Summary: Paul explains in these verses how some have come to reject the world’s opinion of the cross and see in it the wisdom of God.
These verses are a continuation of the argument Paul began in 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.” Paul is still talking about the cross in chapter 2. This fact is essential to a proper understanding of this passage.
Paul states that he didn’t use “wide and persuasive words” when he preached. In other words, he didn’t try to impress people with his knowledge and ability like the popular philosophers of his day. However, he did “speak a message of wisdom.” This message was all about “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Whenever Paul proclaimed this message, most of his listeners saw it as complete nonsense. Today, the world’s reaction to the message of the cross is no different. So how do Christians come to understand the wisdom of the cross? How do Christians come to see that the Christ of the cross is the only source of eternal life? You might say, “Well, I just believed it.” But the Bible says it’s not quite as simple as that.
Paul explains in these verses how some have come to reject the world’s opinion of the cross and see in it the wisdom of God.
I. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS IS ETERNALLY SIGNIFICANT (v. 6).
“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
Though the message of the cross is foolishness to the world, it is “a message of wisdom among the mature.” Many people think that Paul is diving Christians into two classes: the mature and the immature. This argument is strengthened by the fact that Paul describes the Corinthians as “mere infants” in 3:1. And he also writes in 14:20, “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” Since the Corinthians are called “infants” and “children” later in this letter, it is said that Paul could not teach the Corinthians the “deeper truths” of the cross because they were immature. According to this interpretation, Paul is saying, “I usually speak a message of wisdom when I am preaching to the mature, but, because you are immature Christians, I could only give you the basics.”
However, I believe that the “mature” in v. 6 refers to all Christians. In 3:1 “infants” is the opposite of “spiritual”: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-- mere infants in Christ.” When you examine chapter 2, it is evident that the “mature” are those who have received the Spirit: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (v. 12). Because the “mature” have received the Spirit, they are therefore the “spiritual man” of v. 15. To be “mature” in this context means to been in Christ and possess the Holy Spirit. It’s possible, though, to be mature and act immature (just like it’s possible to be a Christian and act like a sinner).
The “mature” (Christians) cherish the message of the cross; we see it as the wisdom of God. But most do not see it as we do. Why? Because the message of the cross does not agree with “the wisdom of this age.” Therefore “the rulers of this age” reject it.
“The rulers of this age” are those who rule the outlook and values of our world. They are the “wise,” the “influential,” and those “of noble birth” of 1:26. Today we would say that they are the world leaders, the movie and music stars, the billionaires, the leading professors and scientists. They are the best the world can offer, yet they oppose the message of the cross.
Application: “The rulers of this age” tell us what to think, what to wear, what to buy, and so on. But why should we listen to them? Why should we do what they say? Their wisdom is “coming to nothing.” It is passing away. It is without ultimate value.
The latest theory or fad of man might be popular today, but it will one day become totally insignificant. In contrast to the fleeting wisdom of the world is the wisdom of the cross. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS IS ETERNALLY SIGNIFICANT.
II. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS WAS ONCE HIDDEN FROM THE MIND OF MAN (v. 7a).
Paul didn’t preach a message of worldly wisdom. “No,” he says, “we speak God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden. . . .” The wisdom of the cross is “God’s secret wisdom.” The New King James Version says, “the wisdom of God in a mystery.” The term “mystery” refers to something that was once hidden by God but now revealed. But isn’t it true that the Bible often claims that the cross was predicted in the Old Testament? How could it have been both predicted and hidden?