member has chosen to follow. Each says, “I am of Paul or of Apollos or Cephas or Christ.”

(4) In Paul’s example, none of the leaders named is viewed as responsible for the problem or of encouraging any to follow them and not other true apostles (or Christ). The problem as it is introduced here is a “follower problem” rather than a “leader problem,” in that the followers are at fault. Paul’s emphasis will change on this matter as time goes on, but no New Testament writer ever fails to hold individuals responsible for whom they choose to follow. There appears here to be an unholy devotion to godly men.

(5) We should bear in mind that the problem here is just being introduced in the first chapter of Paul’s first (preserved) epistle, and the problem Paul identifies is in its incipient (early and undeveloped) form. As time passes and as Paul’s epistles continue, the problem will more fully develop and manifest itself. A problem in its earliest form may look very different from the problem in its full-blown manifestation. Expect further developments on this matter as we continue our study of the Corinthian epistles.

(6) This example which Paul sets forth is largely hypothetical. The problem is not really one of loyalties and allegiances to different apostles, but of loyalties to leaders who are never named in 1 or 2 Corinthians. Paul will make this abundantly clear in chapter 4, where he writes,

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (1 Corinthians 4:6).

(7) The root problem underlying the Corinthian quarrels and factions is pride. We see this clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 (above). Some are “becoming arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” But this same pride is evident in our text as well. “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ’” (1 Corinthians 1:12). The first three hypothetical examples take pride in the leader they have chosen to follow. The last takes pride in thinking he or she is following Christ. But each is proud in feeling superior to the rest of those referred to in Paul’s example.

(8) The most dangerous group of all in these four examples is the last. Surely Paul means for us to assume “guilt by association” here in verse 12. Paul uses the same words, only changing the name in the case of the last group. It is true that we all should be followers of Christ. But we should not be proud of ourselves for doing so. This fourth group is no less proud or arrogant than the others who are condemned. I am afraid that I understand Paul all too well in this fourth example. Those who think of themselves as being “of Christ” also think of the rest as not being “of Christ.”

Exclusivism is wrong, even the exclusiveness of those who think themselves superior to all other believers because they follow Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or Christ. Those who boast of their following Christ are effectively declaring themselves to be the leader. Those who are “of Christ” do not need Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. They do not need an apostle. They can discern Christ’s mind by themselves without any outside help from others. These autonomous folks are the most frightening group of all, and Paul makes this clear.

Paul’s Correction for Corinthian Conflicts
(1:13-17)

Paul’s rebuke and rebuttal to the Corinthian sin begins at verse 13 of chapter 1 and continues on through chapter 4. In this lesson, we will only deal with his four lines of argument which are found in the remainder of chapter 1.

Christ, or Men?

The Priority of Christ Over Men (Verse 13)

13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

In a nutshell, Paul takes us to the core question: Is salvation about the work of men or about the work of Jesus Christ? All four of the groups mentioned by Paul in verse 12 were man-centered. The fourth group was a little more subtle about it, but all of these individuals took pride in themselves, based upon their perceived allegiance. Paul wants to make the point clear and unmistakable: Our salvation is totally about Christ’s work. Those who are man-centered need to be reminded of the gospel and of their salvation, to recall that salvation is Christ-centered. Christ has not been divided, so how can His body, the church, be divided? It was not Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or any other mere man who died on the cross of Calvary; it was Christ whose shed blood cleansed us from all sin. Baptism testifies to this fact. All of the Corinthian saints were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They were not baptized in the name of any man. This is because salvation is through Christ alone, and not through mere men, even if they were apostles.

Paul’s Priority of Preaching Over Baptism (Verses 14-17)

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

Baptism is a very prominent theme in these verses, mentioned six times here by Paul. I take it that some, at least, took pride in the person who baptized them. Some people appear to have been proud and looked down on others who were not baptized by as great a celebrity as their baptizer. Paul lets the air out of the tires of these proud name droppers by telling them that baptism is not a celebrity affair, and compared to the preaching of the gospel, baptizing is a lower priority to him. Do they take pride in the one who baptizes them? Paul is glad he has not made baptizing a priority, and thus that he has baptized very few of the Corinthians.

