Welcome to the church of the Galatians this riveting Sunday morning. This is must-see theater (or, more apropos, must-see theatrics). You thought the Church of Corinth was something? Well, Corinth has nothing on Galatia!
Some strange aliens from outer space (or rather some religios from Jerusalem) have invaded the churches of Galatia. For lack of a better cognomen, we call them the Judaizers. They have this pernicious doctrine about who Messiah Jesus is and what He does. They confuse Him with Moses, even though those two eminent men of God look nothing alike!
Oh, but we cannot get into all of that now. But don’t fret! We delve into it in detail in Galatians: Volume 14 of Heavenly Citizens in Earthly Shoes, which is now available as paperback and eBook. For your convenience, simply click here to order.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes [Proverbs 26:4-5].
Proverbs 26:4 does not have to do with the same concept as in verse 5. The first half of each verse is worded identically, except that the words “Do not” in verse 4 don’t occur in verse 5. But it is the second half of each verse which identifies the subject matter. Let’s vet them and see.
Both verses tell why we should or should not answer a fool according to his folly. The context for verse 4 is that, if we do, you yourself will be just like him. The teaching is simple enough when we consider the context. To be “just like him” we must behave just like him. The context, then, has to do with our behavior. The fool scoffs and scorns, sneers and jeers, and generally acts contemptibly. If I respond to him with the same behaviors, I will be just like him. Am I not right?
Now let’s vet verse 5. In this verse we are told to answer a fool according to his folly, the exact opposite of verse 4. This is what leads the gainsayers to bluster windy speeches about Biblical contradictions. However, the second half of the verse furnishes the context, and it is not the same context as we saw in verse 4. Listen to verse 5: or he will be wise in his own eyes. In verse 4 the person who answered the fool in his folly was the subject. In verse 5 the fool is the subject. Very different contexts, you see.
The reason why we MUST answer the fool in his folly is to refute his foolishness. Otherwise he (and many like him) will be emboldened to persevere with their foolishness. We want to disperse the darkness with the light, not turn away and permit the darkness to persevere. So we gently and systematically set forth the errors of the fool’s way, while simultaneously laying out the truth in plain English for all to understand.
Verse 4, then, teaches that we mustn’t respond to the fool in his folly by imitating his folly. He scoffs, but we don’t. He sneers, but we don’t. He jeers, but we don’t. Otherwise we are being fools in their folly along with him! And that doesn’t get rid of the foolishness, does it?
Contrariwise, verse 5 teaches that we must respond to the fool in his folly by being prudent and self-controlled, gentle and humble, yet still bold and adamant with respect to the truth. In that way his folly is exposed, both by noting his lack of logic and by presenting the true logic.
Words to be found in theology textbooks:
- inerrancy: the Bible contains no errors
- infallibility: the Bible is absolutely trustworthy and doesn’t lead us astray
- inspiration: the Holy Spirit (Who is God) led God’s chosen men to write down His Word in such a way that their personalities were included (i.e., they were not mere robots or automatons), but with the Holy Spirit still overseeing the process so that what was written was exactly what the Lord wanted written, no more and no less.
To further research this issue, I direct you to my book Deuteronomy: Volume 5 of Heavenly Citizens in Earthly Shoes. For more info please visit these sites to purchase my books: