Meanderings

God’s Wisdom – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

My
son has a great teacher.  She knows and appreciates his greatness.  I
don’t say that just as the proud father, I am.  I say it because
she says it.  She pays attention to his progress with the long-term
in mind.  She is not unconcerned about the short-term, but she does
not allow William, or his parents to be trapped in the immediate. This requires wisdom. God’s Wisdom requires us to step back from the immediate and to pay attention to the eternal.  Let’s hear God’s Word:

Christ
the Power and Wisdom of God

For
the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are
perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For
it is written,

"I
will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the
discerning I will thwart."

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?  For
since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through
wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to
save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire
wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews
and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both
Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For
God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is
stronger than human strength.

Consider
your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by
human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble
birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose
what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce
to nothing things that are,  so that no one might boast in the
presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who
became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification
and redemption,  in order that, as it is written, "Let the one
who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, NRSV).

Paul’s
setting of the wisdom of this world over against the wisdom of God
risks misunderstanding of both.

  • The
    wisdom of the world is “the temptation for us to confuse
    redemption as coming from possessing the right wisdom, of mistaking
    salvation for thinking the proper way or having the right ideas.”

  • God’s
    wisdom is God’s power.  What counts is not what one knows but by
    whom one is known.

  • Since
    Paul the church has been tempted to twist faith from a right
    relationship with the One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who
    Is to Come into to a matter of giving intellectual assent to right
    propositions.

  • Paul
    is unfamiliar with such an interest.

    • No
      Longer: Believe – Behave – Belong

    • Not
      Yet: Belong – Behave – Believe

  • Paul
    tells us that strength and wisdom rest in the power of the cross.
    The power and wisdom of God to take the instrument of death and say
    (somehow) that I will turn the world around in this moment (J. Paul
    Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” The New
    Interpreter’s Bible
    , Volume X, Abingdon: 2002).

I
can’t stop there.  How do you have a right relationship with
Wisdom?  I suggest that we turn to the One who said “I am the Way,
I am the Truth, and I am Life” (John 14:6).  Jesus is God’s
Wisdom, a wisdom that has been around since the beginning.  Some
modern folks reject this reading of the Jesus as Sophia (God’s
Wisdom).

Wisdom’s Part in Creation

The
LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his
acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was
brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with
water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the
hills, I was brought forth–
when he had not yet made earth and
fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he
established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on
the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
   
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to
the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his
command,
    when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then
I was beside him, like a master worker;
    and I was daily his
delight, rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited
world
    and delighting in the human race.
And now, my
children, listen to me:
    happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear
instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
Happy is
the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates, waiting
beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
    and
obtains favor from the LORD;
but those who miss me injure
themselves;
    all who hate me love death" (Proverbs
8:22-36, NRSV).

Bishop
Roy Sano once commented in a conversation that the rush among
Methodists in our day is to invoke John Wesley’s name.  The first
to do so wins the argument.  So I win, and here’s how:

A
recommendation of Divine wisdom, ver. 1-21. The praise of the Son of
God, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, ver. 22-31. An exhortation to
hearken to him, ver. 32-36.

1.
Wisdom — It is a great question what this wisdom is. Some
understand it of the Divine wisdom; others of the second person in
the Godhead: and it cannot be denied that some passages best agree to
the former, and others to the latter opinion. Possibly both may be
joined together, and the chapter may be understood of Christ
considered partly in his personal capacity, and partly in regard of
his office, which was to impart the mind and will of God to mankind.

22.
Possessed me — As his son by eternal generation, before the
beginning. Of old — His works of creation.

27.
I was there — As co-worker with my Father. Depth — Of that great
abyss of water and earth mixed together, which is called both earth
and water and the deep, Genesis 1:2, when he made this lower world in
the form of a globe.

31.
My delights were — To uphold them by my power and providence, to
reveal myself and my Father’s will to them from age to age, to
assume their nature, and to redeem and save them (Johns Wesley’s
Explanatory Notes on the Old Testament, Proverbs 8)

For
people called United Methodist this I now invoke the doctrinal
standard of Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.

1.
In the beginning — (Referring to Genesis 1:1, and Proverbs 8:23.)
When all things began to be made by the Word: in the beginning of
heaven and earth, and this whole frame of created beings, the Word
existed, without any beginning. He was when all things began to be,
whatsoever had a beginning (John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the
New Testament
, John 1:1).

But
I don’t really win.  Bishop Santo suggested the real test of
Wesleyan scholarship was not invoking right words.  It was to invoke
right practice.  He asked intellectuals (like me) when do you pray?
When do you fast?  When do you search scriptures?  When do you
worship?  In other words, when are you in relationship with the
Wisdom of God – Jesus Christ?  And then Bishop Sano pushed us with
the question “Where does that living encounter lead you in
ministry?”

So
I leave it with you.  Jesus, the One Who Was captured in the
communion table carvings “do this in remembrance of me” and the
One Who Is to Come promised in the words “holy, holy, holy,” is
right here, right now The One Who Is.  Will you come?  Will you
feast?  Will you surrender your wisdom for the Wisdom of God?

Come,
let us feast.  Or as Proverbs hints, come to Wisdom’s feast.