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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 3:18

 

 

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.

Adam Clarke 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.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

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.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.

A SUMMARY OF PRECEDING ADMONITIONS

Here begins the summary of what Paul had written up to here. This through 1 Corinthians 3:23 gives the highlights of what Paul had written up to this point.

Dummelow's paraphrase of this is:

Do not deceive yourselves; but if there be any of you priding himself on his worldly wisdom, let him quickly unlearn it, that he may learn the true wisdom.[28]

Macknight gave another interesting paraphrase of the same verse:

Let no teacher deceive himself with false notions of prudence. If any teacher among you thinketh to be wise, in this age of spreading the gospel, by misrepresenting its doctrines for the purpose of making it acceptable to bad men, let him become a fool in his own eyes, by preaching the gospel sincerely, that he may be really wise.[29]

This verse is a short summary of much Paul had written in Corinthians thus far; and it has the effect of condemning intellectual pride, one of the most hurtful of human vanities. In this vivid phrase Paul urged the man who would be wise to become a fool. "This is a simple way of urging a man to be humble enough to learn."[30]

[28] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 898.

[29] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 55.

[30] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), p. 39.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-corinthians-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Let no man deceive himself,.... With vain notions of serving God and religion, and of doing the churches good by his carnal and worldly wisdom, and with false hopes of escaping the vengeance of God for sowing the tares of error, heresy, and discord among his people.

If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world; either a member of them, or a preacher among them, who thought himself wise in worldly wisdom; or was desirous to be thought so by others; or would be a truly wise man in this world, whilst he lives in it, and before he goes out of it:

let him become a fool that he may be wise; not that, properly speaking, folly is the way to wisdom; but that that man that would be wise in a spiritual sense, must first learn to know himself; must be convinced of, and acknowledge his own folly, embrace the Gospel of Christ, which is esteemed foolishness by the world; submit to the ordinances of Christ, which are despised by men; and take up the cross of Christ, and follow him, bear reproach and persecution for his sake, than which nothing is more ridiculous with carnal men: he must deny his worldly wisdom, his carnal and righteous self, and wholly rest and rely on Christ, and his righteousness, for eternal life and happiness, and so will he become truly wise unto salvation. The JewsF16Raya Mehimua in Zohar in Numb. fol. 104. 2. have a saying,

"that everyone המנבל עצמו, "that makes himself a fool", for the words of the law, at the end, shall be exalted.'


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

10 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.

(10) He concludes by the opposite, that they profess pure wisdom in the Church of God, who refuse and cast away all those vanities of men. Further, if they are mocked by the world, it is sufficient for them that they are wise according to the wisdom of God, and as he will have them to be wise.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

seemeth — that is, is, and is regarded by himself and others.

wise in this world — wise in mere worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20).

let him become a fool — by receiving the Gospel in its unworldly simplicity, and so becoming a fool in the world‘s sight [Alford]. Let him no longer think himself wise, but seek the true wisdom from God, bringing his understanding into captivity to the obedience of faith [Estius].


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Let no man deceive himself (Μηδεις εαυτον εχαπατωMēdeis heauton exapatō). A warning that implied that some of them were guilty of doing it (μηmē and the present imperative). Excited partisans can easily excite themselves to a pious phrenzy, hypnotize themselves with their own supposed devotion to truth.

Thinketh that he is wise (δοκει σοπος ειναιdokei sophos einai). Condition of first class and assumed to be true. Predicate nominative σοποςsophos with the infinitive to agree with subject of δοκειdokei (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1038). Paul claimed to be “wise” himself in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and he desires that the claimant to wisdom may become wise (ινα γενηται σοποςhina genētai sophos purpose clause with ιναhina and subjunctive) by becoming a fool (μωρος γενεστωmōros genesthō second aorist middle imperative of γινομαιginomai) as this age looks at him. This false wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14), this self-conceit, has led to strife and wrangling. Cut it out.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-corinthians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Let him become a fool in this world — Such as the world accounts so.

That he may become wise — In God's account.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-corinthians-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Let him become a fool; let him abandon all his dependence upon his worldly wisdom, and seek wisdom from above, with meekness and docility.


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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/1-corinthians-3.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

18.Let no man deceive himself Here he puts his finger upon the true sore, as the whole mischief originated in this — that they were wise in their own conceit. Hence he exhorts them not to deceive themselves with a false impression, by arrogating any wisdom to themselves — by which he means, that all are under a mistake, who depend upon their own judgment. Now, he addresses himself, in my opinion, to hearers as well as teachers. For the former discovered a partiality for those ambitious men, and lent an ear to them, (192) because they had too fastidious a taste, so that the simplicity of the gospel was insipid to their taste; while the latter aimed at nothing but show, that they might be in some estimation. He accordingly admonishes both to this effect — “Let no one rest satisfied with his own wisdom, but let him who thinketh himself to be wise, become a fool in this world, ” or, “Let him who is distinguished in this world by reputation for wisdom, of his own accord empty himself, (193) and become a fool in his own estimation.”

Farther, in these words the Apostle does not require, that we should altogether renounce the wisdom that is implanted in us by nature, or acquired by long practice; but simply, that we subject it to the service of God, so as to have no wisdom but through his word. For this is what is meant by becoming a fool in this world, or in our own estimation — when we are prepared to give way to God, and embrace with fear and reverence everything that he teaches us, rather than follow what may appear to us plausible. (194)

The meaning of the clause in this world, is as though he had said — “According to the judgment or opinion of the world.” For the wisdom of the world is this — if we reckon ourselves sufficient of ourselves for taking counsel as to all matters (Psalms 13:2) for governing ourselves, and for managing whatever we have to do — if we have no dependence on any other (195) — if we feel no need of the guidance of another, but are competent to govern ourselves. (196) He, therefore, on, the other hand, is a fool in this world, who, renouncing his own understanding, allows himself to be directed by the Lord, as if with his eyes shut — who, distrusting himself, leans wholly upon the Lord, places his whole wisdom in him, and yields himself up to God in docility and submission. It is necessary that our wisdom should in this way vanish, in order that the will of God may have authority over us, and that we be emptied of our own understanding, that we may be filled with the wisdom of God. At the same time, the clause (197) may either be taken in connection with the first part of the verse, or joined with the last, but as the meaning is not much different, I leave every one to choose for himself.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-corinthians-3.html. 1840-57.

