Online Bible Commentary
The Wisdom of God
1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness"; 20 and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. 23 And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (NKJV)
In this passage, Paul continues to address dissension in the church. Some Christians in the church at Corinth have identified with Paul as their teacher and others have identified with Apollos who came after Paul. These loyalties to mere men disturb Paul and he has felt burdened to condemn these actions.
Paul contends that those causing this dissension are just deceiving themselves (v. 18a). This word translated “deceiving” also can mean “cheating” in the Greek. Those who rely on worldly wisdom are just cheating themselves.
They are relying on their worldly wisdom when causing this dissension (v. 18b). Paul writes that they must become a “fool” to the world in order to “become wise” in the eyes of God (v. 18c). The literal translation is “foolish let him become, that he become wise.”
Jesus has said “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30 NKJV)). Those who live their lives relying on worldly wisdom will never have spiritual wisdom. They must first turn from worldly wisdom. They must first become a “fool” to the world. They can’t have it both ways. They can’t sit on the fence. That option is not available to Christians.
Worldly wisdom is “foolishness” to God (v. 19a). Paul quotes from Scripture two times in reinforcing this point. First, he quotes "He catches the wise in their own craftiness" (Job 5:13a NKJV) (v. 19b). The term “wise” refers to those who live by worldly wisdom. The word translated “craftiness” means “readiness to do anything”. The worldly wise will do “anything” to influence themselves and others.
Next, Paul quotes "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (Ps. 94:11 NKJV) (v. 20a). Again, the word “wise” refers to worldly wisdom. Because worldly wisdom is “futile’ it is foolishness in the eyes of God. The word translated “futile” means “empty, vain, or worthless.” Worldly wisdom is worthless. We deceive ourselves, we cheat ourselves, when we rely on it.
Verse 21 begins with the word “Therefore” drawing a conclusion to this passage. The conclusion is that Christians should not “boast in men” (v. 21a). The literal translation is “let no one glory in men.” This reference is to “mere men” or “carnal men”, cited earlier in this chapter (v.3). This is a reference to those who live by worldly wisdom.
We should not boast in mere men because “all things are yours” (v. 21b). There are no limits to our possessions in Christ. Jesus has said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10 NKJV). Christians already have all things. Why should we want anything the world wants to give us?
Paul then defines for us the words “all things” in verse 22. Christ has given us the teachings of “Paul, Apollos and Cephas” (Peter), along with all the Biblical writers (v. 22a).
Christ has also given us all things of the “world” (v. 22b). God gave to us the world; “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’ " (Genesis 1:26 NKJV).
Christ has also given us all things of “life” (v. 22c). He has given us our lives on earth, and in Heaven. He has given us “all things” in life; “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12 NKJV).
Christ has given us “all things’ in “death” (v. 22d). He has given us death as the completion of our life on earth. He has conquered death on the cross, giving us eternal life. He has taken the sting from death (1 Cor. 15:55).
Christ has given us “all things” in the “present” and that are “to come” (v. 22e). He fills our lives on earth and will fill our lives in Heaven with His goodness. Not only does he give us all things, but He works all things for our good; “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
Just as there are no limits to our possessions in Christ there should be no limits to His possession of us. As Christians, we belong to Christ and He belongs to God (v. 23). Since we belong to Christ we should always live by His wisdom, which is also the wisdom of God. We find the wisdom of God in the Bible.