Foolish or WISE?

We have all observed the often light, frivolous, senseless nature of so much talk.

Doesn’t the Preacher say it?

Ecclesiastes 5:3  3…a fool’s voice is known by his many words.

Strange how people thrive on lightness. What makes the appeal? It surely isn’t the value. Is it the flavor? No matter, the Word says,

Ecclesiastes 2:13  13Then I saw that wisdom excels folly As light excels darkness.

Who is the fool? What is folly?

Before we start down this road, we need a good definition of fool and folly.

There is nothing stable about the meaning of a word, especially how when everybody holds the self-declared right to determine their own “truth.” Relativity has upset just about every meaning possible. Actually this is a fulfillment of scripture, that they would call evil good and good evil. What is the text?

Isaiah 5:20  20Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Being thought a fool has apparently long been a fear. Recall a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln that..

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

But the big issue is not being thought a fool but being a fool in God’s sight— because we reject God’s knowledge. A fool is one without sense in God’s sight, because rejecting God’s wisdom.

Now think about it:

When God is offering us ETERNAL LIFE—and we turn it down for some shiny penny of this world, is there a better term for us than FOOL to shock us to our senses?

But we are not naturally drawn to learn God’s knowledge, even with the great prize He is offering. The wisdom of this world is so much more attractive to our earth-loving minds.

Because God’s knowledge is not easy.

But God regards knowledge – His knowledge – so highly. It is the voice of divine Wisdom in Proverbs 8:

Proverbs 8:6  6Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things;

But if it is not the RIGHT kind of knowledge, by God’s definition, God calls it foolishness.

Foolish—because it is senseless. Valueless.

Why? Because it won’t give LIFE!

What does Paul say about the wisdom of this world?

1 Corinthians 3:19  19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;

Let’s get more of Paul’s thought from 1 Corinthians 1. Recall that Paul is writing this letter to the church that had such high regard for this world’s knowledge. Paul addresses the issue head-on. He starts with a 2 point challenge as he compares wisdom and folly. He directs it to both the Jews and the Greeks. Each had their own ideas. Paul was preaching Christ to both. He started with his purpose: He had been SENT.

1 Corinthians 1:17  17… Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Right away we learn that Paul is preaching “the gospel,” something to be LEARNED. Paul himself defined it:

Romans 1:16  16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

If the gospel is the power of God to SALVATION, where do we get it?

Back to 1 Corinthians 1. Paul says he is preaching the gospel,

1 Corinthians 1:17  17… lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

What is the connection between the preaching of the “gospel” and the “cross of Christ”? He says if he does not preach the gospel, the “cross of Christ” is of NO effect. The gospel is PRIMARY.

Most people read this as saying salvation comes through Christ’s death on the cross, but let us read further before we conclude.

Paul does not say the gospel is about something Christ did for us or in our stead. Paul says, verse 18:

1 Corinthians 1:18  18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Note it is “us who are being saved”—in the process, on the way, not that we are already saved.

The cross is “foolishness” –meaningless—to the perishing, but to those on the way to salvation, those hearing the gospel, it is the POWER of God.

Skip down to verse 22:

1 Corinthians 1:22–24  22For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified. Unto the Jews a stumbling block.”

How? Recall that the Jews rejected Christ totally at His first coming. They didn’t want a baby that had to grow up and learn. And when He came preaching, thjey didn’t want what He had to say—that their law was ended, that He was the promised Messiah, to go away to heaven and return. This wasn’t the Christ they wanted.

So Jesus was a stumbling block right from the start as far as the Jews were concerned. It was stumble, stumble all the way until they crucified Him!

And what about the Greeks, the Gentiles, the rest? If Paul is talking about Jesus’ death on Calvary, if the purpose of His coming was to cleanse us from our sins, or to pay the sin-debt we owe to God, WHY is “Christ crucified” foolishness to the Greeks? Why is it a power only to those who have God’s wisdom or knowledge?

Paul says,

23…we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

This is Christ as He showed in His own life the wisdom of God, the same gospel Paul was now preaching, the gospel to be LIVED every day, just as Jesus became the “power of God and the wisdom of God,” what we call “Christ the truth,” the living Word.

What did the Psalmist understand about this same knowledge of God?

Psalm 119:97–99  97Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. 99I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.

It is all through God’s knowledge, precepts, laws, testimonies, and commandments—knowledge to be APPLIED. These are what must be occupying our minds all the time.

How do we apply this? It is not that we must be thinking all day, “I must keep the commandments.” That would be pointless. What we want is our mind, our thoughts, under control, “on a leash” as it were, so that we can “tug” them at will. We need to practice being focused – focused on what we are doing, a text of scripture, or pondering a lesson we have learned, or seeing a life lesson in what we are doing, or a thought that is helpful and uplifting.

A wandering mind is looking for trouble. Let it roam, and it wil find it, as we well know!

The Psalmist says more:

Psalm 119:104  104Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

When we get this “understanding,” we will hate every false way! That is strong language!

Understanding is power to depart from evil. Job said it clearly:

Job 28:20  20”From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?

Job 28:28  28And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”

Here is real POWER—power that comes from wisdom, and understanding.

In Paul’s metaphor, it is the power of “Christ crucified.” It is the power of
Christ surrendering His own will,
Christ obeying always the will of His Father,
Christ giving up Himself totally to speak and do as His Father commanded.
Christ crucified.
Christ sacrificed.
It is the LIVING sacrifice God requires of all. Paul described it in Rom. 12:1,

Romans 12:1  1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

When WE present our bodies a living sacrifice, we are following Christ’s example of Christ crucified.

In the metaphor of Revelation, it is the “Lamb slain.” What do we read in Revelation?

Revelation 5:12  12… “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

What would make Christ “worthy” to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing? Because He made the complete sacrifice of Himself, died the complete death to sin and all sinful tendencies, and is henceforth WORTHY to be crowned with immortality. He who was without sin, who could be more “worthy”?

It isn’t only about Christ being slain, or shedding His blood. It is said of ALL the saints in Revelation. Remember the “souls” of the beheaded, that were under the altar? They had been “slain,” and were now being blessed.

Revelation 20:4  4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, … And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Again in Revelation 6, the same group ready to live and reign with Christ:

Revelation 6:9  9When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

Paul said it another way in Romans 6:

Romans 6:10–11  10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all [once for all time, not once for everybody]; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul says WE must do as Christ did, die as Christ died, and Paul said nothing of our having to be crucified on a literal cross.

When we speak of Christ who is slain, it is His death to sin, not His death by the cruel mob. Our duty is to follow Christ. Is He alone in this role? Not at all. What did Paul say about himself?

1 Corinthians 15:31  31I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

Paul died daily. There is the reality of being slain. And it is foolishness to the world at large, even the Christian world—because they say Christ did it for us.

No, it is our every day task. Every day. Giving up our will and way every day, just as Christ did.

Those outside may feel sorry for us, and think we are wasting our lives, but what can be better than following Christ’s example, being crucified WITH Him? Sharing His death so that we may one day share His IMMORTAL LIFE!

There is nothing to lose, and everything to GAIN!

We are fools by trying to KEEP what we have. But by losing—giving up—we GAIN. To be wise, we must be crucified WITH CHRIST. Give up like He did, be not “Christ crucified” but “ME crucified.” Put ourselves right on the altar of sacrifice, then we show ourselves truly WISE.

Matthew 16:25  25For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Lose your life in the service of the Lord that you may FIND it in the kingdom of God.

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