Vv. 18. "Let no man deceive himself; if any man thinketh that he is wise among you, let him become a fool in this world, that he may become wise."

Again an asyndeton, testifying to the emotion which fills the apostle"s heart.

The illusion, to which he points in the first words of the verse, according to some, is the security in which those teachers live, not suspecting the danger which they run (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). But the words εἴ τις δοκεῖ, if any man thinketh, imagines, claims, lead us rather to connect the idea of self-deceiving with what follows. There are people who have claims to wisdom, and who display their eloquence within the Church. Edwards concludes from the ἐν ὑμῖν, among you, that if they were among them, they were not of them; otherwise Paul would have said, τίς ὑμῶν. The fact that those people were strangers may be true, but the term used does not necessarily say so. Its meaning is rather this: "If any individual whatever, Corinthian or other, while preaching the gospel in your assemblies, assumes the part of the wise man and the reputation of a profound thinker (1 Corinthians 4:10), let him assure himself that he will not attain to true wisdom till he has passed through a crisis in which that wisdom of his with which he is puffed up will perish, and after which only he will receive the wisdom which is from above." This crisis of death to false wisdom is what the apostle characterizes by the words: let him become a fool! To renounce this imaginary wisdom, which is only a human conception, to own his ignorance in what concerns the great matter of salvation, and, after taking hold of Christ crucified, who is foolishness to the wise of this world, to draw from Him the Divine wisdom which He has revealed to the world, such is the only way of realizing the claim expressed in the words, "thinketh he is wise."

Does the phrase, ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, in this world, belong to the preceding or the succeeding proposition? in other words, does this adjunct qualify the idea of being wise in the Church, or that of becoming a fool? In the former case the words would characterize a preacher who tries to gain the reputation of wisdom among Christians by putting himself forward in the midst of them as the representative of the wisdom of the world. In the latter case Paul would say: "If thou claimest to be a wise man in the Church, well! But in that case begin with humbling thy reason, accepting the foolishness of the cross, and with thus becoming a fool in the eyes of the wise of the world, and then thou shalt be able to become really the organ of Divine wisdom in the Church." Notwithstanding the able pleading of Rückert in favour of the former meaning, we think, with Hofmann, that the second deserves the preference. The antithesis between the among you and the in this world stands out more precisely, and the sense is simpler. — The following verses justify the necessity of dying to the wisdom of the world. Of old has not God, the only wise, charged it with foolishness? Two scriptural declarations are alleged in proof.


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Bibliography
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/1-corinthians-3.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

18 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.

Ver. 18. Let no man deceive himself] Bis desipit, qui sibi sapit. Consilii satis est in me mihi, said she in the poet. (Arachne up. Ovid, Metam.) Nothing so easy as to overly ween.

Let him become a fool] Let him come to the well with an empty pitcher, Intus existens prohibet alienum. Agur (if a man may believe him) is more brutish than any man, Proverbs 30:2-3. See there how he vilifies, yea, nullifies himself before God. So did blessed Bradford, as appears by the subscriptions of many of his letters.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Corinthians 3:18. Let no man deceive himself. It was not necessary for St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, who knew the matter of fact, to particularize what it was wherein the craftiness of the person here mentioned had appeared: therefore it was left us to guess; and possibly we shall not be much out, if we take it to be the keeping the fornicator from censure, so much insisted on by St. Paul, ch. 5. That by σοφος, or wise,—[seemeth to be wise in this world] the Apostle means a cunning man in business, is plain from his quotation in the next verse, where the wise spoken of are the crafty. "If any man seemeth to himself or others wise in worldly wisdom, so as to pride himself in his parts and dexterity in compassing his purpose, let him renounce all this wisdom, that he may become truly wise in embracing and owning no other knowledge than the simplicity of the Gospel." See Locke. Some would render the latter part of this verse, If any one be wise among you, let him be a fool in this world, that he may become wise. See Bengelius, and 1 Timothy 6:17.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. A word of caution: Let no man deceive himself. Self-deceit is the ground of all other deceit. Whatever deceit is abroad, it begins at home. A deceitful heart will not spare so much as itself, although the self-deceit be most unnatural and monstrous, most fatal and pernicious.

Observe, 2. A word of exhortation: If any man seem to be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise: that is, "If any man seem to be wise in the wisdom and learning of this world, let him embrace the doctrine of Christ, which the world calls foolishness, and so become a fool to them, that he may be wise according to the wisdom of God."

Learn hence, That all human and worldly wisdom cometh far short of, and is but a mere shadow and appearance, compared wiht the wisdom of God manifested in the gospel.

Observe, 3. A word of enforcement: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 'Tis so in God's opinion and estimation; he accounts it so. If we compare wit with grace, learning with religion, a rational head with a gracious heart, the latter infinitely transcends the former in the account of God. All the admired wisdom of worldly men is nothing but contemptible folly in the esteem of God. The world's wise man is God's fool.

Observe, 4. A double testimony which the apostle produces out of the Old Testament to prove his assertion, that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God: the first is He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Job 5:13

Learn hence, That no wisdom or craftiness of man can stand before the wisdom and power of God.

The second testimony is The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vain. Psalms 94:11 that is, the choicest and best thoughts of the wisest men are vain, yea, vanity.


