1-16: Paul gives thanks for the Corinthians and implores them to remain united in Christ. (Can we pause here for a moment and reflect on the beauty of Paul's thankfulness for the Corinthians? When I read it, it makes me wish someone would write this about me.)
17-31: When I first read this chapter, I glossed over 17-25 and focused on 26-30.
The latter half of the passage is easier to grasp. It's really Paul saying, listen, you don't have to be educated. You don't have to come from the right family. You don't have to have money, or be pretty, or have any built in advantage in this world, in order to be loved by God. You don't need any of these things to be fundamentally, entirely, whole, complete, at peace and OK. (note especially vs. 26: "not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble;", and the implication: any universal love offered to humanity must be, in fact, universal. It cannot be given out in greater measure to the "wise", the "mighty", or the "noble". [Take a moment and compare this to how we think about and talk about money, wealth, and being rich!])
"You don't need to be wise, to be powerful, or rich or anything else to be whole and complete" is not the message of the modern age. Is not our entire advertising based culture in opposition to this? "You cannot be comfortable if you have bad skin, someone might be judging you for that which you do not have. So spend some money on our skin care products and we will give you what you lack to make you whole."
Really, this is about status. (Read through the gospels sometime and pay close attention to how Jesus navigates status, it's quite remarkable.)
Okay, now let's hop back up and tackle 17-25. The principle sticking point here is verse 18:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.and then in verse 19, Paul quotes Isaiah 29:
For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing.”
"The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying"... but why?