Bartolomeo Montagna - Saint Paul - Google Art Project.jpgThe Epistle for Tuesday of Holy Week in Year C of the three-year Lectionary is 1 Corinthians 1:18-31:

1:18 For the message about 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.

1:26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,

1:29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1:31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

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St Paul’s words are just as relevant today as they were at the time he penned them.

A growing number of people in the West find Christianity and its adherents low-information and stupid.

The ancient Greeks also considered it silly. How could Jesus’s death on the cross redeem mankind? It was antithetical to them, a people steeped in philosophy.

Paul cites Isaiah 29:14, which prophesied that God would thwart notional human wisdom and manmade discernment. Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

They laughed at the story of a crucified Saviour, and despised the apostles’ way of telling it. They sought for wisdom. They were men of wit and reading, men that had cultivated arts and sciences, and had, for some ages, been in a manner the very mint of knowledge and learning. There was nothing in the plain doctrine of the cross to suit their taste, nor humour their vanity, nor gratify a curious and wrangling temper: they entertained it therefore with scorn and contempt. What, hope to be saved by one that could not save himself! And trust in one who was condemned and crucified as a malefactor, a man of mean birth and poor condition in life, and cut off by so vile and opprobrious a death! This was what the pride of human reason and learning could not relish. The Greeks thought it little better than stupidity to receive such a doctrine, and pay this high regard to such a person: and thus were they justly left to perish in their pride and obstinacy. It is just with God to leave those to themselves who pour such proud contempt on divine wisdom and grace.

When Paul was in Corinth, it wasn’t only the Greeks who found the significance of the Crucifixion incomprehensible. Jews also wanted further proof that Jesus was the Messiah.

Even Greeks and Jews who became Christians still carried remnants of the thought processes and views they had learned in their childhood. Greeks were searching for the intellectualism in their new faith and Jews were struggling to discard the idea that the Messiah would bring them a temporal kingdom.

This is why Paul wrote that the cross is a stumbling block to them, yet, the Crucifixion brought about salvation for both Jew and Greek. And what looked weak to them has divine, everlasting power behind it that man cannot comprehend (verse 25).

God took humiliating events and humble people to accomplish His divine purpose through Christ our Lord.

Jesus did not call effete elitists to become disciples. He called fishermen and a tax collector. He asked nobodies to spread the Good News.

To reinforce his message, Paul reminded his converts of their own humble beginnings (verse 26).

God’s ways are not man’s ways. He despises men who boast of their own abilities and learning:

The gospel is fitted to bring down the pride of both Jews and Greeks, to shame the boasted science and learning of the Greeks, and to take down that constitution on which the Jews valued themselves and despised all the world besides, that no flesh should glory in his presence ({cf 1Co 1:29}), that there might be no pretence for boasting.

God in His infinite love and mercy manifested divine wisdom and power in Christ Jesus, whose one and sufficient sacrifice delivers us from sin and brings us to life eternal.

Therefore, if we are going to boast, may we, as Paul wrote, boast in the Lord. Paul cited Jeremiah 9:23-24 to reinforce his point:

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Henry’s commentary reminds us:

We are foolishness, ignorant and blind in the things of God, with all our boasted knowledge; and he is made wisdom to us. We are guilty, obnoxious to justice; and he is made righteousness, our great atonement and sacrifice. We are depraved and corrupt; and he is made sanctification, the spring of our spiritual life; from him, the head, it is communicated to all the members of his mystical body by his Holy Spirit. We are in bonds, and he is made redemption to us, our Saviour and deliverer. Observe, Where Christ is made righteousness to any soul, he is also made sanctification. He never discharges from the guilt of sin, without delivering from the power of it; and he is made righteousness and sanctification, that he may in the end be made complete redemption, may free the soul from the very being of sin, and loose the body from the bonds of the grave: and what is designed in all is that all flesh may glory in the Lord, {cf11ul 1Co 1:31}. Observe, It is the will of God that all our glorifying should be in the Lord: and, our salvation being only through Christ, it is thereby effectually provided that it should be so. Man is humbled, and God glorified and exalted, by the whole scheme.

Over the past few years, a socio-political trend has taken root whereby so-called educated and wealthy people complain about fellow citizens whom they label as poor, low-information people.

Similar verbiage appears in arguments between supposed wise, reason-driven atheists and ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’ Christians.

Pride is a sin. May we never boast of our own power, wealth or abilities. May we boast, as the Bible says, only in the Lord.

We can use Holy Week as a time to pray for the unchurched and the unbelievers that they come to faith through divine grace.

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