1 Corinthians 1:21: The Foolishness Of Preaching

By David J. Halter

I. Introduction:

A. Background of text.

1. Corinth was one of the most important commercial cities on the Mediterranean Sea.

2. However, sin and extravagant living were rampant there.

3. Located on an isthmus which connected northern Greece with southern Greece.

4. For this reason, it became an important commercial city.

5. The sailors would push their boats across the 6 mile isthmus instead of sailing the 200 miles around the peninsula.

6. Many different kinds of people lived and did business there.

7. The heathen goddess of bloom and beauty Venus was worshiped here.

8. The common bonds were business interests and sins engaged in.

9. Its tremendous wealth brought an intense desire for pleasure and entertainment.

B. Why did Paul write the letter?

1. He heard there was division in the church there (1 Cor. 1:11).

2. There was sin in the church and the church was tolerating it (1 Cor. 5:1).

3. Add all this to the fact that Corinth was a center of intellectual and cultural thought and we have an interesting lesson (1 Cor. 1:17-19).

II. Discussion: Notice Reactions, Ideas, Decision.

A. What is the foolishness of preaching?

1. Preaching: not the act of preaching, but the substance of the testimony; all that God has made known concerning the gospel.

2. Foolishness: tasteless nonsense.

3. The gospel is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16,17).

4. It saves those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).

5. Its facts are the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:23; 15:3-4).

B. Reactions to it:

1. To the Jews, it was a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23).

a. Jesus was a Jew yet not welcomed by them (1 Cor. 1:23).

b. They would not accept Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 13:44-46).

c. They could not believe Jesus was the Messiah because of his death on the cross (Deut. 21:22-23).

d. They looked for a sign (1 Cor. 1:22).

2. To the Greeks, it was foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).

a. A fool is a silly person, a simpleton, a person without good sense, unwise.

b. Foolishness then is a teaching or doctrine that is without good sense, it is believed by silly people or simpletons.

c. Why was the gospel foolish to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:20-23)?

d. They were spoiled through the philosophy of the world (Col. 2:8).

e. The wise of then and now: the rich, powerful, etc. (1 Cor. 1:26).

3. To the saved, the gospel is the power of God to salvation (1 Cor. 1:21,24).

a. To the called, both Jews and Greeks (Rom. 1:16,17).

b. Called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14).

c. Abraham’s call (Gen. 12:1-3).

C. Ideas concerning foolishness:

1. Jews required a sign (1 Cor. 1:22).

a. Even Christ’s disciples wanted a sign (Matt. 24:3).

b. People today look for the same (Matt. 24:36,42).

2. The Greeks sought after wisdom (1:22).

a. In Athens they had an altar to the unknown God (Acts 17:16-23).

b. Many today are in idolatry (Acts 17:24,25).

3. Today, many religious groups teach many different doctrines (Matt. 15:8,9).

a. Faith only, sprinkling for baptism, etc.

b. Join the church of your choice.

D. God’s decision concerning this foolishness:

1. Compare the foolishness of God with the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 1:25).

a. What seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom.

b. What seems as God’s weakness is stronger than man’s strength.

2. God chose the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).

a. God’s plan for the overthrow of Canaan (Num. 13:25-14:3).

b. God’s plan to help Gideon defeat the Midianites (Judg. 7:2-3,6-7,12,16,21).

c. God’s instructions to Naaman to be healed of his leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:1-14).

d. God’s instructions on how to take Jericho (Josh. 6:1-5).

e. Jesus’ healing of the blind man (Jn. 9:1-7).

3. God’s decision concerning the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Cor. 1:18,11).

a. God chose to save the world by his Son, his grace (Rom. 5:7,8). God’s part is foolish to man.

b. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism all seem to be foolishness to men (Heb. 11:6; Jn. 8:24; Lk. 13:3,5; Matt. 10:32,33; Acts 8:37; Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3,4).

c. Man’s part is by faith, foolishness to him.

d. Man’s wisdom alone is insufficient, must have relation from God.


1. God chose the foolish things to save man (1 Cor. 1:27).

2. God’s ways are higher than man’s ways (Isa. 55:8,9).

3. We are drawn to God through’Christ (Jn. 6:44,45).

4. The true test of faith is obedience by faith of the gospel (2 Cor. 5:7).

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 4, pp. 106, 119
February 15, 1990