1 Corinthians 1:21
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God…
I. THE STATE OF THE THEN HEATHEN WORLD.
1. It "knew not God." It was in no barbarous age that the apostle bore this testimony; but in the evening of the Augustan age, when man's intellect had been developed to the utmost. It was not on the Arab's tent, nor the Indian's wigwam, that these words were inscribed; but it was on the polished marbles of Athens and on the proud walls of imperial Rome. And not only was it of that particular age he spoke; but he seems to look back to the very earliest ages, "After that," &c. After four thousand years had rolled by, looking back to the place where science was born and cradled, to Egypt with its reptile gods, to Babylon where science was nourished and cherished, and whither the Grecian sages went to light their lamps.
2. It was in a perishing condition. Men would not have needed to be saved if they were not lost.
II. THE METHOD OF BELIEF WHICH GOD PROVIDED. "It pleased God." Here is something in which the Lord delighted. And what was it that "pleased God"? It was that which man despised. Beware how you say a word against preaching, and extol or depreciate it in favour of sacraments. But what is this preaching? Heralding, the calling of the rebel to submission, the exhibition of the lawful Sovereign, the proclamation of mercy from the "King of kings," &c. And what is the substance of this preaching? Christ, in all the glories of His person; in all the sufficiency of His offices, and in all the riches of His grace. But this is not all. There is peculiar character in this preaching, by the foolishness of preaching the apostle means its simplicity. It is possible so to preach Christ and His gospel as to strip it of its power. Conceal it in the tangled web of human sophistry; garnish it with the flowers of human eloquence; obscure it with the dusky mantle of antiquity; dress it up in the gorgeous dish; and what do you? You destroy its hidden power. You may attract the eye of man from the precious pearl to the gorgeous setting of it; and what do you then? It is "an uncertain sound" which the trumpet gives, and none will "prepare them for the battle." It is only plain, affectionate, scriptural declarations of God's truth, unreserved, full, free, from the heart, and in the power and demonstration of the Spirit, that can save them that believe.
III. THE RESULT OF THE APPLICATION OF THIS REMEDY. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save — whom? all the world? every creature? No; "them that, believe." The effect of early evangelising efforts at best what is it? "And it came to pass, that some believed, and some believed not." It was nearly three centuries before the civilised world became Christian. But in all cases preaching did "save them that believed"; and there is the important truth to fix the mind upon. Look at the converts; whether they were in Jewry, or in Corinth, or in Athens; wherever it might be the effect which followed the preaching of the gospel was the same. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God," &c. Lions became lambs; licentious men pure; impious men became pious. These were the effects which uniformly followed in them that believed.
Parallel VersesKJV: For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.