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The Foolishness of God, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2022 4:00 am

The Foolishness of God, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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April 18, 2022 4:00 am

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So Paul is saying to the Corinthians, look, don't split over human philosophy. The gospel, the revelation of God is all that is necessary. All the truth that God intends you to have is here. You do not need a human philosopher. The Word of God stands alone.

It needs no additions of worldly wisdom. In a challenging and complex modern world, how can a message as simple and as old as the gospel revolutionize your 21st-century life? You know, doubts about the gospel's relevance are nothing new. People have always struggled to believe the gospel because it defies human wisdom, and it appears to be, in a word, foolish. But today on Grace To You, you're going to see how God's Word can meet your most profound needs and answer your deepest questions, and direct your steps, as John MacArthur launches his study called The Foolishness of God. John, there's no denying that the current generation believes it has all the answers to life's ultimate questions, and that all the previous generations got it wrong.

But that same attitude was on full display in the ancient culture that you're going to be talking about today. Yeah, well, the bottom line in man's dilemma to sort out his world is the defense mechanism of his own pride, right? He starts from the fact that he's got to preserve himself. He's got to take care of himself. He's got to validate himself.

He has every right to be independent and to live life the way he feels he wants to live it. So the all-consuming evidence of man's utter fallenness is his own pride, and out of that pride rises all the folly of the world. Being proud, he doesn't want to bend to God. He doesn't want to bow the knee to God. He doesn't want to acknowledge God as Lord and Master and Sovereign and Savior.

Because his fallen heart is so self-absorbed and selfish, he tends to find all the answers that satisfy him within himself, which is absurd for certain, because you've got an entire created universe outside of him over which he has virtually no control, and yet he's supposed to have all the answers. And so the Bible describes this as foolishness, and that's what we're going to be looking at this week, the foolishness of God from 1 Corinthians 1.18 to 2.16. Today's culture has in its natural human pride elevated human intellect, reason, wisdom, and, you know, it's gotten to a point, Phil, in our world where it's not even collective wisdom anymore. And you hear people say, well, what's your truth? Which is the ultimate insanity that every single person could have a different truth than there could be any such thing as truth.

So in the culture of today's world, it's not as if you have to sort of argue down a philosophical system. You somehow have to break the back of a proud individual who has his own religious system, which is foolishness on an individual level. You preach the truth of God, which to those who are perishing may be foolishness, but to the ones that are being saved, it is the wisdom of God, and it is the salvation of God. So we're going to look at that passage, 1 Corinthians, and we're going to compare the foolishness of God with the wisdom of men and see what the Word of God has to say about that.

That's right. You need to make sure you're trusting wisdom from the right source, wisdom you really can trust, divine wisdom. Here again is John MacArthur to begin his study, The Foolishness of God. If you will take your Bible and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 1. The book of 1 Corinthians is divided basically into Paul's discussion of the various problems that existed in the Corinthian church. The entire book beginning in verse 10 of chapter 1 and going into chapter 16 deals with the areas of problems in the assembly. But the first problem that confronted the apostle, as he wrote, was the problem of division. The church was divided into factions and parties. They were fighting against each other, quarreling.

They had split and this was a very, very grave problem. And so the apostle writes, chapter 1 verse 10, clear to the end of chapter 3 to deal with the problem of division in the church. Three chapters, or parts of three chapters, dealing with the problem of division. Now as we come to chapter 1 verse 18, Paul is continuing to deal with this problem of division in the church. We're going to be looking at chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 2 verse 8 as a unit. This, I think, is one of the greatest sections in all of Scripture because it gives a contrast, now mark this, it gives a contrast between the foolishness of men which they think is wisdom and the wisdom of God which they think is foolishness. It contrasts human wisdom with divine wisdom. Now you say, but John, how does that relate to the subject of division in the church?