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

18.] ἐξαπατάτω, not, as Theophyl., νομίζων ὅτι ἄλλως ἔχει τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς εἶπον:—it is far more naturally referred to what follows, viz. thinking himself wise, when he must become a fool in order to be wise. If any man [seemeth to be (i.e.,] thinks that he is) wise among you in this world ( ἐν τῷ αἰ. τούτῳ belongs to δοκεῖ σοφ. εἶν. ἐν ὑμ.,—to the whole assumption of wisdom made by the man, which as made in this present world, must be false: not (1) merely to σοφός, Grot., Rückert, al.,—as the arrangement of the words shews,—nor (2) to μωρὸς γενέσθω, Orig(9), Chrys., Luther, Rosenm., al., in which case, the stress being on μωρός, it must have been μωρὸς γενέσθω ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ), let him become a fool (by receiving the gospel in its simplicity, and so becoming foolish in the world’s sight), that he may become (truly) wise.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-corinthians-3.html. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 1948

THE MEANS OF ATTAINING TRUE WISDOM

1 Corinthians 3:18. 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.

CONCERNING the nature of true wisdom, God and the world are at issue; the wisdom of man being foolishness with God, and the wisdom of God being foolishness with man [Note: Compare 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:23. with 3:19.]. To what now must this be imputed? Is there any thing in the revelation which God has given us, that is contrary to right reason? or is it that man’s reason is darkened, and that his intellectual powers, no less than his bodily appetites, are depraved by sin? We apprehend that an impartial judge will not hesitate long in determining this question. But here another question arises; How shall man in his present fallen state be brought to entertain the same judgment of things as God himself does? Must he get some new faculty, whereby he shall have an additional mode of perception? or is there any way whereby his present faculties, weakened as they are, may be made to answer all the purposes for which they were originally given? To this we answer, that man does not want any new faculty, but only a new direction to the faculties he already possesses. We have a film upon the organs of vision, which needs to be removed: and for this end we must go to him who has said to us, “I counsel thee to buy of me eye-salve that thou mayest see [Note: Revelation 3:18].” To the same effect is the advice given us in the text: “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise;” let him acknowledge, that he cannot see clearly at present; and let him submit to the operation of God’s word and Spirit: thus shall the film be purged away from his eyes, and he shall “walk in the light, as God is in the light [Note: 1 John 1:7.].”

This direction we would now submit to your consideration; and, for the fuller understanding of it, we will endeavour to set before you,

I. Its meaning.

II. Its reasonableness.

III. Its importance.

I. Its meaning.

It cannot be supposed that we are to lay aside our reason: that were to “become fools” indeed. Reason, in those things that are within its sphere, is an useful, though not an infallible, guide. And, in the things that are beyond its sphere, it has its office: it ceases to be a guide indeed; but it becomes a companion, that must attend us every step we take, and often interpose its counsel in difficult conjunctures.

To become a fool, in the sense it is enjoined in the text, implies two things; first, a consciousness of the weakness and fallibility of our reason, especially in things relating to God: and secondly, a willingness to submit our reason to the teachings of God’s word and Spirit.

That our reason is weak and fallible, we see every day and hour. How differently will men argue on the most common subjects, and yet with equal confidence of the truth of their opinions! How will those very arguments, which, under the influence of vanity, or interest, or passion, once seemed to a man unanswerable, afterwards appear to him frivolous in the extreme, when the bias that was upon his mind has ceased to operate!

But it is in things relating to God that the fallibility of our reason more especially appears. How ignorant are the heathen world respecting the will of God, and the way in which they are to obtain acceptance with him! And how crude are the notions, which many who have the Bible in their hands, form respecting the path of duty, and the way of salvation! How absurd, for instance, was the idea that Nicodemus formed of the new birth, when he conceived it to be a repetition of a natural birth [Note: John 3:4; John 3:9.]! Thus it is with many amongst ourselves: they cannot hear of the new birth, or of justification by faith, or of the influences of the Spirit, without annexing to them ideas, if not as gross, yet quite as erroneous, as those of Nicodemus. But we may presume that Christ and his Apostles were right in their judgment of spiritual matters; and that others are right in proportion as they accord with them in sentiment, in spirit, and in conduct. In what light then will our boasted reason appear, if tried by this touchstone? Will not its dictates be found in direct opposition to the voice of inspiration, and consequently erroneous? Is there not such an universal departure from the scripture standard, that the few who adhere to it, are, as the prophet calls them, “Men wondered at [Note: Zechariah 3:8.]?”

To become a fool, then, is to feel the insufficiency of our own reason, and to be sensible that we are exceeding prone to form wrong opinions on Divine subjects, insomuch that we need at all times greatly to distrust our own judgment.

But this expression implies also a willingness to submit our reason to the teachings of God’s word and Spirit. Men who have a high opinion of their own reason, are ever ready to bring the word of God to their bar, and to pass judgment on it as true or false, according as it agrees with, or opposes, their own preconceived opinions. They are not contented to let reason judge, whether the revelation itself be from God or not? (that is its proper office) but, having acknowledged it to be from God, they proceed to determine on the points that are revealed, exactly as if they were able with their shallow reason to fathom the depths of Divine wisdom.

This disposition must be mortified; and men, however learned or wise in the estimation of themselves and others, must submit to “be taught of God [Note: John 6:45.].” The only use of reason, as applied to revelation, is to ascertain, Whether the revelation, purporting to be from heaven, be indeed of Divine authority; and, What is the true import of that revelation in all its parts. These two points being ascertained, it is not the province of reason to judge whether a thing confessedly revealed, be true or not: there faith steps in, and supplies the defects of reason; and assures the mind, that the point itself is true, because it is revealed; and that if its truth do not appear evident to the eye of reason, it is not from any irrationality in the point itself, but from a want of clearness in our reason to discern it, and a want of purity in our hearts to receive it.

Thus, to become a fool, is to take the word of God with the simplicity of a little child; to acknowledge our inability to comprehend it; and to implore of God the influences of his Spirit, that “the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may be able to comprehend the heights and depths [Note: Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:18.]” of his revealed will. In short, it is to “receive with meekness the engrafted word [Note: James 1:21.],” and to pray with Job, “What I see not, teach thou me [Note: Job 34:32.],” or with David, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [Note: Psalms 119:18.].”

Now it must be confessed, that this is humiliating to our proud reason; and that it is difficult for those who “seem wise in this world,” to condescend to receive instruction in such a way. But we shall find, that the Apostle’s direction, if duly considered, may be vindicated (as we are in the next place to shew) on the ground of,

II. Its reasonableness

To become fools in order to be wise, however paradoxical it may appear, is, in the view of it before stated, most highly reasonable: for, in so doing, we acknowledge nothing but what is undeniably true—and submit to nothing, but what we cheerfully submit to in the acquiring of human wisdom.

We acknowledge nothing but what is undeniably true. Let us look into the Scriptures, and see how our characters are painted there. In them we are told, that “the god of this world hath blinded our eyes [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.]:” that “we have walked hitherto in the vanity of our mind, having our understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts [Note: Ephesians 4:17-18.]:” that, on this very account, we need “a spirit of wisdom and revelation to enlighten us [Note: Ephesians 1:17.]:” that, in our conversion, our “eyes are opened,” and we are “turned from darkness unto light [Note: Acts 26:18.],” yea, are “brought out of darkness into marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.].” We are further told that, so far from having in ourselves a knowledge of the things of God, we do not even receive them when offered to our view; yea, we account them foolishness, neither can we know them, because we are destitute of that spiritual understanding whereby alone they can be discerned [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.].

These are plain truths which require no comment.

Let us now see these truths exemplified. If we would state our argument in its most advantageous point of view, we should adduce the Gentile world as proofs of the fallibility of man’s reason; and shew, that “by wisdom they knew not God [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:21.].” But we will wave this advantage, and take the instance of St. Paul, who had the Scriptures in his hands, who was educated under the most eminent teacher of his day, and who had made a proficiency in biblical learning beyond any of his own age. With these helps, we might well expect that reason should perform its office to admiration, and prove to the world, that it was not so vitiated as some imagine. Doubtless he, who had the advantage of living under the brightest, fullest dispensation of Gospel light, should in no respect continue in darkness: he must have clear views both of his duty to God, and of that method of salvation which had been typified in the Scriptures, and was now made plain by the preaching of a crucified Saviour. Yet behold, this very man was grossly ignorant both of the law, and of the Gospel too: he knew not that the law condemned the inmost workings of iniquity in the soul [Note: Romans 7:7; Romans 7:9.]; or that the prophecies had been accomplished in Jesus [Note: 1 Timothy 1:13.]. Nor, unless God had caused the “scales to fall from his eyes [Note: Acts 9:18.],” would his reason ever have sufficed to rectify his views, or to keep him from being a self-righteous moralist, a furious zealot, and a bloody persecutor.

Thus much could reason do for him: “his very wisdom and knowledge, instead of guiding him aright, perverted him [Note: Isaiah 47:10.];” “he became vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart was darkened; professing himself to be wise, he became a fool [Note: Romans 1:21-22.].”

In addition to what has been thus stated and exemplified, we will only observe, that God speaks with utter indignation against those who fancy themselves wise, or expect ever to become so by the mere exertion of their own reason; “Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass’s colt [Note: Job 11:12.].”

Here then permit me to ask; Does not God know more of us than we do of ourselves; and, Do not the passages that have been adduced, declare at least as much as they have been brought to establish? How much more they affirm, we shall not now inquire: but that they shew the fallibility of our reason in things relating to God, and the propriety of submiting our reason to the teaching of God’s word and Spirit, no candid person will deny.

Is it not then reasonable that we should acknowledge these truths? Shall we make ourselves wiser than God? Will not the very attempt to do so be an irrefragable proof, that we are fools indeed?

But the reasonableness of becoming fools in order to be wise appears yet further, in that it is the very thing which we cheerfully do in order to attain human wisdom.

If a man begin to learn any science, and his preceptor tell him of some deep part of that science, which at first sight appears to involve in it a contradiction or absurdity; he does not presently determine that that point is false; but he conceives that there are things which he does not yet understand; and he contents himself with studying, in the method prescribed to him, those parts which are suited to his capacity, hoping that in due time he shall gain a further insight into those abstruser matters, and see the truth and reason of those things which he cannot at present comprehend, and which. through his ignorance of the intermediate points, he would not be able to comprehend, even if they were ever so clearly stated to him.

Now why should we not act thus with respect to religion? Has not that as great depths as any human science? Or rather, is it not more above the sphere of human intellect than any other science whatever?

But it will be asked, What are those first rudiments which we must understand well in order to qualify us for a deeper knowledge of the subject? To this we answer, (and O that God would impress it on all our minds!) The knowledge of ourselves is the key to all other knowledge. If we do not know by deep experience, that we are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [Note: Revelation 3:17.],” we never can “know any other truth as we ought to know it.” On this the whole Scripture turns. It is because of our guilt and misery, that we need the atoning blood, and unspotted righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of our blindness and pollution, that we need the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. It is because we are altogether destitute of any thing that is good, that we must be be saved wholly by grace, and that we must receive “Christ as our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.].” We may indeed obtain a head-knowledge of these things from books, while yet we remain as proud and unsanctified as the most ignorant heathen. But a real, spiritual, and saving knowledge of these things can be learned only by divine teaching, and must always be preceded by a knowledge of our own hearts: indeed, it will always be exactly proportioned to our self-knowledge: the more we feel ourselves destitute of wisdom, goodness, and strength, the more insight shall we have into “the deep things of God,” and the more precious will every Scripture truth be to our souls.

We repeat the question then, Why should it be thought unreasonable to adopt this method of attaining heavenly wisdom, when it is the method we invariably pursue in the investigation of human sciences? Is it not reasonable that we should pay as much deference to God as to man? Or is religion alone, of all subjects, so easy to men’s apprehension, that they who have never paid attention to its first principles, are yet competent to sit in judgment on its most mysterious truths? Surely, if a submission to any given process be judged reasonable in the prosecution of human knowledge, much more must it be so in the pursuit of that which is divine.

