1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 28
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|In 1 Corinthians 3:18 the apostle Paul says, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” What does it mean to become foolish?|
1 Corinthians 3:18
The Meaning of Being Foolish
In 1 Corinthians 3:18 the apostle Paul says, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” What does it mean to become foolish? Well, to show you this, I am going to have to back up and take a running start at chapter 3. You have to stay in the flow of a text at all times. I am committed to that.
When we were in South Africa, we went walking for a half a mile or so one day, and we just couldn’t see where we were going. Have you ever done that? We finally got to a high hill and that high hill, that perspective, allowed us to see where we had come from, but it also gave us a full view of where we were headed. We could see in the distance a big waterfall that we were going to see. It was precious.
If you stand on the high hill of 3:1 and look down over the valley to the banks of chapter 4, here is what you would see. Make sure you get the full picture of what is going on here. After one and one half chapters of Paul really bringing the people of Corinth to grips with the fact that they had attached themselves to man and not to God, he shows them the reason why they were doing this in chapter 3. It is very clear. He calls them babies in the nursery who have refused to grow up.
In 1 Corinthians 3:1 he says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.” Now, there is no indictment in that. He is just pointing back to a time when he came there. He, Timothy and Silas had led many of them to the Lord. There is a time to be a baby and there is a thirst to being a baby.
The indictment comes in the last phrase of verse 2. He says, “Indeed, even now you are not yet able.” You see, they were attached to flesh. Babies do that, you know. Babies like to grab something they can see, touch and feel. It is very difficult for a baby, in the spiritual sense, to walk by faith. They would rather cling to a preacher, cling to a church, cling to a denomination, cling to an experience, anything but cling to Jesus. There is just something about being a baby that hasn’t allowed for that yet, and they need to grow out of that.
Well, Paul admonishes them. The symptoms of this are in verses 3 and 4. He says, “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you [those are not good words, folks; those two words always go together in scripture], are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” King James adds “divisions among you.”
Then in verse 4 he says, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” You see, the believers who refused to grow by faith are like babies in a nursery. They can be adults.
I learned something in South Africa and Australia. Do you know what a baby pacifier is called over there? In South Africa and Australia they call them dummies. Now that is the funniest thing. They have an expression in Australia that I think is classic. When an adult is acting the wrong way, when they lose their temper, they act like a baby, they just want their way and they whine and gripe and complain and want to have a fit, they call it “spitting the dummy.”
Have you ever watched a little baby who is just about ready to blow up and they have a pacifier in their mouth? What is the first thing they do? Pppt, they spit it out and just let it go. And so when adults do that in Australia, they call it “spitting the dummy.”
Well, welcome to the church of Corinth. What you need to do is go back to the church of Corinth, hand every one of them a pacifier, stick it in their mouth and tell them to get over in the corner. That is exactly what they were. They refused to get out of the nursery. That was their problem. They would not grow up. They would rather be attached to man than be attached to God.
I told you the story before about little Johnny who went to bed one night, and a little bit later his Mama heard a big noise upstairs. She ran upstairs to find that he had fallen out of bed. She asked him, “Johnny, what happened?” He said, “Mama, I guess I just stayed too close to where I got in.” That is the church of Corinth.
Now, I want you to make sure you get a feel of this. He is showing them where their problem is coming from. They had made a conscious choice not to grow in the Word of God. In verses 59 he tries to show them. He says, “I planted, and Apollos watered.” He tries to show them that we are just vessels. That is all we are. Christ hasn’t been divided, as he said earlier in chapter 1. He said, “We are just vessels and God is using us. Take what we have shared with you from Him and let it cause you to grow. But don’t attach yourselves to us.”
Do you realize that people are still doing that today? You know, preachers who stay at a church a long time, and that preacher dies or resigns or does something else, the church falls apart because people have attached themselves to a preacher. They have attached themselves to the way things are. And the next guy who comes in they crucify, all because they won’t come out of the nursery. All of us have to face this kind of thing in our Christian walk.
Paul says, “Don’t do that. Don’t attach yourself to the vessel. Attach yourself to the One who lives in the vessel.” In verses 10 and 11, Paul shows that God enabled him by grace to lay a foundation in their life. He was used to come into their area and preach the gospel. The foundation, of course, is Christ. He says in verse 10, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Now, what Paul is telling them is that each person, when they become a believer, becomes a builder. That is very important, by the way. God respects us more than we respect Him. He gives us a will. We have a choice to make, and we choose whether to build of one kind of material or another. He lists those materials in verse 12. There are only two kinds; three in each group. Look at verse 12: “Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones [that’s one group], wood, hay, straw [the other group].” We have a choice of these two materials. Every believer is a builder. We either walk after the flesh or we walk by faith and let God produce the works through us that will stand His test one day when we are rewarded for those works in our life. If we choose to walk by the flesh or after the flesh, we are miserable because the Holy Spirit living in us makes us miserable. If a person is living after the flesh and is not miserable, I question whether he is saved or not. He is building a shack that is going to burn one day.
Paul talks about that test in verse 13. There is going to be accountability one day for allowing God to use you, of walking by faith. He says in 1 Corinthians 3:13, “each man’s work will become evident [the word is phaneros, the light will be turned on] for the day will show it.” The word for “show it” is deloo. It will give information that we really don’t have down here. It is very difficult down here to tell the people who are really walking by faith because some people know the game real well. They play the game well. But when we get up there, when we see Him one day, it will be clearly evident.
Verse 13 goes on to say, “because it is to be revealed [apokalupto means uncovered because it is covered now] with fire.” What is going to reveal it? It is going to be fire. Not the light; the light will show clearly what is revealed, but the fire is the test. The verse says, “and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” The deeds of the flesh, those immature acts that we do that we do not confess or repent of, will be consumed.
By the way, that is a precious teaching in one way. It is not a negative thing. God is out to reward us. This is a judgment not to approve man, but to approve his works. Remember that. He already has you. He already has me. We have been accepted in the beloved. This is not that kind of judgment. This is the judgment for work because God wants to reward His people.
Verse 14 continues, “If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.” This reward is for those who build upon the foundation by faith. That is why Paul says, “Man, don’t attach yourself to me. That is flesh. Attach yourself to Christ and walk by faith. Grow up. Throw the pacifier away. Come out of the nursery. Come on, man, let God use you. He wants to use you like He has used us.”
Verse 15 clearly shows us that God is not out to get us. I have heard messages on judgment for Christians preached in ways that would just make you cringe. But, folks, I want to show you the heart of God. God really wants to reward us. That is what this judgment is about. “If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” The fire is going to consume all that is flesh when you stand before God. It is not going to be shown up on a screen to embarrass you. Have you heard that before? It is not going to nail you to the wall. No, it is going to be consumed immediately, gone. He wants to reward what is left. There will be a suffering of loss. There will be some kind of shame there because it suddenly dawns on you what salvation was all about, what you didn’t do, what you could have had, that kind of thing. But you are still saved. He says, “but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Now, I preach these things and you think I understand them. But I want to tell you something, I did not understand that phrase. What does “he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire” mean? I was down in Australia and I was preaching in 1 Corinthians 3. God began to show me something about that phrase. What does it mean: “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire,” even though his works are burned up? It hit me like a ton of bricks. Jesus Christ is the foundation, and the fire cannot destroy the foundation. Folks, listen to me. We were saved, not based on our works, we were saved based on His work. And His work will stand His own test one day. That foundation is going to sit there. There may not be one brick left on it and that man will suffer loss, but the fire will not consume the foundation. If you believe you can lose your salvation, wrestle with that verse for a while. You see, the foundation has been laid and no man can un-lay it and the fire cannot consume it. It will stand. So, therefore, we are saved yet so as by fire.