Well let me tell you how. Now we all know that the Greeks were in love with philosophy. I remember in college taking a course in Greek philosophy and just about every philosophy of modern times goes back to a Greek origination. The Greeks were the great philosophers. They would go around spouting various and sundry philosophies and attracting people to them and so the whole of Greek culture was philosophically divided into little groups.

We have in America and have had for some years a political system that fairly well divides itself between the Republicans and the Democrats. Well in Greece, if you can imagine this, there may have been fifty dominating philosophies that divided the populace among those fifty different philosophies and so they were all factioned into groups that held varying philosophies, watch, regarding man's meaning and destiny. The word philosophy simply means man's wisdom.

The word literally means in Greek the love of wisdom, sophia and phileo, to love wisdom. There were people who loved human wisdom and they developed little systems and people gravitated to those systems so there were factions of philosophy adherents in Corinth. Now when the church was born and all of these people were saved and they came together, strange as it may seem, even though they were united in Christ and even though they identified commonly with the cross, they still held on to the varying philosophies that they originally had held to so that the church also became split up into little groups, each holding various philosophical viewpoints. So the point that Paul is making here is look, since you become Christians and you're united around God's revelation as it peaks out in the cross, forget the former philosophies. All they are doing is splitting you up into little groups. This shouldn't be. There are churches that are divided over philosophical viewpoints today. Did you know that? There are churches that are split over politics, economics, philosophies, education.

It's very easy to happen. Now Paul is speaking here against divisions. In verses 10 to 17, look at it, he spoke against the divisions that occurred around personalities. I am of Paul, verse 12 says, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ.

But he's still talking about division. This time, however, it has to do with philosophy. And the typical Greek admiration for philosophy and rhetoric had caused some of the Corinthians to set too high a value on human philosophy, so high that they were actually, even though other people were Christians, they wouldn't cooperate with other people because they held a different worldview.

I don't think that's too different from us. If you say that the Greeks had a problem with the love of philosophy and rhetoric, you've got to say the Americans do too. I mean, if there's anything, anything that America has gone bananas on, it's philosophy. You know what philosophy means? Human opinion, human wisdom. And there's no end to it. You listen to the news, you turn it on, somebody says, so and so and so and so said, bloop, end quote.

As if that means anything. Or when you don't really have a strong point, you quote somebody else, even though they may be wrong too, at least they have some credibility. And we quote people.

Or there's talk radio where anybody gets to offer any opinion. There is no end to the mass of verbiage regarding human philosophy, philosophy of life, meaning of life, destiny of life, what life is all about, how we are to live, what we're for, what we're to do, where we're going, where we came from, it's on and on. And we've made a god out of education and a god out of human opinion. So we're really not any different than the Greeks at all. I want you to notice that Paul here attacks this problem in Corinth, beginning in verse 17.

If you look at it, you'll see that. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. Now the gospel is the good news. And what is the good news?

The good news is this book right here. The revelation of God that winds up in the redemptive act of Christ on the cross, the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be rendered void or null and void or made of no effect. Now here Paul introduces the basic contrast that's going to dominate his thinking to the end of chapter 3. He sets human wisdom against the cross. I came to preach the gospel, not...not...sophia legu in the Greek, which means word wisdom or wisdom doctrine, human wisdom. I came to preach the gospel, not human wisdom. The doctrines of human wisdom are opposite the truth of God.

They are opposite the gospel. So Paul is saying to the Corinthians, look, don't split over human philosophy. The gospel, the revelation of God is all that is necessary. All the truth that God intends you to have is here. You do not need a human philosopher. The word of God stands alone.

It needs no additions of worldly wisdom. So Paul sets human wisdom against the gospel. Now that's his subject. In fact, through the rest of chapter 1 he uses the word sophia 16 times.

So this is what he's talking about. Now let me tell you, just to give you another angle on this. Philosophy, mark this, has always been a threat to revelation. Philosophy has always been a threat to revelation. Philosophy has never helped God's revelation. You do not need to add human opinion to divine word.

You understand that? You do not need to say, and God said, said, said, and I would like to add, personally, no. When God has said it, it is done being said.

