In this passage, Paul begins to address the problem of division in the church. In the first verse, he begins by commanding the church to agree on their equality, and to abstain from divisions by being complete with one mind, and with the same judgment. Then, he explains to them why he is commanding them to do these things: Corinthian church members informed him that there are quarrels among them. He explains that, by quarrels, he means that people are dividing themselves up by the person that they want to be like. Some want to be like Paul, some want to be like Apollos, some want to be like Cephas, and some want to be like Christ. After Paul explains what he means, he asks rhetorical questions to show them the ridiculousness of what they are doing. Furthermore, he tells them that he is thankful that he did not baptize all of them, so that they would not say that they were baptized in his name. Moreover, he says, he did not even go to them to baptize people, but to preach the gospel, and he did not endeavor to preach the gospel cleverly, so that it would not be made ineffective.
In verse 18, he explains why the gospel is nothing if it is preached cleverly: it is foolishness to those who do not trust in it, but it is God’s power to those who do. Then, he proves these facts from Scripture, quoting a passage in which God promises that he will destroy the wisdom of wise men, and will make people’s cleverness nothing. After this, Paul asks rhetorical questions to teach that wise men, scribes, and debaters are nothing compared to God because He has made the world’s wisdom foolish. In verse 21, Paul says how God did this: God used His wisdom to cause the world to be unable to know Him with its wisdom, and used the foolishness of the gospel to save believers. Some proofs that the gospel is foolish to the world are that Jews want signs, and Greeks search for wisdom. However, Paul preaches the crucifixion of Christ, which is an obstacle to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles. Nevertheless, to believers, the crucifixion of Christ is God’s power and wisdom. The reason for these two different reactions is that what the world perceives to be foolishness is actually wiser than them, and what they perceive to be weak is stronger than them.
In verse 26, Paul begins to support his argument that God’s foolishness is wiser than men, and God’s weakness is stronger than them by using the example of the Corinthians’ salvation. Not many of them were wise to the world, nor strong to the world, nor noble to the world. However, God chose to save those who seem to be foolish, weak, and lowly to put to shame those who are perceived to be wise, strong, and noble by the world. By doing this, God makes it impossible for anyone to boast before Him. In the case of the Corinthians, God saved them, and Christ became God’s wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption to them. Therefore, they boast in Christ the Lord.
In verse 1 of chapter 2, Paul supports his argument by using himself as an example. He says that he did not act arrogantly toward the Corinthians in his speech, nor in his wisdom, when he preached the gospel to them. The reason for this was that he resolved to know nothing but Christ and the gospel while among them. Therefore, he was weak, reverent, and trembling among them. Furthermore, his message, and its delivery, did not consist of wise and persuasive words, but of the power of God. The purpose for this was so the Corinthians’ faith would not be in human wisdom, but in God’s power.