Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION:  Last week, we jumped ahead to study chapter 3 of
1 Corinthians, because it developed the issue of divisions in the church that was introduced in chapter 1.

This week, we do something similar.  We look at a very interesting discussion of wisdom and power that begins in chapter 1 and continues in chapter 2. Let’s see what we can learn about being wise and powerful!


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 1:17-20. Remember that
v.17 is the last text in a series that deal with the problem
of factions in the Corinthian church.

          1. Do you see
any relationship between verse 17 and the preceding discussion of divisions?

          2. What does
Paul’s discussion of factions have to do with “wisdom” and “intelligence?”

          3. Let’s step
back from church leaders for a moment. Do you prize wisdom and intelligence in secular leaders?

          4. Now let’s
apply that to the church. Is the same true for church leaders?  Do you prize wisdom and intelligence in church leaders?

a. Have you ever said (with regard to church
management), “Let’s get the preachers out of there and bring in (accountants, lawyers, businessmen) who know what they are doing in business!

(1) Care to defend your words?

     B. Proverbs 2:10 says, “For wisdom will enter
your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
A few verses later, in Proverbs 2:12 we read, “Wisdom will save
you from the ways of wicked men ….” Proverbs 3:13, “Blessed
is the man who finds wisdom … for she is more profitable
than silver and yields better returns than gold.  She
is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with
her.”  These verses give you an insight into a major (if
not THE) major theme of Proverbs.

          1. Does Paul
need a remedial course in Proverbs?

  2. Can we reconcile Proverbs and the 1 Corinthians 1:17-20 discourse on wisdom?

          3. If Proverbs
3:13 is correct in saying that wisdom saves us from the ways of evil men, how can Paul say (1 Corinthians 1: 17) that wisdom empties the cross of its power? (Proverbs and Paul can be reconciled. Paul is not attacking all wisdom.  He is (v.20) attacking the “wisdom of the world.”)


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 1:21-22. What are the
two kinds of wisdom that we have to choose from? (Paul
refers to “the wisdom of God” and the wisdom of “the world.”)

     B. Are the examples in v.22 “worldly wisdom?” 
Explain what you mean? (Jews were looking for examples
of power. Greeks were looking for sage advice.)

          1. Didn’t Jesus
give both of those? Miracles and smart suggestions?

          2. Did Paul heal
anyone?  Did he promote the gospel through miracles? (Yes. Acts 14:8-10)

          3. So what is
Paul talking about here?

          4. Tell me how
(v.21) it is the “wisdom of God” that the world did not know Him through worldly wisdom?

a. I thought one of God’s greatest desires was to
have us know Him? (See Isaiah 11:9)

     C. Let’s read on. 1 Corinthians 2:23-25. What
is Paul preaching instead of miracles and smart suggestions?
Draw this chart:


Looking for:            
Miracles (signs)         Sage Advice

Got from Paul:          

     D. What was the result of giving Jews and Greeks
the cross instead of what they sought? (It caused the
Jews to stumble (v.23) and was foolishness to the Greeks (v.23).
The word translated “stumbling block” means “scandal.”)

          1. Why teach
something that will cause others to stumble? Why teach something that is scandalous or seems foolish?

a. Is Paul saying that all Jews and Greeks stumble
over the cross? (No! Verse 24 tells us that those Jews and Greeks “who are called” will understand that the cross is power and wisdom.)
  2. Is it possible that man’s goal (power and wisdom) and God’s goal are the same, but God’s path to the goal is different than man’s path? (Paul distinguishes between man’s ideas and God’s ideas. He says (v.25) that he is preaching power and wisdom.  So he is preaching exactly what the Jews and Greeks are theoretically looking for. The problem is that he is preaching God’s power and wisdom, while many are looking for man’s version of power and wisdom. We will discuss this issue of being called to a different path more in a little bit.)

          3. Is there a
lesson for us today in this idea that God’s way is a scandal and foolishness to the world’s thinking? (We should not try to fit the teachings of the Bible into the framework of our logic or our desires. We will come across teachings in this letter to the Corinthians which are directly at odds with the wisdom of the world.)


  A. Read vv. 26-31. Verse 27 says that God
chose the “foolish,” and “weak” things. Does this refer to Christ? 
Or does it refer to the Corinthians (and by extension,

     B. If you say “Christ,” remember that v. 24
says that Christ is the “power of God” and the “wisdom of God.”

          1. In what way
is Christ both the power and wisdom of God and at the same time “foolishness” and “weakness?”

a. What was the “Jewish Goal” at the time that
Christ came? (To be free and independent from the Romans.)

(1) Verse 22 tells us that the Jews were looking for miracles. How would that further their goal? (Someone who had that kind of power might enable them to throw off the Romans.)

          2. How was Jesus
the complete opposite of what they hoped for?  (He was killed by the Romans in the most cruel way they could devise. It was not only a “defeat,” it was an embarrassing defeat!)

     C. Does this mean that since Paul is preaching
something that runs counter to man’s understanding, that
we cannot expect to convert those “in the world?” (Verse 24 says
“those whom God called, both Jews and Greeks” will understand.)

