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1 Corinthians 1:18-31

29 January 2023

Exploring the Scripture

This passage is part of a letter written by the apostle Paul to the saints at Corinth around 53-55 CE. Paul received reports that caused concern and revealed a congregation divided into factions. These factions had organized around teachers and their specific schools of thought about the gospel. The divisions centered on whose teachings were the most enlightened. Besides, human nature suggests that pride and the prestige of following various leaders could have led to these divisions.   

They were arguing and, in the process, missing the transforming power of Christ’s reconciling and redeeming love expressed through his life and death on the cross. Paul has no interest in getting in the middle of these disputes. The focus of Paul’s counsel reminds the disciples at Corinth of the true meaning of the cross and calls them to unity in the spirit. This specific passage is a rebuke of those who think they have it all figured out.

The power and meaning of the cross are foolishness in the eyes of the world. How does crucifixion equal supreme victory? How does Christ’s suffering love expose the empire’s self-serving and brutal means to hold power and privilege? How is it possible the weak of this world will be made strong in Christ? The great reversal envisaged in Isaiah’s prophetic texts, the Sermon on the Mount, and Mary’s song (The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55).

This alternative nonviolent path to the future was not brought about by human wisdom. Paul reminds the Corinthian saints in verse 30 that God “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” It is through the mystery and power of the incarnation, Emmanuel–God with us, that wisdom came not in the form of kings and rulers but through humble shepherds, a couple from Nazareth, and a vulnerable baby in a smelly, dirty manger.  

Such is the great paradox and promise of the gospel message. The moment we boast in our strength or wisdom, we fail to recognize the transforming power of love–a love that originates from God. God’s love helps us become a new creation in Christ. Divine love compels us to become messengers and co-creators of that love for the sake of the world. It is the hope of resurrection that has the power to unite us in a shared vision and common purpose. It is our oneness in Christ that has the potential to transform us and the world.  

To appreciate fully this passage, we must remember Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Paul’s writings are drenched in his encounter with the living Christ that blew apart his wisdom and turned his world upside down. This excerpt from Paul’s letter challenges Christ’s disciples then and now to put aside idolatrous ideas and images of God. It is an invitation to humbly follow the peaceable One who is always at work ahead of us and inviting us to be his ambassadors of reconciling love and peace.  

Central Ideas

  1. We can become too attached to our preconceived ideas about God and obscure God’s activity in our lives and the world around us.
  2. We are called to oneness in Christ in the spirit of humility and love.
  3. The gospel’s message is foolishness to those who have not yet experienced God’s transforming love in Christ.
  4. We are called to be ambassadors of God’s reconciling love and peace in Christ.

Questions to Consider

  1. As you look back, how have you grown in your understanding of God?
  2. How do we resist the temptation to become attached to our preconceived ideas and images of God?
  3. How is the Holy Spirit inviting us to a living faith rooted in Christ’s suffering love on the cross and the promise of resurrection?
  4. How has God’s reconciling and redeeming love turned your world upside down?
  5. How is the Spirit inviting us to a unity of shared vision and purpose?

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