It is thus evident that Paul viewed his preaching of the gospel as having a much higher priority than baptizing new converts. It can hardly be overlooked that Paul saw salvation as something which occurs independently of baptism. Baptism is important. It is the believer’s public identification with Jesus Christ. But baptism is not viewed as the means of one’s salvation; rather it is the outward manifestation of salvation. Paul rejects the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Otherwise, if he thought baptism was the means of salvation, he would have made it a much higher priority than he did. People are saved by believing the gospel, and it was Paul’s priority to preach it. Baptism took second place to preaching in Paul’s life and ministry.

We find the same principle of the priority of proclaiming the gospel applied more broadly than just to baptism. It is applied by the Lord Jesus to the working of miracles.

29 And immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Him about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

32 And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

35 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for Him; 37 and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 And He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for” (Mark 1:29-38, emphasis mine).

When we wish to be perceived as better than others, we do not emphasize what we hold in common, but what is uniquely us, our distinctives. In an election year, when have you ever heard a political candidate say that he agrees with his opponent? Churches which seek to compete with other churches, or look down on other churches, must do so in terms of their differences rather than in terms of their unity and commonality.

The subject of the closing words of verse 17 Paul picks up in a little while, but for now Paul sets down two powerful arguments against the kind of pride which elevates “silver tongued orators” whose methods are those of worldly wisdom and power which appeal to the lost and ungodly. In verses 18-25, Paul argues that the gospel negates pride in a believer because the gospel is antithetical to human pride, human wisdom, and human power. In verses 26-31, Paul wages another attack on human pride by reminding the saints of who God has chosen to save, and that few saints are those who will ever win acclaim and status in a lost and pagan culture.

The Cross of Christ Has No Status to the Lost
(1:18-25)

18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Corinthian Christians were characterized by quarrels and a party spirit. In verse 13, Paul indicates what he constantly emphasizes elsewhere, namely that divisions are contrary to Christ and to the gospel. Why then do Christians get caught up by quarrels and strife? The answer seems straightforward and simple: pride. Pride causes a person to desire to think of himself as being superior to others. If one can identify with a leader whom he perceives to be superior to all others, then he, as a follower, can feel superior to those who follow someone else. In verses 18-31, Paul points to two characteristics of the gospel which serve as a death blow to the human pride found in the Corinthian church, and, unfortunately, in every church.

In verses 18-25, Paul reminds the church that those who are status seekers will never gain recognition and status from the unbelieving world. The gospel does not appeal to human pride; it cannot even co-exist with it. The gospel informs us that there is only one thing to do with pride—crucify it.

The “word of the cross,” that is, the gospel, is not a status symbol to unbelievers; it is an offense. For those of us who “are being saved,”28 the gospel is the power of God (see also Romans 1:16). For the unbeliever, the cross is a shame; for the Christian, the cross is glorious.

The conflict between divine wisdom and power and the secular world’s view of these matters should come as no surprise. Throughout history God has worked in ways that the world would never have imagined or believed. God’s purpose in history is not to glorify man but to glorify Himself by demonstrating the foolishness of man’s wisdom. The text which Paul cites in verse 19 is but one indication of God’s intention of proving man’s wisdom to be folly. He refers to Isaiah 29:14 to show that God has always worked in a way that is contrary to human wisdom. Would human wisdom have chosen an insignificant people like the Jews to be the nation among whom God would dwell? Would human wisdom have chosen the land of Palestine over other places on earth? Would human wisdom have led the Israelites to be trapped between the Red Sea and the on-coming Egyptian army? Would human wisdom have instructed the people of God to use their power to help the weak, rather than to use their power to take advantage of the weak? Would human wisdom have purposed to save Gentiles through the rejection and failure of the Jews, rather than through their triumph? Would human wisdom have declared that the coming Messiah was to be born of a virgin?

In verse 20, Paul asks a series of questions. Where is the wise man, the scribe, the debater of this age? I think he means where are they in the church, in the outworking of God’s plans and purposes? Paul would have the Corinthians look around them to see where the intellectual and scholarly giants are. By and large, those so highly esteemed in the world are absent from the church and absent so far as the outworking of God’s purposes in human history. And even when God may draw one of the “greats,” He first humbles them. Nebuchadnezzar is but one example (see Daniel 1-4).

Does the world think that God’s wisdom is foolish? God has set about a course that will prove man’s wisdom to be foolish. God will use foolishness to prove the ungodly to be fools. Since the world has not come to know God through its wisdom, God will make Himself known to some through means which the world regards as foolish. God has chosen the cross of Christ as the means whereby men may be saved from their sins.

Jews and Gentiles may agree on few things, but they mutually hold that the cross of Christ is foolish. The Jews are into power through signs and wonders. All through our Lord’s life, they wanted to see signs and wonders. They expected their Messiah to be a wonder worker, here to do their bidding. Even the disciples bought into this frame of mind, so that Peter rebuked the Lord for speaking of His cross (Matthew 16).

The Gentiles were into a different kind of power—mind power, human wisdom. They took pride in following great intellectual thinkers or powerful orators. The message of a humble carpenter’s son, who died as a common criminal on a Roman cross, was not that which the Gentiles sought. And the straight-forward proclamation of this “word of the cross” by means that were far from entertaining or impressive was not popular either. To those who are called, this humanly unimpressive gospel is good news, and the proclamation of the cross of Christ is a manifestation of the wisdom and the power of God.

There are two radically different views of the same gospel. The view of the unbeliever, whether Jew or Gentile,29 is that the gospel is foolish and weak. The view of the Christian is that the gospel is the wisdom and the power of God. Even that which seems to the unbelieving eye to be God’s weakness and foolishness proves in the end to cause man’s wisdom and power to pale in insignificance.

Those Whom God Has Saved Have No Status Either
(1:26-31)

The Corinthian saints were status seekers. Paul wanted them to see how foolish this was in the light of divine wisdom and power and how inconsistent status-seeking is with the gospel. First, Paul challenges his readers to take a good look around the church to note who was not present among them. This he did in verses 18-25. Glaringly absent in the church are those people who hold positions of status in the secular world, in accordance with secular values. The church is not made up of wise men, scribes, and debaters (verse 20). Now, in verses 26-31, Paul wants the Corinthians to give thought to who is present in the church.

“Look at yourselves,” Paul challenges the Corinthians. Granting the possibility of a few exceptions, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the rule. By and large, the church is not composed of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, when judged by fleshly (unbelieving) standards (verse 26). Instead, God has chosen to save the foolish, the weak, the base and despised, the “nobodies.” The word “chosen” in verse 27 is very significant, because it underscores that God chose those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. It was not that these were all that would come to God; it is that these are those whom God ordained to come to Him. It was not that God could do no better; it was that God chose not to do better.

Following the principle set down in verse 19, Paul explains why God selected the undesirables of this world for salvation. God has purposed to nullify the wisdom of the wise and to humble the proud. He has chosen to do so by employing means and people that the world rejects as weak and foolish and worthless. God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak things of this world to shame the strong, the base and despised things to humble that which is highly esteemed (verses 27-28).

God has not done this because the weak and foolish are any better than the powerful and the proud. He has set aside the highly regarded and employed those things which are disdained so that all the glory might come to Himself and not to mere men. This is the concluding point Paul makes in verses 29-31. If God were to achieve His purposes through the worldly wise and powerful, we would be inclined to give the praise and glory to the men He has used rather than to God. This world believes the “shakers and the movers” are the ones who make things happen. Even the church seeks to evangelize and train those whom the world regards as “most likely to succeed.” But God chooses the opposite, those whom we expect to fail (or, more accurately, those we already deem to be failures), so that when His wisdom and power are evident, there are no wise and powerful men to take their bows before men. Instead, men must bow before God, giving all the glory to Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Conclusion

Obviously, there are just as many divisions in the church today as there were in Paul’s day. Some of us might argue that there are more divisions today than in his day. The thing that amazes me is the dramatic difference in the way we deal with those divisions and strife. In the church and in Christendom in general, the vast majority of cases are dealt with psychologically. This is the first level of appeal. If all else fails, turning to God and His Word is the last resort.

What is the root of this evil of divisions? The secular world, and a distressingly large number of professing Christians, would answer this question without a moment’s hesitation: poor self-esteem. This alleged “malady” is said to be the root of crime, of moral evils (many of which are no longer a crime), and of inter-personal conflicts. It should come as no surprise that Paul’s “root problem” is just the opposite of the secular world. Paul indicates that the root of the Corinthian conflicts is pride. It is not that the believers in the church think too little of themselves; they think too much of themselves. It is not “poor self-esteem” but “inflated self-esteem” that is the problem.

