Saturday, June 4, 2016

Divine and Worldly Wisdom in the Pauline Epistles

I. Introduction
In addressing a variety of topics in his epistles, Paul uses certain key words such as faith when he discusses justification, and flesh to describe fallen human nature. These key words are not merely related to the doctrines he is teaching or reminding his readers of but may also have to do with a particular issue that his audience is struggling with. When dealing with the quarrel and the division among Christians in Corinth, for example, Paul uses the word “wisdom” (σοφία) seventeen times in his first epistle. This word also appears in four other epistles including 2 Corinthians.
There are three objects the use of “wisdom” is associated with: God, world and human. The association with God is clear from explicit phrases like “wisdom of God,” (e.g., Rom 11:33 and 1 Cor 1:21) and “wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:30). The implicit association of “wisdom” with God can be derived by noticing that first, divine wisdom is in opposition to all the other types of wisdom (e.g., 1 Cor 1:19-20, 1 Cor 2:6) and second, divine wisdom is what Paul claims to possess, impart, teaches his audience with and desires them to be governed by (1 Cor 2:4-6, 7, 13; Col 1:28). So when Paul prays for the churches he writes letters to that they be filled with wisdom (Col 1:9; 3:16, Eph 1:17) and exhorts them to pursue wisdom or act wisely (e.g., Col 3:16; 4:5), he must be talking about divine wisdom. From this analysis we can also conclude that we may group all the other types of wisdom, the non-divine wisdoms under one category in the sense that just as God opposes them, they are opposed to God. In this paper these wisdoms are called “worldly wisdom” or the wisdom of the world (e.g., 1 Cor 1:20, 3:19).  The term is identical to phrases like “the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor 1:19), “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor 2:5), and “a wisdom of this age” (1 Cor 2:6). The term is also identical to its more implicit references such as “lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1), “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Cor 2:4), and “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Cor 1:21). We know that these implicit uses are associated with worldly wisdom because they are contrary to what Paul teaches (1 Cor 2:6); they are not what Paul and Christians possess (1 Cor 2:12-13) and they are the opposite to the manner with which Paul preaches (1 Cor 2:1, 3). The table below summarizes the frequencies of the occurrence of σοφία in the Pauline epistles including what the word is associated with according to the two categories we just described: divine and worldly. This preliminary observation is useful before we get to the goal of this paper, namely first, to analyze the nature and effects of both wisdoms and second, to propose how this analysis may be useful for Christians today.
Divine wisdom
Chapter and verse
Worldly wisdom
Chapter and verse
Rom 11:33
1 Corinthians
1 Cor 1:21b, 24 30; 2:6a-7; 12:8
1 Cor 1:17, 19-21a, 22; 2:1, 4-6b, 13; 3:19
2 Corinthians
2 Cor 1:12
Eph 1:8,17; 3:10
Col 1:9, 28; 2:3; 3:16; 4:5
Col 2:23

II. The Nature of Divine and Worldly Wisdom
In discussing the nature of both wisdoms, we first ask the question where each originates from. The source of divine wisdom is Trinitarian. In 1 Cor 1:30 God the Father made Christ to be the wisdom for the Christians. Col 2:3 speaks of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being stored in Christ[1] in agreement with 1 Cor 1:30. It is the Spirit who applies this wisdom to believers enabling them to see “the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ.” Indeed the Spirit is the decisive factor that determines whether one embraces and is directed by divine wisdom or is blinded and enslaved by worldly wisdom (2 Cor 4:4). The logic behind the application of divine wisdom by the Spirit is given in 1 Cor 2:10-13. This passage links the believer’s knowing and believing divine wisdom with the Spirit having access to God’s thoughts by virtue of divine revelation or illumination. Fee elaborates that the Spirit is[2]
the key to the proper understanding the gospel itself. God has revealed his wisdom to us through the Spirit. The Spirit is first of all linked to God. [The Corinthians] considered Paul’s preaching to be milk; on the contrary, he implies, redemption through the cross comes from the profound depths of God’s own wisdom which the Spirit, given to those who love him has searched out and revealed to us. Here in particular the principle of “like is known by like” is spelled out in detail... The analogy itself is a simple one and insists that just as the only person who knows what goes on inside one’s own mind is oneself, so only God knows the things of God. At the human level I alone know what I’m thinking and no one else unless I choose to reveal my thoughts in the forms of words. So also only God knows what God is about. God’s Spirit therefore, who as God knows the mind of God, becomes the link to our knowing him also.
As for the source of worldly wisdom, Fee disagrees that its nature is demonic[3] which means that this wisdom originates from Satan himself. Paul gives a hint that worldly wisdom is a wisdom of the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:6). Fee sees that rulers refer to those directly responsible for the death of Christ, namely the Jews and the Romans involved in the events that led to his crucifixion based on 1 Cor 2:8. However, who is the agent that motivated them to do what they did to Jesus? The word ἄρχων translated as rulers in 1 Cor 2:6 is also used in Eph 2:2, τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος that ESV translates as “the prince of the power of the air” referring to the devil. One may argue that ἄρχων does not always refer to the devil or demonic power since in Rom 13:3 this word refers to civil authorities. But note also the use of ἀρχή, a cognate of ἄρχων that appears 11 times in the Pauline epistles and is often translated as ruler as well.[4] Seven of these eleven uses[5] are where the word refers to demonic or evil power. Furthermore, Paul criticizes the Corinthian behavior of jealousy and strife in 1 Cor 3:3 as a fruit of worldly wisdom they are infatuated with. The word used for “jealousy” (ζῆλος) is the same word used in Jam 3:16 where it is characteristic of a wisdom that is not from above, but a wisdom that is demonic (Jam 3:15). We conclude then that Paul regards worldly wisdom, particularly in passages like 1 Cor 2:6 and 8 as originating from the devil albeit only implicitly.
A subtle characteristic of both wisdoms is that each claims to be autonomous. Autonomous literally means self-law or self-governing. Autonomous wisdom is a system of self-established practical knowledge to understand reality and to act on that understanding independent of any external influence. It claims that these principles encompass all aspects of life and seek to control how everything should work including its outcome. This claim of autonomy then is no other than a claim of lordship over all creation. Paul ends the exaltation of the wonder of divine wisdom in Rom 11:33-35[6] with a declaration that God being the source of this wisdom is the initiator, the means and the goal of everything (Rom 11:36). The autonomous nature of God’s wisdom is expressed in Rom 11:34 that God receives counsel from no one in figuring out how to run the universe he created. God does not depend on anything but himself for his existence and for everything he does.[7] On the other hand, everything depends on him for its existence and maintenance. Col 1:16 speaks of the role of Christ as the agent of creation of all things, “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (cf. John 1:3, Heb 1:2). Furthermore, Col 1:17 says that Christ also exercises full-control over all creation, “in him all things he holds together” τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν[8] through the exercise of his wisdom (cf. Col 2:3, Mat 28:18b).
But how is worldly wisdom autonomous? We have established previously that Satan himself is the source of this wisdom. Isa 14:13-14 gives a glimpse of his envious ambition to dethrone God that results in God punishing him to eternal damnation (Isa 14:15). Satan’s aspiration is also reflected in the offer that he tempts Adam and Eve with that once they eat that forbidden fruit, they shall be like God (Gen 3:5). They will be their own lord making a call on everything in reliance on their own wisdom independent from God. Two representatives of worldly wisdom promoted by the Jews and the Greeks apart from Christ (1 Cor 1:22)[9] seek to control how everything should work according to their self-established wisdom. For the Jews, although they recognize God’s role in directing history from their own national experience, they use this knowledge to dictate how God should act subsequently on their behalf. For them, their deliverer from the present foreign oppression, the promised Messiah, means power, military might, war hero, decisive victory over their enemies and restoration of their former glory. Hence God has to conform to these principles and criteria of Jewish wisdom where the Messiah ought to be characterized by signs and wonders like what their forefathers witnessed and experienced in the Exodus. For the Greeks, everything needs to make sense to be considered a reality. Everything in the universe, including God, who he is and his actions, has to conform to the laws of logic. They promote the supremacy of reason as the ultimate authority to evaluate the veracity of an idea or an event. Reason is also the principle based on which everything should run and be subordinated to.
Fee and Waters[10] characterize these two flavors of worldly wisdom as an idolatry. In the case of Greek wisdom, the idol is clear: human reason. In the case of Jewish wisdom, the idol is a god according to their own criteria. In the final analysis, the idol is self. All reality has to be evaluated and should run based on my self-established set of standards whether it be my reasoning power or a “god” according to my definition of what a god is and what he should do. There is no need to believe and rely on external knowledge such as those given by divine revelation since I am capable of formulating my own. From divine point of view, this self-centered nature of worldly wisdom is an act of rebellion. Bruce remarks that “a chief ingredient in that rebellion is the proud spirit of self-sufficiency.”[11] Both wisdoms vie for supremacy in an “implacable opposition” against each other.[12] Both wisdoms despise one another. Worldly wisdom considers divine wisdom, particularly the one expressed in the cross of Christ as “stumbling block” and “folly” (1 Cor 1:23). Likewise, divine wisdom sees worldly wisdom as “folly” and “futile” (1 Cor 3:19-20).[13] In the end, divine wisdom decisively prevails over worldly wisdom by exposing its folly and destroying its false claims (1 Cor 1:19-20, 2:6b) in a most surprising manner.
The paradoxical nature of divine wisdom[14] is the means by which God outwits his opponents. God appears as a fool by his actions that express his divine wisdom contrary to what worldly wisdom considers the right things to do.[15] He lets worldly wisdom to continue its course. Through its stubborn rejection and arrogant self-confidence to embrace the right wisdom he “ensnares” it in order to defeat it for all to see who the real wise and the real fool are. God appears to be check-mated by his opponents but this is the way he checkmates them in the end. Nowhere is this brilliant move more clearly demonstrated than in the cross of Christ (1 Cor 1:18-25, Col 2:15). By worldly standards, the cross is a blasphemy to the Jews and a non-sense to the Greeks. And so worldly wisdom appears as superior to divine wisdom and victorious in judging it as foolish. But in the end God and his “foolish” wisdom are vindicated by the demonstration of the reality of the power of the cross to save and the impotence and the bankruptcy of worldly wisdom to do the same (1 Cor 1:25). Fee explains this dynamics in 1 Cor 3:19-20 where Paul quotes Job 5:13 and Ps 94:11 to reiterate what worldly wisdom looks like from divine perspective and how divine wisdom prevails,[16]
The citations together illustrate the utter futility of the wise, hence the fact that their wisdom is foolishness in God’s sight. The first text [Job 5:13] is expressed in the imagery of hunting, in which the hunter uses the very craftiness or cunning of the prey as the means of capture. The ultimate irony is that people are cunningly avoiding the God with whom they have to do, but God has used that very cunning to ensnare them. Thinking themselves to be wise, they are in fact fools. The second text [Ps 94:11] emphasizes their ultimate futility. God knows their reasoning that they are futile.

III. The Effects of Divine and Worldly Wisdom
Paul uses the word “boast” five times in the context of his opposition to the Corinthian division as a result of their infatuation with worldly wisdom and his effort to show what divine wisdom looks like (1 Cor 1:29, 31, 3:21, 4:7; 2 Cor 1:12). We observe that both wisdoms produce boasting, but the object of boasting is different. The arrogant attitude that autonomous worldly wisdom begets inevitably leads to a false sense of self-sufficiency, a belief that I can make it on my own apart from God’s intervention. The spirit of self-sufficiency or self-reliance boasts in man (1 Cor 3:21). What else is there other than God’s highest creation to boast about if God is not in the equation? Isn’t this Satan’s desperate “Plan B” scheme to dethrone God, after the failed coup in Isa 14:13-14 by encouraging man to think that he is the measure of all things in order to divest God of the glory he deserves? The next best thing Satan can do if he is unable to take God completely out of the picture is to suggest that there is something else necessary in addition to God, a complimentary set of principles of man-made wisdom. The false teachers in Colossae are a case in point. They try to deceive the Christians with “plausible arguments” and “philosophy” in the forms of food laws, worship of angels, ascetic rules and holiday observations as necessary elements to their spiritual growth in addition to Christ. Paul rejects this as a form of worldly wisdom that presents itself as a true wisdom (Col 3:23) but is actually a lie. In response, he highlights the supremacy (Col 1:18-23) and the sufficiency (Col 2:2-15) of Christ to remind the Colossians of this danger and that Christ is all they need,[17]

… [the false teachers’] claim to offer a wise and comprehensive system of spiritual growth is nothing but a sham. For all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are stored up in Christ (2:3). False teachers were promising through their attempt to placate hostile spiritual beings and their ascetic devotional practices to take care of this problem of the flesh. The Colossians are in danger of elevating their rules and practices and giving spiritual beings so much credit that they were in effect losing contact with Christ, the only source of spiritual power and growth.

We may observe another effect of worldly wisdom in the lives of its adherents from Paul’s characterization of worldly wisdom that the Corinthians try to embrace. In 1 Cor 3:3 Paul says that they are “still of the flesh” which reminds us of “the works of the flesh” in Gal 5:22. The Corinthian problems: party spirit (1 Cor 1:11), incest (1 Cor 5:1) and lawsuit among fellow believers (1 Cor 6:6) are directly or indirectly caused by allowing worldly wisdom to govern their lives. All of the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,  enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy are representatives of the Corinthian conducts symptomatic of the effects of worldly wisdom with the exception of sorcery, drunkenness and orgies. As mentioned above, the self-centered nature of worldly wisdom breeds arrogance. Arrogance naturally boasts in self-accomplishment. Even boasting in man is a subtle form of boasting in self. I’m superior to you because I belong to this man’s club. An arrogant spirit is idolatrous in nature and therefore allows no rival. Hence when something challenges its supremacy claim, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions and envy ensue like what happens in the Corinthian church. Thrall also adds that the egocentric nature of worldly wisdom tends to be manipulative. Paul distinguishes himself from his opponents who have an ulterior motive of financial gain in their engagement with the Corinthians by highlighting that he doesn’t charge anything for the wisdom that he gave them, namely the Gospel (2 Cor 11:7). Hence Thrall concludes that worldly wisdom, particularly that spoken of in 2 Cor 1:12 as,[18]

productive of attitudes and conduct contrary to moral integrity; hence perhaps the kind of worldly calculation that is the product and sign of a fundamental egocentricity. His (Paul’s) refusal to receive maintenance from them (1 Cor 9:15-18) may have been due in part to his desire to avoid the appearance of making a profit out of them.

Divine wisdom produces an attitude that is a total opposite of that produced by worldly wisdom. Divine wisdom produces humility in the lives of those whom God grants the grace to possess, a poverty of spirit that acknowledges that left to themselves, they cannot do anything good. An expression of this humility is to acknowledge that all of life is a gracious divine gift. Therefore, everyone is fully dependent on God for his or her existence, salvation and provision all the days of their lives. This dependence is also expressed in submission to his divine revelation in Scripture as the ultimate standard of truth in which he directs us how to conduct ourselves in all aspects of life. We boast in what we rely on. So instead of boasting in self-accomplishment, man or creature in general, the possessors of divine wisdom boast in God, in what he accomplishes. Paul brings the Corinthians back to their senses by reminding them of who they are, relatively insignificant with respect to the rich and the powerful in the world (1 Cor 1:26). Yet nonetheless God exercised his grace upon them by granting them the faith to believe Paul’s gospel (1 Cor 1:27, 30). Paul points them to who the right object of their boasting should be, namely the one who has enriched them in all speech and in all knowledge (1 Cor 1:5) and included them as his people under Christ, along with all the benefits derived from this privilege: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30). The call to action to boast in the Lord in 1 Cor 1:31 summarizes Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthian division in which the church is in danger of being swayed to embrace worldly wisdom. A positive effect of boasting in the Lord on the basis of the knowledge that he exercises judgment, righteousness and mercy (Jer 9:24) is that it  
produces in us at once confidence in him and fear of him. If therefore a man has his mind regulated in such a manner that, claiming no merit to himself, he desires that God alone be exalted; if he rests with satisfaction on his grace, and places his entire happiness in his fatherly love, and, in fine, is satisfied with God alone, that man truly glories in the Lord.[19]
            In other words, the basis of boasting as an effect of divine wisdom is a divinely-given knowledge of who God is in addition to a confession of our full reliance on him. But divine wisdom brings about further effects of this boasting by producing a holy confidence and reverence to him as Calvin points out above. If worldly wisdom is manifested in the works of the flesh, then divine wisdom is manifested in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:19). We have discussed above the Trinitarian origin of divine wisdom where the Spirit is the Person in the Trinity who applies divine wisdom stored up in Christ in the lives of the believers. He enables them to understand and embrace by faith the truths of the ways of divine wisdom including the divine way of salvation through the cross. He also empowers them so that the fundamental radical change that he has made effectual internally in the new birth be manifested externally. This external manifestation is seen not only in their conducts towards God but also towards their fellowman, in the church and outside the church. Thus the fruit of the Spirit is given to show the kind of conducts governed by divine wisdom in contrast with those governed by worldly wisdom. Our analysis on the effects of divine and worldly wisdom can be summarized in the flow diagram below.

IV. Applications
The lessons about wisdom from the Pauline epistles warn us against the danger of two extremes of pursuing worldly wisdom even in Christianity as Christians today. They challenge us afresh on our understanding of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? There is always a temptation to be self-autonomous instead of allowing ourselves to be governed by divine revelation in Scripture. One extreme of worldly wisdom says that in order to make the Gospel appealing we need to focus solely on people’s need. Forget theology and doctrines. The Gospel is all about God wanting you to be healthy, rich and famous. If you follow Jesus your sicknesses will be healed, your broken relationships will be restored. Your life will get better and more trouble and hassle-free. Or the Gospel is only matter of following Jesus’ examples to make the world better by alleviating poverty, promoting social justice by combating racism, income inequality and environmental destruction. This type of extreme may also be in the form of critical view of the Bible that denies its authority as the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God and subjects it under the authority of human reason instead (cf. 1 Cor 1:22b, “Greeks seek wisdom”). The Bible is written by mere men and therefore, contains mistakes just like any other books. Some portions of the Bible such as the miracles are either myths, metaphors or phenomena that can be explained by modern science. Such an outlook empties the power of the cross of Christ (1 Cor 1:17) in the sense that it veils the Gospel from revealing what it really is and prevents it from exercising its power to save.
Then we have another extreme of worldly wisdom that says that the Gospel is a matter of who has the purest or the most correct doctrines. It is contentious on trivial matters; matters of secondary and tertiary importance. It is quick to judge and condemn. If you are a Paedobaptist or if you are a Pre-Millenialist or if you don’t believe in Exclusive Psalmody, then you are a heretic. This type of worldly wisdom also tends to be man-centered. It does not encourage its adherents to labor to find Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2) in the preaching of his Word. Neither does it prioritize holiness, reverence, obedience to God, vibrant relationship and humble walk with as well as love towards God and man. Instead, it tends to make Christianity look like a popularity contest: whose club is the best; my club is better than yours. It loves to analyze the personality and style of one’s hero and his opponents’ that reminds us of the Corinthian party spirit (1 Cor 1:10-12); “Piper is a great preacher but the problem is he is a Continualist you know. I like Sproul better because he is a Cessationist although he doesn’t talk with his hands as much like Piper does.”
Both extremes, as Col 2:23 says, have indeed an appearance of wisdom but miss the point of the Gospel. The center of the Gospel is Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2) according to Scripture (1 Cor 15:3). The Gospel is a declaration of a historical event and the meaning of that event. And the meaning is that at the cross, God’s justice (Rom 3:21-26, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 3:9) and love (John 3:16) towards sinful fallen humanity met. What happened at the cross signifies the reality of a great exchange whereby believers are declared forensically righteous on the basis of Christ’s imputed existential righteousness. On the other hand, Christ became forensically guilty of sin and therefore was cursed (Gal 3:13) because of believers’ imputed existential sins. The cross brings about a radical change in believer’s worldview as the Spirit opens their eyes to understand, believe and live out divine wisdom. Divine wisdom is Scripture-centric and Christocentric. It doesn’t result in a complete abandonment of doctrines in the name of the compassion of Christ or vice versa. It results in a lifestyle characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) rooted in the solid foundation of Scriptural truths.
But the right view of the Gospel and the corresponding fruit of right lifestyle as a demonstration of divine wisdom require a right presupposition that the Bible is God’s Word. Therefore, the Bible is the ultimate authority to determine truth and fallacy even in regards to its own claims. As an expressions of divine wisdom the Bible also contains the rule of faith and life. Since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Heb 6:18) and cannot make a mistake (Ps 119:160), it follows that everything written in the Bible must be true as opposed to containing lies, things contrary to the facts written or revealed with the intention to deceive. Since God is omniscient, the Bible cannot contain errors for any reason, whether it be due to misunderstanding or lack of understanding of any facts. Convinced and driven by the truth of divine wisdom in Scripture, believers are set free to pour out their lives in obedience to their Lord and in humble exercises of the compassion of Christ in words and deeds, so that many would also receive his free gift of salvation, and taste and see that the Lord is good to the praise of his glorious grace (Eph 1:6a). Amen.


1.      John Calvin, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Christian Classic Ethereal Library, 1974).

2.      Frederick. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon and to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984).

3.      Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987).

4.      Margaret E. Thrall, Commentary on II Corinthians I-VII (ICC; Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1994).

5.      Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).

6.      Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996).

7.      J.P Louw and E.A. Nida, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains vol.1 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition) (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).

8.      Luke T. Johnson, Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Macon: Smyth and Helwys, 2001).

9.      D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007).

10.  Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Apollos; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

11.  Larry J. Waters, “Paradoxes in the Pauline Epistles,” Bibliotheca Sacra 167 (2010): 423-441.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Apollos; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 169-171. “Christ is the one in whom is to be found all that one needs in order to understand spiritual reality and to lead a life pleasing to God, in contradistinction to the claims of the false teachers that requires all kinds of rules and practices. Wisdom refers to practical knowledge, the ability to understand reality from God's perspective and to act on that understanding. Knowledge has more intellectual emphasis. Paul connects the two words by using a single article to govern both of them, and he probably wants us to focus on the entire phrase rather than the individual words. Wisdom and knowledge were formerly hidden but are now available freely in Christ. They are treasures that have been deposited in him and are now stored up in him. Anyone who comes to know Christ by faith can draw from his store all the wisdom and knowledge that exists.”

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 110-112.

[3] Ibid, 103-104.

[4] The only two places the word is translated differently as “beginning” which is another meaning of the word (cf. John 1:1) is in Phil 4:15 and Col 1:18.

[5] Uses where there is a strong reference to demonic power include Rom 8:38, 1 Cor 15:24, Eph 6:12, Col 2:15. Uses where there is a less explicit reference are Eph 1:21; 3:10; 1:16. Uses where the word means something else are Phil 4:15, Col 1:18 (beginning) and Titus 3:1 (civil authority). It is doubtful whether in Col 2:10 the word also refers to demonic power.

[6] Johnson misses the point by thinking that the litany of praise in Rom 11:33-36 is “the recognition of God’s glory in creation” (Luke T. Johnson, Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Macon: Smyth and Helwys, 2001), 186). The immediate context is the wonder of God’s sovereign redemptive plan, his unsearchable ways to bring Jews and Gentiles to faith in Christ. But Paul, filled with rapturous joy, cannot but jubilantly bursts in exaltation of God’s sovereignty in all things, that he is the source (ἐκ), sustainer (διά), and goal (εἰς) of all things (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 743).

[7] God alone can be truly autonomous because of his aseity or independence, defined as “God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. This attribute of God is sometimes called his self-existence or his aseity,” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 160-161.

[8] συνίστημι: to bring together or hold together something in its proper or appropriate place or relationship (J.P Louw and E.A. Nida, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains vol.1 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition) (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996)).

[9] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 74-75.

[10] Larry J. Waters, “Paradoxes in the Pauline Epistles,” Bibliotheca Sacra 167 (2010): 433, “These then are the two basic idolatries. The demand for power and the insistence on wisdom, explanation that made sense to human understanding. For the Jews God was a force and for the Greeks God was an idea. Both gods were manipulated to serve the needs of the worshipper.” Also Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 74.

[11] Frederick. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon and to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 256.

[12] Ron E. Chiampa and Brian S. Rosner, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale eds., (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 27647, Kindle.

[13] Chiampa and Rosner, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 27916, “… not only does the citation of Ps 94:11 signal the futility of acting or thinking independently of God, but also as 3:21-23 goes on to celebrate, there are great benefits to those who boast not in human leaders, but rather in God. Together the texts cited in 3:19-20 which testify to the futility of human thoughts apart from God’s revelation and the consequent emptiness of human wisdom support Paul’s conclusion in 3:21a, ‘Let no one boast about human leaders’ (NRSV). Paul uses the two citations in 3:19-20 to bolster the paradoxical nature of his doctrine of salvation. The gospel spells the end of human pride.”

[14] Chiampa and Rosner, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 27705, “Paul uses the Corinthians themselves as an illustration of eschatological reversal that characterizes the work of Christ. The low social status of most of the Corinthians itself points to the cross, which was anything but impressive, humanly speaking, and radically overturned expectation,” Also Waters, “Paradoxes in the Pauline Epistles,” 430-435.

[15] Chiampa and Rosner, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 27897, “Psalm 94 stresses that in spite of manipulative and corrupt leadership by those in authority (Ps 94:5-7, 16), the schemes of these human persons fail because their best thinkers are fallible (Ps 94:11). The psalm also promises that blessing awaits those who depend on God; he will not abandon them, but rather will teach them and aid them in their time of need.”

[16] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 152.

[17] Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, 240, 242.

[18] Margaret E. Thrall, Commentary on II Corinthians I-VII (ICC; Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1994), 131.

[19] John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Christian Classic Ethereal Library, 1974), 70.

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