We need a voice - a preacher, a true minister of God - to make the message clear.
By nature, our desires are likely to run amok. We think we know what we want, but we do not always know what we need. A minister's function within the church is to lead us from what we want to what we need.
A brief article excerpted from an old Fortune magazine article chided church pastors for following rather than leading their flocks. The result, it said, was a vicious, downward spiral of spiritual disillusionment in the congregates. The following quotation from that article is quite insightful:
There is only one way out of the spiral. The way out is the sound of a voice. Not our voice, but a voice coming from something not ourselves, in the existence of which we cannot disbelieve. It is the earthly task of the pastors to hear this voice, to cause us to hear it, and to tell us what it says.
This statement is backed up by Romans 10:13-17:
For "whoever 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 unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
How can people call on God if they never heard of Him and do not know Him? Paul answers that they cannot hear without a preacher. A preacher cannot go unless he is sent, commissioned as an ambassador with a message revealed to him. Paul's summary is that faith - saving faith - arises from this combination of acts after the message is heard and believed. Faith comes by hearing the Voice of God spoken through a duly ordained messenger of God. This, in effect, means that only He who sends the message can designate who bears it!
In addition, Paul is not simply describing the beginning of faith, but its beginning and all of the progress made by faith throughout a person's conversion. The very strength of faith is by hearing and believing. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the key that opens the door of salvation, but only to those who will hear and believe and redirect their lives accordingly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)
God has purposely chosen this means to put proud and stiff-necked man totally in debt to Him for the most important achievement in all of life. Men have accomplished much and will continue to do many great things. However, verses 19-21 expose why the wise of this world will not submit to God. The reason becomes clear in the phrase, "the foolishness of preaching" (verse 21, King James Version [KJV]). This translation is somewhat misleading in the King James; it should read "the foolishness of the message preached," as in the New King James Version (NKJV). Paul is not saying that the wise of this world reject the act of preaching but that they consider the content of the message preached to be foolish. In other words, the wise will not believe the gospel, most specifically that God in the flesh has died for the sins of the world.
It cannot be overestimated how important humility expressed by faith before God is to the overall spiritual purpose of God for each individual! Each person must know as fully as possible that Christ died for him, that his own works do not provide forgiveness, and that he has not created himself in Christ Jesus. Nobody evolves into a godly person on the strength of his own will. It is God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13). No new creation creates itself. So, by and large, God calls the undignified, base, weak, and foolish of this world, people whom the unbelieving wise consider to be insignificant and of no account. He does this so that no human will glory in His presence. On this, a German commentator, Johann Albrecht Bengel, clarifies, "We have permission to glory, not before God, but in God."
The term "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) indicates that we are in an intimate relationship with Him. Paul then details—through the terms "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption"—that God, using our believing, humble, submissive cooperation, will be responsible for all things accomplished in and through us. Some modern commentators believe that, because "wise" and "wisdom" appear so many times earlier in this chapter, the terms "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption" should be in parentheses because Paul intends them to define what he means by true wisdom in this context.
God, then, is pleased to save those who believe and to do a mighty work in them. This set Abel apart from, as far as we know, every other person living on earth at that time. What he did by faith pictures what everyone who receives salvation must also do to begin his walk toward the Kingdom of God. Everyone must be called of God; believe enough of His Word to know that he is a sinner who needs the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; repent, that is, undergo a change of mind toward God; and be justified, made legally righteous by having Jesus Christ's righteousness imputed to him. This enables a relationship with God to begin, and sanctification unto glorification can proceed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 1:20: