The Power of God- 1 Corinthians 1:18

In this passage, Paul refers to the message of the cross as the “power of God” to those who are being saved, but “foolishness” to those who are perishing (verse 18). Paul here contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the world, which in this case (in Corinth) would have been Greek philosophy. A thorough understanding of what Paul is saying here thus requires a brief look into Greek philosophy, in order to understand exactly what Paul intends to tell us here. The central idea here is the concept of power, and what Paul has in mind here is primarily the Greek concepts of dunamis and ischuno. Ischuno is the power inherent in man himself, it is the power which each of us has within. Dunamis is seen as the power of the logos. The logos was understood to be the power which produces order in the universe, it is the reason why the universe operates based on a set of “laws”. It was understood to be a cosmic principle, and was even seen by some philosophers as a sort of “god”. According to Greek teaching, true power was obtained by the individual through tapping into the power of the dunamis, that the power of the dunamis could be used and manipulated by human beings, that it could somehow be controlled. It was through using the power of the dunamis in this way that one’s own ischuno (or personal “power”) could be magnified and multiplied. This is basically a way of saying that the power of “god” was available to all to be used to magnify and multiply their own ischuno, their own “selves”. This is what Paul contrasts the message of the cross with in this passage. The message of the cross here has to do with doing what Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, it involves the submission of our wills (our selves) to God. The message of the cross then involves not the magnification of the self, but rather the “emptying” of the self (Philippians 2:7). It involves not the manipulation of God for our own purposes, but rather the offering of ourselves to God to be used for His purposes. It involves not “tapping into” the power of God for the building of our own kingdom, but rather allowing the power of God to work in us to conform us to the image of His Son for the building of His kingdom. When understood in this context, we can clearly see why Paul’s “message of the cross” was seen as foolishness by those who operated according to the wisdom of the world. The “gods” of the Greek world were basically the creation of man and existed for his benefit, to be used by man as he saw fit and as man’s servant. The God preached by Paul stands in direct contrast to these “gods”, for the God Paul preached is the creator of man, and man exists for His benefit, man is created to be His servant. This is why the message of the cross was the focus of Paul’s message, and it is also to be the focus of our message now also. The world in which we live is, in fact, not much different from the world to which Paul spoke. To many who believe there is a “god”, that God exists for their benefit, that “god” exists to be used by them to magnify their own “selves”, to be used by them as they see fit. The message of the true God, the message of the cross, will be seen as just as foolish today as it was then, but it must still be preached, for now, as it was then, the message of “Christ crucified” (verse 23) is still to “those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (verse 24).

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Epistles

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