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1 Corinthians 3:15-23 New American Standard Bible 1995

15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are a [a]temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

18 Let 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. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Nestle-Aland 28 (NA28) 1 Corinthians 3:15-23

15εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός. 

16Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν;

17εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός· ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς.

 18Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός.

19ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν. γέγραπται γάρ· ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν·

20καὶ πάλιν· κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι.

21ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις· πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν,

22εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς, εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος, εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα· πάντα ὑμῶν,

23ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.

I was trying to analyze

(1 Corinthians 3:18) Let 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.

In order to get a better understanding of “he must become foolish” phrase in (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Could someone please elaborate on the meaning of the “he must become foolish” phrase?

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    The plain meaning of this phrase, "he must become foolish" indicates a neen for men to humble themselves before God and seek Him for wisdom and understanding. Becoming foolish is not saying to become ignorant or simple. It instead is standing back in humility while we trust God to enlighten our understanding. The bible teaches to seek wisdom. That is not a contradiction. We are to become willing to see our understanding as foolish in view of God's wisdom.
    – Rick
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 12:29
  • *need for men to humble . thumbs up Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 14:09

3 Answers 3

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In verse 18 Paul was referring back to the points he made in the previous chapters about the wisdom of man versus the wisdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-2:16). He was saying that if any people are wise by the world’s standards, let them forsake that carnal wisdom (become fools from the unbeliever’s viewpoint) so that they may walk in the true wisdom of God.

Verse 11 - and the two Old Testament quotes further down this chapter (Quotes from Job 5:13 and Psalms 94:11) are summarizing some of Paul’s arguments that he had already made about the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of man. God considers our wisdom to be foolish. That’s how superior God’s thoughts are to ours.

Many Believers consider that to be 100 percent true of the limited wisdom of man operative in Paul’s day, but few believers would support this statement wholeheartedly today. Deception is always harder to discern when it is happening. The truth is that many times, people esteem the word of a doctor, lawyer, friend, or even the news, above the Word of God. This should not be. We can be assured that regardless of advancements in man’s knowledge, the simple truth of God’s Word is still infinitely more accurate and profound than man’s hypotheses.

This is a great encouraging verse for those who are facing opposition because of their faith in God. This is saying that He will use the very schemes that the ungodly devise against Him to snare them.

There are many examples of this in Scripture. God used the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart (and head) to bring infinite glory to Himself. Solomon used God’s superior wisdom to trap the woman who lied in the dispute over who was the true mother of a child (1 Kings 3:16-28). Paul played on the ‘Athenians’ own pseudo-intellectualism’ to renounce their pagan practices (Acts 17:16-34). There is always a way for a person employing God’s wisdom to take any argument or situation that the devil’s crowd may present and work it together for good (Romans 8:28).

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Trying to analyze (1 Corinthians 3:18) ".....he must become foolish...."

1 Corinthians 3:18 NASB

18 Let 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.

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age"'(Vs 18a)

Paul is making reference to the world's wisdom, no matter how one might have it, by virtue of his education philosophic knowledge, shrewdness, and investigations, human wisdom has no genuine basis for hope.

"He must become foolish".(Vs 18b)

To the wise of the world, Christians become foolish when they preach the Gospel- the good news of the Kingdom, because this, the world considers sheer foolishness.

Paul wrote: Preaching is foolishness to those that are perishing,

1 Corinthians 1:17-21 NET

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

What is esteemed in the world is detestable to God

Luke 16:15 NET

15 But[a] Jesus said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly prized[d] among men is utterly detestable in God’s sight.

He may become wise: (Vs 18c)

One may be proud only in having the insight knowledge of the truth about God

The Lord takes delight in:

1 Corinthians 1:31 NET

31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”[a]

Jeremiah 9:23-24 NET

“Wise people should not boast that they are wise. Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful. Rich people should not boast that they are rich. 24 If people want to boast, they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,”[d]says the Lord.

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  • Would it be accurate to say that some worldly people think that Christians who share Jesus Christ's gospel sound corny, over the top, cheesy, simple-minded, etc.? Not to sound offensive or stereotype people, but I suppose Americans from the American Southern Bible belt area are usually simple countryside/rural people who talk openly about Jesus Christ's Gospel which might seem corny, cheesy, simple-minded to a culturally sophisticated/suave/elegant American from New York City, Englishman from London, Frenchman from Paris? Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 20:01
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    @crazyTech : It is very accurate to say that. When reading the Bible that you will notice that God used ordinary people, people lacking prominence in the world ,then and today The Apostles Peter and John for example when they were questioned by the Jewish leaders, elders, and law experts ,they answered with boldness and confidence. Then they were amazed when they realized that Peter and John were uneducated and were with Jesus. (Read Acts 4:13) Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 9:20
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(Credit Reference: https://www.studylight.org/bible/eng/amp/1-corinthians/3-18.html )

In the “Clarke's Notes on the Bible” commentary, it says:

“…………….by renouncing his own wisdom, and seeking that which comes from God……”

In the “Barnes' Notes on the Bible” commentary, it says:

“(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.”

In the “Gill's Notes on the Bible” commentary, it says:

“…….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,…….”

My concern with some of the aforementioned commentaries is that they sort of assume that becoming foolish to the world means that people have to embrace the Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

I suppose we can associate the “he must become foolish” to the language literary devices like figure of speech, hyperbole, etc.

However, we could also go Beyond merely associating language literary device with said phrase because we can see Biblical characters becoming foolish in the eyes of the world by looking socially awkward/unsophisticated in public society. For example, King David’s worship dancing recounted in 2 Samuel 6:16-20, and subsequently, his wife, Michal, despising King David for his socially awkward/unsophisticated worship dancing in the eyes of Michal.

Also, we could also show “foolishness” to the World by understanding the description of John The Baptist in the Bible:

(Matthew 3:4) Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Even Jesus Christ was hinting/suggesting John The Baptist’s socially awkward/unsophisticated physical appearance which would be considered “foolishness” in the eyes of the world.

(Matthew 11 :7) As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 [h]But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ [i]palaces! 9 [j]But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.

Finally, I’d also like to mention how God makes use of foolishness against this world:

2 Corinthians 4:7 NASB1995 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves

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