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Failures At Corinth

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1.   Read text (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

2.   Regarding Text:

      (1)   It is important to remember that Paul was writing to the church with an air of discipline. 

              A.   This was not intended to be a stanza on personal evangelism.

              B.   The brethren at Corinth were troubled and troubling.

      (2)   As we come to this portion of the text, we have no trouble seeing the trouble.

              A.   They have begun to think as men and speak as men.

              B.   God’s word and ways ceased being enough for them!

              C.   If honest, we recognize these tendencies in ourselves.

                    a.   Do we not often idolize & glory in arrogance?

                    b.   Do we not often elevate the proud, mighty, and successful?

                    c.    Is not a Christian to be example in patience, meekness, submission, and humility? (James 4:10; Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:13).

              D.   The Corinthians were thinking and speaking, not as God would speak, but instead as mere, puny, fallible, feeble, carnal men.

                    a.   We do it when we allow “peer pressure” to over-rule us.

                    b.   We do it when under great personal stress / tension.

                    c.    We do it when our feelings of self-worth are threatened.

3.   If we can see the cause of their failures, then possibly we can learn from them (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) and avoid their failures.



        Seventeen times in the first 3 chapters Paul used the term “wisdom.”  Of words (1:17); Of the wise (1:19); Of this world (1:20).  They should have seen the folly of their approach for Paul shunned it!  Paul points out their weakness:

1.           With an O.T. illustration (v. 19).

(1)          Paul is here looking back to the Prophet Isaiah (29:14).

(2)          Isaiah contrasts God’s power and might against men’s precepts.

(3)          Reminds us of God’s conversation with Job (Job 38).

(4)          Those who are wise in terms of the world:

A.        Their learning is at best temporal & worldly!

B.        Their might, wisdom, and power are worthless!

C.        Cf. Science, Man made creeds, Unauthorized innovations.

2.           Seen in the inability of the wisest men (v. 20).

(1)          Paul breaks them down into three classes:

A.        Wise = chakam (heb.)  = prophet (hebrew) or sage.

B.        Scribe = men of learning and masters of “tradition.”

C.        Disputer of the age = a propounder of questions.

(2)          Where is the man whose wisdom passes God’s?  Where is the writer who has produced something superior to Bible?  Where is the man who can confound God with his questions?  NO SUCH MAN EXIST.

(3)          Even the wisest (in worldly terms), if honest, can’t explain our origin.

(4)          Man’s thinking may be wise but when it is worldly the fault will show!

3.           Weakness seen in the ignorance of men (v. 21).

(1)          The best that wisdom has to offer leads you away from God.

(2)          Cf. Acts 17:16-34.

(3)          Not saying they were “ha – huuh” but rather the world’s wisdom does not lead you to God and when you follow that course you will end up far, far, far, away (cf. Rom. 1:22).


1.           Some demanded a deomonstration (v. 22).

(1)          Jesus, in His ministry, was troubled by the Jews demands for a sign.

(2)          A miracle, proof!  Nothing less than miracles of Exodus!

(3)          They couldn’t see the Savior because they were looking for signs.

2.           Some desired human speculation (v. 22).

(1)          The Gentiles (Greeks / pagans) loved schemes of philosophy.

(2)          Plato, Cicero, and the like.

(3)          Interesting contrast:  Jews thought they possessed truth.  Greeks saw themselves as seekers of the truth.

3.           Some discounted inspiration (v. 23).

(1)          It wasn’t what the Jews and Greeks expected but Paul preached the cross of Christ.

(2)          The Jews stumbled over Christ (rejected Him).

A.        No problem with the Messiah.

B.        Problem was with crucifixion!

(3)          The Greeks look upon the message of a crucified Savior as “foolish.”

A.        Looked upon it as a fable.

B.        Didn’t equate with their view of how a man is elevated

4.           The Corinthians were looking in the wrong place!  Yet, Paul would continue to present the wisdom of God by preaching the cross of Christ.

5.           We may not understand it completely but we accept the cross of Jesus Christ completely because it God’s plan revealed in God’s word.

(1)          God is stronger than us.

(2)          God’s plan’s are better than ours.

III.         THEY FAILED TO SEE GOD’S WISDOM IN THE MAKEUP OF THE CHURCH (vv. 26-31).  (The church is contrary to human wisdom).

1.           It is too different (v. 26).

(1)          Take a look around at the people in this room!!!

A.        What binds our hearts together?

B.        What is the common bond that brings us into this family?

(2)          Common people (not many wise, mighty, noble, or wise).

(3)          Success of the gospel does not depend upon our attributes, but instead the power of the gospel and wisdom of God.

2.           It is despised and disadvantageous to many (vv. 27-28).

(1)          The world treats us with contempt (base, lowly, despised).

(2)          The Corinthians had forgotten this somewhat, and Paul is rebuking them!

3.           Aren’t you glad God “called us all together in Christ?”


1.     Paul concludes by showing:

        (1)     It is not by philosophy, not from ourselves, not from things of the world, not from any living human being that we should glory in God’s presence.

                A.     “I’m so smart God must really appreciate me.”

                B.     “I’m so rich God must need me and my riches.”

                C.     “I’m so good that God rest better knowing I’m in the kingdom!”

        (2)     Paul says, “I’ll tell you where to glory.  You glory in the authorship of God.

        (3)     Things to glory in?

                A.     Wisdom.

                B.     Righteousness.

                C.     Sanctification.

                D.     Redemption.

In These Things We Should Glory

2.     We need to make sure we see things from God’s vantage point.

3.     Only in Christ  do we have anything to glory about. 

        (1)     The Jews for the most part rejected Him seeking a sign.

        (2)     The Greeks for the most part rejected Him as “foolishness.”

        (3)     BUT we are the wisdom of God!!!

                A.     May we act like it.

                B.     May we believe in the wisdom and power of God and not our own.

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