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1 Corinthians 3:18–23 KJV 1900
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. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
This chapter division is dedicated to elevating the minds of the Corinthian church who had become accustomed and prone to becoming raptured up into the flowery prose of distinguished men waxing eloquent in the philosophical. This was very common in the Greek culture of the day where men of eloquent speech were met with the adoration of the common man and they were elevated, esteemed and followed, and sometimes even worshiped. This ought never to be the case, not then, and not in this present day.
The apostle, in this place, begins this section by admonishing his readers with this, “Do NOT deceive yourselves!” Deception, has no degrees, one is either deceived or not deceived, and THAT is the real question! Deception is like death in that it is always complete. Who ever heard of someone being partially dead? In like manner, deception cannot be partial nor does it overtake the deceived in stages. In spiritual matters, to be deceived, is life-threatening and life offers only a narrow window of opportunity from which a soul can be relieved from this this dark state and to become a partaker of the light. This requires the efficacious call of the Holy Spirit to the soul who has been made willing in the day of the Lord’s power and without this call deception can never be replaced with the righteousness that comes through Christ.
Notice, that Paul says not to deceive YOURSELVES and he intimates by this that the deceived are deceived by their own device. Mark, that he does not merit Satan with personal deception but rather credits the individual soul with the WILLFUL act. He does not adopt and convey to us a “devil made me do it” principle, but rather, the principle of personal responsibility. He goes on to say that if you think you are wise by the standards of this age, and this applies to any age, that you should become “fools” in order to become wise. And, then he follows up with an indictment upon the world in that he says “the WISDOM of this world is FOOLISHNESS in God’s sight.” This is a BOLD statement of Paul who is relaying to us the mind of God in this regard and without any ambiguity whatsoever. He is teaching us NOT to rely on the WISDOM of the world at all because it is foolishness. He says that if you take the best of what man, individually or corporately, has to offer in terms of wisdom, or that which he considers wise, that the family of God ought to regard it as foolishness and it doesn’t matter if it is civil, political, religious, or otherwise. The subject doesn’t matter! Why? Because anything thought to exude wisdom that derives from a man that does not involve the glorification of God in Christ IS FOOLISHNESS and should never be believed.
The Lord says that the “wise” of this world are “crafty” and he assures us that they will be caught and their craftiness revealed. He also says that He knows the thoughts (all of them) of the “wise” (all of them) and that they are futile, meaning that they will never be able to carry out the intent of their evil designs characterized under the auspices of wisdom.
So, to sum up his argument, he commands us to STOP boasting and being cheerleaders for human leaders and glorifying THEM. In verse 21, he states plainly, “let NO man glory in men!” This message could not be more relevant than today in this age of men seeking “followers” after themselves rather than leading others and themselves to FOLLOW CHRIST.
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