Read 1 Corinthians 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Church Divided Over Leaders
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
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 person? Where is the teacher of the law? 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 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 human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, 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 God 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 the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Just walk into your local bookstore or briefly browse through Amazon, and you’ll find plenty of self-empowerment books with titles like “Your Better You!” or “Say Goodbye to Yesterday!”. These types of books sell millions of copies every year as authors write their latest and greatest “pump up” speech. People snatch up this content because there is something within the human condition that tells us we aren’t yet who we need to be. In our desire to grow, we’re told to look inward to access the power we need to become great. However, 1 Corinthians 1 sets up a stark contrast to the popular thinking of the day. Rather than foolishly searching for one’s own inner strength, we’re told to find true power from somewhere else. Self-empowerment is not the goal: sanctification is.
The good news is that we don’t have to create our own holiness. Instead, we can rely on the only One who has the ability to change our hearts. In this chapter alone, we’re told that God enriches us in every way (v. 5), keeps us firm until the end (v. 8), makes foolish the wisdom of the world (v. 20), and chooses the lowly things to shame the strong (v. 28). What becomes clear throughout this passage is that we aren’t the main actors in our own stories. The one who sets each and every scene is the God who holds all things together. If we’re searching for strength, it’s found in Him. If we’re searching for hope, it’s found in Him. If we’re searching for love, it’s found in Him. This life isn’t about you. It’s about you finding yourself in Him.
The Corinthian church was covered with problems and immorality. With this in mind, what do you notice about the way Paul talks about the Corinthian church in verses 1-9?
Paul says that we have been enriched in Him in every way (v. 5). How has knowing God enriched your life?
Verses 18-25 contrasts the wisdom of the world against the wisdom of God. What are some areas of your life in which you have bought into the world’s wisdom? How can you replace that with God’s knowledge?
Did You Know?
Corinth was a giant cultural melting pot with a great diversity of health, religions, and moral standards. This city was known for being fiercely independent and proud of its culture. However, amidst such success, the city was also prime for corruption and immortality. Corinth’s reputation was such that prostitutes in other cities began to be called “Corinthian girls.”