Humanity and The Power of God- 1 Corinthians 1:18-22

In this passage, Paul is telling the Corinthians that the “message of the cross” is the true “power of God” (verse 18). The concept of power is very prominent in this passage, and it will require a brief investigation into Greek philosophy in order to properly understand what Paul is telling the Corinthians (and us) in this passage. The concept of power was a prominent one in Greek philosophy, and the Corinthian believers understanding of what power is and how it is used would have been shaped by this philosophy, which they would have been taught from childhood. Power was understood in two aspects using two different Greek words: dunamis and ischuno. Ischuno was understood as the power inherent within an individual, a power which came from inside each person and caused them to live and move and have their being, the power of the “self”. Dunamis was understood as a “cosmic principle”, as the power of the “logos”. The logos, to a Greek, was a power or principle which brought and kept order in the universe, it was seen basically as an impersonal “god”, a power which originated outside the individual. In Greek philosophy, true power came from learning how to “tap into” the dunamis, true power was seen in the power of the logos being used by human beings for their own ends, to magnify and multiply their own ischuno, their own “selves”. So in Greek philosophy, true wisdom was understood as learning how to use the power of the logos (or “god”) for one’s own ends, to use “god” to increase their own ischuno, to multiply their own power and magnify their own “self”. In this passage then, Paul takes this philosophy and turns it on its ear, and we will now examine this passage to see just how Paul does so and just how all of this applies to those not raised on Greek philosophy. Paul begins by referring to the message of the cross. The Greek word message here is logos, and in using this word, Paul is telling the Corinthians that God is not an impersonal force but the person of Jesus Christ, and that He “tapped into” the power of God in a very unusual way, through “the cross”. The cross here is not used literally but as a metaphor for the self-emptying of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11). For Paul, the means of tapping into the dunamis, into the power of God, comes not through the magnification of the self but through the submission of the self to God. In Greek philosophy, true wisdom comes from learning how to use the power of God for one’s own ends. In biblical thinking, true wisdom comes from learning to submit the power of the “self” to God. God does not exist for our benefit, to be used by us, but we exist for His benefit, to be used by Him. This is why the message of the cross is “foolishness” (Greek moria, from which is derived the English “moron”) to “Greeks”. To those whose thinking is shaped by worldly philosophy, the message of the cross is literally “moronic”, the whole idea that true power comes not from dominance but from submission sounds utterly ridiculous. Paul also tells us here that this phenomenon is not particular only to Greeks, but to all “worldly” philosophies, for this idea was also mentioned in the Old Testament, as his quote of Isaiah 29:14 demonstrates. Paul then tells us that there always have been (and always will be), two contrasting “philosophies”, two opposing ways of understanding and interpreting reality. There will always be a “worldly” philosophy which teaches us to use everyone and everything (including God) to magnify the self and leads us away from God. There will also always be a biblical philosophy, which teaches us to humble the self and leads us nearer to God. The reason that Paul wrote all of this to the Corinthians is that this worldly philosophy had infiltrated the church, and many in the church were now seeking to use God to magnify and multiply their own power and self, their own ischuno. The reason this is still relevant today is that the current worldly philosophy has also infiltrated the church, with many in the church now also seeking to use God to magnify and multiply their own power and self, their own ischuno. So Paul’s warning to the Corinthians nearly 2000 years ago is just as valid to the church today as it was to the Corinthian church then, and we in the church today must all take to heart what Paul is telling us here, and realize once and for all that God is not one we manipulate and use to our own ends, but one we submit to, offering ourselves to be used for His own ends, for this is the way in which we truly multiply and magnify the “self”.

No Comments Biblical Psychology  //  Christian Philosophy  //  Conformed to the Image of Christ  //  Growing In Grace

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