Before we delve much further into this discussion, I believe that it is good to explain that Paul was not insulting, demeaning, or blaspheming God. Instead, Paul was using a type of sarcasm on the recipients of his letter at Corinth. Truth be told, there is nothing foolish about God. God is the opposite of anything that is foolish. So what did Paul mean by referring to “the foolishness of God”? The answer lies in an understanding of verses both before and after First Corinthians 1:25.
First of all, Paul explained that he was not sent to be the one physically baptizing every person. Instead, he had a very specific mission. “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17). While baptism is important and necessary to the salvation of man, someone else could do the immersing besides Paul (1 Cor. 1:14-16; Acts 22:16). Paul was an inspired apostle that was a Gospel preacher. However, in the process of preaching the Gospel, the message was not well received by some hearers. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18; cf. Rom. 1:16). The first time that Paul introduces the word “foolishness” in this context is to describe the way that some hearers had labeled Gospel preaching. That is much different than Paul claiming that the preaching itself is true “foolishness”. Instead, he gave the opinion of some people. Describing the opinions of others does not mean that you approve or agree with the opinions themselves. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Paul did as we continue to study the context.
Paul then went on to write, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:19-20)? Even back in the first century A.D., there were those who thought that Gospel preaching/“the preaching of the cross” was useless, and something to be rejected by “educated” men. Therefore, Paul used the opinions of some to describe sarcastically the importance of preaching. He included, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21; cf. Rom. 1:19-25). Let us keep in mind that it was “foolishness” to those who believed themselves too “wise” to accept such.
Would any of us be so bold as to ever call God foolish? I mean, just think about what that statement entails! We have even been warned about calling another person a fool, much less God. Matthew wrote, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22). Yet, by inspiration, Paul described something that he called “the foolishness of God” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Then Paul described the hindrances that men had to accepting Gospel preaching. He wrote, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:22-23). That did not deter Paul, nor should it deter us, from continuing to preach the truth. For there are some who recognize that “the preaching of the cross” is not foolishness at all. Paul mentioned, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Further, Paul then sarcastically wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). As we have learned, the idea that preaching the Gospel is foolishness or weakness is unfortunately the opinions of many men. If that is the case, then why did God choose such means to reveal His message of salvation? Paul explained, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
On Judgment Day, our souls will only be saved if we believed and obeyed the Gospel. Trying to be saved any other way, including using the thoughts and imaginations of men, will only lead to destruction. We should never let the opinions of men lead us to changing “the preaching of the cross”. While many may think that it is useless, foolish and a waste of time, let us stand firm on the truth of the Gospel.
~ Corey Barnette