Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHERE IS THE WISE?”

First Corinthians 1.20

Since there are so many in this wicked world who fancy themselves wise, I thought it would be good for God’s people to reflect on this thing called wisdom.

Turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 1.20, where the Apostle Paul draws a very clear distinction between what passes for wisdom in this wicked world and what God indicates is true wisdom: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

It is not my intention to deliver an exposition of this verse to you this evening, but to point out in the clearest possible way that there are two wisdoms running loose in this world, with one of the wisdoms being completely fraudulent and the other wisdom being entirely genuine.

A. T. Robertson points out to us that the Apostle Paul is here referring his readers to an event that occurred seven centuries earlier, when Sennacherib laid siege with his mighty Assyrian army to the city of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah.[1] The point being, no one had succeeded in opposing the might and ferocity of the Assyrians. Whoever stood in their way was viciously rolled over and utterly destroyed. Those who surrendered without a fight looked forward to the relatively better fate of translation, whereby the entire male population would be send abroad to another region and replaced by the male population of other vanquished opponents.

This translation of men from one region to another, which would naturally result in the men of one nation marrying the women of another nation, producing offspring who were really compatible with neither of their parent’s people, resulted in the Samaritans of Jesus’ day, a group of racially mixed people who lived between Galilee to the north and Jerusalem to the south.

However, what happened with the Assyrians at Jerusalem was not at all what happened to the Assyrians elsewhere. Judah had a godly king named Hezekiah and a man of God named Isaiah. Therefore, when the Assyrians demanded the surrender of Hezekiah’s forces, and told the soldiers on the wall that the God of Israel could do no more for them than the gods of the heathens, good king Hezekiah fell on his face before God and pleaded for his kingdom and for his people.

Let me read Second Kings 19.35-37, so you will know what God’s answer was to good king Hezekiah’s prayer:

35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.

36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.

37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

Do you see what Paul is alluding to in First Corinthians 1.20, when he asks, “Where is the wise?” He is referring to a time in Israel’s history when all the smart money bet against them, when all the clever fellows were lined up on the other side, when no one of intelligence or cunning gave them a snowball’s chance in Hell of surviving.

Worldly wisdom always seems right, until God steps in. God slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night to save His people, and to answer the prayers of a man who trusted him. Understandably, Sennacherib departed with what was left of his army and returned to Nineveh. However, it was not over once he was in the safety of palace. Two of his sons assassinated him as he worshiped his false god.

The British Museum has a great deal of evidence from Assyrian ruins on display that attest to the historic accuracy of the Biblical account of these events.[2] Worldly wisdom seeks to take into account all that can be seen, all that can be accounted for, everything that can be factored into the equation. However, there is one rather significant factor worldly wisdom never seems to take note of in their calculus. Worldly wisdom always discounts God. Wisdom, you see, is supposed to deal with understanding, with discernment, with comprehending reality, and with recognizing the proper courses of action to take in response to circumstances. So, what is the difference between fleshly wisdom and godly wisdom?

In short, it is related to your frame of reference. Fleshly wisdom takes into account all the facts that are available to the senses and to the intellect. Godly wisdom, on the other hand, adds to those facts that which is not available to the senses and to the intellect, that which is spiritual, that which is Biblical, that which has to do with God.

In addition to what I have already pointed out, consider these characteristics of wisdom:

First, THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FLESHLY WISDOM (WHICH IS REALLY FOOLISHNESS)

Of course, you realize that if you sit down with a group of lost people who are themselves worldly wise, filled with fleshly wisdom, which is to say they are fools, they will conclude that you are wise and insightful no matter what nonsense you spew from your mouth. This is understood by any Christian. However, I wonder how many of you parents have ever thought that when your child was born, he was born foolish, without wisdom, Proverbs 22.15. With that as a starting point, consider the dreams, hopes, aspirations, and goals of your children for their lives, and evaluate whether or not their goals are foolish goals or wise goals, foolish objectives or wise objectives.

Dare you, as a mom or as a dad, stand against the folly of your child? Dare you do your part as a mom or as a dad to alter the course of your child’s folly? After all, is that not the job description of every Christian mother and father? As well, is that not implicit in Proverbs 22.15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him”? I am afraid that there are very few moms and dads these days with the wisdom and the courage to stand against the folly of their own children, choosing to get along in the short term rather than struggling for the long term success and eternal happiness of their children by saying “No” to folly and working hard to bring them to Christ.

Since it is certainly too late to do much good for those who have reached adulthood, who are already for the most part steeped in their folly, perhaps we should read some verses I have selected about fleshly wisdom (which is folly) so you can apply it in your mind to the foolishness your child was born with.

Proverbs 1.7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Once your child gets something in his head, be it a life’s goal or an objective he knows is contrary to God’s will for anyone’s life, he is not likely to be dissuaded. He will tend to continue in his foolish direction unless you, parent, are very skillful and determined to salvage your child.

Proverbs 10.13: “In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.” There are two legitimate reasons for spanking a child, disobedience, and foolishness. If your youngster is headed for wrong life’s goals and objectives, it is almost certain that you did not spank him for foolish thinking and actions, thinking you were an accomplished parent because you spanked your child for disobedience. Thus, he likely received only half of the spankings he needed to be set on a right course for his life.

Proverbs 10.21: “The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.” It may very well be that your youngster’s lack of wisdom will result in a shorter span of life. He will die younger because he is foolish. Parenting can affect how long children live.

Proverbs 11.2: “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” You can see by the contrast in this verse that pride is companion to foolishness.

Proverbs 11.12: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour.” By neighbor, recognize that close family members are included here. This reminds me of the youngster in our church who indicated his utter contempt for his parents, and complete lack of concern for their feelings and welfare if they dared to stand in the way of him getting what he wanted. Do you remember him saying that, young lady?

Proverbs 13.10: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” You can see by the contrast with godly wisdom in this verse that there is a correspondence between fleshly wisdom and pride.

Proverbs 14.8: “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit." The person with fleshly wisdom thinks he understands his way better than the person with godly wisdom does, but his false wisdom will end up deceiving him in the end. Parents, you save your children from themselves when you stand against their foolishness.

Proverbs 15.21: “Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.” Stupid things seem like so much fun to the person who has no real wisdom.

Proverbs 29.3: “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.” Assuming dad is a godly man who wants his son to live out his life in service to God, the youngster who fears God, who wants to serve God, who plans his life around God’s will and God’s plan, will make his father rejoice. Dad? You need to be very careful about celebrating the accomplishments that will lead your child astray from the path God would have him walk.

Jeremiah 8.9: “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?” Of course, this is worldly wisdom that is referred to in this verse. Who else would reject the Word of the Lord? Their end will be shameful and dismal. Why so? Because God always wins. Oppose Him, go your own way, and you can only lose.

First Corinthians 1.19: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” In other words, God promises to thwart the purposes of the worldly wise, to wipe out all benefits of those who have turned their back on God’s ways.

First Corinthians 3.19: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” The person who is worldly wise, who has fleshly wisdom, thinks he is getting ahead. Nevertheless, God will defeat them in their own cleverness.

Second Corinthians 1.12: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” Notice that fleshly wisdom is contrasted with the grace of God. In other words, go your own way, do your own thing, choose your own path instead of God’s will, and you will do so without God’s grace.

James 3.15: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” This is the real source of wisdom that does not fear God, that is not humble, that goes its own way. It is doomed.

Then, THERE ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUAL WISDOM

Up to this point, we have considered the wisdom your child was born with, the wisdom that is entirely of the flesh, the wisdom you are charged by God with actively opposing as parents and discouraging in your children’s thinking, the wisdom that is so dominant in this evil world we live in because it is so opposed to God. Let us now turn to the other kind of wisdom, the kind that God gives and blesses:

Job 28.28: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job recites what God has said to man. This is commendable wisdom, spiritual wisdom, and good wisdom. It is evil to go your own way, to ignore God’s will for your life, and to abandon the plan and purpose of God for your life. Godly wisdom does just the opposite.

Psalm 111.10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” My friends, if you do not fear God you have no useful wisdom at all, no wisdom that will stand you in good stead in eternity, no wisdom that will help you in your life.

Proverbs 2.7: “He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.” A righteous person, of course, is someone who is saved from his sins and who has standing before God. God will give this fellow wisdom.

Proverbs 2.10-11: “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.” You can see, here, that wisdom has practical benefits. Wisdom enables you to both live longer and to live better.

Proverbs 3.13: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” Those with worldly wisdom think they are happier than Christians, but I can promise you that I was never so happy before I was saved than I was after my conversion.

Proverbs 4.7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Wisdom, spiritual wisdom, godly wisdom, is a precious commodity, worth whatever it takes to obtain it.

Proverbs 8.11: “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” Again, wisdom is extremely valuable, worth far more than most people think, and there is nothing comparable to godly wisdom.

Proverbs 9.10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” If you do not fear God you have no wisdom, and you have no understanding. Mom? Dad? Is your son wise? Is your daughter wise? Have you ever dealt with your child honestly, and confronted your child with his foolishness? Remember, the truth should be spoken, so long as it is spoken in love.

Proverbs 15.33: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.” Wisdom, real wisdom, teaches the soul to fear God.

Proverbs 19.8: “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.” If you obtain wisdom you are helping yourself. It will never harm you to be truly wise.

Proverbs 21.30: “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” What Solomon is saying is that there is no way to succeed in opposing God, or in any way going against His will for your life.

Ephesians 1.17: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” This shows the intimate relationship that exists between the Holy Spirit of God and real wisdom. In other words, grieve the Spirit of God, quench the Spirit, and you are not behaving wisely.

Colossians 2.3: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” There is no wisdom outside Jesus Christ.

James 1.5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” One way by which the God-fearing Christian may obtain wisdom is by simply, by humbly, and by prayerfully, asking for it. If you ask for wisdom, God promises to give you wisdom.

James 3.17: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” Spiritual wisdom, godly wisdom, genuine wisdom, comes from God, and is found in the possession of people who are full of mercy and good fruits, who are without partiality, and who are not hypocrites. Wisdom is possessed by people who are real deal Christians.

There are two kinds of wisdom, two entirely different approaches for handling the problems and decisions of life. There is worldly, fleshly wisdom, which everyone is born with and which does not fear God, and there is wisdom that fears God and is given by God to those who are Christians, and who are humble.

Parents, you need to use the second kind of wisdom to combat the first kind of wisdom in the lives of your children, to overcome the natural obstacles of stupidity and stubbornness people erect in their thinking to oppose and resist the plan and purpose of God.

To a great degree, your success as a mom or as a dad will be directly related to your success in opposing your child’s fleshly wisdom, and persuading him to consider God, God’s plan for his life, and God’s Son for his Savior.

One final comment: There is no wisdom apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, for as the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 1.30, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”



[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol IV, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1930), pages 77-78.

[2] Peter Masters, Heritage Of Evidence In The British Museum, (London: The Wakeman Trust, 2004), page 30-38.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org