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Question

What does it mean that God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)?

foolish things to confound the wise
Answer


In selecting a team, the criteria used often include a person’s abilities, status, and history of success. However, the world’s measure of success is different from God’s. God does not require intelligence, ability, power, or status to become a believer. Those who come to Christ are on His “team” by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). In fact, God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise, or, as rendered in the NIV, He “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Previously, Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that the message of the cross unites them (1 Corinthians 1:10–17). Trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins brings all believers into the same family, the same team. No other external qualifier—status, wealth, intellect, nobility, fame, or anything else—defines us. Everything else becomes secondary to our status in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18), but God, in His infinite wisdom, chooses the foolish things to confound the wise.

While the message of the gospel appears foolish to the world, “to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The unbelieving world sees Christ’s death on the cross as foolish, seeing it as a sign of weakness or a proof of criminality; however, this is where God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. It is through the death of Christ that we have forgiveness of sin and life eternal. This gospel message is simple enough that a child can understand it. In Matthew 11:25, Jesus praises the Father because He has “hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” God’s truth is not foolish; it is of infinite value and brings life for all who believe.

God’s plan of salvation so simple, so surprising, that the learned of this world often miss it. Salvation does not come through mankind’s ability to reason; we cannot think our way to heaven: “Where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20–21, NLT).

Not only does the message of God seem foolish to the unbelieving world, but so do the people of God: “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” (1 Corinthians 1:2627, ESV).

Scripture exhorts us not to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). Rather, we should humbly submit ourselves to the Lord and His truth. We may appear foolish to the world, but this is the path to true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). “God has selected [for His purpose] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [revealing their ignorance]” (1 Corinthians 1:27, AMP). God uses foolish things and foolish people to confound the wise—at least those who think they are wise.

“The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:19–20). There is a difference between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom (James 3:13–17). Worldly wisdom is characterized by pleasing oneself or following what one thinks is best in his own estimation. Worldly wisdom is not at all concerned about honoring God. To the world, believers are foolish and weak. Yet God indeed uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things to shame the strong. A person is not saved by following worldly wisdom but by trusting in what seems foolish to the world (1 Corinthians 1:20–21).

God uses the foolish things to confound the wise; i.e., He uses what the world deems foolish to show that the so-called wisdom of the world is not all it is cracked up to be. God’s wisdom through salvation is available to all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). By God’s grace, all who humble themselves and trust in Him will receive the wisdom that lasts for all eternity.

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Questions about 1 Corinthians

What does it mean that God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022