Paul then reminds them that Christ lives in them to do through them what they could not do themselves. How many times have we said this? That is our whole philosophy of ministry. It is being vessels through which God can do His work. No man can do the works of God. God does His works through man. Verse 16 reads, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Wherever I go, He lives in me to enable me to do whatever He has commanded me to do. And when I walk by faith, attaching myself to Him in the sense that I am obedient, surrendered to Him, bondservant, slave to Him out of love, trusting His Word, walking by faith, then God works through me those things which will stand the test one day when I see Him.
In verse 17 Paul sends a message to anybody who would seek to destroy the temple of God. Now remember, believers are builders, by the context. This person in verse 17 has to be an unbeliever because he is a destroyer. It says in verse 17, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” The word “destroy” there does not mean destroy as we think of it. It means corrupt, defile. It means to defile with the means of deception. In other words, the world is all around us at all times, trying to pull us out of our walk in the Word and put our minds back on the world, to think like they think. Once you fall into that trap, you have been pulled aside, you have been corrupted, you have been defiled in your walk. God says, you better not mess with My people.
Once Paul has warned whoever it is that seeks to corrupt God’s temple in 1 Corinthians 3:17, he turns around and refers to the believer himself. In verse 18 he says, “Let no man deceive himself.” It is very obvious to me that there had to be false teachers who had gotten into the church at Corinth. I mean, look at all the idolatry that is in Corinth to begin with. Paul has to have it in mind. Over in 2 Corinthians 11:3 he says, “But I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your mind should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” So he already has this in mind. There has got to be somebody there trying to pull them away from their faith walk. Paul says, “Listen, you can’t do that. You can’t allow that, because the moment you get out of your faith walk, that is going to cost you one day when you stand before God. You are going to be miserable while you are down here. So don’t fall into that trap. Don’t deceive yourself.” The word “deceive” comes from two words, one means “out of,” and the other means to seduce, to deceive in the sense of leading out of the right way into error. It is even in a tense that means stop letting yourself do that. How susceptible we are to being led out from truth because we are around people who are smart and the world looks at them who have attained. We hear them talking and start listening to them and forget what the Word of God has to say. We deceive ourselves.
James 1:22 says a very similar thing. He says, “But prove yourselves doers of the Word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Listen, any time I refuse God’s Word in my life I deceive myself. It doesn’t matter what it is. Think of the million situations we could all get into in a week’s time. Of all the choices that we make, and when we choose not to line up under the authority of God’s Word, when we choose not to obey Him, we have conscientiously deceived ourselves.
Now, Paul is opening this up. He said, “Let no man.” This could be a lost person or a saved person. I think the emphasis here is more on the saved person because a lost man doesn’t make a conscious decision one day apart from the grace of God just to not deceive himself. He is already deceived. I think he is really referring to the believer here. He is saying, “Watch out, watch out. You can slip into that trap so quick.” The moment I stop becoming obedient to God’s Word is the very moment I have deceived myself, deluded myself, as James says.
Then in verse 18 we have the solution. “If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” There it is right there. Now, whether lost or saved, you have got to become foolish before you can become wise. What does it mean to become foolish? And there are three things I want you to look at. We need to understand this today because there is a richness in this.
The technical use of the word “foolish”
There are three things that I want you to see about becoming foolish. First of all, the technical use of the word “foolish.” The word “foolish” in verse 18 is the word moros. Now what do you think is the English word that we get from that? The word “moron,” that is right. One who has no capacity to think or reason and therefore acts senselessly. That is moros, that is a moron. Webster says that a moron is “a feebleminded person, one who has potential mental age of only about 812 years old and is only capable under strict supervision.” So in other words, a child; a person who is not able to really think and therefore acts senselessly.
Now there are several words translated “fool” in the New Testament, but there are two prominent words. One of them is the word we are dealing with here, and another one is found in Matthew 5. Seeing the comparison may help you to understand the meaning of the word. Look in Matthew 5:22. Of course, this is the Beatitudes, and Jesus is speaking here.
