We left off last time (in our discussion about Why Johnny Can’t Preach) with a remark about the alleged Pauline statement regarding the “folly of preaching”. I claimed that Paul did not say such. Let us look at the text itself:
1 Corinthians 1 (ESV)
V.17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
V. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
V.19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
V.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?
V.21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
V.22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
V.23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
V.24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Notice that it is not “preaching” that the World considers folly. No, rather, it is “WHAT we preach” that is folly, not preaching in and of itself (v.21). The world and its churches preach all the time (v.20). The world has its own proclamation. So I dare say it is not “preaching” proper that is the problem (folly) but the Cross (God’s humiliation saving sinners). Christ (God’s anointed) crucified for sinners is folly. It is folly to the world (undiscerning; see 1Cor.2.14), that, CHRIST, dead and risen, is the power and wisdom of God.
Why do I bother to stress this? Because all too often folks are thinking that preaching itself is the answer (almost regardless of what’s preached). In addition, too often this proclamation is being reserved for the pulpit. Anything taking place outside the pulpit is somehow inferior. I simply do not buy a high-church tendency that hijacks the Gospel ministry, chaining it to an elevated desk. Granted, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed/taught God be thanked, but let us not quarantine the Word of Life to one platform when there are other acceptable ones.
Notice too, that Paul understands that a “polished” ministry is not only what the World wants (is wooed by) but is something that in itself can empty the Cross of its divine power and wisdom. There was no shortage of such “eloquent wisdom” in Corinth and Paul knew it, repeating the matter multiple times (see 1Cor.2.1; 2.4; 2Cor.4.2; & 10.10).
Consider also the following from the JFB Commentary:
“not with wisdom of words” — or speech; philosophical reasoning set off with oratorical language and secular learning, which the Corinthians set so undue a value upon (1Co_1:5; 1Co_2:1, 1Co_2:4) in Apollos, and the want of which in Paul they were dissatisfied with (2Co_10:10).
In sum, then, it would be the case that Christ himself is foolishness and eloquent preaching (particularly that which only allows Jesus to make guest appearances) a subtraction. Reader beware…not only the World but believers too stumble at Christ crucified being the simple and sufficient means whereby God does His salvationing, all of it, beginning to end, from here to glory.
One last post to come…