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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 2
Here we shall briefly review the last few verses which we discussed at the end of our first presentation, beginning with 1 Corinthians chapter 1 at verse 4 where Paul wrote: “4 I thank my God at all times concerning you, in reference to the favor of Yahweh that is being given to you among the number of Christ Yahshua, 5 seeing that in all you have been enriched in Him, in all thought and all knowledge, 6 just as the proof of the Anointed has been confirmed in you, 7 consequently you are not to be wanting in even one favor, anxiously expecting the revelation of our Prince, Yahshua Christ, 8 who will also secure you until fulfillment, void of offense in the day of our Prince, Yahshua Christ.”
In this offering of gratitude to Yahweh Paul briefly mentions three things which reflect ideas that all Israelite Christians should consider to be among the most concrete Christian doctrines: the favor granted to the Christians at Corinth, the “proof of the Anointed”, and the security of that favor until the fulfillment, when the Corinthian Christians would be found “void of offense”.
Discussing the favor which was being bestowed by Yahweh God upon these Corinthians Christians, we cited passages from Jeremiah chapters 30 and 31 which demonstrate that such favor was a matter of prophecy and was promised by Yahweh to the children of Israel. This is explicit in Jeremiah 30:2 where it says: “Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.”
We then explained that the “proof of the Anointed” is manifest in the return of the children of Israel to Yahweh their God upon their hearing the Gospel, as prophesied in those same chapters of Jeremiah, and also in Isaiah chapters 49, 53 and 54. When we reach verse 13 of 1 Corinthians chapter 1 here, we shall indeed see verification for our interpretation of Paul's use of the phrase ὁ χριστός, or “the Anointed” as a reference to the body of Christians collectively as well as where it refers to Christ Himself.
That the Corinthians would be found “void of offense” at the fulfillment is a reflection of Paul's faith in the words of the prophets, that Yahweh would cleanse all of the sins of the children of Israel without exception. Discussing that we cited Isaiah chapter 53, Jeremiah chapter 33, and Micah chapter 7.
For these same reasons Paul said in Romans chapter 11 that “all Israel shall be saved”, and as the Word of Yahweh says in Isaiah chapter 45: “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” There are no conditions upon Yahweh's promise to all of Israel to cleanse all of their sins, or upon Yahweh's promise of salvation for all of Israel. Men who attempt to rationalize these things deny the prophets and the Gospel.
We will see further proofs of these foundational Christian doctrines as we progress through this epistle to the Corinthians. Now we shall commence with 1 Corinthians chapter 1, from verse 9.
9 Trustworthy is Yahweh, by whom you have been called into partnership [or “fellowship”] with His Son, Yahshua Christ our Prince.
The apostle John agrees, in the opening chapter of his first epistle, that the ultimate station of the children of Israel is partnership with God and Christ: “3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Partnership, or fellowship, with God necessitates the agreement of man with God, meaning that man must be obedient to God. The children of Israel alone were called into this partnership, and when they sinned they were punished by God. We read in Amos chapter 3: “2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
10 Now I encourage you, brethren, by the name of our Prince Yahshua Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and there may not be divisions among you; but that you are disciplined in the same mind and in the same purpose.
The word καταρτίζω (Strong's # 2675) is discipline here, as Liddell & Scott define the noun κατάρτισις (Strong's # 2676) secondarily as “II., a training, education, discipline.” However the verb may also mean “to adjust or put in order again, restore...metaphorically: restore to a right mind”. The phrase ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ is “in the same purpose”, where the King James Version has “judgment”. Liddell & Scott at γνώμη II. 2., define the word as meaning “purpose” in some contexts, and that is certainly the case here in this context since it refers to one’s own judgment or thinking, and not one’s judgment of others, which is described by the word κρῖμα.
From Jeremiah chapter 32 we may see that Paul is expressing the same will as Yahweh God concerning Christian agreement: “37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
Likewise we have the example of Acts chapter 4 and the first Christian community after the Passion of Christ: “32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” The Christian purpose should be towards the edification of the body of Christ, and that is the seeking of the Kingdom of God. Christians must apply that purpose in their daily lives, and not merely speak but also act towards that edification. From chapter 2 of the lone epistle of James: “14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
11 It has been disclosed to me concerning you, my [P46 and C want “my”] brethren, by those of the house of Chloe, that there is contention among you.