Why are these secular “cures” being embraced by the church? Why when we seek to heal conflicts and strife do we turn to a psychology book rather than to 1 Corinthians? When Paul deals with strife among the saints, he begins at the beginning—the gospel of Jesus Christ. His introductory words have already taken us to God and to His sufficient provisions for salvation and godly living. Now, after setting the standard of Christian unity, Paul seeks to correct the ungodly divisions in the church. He does so by turning us immediately to the gospel. Our salvation is Christ-centered and not man-centered. How then can Christians divide themselves from other Christians on the basis of the men whom they have chosen to follow? We were saved in the name of Jesus Christ; how is it that we now take pride in the names of the men we follow?

In the past, I have advocated “biblical thinking,” and I still do. But this text has forced me to see that Paul’s thinking goes even deeper. Paul is a model for us in what might be called “gospel thinking.” Baptism is a command of our Lord, and it is an important part of our obedience to Christ. But Paul makes it clear that proclaiming the gospel takes a higher priority in his life than performing baptisms. The Bible teaches us many truths, but the one truth which stands above all is that of the gospel. If any other truth begins to overshadow the gospel, something is wrong.

Notice with me how the gospel colors Paul’s thinking in almost any situation. In Acts 20:24, we see that Paul refuses to take the “advice” of the saints to avoid going to Jerusalem. Paul knows that “bonds and affliction” await him there, but Paul’s consuming desire is to fulfill his mission of proclaiming the gospel. Preaching Christ is more important than saving his skin. In Philippians 3:15, people who have “a different attitude” Paul leaves to God to change their hearts. However, in Galatians 1, Paul has a scathing rebuke for those who have “a different gospel” (see verses 6-10). When Paul is imprisoned, and some use this fact to further themselves at his expense, Paul rejoices because even in this, the gospel is preached (Philippians 1:12-18). In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul documents his right as an apostle to be supported by the churches where he ministers. He purposefully sets aside this right for the sake of the gospel (see verses 15-23, especially verse 23). When Paul encourages the saints in Corinth to give to the poor, Paul appeals to the gospel for their motivation in giving (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Over and over and over again, it is the gospel which provides the standard, the basis, the motivation, and the guiding principles for Christian living. The gospel is not merely that truth which we believe in order to be saved; it is the truth which we are to seek to grasp more fully day by day, and the truth which we are to live out in our everyday lives. As Paul put it,

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:6-7).

Paul gets to the root of the problem of division and strife when he goes to the gospel, for the gospel is the key, the basis for all human relationships:

32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).

1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).

Pride is not the root of all evils (see 1 Timothy 6:10), but it is the root of many evils, including strife and division in the church. Pride was the cause of Satan’s downfall (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:1-19). Pride and wisdom are closely linked. In his pride, Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. God had reserved certain knowledge for Himself, and that knowledge was there on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God forbade Adam and Eve to eat of this tree, to gain this knowledge. Eve saw that fruit, that knowledge, as desirable, and sought it by eating the fruit even though this required disobeying God. And the result of this act was division and strife, from that point onward in history. Man does not want to admit that only God is all-wise. Man seeks wisdom because he wishes to bolster his pride.

It was pride that prompted David to stay at home when he should have gone to war. As a result, he committed adultery with another man’s wife, and he tried to cover this sin with murder. As a result of David’s pride, he numbered the troops of Israel, and thereby brought upon his people the wrath of God. It was pride that God warned the nation Israel about, knowing that these people would eventually take credit for that which God had accomplished by His grace. Pride is a great evil, and it has for all of history been a prominent factor in human strife and division, even among the people of God.

Paul spotlights pride as the root problem among the Corinthians. He does not advocate months or years of therapy. He does not see the need to know the childhood, the background, or the individual struggles of each Christian. All they need to know is the gospel. It is by means of the gospel that God removed the conflict, the enmity, between sinners and Himself. It is also by means of the gospel that the enmity between men is removed:

11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

PrideThe gospel is incompatible with human pride. When saints strive with other saints out of pride, the cure is not to enhance their pride, to improve their “self-esteem”; it is to remove that pride. The self-esteem of the saints does not need to be commended; it should not even be criticized. It needs to be crucified. Do you wonder why our Lord instructed His church to remember His suffering and death by the observance of the Lord’s Table (communion)? You should not. Communion is the commemoration of the work of Christ, the gospel. Communion is not simply a remembrance of an act which our Lord accomplished in the past; it is a way of life which we are to emulate every day of our lives.

