Yes, I know there is a brand of sewing patterns, called Simplicity. Whether they are simple, I have no idea. But, clearly, the manufacturer decided that the name was marketable. Most of us prefer simple directions, simple tasks, simple operations. In those instances, simple is similar to user-friendly. For the most part, however, we tend to think of the term simple as somewhat pejorative. For example, when someone calls a task we have sweated over simple, we are inclined to take offense. We wish to avoid being identified as simple-minded or as having our ideas labeled as simple. We wish to be viewed as wise, our ideas as profound. To make the complex simple is a virtue, perhaps, but in our eyes to major on the simple is not. The existence of such prejudice requires us to be wary concerning spiritual truth. For as Paul warned the Corinthians, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (II Cor. 11:3).
On the one hand, the truths of Scripture are so profound that they have confounded the greatest of human minds, and so vast that eternity will never exhaust their richness. On the other hand, the message of the gospel is so simple that a young child can grasp and believe it. The fleshly mind scorns and rejects the thought that one obscure peasant who lived briefly and died 2,000 years ago could in any way be the instrument of saving a soul, of expiating sin, of providing eternal life, of affording entrance to heaven. It’s too simple to be credible. No rational mind could accept such a preposterous theory.
Paul feared that the Corinthians would abandon the simplicity of the gospel. He reminded them of Eve’s role in the fall of man. God’s words had been so simple. “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die,” He commanded (Gen. 2:16b, 17). Clear. Concise. Yes, simple. A three-year-old could understand (probably a two-year-old!). It was almost insulting. No reason, no explanation, just the warning that eating would result in death—whatever that was, it wasn’t good. To be treated like a child? But Satan’s words—now those thoughts were something to sink your teeth into! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Deep! Profound! Eyes opened, seeing truths never seen before. Being like God! Surely, as inconceivable a thought as that might be (wasn’t it impressive to be able to imagine such a thought?), it would be a good thing. And what about this new knowledge of good and this intriguing concept of something called “evil”? Now there was something for someone with an adult mind to contemplate. Not at all like the childish words that forbade the eating of some kind of fruit. And so Eve was deceived. The seemingly complex enticed her to reject the seemingly simple.
So Paul warns us, via the Corinthian believers, that we are not above being deceived by the great Deceiver, Satan. Whether it’s the siren call of self-righteous works, the clarion call of human philosophy, psychology, and sociology, or the beckoning call of atheistic evolutionary science, we are liable to fall prey to the blandishments of the seemingly profound. But believers must hold to one simple hope, one simple message, and one simple Person. No matter how foolish the gospel may sound to the ears of a lost world, no matter how the intelligentsia may scorn and ridicule those who are so simple and foolish as to believe words written by ignorant men living a minimum of 2,000 years ago, believers must remember that “craftiness” is Satan’s tool of choice to lead astray the careless or unwary. We must never think ourselves to be above being deceived. We must be vigilant to guard the simple, straightforward truth of the gospel. We must cling to Christ alone. We must cleave to the truth that Jesus saves. We must proclaim the truth of the gospel, a message whose simplicity is derided by the modern sin-darkened mind, which will accept the incredible myths of Buddhism, atheism, evolution, and any other “profound” theory that comes down the pike; we must not. We must “preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:23, 24).
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