11 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:16 Be foolish to the world

by | Jul 24, 2019 | 01 Podcasts, Corinthians

Paul concludes the first major section of 1Corinthians by urging the Corinthians to repent and imitate him in following Christ and looking foolish to the world.


In 1Corinthains 1-4, Paul addresses to a split in the Corinthian church.  Many in Corinth have rejected Paul and aligned themselves with Apollos. Paul is concerned that the theology that led them to make this choice represents a profound worldliness. 

1Corinthians 3:18-4:16 is Paul’s last appeal on this issue before he moves on to a new topic.  He finishes by urging them to recognize what is true, repent, and conduct themselves accordingly.

Be foolish in the world’s eyes

3:18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; 20and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” 21So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. – 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

  • 1 Corinthians 3:19 is probably not a citation of the Old Testament but rather a summary of an idea taught in Scripture, like we saw in 2:9.
  • The world considers the wisdom of God foolish when it is in fact true wisdom.  Ultimately, God will show the wisdom of the world to be foolish. 
  • Paul urges them embrace true wisdom even if it means looking foolish to their peers. 
  • The Corinthians are arrogantly boasting in their ability to judge that Apollos is wiser than Paul. Paul says boast instead about what God is doing in your lives.
  • We have everything because Christ has everything and he has us.  All these things are yours because you belong to Christ and Christ is a gift of God. 

Paul as steward

4:1Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. – 1Corinthians 4:1-5

  • Rather than judging Paul, they should see Paul as a servant who has been entrusted with the wealth of his master. In this case that “wealth” is the truth God wants to reveal about Jesus Christ.
  • A steward’s job is to faithfully execute his master’s wishes. 
  • While it’s appropriate to ask if a steward has been faithful in his duties, the master is the only one with the authority to make that judgment.
  • The only praise that counts is praise from God.
  • We can ask: Is what I’m hearing biblical?  Does this teaching fit with the rest of what I know of Scripture? Do I see evidence of a mature, solid faith in this teacher’s life? 
  • But it is God’s place to judge how faithfully teachers have executed their calling.

About your arrogance

6Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 8You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. – 1Corinthians 4:1-8

  • Paul used the Corinthian situation with himself and Apollos as an object lesson for the Corinthians.
  • Their presumption in judging Paul is a kind of arrogance.  They think they know better than the Apostle Paul about who and what is wise.
  • He reminds them all their knowledge is a gift of God through Paul.
  • 4:9 is a historical allusion. The Romans paraded their captors through town with those to be executed bringing up the rear.
  • On the one hand, the apostles are some of the most important people in the history of the world in terms of accomplishing God’s purposes and being wise. 
  • On the other hand, they are despised and ridiculed by the world.  They are seen as the most foolish and all but John was martyred.
  • 4:16 Be imitators of me – Be willing to look foolish to the world as I do.

For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.

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Series: 1 Corinthians: Pride & Prejudice in the church

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