24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)
Many of us have had a desire to trace our ancestry. Websites such as Ancestry.com and myheritage.com have aided us in our searches for information. Now, with the advancements in DNA research, we have at-home tests which we can take then send into the company for analysis. Companies such as 23andme or Ancestry.com can provide these services for individuals. There is an increasing desire among us to know where and who we come from. As our world becomes blended more, our heritage seems to have gained importance. The stories that fill in our background help us to be more individualized.
During Paul’s time there were no ancestry websites or DNA tests to provide answers to the internal question, “Where did I come from?” Paul is in Athens, the philosophical heart of ancient Greece. He is standing on a rock formation known as the Areopagus which was the location many philosophical orators would use to promote their philosophies to others. Paul is trying to tell the learned of Athens why they should believe in God. In the midst of his speech Paul shares thoughts about being offspring of God.
Paul tells the people that God, who makes everything, has no need for anything created by humans. Instead, God gives everything, even life itself, to everyone. God has taken care of all aspects of life so that humans reach out to God. We are the offspring of God, the source of our life. Paul’s answer to the question about our origins is stated here.
The ancestral research and the DNA testing does not go back far enough. This is because our origin is not found in our human ancestors but in the spiritual one of God. Every person finds his/her beginnings in God. We are all the offspring, the children, of God.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NIV)
Over the centuries, humanity has gained all types of knowledge. We have developed systems to teach and communicate this knowledge to new generations. With an increase of knowledge, an arrogance has come into our human psyche. Many have determined that anything which cannot be explained by what we know is foolishness. This has led to the development of very concrete thinkers. Knowledge has become a power chip in our game of life. Knowledge, in and of itself, is not an issue. How we use knowledge and how we apply it to life can become a problem.
Paul is writing to the group of believers in Corinth, Greece in what we read today. Greece has long been considered to be one of the birthplaces of science and philosophy in the ancient world. The Greeks prided themselves on their knowledge. Often they considered other civilizations to be primitive and ignorant in comparison to themselves. Paul states that to many the actions connected with the cross were foolish. These people believed that Jesus dying on a cross served no purpose and was a waste. So here, Paul says that God has made them look foolish, not those who believed in Jesus’s saving actions on the cross. The wise, according to Paul, are the individuals who believed in and trusted the events of the cross. These can boast in the Lord who defined true wisdom.
Are you like the unbelievers in Corinth? What does the cross mean to you? Can knowledge and the cross beheld together in our grasp of wisdom?
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – I Corinthians 2:2