An interesting lesson came about from a recent study my wife and I were having recently. I was teaching out of 1 Corinthians 1, 2 and 3. The passages speak of Paul making a clear distinction between what the world considers wise opposed to what God deems to be wise. 1 Corinthians 1: 18 reads; “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Those who have attained much wisdom pertaining to things of the flesh tend to regard the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as foolishness. In the times of Paul, the Greeks prided themselves on philosophy and knowledge, so the preaching of Christ crucified didn’t spark their intellectual interest. The Jews, however, looked so earnestly for a sign, that Jesus claiming to be the Messiah was a stumbling block unto them. In today’s time, much of this same thought exists in the schools of thought like atheism and Gnosticism.
So in essence, Paul was telling the church at Corinth that what the world looks at as wisdom, God perceives as foolishness. On the contrary, the “worldly-wise” view the Gospel as foolishness. As we read on into the 2nd and 3rd chapters of 1 Corinthians, some difficulty arose when I read 1 Corinthians 3:18.
1 Corinthians 3:18 reads; “Let no man deceive himself… If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” The wording in the KJV can be difficult to interpret for some people so I had to really go back to the 1st chapter of Corinthians to properly expound its meaning. In our minds, it doesn’t make sense to have to become a fool to attain wisdom. The very wording seems contradictory to us but that is because we must first identify that there are two definitions of wisdom and foolishness in this context.
The first is referring to what the world exalts as wisdom. This is that wisdom that is earthly and carnal. 1 Corinthians 3:18 is stating that if any among the church of Corinth considered themselves to be wise in the worldly manner, that they should humble themselves to be foolish to the world that they may be wise in God. The world regards the wisdom of God as foolishness. So we are to become fools for Christ as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 4:10, in order to receive the wisdom of God.
The issue lies in the fact that the natural or unregenerate man cannot receive the things of God or understand them because they are to be understood spiritually. The wisdom of God supersedes and extends beyond that of intellect. So it is better to be foolish in the wisdom of the world and to be wise in God.
We must humble ourselves and receive the Spirit of God that we may be able to understand the things of God. As the scripture has said in 1 Corinthians 2:12; “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”