Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 11, 1957
NUMBER 48, PAGE 10-11b

"The Foolishness Of Preaching Vs Foolish Preaching"

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Kentucky

With this article I shall begin a series of lessons on the subject mentioned above. We find this subject suggested in I Corinthians 1:20-25: "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

In these verses Paul emphasizes the fact that God saves through preaching, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." It is considered "foolishness" by the wise men and philosophers of this world. In verse 19 Paul quoted Isaiah 29:14, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." God's methods are often such as to confound the wisdom of men. He does things in a way that human wisdom would not have devised, and in a way that shows that he is not dependent on the wisdom of men. In Isaiah 55:8-9 the prophet tells us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." In this first chapter of First Corinthians, Paul calls attention to the ever-present truth that God's ways are not man's ways. That which man considers foolish, God has chosen — "for the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

Not only does this passage show that God's ways were higher than man's ways in the first century, it still teaches us that man's ideas are not God's ideas. In saving sinners men tell us that preaching the Word is not sufficient. They tell us that we need a direct, miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner to enable him to believe. Paul does not give the slightest suggestion that a direct operation of the Spirit is needed. He said, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

This passage also suggests that infants are not subjects of the divine plan of salvation. Infants cannot respond to preaching; hence, they are unaccountable. God will not condemn the infant for unbelief, because he is unable to believe. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, we must conclude that an infant is safe; he is not lost and in need of salvation. The Gospel is to be preached, and those who have grown to the age of accountability are to hear it, believe it, and obey its commands.

In Romans 10:13-15, we find Paul again suggesting the necessity of preaching. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Here we find that men must call on the Lord to be saved. But, they cannot call on Him unless they believe; they cannot believe without hearing, and they cannot hear without a preacher. Yes, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

In this connection we think of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road. After the Lord had revealed himself to Saul, he told him, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (Acts 9:6.) Saul went into the city of Damascus. The Lord sent Ananias, the gospel preacher, and Ananias told him, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16.) Have you ever wondered why the Lord, himself, didn't tell Saul what to do? Why did he send him into the city to be instructed by Ananias? This passage suggests the answer: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

In II Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not of ourselves." The "treasure" about which Paul was speaking was the "ministry" of preaching Christ. In II Corinthians 5:18-20, we find him saying, "But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ . . . ." As ambassadors they not only have the "ministry" but also the "word" of reconciliation, just as our ambassador to Britain has both the "ministry" of representing our government, and the "word" or the official policy of our State Department. The "word of reconciliation" is made known through preaching. Paul wrote to Titus that God "hath in due times manifested his word though preaching." (Titus 1:3.)

This brings us to another suggestion arising from a study of our text. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, not "foolish preaching," to save them that believe. Preaching itself is foolishness to the worldly wise. In verse 18 Paul had said, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." Thus, the doctrine of the cross is foolishness to the worldly wise. That men could be saved by a death on a cross is foolishness to men, but "unto us which are saved it is the power of God."

Some who claim to follow Christ are guilty of "foolish preaching." Their preaching is not in harmony with God's Word, as revealed in the Bible. When a preacher proclaims a doctrine that is not found in the Bible, he is guilty of "foolish preaching." When he gave the Great Commission, Jesus told the apostles what to preach. He told them to "preach the gospel." (Mark 16:15-16.) Paul said that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation." (Rom. 1:16.) Hence it is important that we preach the gospel. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But, the gospel must be preached, for it is God's power to save.

So important is it to preach the gospel, rather than to engage in "foolish preaching," that Paul wrote, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8-9.) There is, then, a great difference between the "foolishness of preaching" and "foolish preaching." If we remain content to preach what we find recorded in God's Word, we will be engaged in the "foolishness of preaching," but when we go outside His Word and preach the opinions of men, we are guilty of "foolish preaching." It shall be my purpose for the next several lessons to point out the difference between the "foolishness of preaching" and some "foolish preaching."