By Weldon Rightmer
“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:19-20).
The expression “bring to nothing” means to “cast aside, to frustrate, to disannul.” (It would be very interesting to see this truth in reverse in Galatians 3:15). Now, we shall attempt to see just how “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world.”
First, we will look at the matter of salvation. Man’s worldly wisdom tells him that surely he can gain favor in the sight of God by his own good works. This seems to be the attitude of so many members of Adam’s fallen race. The wisdom from beneath is “earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15). One can hardly see how this wisdom can be depended on, as far as knowing God is concerned. “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). We would like to quote a verse that sums up everything we are trying to say. “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” (1 Cor. 3:18). “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” With these verses read Job 32:8 and 1 Corinthians 2:14.
“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (of the thing preached) to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). It doesn’t seem logical to a worldly wise man that one could be saved by believing that “Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” This doesn’t seem possible to even the so-called religious folks. Had Paul preached law works for salvation, he would not have had to suffer the offence of the cross. See Galatians 5:11. Those who preach the pure “gospel of God’s grace” still have to suffer. Such a message does not appeal to the natural man. However, those who are willing to become fools for Christ’s sake, are in a position to be saved by His wondrous grace.
Man’s wisdom simply cannot understand God’s plan of salvation. We must take Him at His word, by faith, believing everything God says. It is beyond my comprehension to fathom all that is mine in Christ Jesus. I can say with Paul “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” Words cannot express the value of this precious gift. All that God has for the sinner is wrapped up in this gift, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Truly, in this way, “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world.”
Next, “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world” by giving His inspired Word in such a manner that it cannot be understood apart from the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. If I, through worldly wisdom, could gain a definite understanding of God’s holy Word, I would be forced to declare it the product of mortal man. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Cor. 2:13). It is fine to be helped by God appointed teachers; but it is impossible to really understand what God has said without the office work of the Spirit. Again, we ask you to read Job 32:8.
A casual reading of the Bible might indicate serious contradictions. This is the belief of practically every worldly wise individual with whom this writer has conversed. First, one must know the Lord as personal Saviour. Then, he must apply 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we think of these things, we can clearly see how “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world.”
Thirdly, there is the union of two natures in the God-man. We do not mean by this that Christ had the Adamic nature. We mean that the One who had been “in the form of God” took the “form of man.” He had a real body of flesh; but He was “God manifest in the flesh.” Read carefully 1 Timothy 3:16. This certainly is a “great mystery.” Worldly wise men do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was actually “God manifest in the flesh.” Christians make no claim of understanding this great truth. “God made foolish our worldly wisdom.” Now, in simple faith, we believe in the eternal deity of our blessed Lord.
There is also the union of three in one in the Holy Trinity. This is a declared fact in the Bible; but it is not an explained fact. The following references will prove that this is a teaching in the sacred Scriptures. Many more could be added to the list. Please read Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 3:13-17; John 14:16-17; Colossians 1:1-8; and 1 Thessalonians 1:1-6. Natural man is frustrated completely when he tries to fathom this teaching.
Fourthly, “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world” by declaring in His Word, His sovereignty and man’s responsibility. We will probably never be able to thoroughly reconcile these two things this side of glory. I firmly believe that the Bible teaches both. Man’s responsibility comes under the sovereignty of God. “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33). Compare with this, Deuteronomy 29:29. I do not understand all of God’s ways, but I know that “He doeth all things well.”
That God is all sovereign is evidenced by the following Scriptures. Note, Isaiah 46:9-10 and Ephesians 1:11. We can be thankful that our Father is sovereign in all things.
It is also taught in the Word that man is self-willed, and is at enmity against God. Read Romans 8:7, Colossians 1:21, Titus 1:7, and 2 Peter 2:10. Man is also held responsible for accepting or rejecting Christ. See John 3:16-18. Much more could be given on this subject, but that is not the purpose of this article.
Finally, “God makes foolish the wisdom of this world” by giving us the truth concerning “the Body of Christ,” the church He is now building. Read prayerfully Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:14-22, 3:1-9, and Colossians 1:24-26. God’s church for today is a spiritual organism. The church is a body of Holy Spirit baptized believers. See 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:5. This is the baptism that makes all believers of the present dispensation one in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). It is performed by the operation of God (Col. 2:12). This same body is composed of those who have been circumcised with the “circumcision made without hands.”
Worldly wise men want something that can be seen. It is hard for them to believe that one could have been circumcised and baptized without having had it accomplished by natural man. It is also difficult for them to see that God’s house is actually the “Body of Christ.” When worldly wisdom comes to naught, these truths can easily be grasped. It is often hard to give up what one has always been taught. So many are steeped in tradition. Who, this day, is willing to become a fool for Christ’s sake?