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  • Jun 28 / 2020
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1 Corinthians: The Application of Christian Principles, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Jesus is our Wisdom and Power (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

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Jesus is our Wisdom and Power

1 Cor 1:18-31 (Pastor Heo)

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 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;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher 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 know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”


One of the big problems of Corinthians was disunity, division. One reason they had difficulty in keeping unity was because they were so different in background, culture, lifestyle, history, esp before becoming Christians.

The Corinthian church was mixed: Jews, Greeks.

  • At that time, Greeks treasured philosophy (philo “love” sophia “wisdom”) = “love of wisdom.” Greeks were so famous for philosophy. Even today, we study this: Greek Philosophy. This is considered the root of western philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Socrates).
  • Jews valued miracles, miraculous events. From Exodus to Jerusalem and Jesus, they desired miracles, and looked for them. They asked Jesus for miracles, but he refused.

We read “wisdom” here, and it is repeated 13 times. Both to the Greek and the traditional Jew, the message of the cross sounds foolish and stupid.

v. 18 is one of my personal favorite verses

v. 18

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The message of the cross is very simple: Jesus DIED to save sinners.

This message has two results. All of humanity will end up in one of two classes.

  1. Foolish = reject belief and perish in hell
  2. Wisdom = accept and gain eternal life, they are being saved.

“I’m not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for all who believe…” (Paul)

v. 21-25

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”

  • To the Greeks: At that time, Christianity was associated with a poor Jewish carpenter who died the most shameful (naked) death – hanging on a tree in the air, exposed to the eyes of anybody. It was illegal to crucify Roman citizens, so this death was never even mentioned in polite Roman society. Even the image of crucifixion was not acceptable. It was a form of the worst capital punishment. So, how is it possible that the Savior of the world would be crucified? To the Greeks, valuing logic, this was totally foolish.
  • To the Jews: They had only the Old Testament at that time, and among the OT books, one of the most important was Deuteronomy. (21:23 “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under a curse from God.”) According to this verse, it would be totally unacceptable and unthinkable for the Messiah to be crucified. So it is a stumbling block to them.

v. 24-25

“but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

God’s wisdom cannot be mixed with man’s wisdom. His wisdom is revealed primarily in the cross of Jesus. It is not about form / matter, but about content / reality.

Sometimes we need to doubt our doubts, question our questions.

Real wisdom: Giving up our wisdom to gain God’s wisdom.

What is real power and what is real wisdom?

Think about your own personal situation – about who / where you were when you were saved.

v. 26

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

This is my story. When I became Christian, I was very foolish.

v. 27-29

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.”

That is why finally, for him to get glory, we can know that God is never impressed with our character, position, politics, money, etc.

Among the earliest 12 of Jesus’ disciples, do you know what their jobs were?

  • 5 were fishermen
  • 1 tax collector
  • 6 unknown careers

God’s view of power is upside-down. He is more interested in the weak than the strong – he is more interested in the low than the high.

The cross of Jesus will turn our concept of wisdom and power upside-down. If you are really saved, remember that we were called to salvation not because of what / who we are, but in spite of it – so that no one can boast in themselves.

Ex: Jesus’ ministry

Several times this may have happened.

On the way to Jerusalem one day, he encountered a blind beggar, and Jesus purposefully healed him.

The Bible recognizes him by recording his name: Batholemus

In history, historical books, such an individual would be passed over and remain nameless.

In Luke 16, there was the story of the RICH man and the beggar. But in this story also, the rich man is nameless, but the beggar has the name Lazarus.

So the story’s name is the Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

This is God’s foolish wisdom, God’s weak power.

v. 30-31

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.””

  • Righteousness = justification
  • holiness = sanctification
  • redemption = glorification

At first I said that the key sentence is “Jesus is our Wisdom and Power.”

The emphasis here is that the Father God reveals his wisdom through Jesus Christ by means of righteousness, holiness, and redemption.

4 keywords:

1. wisdom

only in following Jesus can we walk rightly. Only in listening to Jesus can we hear the truth.

Col 2:3 “In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

2. righteousness

having a right relationship with God. This has to do with our standing / position before God. He declares us righteous simply because we put our trust in Jesus

5:21 “God made him who had no sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. holiness

John 17:19 “For them (my followers) I sanctify myself so that you too may be sanctified (set apart).”

At the same time that we are sanctified already, we are also BEING sanctified.

4. redemption

Jesus can deliver us (liberate us) from past sin and future fear.

There are three tenses of perfect salvation:

  1. Past = we have been saved from the penalty / punishment of sin (righteousness)
  2. Present = we are being saved from the power of sin (holiness) – “Work out your salvation continually with fear and trembling”
  3. Future = we will be saved from the presence of sin (redemption)

We have been bathed in his blood and saved, and redeemed by his cross.

The cross of Jesus is true wisdom because it is a cure for human limitations from a God who chose to empty himself and experience human limitations.

The cross of Christ is TRUE power who chose to subject himself to death and share himself with others.

True power? = Self-giving, others-centered

Willing self-sacrifice for the weak. This is TRUE power.

One story (illustration):

Are you a father? There’s a father, and his 7-year-old son play together with games like running and arm-wrestling. In this competition, the son’s purpose is victory – to defeat his father. But the father’s purpose is not victory – it is to build up a friendship and relationship, intimacy with his son. To encourage him, make him feel more happy.

  • In this competition, the father controls and loses his own power to empower his son. Then they both can achieve their purposes.
  • The father shows his own power by becoming weak. The father shows his wisdom by becoming weak.
  1. The son’s happiness comes from victory.
  2. The father’s happiness comes from loss.

This is the picture of the cross.

That’s why the cross is our REAL power and REAL wisdom.

Jesus is our wisdom, power, righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Without Christ, we are nothing.

Let’s pray.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen