1 Cor 1:17-25 chiastic structure
1a) 1 Cor 1:17, Not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect;
1b) 1 Cor 1:18a, (The message of the cross is) Foolishness to those who are perishing;
1c) 1 Cor 1:18b But to us who are being saved (the message of the cross) is the power of God;
1d) 1 Cor 1:19-20, God has brought to nothing and made foolish the wisdom of this world;
1e) 1 Cor 1:21 The world cannot know God through what it seeks (wisdom);
central axis) God is pleased to save those who believe the “foolishness” of the message preached;
2e) 1 Cor 1:22, What Jews and Greeks seek (signs and wisdom);
2d) 1 Cor 1:23, We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks
2c) 1 Cor 1:24, But to the called, both Jews and Greeks (Christ crucified) is the wisdom and power of God;
2b) 1 Cor 1:25a, The foolishness of God (is wiser than men);
2a) 1 Cor 1:25b, The weakness of God (is stronger than men).
A pair: The cross of Christ is the weakness of God. God seemed to have failed when Messiah Yeshua was nailed to the cross.
B pair: What is foolishness to those who are perishing is contrasted with the foolishness of God. The message of the cross is the foolishness of God. By believing (not by doing or striving), the world says, we are made right? By dying we live? By serving we become great? By yielding we increase power? These things make no sense to the worldly mind and worldly wisdom. Yet they are the strength and wisdom of God.
C pair: To those who are being saved – the called – the message of the cross, which is Christ crucified, is both wisdom and power – of God.
D pair: Through Christ and Him crucified, God has brought to nothing the wisdom of the world. Jews stumble over Him and Greeks scoff at Him as foolish, but through Him God has made foolish the things they value most as wise.
E pair: Now why seek after wisdom and signs? The world is seeking to know God, but they want to know Him on their own terms — and God will not be known on man’s terms, but on His terms.
Central axis: His terms are: “Believe on Me, and in Jesus Christ whom I have sent, even all My so called “foolishness,” (which is not really foolishness, but wisdom) and I will save you.” Men don’t like it, because it does not exalt themselves or their own effort. They cannot work for it and get rewarded, so their own pride and accomplishments don’t get stroked.
You can’t make a secret club out of it so that some can have power and lord it over others. Pagan religion and even modern religions (which are tired retreads of ancient ones, for there is nothing new under the sun) thrive on secret knowledge. Striving for the next ring just within sight keeps men working toward a goal. Science in its own way is a modern day religion of the secret club. There is truth, which it is always striving for but can never attain (2 Tim 3:7). Just when you think you have attained it, someone else discovers something else that throws your whole little system that you have become king of, into doubt.
So, foolishness to the world and its wisdom, but faith is the power and wisdom of God.