God Chose What is Foolish in the World to Shame the Wise

by Mike Ratliff

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)

During His earthly ministry, as our Lord walked through Roman occupied Galilee, Samaria, and Judea and other parts of what we call the Middle East in our time, the “so-called educated experts” criticized Him with respect to His education credentials (John 7:14-15). What was His response? Did He back down? Did He buy into the authority of these men as carrying any weight that He must take into account in regards to the truth He taught and preached? No! He countered by challenging their competence. Think of the outrage today if someone like me who has no letters after his name like Doctor of Theology or whatever were to do as our Lord did and directly challenged one of these high placed religious leaders whose fruit of apostasy is continually being revealed as they refuse to follow the will of God. However, that is the very basis our Lord used to disqualify those who challenged Him (John 7:17, 19). 

Is it possible for the obedient Christian walking in the Lordship of Jesus Christ to do this? According to John 7:17 and John 8:31-32, the Christian, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and dwelling in Christ’s Word knows the truth. The reverse is also true. Those outside the will of God, even if they hold high office in some church have actually refused to acknowledge God and the truth about Him, which will lead them into futility and error in all fields of thought (Romans 1:18-21). On the other hand, the obedient Christian knows the truth because all things pertaining to life are granted through knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3).

The obedient Christian who defends the faith can challenge the reasoning of these people no matter what their standing because their unrighteousness blinds them. No matter how sophisticated or well educated an apostate is, he or she can be presented an effective apologetic by any believer.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)

However, this does not mean that we should all just drop what we are doing and go on the attack with those theologians with whom we disagree. No, we must follow a properly guided method paying careful attention to refrain from appealing to the autonomous principles of secular thought to bring understanding to those with who we are in disagreement. The unbeliever’s method, standard, and starting point are inherently contrary to that saving understanding at which we must aim. Autonomy and understanding are mutually exclusive. We will fail miserably and most assuredly, quickly, if we rest our case on the very same presuppositions that infest those with whom we are debating. The apostate or unbeliever has his or her presuppositions firmly rooted in an attitude of autonomy; since these are the source of their lack of understanding they assuredly cannot provide us the path to bring them to understanding.

The entire human race is dead in trespasses and sin, falling short of the glory of God (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Romans 3:23; 5:15); because of this, no one seeks after God or has understanding (Romans 3:10-12). There are no exceptions within the ranks of the unregenerate. Sin has led the unbeliever to exalt his own imaginations and to ignore the revelation of God, and thereby the unbeliever’s reason is always deflected into futile erroneous, and unrighteous conclusions. What does the unbeliever say from his or her heart (from which are the issues of life)? He or she says that there is no God, and thereby shows that they have no knowledge or understanding (Psalm 53:1-4; Romans 3:10-12).

When the apologist defends his or her faith, it is against these people and some of them are professing Christians with high titles and positions in denominations and churches, seminaries, and universities. Of course, some of them claim to be Jesus followers while trying to take your web site down through any means possible, legal or illegal. Not all enemies of the Cross and the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ are professing atheists, but they all fit the description in the paragraph above. Yes, that is right unbelievers can be very religious. They lack understanding and their reasoning is unprofitable. In their minds, they are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). His or her mind is at enmity with God and they are unable to do God’s will (Romans 8:7).

When the apologist defends his or her faith, the sinner’s intellectual assumptions, operation, and competence are on trial, not the revelation of Christ. The rebel thinker walks according to his own thoughts and is, therefore, locked into the foolishness that proceeds from his heart (Isaiah 65:2; Mark 7:21-22). Apostates are those who have departed from the faith so they unavoidably speak falsehood and teach demonic lies (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; Romans 1:25)

Now, if you took what I have written so far and put it through the politically correct, it’s a sin to offend anyone value system that is diluting the power of the church in our time, this all seems harsh and, I am sure, will be unpopular with most people. Because the church is so compromised in our time and contemporary apologists are so often sharing the autonomy of secular thought, they are unwilling to indict its root foolishness hence the rampant apostasy amongst our Christian leaders because those who should be calling them out are not doing so for the most part. We must understand my brethren that the principle antithesis between Christian epistemology and apostate epistemology must be underscored instead of merely tolerated or overlooked for the sake of a false “unity.” In contrast to the man whose thoughts are vain stands the man who is instructed out of God’s law (Psalm 94:11-12; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:20). The Christian rejoices that he operates, not according to fleshly wisdom, but according to God’s grace (2 Corinthians 1:12).