There are no, in addition to what God has said, I would like to add, no, no. Martin Lloyd-Jones said this, the whole drift toward modernism that has blighted the church of God and nearly destroyed its living gospel may be traced to an hour when men began to turn from revelation to philosophy. Now you may not know much about the history of doctrine or the history of the church, but that is a very accurate statement.

Let me tell you something else. Whenever philosophy gets mixed with revelation, revelation loses. Now we call that modernism, but it isn't. It's antiqueism.

Nothing modern about it. Let me give you a couple of illustrations of how philosophy messes up revelation. Now the Bible teaches a simple thing. The Bible teaches that the first five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were written by one man.

Who was that man? Moses. They are in fact called by the Jews the law of Moses, the Pentateuch, which means five. The Pentateuch, the law of Moses. Along came a group of men about a hundred years ago or more and they said, well, we are the rationalists. And their criterion for truth was this. Our philosophy is that only that which is rational, the human intellect, is true. If something cannot fit into our minds and be conceived by us to be true, it is not true. And so they looked at the Old Testament. They said, oh, oh, several things here we just can't understand. One is we do not agree that Moses wrote the first five books.

Why? Why Moses could not have known that much information that early. You see, law didn't get developed. The evolution of law came a lot later. He could never have written the Ten Commandments that early.

Oh no, no. So they said then Moses did not write that. Who did? And they come along and said J, E, P and D did.

Say, who's that? They said every time the word Jehovah is there, that's the Jehovah writer. Then there's the Elohim. When that's there, it's the Elohim writer. Then there's the P for the priestly writer and then there's the Deuteronomist who wrote Deuteronomy. The only problem is you get sometimes you get the J, E, P and D thing in the same verse. Then they got problems.

And then they say, well, a lot of redactors who came along and they edited it all and that's who really wrote it. It isn't really written by Moses at all. Now notice, human philosophy was imposed on revelation and which lost.

Revelation loses out. Let me give you another illustration. The Bible teaches a simple thing. Incidentally, Moses did write those books.

And those people who said they couldn't have had law had a real blow not too many years ago when somebody discovered the Code of Hammurabi which was a very sophisticated legal system that predates Moses. So take that. Second point.

Second point. Take, for example, the Bible teaches that God created things, right? You read Genesis 1, in the beginning God created the evidence in the earth. On the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day, the sixth day, God created.

Seventh day, God rested. Now the Bible is very explicit that God created things. Human philosophy says, no, actually the only explanation for the existence of things is evolution. Does the Bible say anything about evolution? Does the word evolution appear in the Bible?

It does not. The Bible doesn't talk about evolution but human philosophy does. It all began from a primeval puddle. And in the primeval puddle was a one-celled thing who really was very, very distressed about being a one-celled thing, wanted company, so split and became two. And then, of course, everything went wild and here we are. And that...that in a nutshell and a very, well, limited scientific explanation is evolution.

I mean, I'll agree. All right, so you have the Bible which says God did it in six days. You have evolution which says it came out of a primeval puddle and took millions of years.

And somebody comes along and says, well, of course the Bible did emanate from God somehow. I do believe that. But I also believe in evolution. I know we'll come up with a theistic evolution.

That is, we'll have a conglomerate of both. God made the puddle. Then the thing evolved and when it got to the place of man, this is what's called progressive creationism. It got to the place of man. God zapped man with a soul so that God started it and God interjected the soul and the rest was an evolutionary process and you get progressive creationism or theistic evolution.

You know what happens again? Whenever philosophy is imposed on revelation, revelation gets confused and is the loser. We do not need evolution. God doesn't need it. Another illustration.

And this gets a little more complicated. We have today a science so-called that is anything but under the title of psychology. Now the Bible tells a lot about how to live, doesn't it? The Bible tells an awful lot about how to get rid of guilt, confess your sin.

I don't know of a better way. I never knew any therapy that could do as much as confession could do. I never knew of any psychiatrist who could deliver anybody from sin, but I know Christ can.