In verse 22 you see both of these words used and the contrast between the meanings helps you understand what he is dealing with here. He says, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whosever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court.” Now that is one of the words for fool, raca. But then he says, “And whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Now he uses the second one, moros. Now wait a minute. One is guilty before the court and the other one goes to hell because of what he did.
Do you see the seriousness of the two things? Raca means to call somebody or label them as stupid, which means they probably know better but they did it anyway. I don’t do dumb things, I do stupid things. I know better, but I do it anyway at times. That is just stupid. I have enough sense to know better, but I just act stupidly.
However, moros is different. It gives the idea of attacking a person’s intelligence. It says he doesn’t have enough sense to know. He doesn’t have the understanding; therefore whatever he does is senseless. That is moros. Do you see the difference? One is stupid. He knew better, and he could think it through. But the other one doesn’t have the ability, he just doesn’t have the understanding.
To better understand it, there is a synonym for the word moros that helps us. It is the Greek word aphron. A means “without.” The other part of the word is phren. It doesn’t mean “mind” like we think of mind, but that is the word. So aphron means without understanding. It is synonym for the word moros. So a person who is a fool, in a technical sense of the word, means they don’t have the mental capacity. Therefore, whatever they do, they cannot act intelligibly. Whatever they do is absolutely senseless. A fool is moros. That is the person. What he does is moria, the word for foolishness. That is the word, by the way, that we are looking at over and over again in 1 Corinthians 1, 2 and 3. Moria are the senseless acts of a person who doesn’t know better, a person who doesn’t have the ability even to understand.
So again, one more time, moros is a person who doesn’t have that sense or intelligence to understand, and moria is what he does. They are the senseless, foolish acts that he does. That’s the technical use of the word.
But now let’s look at the textual use of the word. When you take a word like that out of society and put it into a spiritual vocabulary, it changes a little bit. We need to understand that. Paul brings this word into 1 Corinthians and adds it to the Christians’ or the believers’ spiritual vocabulary. We have seen the word very frequently. The first way he uses it in the text, in the scripture, is to describe the sin sick world and the way that they view God. Now that is very important. They think Jesus coming to die on the cross is an act of senselessness and foolishness. They actually attribute to God the fact that He is foolish or we would say, a fool. That is a tough estimation of God, isn’t it? But that is the way the world thinks. They look at the gospel and laugh at it. They profess themselves as gods and therefore, they think God is the foolish one and what He did through the gospel is absolutely senseless. They believe that God is not capable of understanding their problems and their circumstances. They never turn to Him. They never turn to His Word.
Go back to 1:18 and we will see the word moria. It tells you exactly what I just said. The first phrase there is very telling. It says, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness.” Now, that is the word moria. In other words, “Oh, who needs the cross?” You see, that is foolish. “I am not lost.” Have you ever talked to somebody who is lost and didn’t know they were lost? You are trying to tell them what Jesus did for them on the cross and they look at you like you are two bricks shy of a full load. They can’t understand what you are talking about. “What do you mean, lost? I am not lost.” Well, you are dead in your sins. “I am alive, man.” They can’t understand. They won’t understand. They see the whole thing as foolishness, an act, a senseless act from a person who couldn’t understand to begin with. That is the way they see it.
Remember, back in Romans 1:22, it shows you that when they think this way, they are professing themselves to be wise, but they are showing themselves to be that which they are claiming God to be. In other words, they are showing themselves to be fools. They are showing themselves with no mental capacity of understanding God, therefore, everything that God does is senseless in their eyes. They are showing themselves to be fools. It says in Romans 1:22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” And the word “fools” there is a form of the word that we are looking at.
