Warning Against Conceit
1 Cor. 3:18-23
The Corinthians are conceited, arrogant people who take pride of their wisdom. Unknowingly they
were led astray by the worldly wisdom of the False teachers. The problem with the Corinthian
believers is that they were so confident that they think they know and understand more “truth” than
the rest who does not belong to their group. They look down at people and it makes them proud yet
the truth that they know are worthless and destructive because it is not in accordance to what Paul
and other apostles teach. Worldly wisdom is nothing compared to Godly wisdom.
I. Self-deception (1 Cor. 3:18)
A. A man can be deceived by his own heart. The Bible warns, “The heart is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).
B. A man can also be deceived by the devil (2 Cor. 11:3) and by false teachers (Mat.
C. The Corinthians were in danger of being deceived because of their pride and
carnality and spiritual carelessness (2 Cor. 11:4). They did not judge false teachers
and put them out of their midst but rather put up with them and tolerated them.
D. People who thinks they are wise in this world thinks they are also wise in the things
of God. They are committing a very big mistake.
II. Let him become a fool, that he may be wise. (1 Cor. 3:18b)
A. How can a man be wise then?
a. Let him leave all his dependence upon his worldly wisdom, and seek wisdom
from above, with humility.
b. Let him sincerely believe the good news of salvation about Christ which is
foolishness to the world
c. Let all his earthly wisdom be esteemed in his own eyes as valueless and as folly
when it comes to matters about salvation.
B. The Bible gives us some spiritual requirements for gaining wisdom.
a. Reverence (Prov. 9:10)
b. Humility (Prov. 11:2, 15:33)
c. Teachableness (Prov. 9:9, 15:31, 19:20)
d. Diligence (Prov. 8:17, 2:4-5)
e. Uprightness (Prov. 2:7)
f. Faith (James 1:5-8).
Illustration 1: Opposite of Wisdom
The opposite of wisdom is folly, meaning the short-term self-indulgence which marks out the person
who doesn’t think about long-term priorities and goals but lives on a day-to-day basis, asking, “What
is the most fun thing to do now?” Your Father Loves You by James Packer
III. Wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 3:19)
A. The wisdom of this world is the wisdom of which worldly men are proud, and in
which they glory.
B. Paul is telling the Corinthians that human wisdom cannot save and bring you to
C. Human wisdom also cannot build a church or prevent its spread and growth.
D. All the truths of science, mathematics, psychology, philosophy, and all kinds of
knowledge are to be received with gratitude as God’s gift to men. However, the
gospel of salvation which is the divine wisdom is far superior than them all. It came
from the mind of God, it tells about the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is revealed by the
Spirit of God.
E. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness – A good example is about how the
pagans tried to stop Christianity.
1. Paganism persecuted the Christian Church, in order to destroy it.
2. They killed the believers, hunted them, tortured them, confiscated their
properties, put them in jail. However, this became the very means Christianity
quickly spread over the world and became an instrument for their own
destruction. “The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church. Thus, the
wise were taken in their own craftiness.
F. God knows the thoughts of men (1 Cor. 3:20). This refers to His omniscience. He
searches the thoughts of men’s hearts (1 Kings 8:39; 1 Ch. 28:9; Prov. 17:3; Jer.
17:10; Acts 1:24; Heb. 4:13).
G. The thoughts of the wise are vain (1 Cor. 3:20). This is referenced from Psa. 94:11. It
means that their thinking on spiritual and religious subjects is futile, empty, foolish,
without true profit or value. Instead of humbling themselves before the living God
and seeking after and submitting to His revelation, men have invented false gods or
pretended that there is no God.
Illustration 2: Is Our Secular Wisdom Foolishness?
“Wisdom” may best describe our present scientific and cultural plateau, yet spiritually we are foolish
indeed. Many men, seen as wise in the eyes of the world, are fools in the eyes of our God.
The atheist who audaciously affirms, “I know there is no God,” is elevated upon the pedestal of
intellectualism and wisdom by the world of pseudo-science, yet God calls him a fool (Ps. 14:1).
