Having written about the crucified Messiah as the foundation and the Corinthian church as God’s naos, Paul comes back to the theme of wisdom (1:18–25, 26–27; 2:14); “[t]o be wise, one must be willing to become a fool in the eyes of the world” as Garland correctly observes (1 Corinthians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003]123). Garland further observes that “[t]he first [quotation is] from Job 5:13 [and] pictures a hunter stalking prey and capturing it. God catches the crafty with their own craftiness (πανουργία, panourgia), a term Paul uses negatively elsewhere (2 Cor. 4:2; 11:3; Eph. 4:14).” He then goes on to say that “[t]hey are too clever for their own eternal good and always get trapped in their own schemes and ambitions. Ironically, this quotation proves its point, since it comes from Eliphaz, whose ‘wise’ counsel is ultimately discredited” (123).
The apostle Paul warns against self-deception which is the result of wrong understandings of wisdom (vv.18-21a). Again self-deception result from appropriating secular values (v.18a). However, nobody should boast about human leaders (v.21) but submit to God who liberates from secular values.
Human leaders are necessary, yet we need to pay attention not to put them on a pedestal of praise (at least not according to human standards). We need to heed the apostle’s advice to become fools in this world; the reversal of Christ’s teaching is to be followed where the leader becomes the servant and the mature the one being gentle to all. All things are ours in Christ!