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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

20130714; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20; Stop Deceiving Yourself!

07/14 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 Stop Deceiving Yourself! Audio available at:

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός, 19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν· γέγραπται γάρ· Ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν· 20 καὶ πάλιν· Κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι. 21 ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις· πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν, 22 εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν, 23 ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For 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 Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Have you ever been deceived, misled, lied to? You spend a lot of money on something only to find out it is not as it was advertised to be. In a relationship you find out that the other person was not being totally honest with you. You were misled. Whether intentional or unintentional, you end up hurt, feeling ripped off, used, abused, taken advantage of.

Have you ever tried to put yourself in the sandals of blind old Isaac, whose own wife and younger son through eavesdropping, fine cooking, goat’s hair and borrowed clothes, conspired to deceive him into giving the blessing to his younger son Jacob (Gen.27)?

Or have you ever imagined what it would have felt like to fall deeply in love with a beautiful woman, to work hard for your uncle for 7 years to earn the right to marry your heart’s desire, ‘and in the morning, behold, it was Leah’ the ugly older sister (Genesis 29)?

Helpless frustration, offended outrage, betrayal, broken trust. We resonate with the Psalmist when he prays:

Psalm 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

Our passage today is about deception, but of a worse kind than even these examples portray. In each of these, there is the one who is deceived, and someone else who is deceiving them. Even worse to be the one being deceived and also the one to blame for the deception! This passage warns of the danger of self-deception.

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

This could be translated ‘stop deceiving yourself!’ Self-deception is something that is currently going on, and the command is to break the pattern.

The Deceptiveness of Self-deception

Does anyone here think you are deceiving yourself? Of course not! If you were lying to yourself and you knew you were lying to yourself, you wouldn’t be deceived, you would see right through it. Deception happens when you believe the lies you tell yourself are true. No one thinks a passage like this is addressed to them. That is part of the deception. ‘I know some of those kind of people, the self-deceived. Too bad they’re not here today to hear this!’ No, this is for each one of us. God is speaking directly to you, for your good, because he loves you, and he says ‘stop deceiving yourself’. He is alerting you to a destructive pattern in you that you are not aware of. We can argue with him, and say ‘no, you are wrong, I am not deceiving myself’, or we can say ‘God, I believe you only speak what is true. Thank you for loving me enough to point out the painful truth that I was not aware of, to spare me from greater pain. In what way am I deceiving myself, and what can be done to stop it?’

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 ​He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 ​He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

God says that the person who trusts in himself and whose heart turns away from the Lord is cursed, but the man who trusts in the Lord is blessed. We tend to trust in ourselves, in our own strength, in what we can do, more than we realize. That’s why God goes on to say

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 ​“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

We know we need to depend on God. We know that our only hope is to trust in God alone and not ourselves. But our own hearts are treacherous and fraudulent. Our own hearts are twisted and sick. We are biased; only God is objective and fair. Only God can truly discern who or what we are trusting in. The appropriate response is:

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.

We need a good physician to point out and address the sickness and sin in us that we cannot see.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Self-deception is Still Wicked

Notice that this is not an innocent ignorance. To deceive someone is evil. Satan is called ‘the deceiver’ (Rev.12:9). But the one who is deceived is still held accountable for listening to a lie. Think back to the garden of Eden. Eve was deceived by the serpent, but she was still held accountable for listening to his lie, and she was disciplined for it (Gen.3:13, 16). To deceive someone is wicked, and to allow yourself to be deceived will have consequences.

Paul quotes two Old Testament scriptures (Job 5:13; Psalm 94:11) to reinforce this truth. God is seen to be the one who fights against the deceiver. Eliphaz says in Job 5 ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’ This is good news if you are being deceived and need someone to rescue you. But this is very bad news if you are the one who is doing the deceiving. In our self-deception, we are both. Psalm 94 begins by calling on YHWH the God of vengeance to rise up and repay the proud and arrogant wicked what they deserve. He will entrap the cunning in their own wicked schemes. As deceivers who are deceiving ourselves, we are doubly guilty.

