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The Scriptorium

Wise Fools

It's what we long to be. 1 Corinthians 3.18-20

1 Corinthians 3 (5)

Pray Psalm 119.129-131.
Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I opened my mouth and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.

Sing Psalm 119.129-131.
(No Other Plea: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
Your testimonies, LORD are sweet; I hide them in my soul.
Your words give light unto my feet, and make my thinking whole.
I open wide my mouth to You: LORD, feed me with Your Word!
I vow that all You say I’ll do: I love Your precepts, LORD.

Read 1 Corinthians 3.1-20; meditate on verses 18-20.


1. What did Paul say about those who considered themselves “wise”?

2. What advice did he give those people?

The basic problem among the churches in Corinth was one of ego. Each group was saying, as it looked upon the other groups, “Truly, we are the people, and when we die, wisdom dies with us” (cf. Job 12.1). But whereas Job was mocking his “counselors”, these folks were serious. They had adopted a pattern of worldly thinking, set aside the mind of Christ and His goal of oneness, and were vaunting themselves and their views above those of their Christian brethren.

Paul is blunt and persistent in exposing the folly of such thinking. The Corinthians deceived themselves by acting like the religious and political groups in the world (v. 18). Those same groups—Pharisees, Sadducees, various religious sects, political groups—regarded Paul as a fool. Which is why they repeatedly beat him up and banished him.

Paul’s advice: Be like me. In the folly of Jesus and the Gospel is true wisdom (v. 18). To act like you are the benchmark and keeper of wisdom is to look foolish in the eyes of God (v. 19). That’s right, Corinthians, all your boasting about men, vaunting your views, and belittling your brethren looks foolish to God! And believe me, Paul adds, God knows how to catch the foolish in their folly (v. 19). And He knows all your thoughts, which, because you hold them you think yourself so wise; God says your “I am of Paul” and “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas” sectarianism is futile. It bears no fruit. Has no power. Does not move the Kingdom one inch forward in any direction.

Makes you wonder why we continue this folly in our day, doesn’t it? “I am of Calvin!” “I am of Rome!” I am of Luther!” “I am of Wesley!” The folly and futility of such “Christianity” is becoming more and more apparent. And yet we persist, with hardly a thought about oneness in Christ.

I’d say we’re out of our minds, except that’s where we should be. Out of ours, and into Jesus’.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
If, when confronted with this truth about divisiveness, we deny doing it—in any shape or form—I fear we are falling into the warning John issued when he wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1.8).

Self-deceit is a terrible thing, and then add to that, thinking we are wise, and we are in a most unfortunate position. Frightening really, as it is pre-destroying behavior (1 Cor. 3.17).

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 26.12).
“Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and depart from evil” (Prov. 3.7).

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for  because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5.6, 7).

Deceit has been going on since time began, since God said to Eve, “What is this you have done?” and she replied, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3.13). From the very beginning.

As Paul said, “Sin…deceived me, and by it killed me” (Rom. 7.11).

The antidote to this malady of “self-wisdom and deceit” is to focus only on Jesus—His way, truth, and life (Jn. 14.6). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9.10).

The litmus test for true wisdom is this: If it is from above, it is first “pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jms. 3.17, 18). Never in our own wisdom. Never deceiving ourselves. Only, ever, building on the foundation of Jesus.

Absolutely no law against that (Gal. 5.23).

For reflection
1. How might you be able to tell if you are deceiving yourself on some matter related to God’s will?

2. What does Romans 12.21 call us to do when we realize we are self-deceived?

3. What is our responsibility to one another as believers when it comes to being deceived?

To have a high opinion of our own wisdom, is but to flatter ourselves; and self-flattery is the next step to self-deceit. The wisdom that worldly men esteem, is foolishness with God. How justly does he despise, and how easily can he baffle and confound it! The thoughts of the wisest men in the world, have vanity, weakness, and folly in them. All this should teach us to be humble, and make us willing to be taught of God, so as not to be led away, by pretenses to human wisdom and skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3.18-23

Pray Psalm 119.132-136.
Pray that God will direct your path today, that He will empower you to be a fool for Jesus as you serve Him in your Personal Mission Field.

Sing Psalm 119.132-136.
(No Other Plea: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
Look on me, LORD, with mercy as on all who love Your Name.
Direct my steps to keep Your paths, and all Your Word proclaim.
Yes, let Your Word my shelter be; rule over all my soul,
and keep me from iniquity; my every way control.

Redeem me from oppression, LORD, from those who hate Your way,
that I may keep Your holy Word and serve You day by day.
Shine on me with Your glorious face; Your servant, LORD, am I.
So teach me by Your holy grace; Your Word to me supply.

LORD, see the world in lawlessness, how love has grown so cold.
Look down, O LORD, to save and bless; let grace and peace take hold.
Though many look on You with awe, rejoicing in Your Word,
I weep for those who void Your Law and spurn Your grace, O LORD.

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable free by clicking here.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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