Summary: Was Paul saying that the message of the cross was foolish? Paul was a Jew brought up in a Roman town and was greatly influenced by Greek culture. When he preached Christ, Paul found that each of these cultures had its own particular challenges when the gospel was concerned.
1 Corinthians 1:21-25 - For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Jesus was crucified according to the perfect plan of God. It may appear on the exterior that the Jews plotted to kill Jesus and Roman authorities gave Him a crucifixion sentence, Jesus makes it very clear that He lays his life down by Himself.
John 10:18 - No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Acts 4:27-28 makes it clear that it was the plan and purpose of God - “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
Why did God choose the Cross?
For the world through wisdom did not know God.
God is infinitely wise.
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Paul says here that God’s wisdom is so deep and is His judgements are unsearchable. It means that we cannot get there from where we are. It is beyond us. It is so deep that no has been or could be His counselor, ever. His wisdom is ultimate and does not require any update.
Now, the world also has wisdom but Paul says that through its wisdom, it did not know God.
Through consecutive ages of darkness, in the midst of paganism, God allowed men to try the experiment of finding out God by their own wisdom and result was evident that the world by wisdom knew not God.
That is what Paul was trying to say – The world through wisdom does not understand God.
And so, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Why was Paul saying that the Gospel message was foolish?
He was a Jew, but he was brought up in a Roman town and was greatly influenced by Greek culture.
Everywhere he went he preached Christ. He found that he had different problems when he moved among the Greeks, the Romans, and Jews. Each of these cultures had its own particular challenges when the gospel was concerned.
1. The Romans:
The challenge with the Romans was that they were proud of their power. They ruled the world. Roman Empire was the greatest empire the world had ever seen. They were proud of their power. When the apostle spoke to the Romans, it was but natural that the Jesus he preached (who was crucified under a Roman governor) seemed the symbol of weakness. As Paul spoke to the Romans, he had to show that, although Jesus is in a sense the weakness of God, this weakness of God was actually a power able to save men and women.
What was the reaction when Paul preached before the Roman governor Festus, and King Agrippa (Acts 26)? He preached to them about the death of Jesus and His resurrection, and the Acts 26:24 says that Festus raised his voice and said, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” In other words, he was saying, “Paul, this is foolishness! To suggest that one rose from the dead, and that’s the answer to all the problems of the world?!”
Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
2. The Jews:
With the Jews, it was different.
1 Corinthians 1:22 – Jews require a sign. They wanted visible demonstrations. That is why they were always asking Jesus for miracles.
Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”