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1 Corinthians 1:19

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For it is written - The place referred to is Isaiah 29:14.

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise - Των σοφων, Of wise men - of the philosophers who in their investigations seek nothing less than God, and whose highest discoveries amount to nothing in comparison of the grand truths relative to God, the invisible world, and the true end of man, which the Gospel has brought to light. Let me add, that the very discoveries which are really useful have been made by men who feared God, and conscientiously credited Divine revelation: witness Newton, Boyle, Pascal, and many others. But all the skeptics and deists, by their schemes of natural religion and morality, have not been able to save one soul! No sinner has ever been converted from the error of his ways by their preaching or writings.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For it is written - This passage is quoted from Isaiah 29:14. The Hebrew of the passage, as rendered in the English version is, “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” The version of the Septuagint is, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the prudent I will hide” κρύψω krupsōcorresponding substantially with the quotation by Paul. The sense in the Hebrew is not materially different. The meaning of the passage as used by Isaiah is, that such was the iniquity and stupidity of “Ariel” Isaiah 29:1, that is, Jerusalem, that God would so execute his judgments as to confound their wise men, and overwhelm those who boasted of their understanding. Those in whom they had confided, and on whom they relied, should appear to be bereft of their wisdom; and they should be made conscious of their own lack of counsel to meet and remove the impending calamities. The apostle does not affirm that this passage in Isaiah refers to the times of the gospel. The contrary is manifestly true. But it expresses a general principle of the divine administration - “that the coming forth of God is often such as to confound human prudence; in a manner which human wisdom would not have devised; and in such a way as to show that he is not dependent on the wisdom of man.” As such, the sentiment is applicable to the gospel; and expresses just the idea which the apostle wished to convey - that the wisdom of the wise should be confounded by the plan of God; and the schemes of human devising be set at naught.

I will destroy - That is, I will abolish; or will not be dependent on it; or will show that my plans are not derived from the counsels of people.

The wisdom of the wise - The professed wisdom of philosophers.

And will bring to nothing - Will show it to be of no value in this matter.

The prudent - The people professing understanding; the sages of the world. We may remark:

(1) That the plan of salvation was not the contrivance of human wisdom.

(2) it is “unlike” what people have themselves devised as systems of religion. It did not occur to the ancient philosophers; nor has it occurred to the modern.

(3) it may be expected to excite the opposition, the contempt, and the scorn of the wise people of this world; and the gospel makes its way usually, not with their friendship, but in the face of their opposition.

(4) its success is such as to confound and perplex them. They despise it, and they see not its secret power; they witness its effects, but are unable to account for them. It has always been a question with philosophers why the gospel met with such success; and the various accounts which have been given of it by its enemies, show how much they have been embarrassed. The most elaborate part of Gibbon‘s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” is contained in his attempt to state the causes of the early propagation of Christianity, in 1 Corinthians 15:16; and the obvious failure of the account shows how much the mind of the philosophic sceptic was embarrassed by the fact of the spread of Christianity.

(5) the reception of the gospel demands an humble mind; Mark 10:15. People of good sense, of humble hearts, of childlike temper, embrace it; and they see its beauty, and are won by its loveliness, and controlled by its power. They give themselves to it; and find that it is suited to save their souls.

(6) in this, Christianity is like all science. The discoveries in science are such as to confound the wise in their own conceits, and overthrow the opinions of the prudent, just as much as the gospel does, and thus show that both are from the same God - the God who delights to pour such a flood of truth on the mind as to overwhelm it in admiration of himself, and with the conviction of its own littleness. The profoundest theories in science, and the most subtle speculations of people of genius, in regard to the causes of things, are often overthrown by a few simple discoveries - and discoveries which are at first despised as much as the gospel is. The invention of the telescope by Galileo was to the theories of philosophers and astronomers, what the revelation of the gospel was to the systems of ancient learning, and the deductions of human wisdom. The one confounded the world as much as the other; and both were at first equally the object of opposition or contempt.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Paul had been bred up in Jewish learning; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the sum and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those in the way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious, alike see that the gospel opposes their favourite pursuits. But those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man's boasted reason, and the event has shown that human wisdom is folly, and is unable to find or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. By the foolishness of preaching; not by what could justly be called foolish preaching. But the thing preached was foolishness to wordly-wise men. The gospel ever was, and ever will be, foolishness to all in the road to destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, ever has been a sure touchstone by which men may learn what road they are travelling. But the despised doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Saviour, God in human nature, purchasing the church with his own blood, to save multitudes, even all that believe, from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed in every age. And the weakest instruments God uses, are stronger in their effects, than the strongest men can use. Not that there is foolishness or weakness in God, but what men consider as such, overcomes all their admired wisdom and strength.
Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 359-61