Humanists, who deny the existence of sin, and contend that one’s conduct should best be
determined by the circumstances in which he finds himself, are applauded and lauded as the wise
men of our age. God, in no uncertain terms, has said, “Fools make a mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9).
The world cries out, “Do what makes you feel good; do your own thing!” God has decreed, “He that
trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).
The rich farmer in the twelfth chapter of Luke, who found comfort in his accumulation of worldly
goods, would be seen by many among us today as a wise man indeed. God called him a fool (Luke
How does God see you, my friend? Our nation seems to be floating with the tide of moral and
spiritual corruption. Are you drifting with the tide, or are you willing to stem the tide? I would rather
be a fool in the eyes of a foolish world, than a fool in the eyes of my all-wise Creator.
A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.
IV. Let no man glory in men (1 Cor. 3:21)
A. Human boasting is mentioned several times in this book. (1 Cor. 1:29,31; 3:21; 4:7).
B. It was a major problem in the Corinthian Church in which the followers are
responsible not the leaders.
C. Paul is telling the Corinthians to stop their proud and selfish boasting by their
preference for one or another Christian preacher or teacher.
D. We see that men must never be given respect that is due only to God. Preachers are
to be honoured but not revered; followed but not blindly; loved but not worshipped.
E. We see that all ministerial gifts are given by God for the benefit of the churches and
the service of the Lord.
V. Ye are Christ’s (1 Cor. 3:21b-23)
A. Paul is asserting that all things belong to believers through Christ including all the
preachers listed. Believers are fellow-heirs of all things and all times through Christ.
1. All things include the world. Though we don’t currently possess the world, we
will inherit it and all things to come. See Revelation 21-22.
2. We posses life. If we have Christ, we have life eternal, and here on earth, our life
has meaning because of him. He makes our life worth living despite of all the
hardships and difficulties we meet and experience.
3. The believer even possesses death, meaning we don’t have to fear death
anymore. The sting of death has been removed by the death and resurrection of
Christ and the believer looks upon death as merely the door into eternal glory (1
B. Rather than taking pride in belonging to a certain group and a particular leader, the
Corinthians should rejoice that in Christ they possess all things, and they belong only
Illustration 3: Giving God First Place
“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Ps.
The story is told of Evangeline Booth visiting some wealthy friends. She herself lived in the slums of
London with her grandfather of Salvation Army fame. They had barely enough to cover them, and
sometimes only the food they had was what was thrown at them during their street meetings. So,
upon her arrival home from this particular visit, Evangeline Booth asked, “Grandpa, why don’t we
have things like other people?”
“Things, dear, what do you mean?” asked her grandfather.
She told him how nicely her friends were living, what fine clothes they wore, and what fine food they
Quietly grandfather Booth told her to bring to him two pieces of paper. She did so, and he said,
“Child, all my life I have given ‘things’ a little place in my life. I’ll place a tiny circle here to represent
‘things.’ I’ve given ‘others’ a bigger place in my life, so we’ll draw a circle around ‘things’ and call it
‘others.’ But above all, I’ve given God the big place in my life, so let’s draw a circle around ‘things’
and ‘others’ and call it ‘God.’
“Now, hand me the second piece of paper,” he asked with a smile. “We’ll make a tiny circle and call
it ‘God.’ Now, then, a circle around it, and call this one ‘self.’ Next a large circle which we’ll call
“Look at these two papers together now, Evangeline,” said the old gentleman. “You decide which is
Evangeline Booth took the second sheet of paper, crumbled it and flung it through the open window
as she cried, “No, grandpa, let’s still let God have the big circle in our lives and keep ‘things’ in the
God help us all to put first things first and give Him the really big place in our life.
Heart-warming Bible Illustrations.
Do not be conceited, arrogant, or be proud to whatever things you know. Its better to be
a fool in the eyes of the world but wise in the eyes of the Lord. Spiritual wisdom is far
superior than worldly wisdom. Glorify Christ for in Him we possess all things