“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21
There is a wisdom of God and there is a wisdom of the world. They are not the same. Isn’t it sad that God can lay His wisdom out for all to see and to know and to experience but we can refuse it? We can choose our own wisdom as better. But the truth of the matter is that our wisdom is not better. It never will be. Our wisdom is shallow and empty. And this is what we choose? I don’t want to choose that shallow wisdom.
How can I come to understand Your wisdom God? Paul tells me in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And I think that’s what Paul is trying to get across here in 1 Corinthians. But it’s not just about getting the word out. It’s not just about proclaiming the word. It’s about proclaiming the word as we live it out, as we let You live it out through us. It’s the “foolishness of preaching” that You, Lord, use to save those who will come to believe. So what does that mean? What is the foolishness of preaching?
Sometimes I use other versions of the Bible to share Your word in easier “English” than the King James Version. But we need to be careful with sticking as closely to the original intent as we can if we want to understand Your intent. So I have to ask myself, is there a difference between “preaching” and “what we preach”, or between “preaching” and “the message preached”?
In Hebrew thought there was not a division between hearing and doing. If you said you heard something, then the evidence was in your doing what you heard. This is faith. I hear God, therefore I do what He says. Preaching carries that same connotation. Preaching is an action. It’s not about a set of beliefs. It’s about living out those sets of beliefs. It’s all about living what You are teaching. Preaching isn’t about my words as much as it is about my life. Both actually go hand in hand. It’s not just about the message. It’s about the power of the wisdom of God being evidenced in my life. Yes, I am announcing through words the truth of the whole Gospel, the Good News about everything that You, Jesus, have done, from start to finish and how we actively and participantly live in that truth, but it can never be separated from my life, from my living.
Preaching is not about propositions. The Greek word here is “kerugma.” It’s a noun that means “message or proclamation.” But it can signify the content and the act. If we go back to the Hebrew equivalent, “qol,” it’s more about the action of “calling aloud.” So what does that imply?
Maybe the implication here is that the foolishness that You, Lord, are using isn’t just Your word that we are proclaiming. Maybe the foolishness is what we are showing with our lives and actions. It’s one thing to say a thing, it’s another to show we really live it out in truth. It’s one thing to say we forgive, but it’s actually counter-cultural to forgive the horrendous. Like, what about a child molestor? I don’t ever excuse their actions but can I really forgive them? I mean, what if it were my own child? Could I live out forgiveness? What if it’s more about putting Your word into action in my life so that the Gospel I preach is being lived out in living colors in my life? What if it’s not allowing room for hypocrisy because my actions speak everything my words do? And now, what people hear becomes something they have to see demonstrated right in front of their very eyes. And it’s not like what they are used too.
If I want people to believe the words I preach, there cannot be a discrepancy between the words and my life. I can’t be a fraud. How can I profess to have the truth, if I live another way? If my actions don’t back my words, then I am a liar. God, You are not a liar. I must be like You if I am Yours. My life actions and my message must be intertwined.
And it’s not my message and it’s not about my preaching. It’s all about me lining myself up with Your preaching and letting You bring it to life in my life. It’s about true religion and desperate relationship entwined together. And if I have this religion and this relationship in You, it carries over into my other relationships.
So what is the foolishness of preaching? What if the whole idea of the divinity and death of You, Lord, looks like foolishness? What if the whole idea of someone bigger and better than us seems silly to someone who has been so busy leading their own way, taking care of themselves, and handling things on their own? Why do I need a God? Why would a God have to die? But isn’t that where wisdom actually starts? When we finally realize that God is God. You are in charge. You are holy and I am not. I need You to change me because I can’t. I need a Savior to pay the penalty for my sins. So, what is the most beautiful truth in the whole universe, seems like foolishness until my eyes are opened. The Jews thought it a scandal and refused to obey. We think it foolishness and refuse to acknowledge Your deity and the value of Jesus’ death.
In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word.” It’s not just about going out to tell the Good News. Paul was always taking the Good News deeper. James stated in Acts 15:20, “For in every city from ancient generations Moses has those preaching him, having been read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” So, what’s the point? Maybe we understand our salvation better the deeper we are brought into a deeper understanding of all of Scripture. Somehow, I tend to want to go back to living like the first through third century believers. Even with the persecution. I think there was a closeness like real family, they met in homes, sometimes secretly, they had to watch carefully and be alert to the hearts of the people around them. They had to be genuine. You either acted like Jesus or you weren’t one of His. It reminds me of believers in persecuted areas now. A Bible is a treasure to weep over and hide it’s words in your heart. There is true passion for the Lord and for others. They are unlike the world around them. They are free to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Look at this list of words that were part of the life of the early believers as they met in homes and lived out what they believed and shared that with others. “Suffering, Repentance, Restitution, Dependence, Confession, Intercession, Obedience, Teaching, Devotion, Prayer, Petition, More dependence, Relinquishing, Joy, Purity, Compassion” (Skip Moen) Am I living, breathing, and acting out these words, these characteristics of You, Lord, in my life? Because I’ve been called unto You and unto the power of this Gospel so that it’s not foolishness to me or a stumblingblock, but Your power and wisdom in me and through me. So what is my calling?
You chose each believer to “confound the wise.” What? You want me to shame people? No, that’s not it at all. My life and message are to bring people to the point where they see themselves as they truly are before You and see You for who You truly are. You bring us to shame by nature of who You are when we come to the truth. And You have called us, the ones the world sees as weak, by our dependence on You, to put the ideas of the world about You to shame. Even the mighty ideas puffed up against You won’t be able to stand up against what they see in our lives when we start really living out our preaching.
And I love the next verse. 1 Corinthians 1:28 continues, “And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…” Do you know that base things based on the word “agenes” means “without kin, ignoble”? So what? Well, it makes me think of You, Jesus. I know You were not illegitimate because I know who Your Father is. But the world thought You were. They didn’t recognize Your kin. You were despised. But You were the Chosen One above all. And You have chosen us to be Your examples in the world. You take what the world sees as nothing and make everything of it in You. And that’s the Gospel, that’s what we are preaching. Our glory is in You. And You are made in us and through us and for us and unto us the wisdom of God, His righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. It’s not just the Gospel I preach, it’s the Gospel I live.
So who’s the foolish one? Is it the one who lives in the truth or is it the one who lives out the lie? Call me what you will but what’s it worth? I know Who is worthy of glory, and He’s the one I’ll listen to. He’s the one I’ll follow and exemplify. He’s the one who has become my kin. I’m just wondering what your kin can actually do for you. Because my Kin controls everything. And I am more than content to be under His control.
Lord, make my words and my life a mirror image of each other. I want to live You out in my life. I want Your word to be the essence of who I am. Have Your way in me no matter the cost. May I be wholly committed to You in word and deed. May Your word and Your ways and You be so written on my heart that it effects every stitch of blood that pumps through my veins. In my weakness be my strength.