We are living in interesting times. We are witnessing the greatest explosion of information that the world has ever known. This exponential increase in the amount of knowledge isn’t just available to academic types, but it is available to you and me. Never before has so much information, about everything under the sun, been made available to such a large number of people…and the amount of information is expanding rapidly each and every minute of every day.
When Richard Buckmaster Fuller, the 20th century inventor and visionary, developed the concept of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve,” he stated that up until the year 1900 human knowledge doubled every 100 years. By the end of World War II, the doubling of knowledge had increased to every 25 years. Several years later IBM predicted that by 2020 knowledge would double every 12?hours. I don’t know if the doubling of knowledge is now every 12 hours, but there’s no doubt that we are now in possession of more knowledge, about a wider set of topics, than ever before in human history. This increase of knowledge is more than any of us can take in.
Our access to information and our opportunity to acquire knowledge has led to a nation filled with authorities. Have you noticed this taking place? Everyone is an authority because if we don’t know about something then all we have to do is Google it, spend a few hours reading, and then we will know as much as anyone else, or so we think.
There are those among us who have a deep knowledge about a particular field or discipline of study. I admire those who have devoted their entire lives to the study of a single subject, and as they have done so they have earned degree after degree. That speaks volumes about their dedication to learning and their interest and grasp of a particular subject, but it doesn’t mean much more than that to be honest. I’m not downplaying anyone’s expertise, but what I am intending is to make it clear that just because someone possesses great knowledge about one subject does not mean they are somehow superior to anyone else. I have known people who possessed vast knowledge about one subject and somehow became convinced that they were all-knowing. Paul once told the people of Corinth, those who were as enamored with knowledge and wisdom as we are, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
I love the story and humility of Dr. Francis Collins. You may not recognize the name, but I’m sure you do recognize the name, Dr. Tony Fauci. Well, Dr. Collins is Dr. Fauci’s boss at the National Institute of Health. Francis’ mom and dad were both graduates of Yale University and atheists. When Francis was young they sent him to church. They told him to not pay any attention to all of the “God talk,” but to sing in the choir and learn to read music. Needless to say, Francis never gave the existence of God even a consideration…until later in life. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Collins said,
As a graduate student in physical chemistry in the 1970s, I was an atheist, finding no reason to postulate the existence of any truths outside of mathematics, physics and chemistry. But then I went to medical school, and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of my patients. Challenged by one of those patients, who asked “What do you believe, doctor?”, I began searching for answers. I had to admit that the science I loved so much was powerless to answer questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” “Why am I here?” “Why does mathematics work, anyway?” “If the universe had a beginning, who created it?” “Why are the physical constants in the universe so finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex life forms?” “Why do humans have a moral sense?” “What happens after we die?” (Dr. Francis Collins)
It wasn’t a renowned scientist or philosopher, someone with a superior intellect who caused Francis to recognize that he had become an arrogant scientist and that he needed to humble himself and examine the evidence for the existence of God. God used one of Dr. Collins’ patients, an elderly woman, a woman who was terminal but at total peace, who shared her faith with Dr. Collins and then asked, “What do you believe Dr.?” to cause Francis to take a look at the evidence. When she asked the question, “What do you believe Dr.?” Francis realized that he, a scientist who believed in drawing conclusions based on evidence, had drawn his own conclusions about God without ever having examined a shred of evidence. Dr. Collins spent a year reading the Bible, reading C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” as well as other books. The evidence was overwhelming and Francis has been walking with Jesus ever since. Surrendering his life to Jesus hasn’t made Dr. Collins less of a scientist, but it has made him a more humble scientist. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in 1 Corinthians 3:18-23.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness;” 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (1 Corinthians 3:18-23 NIV)
Paul urges the brothers and sisters in Corinth, “Do not deceive yourselves.” God’s Word tells us that we can deceive others and we ourselves can be deceived by others. This should not shock any of us. We see it every day. We not only see deception taking place in society, but we have been deceitful, and been deceived ourselves, have we not? Why is deception so common among people? That’s a great question and the answer is, “We want what we want.” Deception is a selfish tool used to convince someone else of something that is not true in order to get what we want or to make them believe what we want them to believe.
But here, in 1 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says, “Do not deceive yourselves.” Why would we deceive ourselves? I would suggest that it is for the very same reason. We want to convince ourselves that something that is not true, is in fact true, in order to get what we want. That could be to convince ourselves that we are not as “bad” as we think or feel or that we are better than we really are, to make us feel superior to others. Paul has something specific in mind: “Do not deceive yourselves in thinking you are wise by the standards of this age.” The folks in Corinth passionately desired knowledge, the wisdom of their day. It made them feel good about themselves to be able to quote their favorite philosophers, to be able to ruminate on the existential questions of life, and it gave them a sense of superiority over others. Once again, “Knowledge puffs us, but love builds up.”
