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1 Corinthians 1:21

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.
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.

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
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 32

We must plan wisely, that the people may have an opportunity of hearing for themselves the last message of mercy to the world. The people should be warned to make ready for the great day of God, which is right upon them. We have no time to lose. We must do our utmost to reach men where they are. The world is now reaching the boundary line in impenitence and disregard for the laws of the government of God. In every city of our world the warning must be proclaimed. All that can be done should be done without delay. 6T 32.1

And our camp meetings have another object, preparatory to this. They are to promote spiritual life among our own people. The world in its wisdom knows not God. The world cannot see the beauty, the loveliness, the goodness, the holiness of divine truth. And in order that men may understand this, there must be a channel through which it shall come to the world. The church has been constituted that channel. Christ reveals Himself to us that we may reveal Him to others. Through His people are to be manifested the riches and glory of His unspeakable gift. 6T 32.2

God has committed to our hands a most sacred work, and we need to meet together to receive instruction, that we may be fitted to perform this work. We need to understand what part we shall individually be called upon to act in building up the cause of God in the earth, in vindicating God's holy law, and in lifting up the Saviour as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. We need to meet together and receive the divine touch, that we may understand our work in the home. Parents need to understand how they may send forth from the sanctuary of the home their sons and daughters so trained and educated that they will be fitted to shine as lights in the world. We need to understand in regard to the division of labor and how each part of the work is to be carried forward. Each one should understand the part he is to act, that there may be harmony of plan and of labor in the combined work of all. 6T 32.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 737

*****

Said the Saviour: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” And God declared by the prophet: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” 5T 737.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 300

It is Satan's settled purpose to cut off all communication between God and His people, that he may practice his deceptive wiles with no voice to warn them of their danger. If he can lead men to distrust the messenger or to attach no sacredness to the message, he knows that they will feel under no obligation to heed the word of God to them. And when light is set aside as darkness, Satan has things his own way. 5T 300.1

Our God is a jealous God; He is not to be trifled with. He who does all things according to the counsel of His own will has been pleased to place men under various circumstances, and to enjoin upon them duties and observances peculiar to the times in which they live and the conditions under which they are placed. If they would prize the light given them, their faculties would be greatly enlarged and ennobled, and broader views of truth would be opened before them. The mysteries of eternal things, and especially the wonderful grace of God as manifested in the plan of redemption, would be unfolded to their minds; for spiritual things are spiritually discerned. 5T 300.2

We are never to forget that Christ teaches through His servants. There may be conversions without the instrumentality of a sermon. Where persons are so situated that they are deprived of every means of grace, they are wrought upon by the Spirit of God and convinced of the truth through reading the word; but God's appointed means of saving souls is through “the foolishness of preaching.” Though human, and compassed with the frailties of humanity, men are God's messengers; and the dear Saviour is grieved when so little is effected by their labors. Every minister who goes out into the great harvest field should magnify his office. He should not only seek to bring men to the knowledge of the truth, but he should labor, as did Paul, “warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom,” that he may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” 5T 300.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 242

In every effort to reach the higher classes, the worker for God needs strong faith. Appearances may seem forbidding, but in the darkest hour there is light above. The strength of those who love and serve God will be renewed day by day. The understanding of the Infinite is placed at their service, that in carrying out His purposes they may not err. Let these workers hold the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end, remembering that the light of God's truth is to shine amid the darkness that enshrouds our world. There is to be no despondency in connection with God's service. The faith of the consecrated worker is to stand every test brought to bear upon it. God is able and willing to bestow upon His servants all the strength they need and to give them the wisdom that their varied necessities demand. He will more than fulfill the highest expectations of those who put their trust in Him. AA 242.1

This chapter is based on Acts 18:1-18.

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