I love 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. In it, Paul makes a great case for why we need the Holy Spirit to draw men unto Christ when we present the Gospel message.
Paul starts the passage by calling out all of the intellectuals, scholars and academics asking, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (v. 20).
Paul wasn’t making fun of knowledge or intellect here. After all, Paul was a well-studied man in his own right. Instead, he was saying that compared to God’s infinite knowledge, man’s greatest intellectual pursuits seem foolish.
This statement is laying the groundwork for Paul’s real issue. In verse 21, he goes on to explain that as a result, man’s wisdom will not lead him to a saving knowledge of God.
Now here is where Paul’s message gets interesting. He states that “it please God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (v. 21b).
This isn’t a knock on preaching. Paul isn’t saying that the labor of preaching the gospel is a foolish endeavor or that the study and communication of the Gospel are foolish.
Instead, Paul is making a comparison. You can see it better in verse 23 where Paul summarizes by stating, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
In other words, Paul is comparing man’s wisdom to God’s wisdom. Compared to God’s wisdom, man’s wisdom looks foolish. Conversely, unbelieving man sees God’s wisdom as foolish!
What is God’s wisdom that seems so foolish to unbelieving man? The message of the cross. Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 23-24).
So, if 1) man’s wisdom is not sufficient to lead him to Christ; and 2) unbelieving man sees the gospel as foolish, how would anyone ever come to Christ?
The answer is in verse 24. Paul explains that “to those who are called” Christ is no longer a “stumbling block” or “folly,” but is instead “the power of God” and the “wisdom of God.”
The difference is in the calling of the Holy Spirit.
Preachers may present the clearest, most accurate, articulate message of salvation; but without the work of the Holy Spirit convicting hearts of sin and them to exercise faith in Christ, nothing will happen.
This doesn’t mean that pastors should quit spending hour upon hour preparing sermons. In fact, they should. God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit and should be preached in expectation of the Spirit using His weapon to pierce hearts!
And, at the same time, the pastor –as well as the entire congregation- should be just as adamant about praying for the Holy Spirit to work through the preaching to call souls to salvation!
It all points back to the fact that we are utterly dependent upon God for all things!
- Is your church praying for the Holy Spirit to convict and call souls to Christ?
- Pastors, is this something you take before the throne in prayer with the same energy that you pour into studying for your message?
- Wouldn’t it be great to start praying right now for this Sunday’s service?