“Worldly Wisdom” versus “the Preaching of the Cross”

Human Wisdom, as opposed to the Cross and the Power of God

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 1:17-25

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 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.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


We have already seen what Paul considered his only job. It was preaching the Gospel of Christ. Specifically, preaching the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ—to a dying and lost world.

Today we need to talk about why that is the primary job of all believers. Our job is not “social justice,” though we desire it. Our job is not to end world hunger, however much we want it to end. The “occupation” laid out for all believers is “preaching of the Gospel of  Christ.”

What is Your Occupation?

Some time ago, we presented the example of a fire station, full of firefighters. One person may have the task of maintaining the map books. (This was before GPS existed… there were paper maps of every little road. They showed every building in a given area. Someone had to maintain those maps in an orderly, accurate, up-to-date manner.)

Another two or three people might have the task of maintaining the engines and the running-gear of the firetrucks. Others might have the task of maintaining the hoses and checking to be sure they were in good condition for the next fire.

But if you asked ANYONE in that fire station, “What is your occupation?”,  their answer would be, “I’m a firefighter!

What is Your Calling?

Every believer may have a different task, in their personal life and within the church. But our calling, our vocation, our occupation is to be ambassadors of Christ! 2nd Corinthians 5:20 does not say, “we can be ambassadors.” It does not say, “we should be ambassadors.” It says, “We ARE ambassadors for Christ!”

In Acts 1:8, 9 Jesus did not say, “After the Holy Spirit comes, I’d like you to go tell people about me!” He said “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Not a Casual Invitation

You see, the calling is not optional. Every member of the Body of Christ has been “drafted,” (if you want to see it that way.) But we are called to respond as volunteers. He calls every single one of us. But He is looking for the response that says, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!”

The invitation to “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me”—the call to join Jesus in double-harness and serve with Him—is an incredible privilege. It is offered only to those who will respond in faith and in voluntary obedience.

Not with Wisdom of Words

Notice again that Paul stressed the fact that he had not been sent to impress people with his erudite, sophisticated message. He was not sent to argue the facts of the Gospel from a human perspective. Paul was only sent to present the facts and persuade people to respond in faith.

He had experienced the futility of “Human Reasoning” at Athens (Acts 17:22-33.) There, Paul delivered one of the most famous sermons in history…and it was fruitless. We saw, (by looking ahead to 1st Corinthians) that Paul learned from his error. (1st Corinthians 2:1, 2) He vowed from that point forward to “know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”

The Preaching of the Cross (v.18)

One of the essentials often “lost in the crowd” of available messages is the “Preaching of the Cross.” We preach messages advocating “Good Behavior,” and warning against Sin, and so forth. (All of these are appropriate, provided that the audience are all born-again believers already.)

The Gospel, as named in verse 17, is “the message of the Death and Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for our sins. It has the express purpose of redeeming us from our position as lost sinners.” And that message, being believed in, is the Power of God to save those who believe.

But the very next thing he says about that Gospel, in verses 17, 18, is that it involves the “preaching of the Cross.”

What is “the Gospel?

I have, on more than one occasion, had a man tell me, just before his message from the pulpit, that he was “really going to give ‘em the Gospel!” So, I listened! I listened carefully: Not only did those individuals not “give ‘em the Gospel;” They did not include a single part of the Gospel in their message!

They were advocating regular church attendance, or some other social message…not the three-part message of the Cross. They did not mention the Crucifixion (let alone why Jesus died for us) nor His burial, nor the Resurrection, nor even His soon coming.

To an unbelieving heart, the Preaching of the Cross seems to be foolishness. Unregenerate humanity unanimously rejects the Cross, except in the relatively rare instances when someone believes the bad news, because they see it all around them, and is then hoping for some good news. (That is what the word, “Gospel” means: “Good News!

And that Good News, being believed in, is the Power of God to save Sinners. Nothing else in scripture is described as the power of God to save Sinners. Not “Good behavior,” nor “pious words” nor “religious rituals.” Nothing but the message of the Cross, being received in faith.

So, What about “Human Wisdom?”

All of our lives, we are taught to “trust human wisdom.” But God warns us against trusting it. We are told, “Trust your heart! Your heart will never lead you wrong!” But God says that our hearts, full of our “human wisdom,” are the single thing most likely to deceive us.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Do you really want to make that to be your most trusted counsellor and advisor?)

Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path!” That is a far superior source for guidance! Look to the Word of God, and His Spirit…not your heart.

Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest any man spoil you (rob you) through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments (elementary reasoning) of the World, and not after Christ.