The Bible says a lot about that. It says a lot about counseling and exhortation. But what happens is that some people take the Bible and then they go off to the university and get 14 years of Freudian education and they impose the two and guess which loses?

The Bible. The patterns of life in the Scripture do not need Freud to help them along. God did not need Freud. Freud needed God. There was a guy who came along in Germany.

His name was Rudolf Bultmann. Now Bultmann said, my philosophy is the philosophy of demythologizing. You say, what's that? That means that we must take all the myths out of the Bible. You say, what's a myth? Anything that I don't believe, said Rudolf, who then proceeded to wipe out the whole Bible. Bultmann's philosophy imposed upon revelation and revelation lost.

Listen, people. Revelation doesn't need philosophy. You don't need human wisdom.

You don't need human philosophy. You need the Word of God. If you know the Word of God and you understand the Word of God, you know the reason for everything.

You understand what you need to know and you have solutions to your problems. You see, there are only two views of anything, man's and God's. And this is how man's goes. Indulgent, shallow, shortsighted, unrealistic, pandering to the flesh, elevating desire, supporting pride, advocating independence makes man the sinner.

And who wants it? Listen, all God wants is that we accept revelation, not that we get split up into philosophical factions. You add human wisdom to divine truth and all you do is render. Look at the end of verse 17.

You render the cross null and void. And so Paul with verse 17 launches into a lengthy contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of men. Notice verse 18. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.

Now notice this verse carefully. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, that is to those who are without God, those who are dying in sin, those who will spend eternity in hell, those who do not know God, for whom God's heart is grieved and ours as well. But to them the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. The reason it's foolishness to them is because they have elevated their own philosophy. And the cross looks so stupid to them, so foolish. They have such complex philosophies that to come along and say, I want to give you a simple message. God in human flesh died on a cross, paid the penalty for your sin.

By faith in that act and his resurrection you can be saved and your eternal destiny is secured in heaven forever. And they said, oh ridiculous. How stupid that a death of one man on one hill, on one piece of wood at one moment in history is the determining factor of destiny for every man who ever lived. Ridiculous.

They couldn't buy it. Foolish. The word foolishness, simple word, it's the word moron, in which we get the word moron.

It's moronic, stupid, silly. Now you'll notice the word preaching there. It's not really the word preaching in the Greek, it's the word. It's the word logos. For the word of the cross.

Now watch this. For the word of the cross. Now look at back in verse 17. And here you have not the word of the cross, but the word of wisdom, human wisdom.

And there's the contrast. He contrasts the word of wisdom with the word of the cross. Human wisdom is set against the cross.

Now I want to mention one thing. The word of the cross here means all that is involved in the cross. The logos is the total revelation. You say, well John, what is the word of the cross? Do you know that everything before the cross pointed to it and everything after the cross explains the cross? This is the word of the cross, revelation. Revelation of God then which pinnacles and peaks in the cross is set against the wisdom of men. Paul says these two things are at each other.

They are opposites. And so the people who hold to worldly wisdom think the cross is moronic. But we who are saved know it to be the power of God. And that's what he said in Romans 1.

I am not ashamed. Even though the world thinks I'm stupid and even though the philosophers think that I must have a small brain, that I'm uneducated, I still am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It may be moronic to them but it is the power of God to them who believe. So the word of the cross which looks like foolishness to men is really the power of God. You see, men because of their rationalism, because the elevation of the human ego, because they want their own philosophies, can't stoop to something as simple as that. And it is simple. Believe me, I mean Jesus himself said unless you become as a little child you can't enter the kingdom.

It is simple. It is not a complex philosophy. Paul arrives in Corinth. He arrives in a maelstrom of philosophies, a melee of words flying all over Corinth. What are you going to do?

Just offer another philosophy and get caught in the whirlwind? You know what he does when he gets there? Look at chapter 2 verse 2. When I arrived in Corinth in verse 1 he says, I didn't come in excellency of speech and wisdom of words but I came and this is what he said. I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and what?