Self-deception of Human Wisdom

The self-deception Paul addresses among the believers in Corinth is that they think they are wise. In chapter 1, he pointed out that the gospel he preached was the foolish message of a crucified Messiah, and that God’s message and method of salvation run contrary to the so-called wisdom of this world. He quoted scripture to show that God opposes the wisdom of the wise. He stated that the same message of the cross comes to those who are being saved as the power of God, but to those who are perishing, foolishness. God’s foolishness is wiser than men. Here he states that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

Folly of Human Wisdom

What does the wisdom of this age, the wisdom of the world look like?

*This age says that truth is relative. As long as we are all nice to each other, and don’t judge anyone, it doesn’t matter what anyone believes. We will all be alright in the end. God says, Fool,

Proverbs 14:12 ​There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (also Prov. 16:25)

*The world’s wisdom says the bible is a great work of ancient literature, full of good moral lessons and entertaining bedtime stories, but as a whole it is outdated, unreliable, and even offensive in points, and it would be foolish to simply accept it as true. Fool, Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

*The wisdom of this age says that morality is relative. God won’t judge homosexuals or liars or gossips or people who have sex with someone they’re not married to. We can’t help it, we were made that way. We can’t be held responsible for our actions. God says, Fool,

1 Corinthians 6:9 …Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

*This age says that God is all love and forgiveness and hell is just a scare tactic thought up by uptight preachers to keep people from finding out how much fun sin is. Fool, God says, Jesus is coming

2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

*The wisdom of this age tells us that religion is OK, as long as we don’t get carried away with it. If a little religion helps you be a good and productive member of society, that’s nice, but you should keep your religion in church and don’t let it tamper with other areas of your life. Fool, Jesus said:

Mark 8:34 …“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

*Human wisdom says you don’t need to gather with other believers. You can connect with God at home or in the mountains or wherever you are. Fool, God says:

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

*This world’s wisdom accuses us of arrogance if we claim that there are no other valid paths to God.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

What it takes to be Truly Wise

We all have a tendency to be self-deceived. Our self-deception is not innocent ignorance but willful and wicked rebellion against God.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

We want to be thought well of, and we want to appear wise, so we often adopt the wisdom of this world. God tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. What can be done about our deadly self-deception? The remedy is clear.

Become a Fool

1 Corinthians 3:18 …If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

The remedy is to become a fool. What does it mean to become a fool?


To become a fool means to be emptied of all the world’s wisdom. I cannot cling to the wisdom of this age and also hope to become wise in God’s estimation. ‘We must be empty in order to be truly filled. We must renounce our own righteousness, in order to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We must renounce our own strength, in order to be made strong. We must renounce our own wisdom, in order to be truly wise.’ (Hodge, p.60)


To become a fool means to be truly humbled. I must be willing to be thought a fool. I must let go of reputation, of what people think of me. I must be humbled in my own estimation of myself. To become a fool is to humbly acknowledge that my self-deception runs so deep that my own heart and mind cannot be trusted to rightly discern the truth.

*Become like a little child

To become a fool is to become simple, to become dependent, trusting. To acknowledge our need and to admit there is no way we can fix our own situation. Jesus said:

Mark 10:15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (cf. Lk.18:17)

We must have the foolishness of a child if we will enter the kingdom.

*Embrace the Cross

To become a fool in the eyes of the world means I must embrace the foolish message of the cross. To freely confess that I am a sinner who deserves to die seems foolish. To admit that I can do nothing and contribute nothing to my own rescue is pathetic. To believe that the eternal invisible God became human so that he could die for my sins seems the pinnacle of gullibility. The good news that Jesus died in my place as my perfect substitute is viewed as a weak, foolish, and shameful message. But that is the gospel message, and it is the wisdom of God and the power of God for salvation to all who believe.

Be emptied, be humbled, become like a little child, embrace the cross and you will find Jesus to be your wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1Cor.1:30) 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


July 14, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment