Jehovah’s Use of “Foolishness” to Save Those Believing
“Since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.”—1 CORINTHIANS 1:21.
1. In what sense would Jehovah use “foolishness,” and how do we know that the world in its wisdom did not get to know God?
WHAT? Would Jehovah use foolishness? Not really! But he can and does use what appears foolish to the world. He does so in order to save people who know and love him. Through its wisdom, the world cannot get to know God. Jesus Christ made this clear when he said in prayer: “Righteous Father, the world has, indeed, not come to know you.”—John 17:25.
2. How may it seem that Jehovah’s ways and the world’s ways are running parallel to each other, but what are the facts?
2 Jesus’ words indicate that Jehovah’s ways differ from those of the world. On the surface it may appear that God’s purpose and that of this world are running parallel to each other. It may seem that the aims of this world have God’s blessing. For instance, the Bible says that God would set up a righteous government that will bring life in peace, happiness, and prosperity to mankind on earth. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Matthew 6:10) Likewise, the world trumpets its purpose to give people peace, prosperity, and good government by means of a so-called new world order. But God’s purposes and those of the world are not the same. Jehovah’s purpose is to vindicate himself as the Supreme Sovereign of the universe. This he will do by means of a heavenly government that will obliterate all earthly governments. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 4:11; 12:10) So God has nothing in common with this world. (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17) That is why the Bible speaks of two kinds of wisdom—“the wisdom of God” and “the wisdom of the world.”—1 Corinthians 1:20, 21.
The Basic Flaw of Worldly Wisdom
3. Though the wisdom of the world may seem impressive, why would man’s promised new world order never be satisfying?
3 To those not guided by the wisdom of God, the wisdom of the world seems impressive. There are lofty-sounding worldly philosophies that captivate the mind. Thousands of institutions of higher learning impart information from what many consider the greatest minds of mankind. Extensive libraries are replete with the accumulated knowledge of centuries of human experience. Despite this, however, the new world order that worldly rulers propose could only be a rule by imperfect, sin-stained, dying men. Hence, that order would be imperfect, repeating many past blunders and never satisfying all of mankind’s needs.—Romans 3:10-12; 5:12.
4. What is the proposed new world order subject to, and with what result?
4 Man’s proposed new world order is subject not only to human frailty but also to the influence of wicked spirit creatures—yes, Satan the Devil and his demons. Satan has blinded the minds of the people so that they do not believe “the glorious good news about the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; Ephesians 6:12) Consequently, the world suffers one disorder after another. It fights and bleeds in its disastrous attempt to govern itself without God’s help and without regard for the divine will. (Jeremiah 10:23; James 3:15, 16) Thus, as the apostle Paul said, “the world through its wisdom did not get to know God.”—1 Corinthians 1:21.
5. What is the basic flaw of this world’s wisdom?
5 What, then, is the basic flaw of this world’s wisdom, including its plans for a new world order? It is that the world ignores what can never successfully be ignored—the supreme sovereignty of Jehovah God. It arrogantly refuses to recognize divine sovereignty. The world purposely leaves Jehovah out of all its calculations and relies upon its own ability and schemes. (Compare Daniel 4:31-34; John 18:37.) The Bible makes it clear that “the fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10) Yet, the world has not even learned this basic requirement of wisdom. Without divine backing, therefore, how can it succeed?—Psalm 127:1.
Kingdom Preaching—Foolish or Practical?
6, 7. (a) Those guided by God’s wisdom are preaching what, but how does the world view them? (b) According to whose wisdom do Christendom’s clergy preach, and with what result?
6 On the other hand, those who know God display the wisdom of God and choose to be guided by it. As Jesus foretold, they are preaching “this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Is such preaching practical now, when our earth is filled with strife, pollution, poverty, and human suffering? To worldly-wise ones such preaching about God’s Kingdom seems to be sheer foolishness, lacking practicality. They view the preachers of God’s Kingdom as barnacles that weigh down the ship of State and slow its progress toward ideal political government. In this they are backed by Christendom’s clergy, who preach according to this world’s wisdom and do not tell the people what they need to know about God’s new world and its Kingdom government, even though this was Christ’s principal teaching.—Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15.
7 Historian H. G. Wells called attention to this failure of Christendom’s clergy. He wrote: “Remarkable is the enormous prominence given by Jesus to the teaching of what he called the Kingdom of Heaven, and its comparative insignificance in the procedure and teaching of most of the Christian churches.” Yet, if people of this generation are to gain life, they must first hear about God’s established Kingdom, and to that end someone must preach the good news about it.—Romans 10:14, 15.
8. Why is preaching God’s good news the most practical thing to do today, but what course of action would be without lasting benefit?
8 Preaching God’s good news, then, is the most practical thing to do today. This is so because the Kingdom message provides a genuine hope that fills human hearts with rejoicing during these last days when ‘critical times hard to deal with are here.’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Romans 12:12; Titus 2:13) Whereas life in this world is uncertain and short, life in God’s new world will be everlasting, amid joy, plenty, and peace right here on earth. (Psalm 37:3, 4, 11) As Jesus Christ said, “what benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” If a person loses the right to life in God’s new world, of what benefit is this world that is passing away? Such an individual’s present enjoyment of material things has been futile, vain, and fleeting.—Matthew 16:26; Ecclesiastes 1:14; Mark 10:29, 30.
9. (a) When a man who was invited to be a follower of Jesus asked for a postponement, what did Jesus advise him to do? (b) How should Jesus’ answer affect us?
9 One man whom Jesus invited to be his follower said: “Permit me first to leave and bury my father.” What did Jesus advise him to do? Knowing that the man would be postponing a most vital work simply to wait until his parents lived out the rest of their natural lives, Jesus replied: “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59, 60) Those who show wisdom by obeying Christ cannot turn aside from fulfilling their commission to preach the Kingdom message. Divine wisdom makes them aware that this world and its rulers are doomed. (1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 John 2:17) Supporters of God’s sovereignty know that the only true hope for mankind lies in divine intervention and rulership. (Zechariah 9:10) So while those possessing the wisdom of this world do not believe in God’s Kingdom and do not want that heavenly government, people led by divine wisdom do what brings real benefit to their fellow humans, preparing them for everlasting life in Jehovah’s promised new world.—John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:13.
“Foolishness to Those Who Are Perishing”
10. (a) When Saul of Tarsus was converted, what work did he take up, and how did he view it? (b) For what were the ancient Greeks renowned, but how did God view their wisdom?
10 Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, took up this life-saving work. Is it reasonable to think that when Jesus Christ converted Saul, He was assigning him to engage in a foolish activity? Paul did not think so. (Philippians 2:16) At that time the Greeks were considered to be the most intellectual people of the world. They boasted of their great philosophers and wise men. Though Paul spoke Greek, he did not follow Grecian philosophy and learning. Why? Because such wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.* Paul sought divine wisdom, which moved him to preach the good news from house to house. The greatest Preacher of all time, Jesus Christ, had set the example and had instructed him to do the same work.—Luke 4:43; Acts 20:20, 21; 26:15-20; 1 Corinthians 9:16.
11. In essence, what did Paul say about his preaching commission and the world’s wisdom?
11 Paul says this about his commission to preach: “Christ dispatched me . . . to go declaring the good news, not with wisdom of speech, that the torture stake of the Christ should not be made useless. For the speech about the torture stake [Jesus’ ransom sacrifice] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. For it is written: ‘I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual men I will shove aside.’ Where is the wise man [such as the philosopher]? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.”—1 Corinthians 1:17-21.
12. What is Jehovah accomplishing through “the foolishness of what is preached,” and how will those wanting “the wisdom from above” react?
12 Incredible as it may seem, the very ones the world calls foolish are those whom Jehovah uses as his preachers. Yes, through the foolishness of the ministry of these preachers, God saves those who believe. Jehovah arranges matters so that preachers of this “foolishness” cannot glorify themselves, and other humans cannot rightly glorify those through whom they have heard the good news. This is so that “no flesh might boast in the sight of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31; 3:6, 7) True, the preacher plays an important role, but the message that he has been commissioned to preach is what works toward a person’s salvation if he believes it. Those who want “the wisdom from above” will not despise the message of the preacher because he seems to be foolish and lowly, is persecuted, and goes from house to house. Instead, the meek ones will respect a Kingdom proclaimer as a preacher commissioned by Jehovah and coming in God’s name. They will attach great importance to the message the preacher brings by word of mouth and by printed page.—James 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
13. (a) How did the Jews and the Greeks view the preaching of Christ impaled? (b) From what groups of people were not many called to be Jesus’ followers, and why?
