The Wisdom of This World is Folly With God

by Mike Ratliff

18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός. 19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν. γέγραπται γάρ· ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν· 20 καὶ πάλιν· κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20 NA27)

18 Let no one deceive himself; if anyone supposes himself to be wise among you in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it has been written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”  20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise and they are vain.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)

I remember it like it was just the other day. It was in the Spring of 2006. I was preparing to teach my Bible Study class on Sunday morning to young couples. There were about 5 in there that were usually there and then another couple that were preparing to be married and a fellow about their age that I didn’t really know. I got ready to start the class. I asked for prayer requests then I prayed. Before I began the young lady who was preparing to be married asked me if she could ask a question. I said, “Sure!” She asked me to tell her what Paul meant in Ephesians 1with the terms “Predestined” and “Elected.” I simply read those passages, put them in context and before I could even begin to give an explanation her fiancé and the fellow who was with them began a tirade. I was never given a chance to explain anything. I finally put my Bible down, gave them the look I used to give the fellows under me in Boot Camp in the Navy and it got real quiet. I asked, “Do you have a problem with me or the Apostle Paul? Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write this…” By then some of the other people in the class told them to shut up or leave. That was the beginning of the end of my time at the church. 

When God’s truth is given to us in clear context and people “have their own interpretation,” well you have the madness that is going on right now in the church visible, which can best be described by the adjective “nominal.” There is nothing genuine about that part of it that deeply desires to look like the world, be like the world, and be attractive to the world no matter the cost.

What is the wisdom of this world that is folly with God? This “wisdom of the world” is human philosophy. Think of those who would bring pragmatism and man-made management techniques into the church in order to do a better job of making the church more relevant to the current generation instead of relying upon the sovereignty of God and his omnipotent power.

The church visible has been moving into this mode of compromise for a very long time. This is nothing new. Think of Charles Finney and his pragmatic approach to revivalism. Tragically, his methodologies are still with us today. On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Spurgeon and those following him dealt with the Great Downgrade which was a move away from boldly proclaiming the truths of Scripture and, instead, candy-coating the Word, being careful not to offend anyone. This may have looked “wise” to those leaders doing this, but what actually transpired was that Christianity’s influence in nineteenth-century England was severely weakened.

Of course, to those of you reading this who have been fighting this battle in the trenches for the last several years, none of this is “news” to you. I know that many of you have had similar experiences that I have had in that you were in a once solid church that the leadership hijacked and took down the road to pragmatism and you stood your ground against it and were forced out or you left before things got ugly. I know because we have shared these discussions. Those things are tragic yet I am convinced that God allowed them for his own purposes. I probably would never have become involved with CRN if that would not have happened with me. My own walk and own theological knowledge became elevated because of that. It was painful to have to go through it, but I am also grateful for how God “took me through it.”

Yes, the church visible is largely nominal and pursuing the things of this world while ignoring the wisdom of God, but in the midst of all that, God is preserving his remnant of those who are truly his who have not compromised and are being drawn into the light and a walk of repentance. I used to agonize over the vast parts of the church visible that our enemy has made a secular wasteland, but if our God is who the Word of God says he is then we must believe that he is still in control and has never for one instant given up that control or lost one of those who belong to him. Therefore, let us pursue him as living sacrifices in this dark and lost place. Let us be beacons of light in the world and be ready to be used by him as he wills.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “The Wisdom of This World is Folly With God

  1. Voddie Baucham regularly reminds us not to confuse the visible church with the true church. The church of Jesus Christ – those redeemed saints He paid for – is as healthy and vibrant and militant as the Scriptures reveal. She will never fail. But we are still wracked by sin and cannot see perfectly – so we see what our eyes of flesh can see and think the church is failing. It’s only the goat pens that are failing – because they cannot be the church.

    This is why the Scripture can tell us to not grow weary in well doing – for He will reward us in due time.

  2. Years ago, when I was discussing biblical evangelism with what turned out to be a Charles Finney fan (who owned a dog named Spurgeon), I pointed out that, in John 10, Jesus was going out to get other sheep – not goats. This “pastor” had thought that passage was a command to drag goats into the church – as Rick Warren and countless others do. He appeared to have an “aha!” moment, but it passed. I’ve since pondered the notion that these worldly churches are goat pens – some of which may have a sheep or two in it that the Lord will save.

  3. Good analogy, I am sure that I have spent time in a few of those. :-(

    However, God is sovereign and will save his people even if they are in there with the goats. Thankfully, he will work things out to cause his own to be expelled, or drawn out, or whatever in order to put them in a place they can grow in grace.

  4. Dear Mike,

    Thanks for this. It has become painfully obvious that for the majority of my life without realizing it, I put far too much confidence in “mere” men. The evil one glees in destroying admiration by exposing clay feet, but our appreciation of godly men should come from their glorification of God, not their intellect, writing of books, or charisma that entrances the masses. I praise God for the humble and realize that many of us feel like Elijah when he thought that maybe he was the only one who had remained faithful to the Lord, but God let him know that there were 7,000 who were left in the remnant. Everyday I wonder how God could even count me with His beloved (wretch that I am) and then I am reminded that only Christ could make me acceptable in God’s perfect sight and I try to rest in the mercy and grace shown to me and attempt to pass on to others.

    Kept only by His undeserved Grace, charisse

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