According to Paul, God is on a mission to “destroy the wisdom of the wise” (v. 19). The means by which He wages this war is the simplicity of the message of the cross. In contrast to those who seek miracles that point to the authenticity of the message and those who continue to search for human wisdom, Paul simply preached “Christ crucified” (v. 23).
Moreover, Paul gives us the reason that God is on this mission, and he bases this reason upon the message developed by Jeremiah. It is as if Paul is expositing for us the passage we have considered in part 1. His conclusions are the same as Jeremiah:
First, God destroys boasting in man because God Himself and His message about Christ will only be understood by those who have true wisdom.
Consider the following verses from 1 Corinthians 1 (with Jeremiah 9:23–24 in mind):
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Jeremiah had rebuked the entire nation for their faulty, human wisdom, for their presumption upon the strength they believed they had in the covenant, and for their worldly pursuits. Yet, he also encouraged them to pursue the things that honor God—loyalty, justice, and righteousness—things that their spiritual condition would not allow them to accomplish without His intervention to provide them with true wisdom.
Similarly, according to Paul, the calling of God is not found in human wisdom, might, or wealth but only “in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (v. 30). It is only through Christ that faithfulness, justice, and righteousness can be found.
As a result God accomplishes His purpose, namely, that “no man may boast before God” (v. 29) and “so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (v. 31). The reason, then, that a lost world refuses to embrace the message of the cross is the same reason that Jeremiah’s message was ignored—they have confidence both in themselves and in deceptive, comforting words of man-made religion.
Furthermore, as pastors and teachers and Bible students, we must be careful not to place our glory (the basis for our ministry) in our knowledge rather than our Lord. Knowledge puffs up…builds an ego. Be careful that you consistently pursue knowledge of God that begins with “the fear of the Lord,” a knowledge that recognizes His authority and that responds with proper worship.
Second, God destroys boasting in man because the message of the cross will only be embraced through the work of the Spirit of God.
Turning to 1 Corinthians 2, but not leaving the same idea, Paul now applies his thinking to his own preaching ministry.
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
Paul’s point, then, is that his methodology of preaching the Gospel reflected his dependence upon the Spirit to bring these things to bear upon the mind of his listeners.
In Jeremiah’s day, the Lord gave him a message to speak that the people would not listen to. In fact, the Lord told him that would be the case: “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (7:27). In fact, the Lord told Jeremiah not to pray for this people, because He would not hear him (7:15).
This is a theme that runs through the prophets, beginning even with Deuteronomy. God was so fed up with their rebellion, apostasy, and refusal to listen to His prophets, that His determination to judge them was certain. He would not relent. Therefore, no matter what the prophet said, the message fell upon infertile ears and hearts. Without the breaking through of God’s power, there would be no acceptance. The reason there would be no acceptance is because their hearts were calloused, unable to hear and receive this message.
As a result, the Lord promised later in Jeremiah that He would take things into His own hands (see Jer 31).
He would provide them with a new heart.
He would make a new covenant with them.
He would give them the ability to know Him and to be His people.
Paul picks up on this truth in the verses before us.
Similarly, we who are given the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel should pay careful heed to this warning. Not only was our own calling dependent upon the Spirit who gave us the wisdom to know the things of God, but also our message must rely upon God to intervene in the hearts and minds of those who hear us. In other words, we must be careful that our words and/or our presentation be clearly dependent upon God’s intercession.
False words will be readily received if presented in an appealing way. Moreover, an appealing presentation might very well breed false conversions. Even more, if you are relying upon your own abilities and talents to build the ministry in which you are involved, then you are really fighting against Christ in the building up of His church.
Paul seems to be saying in this passage that true boasting in God comes by mean of the demonstration of the Spirit of God, not through human argumentation or novelty or ingenuity. It is only when the message is received clearly through the demonstration of the Spirit of God that true boasting can take place.
To be honest, it is no surprise that the people consistently rejected the message of Jeremiah. After all, he was speaking the truth, no holds barred, right? Why would they believe him when they were hearing a more palatable message from the other prophets? The point of Jeremiah, then, is consistent with Paul’s point here—without a breaking through by the Spirit of God, the message will not be received, because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (v. 14).