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  Wisdom or Foolishness
by Guerin Tueno
1 Cor 1:26-2:16


  Imagine yourself a member of God's heavenly selection committee. God has given us the job of putting together a profile of the sort of person that Heaven's looking for.
  What sort of person should we be keen to select? Smart people? – God knows everything. Surely he'll want to surround himself with intelligence.
  Good looking people? – God's beautiful in his holiness, so it makes sense to select attractive people. Powerful people? - Go-getters! Movers and shakers. People who know how what they want and how to get it. People who know how to get things done. Wealthy people? – Power comes from wealth doesn't it? Better get some rich folk in. Noble people? – You know – people of impeccable breeding; upper class. You just can't surround God with riffraff you know.
  We submit the list to God's office, only to get it back. Ripped to shreds.
  So what sort of person is God looking for?
  The problem in the Corinthian church is that they thought God was using that sort of list.
  They were a very talented, spiritually gifted church, but they've become proud of themselves and they've lost sight of the importance of Jesus.
  They've displaced Christ with wisdom. Replacing the cross, with their human ability. They've been putting on airs, slapping themselves on the back for their own wisdom. But as we heard last week, Paul's pulled the rug out from under them. He's turned their world upside down.
  "18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
  "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.


25For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

  And now Paul wants to tell them two things.
  Firstly, he wants to demonstrate to them the truth of the gospel being foolish to the world, and that God chooses and uses weak foolish people by the world's standards to show himself as wise and power.
  And secondly, he wants to tell them about real Christian wisdom, a wisdom that comes from God, and not from humans.
  Paul starts by reminding them of what God has done in and with them.
  "26For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth."
  Paul's holding up a mirror to the Corinthians. You're proud of your new wisdom and gifts from God – but don't forget where you started from. Remember – you weren't wise by human standards. You weren't powerful.
  You didn't have noble origins.
  Paul's saying God chose a bunch of nobodies. The overlooked, the ignored, the unwanted.
  A few years ago Kerry Packer threw the most over the top wedding reception for his son James and bride Jodhi. Elton John sang. The cutlery was made from gold. Kerry invited the who's who of Australia, and notables from overseas. Only the important, significant people were there.
  But when God sent out the invites to join the church, to come to God's great party, he invited people who would never make it to the society pages of the papers.
  He invited people who weren't the talk of the town. It's like Kerry Packer inviting the homeless or blue collars workers to the wedding banquet.
  God doesn't chooses how we would. "27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are."
  Why does God do this? Is he just perverse in his selection criteria? Is God Australian – does he just love the underdog?
  The reason God chooses the people he does is so that his people are on the same footing:
  "29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."
  That no human being might boast before God. God is the rescuer. God is the wise one. The mighty one. God chooses people to show to them, and the whole universe, that he is God. He owes nothing to anyone. He's not won over by human wisdom or power.
  God wants the world to know he's God, and the one who saves.
  "30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.""
  God has made Jesus life for the dead. Wisdom for the unwise. Righteous for the Unrighteous. Sanctification for the Unholy. Redemption for captives.
  We contribute nothing. God chooses who he wants on his own terms – not ours. And he loves to surprise the world by choosing the people the world overlooks.
  "30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.""
  The Corinthians have been boasting in all the wrong things. They think they're mature, but Paul's telling them to grow up. To boast in God and not in themselves. And Paul also wants to remind them of when he first proclaimed the Gospel in Corinth. "Remember how I came to you. In weakness and fear. In much trembling." Doesn't sound like the sort of person you see on the motivational talk circuit. Paul wasn't the sort of person Kerry Packer would invite.
  Listen to how Paul describes himself and the other apostles in chapter 4. "9For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things." Weak. Scum. The rubbish of the world. For the Corinthians, who are into wisdom, power, and nobility, Paul's a bit of an embarrassment.
  And yet! And yet – Paul came to Corinth with a message without worldly wisdom and eloquence, and God brought people to himself through Paul. What Paul brought was the simple message of Christ crucified. God on a cross. Of the empty tomb. Of Jesus' kingship. That was Paul's message.
  When I traveled in Europe in 1998 I always headed for the galleries. I'd just finished my honors degree writing about two local Melbourne artist, and I was in the mood for art. As I was looking around the Louvre and the Tate I noticed something. A really beautiful painting can be ruined by a bad frame. Colors and styles that don't match.
  Paul knew this too. "4my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." His message wasn't framed with plausible words of human wisdom. But rather framed by a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
  What does that mean? A demonstration of the Spirit? I think it means that Paul's words had God's power. They weren't the cultured, rhetorical words of the Corinthian philosophers, but people still became Christians.
  Without the Holy Spirit there would have been no power. People would not have responded. And I think for Paul, it also mean signs and wonders – those strange and wonderful acts of God. Speaking in tongues, healing.
  In 2 Corinthians 12:13 – Paul tells the Corinthians that "The signs of a true Apostle were performed among you with the utmost patience, signs and wonders, and mighty works." Paul really did all those things in his ministry.
  We don't do them, or even see them, but Paul did. And the Corinthian Christians saw it.
  Paul's reminding them that as far as he was from the wisdom of his Age, and yet God was clearly with him and his message. Paul holds himself up as an example for the same reason he held a mirror to the Corinthians – to glorify God. Paul wasn't the wise or powerful one in Corinth. God was. "5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of humans but in the power of God."
  So in the examples of both the Corinthians and Paul himself, God is the wise, powerful one. We're to boast in him, and not in ourselves. "31Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

