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THE WISDOM OF MEN VERSUS THE WISDOM OF GOD

The ancient city of Corinth was located in Greece, a place where philosophy, orators, and worldly wisdom were held in high esteem. To the saints of God who lived in that commercial center, Paul had much to say about wisdom, both man’s and God’s, in the letters which he addressed to them.

On man’s side, Paul referred to “the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor. 1:19), “the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20), “human wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4), “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:5), and “fleshly wisdom (2 Cor. 1:12). These are all one and the same.

On God’s side, the apostle simply calls it “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2:7). As we consider worldly wisdom versus the Godhead’s wisdom, certain matters really stand out. First, man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom are not the same. Second, man’s wisdom is not as good as God’s is. Why? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In fact, God has no foolishness or weakness; those are accommodative terms used here in the sense of God’s so-called foolishness and so-called weakness per the thinking of unwise, proud humans. Third, “. . . the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God . . .” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

Man’s thinking often clashes with God’s, which does not surprise us since the Lord proclaimed that His ways and thoughts are above those of mere mortals (Isaiah 55:8,9). Let us go ahead and consider some thoughts from the message of 1 Corinthians and see how modern-day thought (man’s wisdom) often conflicts with God’s wisdom.

Man’s wisdom says that there is no way that the blood of a former Jewish carpenter can remove another person’s sins. To such people, the message of the crucified Christ is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). God’s truth: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18).

Man’s wisdom says, “I can be a saved person and belong to Jesus without water baptism, because God did not send Paul to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1:17)”. God’s revelation shows us that some in Corinth said that they were “of Paul” (1:12). God’s wisdom asks, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13). The answer on both counts was, “No,” and the idea was, the only person who properly could say he was “of Paul” is one who had been baptized in Paul’s name (and Paul had been crucified for such aperson). In principle, in the same way, if one has not been baptized in the name of the Christ, then he has no right to claim that he is “of Christ.” Being baptized in water is a requirement to belonging to Jesus, that is, to being a saved person.

Man’s wisdom says that if I am not happy in my marriage and I see someone with whom I would rather live, then I should be able to get a divorce and “move on with my life.” God’s wisdom says, “A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or bereconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife . . . let him not divorce her . . . let her not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:10-13). In the text of the English Bible, in four consecutive verseswe read the instruction for a Christian not to depart from, forsake, or divorce his/her spouse.

Man’s wisdom says, “Look, I do not care whom my action offends. As a Christian, I have certain freedoms, and no one can prevent me from using them.” God’s wisdom says, “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block those who are weak” (8:9). God’s wisdom says to consider how our action might affect others,looking out not only for our own interests, “but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Man’s wisdom says that if a gospel preacher really loves the Lord, then he ought to work without receiving any wages. God’s wisdom says, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (9:14).

Man’s wisdom says that our worship would be a lot more meaningful and appealing if we would be more spontaneous and just let people stand up and speak out whenever they want to praise the Lord. The Lord’s wisdom says, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (14:40).

Man’s wisdom says that there is nothing special about the gospel. By God’s wisdom, Paul said, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you . . . by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you . . .’ (15:1,2). The gospel is God’s saving power. Let us be committed to accepting God’s revealed wisdom. For us, it is the wise thing to do.

Roger D. Campbell

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