For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 NIV
The Greek culture, much like ours today, placed a high value on wisdom. The highly educated were respected and held in honor. They were, and are, generally the problem solvers who understand how the world works and how to harness it to humanity’s advantage. So what Paul has to say in verses 18-31 of this chapter was surely unsettling to this Greek church who seemed to be overly in love with the wisdom of this world.
To be clear, Paul is not against the world’s wisdom, at least in general terms. But he is clear that the wisdom of this world will never bring a person into a saving relationship with God. We cannot think our way into heaven. And that is apparently by God’s design. The message of the cross, a crucified messiah was offensive to Greeks, as well as to the Jews. In the 1st century, the cross had the same connotations as the electric chair does for us today. How many of us would be willing to wear a miniature electric chair around our necks? Or install one at the front of our sanctuaries? And yet, of all the ways God might have chosen to reconcile humanity to himself, he chose the message of the cross.
God, in his wisdom, determined that man, in our wisdom, would never find him. Is is only through believing in the foolish message of the cross, of Christ crucified, that we can be saved. And so for us, the cross, this bloody symbol of death, symbolizes the power of God.