You see, the world says they don’t need God, they don’t want God. How many of you know somebody like that right now? Let me ask you even a more personal question. How many of you are kin to somebody like that? Those are the tougher ones, aren’t it? You are around them and you try to tell them of the joy of Jesus, what Jesus can do for their life, and they just look at you. I mean, seriously, they have no capacity to understand. They think everything you said is absolute foolishness, which means they think God is a fool because they are their own god. They are not about to listen to God. They don’t care about His Word. It is senseless and foolishness to them. They are their own god.
Look in 1:18 again and finish the verse: “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” The very thing they think comes from a senseless God is the thing that saves you and me, you see.
Well, go down to verse 21. He continues the thought. He says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness [now be careful; he has already told you what the foolishness is, that act of God which the world thinks is foolish; it is not foolish, but the world thinks it is] of the message preached to save those who believe.” This message that the world thinks is an act of senselessness, of an incompetent God, is the very message that the apostle Paul preached.
Look at verse 23. The same word is used there. He says, “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness.” They say, “What do you mean? I am not lost. I have got everything.” The Greeks especially were those who could argue about anything. They thought they had it all figured out anyway. Who needs God? That is why Paul one day, when he was in Athens, saw that sign that said “To the Unknown God,” and he walked up there and said, “Let me tell you who He is. I know Him personally. You guys think that it is senseless and foolish, but let me tell you who He is and what He did for you and perhaps He can save you while we are here.”
Well, why do they think it is foolish? This is a question that comes to my mind. Why does the world look at the gospel, look at what Christ did for us on the cross and think it is foolish? Look in 2:14. We studied this but I want to make sure you are following the word with me all the way through. I have taken the word moria and just followed it through. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, it tells you exactly why they think it is foolish. It says, “But a natural man [psuchikos. That is different than sarkikos. I think, as I see it used in scripture, it refers to a lost man] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
So the first way that Paul uses the word moria is the way the lost people see the gospel. They see it as foolishness. They see God as not caring about them or understanding them. As a matter of fact, they don’t even believe in Him. They are their own gods. So whatever He does is senseless and lacks intelligence.
It is interesting to me in this whole line of thinking, in John 1:1 it says, “In the beginning was the word [logos, which means the divine intelligence], and the word was with God and the word was God.” Verse 14 says, “And the word became flesh.” God brought His wisdom and intelligence down here to man and man looks at it and calls it foolishness. That is exactly the lost state of mankind.
The textual use of the word “foolish”
But the second way Paul uses it is in 3:18. He uses it a different way. He even tells those who want to become wise that they have to become foolish. You have got to understand this. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” Now, as we have studied, the moron in English terms is a little child. What is he saying? I think he is talking more to the church than he is to the lost people, because they don’t make that conscious decision. If you are believer and want to become wise, you become like a child, like a moron who knows nothing. That is what he is saying.
In other words, when I come before God, I say, “God, I am teachable. God, I don’t know it all.” What happens to preachers and what happens to teachers and anybody who is in the Word a lot? You come to think that you have a grasp on everything, and you become unteachable, and you can’t listen to anybody because you already know it. That is the problem. What he is saying is, “If you want to become wise, you must become foolish. You come to God as a child.” You come to God and say, “Oh, God, I don’t know, but God, I want you to renew my mind and teach me so that I can know.”
Roy Hessein, who is with the Lord now, called me one time when he was going to come to the church for a meeting. He said, “Brother Wayne, I can’t wait to be with you.” I said, “Roy, what are you going to preach on?” Brother Roy said, “Oh, Wayne, will you pray for me? I am so empty. Would you pray for me that God would just fill me so that we can all feast on the Word that He has for us?” That is a teachable man. That man said that when he was 80 years old.
Folks, listen to me. Some people think the way the world thinks. “I have my degrees, therefore, I know.” No, no. There are no degrees in this thing. You always come before God that way. That is the way we approach Him. We take our opinions and lay them down at the cross and say, “God, I want to become foolish so that You through Your Word can make me wise.” Wisdom, true wisdom, is that which comes from God, not what comes from man.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Fools despise wisdom and instruction. The word for “fear” there has the idea of awesome respect. You know how we, as believers, show respect to God, that we truly are coming as children, foolish, knowing nothing, is when we get into His Word, bow down before Him and say, “God, would you speak your Word to my heart and I am willing to obey it.” We hold Him up by holding His Word up.