We must not be satisfied however with shewing the reasonableness of the direction before us; we must go on to state, in the last place,

III. Its importance

Every word of God deserves our deep attention. But the exhortation in the text is singularly important; for first, It declares the only way in which we can ever attain true wisdom.

If we could attain the end by different means, it would be of the less consequence whether we used these means or not. But here is the door of knowledge; and the only question is, Whether we will enter in by it or not. It requires us to stoop, yea, to stoop much lower than we wish: but stoop we must; or else we can never gain admission to “the secrets of God’s covenant [Note: Psalms 25:14.].” God holds the key of knowledge in his own hand: “he alone can give wisdom and understanding [Note: Proverbs 1:6.]:” we may compass sea and land; we may learn all languages, and explore all sciences, and repeat the very Scriptures themselves from beginning to end; and yet never attain true wisdom. If any man will be wise, he must become a fool, in order that he may be wise. The most learned man in the universe can know nothing savingly in any other way: and the weakest man in the universe shall know all that is needful for him, if he will but enter in at this door: “God will reveal to babes the things which he has hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.]:” and “a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein [Note: Isaiah 35:8.].”

Can any thing more strongly shew the importance of this precept, than the consideration, that none can remain destitute of true wisdom who obey it, or obtain true wisdom who despise it?

We are aware that some may ask, Are there not many persons learned in the Scriptures, who yet never attained their wisdom in this way? We answer, Either they attained their wisdom in this way, or their wisdom is no other than “the wisdom of the world, which is foolishnesss with God.” We have nothing to do with individuals. The point to be resolved is, Whether God requires us to become fools in our own estimation, in order that we may be wise in his? And if he do require it, then shall men become wise in his way, or not at all.

But there is another view in which the importance of this precept will appear, namely, that if we obey it not, our reason, instead of guiding us aright, will only mislead us more and more, and render us more obstinate in our error.

The more confident we are respecting the truth of our present views, the more shall we regulate our conduct according to them: and consequently, if they are wrong, we shall wander further and further from the right way, and yet conceit ourselves to be in the path of duty. Moreover, God himself will give such persons up to their own delusions, as a just punishment for the pride of their hearts. The very words following the text are full to this point; “He knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain:” and again, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness [Note: ver. 19, 20.].” Let us hear our Lord himself speaking to the Pharisees, who disdained to be taught by him: “For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind.” And when they answered with indignation, “What, are we the blind persons you are speaking of?” he answered, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth [Note: John 9:39-41.].”

The language of the Apostle in the first chapter of this epistle, is peculiarly strong and animated; “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 [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:19-20.]?” Thus we may ask in reference to all who will not learn in God’s appointed way, What does their wisdom do for them? Does it bring them to God? Does it enable them to overcome the world? Does it disarm death of its sting? Does it inspire them with a hope full of immortality? Does it sanctify them throughout in all their tempers and dispositions, and transform them into the image of the blessed Jesus? We may even ask, Whether, so far from loving to be taught of God themselves, they do not feel an enmity in their hearts against those who are taught of God; and account them fools, whom God declares to be the only wise?

Here then the point appears in its true light. If men will not become fools in their own estimation, they shall be fools indeed: for they shall wander incessantly “in their own deceivings,” and shall “perish at last for lack of knowledge [Note: Hosea 4:6.].”

We cannot conclude this subject without observing—

How much it reflects on a fact which has existed in every age of the Church, which yet it is not easy to account for, namely, that few of those who are eminent for learning, are at the same time eminent for spirituality of heart and life.

St. Paul in this very epistle says to the Church at Corinth, “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 [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.].” Thus must we say in reference to our times, that not many wise, or many noble, are found among the despised followers of Jesus. And the reason is, that men will not condescend to be taught of God in the way that God requires: they are “wise in their own conceits:” their wisdom is even a greater bar to their salvation than their lusts: for, their lusts they will condemn, even while they inwardly indulge them: but their wisdom they hold fast, nor will they part with it, even for “the wisdom that cometh of God [Note: James 3:17.].” Being therefore too proud to learn, they are left in ignorance; and, stumbling at the very threshold of the sanctuary, they never enter within the vail.

Here then let us call to mind the first words of the text: “Let no man deceive himself.” We all, and especially those “who seem wise in this world,” are in danger of self-deception. But let us remember that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:25.].” Let us therefore “not lean to our own understandings [Note: Proverbs 3:5.];” but, aware of the weakness and fallibility of our own reason, let us submit ourselves humbly to the teachings of God’s word and Spirit.

To this advice it may be objected perhaps, That we promote an enthusiastic dependence on divine impulses; and puff up ignorant persons with spiritual pride; and discourage the pursuit of sound learning.

Let us then be heard in reply to these objections.

In answer to the first we say, that we should indeed promote enthusiasm, if we exhorted any one to follow impulses that were independent of the written word: but if we recommend all persons to regulate their sentiments solely by the written word, and to rely on the influences of the Holy Spirit no further than they accord with that, then neither we, nor they, are in any danger of enthusiasm, because the sacred oracles are an unalterable standard to which every thought and action may be brought, and by which its quality may be infallibly determined.

With respect to the encouraging of spiritual pride, surely the inculcating of humility is a strange way of promoting pride. Suppose we were to tell men that their own reason is sufficient for every purpose of spiritual instruction; and that they are at liberty to weigh every truth of Scripture in their own balance, and to admit, or alter, or expunge whatever accords with, or opposes, their own sentiments; then indeed there would be some foundation for the objection. But when we recommend a cheerful submission to the voice of inspiration, and a humble dependence on God’s promised aid, we cut up pride by the very roots, and lead men to confess, that all their sufficiency is of God alone. And if any pervert this doctrine to the fostering of their own pride (and what doctrine is there that has not been perverted?) the fault is not in the doctrine itself, but in those who abuse it: and if an argument from the abuse of a thing be valid, we must then give up the Bible itself; since every doctrine in it has been more or less abused.

