Rev. Fr. Joseph Koterski S.J.
Reading the First Letter to the Corinthians - II
Paul carefully explains the sort of wisdom that he has in mind: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words of wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that you faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:1-5).
Paul’s focus on Christ Jesus crucified is thus based on what has been handed down about the life of Jesus, not on the “wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age” (2:6). The reasoning here is not some sophisticated calculation of pleasure and pain in the fashion of hedonistic Epicureans, not the cultivation of a reserved indifference to being upset by anything outside one’s own control in the fashion of the Stoics. Rather, it involves trust in something that faith in God makes us able to see: “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification” (2:7).
The wisdom that Paul mentions here is not secret in the sense that the gnostic religions touted a knowledge with magical power that they kept hidden from everyone except the initiated. Instead, this wisdom was a secret that God kept hidden for long ages, until the right moment of human history came for its revelation, namely, that God the Father had sent his beloved Son in human form to suffer and die on behalf of wayward human beings. For Paul, the wisdom of God thus unfolds in a display of divine power. Through the suffering that the Son takes upon himself, divine charity will prevail. In this way God intends to reorder all the disorder of this world’s loves.