Wisdom for Fools? - excerpt from FOOL

Mar 22, 2023 10:29 AM

If folly is so pervasive and destructive, what is the answer? Read this excerpt from Chapter 16, “Fool’s Wisdom."

In Romans Paul builds a systematic case that everyone needs a savior, be they "Jew or Greek." With searing logic, he proves by Scripture and by experience that everyone has broken God's law—whether they know it from the full light of the Torah (as the Jews) or the dimmer but still effective light of conscience (as the Greeks). He illustrates his case by quoting a psalm. We have seen it before. Do you recognize it?

There is none righteous, not even one.

There is none who understands.

There is none who seeks after God.

All have departed the Way.

Together they became worthless.

There is no one doing good.

There is not so much as one.[i]

Perhaps it will be easier to recall if we supply the missing first line:

The [shameless] fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

But why would the apostle use this passage about the shameless fool(!) to describe all of us? Has he become overheated in the course of argument?

Earlier we showed the close connection between folly and sin, that they are virtually synonymous. Therefore, if no one is righteous, then no one is wise—not in any way that justifies him before God. So, Paul uses this psalm about the darkest form of folly to drive home his point that,

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.[ii]

Measuring ourselves against one another, some of us seem to come out pretty well.[iii] When we sin, we take comfort that there are sinners worse than we are, who either sin more or who have done something worse than we have done. In the unfiltered light of the righteousness and holiness of God, however, none of us are better off than the loathsome nabal. None of us really has any understanding. We have all departed from the Way of Life to follow our deceptive desires. In the words of the prophet, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way."[iv]

The wisdom and righteousness of the law convicts us all of sin and labels us as fools, but Paul refuses to indict the law with blame or charge it with fault. There is nothing faulty about God's law. The law is good and necessary, but it is rendered impotent by "the flesh," that absolute weakness of character inherent in all of us that not only fails to perform what God's law requires, but in fact, inevitably rebels against it.[v]

It is here that the cross of Jesus Christ becomes the decisive issue and the dividing line between Christianity and every other religion and way of life.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood [i.e., the cross] … that He might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.[vi]

[i] Romans 3:10-12. Paul is quoting Psalms 14:1-3 (and 53:1-3) from the Septuagint.

[ii] Romans 3:23

[iii] See 2 Corinthians 10:12.

[iv] Isaiah 53:7

[v] Romans 7:7-25. See also Galatians 3:21,22.

[vi] Romans 3:23-25