What kind of apologetic, if it is not to share the autonomy of unbelieving thought, can be successful in bringing the unbeliever to an understanding of the truth? Like faithful preaching, faithful defense of the Gospel must be rooted in the Word and the Spirit. God can only be known by a voluntary revelation by the Son and Spirit of God (Matthew 11:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10). Together they deal with man’s ethical hostility to God’s revelation and enable him to have a saving knowledge of his Creator.

Unbelievers come to faith as God give them understanding which they formerly lacked when their mind has been opened (Luke 24:45) and they have been convicted by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:8). This Spirit continually witnesses to Christ, conducting His case before the world as Christ’s legal representative for the defense (i.e., the “Advocate”; John 15:26). The success of apologetics depends on the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:3, 8). As the unbeliever comes to abide in Christ’s Word, he or she has God and knows the Truth (John 8:31-32; 2 John 9). Until he or she gains the mind of Christ, they are completely unable to know Spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16). Having the mind of Christ requires humility (cf. Philippians 2: 5, 8), that thereby the renunciation of self-sufficiency in order to obey the truth of God. One can only come to knowledge of Him who is Truth (John 14:6) when the Son grants him the understanding that is lacking (1 John 5:20). I am sure you also see that only those who are under the Lordship of Christ are in this blessed company.

The apologist is called upon to give a faithful witness to the truth, rather than to attempt to improve on the Lord’s wisdom by autonomous arguments. No one was ever argued into the Kingdom of God. Being confident of his or her ability to challenge apostate thought, the believer must reason, not according to the principles of secular thought, but on the presupposed truth of Christ’s word, and looking to the power of His Spirit to bring conviction, conversion, and understanding. A successful apologetic, being given according to Christ’s Word and Spirit, is a function of the grace of God, not human cleverness and wisdom.

As I defend the faith prayerfully, totally reliant on the grace of God and His truth from His Word, I have never faltered or, as some would say, “blown it.” On the other hand, when I first started out in this ministry, that was most certainly not the case. I had to “blow it” and learn to not play by the rules of those who hate God’s truth. I had to learn to depend entirely on the presuppositions that God’s truth is all we have and that those who oppose it have nothing but the wisdom of this world, which actually destroys the truth. It was as I learned these things and structured the rules for debate here on this blog that God began to use this ministry to both edify the saints and shut the mouths of His enemies.

I am just a δοῦλος of the Κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστόν.

Soli Deo Gloria!

15 thoughts on “God Chose What is Foolish in the World to Shame the Wise

  1. Great words of Wisdom Mike. I admit I sometimes blow this, but have gotten much better. I understand that once we leave the didactic teachings of the Word and get involved in the dialoging of the dialectic (our own thoughts, education, feelings, etc) we are playing into Satan’s hands. God is the initiator of language and words. Anything we say must be based in His words or else they are a lie.—we think too highly of earthly knowledge, apart from God—“professing themselves to be wise , they became fools.”

  2. Fred, been there brother. What has amazed me though is the more I remain fixed on these presuppositions, making it clear that there will be no diversions, those desiring a debate have been few and far between. It’s not me, it’s God’s Truth they cannot overcome.

  3. Mike When I read what you wrote I tired to find something I read of Spurgeons today on just what you shared but instead I found this by Pink. I have met men that have no titles, no Letters attached to their names, no big degrees, yet some of the wises men I know.. and ever so humble.