13 Continuing his discussion of God’s ways, Paul says: “Both the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; but we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the nations foolishness; however, to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men. For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame.”—1 Corinthians 1:22-27; compare Isaiah 55:8, 9.
14. (a) If asked about their credentials, to what do Jehovah’s Witnesses point? (b) Why did Paul refuse to please the Greeks with any display of the world’s wisdom?
14 When Jesus was on the earth, the Jews asked for a sign from heaven. (Matthew 12:38, 39; 16:1) But Jesus refused to give any sign. Likewise, Jehovah’s Witnesses today display no signlike credentials. Rather, they point to their commission to preach the good news, as recorded in such Bible verses as Isaiah 61:1, 2; Mark 13:10; and Revelation 22:17. The Greeks of old looked for wisdom, higher education in the things of this world. While Paul was educated in this world’s wisdom, he refused to please the Greeks by any display of it. (Acts 22:3) He spoke and wrote in the conversational Greek of the common people, instead of classical Greek. Paul told the Corinthians: “When I came to you, brothers, [I] did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. . . . My speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power, that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.”—1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
15. Of what does Peter remind ridiculers of the good news, and how is the present situation similar to that of Noah’s day?
15 In these last days, ridiculers of the good news of God’s incoming new world and the approaching end of this world are reminded by the apostle Peter that the world of Noah’s day “suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” (2 Peter 3:3-7) Facing that cataclysmal end, what did Noah do? Many people think of him only as an ark builder. But Peter says that when God brought the Deluge upon the ancient world, He “kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others.” (2 Peter 2:5) In their worldly wisdom, those ungodly antediluvians undoubtedly scoffed at what Noah preached and called him foolish, unrealistic, and impractical. Today, true Christians are facing a similar situation, since Jesus compared our generation to that of Noah’s day. Despite scoffers, however, the preaching of the Kingdom good news is more than just talk. Like the preaching done by Noah, it means salvation for the preacher and for those who listen to him!—Matthew 24:37-39; 1 Timothy 4:16.
‘Becoming Fools to Become Wise’
16. What will happen to this world’s wisdom at Armageddon, and who will survive into God’s new world?
16 Soon, at Armageddon, Jehovah God will cause all “the wisdom of the wise men” to perish. He will shove aside all “the intelligence of the intellectual men” who made predictions of how their new world order would bring better conditions for mankind. “The war of the great day of God the Almighty” will incinerate all the sophistry, philosophy, and wisdom of this world. (1 Corinthians 1:19; Revelation 16:14-16) The only ones who will survive that war and gain life in God’s new world are those who obey what this world calls foolishness—yes, Jehovah’s glorious Kingdom good news.
17. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses become ‘fools,’ and what are God’s preachers of the good news determined to do?
17 Jehovah’s Witnesses, led by his spirit, are not ashamed to preach what the world calls foolishness. Instead of trying to be worldly-wise, they have become ‘fools.’ How? By doing the Kingdom-preaching work so that they may be wise, as Paul wrote: “If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) Jehovah’s preachers of the good news know the life-saving value of their message and will keep on preaching it without letup until the end of this world and its wisdom at the war of Armageddon. Soon, Jehovah God will vindicate his universal sovereignty and bring everlasting life to all those now believing and acting on “the foolishness of what is preached.”
Despite all the philosophical debates and investigations of the wise men of ancient Greece, their writings show that they found no genuine basis for hope. Professors J. R. S. Sterrett and Samuel Angus point out: “No literature contains more pathetic laments over the sorrows of life, the passing of love, the deceitfulness of hope, and the ruthlessness of death.”—Funk and Wagnalls New “Standard” Bible Dictionary, 1936, page 313.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What two kinds of wisdom are there?
□ What is the basic flaw of the world’s wisdom?
□ Why is preaching the good news the most practical thing to do?
□ What will soon happen to all the world’s wisdom?
□ Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses not ashamed to preach what the world calls foolishness?
[Picture on page 23]
The Greeks looked for worldly wisdom and often viewed Paul’s preaching as foolishness