1 Corinthians 1:20-21

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:20 in Other Translations

KJV
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
ESV
20 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?
NLT
20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
MSG
20 So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense?
CSB
20 Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn't God made the world's wisdom foolish?

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS

This was not the first epistle that was written by the apostle to the Corinthians, for we read in this of his having written an epistle to them before, 1Co 5:9, but this is the first epistle of his unto them, that is now extant; and has been received by the churches, as of divine authority, being written by the inspiration of God, of which there has been no doubt in any age. The apostle himself was nearly two years at Corinth; where he preached with great success; and was the instrument of converting many persons, who by him were formed into a church state, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, as is clear from many passages in this epistle, and whom be left in good order, and in great peace and harmony; but quickly after his departure, false teachers got in among them, and bad principles were imbibed by many of them, and evil practices prevailed among them, and they fell into factions and parties, which occasioned the apostle to write this epistle to them, as well as their writing to him concerning certain things, they desired to have his judgment and opinion of, 1Co 7:1, It is thought to be written about the year of Christ 55, and in the first year of Nero, though some place it in the year 59. It was written not from Philippi, as the subscription added to it affirms, but from Ephesus, as appears from 1Co 16:8, and, it may be, after the uproar raised there by Demetrius, as should seem from a passage in 1Co 15:32. The matter of it is various. The apostle first rebukes them for their schisms and divisions; suggests that their regard to the wisdom of men, and the philosophy of the Gentiles, had brought the simplicity of the Gospel into contempt with them; blames them for their conduct in the case of the incestuous person, and urges them to put him away from them; reproves them for going to law with one another before Heathen magistrates, and warmly inveighs against fornication; and then answers several questions, and resolves several cases concerning marriage; treats of things offered to idols, and of the maintenance of ministers; and dissuades from idolatry, and all appearance of it; takes notice of the unbecoming conduct of the members of the church at the Lord's supper; and discourses concerning the nature and use of spiritual gifts, and commends charity above them; observes and corrects some irregularities in the use of their gifts; proves by various arguments the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which some of them denied; exhorts to a collection for the poor saints, and to several other things, and concludes the epistle with the salutations of others, and of himself.

\\INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 1\\

This chapter contains the general inscription of the epistle, the usual salutation, and a special thanksgiving for blessings received; after which the apostle intimates the occasion of his writing, the divisions about their ministers, which gives him an opportunity of discoursing concerning the nature, end, use, and efficacy of the preaching of the Gospel. The inscription is in 1Co 1:1,2, in which an account is given of the persons concerned in this epistle; and first of Paul, the only inspired writer of it, who is described by his name, by which he went among the Gentiles; by his office, an apostle of Jesus Christ; and by the manner in which he came into it, being called to it not through any merit of his own, but through the sovereign will and pleasure of God: and next mention is made of Sosthenes, a brother minister of the Gospel, who was with the apostle, and joined in the salutation of the church, to whom the epistle is written; who are described, by their general character, a church of God; by the place of their abode, and seat of their church state, Corinth; and by their special characters, sanctified in Christ by election, and saints through the effectual calling; and with them are joined all other saints in Achaia, that belonged to them and the apostle, that called upon the name of the Lord; and then follows the salutation in 1Co 1:3, usual in all the epistles; after that a thanksgiving to God for the grace they had by Christ in general, 1Co 1:4, and particularly for their gifts of utterance and knowledge, which were plentifully bestowed upon them, 1Co 1:5, and were a confirmation to them of the Gospel of Christ, 1Co 1:6, and by which it appeared, that they were not behind other churches in these things; and are commended for their waiting for the coming of Christ, 1Co 1:7, by whom the apostle assures them, they would be so confirmed in the mean while, as to be presented blameless by him in that day, 1Co 1:8, of which they might be assured from the faithfulness of God, who had called them to communion with Christ, 1Co 1:9, upon which he exhorts them to unity of affection and judgment, for this end, that there might be no schisms among them; and this he does in a way of entreaty, and that by the name of Christ, and from the consideration of their being brethren, 1Co 1:10, suggesting hereby, that there were divisions among them: and signifies, that he had good reason to believe it, having had an account of them from a family of repute among them, 1Co 1:11, and then expressly mentions what their differences were about, namely, their ministers, 1Co 1:12, and uses arguments to dissuade them from their dividing principles and practices; showing, that one was their Lord and master, Christ, who was crucified for them, and in whose name they were baptized, and not his ministers, 1Co 1:13, and since some among them made an ill use of their having been baptized by the apostle, he is thankful that he had baptized no more of them, and mentions by name those that he had baptized, 1Co 1:14-16, and gives a reason for it, taken from the principal end of his mission by Christ, which was to preach the Gospel, and not only or chiefly to baptize, 1Co 1:17. The manner in which he was sent to preach, and did preach it, is observed by him, not in the words of human wisdom; and that for this reason, lest either the Gospel should be of no use, or the effect of it should be ascribed to a wrong cause; and then be obviates an objection that might be made to this way of preaching, that hereby the Gospel would be brought into contempt; to which he answers, by granting that it would be, and was reckoned foolishness by them that were blinded and were lost; and by observing on the other hand, that it was effectual to saving purposes to others, 1Co 1:18, and though the former sort might be the wise and prudent of this world, this need seem no strange thing, since the infatuation of such persons is no other than what was foretold would be, as appears from a testimony out of Isa 29:14, cited in 1Co 1:19, upon which some questions are put, and inquiries made, after men of wisdom and learning, whose wisdom God made foolish, 1Co 1:20, the reason of which was, because they did not make a right use of their natural wisdom in the knowledge of God, wherefore it was his pleasure to save men by means esteemed foolishness by them, 1Co 1:21, and these wise men, who accounted the preaching of the Gospel foolishness, are distinguished into two sorts, Jews and Gentiles; the one requiring miracles to confirm it, the other seeking wisdom in it, 1Co 1:22, but finding neither, though there were really both, the preaching of a crucified Christ was a stumbling to the one, and folly to the other, 1Co 1:23, though those that were called by grace from among them, whether Jews or Gentiles, had different sentiments of it, and of Christ preached in it, in whose esteem he was the power and wisdom of God, 1Co 1:24, the reason of which was, because there are superior wisdom and power in Christ and his Gospel, which the apostle, an ironical concession, calls the foolishness and weakness of God, to the wisdom and power of men, 1Co 1:25, and instances in the effectual calling and conversion of the Corinthians, who for the most part were not the wise, the mighty, and noble, 1Co 1:26, but the foolish, weak, and base; and the end of God, in the call of such, was to draw a veil over and bring to confusion the wisdom and power of men, 1Co 1:27,28, and also that no creature whatever should dare to glory before him, 1Co 1:29, but the true object of glorying in is pointed at, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the reason of it, all blessings of grace being in him, and from him, is suggested, 1Co 1:30, so that whoever glories, should glory in him, 1Co 1:31.

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 In-Context

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

Cross References 6

  • 1. Isaiah 19:11,12
  • 2. 1 Corinthians 2:6,8; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4
  • 3. ver 27; Job 12:17; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 8:9; Romans 1:22; 1 Corinthians 3:18,19
  • 4. ver 27,28; 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 11:32
  • 5. S Romans 11:14
  • 6. S Romans 3:22
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