We have this same problem present in our own day don’t we? Knowledge is power and the more knowledge we gain the more powerful we feel. I read a quote from Dr. Collins this past week that really spoke to me about how little we actually know, even the most brilliant among us, those like Dr. Collins. He said,
Suppose you were asked to draw a circle that contains all the information, all the knowledge that exists or ever will exist, inside or outside the universe – all knowledge. Well, that would be a pretty enormous circle. Now, suppose on that same scale, you were asked to draw what you know at the present time. Even the most assertive person will draw a rather tiny circle. (Dr. Francis Collins)
That really puts things into perspective doesn’t it? The knowledge you and I possess is a mere speck compared to the sum total of all of the knowledge that God possesses, all of the knowledge that is known or will be discovered in years to come. The world, those who do not follow Jesus, will continue to glory in their degrees and the knowledge they possess, but you and I should be the most humble of all people on the planet.
Paul actually takes things a step further. Paul says that we aren’t to become puffed up by our assessment of how smart we are, but we, those who follow Jesus, are to recognize that we are “morons,” that is actually what the Greek word for “fool” means, we really don’t know a thing apart from God concerning spiritual truth. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 with me once again.
…If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 3:8b-19a NIV)
When Paul writes that the “wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” he has in mind human wisdom regarding spiritual truth. This is what I was referring to earlier when I said that just because a person possesses great knowledge about one subject that doesn’t mean that person knows a thing about other subjects. The human mind has no way of discovering and understanding spiritual truth apart from God. Let me give you an example. Elon Musk is a fascinating guy. He is so smart. His Space X program and Tesla automobile company are on the cutting edge of technological advancement. I’ve listened to several interviews with Elon and he’s on another level when it comes to technology, engineering, and science, but when it comes to spiritual truths, Elon has much to learn. He was asked if he believes there might be a master intelligence at work in the Universe? Here’s his response.
Do I think that there’s some sort of master intelligence architecting all of this stuff? I think probably not, because then you have to say: “Where does the master intelligence come from?”…I think, really, you can explain this with the fundamental laws of physics…complex phenomenon from simple elements. (Elon Musk)
Now, you and I know that all we need to do is to open God’s Word to learn that “Yes! Absolutely Yes!” there is a Master Intelligence at work, our Sovereign God formed the heavens and the earth and each and every one of us. Not only has He created, but He is with us, leading us, guiding us, and shaping us into the image of His Son. What a revelation! How do we come to this knowledge? By humbling ourselves, not presuming to know all of the answers, but seeking God and His truth about all things. Let’s move on.
In verses 19 and 20 Paul quotes from two Old Testament passages. The first is from Job 5:13 where we read, “He catches the wise in their craftiness;” and the second quotation comes from Psalm 94:11 where we read, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” I want us to take a look at a larger part of Psalm 94. Let’s begin in verse 8.
8 Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? 9 Does he who fashioned the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? 10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge? 11 The LORD knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. (Psalm 94:8-11 NIV)
In the opening verses of Psalm 94 we hear about those who are prideful, those who pour out arrogant words, those who are boasting about getting away with what they’ve done. Oh, they are slick, they are smooth aren’t they? Yet, the Psalmist tells us: God sees, He hears, and He knows that when we forsake His way and do things our own way, the end result is emptiness, utter futility.
The people of Corinth, rather than being a light in the midst of a dark culture, instead of being an alternative to the Corinthian way of doing life, they had adopted the lifestyle of their culture. Do you remember the pressing issue that was on Paul’s heart in the very beginning of his letter to the church in Corinth? Let me refresh your minds. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 and let’s read together.
11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13 NIV)
The people in the pews were arguing over their preachers just like the people of Corinth were arguing over their favorite philosophers and speakers. Some liked Paul and couldn’t care less about Apollos. Others like Apollos and dismissed everything Paul had to say. Still others preferred Peter’s teaching. And then there was the super spiritual group that only “red letter” parts of the Bible, the teachings of Jesus. Paul let them know that kind of thinking had to stop. They had to stop thinking and behaving like the people of the world. Now here we are at the very end of the 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter and he is driving home that thought once again. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 with me.
21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23 NIV)
“No more boasting about human leaders!” And why not? They all belong to you. They have all been given for your benefit. “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…” The brothers and sisters in Corinth were missing out on God’s best for them. He had provided Paul, Apollos, and Peter for the benefit of the whole church. It’s interesting how Paul turns things around. In the first chapter, the people in the church were saying, “I follow, or I belong, to Paul or Apollos or Peter,” but here Paul says, “No, we belong to you, we belong to the church.” All three were given by God to bless and build the church.
I was thinking about this during the week. We are so blessed to have Ryan, Tre, Irvin, and Jessica as our pastors, our spiritual leaders. Each of them is different, aren’t they? Their personalities are different, their life experiences are different, their styles of ministry are different, but their message is the same…just like Paul, Apollos, and Peter. If I chose one of our pastors and dismissed the others I would be robbing myself of God’s best for me. I would miss out on what I could learn from listening to, appreciating, and recognizing that God intends to speak through them to me. Why would I choose just one when God has blessed me with an abundance of godly teachers? They are all my teachers!
Paul doesn’t stop with those who had ministered in Corinth. He goes on to say, “…or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours…” All things belong to God’s people. All things belong to you, if you are in Christ my friend. All things! Stop and think about that just for a moment. All things. Not only are all of God’s teachers given to us, but all things–the world, life, death, the present, and the future they are all gifts to you and me from our gracious God.
Gordon Fee describes these five items as the “ultimate tyrannies of human existence.” These are the things that paralyze and frighten so many people. The thought of death terrorizes so many in our day and I certainly understand that, don’t you? If it were not for what I learn in God’s Word and Jesus’ victory over death and the grave, I would be terrified of death as well. Here’s what God’s Word says about death. Turn with me to Hebrews 2:14-15 and let’s read together.
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death– that is, the devil– 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV)
If you are a follower of Jesus then you need to know that you do not need to live in fear of death ever again. The bondage of death, the shackles of death that paralyze and strike fear in the hearts of people, those shackles have been broken by Jesus’ victory over death. The tyranny of death is no more for those who are in Christ Jesus. Later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes,
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)
But thanks be to God! Death, which was once the cause of so much concern, has now become the gateway home for you and for me! Let’s take a look at just one more of these “five tyrannies,” as Gordon Fee calls them. How about the future? Are you worried about the future? What does the future hold? What am I going to do? What should I do? What should you do? The future, the unknown, can paralyze us as much as the fear of death can’t it? If you’ve lived very many years then you know that you can plot out your future. You can make your plans and stick to the script all you want to and then suddenly change comes, heartache comes, the unexpected happens, and there is nothing you can do about it.
I know several people who are so unsure about the future now that we have a new President. I’ve heard so much talk about the disastrous predictions being made about the next four years. Do you know what’s interesting? I heard the exact same talk coming from my friends four years ago who were so frightened about the new President and all of the horrible things they feared would happen. Those who were afraid four years ago, and those who are afraid about the future right now need to recognize that if you are a follower of Jesus you should never trust in human leaders. We don’t hitch our wagons to a political party or to a politician–we place our trust and hope in our Sovereign God.
I have no idea what the future holds for you and me, but this is what I do know: God knows the future, He is Sovereign over the future and His plans will come to fruition in the future just as they have in the past. The future is yours my friend because the future belongs to Him. We need not fear. We can look forward to the days ahead knowing this with absolute certainty…
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)
All things are not good, but God promises us that all things will work together for the good of His people, for those who are in Christ Jesus. Paul also said,
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
Well, our time is up, but before we have to close our time in God’s Word, Paul has one more thing to share with us. It is in verse 23. Read it with me.
23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. (1 Corinthians 3:23 NIV)
Nothing can bring you and me greater comfort than to know that we belong to Jesus. Not just you individually, but us collectively–we are His. While you were dead in your sins, He chose you. He breathed new life into your lifeless existence. He gave you a new name, a new purpose, a new hope, and a new future that is secure. Nothing can ever change that my friend. You belong to Jesus. You are His. In John 10, Jesus told the crowd,
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 NIV)
No one, no circumstance, no tragedy or trial, nothing today nor tomorrow, no sin or sorrow, no temptation or tempest can ever snatch us from the gracious, nail-pierced hands of our Savior. Nothing, no one, can pry us from our Father’s hand. Hallelujah! All glory to God!
Do you know what Paul is trying to do for the people of Corinth and what I pray he is doing for us as we study this powerful letter? He is trying to give God’s people a greater vision for their lives than the one being offered to them by their culture. We are in the same predicament aren’t we? Our society, our culture, presents for us, is trying to sell us, a vision for the good life, but it falls so far short of what God has for us if we will only see it. The great Bible teacher John Stott wrote these words:
The vision we need is the vision of God himself; the God of the whole biblical revelation; the God of creation who made all things fair and good, and made man male and female to bear his image and subdue his world; the God of the covenant of grace who in spite of human rebellion has been calling out a people for himself; the God of compassion and justice who hates oppression and loves the oppressed; the God of the incarnation who made himself weak, small, limited and vulnerable, and entered our pain and alienation; the God of resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, and so of universal authority and power; the God of the church or the kingdom community to whom he has committed himself for ever, and whom he sends into the world to live, serve, suffer and die; the God of history who is working according to a plan and towards a conclusion; the God of the eschaton, who one day will make all things new. (John Stott)
What glorious vision for your life and mine! We are a people called out from the world to serve our King, in this world, by dying to ourselves and living for Him. Why would we ever waste our time by falling in line with the world, adopting the ways of this world, or adapting to the world’s expectations of us? Why would we settle for something so shallow when God has so much more planned for us? Here’s the thing: Without surrendering our lives to Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, that is exactly what we will do–we’ll settle for the shallow life. I want to invite you to surrender your life to Jesus this morning. Let Him begin a work in you that you could never imagine.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 24, 2021
1 Corinthians 3:18-23