The phrase “by those of the house of Chloe” is literally “by those of Chloe”, however the words the house are fully inferred by the Greek writing custom, which was employed often in the New Testament even though in other places the preposition ἐκ is employed (i.e. Romans 16:10, 11). Chloe is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, however the name certainly belongs to a Christian woman of Corinth.
Here it is evident that Paul was exchanging letters with certain of the Christians in Corinth, and in this epistle he is responding to those letters. First, in 1 Corinthians 5:9 it is evident that Paul had written a previous letter to this assembly, which is now lost. Then, in 1 Corinthians 16:3 it is evident that Paul expected to receive an answer from this epistle. From its context, the epistle we know as 2 Corinthians seems to be the next letter Paul wrote to them after this one, but there is no guarantee that is the case. Of course, the letters in answer to Paul's epistles have not been preserved to us. We can only surmise what has been written to him from what he has answered.
12 Now I say this: that each of you say, ‘so I am of Paul’, ‘but I am of Apollos’, ‘but I am of Kephas’, ‘and I of Christ’. 13 Have the Anointed been divided? Has Paul been crucified on your behalf? Or have you been immersed in the name of Paul?
Have the anointed been divided: Paul is not asking if Christ Himself had been divided, but rather he is asking whether the anointed people, which are the body of Christ, had been divided, because as we see in verse 12, some Corinthians professed being followers of Paul, others of Apollos [who is the Apollos of Acts chapters 18 and 19], and others even of Peter. Yet all Christians should be of the same mind and purpose and speaking the same thing, as Paul instructed here in verse 10.
There are other examples in Paul's epistles which confirm that the apostle used the singular phrase, ὁ χριστός, to describe the body of Christ, which is the children of Israel collectively. Hebrews 11:26 and 1 Timothy 5:11 stand out among them. The intention is quite clear here as the reference certainly intends to describe the splintering of the Christian assembly into diverse groups favoring and claiming to follow one individual teacher or another. This is behaviour which should be alien to Christianity, since all Christians are brethren and peers who should follow Christ. From Matthew chapter 23: “8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Much later in this epistle, in chapter 11, Paul once again chastises his readers for the divisions among them where he says “17 Now giving this message I do not commend you: because you gather not for the better, but for the worse. 18 Indeed in the first place, of your gathering in the assembly I hear of divisions arising among you, and to some degree I believe it. 19 For there must also be sects among you, in order that those approved will become evident among you.” However in that chapter Paul is illustrating the presence of the unworthy, those who are not true Israelites, among the body of Christians. Therefore he also says “27 Consequently, whoever would eat the wheat-bread or drink the cup of the Prince unworthily, will be liable of the body and blood of the Prince. 28 But a man must scrutinize himself, and thus from of the wheat-bread let him eat, and from of the cup let him drink. 29 For he that is eating and is drinking, eats and drinks condemnation for himself, not distinguishing the body. 30 For this reason there are among you many feeble and sickly, and plenty have fallen asleep. 31 If then we had made a distinction of ourselves, perhaps we would not be judged. 32 But being judged, by the Prince we are disciplined, in order that we would not be condemned with the Society.”
One reason why we have so many divisions in the body of Christ, is that so many people would rather be followers of men rather than scrutinizing themselves and endeavoring to be followers of God. These people often follow a single teacher, which is what Paul is addressing here in this first chapter of this epistle, rather than listen to all men and compare what they have heard against the Word of God in the Scriptures, as the Bereans of Acts chapter 17 had done. The next reason is that there are wolves among the sheep, whether they know they are wolves or not, who cause divisions because they themselves cannot come to the full knowledge of the truth. Being bastards, they bastardize the Word of God. If men would only believe the Scripture, and measure the words they hear by it, they would reject the wolves. Often among Identity Christians we hear complaints about the divisions among us. One great reason for this is because men perceive everyone who wears the label to be true specimens of the substance which the label represents. However a wolf in sheep's clothing is not a sheep. When men stand up for the Word of God, there are no longer any material divisions, because they drive off the wolves from their midst.