Sources of Wisdom

So, this is the “Wisdom” God warns us against and addresses in 1st Corinthians 1:19-21. He says that He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and has made foolish the wisdom of the World, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Three other sources of “wisdom” are listed in James 3:15. Wisdom that is not from God is:

  • Earthly (from the World)
  • Sensual (from our old sin nature—the heart—human reasoning, or
  • Devilish: (from the pit.)

All of us have seen examples of each of these false sources of “wisdom.” Each of us have been forced to admit, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be a terrible mistake!” Human wisdom can easily deceive us.

All of us have also heard the phrase, “Look! Everybody knows… (insert whatever popular belief you want, here!) All those people can’t be wrong!” (Well, actually, yes, they can!)

Truth and wisdom are not determined by popular acclaim. In fact, more frequently than not, popular opinion and popular acclaim result in simply “pooling ignorance and foolishness.”

Our great enemy, Satan, is quite willing to use either of these sources of misinformation to twist the truth. He works to turn us, just far enough that we ignore God’s offer to apply His righteousness to us and to give us eternal life. Having turned away from His offer, we lose out eternally.

How Much Poison does it Take?

I looked on the label of an old box of “D-Con” mouse poison, and I saw that the concentration of Warfarin in it was only 0.01%. That means that 99.99% of the product was perfectly nutritious mouse food! It took only a concentration of one one-hundredth of one percent of that poison to be fatal to the mice. Some errors are not fatal. Others potentially can be definitely fatal.

Fatal Errors

I read a sad story of an elderly couple who pulled onto the shoulder of a dark road, in their vehicle, one night. The man needed to check something on the car. He got out, walked in the darkness, around the rear bumper to the passenger side, and he simply disappeared.

His wife sat waiting in the car all night, afraid to get out, but with no idea why her husband had not returned. As the day dawned, she could look around outside the car and she realized that they had parked at the very edge of a cliff. Her husband, unable to see in the darkness, had simply walked off the edge. He fell into the ravine below, and was killed. (Pretty sad!)

Had there been only a pothole full of muddy water on the shoulder of the road, he would have been wet, angry, and possibly slightly injured. But there was a cliff, and his error was fatal. He walked in darkness, and he fell to his death!

Errors in Thinking

Some errors in thinking may only render us “less effective” or “less peaceful and happy.” But, error that turns the heart of the hearers away from the person of Christ, so that they never receive the promised redemption, is eternally fatal. And a messenger who delivers that sort of message is in trouble with the Eternal Judge, Jesus Christ. (I would not want to be in their shoes at the final judgment!)

God says that He “has made foolish the wisdom of the World and will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

This “Worldly Wisdom” is the kind of misinformation in which our enemy specializes. He cannot keep a believer away from salvation. The moment any sinner trusts in Jesus’s Blood as full payment for his/her sins, he/she is permanently placed into the body of Christ. Such individuals are eternally secure in Him. But the enemy certainly can work to destroy their faith and peace and fruitfulness.

The Door to the Truth is…

God says that Humans have never “found God” through their own wisdom. Human reasoning constantly turns as away from Him! So, in light of that observation, He says that “it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.”

The World sees preaching as foolishness or worse. They see it as proselyting, and self-serving recruiting, at best. But God says that the only way He saves sinners is through the preaching of the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is THE power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And it is the only thing so listed. Why? Because we are preaching Jesus Christ, and He, personally, is called “Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God” in 1st Corinthians 1:24.

What is The Door to the Truth?

The point we have to keep in mind, here, is that the “Door to the Truth is the Will, not the intellect.” People are not “argued into faith.” At some point, every single believer simply “decided to believe God” instead of believing the World. It is “an act of the will,” whereby we simply “make a decision.”

We sometimes claim that “we don’t have sufficient data upon which to make such an important decision.” That is simply not true: God says that we DO have all the information we need…just not necessarily all we “want.” Thus, such a complaint becomes simply an excuse for rejecting the message of Eternal Life.

As stated in verse 25, “… the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” We don’t much like that idea either: We think that we are “the masters of our fate,” and that we arethe captains of our souls,” as William Henley claimed.

Moment by moment, we are faced with the choice: Will we believe our own heart or will we believe God? Will we embrace the values and agendas of the World, or will we embrace the values and agenda of God.

Choose Wisely!

Lord Jesus, help us to constantly see Your Wisdom and hear you call, and be drawn after You as Your Disciples and the Sheep of Your Flock. Lead us moment by moment, for Your Glory!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *