Let no man deceive himself – The apostle here proceeds to make a practical application of the truths which he had stated, and to urge on them humility, and to endeavor to repress the broils and contentions into which they had fallen. Let no man be puffed up with a vain conceit of his own wisdom, for this had been the real cause of all the evils which they had experienced. Grotius renders this, “See that you do not attribute too much to your wisdom and learning, by resting on it, and thus deceive your own selves.” “All human philosophy,” says Grotius, “that is repugnant to the gospel is but vain deceit” – Probably there were many among them who would despise this admonition as coming from Paul, but he exhorts them to take care that they did not deceive themselves. We are taught here:
(1) The danger of self-deception – a danger that besets all on the subject of religion.
(2) The fact that false philosophy is the most fruitful source of self-deception in the business of religion. So it was among the Corinthians; and so it has been in all ages since.
If any man among you – Any teacher, whatever may be his rank or his confidence in his own abilities; or any private member of the church.
Seemeth to be wise – Seems to himself; or is thought to be, has the credit, or reputation of being wise. The word “seems” δοκεῖ dokei implies this idea – if anyone seems, or is supposed to be a man of wisdom; if this is his reputation; and if he seeks that this should be his reputation among people. See instances of this construction in Bloomfield.
In this world – In this “age,” or “world” (ἐν τῷ αἰῶν τούτῳ en tō aiōn toutō). There is considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage among critics. It may be taken either with the preceding or the following words. Origen, Cyprian, Beza, Grotius, Hammond, and Locke adopt the latter method, and understand it thus: “If any man among you thinks himself to be wise, let him not hesitate to be a fool in the opinion of this age in order that he may be truly wise” – But the interpretation conveyed in our translation, is probably the correct one. “If any man has the reputation of wisdom among the people of this generation, and prides himself on it,” etc. If he is esteemed wise in the sense in which the people of this world are, as a philosopher, a man of science, learning, etc.
Let him become a fool –
(1) Let him be willing to be regarded as a fool.
(2) Let him sincerely embrace this gospel, which will inevitably expose him to the charge of being a fool.
(3) Let all his earthly wisdom be esteemed in his own eyes as valueless and as folly in the great matters of salvation.
That he may be wise – That he may have true wisdom – that which is of God. It is implied here:
(1) That the wisdom of this world will not make a man truly wise.
(2) That a “reputation” for wisdom may contribute nothing to a man’s true wisdom, but may stand in the way of it.
(3) That for such a man to embrace the gospel it is necessary that he should be willing to cast away dependence on his own wisdom, and come with the temper of a child to the Saviour.
(4) That to do this will expose him to the charge of folly, and the derision of those who are wise in their own conceit.
(5) That true wisdom is found only in that science which teaches people to live unto God, and to be prepared for death and for heaven – and that science is found only in the gospel.