Jesus said in John 14, “If you love me, you will keep My Word.” That is the way we become foolish. We never think we have arrived. We can listen to other people as long as it is the Word of God and as long as the Word of God is being spoken. We say, “God, make me wise. I come to you becoming foolish. I come to You as a child. You teach me. Make me teachable.”
The older I get the more I see the wisdom in this. I tell you why: because of my stupid failures and sins in my life. Go down that road for a few times and after a while, it is such a dead-end street. You come before God and say, “God, what do I really know? Will You make me wise? Will you speak to me through Your Word? Will you renew my mind?” You don’t come to Him as some authority, giving your opinion to God and asking Him to bless it. You are willing to detach yourself from denominational thinking and from whatever other bias you have and attach yourself to Him and to His Word and come as a child and say, “God, just speak to me. I want to be a learner. I want to be teachable.” God can make that person wise.
You see, that is what God says. That is the only way we are going to be the vessel through which God can do His work is if we are willing to become foolish that we might become wise. Our problems begin when we walk away from what God’s Word says.
That is what Paul is saying. Attach yourself to His Word. Attach yourself to Christ. Stop attaching yourselves to people who corrupt and defile your whole mindset and shut down your reward one day when you stand before God. We have to be so careful, folks, walking away from the Word of God. There is a relativism that has moved into our world. It has not moved in. It has been there for a while, but it is manifesting itself. It is all over Europe, Africa, Australia and definitely in America.
Well, just let me ask you a question. Number one, are you willing to pray for the preacher so that he can get it right if he is wrong? And number two, are you willing to give up that experience or whatever else you are hanging on to and be willing to listen to what the Word of God has to say? If you are, God can make you wise and use you as a vessel through which He can do His work. Otherwise, it is nothing more than pure religious flesh. That is all there is to it. And folks, I put myself right in the same category. I open myself as much as I possibly can to you. If I am wrong, show me where I am wrong. But bring the Word with you. And if I am wrong, I will correct it. But the problem with most people is, they sit, they soak, they listen and they say, “Well, that really didn’t relate to me today,” and they go right on living their life as if they are the wise ones and don’t even need God. And they are saying by doing that, “God, you are a fool. I am the one who is wise. I don’t need your Word. I can do it myself.”
That is what Paul is talking about. The way you become wise is to become a fool. He says you are acting just like the world when you are not willing to receive truth. When our lifestyle begins to develop this way, we begin to produce the right materials for the building one day which will be tested by fire.
Think of the people you counsel with. I counsel, all of us counsel. Do you know what I am really doing? I am lifting up the Word of God above anything that is on this earth. But think about the people that you bring in and counsel. You say, “This is what God says.” They get up and storm out of the room. That is exactly what they are saying. “I want to be a fool and I want to show myself to be a fool. I am wiser than God. I don’t need You.” That is exactly what they are saying. Now folks, I tell you what, that gets in the area of stupidity. But what God is saying is, “Become a child, become a child.” Just let God’s Word do its work in your heart.
Well, the technical meaning, the textual meaning. He uses it of lost people and how they see the gospel. They see it as foolishness. But it also uses it of people who want to become wise, become a fool, become foolish. Later on in chapter 4, Paul says we are fools for Christ’s sake. We are open to Him. We are like children. We are obeying Him. We let His Word do its work in our heart and in our life.
