“For Jews request a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom…”
Verses 19-25 give three reasons for why we cannot trust man’s wisdom. Beginning with 1:22 and running through verse 25, we have the third reason why we can not trust human wisdom—a spiritual issue—refusal to believe in God’s way of formulating truth.
Scripture, vv 19-20
Finiteness of reason, vv 21
Spiritual issue, vv 22-25
We find two classes of unbelief and two false criteria for determining truth:
The Jews asked for supernatural evidence before they would believe—a miracle.
The Greeks sought after wisdom to believe.
The word “for” means seeing that—this verse shows how “the message preached” was deemed foolish by Jews and Greeks.
Jews request a sign,
First, the Jews “request a sign.” The Jews possessed revelation of the Old Testament. They believed in truth, but they wanted their own verification system—a supernatural system of verification. They wanted supernatural evidence manifested in a miracle as a ground for their belief in contrast to God’s revelation.
Mt 12:38, Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
Mt 16:1, Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.
Jn 6:30, There they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?
The Jews wanted something to stimulate their emotions—something to make chills go up their back. They wanted to cater to their emotions—a false criterion.
and Greeks seek after wisdom
Second, Greeks deemed the message preached as foolish because they wanted to operation on philosophical assumptions. They wanted to limit God to their conventions. Greeks pursued truth; they did not possess it.
The Greeks did not have a Bible, so they were left to their philosophical speculation. They “seek” wisdom, but they did not find it. Like a countervailing pendulum, one system of philosophy contradicted another system so that all that remained was skepticism. Their skepticism was very much like the skepticism of today (postmodernism). One system of ideas abrogated another system; they found no universal truth. Even Pilate calls out, “What is truth?”
Neither stimulations of emotion nor raw philosophy will bring us to the truth about God.
Note what Jesus said about wanting spectacular, supernatural grounds for belief:
Mt 16:4, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (the resurrection).” And He left them and departed.
Neither stimulation of emotion nor raw philosophy will bring us to the truth about God. These are false criteria for determining whether God’s truth is true. The issue is to believe the “message preached”—the content of God’s truth. This is the only proper criterion for truth.
Man today is left in unadulterated skepticism if he seeks to find truth by false criteria. If we use human or finite means to determine truth, we will never establish a universal truth that is true for all people of all time under any condition—an absolute.