    Heres what Pink said…The marks of a true shepherd

    (Arthur Pink, Studies in the Scriptures, May, 1939)

    How diligently should they scrutinize their motives, who think of entering the ministry; for thousands have abused this Divine institution through love of ease, desire for authority and reputation, or love of money–and brought upon themselves “greater damnation” (James 3:1). Thousands have invaded the pastoral office in an unauthorized manner, to fleece sheep rather than feed them, robbing Christ of His honor and starving His people.

    Solemn beyond words is it to observe how sternly our Lord denounced these false shepherds of His day. (Matthew 23) As J. C. Ryle rightly said, “Nothing seemed so offensive to Christ as a false teacher of religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought to be so much feared by the Church, be so plainly rebuked, opposed and exposed.”

    What are the marks of a true shepherd, how are God’s people to identify those called and qualified by Him to minister unto His people?

    First, the genuine pastor has the doctrine of Christ on his LIPS. The ministers of the new covenant are described as those who had “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness.” Christendom today is infested with men who are full of deceit and hypocrisy, trimming their sails according to whatever direction the breeze of public opinion is blowing.

    “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.” (2 Cor. 4:2). The true servant of Christ holds back nothing which is profitable, no matter how unpalatable it may be unto his hearers. He is one who magnifies not himself, nor his denomination, but Christ–His wondrous Person, His atoning blood, His exacting claims.

    Second, the genuine pastor has the Spirit of Christ in his HEART. It is the Spirit who opens to him the mysteries of the Gospel, so that he is “the faithful and wise servant” (Matt. 24:45). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives him a love for His sheep, so that it is his greatest delight to lead them into the green pastures of His Word. It is the Spirit of Christ who enables him to use “great boldness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12), so that he shuns not to declare all the counsel of God. It is the Spirit of Christ who makes him to be “prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives efficacy to his ministry, making it fruitful according to the sovereign pleasure of God.

    Third, the genuine pastor has the example of Christ in his LIFE, which is a conforming of him to the image of his Master. It is true, sadly true, that there is not one of them who does not fall far short both of the inward and outward image of Christ. Yet there are some faint tracings of His image visible in all His true servants. The image of Christ is seen in their words, spirit, actions; otherwise we have no warrant to receive them as God’s servants.

    Find a man (no easy task today!) who has the doctrine of Christ on his lips, the Spirit of Christ in his heart, and the example of Christ in his life–and you find one of His genuine ministers–all others are but “thieves and robbers.”

    Cristina

  4. Thanks Mike for this, it is very good.

    My husband (who was also my pastor) met with a local “Preacher” to discuss issues of apostasy, etc., this preacher has one of the largest congregations in the county, my husband began to witness to him about the way being narrow and that the message was to come out and be separate. That Jesus was the only way, etc. Just basic foundational truths that were perceived as harsh/hard. The preacher’s response to my husband, “If I preached what you say, then I couldn’t have all this” (raising both hands and pointing to his large church building and elaborate office, etc.) My husband then said, “exactly”.

    Cristina, what an excellent excerpt by Pink. I can truthfully say that my husband fit all three criteria. I lived with him and am probably the most critical, as I know his humanity! But, he truly was a man of God.
    I miss him every second of every day. He has been in Heaven for 3 years now.

    Thanks again, Mike.

  5. This article really spoke to my heart this morning.

    “Unbelievers come to faith as God give them understanding which they formerly lacked when their mind has been opened (Luke 24:45) and they have been convicted by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:8). This Spirit continually witnesses to Christ, conducting His case before the world as Christ’s legal representative for the defense (i.e., the “Advocate”; John 15:26). The success of apologetics depends on the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:3, 8). As the unbeliever comes to abide in Christ’s Word, he or she has God and knows the Truth (John 8:31-32; 2 John 9). Until he or she gains the mind of Christ, they are completely unable to know Spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16). Having the mind of Christ requires humility (cf. Philippians 2: 5, 8), that thereby the renunciation of self-sufficiency in order to obey the truth of God. One can only come to knowledge of Him who is Truth (John 14:6) when the Son grants him the understanding that is lacking (1 John 5:20). I am sure you also see that only those who are under the Lordship of Christ are in this blessed company.”

    I am going through some tremendous trials in my life right now, but I am so thankful that I am. The Lord has blessed me so much through the pain. It was only because I humbled myself before Him that I have been able to move from milk to solid food. Grant you, the solid food is sometimes still in “baby food” form, but as I take my steps of faith, allowing the Lord to guide me completely, I have been able to see God’s hand on my life in a very real way.

    The last 7 months have been an incredible journey with the Lord. Although they have been incredibly painful in a human sense, they have been incredibly amazing in a spiritual sense.

    Knowing that I cannot be “self-sufficient” used to really bother me. I had the tendency to always try to “fix it”. The Lord has since shown me that He is the only fixer. The peace in my heart that comes with that revelation is something that can’t be described in human words.

    ” I had to “blow it” and learn to not play by the rules of those who hate God’s truth. I had to learn to depend entirely on the presuppositions that God’s truth is all we have and that those who oppose it have nothing but the wisdom of this world, which actually destroys the truth.”

    I myself “blew it” more times than I like to admit, but God has taught me the same thing. His truth is all we have, and those who oppose it have nothing but the wisdom of the world. Sadly, those who are opposing the truth, don’t realize how destructive their words are in the lives of others who truely seek to know God.

    Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

    Humbly walking with the faith of a tiny mustard seed.

  6. Angie,
    Your husband must have been a true blessing to you and to the Lord.
    God Bless
    Cristina

  7. Because the church is so compromised in our time and contemporary apologists are so often sharing the autonomy of secular thought, they are unwilling to indict its root foolishness hence the rampant apostasy amongst our Christian leaders because those who should be calling them out are not doing so for the most part. We must understand my brethren that the principle antithesis between Christian epistemology and apostate epistemology must be underscored instead of merely tolerated or overlooked for the sake of a false “unity.”

    Amen…

    I think I would only add that in our understanding of the broader “antithesis”, most Christian apologists today fail to recognize that along with the factor of the sinfullness of fallen men and their lack of understanding due to their unregenerate nature, there is also the factor of lying and seducing spiritual forces which are quite real and active towards the goal of leading fallen, sinful men even further from the Truth…

    It is this element which has been so heavily impressed upon me over the last year or so, as I’ve come to the reluctant but undeniable conclusion that Satan truly is the “god of this world” and is the one behind virtually all of the “intellectual” objections to the Gospel of Jesus. This doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and feel powerless to defend the Truth, but rather it means we have a fuller understanding when we approach people, who might be say Mormons, or New-Agers, or Darwinian-thinkers, or whatever else. If we understand that such people are not simply captives of man-made ideas, but actually under the spell of demonically-inspired arguments and lies, then we start to understand just how much we need to rely on things like the power of prayer, and asking the Lord to personally intercede in the person’s life, rather than relying on logical arguments or apologetics. Such people need to be set free from the invisible chains of Satan’s lies, and it would be foolishness to think that having a “doctorate of divinity” or a P.h.d. in some religious subject would empower us to stand up against the “forces in spiritual realms”…

    All of this I believe has a great deal to do with why the scriptures say that God “uses the foolish to shame the wise”…

  8. Most interesting posts from everyone!

    Mike, who could argue with your distinct, understandable presentation? But you know they will. :-)

    The following is my attempt to tie the mistakes of the relgious leaders with the mistakes of today’s relgious leaders. Rather lengthy…but hopefully readable.

    The Pharisees were found debating with a 12 year old boy in the Temple. The best theological minds of the day…left wondering about the boy’s wisdom.

    Where did he get such wisdom? They, too, were basing their presuppositions on Scripture, so they thought.

