Chapter 34: “That Your Faith Should Not Stand in the Wisdom of Men”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 280–84


Map Chp. 34

The Acts of the Apostles, ca. A.D. 54–58

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (Acts)

Acts

Ephesus

Apollos and the Disciples of John

18:24–28; 19:1–7

All Asia Heard the Gospel

19:8–10

Miracles of Healing

19:11, 12

Exorcists Cannot Cast Out Devils

19:13–20

Ephesus

The Silversmiths’ Riot—Priestcraft Fights True Religion

19:21–41

Troas

Paul Raises Eutychus from Death

20:1–12

Miletus

Farewell, Testimony, Counsel

20:13–38

Toward Jerusalem

Agabus’ Prophetic Warnings

21:1–17

First Letter of Paul to the Saints at Corinth—

Written from Ephesus, ca. Spring, A.D. 57 (1 Corinthians)

1 Corinthians

Dissensions Among the Saints

1:1–16

True and False Wisdom

1:17–31

Christ is Known by the Spirit

2:1–16

Milk Comes Before Meat

3:1–7

Fire Shall Test All Work

3:8–15

“Ye Are the Temple of God”

3:16, 17

Saints Shall Inherit All Things

3:18–23

Interpretive Commentary

(34-1) Acts 18:23; 20:38. Background to Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

Paul’s third missionary journey is the longest of the three, both in terms of time spent (four years) and distance covered. Although much of Paul’s time was occupied with visits to places covered in the first two journeys, Ephesus became his headquarters for three years. It was during this period that we get our finest picture of Paul, for we see him as a theologian, preacher, writer, and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, not only by means of Luke’s brilliant account but also through Paul’s four letters: two to the Corinthians, one to the Romans, and the one to the Galatians. One of Paul’s prime concerns on the third journey was to collect funds for the poor in Jerusalem. (See center map section for an outline of the third missionary journey.)

(34-2) Acts 21:9. Can Women Prophesy?

“Though men are appointed to hold rule in the home and in the Church, women are not one whit behind them in spiritual endowments. They prophesy, receive visions, entertain angels (Alma 32:23), enjoy the gifts of the Spirit, and qualify with their husbands for full exaltation in the highest heaven.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:181.)

(34-3) Acts 21:10–14. Should Paul Have Come to Jerusalem When Warned against It?

“Should Paul have gone to Jerusalem? Did the journey accord with the will and purposes of the Lord?

“Whatever the answers to these questions may be, it is clear that Paul was forewarned of the persecutions and trials that would attend such a journey. He had received whisperings from the Spirit saying that bonds and afflictions awaited him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22–24). Now … Agabus, apparently learning of Paul’s determination to face persecution and even death in Jerusalem, comes and tells him in the Lord’s name that in Jerusalem he will be bound by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles.

“However, out of his journey to Jerusalem came the arrest which enabled him, while in Roman custody, to testify before the Jews of Jerusalem, before Festus and then Agrippa, on the island of Melita, and in Rome itself. To take the witness of Christ to kings and rulers, it oftentimes seems to require the arrest and trial of the Lord’s servants. Surely Paul’s trip to Jerusalem tested his metal and ennobled his soul, and because of it, he gained opportunities to stand in defense of truth and righteousness, which otherwise would have been denied him.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:181.)

First Corinthians

(34-4) Why Did Paul Write to the Corinthians, and What Was the Approximate Date of Writing?

“One of the fascinating subjects in the life of the apostle is the exchange of communications and news between him and his converts in Corinth. The communications revealed that there were factions forming in the branch with different views regarding moral conduct and doctrine. Some of the converts were assuming a libertine or freethinking attitude with respect to the doctrines which had been taught to them by Paul and the missionaries who worked with him. Some were defending loose sexual standards that were rampant in the notorious city. These problems came into being because of the background of the new converts and the conditions of the time and place in which they were living. They were reactions to the new faith which had been taught to them against the old background which had been part of their former conduct and thinking.

“It was his concern over these disappointing happenings and also the questions that had been asked of him in the communications that caused Paul to write a letter to the saints at Corinth at Easter time, the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus.” (Howard W. Hunter in CR, Apr. 1969, p. 136.)

In addition to rebuking the Corinthians for their loose manner of living, Paul wrote for at least two other reasons: (1) to correct certain misapprehensions which had arisen from a former letter, now lost, and (2) to answer certain questions posed by the Corinthians in their return letter, also lost. Unfortunately we can only surmise from Paul’s comments in First Corinthians as to the contents of his first letter or the reply thereto (1 Corinthians 7:1). We are thus in much the same position as one who has found an old letter: we are privileged to read only one side of the correspondence and must guess what the questions and issues were that prompted the reply given.

