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1 Corinthians 3:18

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

If any man among you seemeth to be wise - Ει τις δοκει σοφος ειναι· If any pretend or affect to be wise. This seems to refer to some individual in the Church of Corinth, who had been very troublesome to its peace and unity: probably Diotrephes (see on 1 Corinthians 1:14; (note)) or some one of a similar spirit, who wished to have the pre-eminence, and thought himself wiser than seven men that could render a reason. Every Christian Church has less or more of these.

Let him become a fool - Let him divest himself of his worldly wisdom, and be contented to be called a fool, and esteemed one, that he may become wise unto salvation, by renouncing his own wisdom, and seeking that which comes from God. But probably the apostle refers to him who, pretending to great wisdom and information, taught doctrines contrary to the Gospel; endeavoring to show reasons for them, and to support his own opinions with arguments which he thought unanswerable. This man brought his worldly wisdom to bear against the doctrines of Christ; and probably through such teaching many of the scandalous things which the apostle reprehends among the Corinthians originated.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let no man deceive himself - The apostle here proceeds to make a practical application of the truths which he had stated, and to urge on them humility, and to endeavor to repress the broils and contentions into which they had fallen. Let no man be puffed up with a vain conceit of his own wisdom, for this had been the real cause of all the evils which they had experienced. Grotius renders this, “See that you do not attribute too much to your wisdom and learning, by resting on it, and thus deceive your own selves.” “All human philosophy,” says Grotius, “that is repugnant to the gospel is but vain deceit” - Probably there were many among them who would despise this admonition as coming from Paul, but he exhorts them to take care that they did not deceive themselves. We are taught here:

(1) The danger of self-deception - a danger that besets all on the subject of religion.

(2) the fact that false philosophy is the most fruitful source of self-deception in the business of religion. So it was among the Corinthians; and so it has been in all ages since.

If any man among you - Any teacher, whatever may be his rank or his confidence in his own abilities; or any private member of the church.

Seemeth to be wise - Seems to himself; or is thought to be, has the credit, or reputation of being wise. The word “seems” δοκεῖ dokeiimplies this idea - if anyone seems, or is supposed to be a man of wisdom; if this is his reputation; and if he seeks that this should be his reputation among people. See instances of this construction in Bloomfield.

In this world - In this “age,” or “world” ( ἐν τῷ αἰῶν τούτῳ en tō aiōn toutō). There is considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage among critics. It may be taken either with the preceding or the following words. Origen, Cyprian, Beza, Grotius, Hammond, and Locke adopt the latter method, and understand it thus: “If any man among you thinks himself to be wise, let him not hesitate to be a fool in the opinion of this age in order that he may be truly wise” - But the interpretation conveyed in our translation, is probably the correct one. “If any man has the reputation of wisdom among the people of this generation, and prides himself on it,” etc. If he is esteemed wise in the sense in which the people of this world are, as a philosopher, a man of science, learning, etc.

Let him become a fool -

(1) Let him be willing to be regarded as a fool.

(2) let him sincerely embrace this gospel, which will inevitably expose him to the charge of being a fool.

(3) let all his earthly wisdom be esteemed in his own eyes as valueless and as folly in the great matters of salvation.

That he may be wise - That he may have true wisdom - that which is of God. It is implied here:

(1) That the wisdom of this world will not make a man truly wise.

(2) that a “reputation” for wisdom may contribute nothing to a man‘s true wisdom, but may stand in the way of it.

(3) that for such a man to embrace the gospel it is necessary that he should be willing to cast away dependence on his own wisdom, and come with the temper of a child to the Saviour.

(4) that to do this will expose him to the charge of folly, and the derision of those who are wise in their own conceit.

(5) that true wisdom is found only in that science which teaches people to live unto God, and to be prepared for death and for heaven - and that science is found only in the gospel.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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 wordly 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 pretences to human wisdom and skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Mankind are very apt to oppose the design of the mercies of God. Observe the spiritual riches of a true believer; "All are yours," even ministers and ordinances. Nay, the world itself is yours. Saints have as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees fit for them, and they have it with the Divine blessing. Life is yours, that you may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow, and to guide you to your Father's house. Things present are yours, for your support on the road; things to come are yours, to delight you for ever at your journey's end. If we belong to Christ, and are true to him, all good belongs to us, and is sure to us. Believers are the subjects of his kingdom. He is Lord over us, we must own his dominion, and cheerfully submit to his command. God in Christ, reconciling a sinful world to himself, and pouring the riches of his grace on a reconciled world, is the sum and substance of the gospel.
Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 449

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” Has Satan succeeded in removing the sanctity from the day thus distinguished above all others? He has succeeded in putting another day in its stead, but never can he take from it the blessing of the Lord. “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.” What can be more positive and clear than these words? And has God changed? He will remain the same through all eternity, but man “has sought out many inventions.” FE 449.1

The Bible is full of knowledge, and all who come to its study with a heart to understand, will find the mind enlarged and the faculties strengthened to comprehend these precious, far-reaching truths. The Holy Spirit will impress them upon the mind and soul. But those who give instruction to the young, need first to become fools that they may be wise. If they ignore a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” and pluck from the tree of knowledge that which God has forbidden them to have, which is a knowledge of disobedience, their transgression brings them into condemnation and sin. Shall we extol such men for their great knowledge? Shall we sit at the feet of those who ignore the truths which sanctify the soul? “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule you.” Why do not the educators of today heed these warnings? Why are they stumbling, not knowing at what they stumble? It is because Satan has blinded their eyes, and the stumblingblock of their iniquity is presented before others by their precept and example. Thus other eyes are blinded, and those who ought to walk in the light, are walking in darkness; for they do not steadfastly behold Jesus, the Light of the world. FE 449.2

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 130-1

The understanding takes the level of the things with which it becomes familiar. If all would make the Bible their study, we should see a people further developed, capable of thinking more deeply, and showing a greater degree of intelligence, than the most earnest efforts in studying merely the sciences and histories of the world could make them. The Bible gives the true seeker an advanced mental discipline, and he comes from contemplation of divine things with his faculties enriched; self is humbled, while God and His revealed truth are exalted. It is because men are unacquainted with the precious Bible histories, that there is so much lifting up of man, and so little honor given to God. The Bible contains just that quality of food that the Christian needs in order that he may grow strong in spirit and intellect. The searching of all books of philosophy and science cannot do for the mind and morals what the Bible can do, if it is studied and practiced. Through the study of the Bible, converse is held with patriarchs and prophets. The truth is clothed in elevated language, which exerts a fascinating power over the mind; the thought is lifted up from the things of earth, and brought to contemplate the glory of the future immortal life. What wisdom of man can compare with the grandeur of the revelation of God? Finite man, who knows not God, may seek to lessen the value of the Scriptures, and may bury the truth beneath the supposed knowledge of science. FE 130.1

Those who boast of wisdom beyond the teaching of the word of God, need to drink deeper of the fountain of knowledge, that they may learn their real ignorance. There is a boasted wisdom of men, that is foolishness in the sight of God. “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. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” Those who have only this wisdom, need to become fools in their own estimation. The greatest ignorance that now curses the human race is in regard to the binding claims of the law of God; and this ignorance is the result of neglecting the study of the word of God. It is Satan's determined plan to so engage and absorb the mind, that God's great guidebook shall not be the Book of books, and that the sinner may not be led from the path of transgression to the path of obedience. FE 130.2

The Bible is not exalted to its place, and yet of what infinite importance it is to the souls of men. In searching its pages, we move through scenes majestic and eternal. We behold Jesus, the Son of God, coming to our world, and engaging in the mysterious conflict that discomfited the powers of darkness. O how wonderful, how almost incredible it is, that the infinite God would consent to the humiliation of His own dear Son! Let every student of the Scriptures contemplate this great fact, and he will not come from such a contemplation without being elevated, purified, and ennobled. FE 131.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 483

These words mean very much to the soul that is trying to run the race set before him in the gospel. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” TM 483.1

Read also the third chapter of this book, and study and pray over these words. As a people our faith and practice need to be energized by the Holy Spirit. No ruling power that would compel man to obey the dictates of the finite mind should be exercised. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,” the Lord commands. By turning the minds of men to lean on human wisdom, we place a veil between God and man, so that there is not a seeing of Him who is invisible. TM 483.2

In our individual experience we are to be taught of God. When we seek Him with a sincere heart, we will confess to Him our defects of character; and He has promised to receive all who come to Him in humble dependence. The one who yields to the claims of God will have the abiding presence of Christ, and this companionship will be to him a very precious thing. Taking hold of divine wisdom, he will escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Day by day he will learn more fully how to carry his infirmities to the One who has promised to be a very present help in every time of need. TM 483.3

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