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1 Corinthians 1:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For after that in the wisdom of God - Dr. Lightfoot observes, "That σοφια του Θεου, the wisdom of God, is not to be understood of that wisdom which had God for its author, but that wisdom which had God for its object. There was, among the heathen, σοφια της φυσεως, wisdom about natural things, that is, philosophy; and σοφια του Θεου, wisdom about God; that is, divinity. But the world in its divinity could not, by wisdom, know God." The plain meaning of this verse is, that the wise men of the world, especially the Greek philosophers, who possessed every advantage that human nature could have, independently of a Divine revelation, and who had cultivated their minds to the uttermost, could never, by their learning, wisdom, and industry, find out God; nor had the most refined philosophers among them just and correct views of the Divine nature, nor of that in which human happiness consists. The work of Lucretius, De Natura Rerum, and the work of Cicero, De Natura Deorum, are incontestable proofs of this. Even the writings of Plato and Aristotle have contributed little to remove the veil which clouded the understanding of men. No wisdom but that which came from God could ever penetrate and illuminate the human mind.

By the foolishness of preaching - By the preaching of Christ crucified, which the Gentiles termed μωρια, foolishness, in opposition to their own doctrines, which they termed σοφια, wisdom. It was not by the foolishness of preaching, literally, nor by the foolish preaching, that God saved the world; but by that Gospel which they called μωρια, foolishness; which was, in fact, the wisdom of God, and also the power of God to the salvation of them that believed.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For after that - ἐπειδὴ epeidēSince, or seeing that it is true that the world by wisdom knew not God. After all the experience of the world it was ascertained that human beings would never by their own wisdom come to the true knowledge of God, and it pleased him to devise another plan for salvation.

In the wisdom of God - This phrase is susceptible of two interpretations:

(1) The first makes it refer to “the wisdom of God” evinced in the works of creation - the demonstration of his existence and attributes found there, and, according to that, the apostle means to say, that the world by a survey of the works of God did not know him; or were, notwithstanding those works, in deep darkness. This interpretation is adopted by most commentators - by Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, Grotius, Calvin, etc. According to this interpretation, the word ἐν en(in) is to be translated “by” or “through.”

(2) asecond interpretation makes it refer to the wise arrangement or government of God, by which this was permitted. “For when, by the wise arrangement or government of God; after a full and fair trial of the native, unaided powers of man, it was ascertained that the true knowledge of God would not be arrived at by man, it pleased him,” etc. This appears to be the correct interpretation, because it is the most obvious one, and because it suits the connection best. It is, according to this, a reason why God introduced a new method of saving people. This may be said to have been accomplished by a plan of God, which was wise, because:

(1) It was desirable that the powers of man should be fully tried before the new plan was introduced, in order to show that it was not dependent on human wisdom, that it was not originated by man, and that there was really need of such an interposition.

(2) because sufficient time had been furnished to make the experiment. An opportunity had been given for four thousand years, and still it had failed.

(3) because the experiment had been made in the most favorable circumstances. The human faculties had had time to ripen and expand; one generation had had an opportunity of profiting by the observation of its predecessor; and the most mighty minds had been brought to boar on the subject. If the sages of the east, and the profound philosophers of the west, had not been able to come to the true knowledge of God, it was in vain to hope that more profound minds could be brought to bear on it, or that more careful investigation would be bestowed on it. The experiment had been fairly made, and the result was before the world; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:18.

To save them that believe - That believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; see the note at Mark 16:16. This was the speciality and essence of the plan of God, and this has appeared to the mass of people to be a plan devoid of wisdom and unworthy of God. The preaching of the cross which is thus esteemed foolishness, is made the means of saving them, because it sets forth God‘s only plan of mercy, and states the way in which lost sinners may become reconciled to God.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Paul had been bred up in Jewish learning; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the sum and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those in the way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious, alike see that the gospel opposes their favourite pursuits. But those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man's boasted reason, and the event has shown that human wisdom is folly, and is unable to find or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. By the foolishness of preaching; not by what could justly be called foolish preaching. But the thing preached was foolishness to wordly-wise men. The gospel ever was, and ever will be, foolishness to all in the road to destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, ever has been a sure touchstone by which men may learn what road they are travelling. But the despised doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Saviour, God in human nature, purchasing the church with his own blood, to save multitudes, even all that believe, from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed in every age. And the weakest instruments God uses, are stronger in their effects, than the strongest men can use. Not that there is foolishness or weakness in God, but what men consider as such, overcomes all their admired wisdom and strength.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1068

20-25 (Psalm 19:1-3; Acts 17:22-29; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3). Nature's Revelation Imperfect—The most difficult and humiliating lesson that man has to learn is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, and of himself he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He cannot discern in it God, or Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. He is in the same position as were the Athenians, who erected their altars for the worship of nature. Standing in the midst of Mars’ Hill, Paul presented before the people of Athens the majesty of the living God in contrast with their idolatrous worship. [Acts 17:22-29 quoted.] 6BC 1068.1

Those who have a true knowledge of God will not become so infatuated with the laws of matter or the operations of nature as to overlook, or refuse to acknowledge, the continual working of God in nature. Nature is not God, nor was it ever God. The voice of nature testifies of God, but nature is not God. As His created work, it simply bears a testimony to God's power. Deity is the author of nature. The natural world has, in itself, no power but that which God supplies. 6BC 1068.2

There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son. [Hebrews 1:1, 2: Psalm 19:1-3 quoted.] ... 6BC 1068.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 152

Christ came to our world to reveal the Father amid the gross darkness of error and superstition which then prevailed. The disciples of Christ are to represent Him in their everyday life, and thus the true light from heaven will shine forth in clear, steady rays to the world; thus a character is revealed entirely different from that which is seen in those who do not make the word of God their guide and standard. A knowledge of God must be preserved amid the darkness that covers the world and the gross darkness that envelops the people. Age after age the pure character of Christ has been misrepresented by those who claimed to be believers in Him and in the word of God. Hardness of heart has been cultivated. Love and kindness and true courtesy have been fast disappearing from ministers and churches. What can the universe of God think of this? Those who claim to be representatives of Christ show rather the hardness of heart which is characteristic of Satan, which made him unfit for heaven, unsafe to be there. And just so it will be with those who know the truth and yet close the door of the heart against its sanctifying power. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The servants of Christ are not only to be instruments through the preaching of Jesus to lead men to repentance, but they are to continue their watchcare and interest by keeping before the people, by precept and example, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They are to sanctify themselves that their hearers also may be sanctified. Thus all will grow in godliness, going on from grace to grace, until the ambassador for God can present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Then the ministerial office will be seen in its true, sacred character. TM 152.1

But the standard of the ministry has been greatly lowered, and the Minister of the true sanctuary is misrepresented before the world. God is ready to accept men as His colaborers, and to make them the light of the world, agents through whom He can graciously infuse light into the understanding. If the men who bear the message have not Christ abiding in them, if they are not true,—and some are not,—may the Lord awaken them from their deception before it shall be too late. God wants men to be tenderhearted, compassionate, and to love as brethren. Jesus is waiting for them to open the door, that He may come in and infuse into their hearts the warmth of His love, His goodness, His tender compassion; that the worker may in all his connection with humanity reveal the Saviour to the world. TM 153.1

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 371

There is to be no compromise with those who make void the law of God. It is not safe to rely upon them as counselors. Our testimony is not to be less decided now than formerly; our real position is not to be cloaked in order to please the world's great men. They may desire us to unite with them and accept their plans, and may make propositions in regard to our course of action which may give the enemy an advantage over us. “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy” (Isaiah 8:12). While we should not seek for controversy, and should not needlessly offend, we must present the truth clearly and decidedly, and stand firm to what God has taught us in His Word. You are not to look to the world in order to learn what you shall write and publish or what you shall speak. Let all your words and works testify, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16). “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). 2SM 371.1

The apostle Paul tells us, “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 Corinthians 1:21). This was the carrying out of God's plan for the conviction and conversion of men, who are constantly tempted to magnify their own powers. The Lord would make it manifest whether men by their own finite wisdom could acquire a knowledge of the truth, whether they could know God, their Creator. When Christ came to our world, the experiment had been fully made, and it proved the boasted wisdom to men to be but foolishness. Finite wisdom was utterly unable to come to right conclusions in regard to God, and therefore man was wholly incompetent to judge in regard to His law. The Lord has allowed matters in our day to come to a crisis, in the exaltation of error above truth, that He, the God of Israel, might work mightily for the greater elevation of His truth in proportion as error is exalted. 2SM 371.2

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