As with Paul’s other epistles, so with First Corinthians: no precise date can be placed upon it. However, Paul’s reference to tarrying at Ephesus “until Pentecost” (i.e., April–May) and his expressed expectation to “winter” with the saints in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:6–8) seems to indicate that the epistle was written some time in the early spring. Putting these statements together with what else is known concerning Paul’s life, we may tentatively assign a date of sometime during March or April of the year A.D. 57.

(34-5) 1 Corinthians 1:14. Who Was Crispus?

Where the size of a congregation permitted, the Jewish synagogue was presided over by a college of elders (Luke 7:3), who in turn were under control of one who was “the chief of the synagogue” (Luke 8:41; 13:14). Crispus was one of these. He was in charge of the synagogue in Corinth at the time that Paul ministered the gospel in that city. He was converted by Paul’s words and shortly thereafter baptized, with his household, by the great apostle to the gentiles. Paul mentions him specifically as being one of the few he baptized in Corinth.

(34-6) 1 Corinthians 1:17. Why Does Paul Say That the Lord Sent Him Not to Baptize?

Some have used this scripture passage to support the notion that Paul saw no real significance to the act of baptism and did not consider it to be essential in God’s sight. To argue thus is to ignore the many other passages in which Paul speaks of the ordinance not only in an approving way but in a manner to suggest its absolute necessity for all who would enjoy a valid relationship with Christ. (See Romans 6:3, 4; Ephesians 4, 5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12.) The context in which Paul’s statement appears is that of chastising the Corinthian saints for their tendency to stir up division and strife, even on the smallest of issues. He begs them to cease such practices and to be “joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10.) The Greek word for divisions, schismata, is very expressive of Paul’s true feelings. It was as if the great apostle was so thoroughly ashamed of such factionalism that he refused to be identified with it. The test of one’s effectiveness as a representative of Jesus Christ is not how many he baptizes but how well he spreads the word of God so that all who will hear and obey may do so.

(34-7) 1 Corinthians 1:23. Why Was the Crucifixion of Jesus a Stumblingblock to the Jews?

In setting forth the idea that the crucifixion was a “stumblingblock” to the Jews, Paul used a metaphor common to both Greeks and Hebrews. The word in the original Greek is skandalon, the same from which we derive our word scandal. The skandalon was the movable triggerstick of a trap or snare which, when struck by the foot, caused the striker to be caught by the trap. It is often used in the New Testament as a symbol of Christ because his appearance and brief sojourn among men was so different from that which the Jews anticipated. They expected a mighty king of glory who would throw off the hated yoke of Rome in one miraculous stroke and establish a messianic kingdom in which faithful Jews would reign supreme. As far as many of the Jews were concerned, Jesus was nailed to a cross just as hundreds of others had been. This was indeed the triggerstick that caused them to stumble and fall into the trap. The prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon also spoke of this stumbling (Jacob 4:14, 15).

(34-8) 1 Corinthians 1:26–31. “God Hath Chosen the Weak Things of the World to Confound the Things Which Are Mighty”

“Question: Who is better qualified to preach the gospel, a fifty-year-old college president of world renown who has many scholastic degrees, or a nineteen-year-old high school graduate who has no scholastic stature whatever?

“Answer: The one who has a testimony of the gospel and who is so living as to have the companionship and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“Question: How is it that the weak things of the earth confound the mighty and strong?

“Answer: True religion is not a matter of intellectuality or of worldly prominence or renown, but of spirituality; and they are not weak but strong in the realm of spiritual things.

“Question: How is it that weak and untried persons have spiritual powers and understanding which is often denied the learned and worldly wise?

“Answer: It is in large measure a matter of pre-existent preparation. Some people developed in the pre-mortal life the talents to recognize truth, to comprehend spiritual things, to receive revelation from the Spirit; others did not. Those so endowed spiritually were foreordained and sent to earth to serve at God’s command as his ministers.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:316–17.)

(34-9) 1 Corinthians 1:28. Why Would God Choose the “Base Things of the World” to Do His Work?

Here is an example of how words can change through the centuries by acquiring a meaning almost opposite to that which they originally conveyed. In the English of the 1600s, base meant “lowly” or “humble,” whereas today it carries with it the idea of “lewd and evil.”

(34-10) 1 Corinthians 2:1–8. “My Speech and My Preaching Was Not with Enticing Words of Man’s Wisdom”

“There was of old, there is now, and to all eternity there shall be only one approved and proper way to preach the gospel—Preach by the power of the Spirit. Anything short of this is not of God and has neither converting nor saving power. All the religious learning, of all the professors of religion, of all the ages is as nothing compared to the Spirit-born testimony of one legal administrator. …

“If there is any truth of salvation that Deity has made imperishably clear, it is the first and last, in all ages, now and forever, among the learned and the ignorant for all races and peoples, and for that matter on all the endless worlds of the great Creator, there is one formula and one formula only for conveying saving truth to men—Preach by the power of the Spirit.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:318.)