  That's the first point. Now Paul moves to
  the nature of real Christian wisdom.
  "6Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
  Who are the mature ones Paul talks about here? Is he having a go at the Corinthians? "You think you're so mature, but you're not. And until you grow up I'm not telling you God's secrets..."?
  I don't think so – Paul isn't contrasting mature and immature Christians, but the rulers of this age, who killed Jesus, against those who recognize Jesus for who he is.
  Here the mature are Christians. Paul's saying that there is wisdom in Christianity, and he does talk about it. Christianity is only foolish to those on the outside who don't understand it.
  But there is real God breathed wisdom for us. But you only get it, if God gives it. "9But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"— 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in them? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual."
  You only get it, if God gives it. You can't find God's wisdom by your own effort. God is too great, too wise, too good, too holy, too immense, for us to see or grasp without him telling us.
  To people in love with human wisdom God's wisdom is foolishness. Only God's Holy Spirit can reveal the truth about God.
  And God does indeed give his Spirit to Christians so that we can know him and understand what he has done for us, and given to us. That's something non-Christians cannot do.
  "14The unspiritual person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them, and they are not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual person judges all things, but is judged by no one. 16"For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ."
  The Christian message is foolish without God's Spirit to understand it. But what does Paul mean by the Spiritual person not being judged by the unspiritual? Or that the Spiritual person discerns all things?
  I think Paul means that Christians discern and know the truth from and about God unlike the wisdom of this age. The unspiritual person has no right or ability to tell Christians how to know God. It doesn't mean that the courts or government have no jurisdiction over Peter Hollingworth. This is about knowing the things from God. Because what human wisdom has ever taught God anything? But believers have the mind of Christ.
  To have God's Spirit means to have the mind of Christ.
  In the rest of this letter Paul's got a lot of very practical advice for the Corinthians, and us too – but here at the outset he's saying that only by having the Holy Spirit can we receive God's wisdom. The practical, ethical, and theological teaching of this letter is foolishness unless God opens our eyes.
  What we've heard today from 1 Corinthians is about changing the way we think about the way we think about ourselves. About the sort of people God chooses. And about what we need to understand the rest of this letter, indeed all of the Bible.
  Sometimes God is merciful to the wise, and powerful of our age. But that's the exception, not the rule. And for them to become a Christian actually means denying that God chooses them on the basis of their wisdom, power or position. For both the Corinthian Christians, and in Paul's ministry, God wanted people to boast in him, not themselves. To acknowledge and respond on the basis of his power, and not their own.
  The Christian message is foolishness to our world. But God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. Christians can only boast in God, and not in ourselves. And Christians maturity is about having God's Spirit, not our own wisdom. It's about having the mind of Christ.
  Let me ask two questions.
  What are you taking pride in? Maybe you don't admire secular wisdom, but is there something you boast in other than God? For me, there's the temptation that I'll look to my theological training. That what I learn about God becomes more important than knowing God himself. Or that I trust in my work with Christian Union rather than in Christ.
  What are you boasting in? How long you've been a Christian? Coming to St Theodore's all your life? How much you give?
  What are you trusting in? We need to hear this letter again: "30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
  My second question is for you if you've never accepted God's message before. If it's always seemed like foolishness to you. You'll never reach God by human wisdom. But if you'd like to know God then please come and speak to me or Chris after the service today. If you want to know God's wisdom. If you want to know peace and reconciliation with God. If you want to know how to accept Jesus, please come and talk with us later.
  Let's pray.
  Dear Lord
  Your wisdom is the one we want to know.
It seems like madness to our world,
But your wisdom is true wisdom.
The message of your son Jesus dying for us
Is a scandal to the human mind,
But by his death and resurrection,
You have saved us.
  Please give your Spirit to those here to whom your Word is foolish,
So that they too can boast in you,
Knowing and accepting all you have done and revealed.
  I will not boast in anything.
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ.
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from his reward?
I cannot give and answer.
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.

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