Lastly, as to the discouraging of sound learning, how can that be a consequence of the foregoing statement? We have not insinuated that worldly wisdom is unnecessary for worldly purposes, but only for the attainment of divine knowledge: and therefore we can no more be said to speak against human wisdom because we deny the necessity of it in order to the attainment of that which is divine, than we could be said to decry divine wisdom, if we should deny that to be necessary in the investigation of human sciences. Nor have we intimated that human wisdom is of little value for the elucidating of the Scriptures; for most assuredly it is of exceeding great value in this view, especially when used in conjunction with, and in subserviency to, divine wisdom. And lest any one should conceive, that deductions unfavourable to the pursuit of literature should appear to be authorized by this discourse, we declare unequivocally, that it is the duty, the indispensable duty, of all students, whatever be the sphere in which they are afterwards to move, to cultivate human wisdom, and with all diligence to prosecute the work assigned them, “not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” We do not hesitate to say, that they would be culpable in the highest degree, if they should make religion a pretext for neglecting their Academical studies. We would solemnly exhort them all to remember, that, as in our families, so also in God’s family, every servant best executes his Master’s will, when he is most attentive to the duties of his place and station.

Having thus endeavoured in few words to obviate such objections as were likely to arise, what remains, but that we entreat those who think themselves wise, to become fools in their own sight; and those who feel that they “lack wisdom, to ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and without upbraiding [Note: James 1:5.].”


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:18. ΄ηδεὶς ἑαυτ. ἐξαπ.] Emphatic warning, setting the following exhortation, as directed against an existing evil which arose out of self-deception, in that point of view; comp 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7. Those who were proud of their wisdom did not discern that they were destroying the temple of God with their sectarian proceedings. Theophylact remarks well upon ἐξαπατ.: νομίζων, ὅτι ἄλλως ἔχει τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς εἶπον.

δοκεῖ] believes, is of opinion, not appears (Vulgate, Erasmus); for it was the former that was objectionable and dangerous. Comp 1 Corinthians 8:2, 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 6:3.

σοφὸς εἶναιτούτῳ] ἐν ὑμῖν belongs to σόφος εἶναι, and ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ defines the σόφος εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν more precisely, to wit, according to his non-Christian standing and condition (comp 1 Corinthians 3:19): If any one is persuaded that he is wise among you in this age, i.e. if one claims for himself a being wise in your community, which belongs to the sphere of this pre-Messianic period. To the αἰὼν οὗτος, despite of all its philosophy and other wisdom falsely so called (1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 2:6), the true wisdom, which is only in Christ (Colossians 2:3), is in fact a thing foreign and far off; this αἰών is a sphere essentially alien to the true state of being wise in the church; in it a man may have the λόγος σοφίας (Colossians 2:23), but not the reality. We must not therefore, in defiance of its place in the sentence, link ἐν τῷ αἰ. τ. merely to σόφος (Erasmus, Grotius, Rückert, and many others), in doing which ἐν is often taken as equivalent to κατά. Origen, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Luther, Castalio, Mosheim, Rosenmüller, and others, join it to what follows, rendering either generally to this effect: “is a vulgo hominum pro stulto haberi non recuset;” or with a more exact development of the meaning, as Hofmann: whoever thinks himself to be wise in the church, “he, just on that account, is not wise, but has yet to become so, and must to this end become a fool in this present age of the world, because his wisdom is a wisdom of this world, and as such is foolishness in the eyes of God.” But the emphasis does not lie upon the contrast between ἐν ὑμῖν and ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τ., but upon σόφος and μωρός, as is plain from the fact that in the clause expressive of the aim we have the simple σόφος alone without ἐν ὑμῖν. It may be seen, too, from 1 Corinthians 3:19 ( σοφ. τοῦ κόσμου) that Paul had included ἐν τ. αἰ. τ. in the protasis.

μωρὸς γενέσθω] i.e. let him rid himself of his fancied wisdom, and become (by returning to the pure and simple gospel unalloyed by any sort of philosophy or speculation) such a one as now in relation to that illusory wisdom is a fool.

σοφός] with emphasis: truly wise. See Colossians 2:2-3. The path of the Christian sapere aude proceeds from becoming a fool to wisdom, as from becoming blind to seeing (John 9:39).


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:18. δοκεῖ) This word is frequently used, as well as λογίζομαι, in the epistles to the Corinthians; but δοκῶ more in the first; the other, with a milder signification in the second. The meaning here is, if any man be wise, and think that he is so. For often, in this epistle especially, δοκῶ has such a force as that the fact of the thing itself is not denied, but there is denoted along with the fact, the estimation, which the man, who has that thing [that subject of his self-esteem], entertains concerning himself, whether [that estimation] be just or inflated [exaggerated] 1 Corinthians 7:40, 1 Corinthians 8:2, 1 Corinthians 10:12, 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 14:37.— σοφὸς, wise) Hereby he entirely cuts off all wisdom, whether of this world or divine. [It is indeed wretched wisdom to deceive one’s own self.—V. g.] For in whatever species of wisdom every man wishes to be distinguished, in the same kind of wisdom he ought first of all to deem himself a fool, that he may become wise.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Let not man deceive himself: there are some that, with their eloquence and flourishes of words, or with their philosophical notions and reasonings, {which, Colossians 2:8, the apostle calls vain deceit} or with their traditions after the rudiments of the world, ( as the apostle addeth in that place), would cheat and deceive your souls, under a pretence of making you wonderfully wise: the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.

If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world; if any of you seemeth unto others, or seemeth unto himself, that is, thinketh that he is endued with what the world calleth wisdom.