14 I thank Yahweh [א and B have here “I am thankful”; A has “I thank my God”; the text follows C, D, and the MT] that not one of you had I immersed, except Krispos and Gaios, 15 that not one may say that into my name have you been immersed [D and the MT have “have I immersed”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, and C].
The immersion of Crispus is described in Acts chapter 18: “4 And he argued in the assembly hall during each Sabbath and persuaded Judaeans and Greeks. 5 And as both Silas and Timotheos came down from Makedonia, Paul was impelled by the Word, affirming to the Judaeans Yahshua to be the Christ. 6 But upon their opposition and blaspheming, shaking off the garments he said to them 'Your blood is upon your heads! I now, clean of this, shall go to the people!' 7 And removing from there he went into a house of someone named Titios Ioustos [who is probably Titus], a worshiper of Yahweh whose house was abutting the assembly hall. 8 And Krispos the leader of the assembly hall believed in the Prince with his whole house, and many of the Korinthians hearing believed and were immersed.” Later in that chapter of Acts the Corinthians had a different assembly hall leader, Sosthenes, who evidently also may have been converted to Christ by Paul, if he is the same Sosthenes mentioned at the opening of this epistle.
Gaius, if this is the same Gaius of Derbe in Lycaonia, was in Ephesus with Paul during the troubles with the coppersmiths (Acts 19:29), and he was still with Paul in the Troad when the epistle to the Romans was written (Acts 20:4, Romans 16:23). However his conversion to Christ was evidently not recorded. Paul first passed through Lycaonia for the Gospel in the events detailed in Acts chapter 14.
16 Then I had also immersed the house of Stephanas; I know not any [or literally “not whether any”] other remaining that I had immersed.
Stephanas is mentioned only here and in 1 Corinthians chapter 16. During Paul's long ministry in Corinth, he may have baptized others but admits not actually remembering as much. Here while Paul uses the word commonly translated as baptize, and if by using it he was referring to water baptism, it is also clear that by this time in his ministry water baptism was no longer seen by him as a necessary or even as a relevant ritual. Paul is purposefully diminishing the importance of the ritual by downplaying any role he had in it by expressing relief that only a few of these Corinthians can point to him as having baptized them. The very next line in this epistle demonstrates as much where he says “Christ sent me not to baptize”.
In Acts chapter 18, when Paul had gone to Corinth for the first time he met Priscilla and Aquila and evidently spent considerable time with them. Then later in the chapter, where Priscilla and Aquila are in Ephesos and first encounter Apollos, we read “24 And a certain Judaean name Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, a learned man, arrived in Ephesos, who was capable in the writings. 25 He was instructed in the way of the Prince and being fervent in spirit he spoke and taught precisely the things concerning Yahshua, knowing only the immersion of Iohannes. 26 And he began to speak openly in the assembly hall. And Priskilla and Akulas hearing him took him aside and more precisely exhibited the way of Yahweh to him.” This same Apollos must have went on to become a notable Christian teacher, since he is mentioned here in verse 12 of this very chapter and also several times later in this epistle.
Acts chapter 18 ends with Paul's leaving Ephesus and traveling to Syria and then back once again through Anatolia. As Acts 19 opens we read of Paul's return to Ephesus: “1 And it came to pass, with Apollos being in Korinth, Paul had passed through the highlands to come down into Ephesos and finding certain students 2 then said to them 'So believing have you received the Holy Spirit?' And they to him 'Rather we have not heard if there is a Holy Spirit.' 3 And he said 'In what have you been immersed?' And they said 'In the immersion of Iohannes.' 4 Then Paul said 'Iohannes immersed with an immersion of repentance for the people saying in Him coming after him that they should believe, that is in Yahshua.' 5 And hearing they were immersed in the Name of Prince Yahshua, 6 and with Paul’s laying hands upon them came the Holy Spirit upon them, and they spoke in languages and prophesied. 7 And they were in total about twelve men.”
