Summary: What is the true wisdom that all Christians possess?
Are you wise? Do you possess profound wisdom? Do you have such wisdom that it would be worth the while of a truth seeker to climb a high mountain and ask you for such words that would change his life, indeed, that would be the most important he could ever know?
Paul thought he had that kind of wisdom, as we shall see. He even thought that such people as you and I have that wisdom as well.
Up to this time, Paul has mostly been bashing wisdom. He glories in the “foolishness” of the cross, and he belabors the point that the Corinth believers were not considered wise nor was he considered a wise teacher. But Paul is not a wisdom-basher per se. He disparages not wisdom itself, but the type of wisdom that the world values and with which the Corinth believers had become enamored.
There is division in the church that Paul identifies as rising out of pride. But though there may be division, the real tension, as will become better seen later on, is between the Corinth Church and Paul. We’ve talked about this before. Though Paul is their spiritual father, having started the church and leading many of them to Christ, they are not so impressed with him now. Like a child entering the teen years, they no longer think their spiritual father is the wisest man they know, and, indeed, may not even be a wise as they have become to be. Wisdom is where it’s at, and poor Paul no longer is there. He has just about admitted it himself.
Wait a minute, Corinthians. Don’t push Paul into the barrel of has-beens yet. All is not as it seems. The truth is that Paul really does impart wisdom. It is a matter of perception. No, he does not teach a message that the world considers wise, nor in a manner that impresses the world; nevertheless, his message concerns deep wisdom. He explains three things: to whom the wisdom is imparted, what the wisdom is not, and what the wisdom is. Consider to whom the wisdom is given.
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom… Who are the “mature”? They are Christian believers. Paul continues his contrast between those who believe and those who do not.
1:18: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1:23-4: …we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Those who are mature are those who are mature in Christ. Paul has noted already how rich the Corinthians are in Christ (1:4-9). As the above verses contend, those being saved do see the wisdom and power of the cross, which Paul preaches.
The problem with the Corinth believers is that they are reverting to their old ways. This is a problem with us Christians. Even after coming into the truth of the gospel, we often ease back into the old ways of thinking. For the Galatians, the error was taking on Jewish ways of treating the gospel – i.e. adding law to the gospel. For the Corinthians, the mistake is taking back on the pagan and secular ways of handling the gospel. In both cases, the believers had the delusion that they were maturing in their faith; after all, isn’t it a sign of maturity to become more disciplined or more knowledgeable? No, not this kind of discipline and knowledge. Real Christian maturity is growing in the wisdom of the gospel.
What is not this wisdom according to Paul? [I]t is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. What does Paul mean by a wisdom “of this age”? For one thing, it is the worldly and pagan wisdom of that time – the wisdom of reason and of mysticism, interestingly enough, the same two types that our age prizes. Philosophy was highly regarded in the Greek-Roman world. Athens may have been the center of philosophy, but schools of philosophy existed throughout the empire. The Greek love of knowledge and reason was admired by the Romans in much the same way Americans still admire the academic culture of the British universities.
But however accomplished such wisdom may be, its downfall is that it is limited to man’s reasoning ability. Man’s problem is that he is finite. He only has so much ability. Certain people seem to be geniuses to us, but they seem that way only because we are the standards. Yes, there are those who are more brilliant than others. But in comparison to God, everyone is dimwitted. As Isaiah 40:12-15 says,