How often, when men seek to evangelize the lost, or when they attempt to motivate Christians (and unbelievers) to give or to serve, do they appeal to human pride. They glorify certain tasks and positions, so that people will fill them for that glory. They publicly laud the gifts or service of people, so that they will be proud of their contribution. Gospel thinking requires us to do just the opposite. In order to be saved, we must confess our sin and admit that we are unworthy of God’s gift of salvation. We must humble ourselves and accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. We must cease trusting in our goodness, in our works or efforts, in our worthiness, and cast ourselves on the sinless Son of God who died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin, and giving to us His righteousness as a free gift. The gospel which saves is the gospel which humbles, and that humbling gospel is the basis for Christian unity and harmony. If you have never accepted the gospel message, and the gift of salvation in Christ of which the gospel speaks, I urge you to do so this very moment.


22 In Matthew 19, the scribes and Pharisees quiz Jesus about divorce. Under what circumstances can a man divorce his wife? Jesus’ response is to emphasize the rule and not the exceptions. It is not that exceptions do not exist. But to focus too much on the exceptions can undermine the rule. So here Paul wants to begin with the rule. He then cites specific examples where the Corinthians have departed from it (and these areas are not exceptions to the rule; they are examples of the rule).

23 Robertson and Plummer indicate that, “The expression is taken from Greek political life, meaning ‘be at peace’ or (as here) ‘make up differences.’” Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1971 [reprint]), p. 10. Leon Morris quotes Bishop Lightfoot: “This ‘strictly classical’ expression ‘is used of political communities which are free from factions, or of different states which entertain friendly relations with each other.’” Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), pp. 38-39.

24 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987 [reprint, 1993]), p. 54.

25 The term used here by Paul is a colorful one. Robertson and Plumber (p. 10) tell us, “It is used in surgery for setting a joint (Galen), and in Greek politics for composing factions (Hot. v. 28).” In the New Testament, it is employed for the process of mending fishing nets (Matthew 4:21).

26 Fee, p. 53, fn. 29.

27 “… nous, as is shown in ii. 16, denotes the Christian way of thinking in general, the conception of the gospel in its entirety; the gnome, according to vii. 25, refers rather to the manner of deciding a particular point, what we call opinion, judgment.” Frederic Louis Gadded, Commentary on First Corinthians, Kregel Reprint Library (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications [reprint], 1977), p. 63.

28 Paul speaks here of our salvation as an on-going process, and not just as a historical event.

29 It has been observed that Paul divides the whole world into two categories. These are not the categories of “Jew” and “Gentile,” but of believer and unbeliever.

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The Lion and Lamb

Isaiah has painted a deliberately provocative scene.  Nature, as Tennyson reminded us, is red in tooth and claw.  How absurd to think that nature itself could be tamed!  What could possibly bring about such a cosmic reversal?

Well, as ever, Isaiah answers by pointing us to the Messiah.  In the face of warring nations and warring nature, Isaiah continues to set our hope on a miraculous birth.  He will be called Immanuel or the Prince of Peace, or here in chapter 11 He’s called “the Branch.”

Isaiah 11:6
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

Both of these passages deal with the kingdom age on the earth after the Lord Jesus Christ returns to reign on the earth as King of kings. The ferocious beasts (like the lion) will live peaceably with the gentle animals (like the lamb). Certainly, this will be a literal reality on the earth. However, this picture is also symbolic of the peace that will pervade the entire earth. When preachers speak of the lion and the lamb lying down together, they are referring to the time of peace when Jesus will reign as King over the earth.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them… 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:1-9)

When the true King reigns in righteousness, the world is set to rights.  This is not a spiritual truth divorced from historical and physical reality.  There will be a day when actual wolves and actual lambs graze together contentedly.  When seals will swim happily with great white sharks.   When children will play with crocodiles.

