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.
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(18) Passing from the difference between the work of one teacher and that of another, which has occupied him since 1Corinthians 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 (1Corinthians 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 1Corinthians 1:20.

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

1 Corinthians 3:18-20. Let no man deceive himself — Neither teacher, by propagating errors through pride of his own understanding; nor hearers, by a factious preferring of one above another for his gifts. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world — Be wise with respect to the things of this world only, and on that account be puffed up with pride; let him become a fool — Such as the world accounts so; let him renounce his carnal wisdom, and submit to the doctrine of the gospel, which the world considers as folly; that he may be — Prove himself to be, wise — Namely, spiritually, and in God’s account; wise in matters that concern his everlasting salvation. For the wisdom of this world — However men may boast of it, and think highly of themselves because they suppose they possess it; is foolishness with God — Is accounted so by him. For it is written, (Job 5:13, where see the note,) He taketh the wise in their own craftiness — Not only while they think they are acting wisely, but by their very wisdom, which itself is their snare, and the occasion of their destruction. In other words, they are entangled and brought to ruin by those subtle contrivances, whereby they thought to secure themselves. The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise — The worldly wise, or of those that think themselves wise; that they are vain — Empty, foolish, unprofitable, ineffectual to secure themselves against God.

3:18-23 To have a high opinion of our own wisdom, is but to flatter ourselves; and self-flattery is the next step to self-deceit. The wisdom that wordly men esteem, is foolishness with God. How justly does he despise, and how easily can he baffle and confound it! The thoughts of the wisest men in the world, have vanity, weakness, and folly in them. All this should teach us to be humble, and make us willing to be taught of God, so as not to be led away, by pretences to human wisdom and skill, from the simple truths revealed by Christ. Mankind are very apt to oppose the design of the mercies of God. Observe the spiritual riches of a true believer; All are yours, even ministers and ordinances. Nay, the world itself is yours. Saints have as much of it as Infinite Wisdom sees fit for them, and they have it with the Divine blessing. Life is yours, that you may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow, and to guide you to your Father's house. Things present are yours, for your support on the road; things to come are yours, to delight you for ever at your journey's end. If we belong to Christ, and are true to him, all good belongs to us, and is sure to us. Believers are the subjects of his kingdom. He is Lord over us, we must own his dominion, and cheerfully submit to his command. God in Christ, reconciling a sinful world to himself, and pouring the riches of his grace on a reconciled world, is the sum and substance of the gospel.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 dokei implies 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.


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

wise in this world—wise in mere worldly wisdom (1Co 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].

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.

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 Jews (p) have a saying,

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

(p) Raya Mehimua in Zohar in Numb. fol. 104. 2.

{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.

1 Corinthians 3:18. Μηδεὶς 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).

1 Corinthians 3:18-23. § 11. THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD. Affectation of philosophy,—“the wisdom of the world,” which P. has repudiated on behalf of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:2)—was at the bottom of the Cor[606] troubles. Those who follow human wisdom exalt human masters at the expense of God’s glory, and there are teachers who lend themselves to this error and thus build unworthily on the Christian foundation—some who are even destroying, under a show of building, the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:3-17). That the warnings P. has given to his fellow-labourers bear on the popular λόγος σοφίας is apparent from the manner in which he reverts to the topic at this point. § 11 resumes the strain of §§ 4–8, impressing on teachers and taught alike the true relationship of things human and Divine.

[606] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

18. let him become a fool, that he may be wise] 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.

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.

Verse 18. - Let no man deceive himself. Like the other formula, "Be not deceived" (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7); "Deceive not yourselves" (Jeremiah 37:9); "Let no man deceive you" (Marl 24:4; Luke 21:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Ephesians 5:6; 1 John 3:7). We are so liable to self deception (1 John 1:8; Galatians 6:3), as well as to being deceived by others (2 Timothy 3:13), that there was need to repeat this warning incessantly. Seemeth to be wise; rather, thinketh that he is wise. He is referring specially to the Apollos party, who vaunted their esoteric knowledge, and so were "wise in their own eyes, prudent in their own conceits" (Isaiah 5:21). 1 Corinthians 3:18
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