Paul, crossing through the central parts of Anatolia, as we see at Acts 18:23, to enter into Ephesus from the west or northwest, encounters 12 men in the highlands, or the mountainous regions to the west of Ephesos, and he baptizes them in Christ. However these men already knew the water baptism of John, so therefore baptizing them in the Name of Christ certainly was not just another baptism in water, (especially in a place where sufficient water may have been difficult to find). For this same reason, in the opening of the Book of Acts, Luke recorded the words of Christ which said that “Iohannes immersed in water, but you shall be immersed in the Holy Spirit after not many days hence”. Much later, writing while he was a prisoner in Rome, Paul had told the Ephesians that husbands should love their wives just as “Christ has also loved the assembly, and had surrendered Himself for it, in order that He would consecrate it, cleansing it in the bath of the water in the word, that He may present it to Himself in honor, the assembly not having a blemish or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27.)
From Paul's words in Ephesians chapter 4 where he says that there is but one baptism, and his words in Romans where he asks “3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” it is evident that the meaning of true Christian baptism transcends the water ritual. For Christ proclaimed, several years after He Himself underwent the baptism of John, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). Paul's words in Ephesians chapter 5 summarize this for us. Dying on their behalf, the children of Israel are cleansed in the death of Christ, and Christ Himself did the cleansing. The children of Israel being immersed in the message of the Gospel, are baptized in Christ in that manner, being reconciled to Him and therefore keeping His commandments. As Christ told His apostles, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
Because Christians should truly be immersed in the Word of Yahweh their God and the Gospel of His Christ, Paul then tells the Corinthians in the very next verse of this epistle, in verse 17, that “Christ sent me not to immerse, but to announce the good message”.
17 Christ sent me not to immerse, but to announce the good message; not in wisdom of speech, that the cross of Christ be left empty.
Paul's commission was explained to Ananias in Acts chapter 9, where he speaks with Christ in a vision: “15 But the Prince said to him 'Go! For he is a vessel chosen by Me who is to bear My Name before both the Nations and kings of the sons of Israel. 16 For I shall indicate to him how much it is necessary for him to suffer on behalf of My Name.'" Then Paul elaborates upon his vision on the road to Damascus later in Acts chapter 26: “16... 'For this have I appeared to you, for you to be a chosen assistant and witness both of the things you have seen by Me and of the things I shall reveal to you, 17 taking you out from among the people and from the nations to whom I send you, 18 to open their eyes, for which to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of the Adversary to Yahweh, for them to receive a remission of errors and a portion with those being sanctified by the faith which is in Me.'”
Now Paul makes a parenthetical statement where he says:
18 (For the account of the cross is folly to those who are going to die, but to those who are being preserved, to us, it is the power of Yahweh.)
There is no stronger and more succinct a refutation of universalism in Paul's epistles than this clear statement which we have here in verse 18: that the account of the cross is folly for those who are going to die. The children of Israel have a promise, as Christ says in John chapter 10, and that promise is exclusive to the children of Israel: “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Why do so many of the sheep insist upon extending that promise to others, whom God has not chosen? This is one example of the wisdom of man that shall be brought to nothing by the true wisdom which is with God, as Paul is about to explain.
From Matthew chapter 7: “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
False prophets, the gathering of grapes from thorns and figs from thistles, and the bad tree that cannot produce good fruit, all of these things are synonymous with those who cannot help themselves but to work iniquity, as Christ explains in that parable. They who cannot do good must be bastards because Yahweh did not create them. Yahweh did not create them because He did not create anything bad. If a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, then Yahweh did not create the bad trees because everything which He created was good! That alone explains why there can be people who claim to believe in Jesus, and who even claim to have done mighty works in His Name, and yet in the end they are not accepted by Him. As the apostle John explains in the 4th chapter of his first epistle, there are people born of God, and there are people born of the world, meaning that they are born in sin because they are not from of God. Those people must be bastards, and not of the race of Adam which God created. If all Israel is granted mercy, if all Israel is cleansed of their sins, and if all Israel is ultimately granted salvation, then “those who are going to die” cannot be of Israel. Yet it is folly to bring the Gospel to anyone who is not of Israel. Again, from John chapter 10: “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and my Father are one. 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” The bastards cannot stand to hear the true Gospel.
