Summary: Knowledge is important, but insufficient. Man’s wisdom is folly compared to God’s. So, what good is knowledge if faith is all that we need?
The word theology comes from two Greek words: Theos (God) and logos (study, research). Thus, theology is the study of God.
I am richly blessed to be a graduate of Evangelical Theological Seminary. My course of study (Master of Divinity) included five semesters in systematic theology, among the most difficult in the program, eclipsing even language studies by a considerable margin. To complete five semesters a student invests nearly 1,000 hours in class time, reading, research and writing. Theological studies—while wonderfully valuable—are very challenging.
But you aren’t finished with theology when you complete these; the next five semesters are designed to put your theology to work in practical ways through the study and practice of spiritual disciplines. One identifies a weakness, chooses a discipline to address it, develops a strategy for improvement, and carries out that plan daily through the semester. Each project is complete when you submit a paper on your results. Survivors of practical theology learn the difference between an academic understanding and a practical understanding of theology.
The faculty’s reasoning is sound. Theology, if not extended by a deep commitment to changing one’s life, is simply academic—an intellectual enterprise. The goal is the self-examination and response to that which God reveals to students through study and prayer.
[Sound advice for all Christians–not just seminarians. Knowledge is important, but insufficient. Man’s wisdom is folly compared to God’s. So, what good is knowledge if faith is all that we need?]
1. Two weeks ago, we studied Paul's opening remarks to the believers in the Churches in Corinth, concentrating on his use of the word call to describe their relationship to God made possible by Christ. Called into fellowship with Christ, and hence called to holy living considering that fellowship.
2. The urgency of Paul’s message is not coincidental; there are serious divisions forming in the church at Corinth. Paul writes to correct and explain the necessary balance between wisdom and faith.
3. Some believers in Corinth mistake their recent understanding of the gospel as a form of special wisdom given only to a few beneficiaries—a group to which they naturally belong. This happens after Paul leaves for Ephesus and other teachers arrive on the scene:
A. Apollos, an accomplished Alexandrian Jew who is “mighty in the Scriptures”, having learned at the feet of Pricilla and Aquila in Ephesus (Acts 18:24,26), comes to preach the Gospel in Paul’s footsteps (and perhaps with greater eloquence). No problem here: but
B. Other teachers, less friendly to Paul and with leanings to Judaism, also begin to work. In a short time, the infant church splits into parties, with each claiming a teacher as its leader (apparently without the consent of that teacher).
C. Their confidence in human wisdom stifles their spiritual growth and endangers the church.
4. Paul intervenes quickly and powerfully. He challenges the Corinthian believers to compare God’s wisdom to man’s wisdom by claiming that the gospel is in fact a contradiction to wisdom. OYBT 1 Cor. 1, as we consider Paul’s treatise on wisdom and folly.
II. PAUL’S ARGUMENT: IS THIS WISDOM?
1. The folly of a crucified Messiah (1:18-25)
A. The Jews are waiting for the one who will restore the sovereignty of their nation. A warrior of sorts; a political messiah who will lead them back to the glory days.
B. Paul asks, “Do you think the Gospel is a form of wisdom? Can you reason the Gospel with your intellect? How foolish can you get? Look at its message; it is based in the life of a crucified Messiah. Who in the name of wisdom would come up with that? Only God is so wise as to be foolish.
2. The folly of the gospel’s chosen recipients (1:26-31)
A. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called… in other words, “Look at you! Who in the name of wisdom would have chosen you to be the new people of God?”
B. Not many of you were wise by human standards; influential or noble. God chose the foolish to shame the wise.
3. The folly of Paul’s preaching (2:1-5)
A. I came without eloquence or superior wisdom. Paul is not trained in rhetoric as were the Greeks. His wisdom and eloquence brings no power to the Gospel; in fact, the reverse is true. The gospel message gives power to Paul’s preaching.
B. The Corinthians are enamored with Apollos’ preaching. He is a learned man; an outstanding preacher with a brilliant command of language and communication skills. Because of this, many in Corinth begin to think of themselves as disciples of Apollos instead of Christ (there is no evidence that Apollos endorsed this).
1. If by now you think Paul is against education, think again. Nothing is further from the truth.
2. Paul studied and taught with Barnabas for a full year in Antioch; he encouraged young Timothy to be diligent in study; and under Paul, the Bereans studied enthusiastically to test his theology.