    But their theological preferences had realigned their presuppositions and had more to do with proving their own religious traditions, genealogical pride, splitting hairs about the tithing of the dill and cumin, the ethics of law and ceremony such as washing their hands before a meal, their boasting of Abraham as their father, rules about the altars vs. the gifts on the altar and how to increase the flow of charitable donations.

    The Pharisees of Jesus day made the Word ABOUT themselves. They inverted the Word to put the spotlight on themselves.

    They made the LAW about us doing things for God. As Christ said to them John 5:39
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

    Today’s religious leaders make PROPHECY about doing great things for God. If you were to stand in prophetic circles, which some of you have, you would find the prophecies are great inconsistent flatteries, to win people over, and just like in the previous post…twisted to see everything from man’s perspective on things, rather than God’s.

    Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. If we try to make PROPHECY about anything else, (like fortune telling or comforting ourselves with false comforting new age thought), it becomes a wrong presupposition.

    The law was a shadow of the reality of Christ….if we try to make the LAW about anything that we can do for God, such as has happened with more than one cult, we get tangled up in it.

    Christ…is the central focus of all law and prophecy both historical, fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled.

    Jesus continued to confound them with his wisdom throughout his life. He was pointing out the coming of Elijah, the call to repentance that ushered in the arrival of the Messiah… He was pointing out the gaps in their understanding of the plans and purposes of God in sending the Messiah, of who he was, of the timing and of what circumstances would surround his coming.

    Since they weren’t interested in getting that right, he chose 12 disciples to make a statement to the public. I am he who was to come. I will be rejected, I will be in the grave 3 days, I will go away and I will come again.

    He continued to point to His Father who was authorizing and confirming his Word with astonishing miracles of raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, making the crippled walk again and and healing all who came to him, whether they had leprosy, palsy or the fever.

    Jesus said that the Pharisees didn’t know God or the Scriptures. If Jesus was here today he would still call our religious leaders whitewashed tombs who make converts that are twice the sons of hell as they are. Why? Because they are building an earthly kingdom and ignoring the one that Christ came to set up. They are mixing the worldly kingdom with His Spiritual Kingdom before the appointed time.

    Israel is still making the same mistake today as they did back then. Even though she is re-established as a nation and back in her own land…and Ezekiel’s dry bones have come together, she still has no life in her because she is still denying Christ and making the Scriptures about HER; about HER history, HER prophets, HER priesthood or secular pride, and HER laws, religious rituals and culture etc. She is still dependent on worldly alliances, false friends, strategic ties and military strength. But that is about to change according to Scripture.

    In the battle of Gog in Ezekiel 37- 38, when all the Arab nations and Russia come in siege against Israel, she will be rescued by the hand of God and all the world will know that it is God who did it. This will cause sight to return to the blinded eyes of Israel, they will be grafted back in (Romans 11). As a nation, they will look on Him whom they have pierced, they will mourn, they will be born in a day. So says the Scripture. If you disagree, I won’t be debating your eschatological preferences with you (besides, I don’t know them)… God will make it clear to any of us if we can set aside personal and religious preferences and just read the Word as it stands by the Light of the Holy Spirit.

    It doesn’t take long to see the Truth, once you have the right focal point…the right presupposition…which is Christ.

  9. I watched a wanna-be ‘successful’ “Senior Pastor” raise his hand and almost pinch his thumb and index finger together and tell the ‘congregation’ how he talked to a ‘pastor’ of a ‘very small congregation’ and asked him ‘why his church wasn’t growing?’ He then said the pastor of the small church told him that as he held up the bible and told the senior pastor asking “that it was because he ( the small church pastor) taught the word of God and people didn’t want to hear it anymore.” Telling us this as the ‘Senior Pastor’ and the congregation laughed.
    That is when I SHOULD HAVE stood up and asked, “Where is that man and give me directions to the gathering of those who will hear the True Word preached and taught in context!”
    I ran from that ‘church’ after a little while longer and many false teachings later!

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