     D. Friend, I think we have a mystery here.
God has an apparently “upside down” (in man’s eyes) path
to power and wisdom.  The path to power seems to be
“foolishness,” “weakness,” “lowliness” and lack of respect.
(vv. 27-28)

          1. How do you
like that?

          2. If you dislike
that “path” (as I assume you do), does that mean your heart is not converted?  Or that I am leading you down the path of incorrect interpretation?

          3. Remember I
promised you to come back to the idea of being “called” (and the different “paths” to wisdom and power)? If we can understand the nature of the “path” of God’s wisdom, then I think we are being “called” or at least we are answering the “call.”)

     E. Verse 30 says that Christ is “wisdom from
God.” How does Jesus illustrate God’s “route” to power and

          1. Notice v.29
says, “so that no one may boast before Him.”  Does this give us a clue about God’s philosophy of power and wisdom?

a. Does this have anything to do with righteousness
by faith?

b. Does this have anything to do with Gideon’s
story? (Bingo! The common theme is that God’s path to power and wisdom is to give ourselves up to Him, to trust Him and not ourselves. Jesus gave Himself up for us. Judges 7 (Gideon’s battle), along with the entire book of Judges, shows us that God wants no doubt about who won the victory.  Therefore, He takes the lowly things of this life to defeat the most powerful forces on the earth. As a result, we will (v.31) say “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”)

(1) Why does God want us to trust Him and not ourselves?


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul says (v.1)
that he did not come with “eloquence or superior wisdom.”

          1. Do you like
good speakers or bad speakers? Interesting speakers or boring speakers?

a. Is Paul lobbying for preachers to be poor

          2. Did Paul come
with wisdom that was superior to that of the Corinthians? Is he right when he says he did not? (v.1) (Of course Paul had superior wisdom. He understood the gospel and they did not.)

a. So what is Paul talking about? (The fact that we
KNOW he cannot mean that the Corinthians had equal or “superior wisdom,” reveals that he must be talking to us about another kind of “wisdom.” Remember our two paths to wisdom and power? Paul is saying that he did not come to them with superior human wisdom. I believe he is saying that the focus of his message was not his speaking “prowess” or his display of “wisdom.”  The focus of his message was not the way he said it, but what he said.  The focus of his message was (v.2) “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

b. What is wrong with trying to impress the
Corinthians with his human wisdom and education? (The human wisdom message is “See how smart I am.” Some people write to convey a message.  Others write to convey to you how smart they are. You can easily see this contrast when comparing newspapers and  popular magazines with so-called “scholarly” magazines. (Which cater to the “publish or perish” needs of college professors.)  The goal of the newspaper is to convey a message.  The worst example is when a popular publication forgets its goal is communication.  A graphic (nearly humorous) example is found on page 30 of the most recent (Jan/Feb’98) issue of LIBERTY magazine. If you have it, look at the third paragraph of the first column.)

c. What impact would an effort on Paul’s part to
impress the people of Corinth with his education have on the problem (of divisions) that we discussed last week? (The message, “See how smart I am,” is completely contrary to his message (last week) not to look to human leaders and his message (this week) that God works through weakness.)

          3. Does that
mean that your pastor should stop trying to improve his speaking skills? (No! The pastor’s communication skills should be the best they can be. The “point” of the sermon should not be the “skills,” but the message of the Bible.)

          4. What does
Paul say made him a persuasive speaker? (v.4 The Spirit’s power was demonstrated.)

a. How does that “fit” into his message of power
through weakness? (God is the power and not man.)

b. Since Paul just suggested (1 Corinthians 1:22)
that miraculous signs were not given to the Jews, how do you think the Spirit manifested its power through Paul? (I think this will become clearer, later. Let’s move on.)

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-10. Why do the “rulers
of this age” not understand God’s message (v.8)?

          1. Why is it
a “hidden” “secret” (v.7)?

          2. If the leaders
cannot understand it, if it is a mystery, how are we supposed to be able to understand it? (v.10 “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”)

a. Is that the “Spirit’s power” Paul refers to in
v.4? (I think so.)

b. How do you get that “Spirit power” to understand?

c. How does your pastor get that “Spirit power” in
the sermon? (Read vv. 11-12. God gives us His Spirit “freely” so that we may understand His will. Paul would say that the Pastor should spend more time asking the Spirit to convey his message than in polishing his speaking skills.)

     C. Does this mean that those who are “called,”
those who are leaders, do not have “power and wisdom?” 
They have only weakness, lowliness and foolishness? (This
is THE POINT! If we grab hold of God’s wisdom and power. If we
always remember that any success is the result of God’s wisdom
and power. If we point to God’s wisdom and power. 
If we determine to utilize God’s wisdom and power; we will have
(1:25) power and wisdom that is greater than any possessed
by any man on earth! No rivalry among church leaders. No rivalry
among church members. All look to the power and wisdom
that comes exclusively from God.)

     D. Friend, if God works through weakness, and
the power of His Spirit is available to all who ask, are you
fully qualified to do great things for God?


V. NEXT WEEK: “Paul, Called to be an Apostle.” Study 1 Corinthians

chapters 4 and 9!

eaders. No rivalry
among church members. All look to the power and wisdom
that comes exclusively from God.)

     D. Friend, if God works through weakness, and
the power of His Spirit is available to all who ask, are you
fully qualified to do great things for God?


V. NEXT WEEK: “Paul, Called to be an Apostle.” Study 1 Corinthians

chapters 4 and 9!