By Richard D. Draper. Adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael Rhodes, Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Generally, the word translated “wisdom” (sophia) carried a very positive meaning denoting the capacity to understand and, thereby, act wisely. It also denoted knowledge that makes possible skillful activity or performance, and the accumulated philosophic, scientific, and experiential learning that includes an ability to discern essential relationships of people and things. It connoted a profound understanding of such human endeavors as philosophy, literature, and art. Though generally positive in meaning, it also connoted that which was bound to the mortal plane. Of greater concern for Paul was that it promoted worldly values. This is the sense in which Paul took it. Therefore, Paul’s phrase “wisdom of words” could be translated “cleverness in speaking,” but carrying the nuance of “manipulative rhetoric” or “tricks of speech” as used by the Sophists to beguile and catch hearers.
The Apostle had already determined he would not use his skill as a rhetorician, though that would likely have appealed to the Corinthian mindset and may have given him a good hearing. But, as he said, he came “not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:1–2). Paul fully understood that it would not do to “market the gospel as a consumer commodity designed to please the hearers and to win their approval,” one scholar noted. “Whether such a strategy would have been successful, the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ excluded its being treated as a market commodity tailored to the tastes and desires of market consumers.” To have made it common or even popular would have exposed it to the will and capriciousness of the people. The result would have emptied it of its essence and stripped it of its power, a power manifest in the transforming of the human soul through the grace of Christ Jesus. No, no alteration of the message or compromise of the doctrine would do for popularity’s sake.
History has shown that the wisdom of men has failed to bring people to a united understanding of God. “The fact is,” stated President George Albert Smith, “the world through their wisdom know not God, and have lost sight of and forgotten the simplicity of our fathers, and the plainness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The truth is that it does not take a great intellect or deep training to understand either the Godhead or the Gospel. Therefore, the “weak things” are very capable of understanding and explaining both.
 Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans), 21.
 Journal of Discourses, 3:25.