Why Does God Choose the Foolish?

Good Monday. Today’s question on the table asks why God chose the foolish things of the world and not the wise and powerful. Why not use the wealthiest innovators, the smartest geniuses, the most articulate orators, the world’s greatest athletes and most recognizable movie stars to spread his gospel around the world? Why does God prefer to choose and use the weak in his mission?

The question comes from a podcast listener by the name of Euclid, who lives in the Philippines. “Hello, Pastor John. I have given my life to the Great Commission and desire to share the gospel to all nations. In 1 Corinthians 1:27, it says that ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.’ Here’s my question. Why didn’t God save all the worldly-wise to proclaim the gospel to the whole world? Wouldn’t that have made a faster and greater impact in world evangelization than simply choosing a bunch of foolish people to do his work?”

Well, praise God that he chooses and uses foolish people.

The first answer I’d say is that the impact of all those wise people — all those smart people, those intellectual people, those gifted people — might have been faster and might have been outwardly greater, but it wouldn’t have been Christianity. If the Son of God had come into the world as a warrior or a philosopher to impact the world with his power and his intelligence, the impact would have been quicker and more outwardly impressive, but it wouldn’t have been Christianity.

Centrality of the Cross

We can hardly overestimate the importance of the decision God made in heaven — indeed, before the foundation of the world — that he would redeem and define a people through the weakest and most despicable death imaginable: the slaughtering by crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It was a scandal, a stumbling block, an absolute foolishness, a shame, an utter indignity, and that is how we are saved. That is how the gospel triumphs.

The entire first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians are written to clarify for them — and for us — that Christianity will not be defined by or spread by the excellence of human oratory or the impressiveness of human intellect. Those two focuses were the pride in Corinth: the great oratory and the great intellect. And evidently the Corinthian church was quite enamored by these things. They were boasting by saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas” (1 Corinthians 1:12).

They were finding borrowed boasting, borrowed celebrity, borrowed praise by lining up behind the teacher that they thought would be superior in oratory or intellect. Paul devoted three chapters to showing why this is not the meaning of Christianity, nor is it the way forward for Christianity.

Problem with Human Wisdom

When Paul heard that they were saying, “I follow Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:12), he cried out, “Was Paul crucified for you?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). He couldn’t believe that they were turning the message of Christ crucified into a matter of boasting in his skills. Then three verses later, he says, “Christ . . . [sent] me . . . to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

Those were the two issues: human eloquence and human intellect. Oratory, erudition, cleverness with words, sharpness of brainpower — these were the great focuses of admiration and pride in Corinth. Paul said, in effect, “Oratory and intellect might get bigger crowds, might get bigger acclaim, might have a quicker impact on the public, but it wouldn’t be Christianity.” It would, in fact, be a denial of Christ and an emptying of the cross, because the cross of Christ means the end of boasting in human achievements.

It means the replacing of that kind of boasting with Christ-exalting, childlike trust in a Redeemer because of how desperately needy and sinful we are. The cross of Christ isn’t just Christ’s death. It’s our death. I am crucified with Christ, crucified to the self-salvation and self-exaltation of pride. Then in 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

God’s Wisdom

Three verses later, in that amazing verse, he tells us why human wisdom, human intellect, reason, and what we are by nature alone cannot find ultimate wisdom in God or salvation. Here’s what he says: “For since, in the wisdom of God [that’s the key phrase], the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

God’s wisdom decided that human wisdom would not be the way of salvation. Rather, faith in divine foolishness would be the way of salvation. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). The point to emphasize for our friend Euclid in the Philippines is that it never looks like that.

The foolishness of God is wiser than men, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks like foolishness. The weakness of God is stronger than men, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks like weakness. That’s Christianity. This is the way the gospel advances in the world. Paul says it again in 1 Corinthians 2:1: “I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come . . . with lofty speech or wisdom.” There it is again: lofty speech, skillful, impressive Greek eloquence or wisdom, or philosophical impressiveness.

God’s Gospel Strategy

“Why, Paul?” That’s what Euclid is asking. “Why not use lofty speech and human intellect?” First Corinthians 2:5 gives the answer: “So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Now, Euclid began by quoting 1 Corinthians 1:27 and asking, “Why didn’t God save all the worldly-wise to proclaim the gospel to the whole world? Wouldn’t that have made a faster and greater impact in world evangelization?”

So, let’s end where Euclid began, because that paragraph gives two clear answers to the question, “Why wouldn’t God do it that way?” Here’s what he says:

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly 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, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:26–28)

Here’s his first answer: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). And then he continues: “And because of him [because of God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And here’s the second answer: “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).

So, why not spread the gospel among the nations faster and with greater impact through wise, powerful, noble-born people? Two answers:

so that no human might boast in the presence of God

so that those who boast would boast only in the Lord

God’s aim in world evangelization is to put an end to human pride, and to make Jesus the focus of all human praise. His ways are not our ways. We just need to settle it. His ways are not our ways. Christ crucified defines everything.

Source: Почему Бог выбирает неразумных? (ieshua.org)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.

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