The tragic meaning of the word “foolish”
Well, the third thing is the tragic meaning of the word “foolish.” When you use the word “foolish” or “fool” in regards to lost people, that is tragic because by professing themselves to become wise, they become fools. But I think it is more tragic when you use it in reference, not in the way Paul is using it, to a Christian who will not allow God’s Word to reign and rule in his heart, will not make himself a child where God can teach him and make him wise. This is the church of Corinth, folks, this is the church of Corinth. Let me show you how it shows up in the church, in your lifestyle. If these problems exist today, I guarantee you it is because somebody didn’t pay attention to what the Word of God had to say. This is in Corinth.
There was gross sin of immorality in their midst. As a matter of fact, Paul said it is even worse than the pagans. There was the sin of believers taking other believers before the unbelieving world in court and suing each other. That was a sin that Paul dealt with. There was the problem of marriage breakups and difficulties. There was the problem of disorderly and disrespectful conduct in church meetings. They had disorder in the services, problems with the Lord’s Supper. They made a feast out of it instead of remembering what it meant. There was the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols. There was the confusion of the women’s role in the church. There were heresies about the afterlife. It went on and on and on. Why? Because this Word did not hold supreme authority in their life. They stayed in the nursery. They attached themselves to teachers and never listened to what they said. They didn’t allow God to use them as instruments of growth in their life. They just attached themselves to them and excluded others who didn’t agree with them. They didn’t allow God’s Word to change their life. So as a result, all these things began to rise up in their midst.
We are to become foolish. Come before God and say, “God, if you don’t teach me, I will not be taught. I am coming to your Word with an open heart and an open mind. God, the Holy Spirit, teach me, change me, transform me, renew me.” That is the way you approach God. He makes that person wise and useable in the kingdom of God.
Ben is a precious friend of mine. He was at our church once and spoke on a Sunday night. Afterwards I said, “Ben, let’s go get something to eat. I am starved to death.” He said, “I can’t, Wayne. We honor the Sabbath and we can’t go to restaurants on the Sabbath.” I said, “Ben, here is what we are going to do. We are going to go eat. That is my hobby. I do that well.” I said, “Ben, we are going to eat and you are going to sit there and talk to us and do whatever else you are going to do. Whatever you can’t do, don’t do it, but we are going to eat. When I finish eating, I am going to put your meal in one of those little containers and you can take it back to your motel room and at 12:01 in the morning, you can have a feast. How’s that?” He said, “Well, I guess so.”
We went over to this restaurant and I ordered a big meal. I was starving to death. It was one of those days I hadn’t eaten all day and I was just starving. I had that meal sitting there and Ben was sitting there looking at that, looking around the table. Ben said, “I tell you what, I want to order. I can get forgiveness.” So he went ahead and ordered. He is a dear brother of mine.
Well, when we got to South Africa we went down and did a little trout fishing. Ben was talking to me and said, “You know, Wayne. You don’t know the impact that had on my life. I was taught this and taught this and taught this. But after that day, I began to go back to the Word and began to realize we don’t live under fear. We live in freedom under the grace of God. And when you are obeying Christ, love is the fruit of that. When love is produced, there is no law against it. The law is being obeyed because you are obeying the One who gave it.” He said, “I got up in my church in the particular denomination that feels exactly opposite and I apologized to my church for ever preaching it that way. I preached the message of being under grace, not under law.”
Now, folks, what did he do? He became foolish and God made him wise. How did he become foolish? He cut the strings of what man had taught him and let God’s Word renew and transform his life. That is what Paul is saying. Folks, the problems we have in church we will have until Jesus comes back. Look at the New Testament. Every church you deal with has problems, but they always come from people who are not willing to be taught. They are going to do their thing and you are not going to tell anything. That is where problems are developed.
That is the church of Corinth. Welcome to the church of Corinth. My prayer is, folks, that we will all be teachable. That is why I pray when I get up to speak, “God, as I seek to teach, teach me. If anybody needs to learn, I need to learn.” Let’s just make sure it is “Thus saith the Word of God.” That is the key. There is no private interpretation of scripture. Be teachable. I will be. I ask you to be so we can become wise.