Faith In First Corinthians, Part 1: The Believer’s Faith Stands in the Power of God, Not in the Wisdom of Man; One Baptism into the Body of Christ By the Holy Spirit; Divisions Among the Members:Volume 5, Number 42
Created Date: June 11, 2022
Posted Date: June 11, 2022
The word faith occurs 7 times in 1st Corinthians and 7 in 2nd Corinthians. Today we’ll begin to examine the context of its first occurrence: “And my (Paul’s) speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand (be) in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”. We won’t get to these 2 verses in this study, but we will cover part of what leads to their conclusion. In the first 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul deals with divisions among believers in the Corinthian church and the foolish wisdom of man compared to the wisdom and power of God. As we proceed, note the prominence of the following words:
• The Greek word sophi’a (G4578) translated “wisdom” found 17 times in 1 Corinthians, 16 in the first three chapters; occurring in 1 Corinthians more often than in any other New Testament (NT) book (total of 51 in the NT). The Greek Lexicon defines wisdom as “cleverness, skill, etc.; a right application of knowledge; wisdom regarded as residing in the mind.” A person can possess a great deal of knowledge but lack wisdom if they don’t properly apply their knowledge.
• The Greek sophos’ (G4580) translated “wise” found 22 times in the NT occurring 10 times in 1 Corinthians, 5 in chapter one and 5 in chapter 3, more often than in any other NT book. Defined in the Lexicon as “clever, skilled, skillful, esp. one who has natural abilities, (as opposed to one who owes all to teaching.)”
• The Greek gnosis (G1108) usually translated “knowledge” found 29 times in the NT, 10 of which are in 1st Corinthians, the most frequent in any NT book; defined as “knowing, or recognition, the knowledge or understanding of a thing, the insight which manifests itself in the thorough understanding of the subjects with which it meets and in the conduct determined thereby.”
• The Greek mori’a (G3372) translated “foolishness,” found only 5 times in the NT, all in the first 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians, defined as “foolishness, silliness, absurdity.”
• The Greek moros’ (G3374) translated “foolish, fool & foolishness,” occurring 4 times in 1 Corinthians (13 total in NT, 7 in Matthew and once each in 2 Timothy and Titus.) Our English word moron is derived therefrom.
• The Greek dunamis (G1411) translated “power,” found 120 times in the NT, occurs 15 times in 1 Corinthians and 15 in Luke, these two tying for the most of any other NT book. It occurs 4 times in the first two chapters of 1st Corinthians and is defined as “natural capability, inherent power; capability of anything, etc.”
• The Greek anth’ropos (G444) translated most frequently “man” or “men,” occurs 30 times in 1 Corinthians, the most frequent in the Pauline epistles, 10 in the first 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians (559 total in the NT). Defined as “a member of the human race, whether male or female, etc.”
Only the true believer in the Gospel of Grace revealed to Paul,can approach a comprehension of God’s Wisdom and their position in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our last study pointed out the Corinthians were sanctified, i.e., “set aside, made pure, holy, free from the guilt of sin” in Christ Jesus, being called, i.e., “divinely selected, invited, appointed” saints, i.e., “blameless, holy ones, consecrated,” , which describes the position of all believers since. Believers are also richly furnished by Jesus Christ in all utterance (“logos” usually translated “word”) and knowledge (gnosis), ; which means believers can possess knowledge of the Word of God, enabling them to proclaim it. The testimony or evidence of Christ was confirmed/established in the Corinthians, they were behind no one in the gifts bestowed upon them as they waited for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (the rapture) being declared blameless in that day, . And they were called (invited) by God Who is faithful unto the fellowship (association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse) of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord, .
Notwithstanding the gifts with which they were blessed, Paul had to beseech (admonish/exhort) them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to speak the same thing so there would be no divisions among them and they would be unified together in the same mind and judgement,. Paul had heard about contention among them whereby some said they followed Paul, while others followed Apollos or Peter or Christ, . Paul asks rhetorically whether Christ was divided; was Paul crucified for them or were they baptized in Paul’s name? He thanked God he only baptized a few; naming Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas, unable to remember any others, lest anyone say he baptized in his name, . Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, ; ; , and he wrote emphatically: “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,” , so the question, why do so many churches/preachers today teach water baptism is required?
It's noteworthy that the 6 times the word “baptized” occurs in 1st Corinthians are in the 1st chapter and these are the only reference to water baptism in all of Paul’s epistles. On the other hand, Paul makes clear that true baptism is by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”, see also . Prior to the revelation Paul received for us, the physical act of water baptism was required of the Jewish Kingdom Saints, ; . And even after Christ ascended into heaven the Jewish Kingdom Saints were water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, whereby they received the Holy Spirit, ; , unlike members of Christ’s Body today.
After proclaiming that Christ didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel and that not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect, 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul explains: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,”. Notice carefully the wording of this verse. A friend who knows Greek informs me that this verse can be translated: “to them who are perishing the preaching of the cross is foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Thus, the preaching of the cross is foolishness/silliness/absurdity to those who are lost in their sins and bound for hell, but on the other hand, it is the power of God to those who are being saved. Next, Paul quotes : “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” However, Paul clarifies Isaiah in light of the revelation he received: “For it is written, (in Isaiah 29:14) I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” . Isaiah’s prophesy referred to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Elders of Israel who turned God’s law into a self-righteous work as manifested by their resentment and rejection of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry to Israel. The marvelous work among His people (Israel) that He performed was truly a wonder; He lived a perfect life of faith, fulfilling the Law to the letter and died to it to save those in Israel who believed in Him, which destroyed the wisdom of the wise Pharisees, etc., and brought to nothing the understanding of the prudent (the intelligent, discerning leaders) of Israel.
However, Paul was addressing both Jews and Gentiles in the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:19 so not only did he refer to the foolish wisdom of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Elders of Israel, he also addressed the foolish wisdom of Gentiles. This is evidenced a few verses later: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:”. The Corinthians were Greeks who are known for all their Philosophers who sought after wisdom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_Greek_philosophers. Many schools of thought were represented, i.e., Plato, Socrates, Epicurus, etc., but their wisdom is destroyed because their philosophies reject the preaching of the cross, which is the power of God that saves all who believe. “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? (Jewish leaders) where is the disputer of this world? (Greek philosophers, Plato, etc.) hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 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.” , see .
Jews require a sign, Greeks seek wisdom, but Paul preached Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block to the Greeks foolishness,. “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” . I’ve highlighted the words “which are called,” because they translate the Greek kletos’ (G2822) defined as “divinely selected, invited, appointed,” the same word translated “called” in 1 Corinthians 1:1 where Paul states he was called an Apostle of Jesus Christ and in 1 Corinthians 1:2 where he teaches that the Corinthian saints were “called saints.” Thus we understand that believing Jews and Gentiles are divinely selected, invited, appointed saints, i.e., blameless, holy ones, consecrated, and unto them Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, (Greek klesis, a different form of kletos’ but with the same meaning) brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called (not in the original): But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”.
It has been evident throughout history, and is true today, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called because the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them. But what is foolishness to them is the Power of God to all who believe.