For centuries the Greeks had glorified wisdom and man’s ability to achieve. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—these were the men of reverence. Even the very word philosopher means “lover of wisdom.” But Paul’s point is that true wisdom comes only from God, and that therefore only those who are spiritually minded can understand and receive true wisdom. Notice the phrases Paul uses in contrasting the two kinds of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2:6, 7. The core of Paul’s whole line of reasoning is summed up in 1 Corinthians 2:14. The unspiritual (or natural) man misperceives truth because it is perceived only by the Spirit. He has already shown that the Corinthian saints had serious misconceptions. Therefore, what is the obvious conclusion about the saints there?

Points to Ponder

Only as We Put Our Full Trust in God Will We Find Ultimate Happiness

The scriptures indicate that in the latter days, Satan will make war with the Saints of God and “encompasseth them round about.” (D&C 76:29.) Because you desire to serve the Lord, the adversary will strive to cause you to fall. His methods, as President Spencer W. Kimball has indicated, are very subtle:

“He will use his logic to confuse and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 152.)

As you have learned, the Corinthian saints faced a similar problem to the one Nephi saw you would be faced with today. Read carefully 2 Nephi 28:9–16. What are some of the precepts of men that could cause even the “humble followers of Christ” to go astray? Consider the following statements by Elder Ezra Taft Benson:

“The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its pills and practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity. The first commandment given to man was to multiply and replenish the earth with children. That commandment has never been altered, modified, or cancelled. The Lord did not say to multiply and replenish the earth if it is convenient, or if you are wealthy, or after you have gotten your schooling, or when there is peace on earth, or until you have four children. The Bible says, ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: … Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. …’ (Ps. 127:3, 5.) We believe God is glorified by having numerous children and a program of perfection for them. So also will God glorify that husband and wife who have a large posterity and who have tried to raise them up in righteousness.

“The precepts of men would have you believe that by limiting the population of the world, we can have peace and plenty. That is the doctrine of the devil. Small numbers do not insure peace; only righteousness does, After all, there were only a handful of men on the earth when Cain interrupted the peace of Adam’s household by slaying Abel. On the other hand, the whole city of Enoch was peaceful; and it was taken into heaven because it was made up of righteous people.

And so far as limiting the population in order to provide plenty is concerned, the Lord answered that falsehood in the Doctrine and Covenants when he said:

“‘For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.’ (D&C 104:17.) …

“… Let us listen and learn from the following wise words of this seer, President Clark:

“‘… Many influences (more than ever before in my lifetime) are seeking to break down chastity with its divinely declared sanctity. …

“‘In schoolrooms the children are taught what is popularly called “the facts of life.” Instead of bringing about the alleged purpose of the teaching, that is, strengthening of the morals of youth, this teaching seems to have had directly the opposite effect. The teaching seems merely to have whetted curiosity and augmented appetite. …’ (Relief Society Magazine, December 1952, p. 793.) …

“And so the precepts of men are at work on our youth in so many ways. Said President Clark, ‘… a tremendous amount of the modern art, of the modern literature and music, and the drama that we have today is utterly demoralizing—utterly.’ (Relief Society Magazine, December 1952, p. 792.)

“Have you been listening to the music that many young folks are hearing today? Some of it is nerve-jamming in nature and much of it has been deliberately designed to promote revolution, dope, immorality, and a gap between parent and child. And some of this music has invaded our church cultural halls.

“Have you noticed some of our Church dances lately? Have they been praiseworthy, lovely, and of good report? ‘I doubt,’ said President McKay, ‘whether it is possible to dance most of the prevalent fad dances in a manner to meet LDS standards.’ And what about modesty in dress? …

“Now what kind of magazines come into your home? With perhaps one or two exceptions, I would not have any of the major national slick magazines in my home. As President Clark so well put it, ‘… take up any national magazine, look at the ads and, if you can stand the filth, read some of the stories—they are, in their expressed and suggestive standards of life, destructive of the very foundations of our society.’ (Conference Report, Apr. 1951, p. 79.)

“Now hear this test proposed by President George Q. Cannon: ‘If the breach is daily widening between ourselves and the world … we may be assured that our progress is certain, however slow. On the opposite hand, if our feelings and affections, our appetites and desires, are in unison with the world around us and freely fraternize with them … we should do well to examine ourselves. Individuals in such a condition might possess a nominal position in the Church but would be lacking the life of the work, and, like the foolish virgins who slumbered while the bridegroom tarried, they would be unprepared for his coming. …’ (Millennial Star, Oct. 5, 1861 [Vol. 23], pp. 645–46.)” (In CR, Apr. 1969, pp. 12–15.)

Now read carefully the following statement by Nephi: 2 Nephi 28:31.

Are there decisions in your life right now that need the guidance of the Lord? Have you put your trust in him? Have you asked for his help and then sought for strength to do his will?

Read Proverbs 3:5, 6.