Daily Devotion – March 9, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
1:18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,
1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Wise, smart, reasonable, logical, clever. These are adjectives someone with a Ph.D. loves having applied to her. There is almost no better compliment to a person who makes her living as a teacher or researcher or consultant than these adjectives. You are so wise! You are so clever!
The Corinthians were a heady bunch, just like me. Cosmopolitan, spoke several languages, lived at the crossroads of the world, since their city was at a canal embarkation point between upper and lower Greece. Everyone coming by sea from Rome or Spain or anywhere else in Europe or northwest Africa came via Corinth. The Corinthians thought they knew everything, and they had a stream of news from everywhere. They were a good match for Paul, since he, too, was extremely smart, well-read, and multi-lingual. Watch as you read the letters to the Corinthians how often Paul acknowledges this community’s sophistication. And then he says knowledge and earthly wisdom actually get in the way of salvation.
Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (the Greeks), Paul says. God and the love of God and the salvation of God, these are available to all – those who can think brilliantly and those who cannot. Because salvation doesn’t depend on our ability or our behavior. It depends totally on God, and God has already given it, in the person of Jesus Christ. We who think we’re smart would like to work out our own salvation, so we can control it. We who think we’re pretty moral and honorable would like to work out our own salvation, too, by never breaking any laws or rules. What’s more, it feels kind of nice to believe that our superior-ness is helping us, while others’ inferior-ness is keeping them out. We might never admit that, even to ourselves, but smugness can be fun.
But Paul is clear – salvation is a promise God makes and keeps for us, whether we deserve it or not. That’s right. Salvation is a gift God gives to whomever God wishes. And God loves to turn everything on its head. God’s weakness is stronger than human strength; God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. God’s best upside-down action is that Christ crucified, the most humiliating of deaths, is the very thing that breaks death for us all. We did not do that. The Triune God did that, and no one else. Amazing.
If you want to save yourself, go ahead and try. It would be like trying to bake the perfect cake for days and weeks, only to discover a more blissful cake was already being served at the feast of heaven. God would smilingly appreciate your effort, but God has already made the cake. God promised a cake and God always delivers. If you can live with that truth, and be grateful for it, you will be a happy child of a gracious God who has already given us the biggest prize of all: eternal life.
Lord God, Thank you for loving us. Help us to be grateful for your deepest promises fulfilled instead of trying to control them on our own. We are your children and Jesus died so we can live. Amen.