There is a large work to be done, and the vineyard of the Lord needs laborers. Missionaries should enter the field before they shall be compelled to cease labor. There are now open doors on every side; they cannot afford to wait to complete years of training; for the years before us are not many, and we need to work while the day lasts. It is not best to advise men and women to take a course of study at Ann Arbor. Many who have been there have not been benefited in the past, and will not be in the future. FE 359.1

Mark the features of Christ's work. He moved in the greatest simplicity. Although His followers were fishermen, He did not advise them to go first into the school of the rabbis before entering upon the work. He called His disciples from their fishers’ nets, and said: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He called Matthew from the receipt of customs, and said, “Follow Me.” All that they were required to do was to follow Jesus, to do as He commanded them, and thus enter into His school, where God could be their teacher. As long as time shall last, we shall have need of schools. There will always be need for education; but we must be careful lest education shall absorb every spiritual interest. FE 359.2

There is positive peril in advising students to pursue one line of education after another, and to leave them to think that by so doing they will attain perfection. The education that will be obtained will only be deficient in every way. The Lord says: “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 scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” This is God's devised plan; and through successive generations, through centuries of heathenism, this plan has been carried forward, not as an experiment, but as an approved way for the spreading of the gospel. Through this method from the beginning, conviction came upon man, and the world was enlightened concerning the gospel of God. The highest grade of schooling that any human being can attain to is the schooling given by the Divine Teacher. This is the knowledge that in a special sense we shall greatly need as we draw near the close of this world's history, and every one will do well to obtain this kind of education. The Lord requires that men shall be under His training. There is a great work to be done in bringing human minds out of darkness into the marvelous light of God. As His human instrumentalities, we are by living faith to carry out His plans. Are we in a condition in which our faith will not work to the glory of God, or are we vessels meet for the Master's use, prepared for every good work? FE 359.3

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 417

As long as time shall last, we shall have need of schools. There will always be need of education; but we must be careful lest education absorb every spiritual interest. There is positive peril in advising students to pursue one line of education after another and in leading them to think that by so doing they will attain perfection. The education thus obtained will prove to be deficient in every way. The Lord says: “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 scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:19-21. CT 417.1

Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. In the providence of God he received a broad education, but a large part of that education had to be unlearned and accounted as foolishness. Its impression had to be blotted out by forty years of experience in caring for the sheep and the tender lambs. If many who are connected with the work of the Lord could be isolated as was Moses, and could be compelled by circumstances to follow some humble vocation until their hearts became tender, ... they would not be so prone to magnify their own abilities, or seek to demonstrate that the wisdom of an advanced education could take the place of a sound knowledge of God.... CT 417.2

The disciples of Christ are not called upon to magnify men, but to magnify God, the Source of all wisdom. Let educators give the Holy Spirit room to do Its work upon human hearts. The greatest Teacher is represented in the midst of us by the Holy Spirit. However you may study, though you may reach higher and still higher, and occupy every moment of your probationary time in the pursuit of knowledge, you will not become complete. When time is over, you would have to ask yourselves the question, What good have I done to those who are in midnight darkness? To whom have I communicated the knowledge of God or even the knowledge of those things for which I have spent so much time and money? CT 417.3

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Ellen G. White
Messages to Young People, 191

To learn science through the interpretation that men have placed on it is to obtain a false education. To learn of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is to learn the science of the Bible. The pure in heart see God in every providence, in every phase of true education. They recognize the first approach of the light that radiates from God's throne. Communications from heaven are made to those who will catch the first gleams of spiritual knowledge. MYP 191.1

The students in our schools are to regard the knowledge of God as above everything else. Only by searching the Scriptures can this knowledge be attained. “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.... The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.... But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”—The Youth's Instructor, November 24, 1903. MYP 191.2

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Writers and Editors, 118-9

Not to Exalt Men's Ideas—Man's ideas of education are not to be exalted. Greater heights than these are to be kept before God's people. The Lord is waiting to bestow His Holy Spirit upon all who will hunger and thirst after righteousness. The inclination that is manifested by those who claim to be educators, to exalt and extol learned men, is foolishness in the sight of God. Paul declares, “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 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 scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” CW 118.1

Again the Lord says, “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight....” CW 119.1

Dishonoring the Creator—Why does the Lord speak so plainly on this matter? It is because so many of the men who are exalted before the people are disloyal to Him, and therefore those who are exalting them are dishonoring their Creator. The men who use their time and talents in this work, while they claim to be working for the word and cause of God, show that they need to learn of the great Teacher, for as educators they must have the spirit of the Master of education. They are making no difference between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, but are placing all upon the same level. If their perceptive faculties are not sanctified and quickened, that they may distinguish between the sacred and the common, they will go on placing man where God should be. Failing to distinguish between obedience and disobedience, they will give the trumpet an uncertain sound, and men will be unprepared for the battle of the great day of God. CW 119.2

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