Let him become a fool, that he may be wise; if ever he would be truly wise, wise unto God, and to eternal life and salvation, let him be contented, by the wise men and philosophers of this world, to be looked upon as a fool; and let him be willing to deny himself in any notions or opinions of his own, which he hath taken up upon the credit of his natural reason and philosophical principles, which agree not with the Divine revelation, that so he may be truly and spiritually wise, truly understanding, savouring, and believing what God hath in his word revealed, and is alone able to make the man of God wise to salvation, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Deceive himself; by a vain idea of his superior wisdom. Addressed especially to those who sought preeminence as leaders.

Seemeth to be wise; seemeth in his own eyes, thinks himself wise.

Become a fool; let him consent to be esteemed a fool by the men of the world-let him renounce dependence on that worldly wisdom for which he now values himself, feel his need of divine guidance, and seek the teaching of the Holy Ghost; receiving as true what he declares, and doing as right what he commands.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-corinthians-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

18. αἰῶνι. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:20.

μωρὸς γενέσθω. Let him account himself a fool, put himself on a level with the ignorant and unintellectual, set no store by his worldly knowledge or intellectual powers, for they are of no account before God. A child-like willingness to be taught is the first step toward the true wisdom.


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"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1896.

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:18. Let no one, if anyone: an appeal, not to the whole church as in 1 Corinthians 3:16, but to the men of 1 Corinthians 3:17. Not only were they ignorant of the sacredness of the church, but were in error in their estimate of themselves. Cp. 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33.

If any one thinks: 1 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Corinthians 14:37. As compared with other church-members among whom he moves, he thinks himself well acquainted with the things of this present passing age. So 1 Corinthians 1:20. To become foolish, is the only way to become wise. Once we were wise, in our own estimate. But when we find out that we cannot by our own mental power or effort learn that which we most need to know, viz. such knowledge as will enable us to choose the objects most worthy of pursuit and the best means of attaining them; and that we can learn this only as each moment God reveals it to us; we then become, in our own correct estimate of ourselves and in view of the difficult path we have to tread, utterly foolish, i.e. destitute of the wisdom we need. Then we become truly wise. For we know what we are: and we ask and receive the Spirit of wisdom, (Ephesians 1:17,) who by His presence in us reveals to us that which we most need to know and guides our steps along the best path.

We may therefore test the worth of our wisdom by asking whether we have ever become foolish.


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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Joseph Beet's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1877-90.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Paul continued the subject of spiritual rather than natural wisdom. He urged his readers to turn away from attitudes the world regards as wise and to adopt God"s viewpoint so they would be truly wise.


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-corinthians-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:18. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinketh that he is wise in this world—in the world’s sense of wisdom, let him become a fool (as to such wisdom), that he may be (truly) wise.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-corinthians-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Corinthians 3:18. Accordingly, the ΄ηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω looks forward, not backward: one may “deceive himself” about the mixing of man’s wisdom with God’s, but scarcely about the truth of the threatening of 1 Corinthians 3:17. “If any one thinks to be wise amongst you, in this age ( αἰῶνι, world-period: see parls.) let him become foolish, that he may become wise.”— δοκεῖ not videtur (Vg(607), A.V.), but putat—“seemeth to himself, the usual (though perhaps not universal) sense of δοκεῖν in St. Paul” (Lt(608): see parls., esp. 1 Corinthians 14:37): the danger is that of self-deception (cf. the irony in 1 Corinthians 4:10, 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.), a danger natural in the case of teachers, esp. if intellectual and cultured—there were a few such at Cor(609) (1 Corinthians 1:26); cf. the exhortations of James 3:1; James 3:13-18.— ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ is antithetical to ἐν ὑμῖν (put the comma between them), “amongst you”—God’s temple, Christ’s property (1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:23, etc.)—in accordance with 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:13, and with the contrast between the two wisdoms that dominates this whole Division. Men must not think to be wise in both spheres; the Church’s wise are the world’s fools, and vice versâ. The cross is μωρία to the world, and he who espouses it a μωρὸς in its opinion—a fool with a criminal for his Master; and one can only be a Christian sage—wise after the manner of 1 Corinthians 2:8 ff.—upon condition of bearing this reproach (so Or(610), Cm(611), Luther, Hf(612), Gd(613), Hn(614)). Paul was crazy in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 26:24), but how wise amongst us! Cf. Christ’s paradox of losing the soul to gain it.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/1-corinthians-3.html. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

-21

Let no man deceive himself. He next precautions them against themselves, and admonishes them to be upon their guard against curiosity, presumption, and self-love, and tells them to undervalue all other sciences, when put in competition with the science of salvation, the knowledge of the gospel. It hence appears, that some of the Corinthians were renowned for that human eloquence which the world so much esteems, and accordingly the apostle discovers to them the danger to which they are exposing themselves, by pursuing their present line of conduct. (Calmet) --- If any man among you seem to be wise in this world. He hints at some new teachers among them, (not at Apollo) who to gain the esteem of men, had introduced errors from profane philosophy, or the false principles of human wisdom, which, as he had told them before, was folly in the sight of God. He therefore tells such persons, that to become truly wise, they must become fools, by returning to the simplicity of the gospel-doctrine. (Witham) --- Let no man. That is, let no man say, I am for Paul, I am for Apollo. This language will introduce into the Church of God those various sects that existed amongst the philosophers, who were distinguished by the title of Platonics, Stoics, Peripatetic, and so on. (Grotius)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.

"Let no man deceive himself"-"A warning that implied that some of them were guilty of doing it." (Robertson p. 99) "By thinking himself wise enough to amend or modify God"s truth." (McGarvey p. 66) "Let no one be under any illusion over this." (Phi)

It appears that Paul now returns to the subject of God"s wisdom verses the World"s wisdom. Dividing into parties and following men, may have seemed "wise" to some. But Paul had revealed that such attitudes are destroying the church in Corinth, and those that pursue such attitudes will not only destroy the church, but they are self-deceived and a fearful judgement threatens them.