Impossible!  Ridiculous!  Fairytales! you might say.   Yet Isaiah refuses to live in a double-decker universe. We often think that Christian truths apply to a spiritual realm while the real business of life occurs on some irredeemable physical level.  We might concede that Jesus has spiritual power but, we imagine, it has no bearing on the way of the world.
Deer and bunny get to know one anotherBut Isaiah cannot believe in such a divorce of spiritual and physical.  He believes in a very earthy Messiah.  He believes in God with us.  A God who becomes a Child.  A God who really enters into our world – to be born as a human king.   The power of heaven will enter into this world from the inside.  Not simply to grant spiritual benefits to spiritual people, but to remake His own creation.

We know that the false king, Adam, brought spiritual and physical death.  Well then, is Christ less powerful than Adam?  Is His victory less decisive than Adam’s fall?  No.  Therefore Christ, when He comes again, will bring spiritual and physical redemption to the ends of the earth.

The believer in Christ has a physical hope – death defeated, wars vanquished, disease abolished, nature itself brought to peace and prosperity:

6 And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. 9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  (Isaiah 25:6-9)

So typically, when someone is thinking of the “lion and the lamb,” Isaiah 11:6 is in mind due to it often being misquoted, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” The true “Lion and the Lamb” passage is Revelation 5:5–6. The Lion and the Lamb both refer to Jesus Christ. He is both the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain. The Lion and the Lamb are descriptions of two aspects of the nature of Christ. As the Lion of Judah, He fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 49:9 and is the Messiah who would come from the tribe of Judah. As the Lamb of God, He is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin.

The scene of Revelation 4—5 is the heavenly throne room. After receiving the command to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor, John is “caught up in the spirit” to the throne room in heaven where he is to receive a series of visions that culminate in the ultimate victory of Christ at the end of the age. Revelation 4 shows us the endless praise that God receives from the angels and the 24 elders. Chapter 5 begins with John noticing that there is a scroll in the “right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” The scroll has writing on the inside and is sealed with seven seals.

After giving us a description of the scroll, an angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John begins to despair when no one comes forth to answer the angel’s challenge. One of the 24 elders encourages John to “weep no more,” and points out that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to take and open the scroll. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is obviously a reference to Christ. The image of the lion is meant to convey kingship. Jesus is worthy to receive and open the scroll because he is the King of God’s people.

Back in Genesis 49:9, when Jacob was blessing his sons, Judah is referred to as a “lion’s cub,” and in verse 10 we learn that the “scepter shall not depart from Judah.” The scepter is a symbol of lordship and power. This was a prophecy that in Israel the kingly line would be descended from Judah. That prophecy was fulfilled when David succeeded to the throne after the death of King Saul (2 Samuel). David was descended from the line of Judah, and his descendants were the kings in Israel/Judah until the time of the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.

This imagery of kingship is further enhanced when Jesus is described as the “root of David.” This harkens us back to the words of Isaiah the prophet: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. . . . In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 10). As the root of David, Jesus is not only being identified as a descendant of David, but also the source or “root” of David’s kingly power.

Why is Jesus worthy to open the scroll? He is worthy because He “has conquered.” We know that, when Jesus returns, He will conquer all of God’s enemies, as graphically described in Revelation 19. However, more importantly, Jesus is worthy because He has conquered sin and death at the cross. The cross was the ultimate victory of God over the forces of sin and evil. The events that occur at the return of Christ are the “mop-up” job to finish what was started at the cross. Because Jesus secured the ultimate victory at Calvary, He is worthy to receive and open the scroll, which contains the righteous judgment of God.

Christ’s victory at the cross is symbolized by his appearance as a “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Prior to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded by God to take an unblemished lamb, slay it, and smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 12:1–7). The blood of the slain lamb would set apart the people of Israel from the people of Egypt when the death angel came during the night to slay the firstborn of the land. Those who had the blood of the lamb would be spared. Fast forward to the days of John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus approaching him, he declares to all present, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the ultimate “Passover lamb” who saves His people from eternal death.

So when Jesus is referred to as the Lion and the Lamb, we are to see Him as not only the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God at His return, but also as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the reproach of sin from His people so they may share in His ultimate victory, Just as we see Him as the Lamb and the King of Kings!

Can I get an Amen?

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