“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ ” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 19 (NAS)
The apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah as he is reminding the Corinthians just who it was who suffered and died for them- Jesus Christ – not Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (Peter); and how He died, by means of crucifixion.
The passage from Isaiah that the Holy Spirit moved Paul to cite is found in chapter twenty-nine, verse fourteen: “Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed.” (NAS) Don’t forget that this prophecy is written concerning the “wise” and “discerning men” among the people of God who wouldn’t understand the things the LORD was going to do. The context surrounding this verse is also quoted in the New Testament. Verse thirteen, the preceding verse, is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 15:8-9 and Mark 7:6-7 concerning vain, formalistic service and worship by the Jews of His day towards the Father in heaven. Verse sixteen of Isaiah 29, the potter and clay metaphor, is quoted by Paul in Romans 9:19-21. The theme of verses 9-16 of Isaiah chapter twenty-nine is spiritual blindness to the plans and work of God. God’s true prophet, Isaiah, was warning of the impending judgment to come upon the apostate people led astray by the unopened spiritual eyes of the supposed seers and prophets of God. They couldn’t offer the proper guidance from the LORD because they did not have the proper perspective. Neither could they see the impending judgment nor the prophesied redemption and restoration to come; first to be partially realized in the return of the Israelites from judgment and exile in Assyria/Babylon, then fully realized in the Christ, as the Spirit makes clear through Paul to the Corinthian church. At the core, their notion of how they thought things were going to go had to die and they needed to listen to the LORD’s spokesman, Isaiah. Division racked the church at Corinth, alliances were being formed based upon who had discipled or led that individual to becoming part of the church. Unrighteous behavior and arrogant, divisive attitudes had leavened the body. In seeking to stem this trend, the Holy Spirit moves Paul to remind the Corinthian brethren that what has drawn them together and binds them is the message of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), not the one who specifically brought the message to each individual in the church. What was the present state of the church when Paul was moved to pen this letter? “for you are still fleshly” (1 Cor. 3:1) Therein lay the problem. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.” (1 Cor. 2:14-15) It should be apparent not many in Corinth had the proper spiritual perspective so that, as Paul wrote, “you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10b) The fleshly people of Judah were blind to the spiritual message of God brought by the prophet Isaiah, to trust in the LORD, His plan, and His leadership as His people. The church at Corinth was turning from the foundational understanding of who they were in Christ, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ” (1 Cor. 1:30-31) To be in Christ through the message of Christ and Him crucified was the way the LORD would “again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous” while at the same time destroying the wisdom and cleverness of the worldly who would bind themselves to any other message or any man other than the one man Jesus. Spiritually appraise this marvelous gift appropriately. God’s wisdom is in knowing who Christ is. In it is the saving power of God and the knowledge of who you’ve been made to be in Christ. Setting aside self we can now truly serve as a united people to execute the Lord’s purpose. Amen.