Crucify. You know why he said that? Because there was already enough verbiage flying around. He wasn't about to offer them another philosophy.

It just would have been another thing to hang on the wall. He wanted to give them something that would pound home something very opposite to what they held. Something very simple, not complex. Something very historical, not ethereal.

Something very concrete and objective, not subjective and foggy. And he gave them the cross and he kept it up and kept it up and kept it up in Corinth for at least 18 months. That's how long he stayed there. You know, you study the human religions but don't study them too long because you've got other things to do.

Like mow the lawn and things like that. But study human philosophy for a few minutes and you know what you'll find? That every religion that man has ever developed, and he's developed all of them except Christianity, is complex. That appeals to his brain. To his ego.

It's elaborate. Man won't crush his ego to come down to the level of the simplicity of the cross and the fact that he recognizes that it doesn't matter what he thinks and it doesn't matter how smart he is, but that you're saved not through your intellect but through faith. He doesn't like to come to that place. You see, he doesn't like the cross because if you come to the cross you have to admit that you're a sinner and he doesn't like that either.

And that's the problem. The cross is still the issue. God's revelation peaks in the cross. But you know, human philosophy doesn't understand it.

Give me the illustration. You know Peter didn't even understand it. Peter had a philosophy.

The word philosophy we could use the word opinion. Peter had an opinion. He thought the Messiah would come and set up his kingdom.

Everything would be just rosy. Jesus said one day in Matthew 16, I'm going to die. Remember how Peter reacted to that? No, Lord.

You're not going to die. Was that right? One thing revelation doesn't need is Peter's opinion. But you see, Peter's philosophy was at variance with the truth. And so Jesus said to him, get thee behind me Satan.

You've got a satanic philosophy. Then they got in the garden and the soldiers came to capture Christ in John 18. Peter took a sword out and tried to cut him up. And Jesus said, will you put that thing away?

Haven't you gotten the message yet? Finally after the cross he understood. In Acts 3 he's preaching there and he says, these things which God had before shown by the mouth of the prophets that Christ must suffer he has so fulfilled.

He sounds like a real expert. It wasn't until after the cross that he understood the cross. Later on when he wrote his letter, 1 Peter 2 24, he says, who in his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree. You see, Peter learned the meaning of the cross, but at the beginning his philosophy was at odds with the cross. He couldn't see it, couldn't understand it.

You see, he was like any other Jew. To him, look at it in verse 23. Christ crucified is under the Jews a what?

A stumbling block. But under the Gentiles or the Greeks, it's foolish. It doesn't fit into human reason.

They can't rationalize it, as if the intellect was ultimate. So the contrast is established then in verses 17 and 18. The cross is the power of God to salvation. It does save us, but to the world steeped in human wisdom, it is moronic. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's current study is titled The Foolishness of God, and he's answering objections to the Gospel, showing you the limits of human wisdom, and explaining why the Bible is the only source of life-transforming truth. Keep in mind you can review all four lessons in this study on the foolishness of God anytime at your own pace. These sermons are available for free at our website. You can download them or purchase CDs.

To do that, contact us today at our web address, There you can download the MP3s or the transcripts, and both formats are free. Of course, the four sermons in John's series on the foolishness of God are but a tiny fraction of the lessons that are available to you. All 3,500 of John's sermons, including every new message he preaches, are available for free to download at And another free resource I would encourage you to take advantage of is our Study Bible app. It includes multiple translations of Scripture, and it gives you immediate access to the resources of our website, which includes blog articles and devotionals and much more. And for a reasonable price, you can add the study notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. The Study Bible app is just one of thousands of resources available free of charge at our website, Go there today and come back often.

That's Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for being here today and join us tomorrow when John looks at how you can make sure you're trusting God's wisdom and not the world's. He continues his series, The Foolishness of God, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 10:42:24 / 2023-04-30 10:53:16 / 11

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