5.2 1 Corinthians -- The Wisdom of God
As we saw in Acts, Paul presents the Gospel in terms that are meaningful to his audience. In this case, Paul contrasts the worldly wisdom (of the Greeks) with God's wisdom. He quotes from the Old Testament:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate" (1 Cor 1:19).
He says that it is not possible to know God through the teachings of scholars and philosophers. This warning is as relevant in our day as it was then -- but who pays any attention? In fact, the revelation of God in Christ frustrates the expectations of both races:
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:22-23).
But why is God hostile to the efforts of the natural man to understand Him? -- whether through signs or principles? Partly because the human mind has been corrupted, as Paul himself said in Romans:
their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom 1:21).
Also, because if we could figure God's plan out on our own, we would admire our own cleverness:
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Cor 1:28-29).
So there is a discontinuity between each culture and the Gospel. It is not just the Jews who had conceptual problems with comprehending the terms of the New Covenant. The Gentiles had a different set of cultural prejudices, but they were just as rigid. The Jews wanted to approach God through rules and sacrifices, while the Greeks sought Him through ideals and "arete." Just as there are keynotes of the Gospel in many societies (Paul quoted the Greek poets in Athens), so there are blindspots, opposing principalities. Each culture has its own barriers raised against Jesus' salvation. The believer must make a conscious break with these values in order to enter the Kingdom of God.