19 Indeed it is written, “I will destroy the cunning of the shrewd, and the understanding of the sagacious I will set aside”.
The words “cunning” and “shrewd” are both translated from forms of the Greek word σοφός (Strong's # 4680), which is usually “wise” in the King James Version, although here the term is used disparagingly. Liddell & Scott explain that among other things the word can mean “skilled... cunning... clever... wise, prudent, shrewd”. Furthermore both “understanding” and “sagacious” are translated from forms of the Greek word συνετός (Strong's # 4908), which is “intelligent, wise, sagacious” from the verb συνίημι which can mean “2. to understand” (Liddell & Scott). In the translation here it was chosen to avoid the redundancy which appears in the original.
Here in verse 19 Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:14, where his Greek is identical to the Septuagint except for one word, which is hide rather than set aside at the end of the verse. Whenever the Old Testament is cited in the Scriptures of the New Testament, men should inquire as to why it is being cited, and investigate so as to determine the full truth of what is being spoken. In order to see the context of the passage which Paul is citing, we shall read Isaiah chapter 29 in part: “1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. 2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.... 6 Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. 7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.... 10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. 11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
The Word of Yahweh which Paul quoted here describes the wise and prudent men who are among the children of Israel, that the wisdom would fail because it was of themselves, and would therefore be vanquished by the wisdom of God, leaving their worldly wisdom to be confounded. This being done, the children of Israel would be brought back to obedience to God, since Isaiah tells us later in that same chapter that those same Israelites who had at one time had erred in spirit and who had been murmurers were going to be among the redeemed of Yahshua. With this we see that the message of this abolition of the wisdom of men is ultimately a message of reconciliation and obedience for the children of Israel. Later in Isaiah chapter 29 it says: “22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. 23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. 24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.”
We cannot imagine Paul to have been using Isaiah's words in a different context than Isaiah had expressed them, as Paul said in Romans chapter 15 “Now whatever things have been written before, have been written for our instruction, so that through patient endurance and the calling of the writings we may have expectation”. Paul then ended his epistle to the Romans with words that are reminiscent of this admonition here in 1 Corinthians, where he said in Romans chapter 16 “25 Now with ability you are to stand fast in accordance with my good message and the proclamation of Yahshua Christ; in accordance with a revelation of mystery having been kept secret in times eternal, 26 but being made manifest now, through the prophetic writings; in accordance with the command of the eternal Yahweh, for the submission of faith to all the Nations, in discovering that 27 Yahweh alone is wise, through Yahshua Christ, to whom is honor for the ages. Truly.” So we see Paul profess that Yahweh alone is wise, and His Word shall stand against all the folly of men. From Proverbs chapter 3: “7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
20 Where is the cunning? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Did Yahweh not make foolish the wisdom of the Society ? [P11 and the MT have “...of this Society?”]
The Greek word συζητητής (Strong's # 4804) is a disputer here, while properly it is a joint inquirer or co-examiner according to Liddell & Scott. The word appears only this one time in the New Testament. However the related verb συζητέω (Strong's # 4802), which is literally to search or examine together, is clearly in some contexts to dispute, for which one may see Acts 6:9 and 9:29.
Here in verse 20 Paul seems to be paraphrasing from both Isaiah 19:12 and Isaiah 33:18. The first passage was in an oracle against Egypt, and says “11 Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? 12 Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.” Egypt was the greatest of civilizations in its time, and Yahweh purposed to diminish and destroy it as a lesson to man. Man has not yet learned that lesson, that the wisdom of God cannot be supplanted by the wisdom of men.
The second passage Paul cited is more obscure, but it is related to judgment and Israel, and we shall read from the Septuagint version of Isaiah 33: “14 The sinners in Sion have departed; trembling shall seize the ungodly. Who will tell you that a fire is kindled? Who will tell you of the eternal place? ... 18 .... Where are the scribes? where are the counsellors, where is he that numbers them that are growing up, 19 even the small and great people?” The passage is ultimately contrasting those that seek the righteousness of God with those who follow after worldly wisdom, setting themselves up as authorities, and sinning they shall be punished while those who seek the righteousness of God will be established.
Yet neither passage explicitly mentions the disputer of this age, and Paul seems to be comparing the attributes of those ancient sophists of Egypt and Israel to the so-called wise men and scribes of his own time, that Christ had turned their wisdom to foolishness through His resurrection and the account of it which was being spread throughout the Adamic world.
However the reference also invokes a recollection of Revelation chapter 12 where the Word of Christ says “10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” But the Revelation is not recorded for another 40 years after Paul wrote this epistle.
21 Since indeed in the wisdom of Yahweh, the Society does not know Yahweh through wisdom, Yahweh has been pleased by the folly of the proclamation to preserve those that are believing.
In his epistle to the Romans Paul challenged men, that they should have known God through the wonder of His creation. However rather than glorifying God on account of the wonder of Creation, something which is seen in the ancient Wisdom books, the opposite occurred and as Paul says in Romans chapter 1: “22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”. In the sophisticated world of Paul's time the Gospel account was foolishness, and it still is today. The assertion of Paul is that Yahweh purposely chose such a fantastic manner in order to announce His salvation to Israel, so as to exclude those who relied upon worldly wisdom for their understanding. The folly of the Gospel is a recurring theme in both of Paul's epistles to the Corinthians, and he seems to be answering the challenges of sophists and scoffers.
The manner in which the children of Israel would be saved by their God is alluded to or described in the many Messianic prophecies spread throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the Psalms. However the basic crux of the argument is this: if there is a God, then He must be able to transcend His creation as it appears to men, and therefore there must be more to His creation than men can perceive. Paul broached this topic in his epistle to the Hebrews, in chapter 11 where he said “3 By faith we perceive the ages to be furnished by the word of Yahweh, in which that which is seen has not come into being from things [which are] visible.”
Where Paul says that the purpose of the Gospel is to “to preserve those that are believing”, there is no conflict with the words of Christ in the parable mentioned above, where certain men claim to believe yet are not preserved, or from the passage of John which informs us that only the children of Israel have eternal life. The reasonings of men are that those men really did not believe, but that is not inferred by the text. The truth is that those men in the parable were not true Israelites since Christ tells them “I never knew you: depart from me”, and here Paul is referring to Israelites alone since his commission was to bring the Gospel to the dispersed nations of Israel. Those of Israel who accept the gospel and who are obedient to the law of God as a result of it are preserved in this life. Speaking of the disobedient, Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 “5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” All Israel is saved in the end, in the Resurrection. However in the meantime Israelites turned to Christ seek preservation in this life through keeping the Word of Christ, that they may have a share in building the Kingdom of God on earth.
22 Then since Judaeans demand signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, to Judaeans indeed a trap, and to heathens folly;
At the end of verse 22 the Majority Text has “Greeks” rather than “heathens” (or “nations”), which the King James Version follows. The text of the Christogenea New Testament agrees with the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), and Claromontanus (D).
The word for “trap” in verse 23 is σκάνδαλον (Strong's # 4625), from where we get the English word scandal. Often in the King James Version it is rendered as a cause for offense or more simply as offense however here that version has stumblingblock. This word was discussed at length when we commented upon Romans 11:9.
Christ crucified is a trap to the Judaeans, since if they profess to the law and the prophets they had better accept the Messiah who the law and the prophets had promised. Christ crucified is folly to the pagans of the nations, since regardless of whether it is He who the Scriptures foretold, the account is so contrary to worldly wisdom that worldly men would think it incredible.
As it is described in Acts chapter 17, when Paul preached the Gospel to the men of Athens: “32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” Interestingly, the prospect of returning to the land of the living from death was a topic of some of the earliest literature of our Adamic race. It was the subject of an ancient Sumerian epic, Inanna's Descent to the Nether World (which we recently presented on a Saturday program at Christogenea), and only five hundred years before Paul spoke in Athens, it was the subject of a play by the famous Tragic Poet, Euripides, titled Alcestis. The Greeks who scoffed at Paul were also scoffing at some of their own most ancient traditions.
24 but to those the called, both Judaeans and Greeks, anointed of Yahweh power and of Yahweh wisdom, 25 seeing that the folly of Yahweh is wiser than mankind, and the weakness of Yahweh is stronger than mankind.