"If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world"-"imagines that he is wiser than the rest of you, in what this world calls wisdom." (Gspd)

"Paul then goes on once again to pin down the root cause of this dissension and this consequent destruction of the temple of God..that root cause is the worship of intellectual, worldly wisdom..it is this very worldly wisdom which makes the Corinthians assess the worth and the value of different teachers and leaders. It is this pride in the human mind which makes them assess and evaluate and criticize the way in which the message is delivered.." [Note: _ Barclay p. 38]

"let him become foolish that he may become wise"-"by receiving the gospel in its simplicity, and so becoming foolish in the world"s sight." (Alford p. 993) (Acts 26:24; 1 Corinthians 4:10) "Let him discard this wisdom, have himself called "a fool" by the adherents of this wisdom." (Lenski p. 151)

"This is simply a vivid way of urging a man to be humble enough to learn. No one can teach a man who thinks that he knows it all already." (Barclay p. 39) (Proverbs 9:8-9; James 1:21)


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-corinthians-3.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

no man = no one. Greek. medeis.

deceive. Greek. exapatao. See Romans 7:11.

world. App-129.

fool. Greek. moros, as in 1 Corinthians 1:25, 1 Corinthians 1:27.

that = in order that. Greek. hina.

be = become.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-corinthians-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Seemeth - i:e., is, and is regarded by himself and others.

Wise in this world - wise in mere worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20).

Let him become a fool - by receiving the Gospel in its unworldly simplicity, and so abjuring worldly wisdom, that law may seek the true wisdom from God, the obedience of faith (Galatians 6:7).


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-corinthians-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) Passing from the difference between the work of one teacher and that of another, which has occupied him since 1 Corinthians 3:5, the Apostle now returns to the subject from which he branched off there (the magnifying of one teacher above another), and proceeds to show (1 Corinthians 3:18-21) that merely human wisdom is in itself worthless for spiritual purposes, and, therefore, that the possession of it alone is no reason for the exaltation of the teacher who is endowed with it. For the full meaning of the “wisdom” which the Apostle speaks of here, see 1 Corinthians 1:20.

Let him become a fool—i.e., in the sight of the world, in order that he may become “wise” in the sight of God.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
deceive
6:9; 15:33; Proverbs 5:7; Isaiah 44:20; Jeremiah 37:9; Luke 21:8; Galatians 6:3,7; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Timothy 3:13; Titus 3:3; James 1:22,26; 1 John 1:8
If
1:18-21; 4:10; 8:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,7; 26:12; Isaiah 5:21; Jeremiah 8:8; Romans 11:25; Romans 12:16
let
Matthew 18:4; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-corinthians-3.html.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

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.

Let no man deceive himself. ‘Let no man doubt the truth of what I have said of the worthlessness of human wisdom, and of the danger of substituting it for the wisdom of God. If he does, he will find himself mistaken.'

If any man among you seemeth to be wise, ( הןךוי ͂ ףןצן ̀ ע וי ̓͂ םבי), thinks himself to be wise. In this world may be connected with the word wise, ‘wise with the wisdom of this world.' Or, it may be connected with the whole preceding clause. ‘If any imagines he is wise among you, in this world.' The former explanation is more in keeping with the whole context. "Wise in this world" is equivalent to "wise after the flesh," 1 Corinthians 1:26.

Let him become a fool, that he may be (or, become) wise. Let him renounce his own wisdom in order that he may receive the wisdom of God. We must be empty in order to be filled. We must renounce our own righteousness, in order to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We must renounce our own strength, in order to be made strong. We must renounce our own wisdom, in order to be truly wise. This is a universal law. And it is perfectly reasonable. We are only required to recognize that to be true, which is true. We would not be required to renounce our own righteousness, strength, or wisdom, if they were really what they assume to be. It is simply because they are in fact worthless, that we are called upon so to regard them.


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Bibliography
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-3.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

No one should fool himself. The false teacher at Corinth thought himself to be wise because he was able to get people to come to Christ through not telling them all the teachings of Christ, and misrepresenting some things. But as poor as this false teacher's work might be, he did build on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:14-15), But what he was doing was especially dangerous to him personally, because those who follow men's wisdom may turn away from God. Read the warning in Hebrews 6:4-6. He should become a fool. By preaching "Christ on the cross" and all the other things that make up the Good News. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:23.


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-corinthians-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

1 Corinthians 3:18

"If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." 1 Corinthians 3:18

The fruit and effect of divine teaching Isaiah , to cut in pieces, and root up all our fleshly Wisdom of Solomon , strength, and righteousness. God never means to patch a new piece upon an old garment; he never intends to let our Wisdom of Solomon , our strength, our righteousness have any union with his; it must all be torn to pieces, it must all be plucked up by the roots, that a new Wisdom of Solomon , a new strength, and a new righteousness may arise upon its ruins. But until the Lord is pleased to teach us, we never can part with our own righteousness, never give up our own Wisdom of Solomon , never abandon our own strength. These things are a part and parcel of ourselves, so ingrained within us, so innate in us, so growing with our growth, that we cannot willingly part with an atom of them until the Lord himself breaks them up, and plucks them away.

Then, as he brings into our souls some spiritual knowledge of our own dreadful corruptions and horrible wickedness, our righteousness crumbles away at the divine touch; as he leads us to see and feel our ignorance and folly in a thousand instances, and how unable we are to understand anything aright but by divine teaching, our wisdom fades away; and as he shows us our inability to resist temptation and overcome sin, by any exertion of our own, our strength gradually departs, and we become like Samson, when his locks were cut off.

Upon the ruins, then, of our own Wisdom of Solomon , righteousness, and strength, does God build up Christ"s Wisdom of Solomon , Christ"s righteousness, and Christ"s strength—as Jesus said to his servant Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness;" and this brought him to that wonderful conclusion, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" ( 2 Corinthians 12:9). But only so far as we are favored with this special teaching are we brought to pass a solemn sentence of condemnation upon our own Wisdom of Solomon , strength, and righteousness, and feelingly seek after the Lord"s.


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Bibliography
Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:18". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jcp/1-corinthians-3.html.

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