“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’ ” 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (NAS)
The apostle Paul, in working to alleviate the schisms among the brethren in the church at Corinth, is continuing to work on the early theme in the letter to the Corinthians, the issue of worldly wisdom versus God’s plan and wisdom in Christ Jesus.
In reading between the lines, one should be able to ascertain that worldly wisdom has crept into the sheepfold. He has just reminded them the foundation of their faith is based upon the gospel of Christ Jesus which he brought to them and they best be careful how they build upon it. So critical is the proper building up of this temple of God, the Christian individually and the church corporately, a warning is issued concerning destroying the temple of God through unsound teaching and preaching. Paul issued this admonition to his young protégé Timothy: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Tim. 4:16) It is upon this context that the apostle is moved to append another warning about wisdom of the world by quoting two Old Testament passages in succession. The first is found in Job 5:13, “He captures the wise by their own shrewdness and the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.” The second is from Psalm 94:11, “The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath.” (NAS) The context surrounding both these Old Testament passages communicate the futility of arraying oneself against the wisdom of God. The scheming and plotting of the proud wicked ones will not reach its intended end, “He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd, so that their hands cannot attain success” (Job 5:12). In fact, as the LORD has so often done, He will bring “back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil.” (Ps. 94:23) Worldly wisdom is a killer in the church. This does not mean wisdom gained from our experiences in the world is destructive per se, it’s how it’s appraised and applied in reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you think you’re pretty smart in the eyes of the world, beware. Don’t try to “outsmart” God. Worldly wisdom, like its author the Devil, has to first be deceptive if it’s going to be deadly. Remember the picture painted for us of those the Bible calls evil men and imposters. They “will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13) They’ve become fools! Aren’t the faithful warned “do not lean upon your own understanding” but rather “trust in the LORD with all your heart” ? (Prov. 3:5) Don’t get caught up in the clutches of the crafty who seem so erudite. In the religious marketplace you’ll be able to spot them easily. In Paul’s day they were great orators (superiority of speech) who sought to take the things of God and run them through the prism of worldly wisdom. There’s nothing new under the sun, it still occurs today. You need to do a little self examination and make sure any wisdom you’ve brought in from the world doesn’t impede your understanding of true wisdom, that which is revealed in Christ and in the word of God. Why? Worldly wisdom is seductive, addicting it’s adherents to the accolades and approval of men. If you are going to trust the truth of God’s word concerning Christ and all its associated teachings and practices, the world is going to think you’re the biggest fool they’ve seen. It comes down to the wisdom of the world or the word of God. The wisdom from the world has an established track record of failure. God’s word, on the other hand, has withstood the test. The Lord has said “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9) The proof is in the pudding. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) Our Lord will catch the crafty and he will expose their foolishness. We have His promise on that!