1 Corinthians

True Widsom. 3:18-23


In chapter 3 of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he continues to work on the problem of the church's failure to recognize his apostolic authority. Some in the congregation had allowed themselves to be influenced by powerful oratory and worldly wisdom and had come to belittle Paul's ministry style. The inevitable result was quarreling in the church. Paul now concludes his argument with a clear exhortation to deal with the strife - no more boasting about what seems to be wisdom; out with party spirit.

The passage

v18. In a general address to the leaders of the different parties in the Corinthian fellowship, Paul calls on them to reassess their world-views. Some obviously think they are very smart, as well as spiritual, and so Paul uses their words to push them toward the foolishness of the cross. This age is destined for destruction, so they need to become "fools" for Christ.

v19-20. Christian ministry must always focus on the foolishness of the cross. The foolishness of God will always outshine the wisdom of humanity. From a human perspective, the cross of Christ does seem stupid, 1:18-25. Yet, now Paul gives us God's perspective, namely that it is human reasoning that is stupid. Only God's gracious providence holds the whole of life together. Paul quotes Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11 to make his point. The wise think they can outsmart God, but this only leads to their damnation. God knows well the thoughts of those who think they can outwit him.

v21. The Corinthians should abandon their self-sufficient boasting in worldly-wise leaders, for they are not part of a single party, but a universe, eternity.

v22. The Corinthians say "I am of Apollos", ie. they rely on mere men. Not only is this stupid, but it is opposed to the substantial truth that we are all one in Christ. God's intention is "to bring all things in heaven and earth under one head, even Christ", Eph.1:10. So in reality, Paul, Apollos, Peter, etc., "all are yours". Christian teachers are in the service of the congregation, not the other way around.

v23. If you belong to anything it is not some party or individual, but rather it is to Christ. By being one with Christ we possess everything. Paul adds that Christ "is God's". Although this statement expresses subordination, it is really only a functional one, of Christ serving the Father - God is one, undivided.

The sin of bigotry

On one occasion when Jesus was with his disciples, he came upon a person casting out demons in "Christ's name". This person was not one of Jesus' team and so the disciples asked Jesus if they should forbid him. Jesus' answer was simple, "whoever is not against us is for us", Mk.9:38-41.

The tendency to be exclusive and narrow was certainly a problem facing the Corinthians, but it is also one which faces us. The Corinthians had determined their particular godly spokesmen - Peter, Paul, Apollos, etc. We similarly like to think that we have the ability and the right to determine our mediator of divine truth.

Our selection may be personal. When it comes to which clergyman is God's man, the human condition seems to promote typecasting, conspiracy theories and assumptions. Phrases like, "he's a man of the Word", or "I think he's a bit liberal", are often used. In the end, we often close ourselves off to God's Word and this because of personal bigotry.

Our selection may be denominational. Our denomination has the truth and everyone else is wrong. Sadly today we still get denominational bigotry entering into the Christian family, as if God is limited to working through only one particular Christian institution.

Our selection may be ideological. Terms such as liberals, ritualists, evangelicals, fundamentalists..... are used to categorize believers. Those with a kosher ideology may be listened to, while the rest may be ignored.

The truth is "all things are ours"; we are privileged to be in union with one another and with Christ. Once this truth sinks in we are set free to rightly discern the wisdom of God from a multiplicity of sources.


In Christ everything belongs to us. Why then do we fear different styles within the Christian faith? Discuss.

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