The Foolish Vanity of Human “Wisdom”

I Corinthians 1:19-21
       For 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? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): A great truth is stated in the first three chapters of I Corinthians: namely, that man thinks God’s wisdom is foolishness, and that God thinks man’s is the same.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Many men worship their own wisdom. They hope by searching to find out the Almighty unto perfection; and this theory and that they promulgate, and say, “This form of thought and the other will emancipate the human mind.” Ah, it is not so! “The world by wisdom” in the old Socratic and philosophic days worked out that problem, and the result was that they “knew not God,” but, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools;” and that is where man, with his great thought and wisdom, always drifts to some absurdity or another.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): The Lord―whose knowledge is infallible―knows the thoughts of men, that they are vanity, Psalm 94:11; yes, and of the wisest men, too, according to the apostle’s interpretation, I Corinthians 3:20. And who were they that became vain in their imaginations, but the wisest men the carnal world yielded? The Grecians, the greatest philosophers; the Egyptians, their tutors; and the Romans, their apes. The elaborate operations of an unregenerate mind are fleshy, Romans 8:5,7.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): They understand nothing of the mysteries of the gospel, or the way of salvation, which God holds out to the world in and through Jesus Christ.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Attend to the absurdities that disgrace the system of the wisest philosophers, when devoid of this revelation! Of what avail was all the learning of Rome and Greece, to prevent them from framing to their darkened and vain and foolish imaginations, deities preposterous and detestable? While every vile lust and monstrous abomination was even deified for their adoration, there was scarcely an idea to be found among them of a God of those infinite perfections that the Bible reveals.

AUGUSTINE (354-430): It is no more possible for finite man to comprehend the infinite God than for a child to dip the ocean into a hole he has made in the sand.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Not the Jews by their deep doctors, nor the Gentiles by their wits and wizards could grope out God.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): We have here the triumphs of the cross over human wisdom, according to the ancient prophecy, Isaiah 29:14―Behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wondrous work: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. All the valued learning of this world was confounded, baffled, and eclipsed, by the Christian revelation and the glorious triumphs of the cross. The heathen politicians and philosophers, the Jewish rabbis and doctors, the curious searchers into the secrets of nature, were all posed and put to a non-plus. This scheme [of salvation] lay out of the reach of the deepest statesmen and philosophers, and the greatest pretenders to learning both among the Jews and Greeks. When God would save the world, He took a way by Himself; and with good reason, for the world by wisdom knew not God. All the boasted science of the heathen world did not, could not, effectually bring home the world to God. In spite of all their wisdom, ignorance still prevailed, iniquity still abounded. Men were puffed up by imaginary knowledge, and rather further alienated from God.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Thou mayest tumble over all the philosophers that ever wrote, and, when thou hast done, not be able to frame a right notion of Him. The best of them all were but brutish in their highest knowledge of God. Indeed, God left the wise world to run into a thousand follies and vanities, while they were by their own wisdom shaping a religion to themselves, that, having proved them dunces, he might send them and the whole world to learn this lesson in another school, and that is the ministry of the gospel, which is naught else but the explication and application of the word, After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): You see this is where you see the wisdom of God. People often ask this question, “If God had proposed to send the Messiah, the Deliverer, His own Son into this world, as He had, and as He prophesied and foretold throughout the running centuries, why did He wait so long to do it? Why didn’t He do it much earlier?” Well, here’s the answer: God sent His Son into the world with His message, after He had given the world a full opportunity to deliver itself―and particularly, through Greek philosophy. You see all those great Greek philosophers―Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and the rest―they’d all lived and they’d all taught before the Lord Jesus Christ came. Here was man at his very acme; there is no question about that. There is no question at all that the flowering period of the human intellect in some many senses was reached in that great era of Greek philosophy which preceded the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now it was given a full opportunity. There is man’s ability and thinking at its very best and highest. But it didn’t come anywhere near a knowledge of God. The world by wisdom knew not God―and it never has known Him ever since, and it never will. That’s it!

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The sublimest virtue according to philosophy is to live the life of nature, but Scripture points us to the perfect Christ as our example…To search for wisdom apart from Christ is means not simply foolhardiness, but utter insanity.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The ordinary Christian knows more about life than the greatest philosopher who is not a Christian.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): The problems of origin and destiny have escaped the philosopher and the scientist, but the humblest follower of Christ knows the answer to both…The wisest person in the world is the person who knows the most about God.

CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): To know God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, is the highest principle and perfection of man. This attainment, infinitely above all others, constitutes true wisdom.


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