The called are the children of Israel, whether they be Judaeans or Greeks. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, the ancestors of these Dorian Greeks were indeed descended from the ancient Israelites. There he tells them “1 Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all had passed through the sea. 2 And all up to Moses had immersed themselves in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all had eaten the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of an attending spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet with the greater number of them Yahweh had not been pleased, for they had been thrown down in the desert. 6 But these have become models for us, for us not to become desirers of evil, just as also they in that place had desired.”
However there were people among both the Judaeans and Greeks who were not called. There were Japhethite Ionians, Edomites and other Canaanites, and people of other races both Adamic and mixed who were at this time among both Judaeans and Greeks. Paul, speaking in reference to those who are called, is limiting the scope of his message to the children of Israel. From Isaiah chapter 44: “1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.” From Isaiah chapter 48: “12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” Paul was not teaching anything contrary to the words of Yahweh in Isaiah. Rather, Paul was teaching the fulfillment of the words of Yahweh in Isaiah!
The children of Israel accepting the Gospel of Christ are anointed with the wisdom and knowledge of the truth from God. The apostle John taught the same thing, in different terms, where he wrote in chapter 2 of his first epistle: “24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
26 Indeed you see your calling, brethren, since not many are wise in accordance with the flesh, not many are powerful, not many are noble.
Not many men attain to the highest positions of wisdom and authority recognized or granted by the societies of the world. Those that do are frequently offended by, or scoff at, the Gospel of God.
27 But Yahweh has chosen the foolish of the Society, in order that He disgrace the cunning; and Yahweh has chosen the feeble of the Society, that He disgrace the strong; 28 and the low born of the Society, and the despised, Yahweh has chosen: those that are not in order that He may annul those that are;
Paul is certainly not referencing “things” here, as the King James Version seems to interpret the phrase at the beginning of verse 28. Rather, he is referring to the various conditions of the children of Israel. The King James Version’s “base things”, from τὰ ἀγενῆ, refers to “those of ignoble birth” or simply “the low born”, as Liddell & Scott explain in their definition at ἀγεννής (ἀγενής , Strong's # 36), which means “of no family, low born”.
From Deuteronomy chapter 7: “6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
The children of Israel were reduced to a position of slavery in Egypt, and Yahweh their God brought them out of that slavery in a miraculous fashion, so that they would understand that their special position with Him did not come from their own merit.
Likewise Joseph, the earthly foster father of the Messiah, was the legitimate heir of David's throne, but had been reduced by worldly circumstances to working as a carpenter. So when the people heard the wisdom of Christ they asked, as it is recorded in Mark chapter 6, “'3 Is not this the carpenter ... ?' ... And they were offended at him.”
Yahweh has purposely chosen those of low estate to effect His will “in order that He may annul those that are”, that the institutions of man get no credit for man's salvation, and therefore the institutions of man are all doomed to failure.
As for the statement that Yahweh chose “those that are not in order that He may annul those that are”, the seed of Abraham in the children of Israel ultimately supplanted many once great Adamic nations, which Yahweh cast aside for the sake of the promises to Abraham. This is what Paul meant in Romans chapter 4 when in relation to that promise he wrote that Yahweh “calls things not existing as existing”.
29 so that not any flesh shall boast in the presence of Yahweh. [C has here only “...shall boast in His presence.”] 30 Moreover, from of Him you are in Christ Yahshua, who has become to us wisdom from Yahweh, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption; 31 in order that, just as it is written, “He who is boasting, in Yahweh he must boast.”
The humble Christian must understand that since no flesh may boast before God, then no man is able to do anything to save himself, or to augment the salvation and mercy which he already has in Christ. Therefore salvation cannot be through rituals or the works of the flesh. All of Israel is already saved, and therefore we help one another in building the Kingdom of God on earth.
In this last verse Paul seems to be paraphrasing from Jeremiah chapter 9 where the Word of God says “23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” This passage from Jeremiah also rather appropriately summarizes many of the things Paul explained in this chapter, that man must trust in God rather than in his own worldly wisdom.