Summary: This passage is Paul’s 8th answer to them about a specific problem. Paul gives them the root cause for the trouble they were having. It was pride—pride in who they were and what they knew.
The Corinthian church was having problems. They have asked Paul to help. This passage is Paul’s 8th answer to them about a specific problem. Paul gives them the root cause for the trouble they were having. It was pride—pride in who they were and what they knew.
Remember that Corinth was a center for intellectual pursuit and culture. Some thought pretty highly of themselves. They saw themselves as smarter, more educated and more cultured than others. They openly professed a worldly wisdom like no other. They professed to know more than most, and this same attitude was carried over into the church.
They felt they knew more about Scripture and the ways of God than most others. They thought they were wise enough to judge the value of different church leaders. They prided themselves in their ability to judge the truth. They criticized the way certain men preached and ministered. (I’m glad that doesn’t happen in today’s churches.) Do you see why this is so relevant today?
They were judging everything about these ministers—how persuasive they were in their sermon delivery, the logic of their arguments, even the way they spoke. They were judging the abilities and the gifts of the men, and if they agreed that the abilities of the men were what the church needed at a particular time, they were cooperative. But if they disagreed, they were separating themselves and pulling little parties around them. They gathered themselves around Paul, Cephas, and Apollos; and some, with a spiritual air, just proclaimed that they gathered themselves around Christ.
So Paul’s job is to make them realize that the solution to their division within the church was for them to recognize that they were deceiving themselves and he urges them to renounce the self-deception.
READ v. 18. There is a little background to Paul’s charges that will help us understand why Paul boldly tells them, “Don’t deceive yourselves.”
- The Corinthians had access to the Scriptures, and they enjoyed the Scriptures and the ways of God.
- They enjoyed philosophy and theology and were in a great city where both were freely encouraged and openly discussed.
- They had the privilege of being ministered to by some of the most outstanding preachers, not only of their day, but of history (Paul, Peter, and Apollos)
- They had received an unusual outpouring of the gifts of God’s Spirit.
But the Corinthian church’s problem was that they wanted worldly recognition. They wanted to be known as well-educated, intellectual, gifted, and capable of understanding the world and God. The result was not good.
They had begun to follow their own ideas and rationalizations and to disregard the will and Word of God. They exalted their own abilities and wisdom. So Paul gets in their face and tells them that worldly wisdom is nothing compared to God’s wisdom.
READ vv. 19-20. Men recognize the problems in our world when it comes to evil and suffering caused by natural disasters, disease, hunger, and so on. A few men give their lives to trying to understand and conquer the problems in the world. They try to do this through science, education, technology, and religion. But they fail and always will. No matter how much worldly wisdom is involved in trying to solve the problems, it will always come up short.
The problem is that when a church begins to approach God and the problems of the world through worldly wisdom, the result is a failure. They destroy their witness and make it useless in the Kingdom of God. That is the path that the Corinthian church chose to take and it’s the path that is often chosen by too many churches.
There are 3 reasons why worldly wisdom fails to grasp the truth of the world and of God.
1. Worldly wisdom is superficial. It only SEEMS to be wise. Man only THINKS he understands God and His ways. Man’s knowledge only scratches the surface when it comes to God. No person can understand the world without understanding God, no matter who he is. Also, no one has ever seen God. No person has ever left this physical world and penetrated the spiritual world and seen God and returned to the physical world. That’s because this world is imperfect and the imperfect cannot penetrate the perfect world. One reason is that if imperfect man penetrated the perfect spiritual world, it would no longer be perfect. And one more thing, and we have already studied this in our study so far, the only way God can ever be known is for God to reveal Himself. (1 Cor. 2:6-13) The only way the truth of a perfect world can be known is for God to reveal it.
That’s the point of Scripture. Any wisdom that seeks to know God apart from His revelation is superficial.