“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor 1:20-25
The world through wisdom does not know God, nor can it. God told Adam that eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (not the tree of good and evil) instead of the tree of life, would produce death. The Greeks, who seek after wisdom, venerated Eve as the enlightener of mankind, because she ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had denied her. The Greeks deified Eve as Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
So the world values its own wisdom above all else. The world also wants to know God through its own wisdom, through learning the right knowledge. Eastern religions, gnosticism and mystery religions, masonry, witchcraft, kabbalah, all these kinds of religions are popular with the world and with the flesh because they rely on the accomplishments of the flesh, on knowledge, for spiritual correctness or purity. Even Phariseeism falls in this category – a religion which is satisfying to the flesh because it depends on the flesh. And Protestantism also needs to beware, because all the different sects of Protestantism arose because they thought believing the correct doctrine, or knowledge about God or spiritual matters, down to the nth detail, was the most important thing there was. Dividing asunder after men is not the most important thing (vs. 10-17).
But God cannot be known through the world’s wisdom. The Greek word for “know” in 1 Cor 1:21, is Strong’s G1097, ginosko, and it means, to learn to know, to come to know, to obtain the knowledge of. It is about the process. Its Hebrew counterpart is Strong’s H3045, yada; yud + dalet + ayin. The yud is the outstretched hand and arm, and so means work, throw, or even worship. The dalet is the door, and so means to hang or enter. The ayin is the eye, and so means to watch, know, or shade. The ancient word picture is that by doing, we enter into seeing (knowing or understanding).
The world wants to know God with its mind, and leave its heart untouched, thank you very much. It wants to know about God with knowledge that puffs up. And because we are in the world, raised in a culture which is founded in the wisdom of the Greeks, we have to realize that it is comfortable for us to keep God in the mental realm, in our little boxes with its boundaries intact.
But God wants our hearts set in love toward Him, as He already has set His heart in love toward us. And we express love for God, by doing His commandments, not just by knowing facts about Him (Joh 14:15). Love builds up (1 Cor 8:1).
Don’t misunderstand – knowledge properly used as a tool is not bad. Peter said,
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,” 2 Pet 1:2-5
We have to know the truth about God which is revealed in His Word. That is not the same as striving to know Him through the world’s wisdom, as a set of facts, in the flesh; and not through faith by grace, in relationship and in experience, in the heart. 🙂