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The divine calling
1I Paul was divinely chosen to be the Apostle of Jesus Christ. In my calling the will of God was made manifest, and in this high office and appointment I now address you who are in Corinth, and with me Sosthenes, brother in the faith. 2We speak to you who have also been sharers in this divine calling, whose lives have been enlarged and purified in Christ Jesus, who have received the holiness that comes from faith — and with you in this appeal I associate all who, in whatever place they may be, wherever we may be, do together with us invoke his name, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 3May grace come to you, may peace abide with you from God, who is the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
4Because of the grace that has come to you I feel incessant gratitude to God. 5You have found the riches of the Christ; the word and the knowledge of God are spoken and fulfilled in your midst; 6the witness of the Christ is there; it is unassailable evidence; 7and the full measure of His gifts is counted in you, nothing is wanting for your completion, whilst you wait for that unveiling and revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8Yes, there will be no faltering, no failure in his support of you, till you are made perfect, in the “end,” “the day” of our Lord Jesus Christ, the day of perfect revelation. 9For God, through whom this calling, this share in His son Jesus Christ our Lord has come to you, is faithful in all His ways.
No room for disunity in Christ
10Through this name of Jesus Christ our Lord, I urge you — for that is the secret of his name — to have one mind, one persuasion and precept amongst you, to be all of one mind with one idea. O let schisms and divisions be unknown to you, for your perfection is in unity. 11Strifes there are amongst you, it has come to my knowledge through the members who meet in Chloe's house. 12They tell me some describe themselves as disciples of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas, others of Christ — 13but Christ is not divided. I was not crucified for you, nor were you baptised into my name. 14-15For this very reason I was careful not to baptise disciples personally amongst you. It is to me a cause of gratitude to God that I baptised only Crispus and Gaius, 16and also the household of Stephanas — not another soul, I think, did I baptise, and purposely, that it might not seem that I was making disciples. 17Christ Jesus sent me not to baptise, but to make known the word of joy, not intellectually, not with the persuasive brilliance of personality and personal influence, lest the cross of the Christ should be obliterated and ruled out.
The foolishness of worldly knowledge
18Cleverness, human wisdom, intellectual strength do not accomplish the mighty works of the Gospel. Ours is the word of the cross; it saves us; there is in it the power of God; but to those who are in the power of death and subject to its ever-increasing dominion, this word appears as folly, as an impertinence. 19And so the word of the Bible comes true:— “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will make nothing of the intelligence of those who profess to know.” (Isa xxix. 14.) 20Where is the wise, the scribe, the learned investigator of material things? God makes the wisdom of the world foolishness, 21forasmuch as it was in that wisdom that the world lost the knowledge of God, it was by reason of that that its eyes were closed, and lo! the wisdom of God now appearing is proclaimed as a thing foolish in the sight of that old wisdom; but the preaching of this heavenly word saves, it saves all who have faith in it, who accept it spiritually. It does not commend itself to the old thought. 22The Jews demand miracles and signs, the Greeks ask first and last for wisdom, 23but it is the crucified Christ that we preach, and that appears a fool's message to the Greeks, and a scandal to the Jews. 24Think of it! God's power, God's wisdom, the Christ, takes on that semblance in the sight of men. 25But there is more wisdom in God's foolishness than in men's cleverness, more strength in God's weakness than in human power. 26Not many wise, powerful, highly placed are found in our number. 27Why? Because this calling of God is not on the lines of anything which the world sets up as important. 28God would not have anything of the flesh to plume itself on a value of its own. Thus it was that He chose that which was weak, despised, unsupported by birth and tradition, that which in the eyes of the world had no existence at all. 29This He chose and by its means He dismantles all the world's glory, leaving us faith alone. 30For in Christ Jesus your being comes from him, not from the world, and he is your wisdom, your righteousness, your cleansing and your redemption coming to you from God alone, from Him apart from all else, 31in order that as Jeremiah says, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (Jer. ix. 24.) By that saying the prophet referred to the distinction between the talents and qualities that are believed to belong to the flesh and the personal self, and the grace and power that flow from the Spirit only.
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1-2I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
3May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
The Cross: The Irony of God’s Wisdom
10I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.
11-12I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”
13-16I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)
17God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.
18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
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? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”