by Spiros Zodhiates
"For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (1 Cor. 1:19).
Two boys stood at the edge of a frozen pond. One of them said to the other, "Billy, I believe it will bear our weight." "Do you?" asked the other. "Yes." "Then get on it." "No," said he, "I don't want to." "Then," said the other, "you don't believe it will bear you." He was right. In the same manner, if a man stands outside the finished work of Christ on the cross and says, "I believe that; I believe it is a valid philosophy; I believe that it is enough to save a man," that man is not saved. He must step out on his belief, or it is merely a worthless profession on his part.
Peter Eldersveld illustrates it this way. He says there was a rich Christian who had a large company of employees, many of whom owed him money. He was constantly trying to teach them something about Christianity, and one day he hit upon a plan. He posted a notice on his property that said, "All those who will come to my office between 11 and 12 o'clock on Thursday morning to present an honest statement of their debts will have them canceled at once." The debtors read the notice with a great deal of skepticism, and on Thursday morning, although they gathered in the street in front of his office, not one of them went to the door. Instead, they murmured and gossiped and complained about their employer, and ridiculed the notice he had posted. They said it did not make sense.
But finally, at a quarter to 12, one man jumped forward, dashed up the steps into the office, and presented his statement. "Why are you here?" the rich man asked him. "Because you promised to cancel the debts of all those who would come as you instructed," the other replied. "And do you believe the promise?" "Yes, I do." "Why do you believe it?" persisted his employer. "Because, although it was too much for me to understand, I know that you are a good man who would not deceive anyone." The rich man took the bill and marked it "Paid in full." At which the poor man, overcome, cried out. "I knew it! I told them so! They said it could not be true, and now I'm going out to show them!"
"Wait," said his benefactor, "it's not quite 12 o'clock. The others are not entitled to any special proof of my sincerity." When the clock struck 12, the forgiven debtor ran out waving his receipt in the face of his fellows. With a mad rush they made for the door, but it was too late. The door was locked!
At the end of the world, with all of its foolishness, when the eyes of all will be opened, there are going to be many self-styled wise men who will discover too late that the word of the cross was not the nonsense that they supposed it to be after all. God forbid that you should be one of them! (From "The Folly of Our Faith," preached by Peter Eldersveld on the Back to God Hour.)
Unregenerate man's attitude toward God's purposes has always been characterized by pride and rejection. Indeed, this attitude existed long before the historical event of Christ's crucifixion and continues today.
Paul refers to the prophecy of Isaiah 29:14 where God condemned the attitude of the men of Judah when Sennacherib threatened their country. God had told His people that He would deliver them; they were not to focus their confidence upon their human leaders. Instead, they began talking about an alliance with Egypt and thus incurred the wrath of the Assyrians, bringing about the subsequent destruction of Judah. How prone man has ever been to trust his own wisdom and the help of his fellowman rather than placing confidence in God and His promises! God seems so far away when the enemy is at hand.
Thus in 1 Corinthians 1:19 Paul says, "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." The expression for "it is written" in Greek is gégraptai, which is in the perfect tense, indicating finality. God wrote it and it stands forever true. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). Whenever we find ourselves being disturbed by the attitude of our contemporaries toward God, we shall always do well to look into the Scriptures, and we will understand our times better.
The thing that impresses me about these constant references to the past in Paul's writings is that they always refer to the written Word, never to the oral traditions that have always existed. The Apostle Paul expresses no confidence at all in traditions. His references are always to the Scriptures-those things that were written, not those transmitted by word of mouth. I mention this because some churches today, when called upon to justify certain of their practices that are not based on the Scriptures, fall back upon oral traditions. This is definitely contrary to the practice of the Apostle Paul. Look up in an exhaustive concordance how many times he says, "it is written." It will amaze you. Romans 1:17; 2:24; 3:4,10; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2:9; 3:19; 10:7; 15:45 are just a few instances.
We find in Revelation 2 and 3, that when the Lord wanted to convey messages to the existing seven churches of Asia Minor, He did not direct that they be transmitted by word of mouth. Instead in every instance He said "Write." The written word was safest for immediate use and for accurate transmittal through the ages. Martin Luther has expressed the same feeling in his poem,
"God's Unchanging Word":
For feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the word of God,
Naught else is worth believing.
I will trust in God's unchanging word
Till soul and body sever;
For, though all things shall pass away,
His word shall stand forever.
To be continued
From A Richer Life in Christ (an Exegetical Commentary on First Corinthians Chapter One), published by AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN