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1 Corinthians 2:6-16: Wisdom from God through the Spirit Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 23 August 2015

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The Enemy loves it when people view science and faith to be at odds. He wants lost people to think that Christians have abandoned all rational thought and check their brains in at the door when they come to Church. He wants Christians to fear the intellectuals of the world as if they might actually prove that God does not exist or the Bible isnít real or that Jesus had a wife and children. Thus, the dichotomy is formed: science vs. faith. The Enemy delights in this because it is a lie (he is after all the Father of Lies) and it keeps people from seeing the truth that Christians are not anti-reason or anti-intellectual or anti-science. We simply believe in the wisdom from above which guides and shapes our understanding of all truth. When the scientific world teaches as truth something that denies the truth of God, then we reject that teaching not because we hate science or knowledge, but because we submit to Godís revealed Word and admit manís limited understanding of the world. It is not anti-science, but a humble, God-fearing, approach to the study of our world.

The Enemy loves it when people view science and faith to be at odds. He wants lost people to think that Christians have abandoned all rational thought and check their brains in at the door when they come to Church. He wants Christians to fear the intellectuals of the world as if they might actually prove that God does not exist or the Bible isnít real or that Jesus had a wife and children. Thus, the dichotomy is formed: science vs. faith. The Enemy delights in this because it is a lie (he is after all the Father of Lies) and it keeps people from seeing the truth that Christians are not anti-reason or anti-intellectual or anti-science. We simply believe in the wisdom from above which guides and shapes our understanding of all truth. When the scientific world teaches as truth something that denies the truth of God, then we reject that teaching not because we hate science or knowledge, but because we submit to Godís revealed Word and admit manís limited understanding of the world. It is not anti-science, but a humble, God-fearing, approach to the study of our world.

So what about wisdom? Are Christians opposed to wisdom? Is Paul anti-wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1-2? Absolutely not. Paul believes in wisdom and wants the Corinthians (and all believers) to pursue wisdom. He just recognizes a difference between true wisdom and false wisdom. He writes to help us see this contrast. Again, his goal in the first four chapters of the letter is to appeal for their unity (see 1:10). Their understanding and pursuit of wisdom was dividing them and leading them away from the message of the cross. He continues to correct them in our passage this morning by giving us two contrasts: the wisdom of the world vs. the wisdom of the spirit and the natural man vs. the spiritual man. Letís consider these.

The wisdom of the world vs. the wisdom of the Spirit (v. 6-13)

The problem with the wisdom of the world is that it is temporary at best. Look at verse 6. The wisdom of the world, which can seem so certain at times, will one day pass away if it is not in line with the wisdom of God. No matter how true it may seem, it will not last, just like those who teach it. The rulers who were around when Paul wrote to Corinth are no longer in power because they are no longer alive. And with many of them, their Ďwisdomí passed with them.

We see this today in simple things like what scientists have taught about the egg. In my lifetime the egg has been considered both terrible and healthy for you. Growing up I remember people talking about how we should never eat eggs. Now that seems to have changed (thank goodness) and eggs are once again on the menu. Why does this happen? Because men are limited in their knowledge and understanding of things. We are not infinite and neither is our knowledge. We get things wrong and have to come back and correct them. Thus, to put your trust solely in the wisdom of men, the wisdom of the world, is terribly foolish. It is here today and gone tomorrow.

But not so with the wisdom from above. Look at verse 7. The wisdom of God secret and hidden. In other words, we could never figure it out on our own. Rather, God in His grace has chosen to reveal it to believers. What does this wisdom center around? Again, Paul points us to the cross. Look at verses 8-10a. The wisdom of the world sees the cross as foolish. The rulers in the day of Christ, Herod and Pontius Pilate, did not understand who Jesus really was. The wisdom of God, the wisdom of the cross, was beyond them. Yet, God has revealed this secret wisdom to those who love him.

In His sovereign grace, God has made known to us and to all who believe in Jesus the wisdom and power of the cross. We sing about it this morning because God has opened our eyes to see it and believe. We see the folly of the worldís wisdom and embrace the wisdom of the cross. One of my commentatorís writes: ďThe world in its wisdom has split the atom, put men on the moon and created artificial intelligence, but it cannot tell us what God is like or how we can know him.Ē 1 Only the wisdom of the cross can do that.

How does God reveal this wisdom to sinful men? He does it through the Spirit. Paul goes on to describe the Spiritís role in revelation in verses 10b-13. How does this work according to Paul? First, he tells us that the Spirit knows God just like the spirit of a man knows the individual. Look at verses 10b-11. The Spirit knows the depths of God just like our spirit knows us. Only the Spirit can comprehend the thoughts of God. We should note Paulís implied teaching on the Trinity at this point. He has spoken of God the Father, who decreed the wisdom of the cross before time began (v. 7). He has called Jesus who was crucified the Lord of glory (v. 8), a title that would only be used of the Divine. And now it is the Spirit who knows the thoughts of God, even the depths of God (v. 10-11). Three persons in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Second, Paul tells us that it is the Spirit that is at work in the Apostle revealing wisdom. Look at verses 12-13. The Spirit led Paul and the other New Testament writes into truth, just as Jesus said that He would (John 16:13). The good news that they are teaching is not based on the wisdom of the world but the wisdom of the cross, revealed by the power of the Spirit. The words that they teach are not just human wisdom, they are the secret wisdom from God which has been made known to them by the Spirit. Only He could lead them (and us) to such truth. Only He could show us the folly of worldly wisdom and the power of the cross.

The natural person vs. the spiritual person (v. 14-16)

Who can know the hidden wisdom of God? Only the spiritual man, the one to whom the Spirit has revealed the truth. The natural man will never understand it. Look at verse 14. Have you ever wondered why your lost friends and neighbors do not seem to understand the truthfulness of the Word of God? You can talk to them about spiritual things and their eyes glass over. You try to convey spiritual truth to them and they just donít understand. Paul gives us the reason for this in this verse: they do not understand spiritual things because they do not have the Spirit. They cannot truly understand the Word of God because they have not come to grips with its central message, namely the death and resurrection of Christ to save sinners for the glory of God.

Without faith in Jesus, without the gift of the Spirit, the natural man cannot understand spiritual truth. Even though some have tried to use this passage to say that there are two tiers of Christians (the mature who understand these deeper things and the immature who do not), Paul is not making a contrast between believers but between believers and non-believers, the spiritual man and the natural man. It is the natural man who is blinded to the wisdom from above.

But not so for the spiritual man. Look at verses 15-16. The point that Paul is making is that in contrast to the natural man, the spiritual man, the man who has the Spirit through faith in Christ, is able to discern spiritual things. He is able to read the Word and understand the truth that it teaches. He is able to see the wisdom in the cross and the power in preaching the gospel. He is not judged by those who do not understand these things. Again, I think Paul is talking about the judgments about spiritual things that might come from the natural man, which will not make sense in light of his inability to discern such things.

Some Christians have used this phrase to place themselves above judgment and accountability from other believers, but that is not faithful to the context nor other passages (like 1 Corinthians 5:12) that teach us to hold each other accountable. The reason that the spiritual man can discern spiritual things is because through faith in Jesus, we have the mind of Christ. Through the Spirit, who is given to all believers, we have all been given understanding of the secret wisdom of God. And since we all have the mind of Christ, we should be unified in him. Another reason that Paul gives us for the unity of believers is the fact that we all have the mind of Christ. This truth should unite the Corinthians and it should unite us as well.

CONCLUSION
The contrasts that Paul identifies in this passage could be summarized in this way: You are either a natural person who trusts in worldly wisdom or you are a spiritual person who trusts in the wisdom from above. Paul divides all of humanity into these two categories. So which are you? Where do you fall?

If you have not trusted in Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you are still the natural man. Yet, the good news of the gospel is that through repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, you can be changed today. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the wisdom in the message of the cross and to give you faith to believe in it as your only hope for salvation. The wisdom of this world is passing away, so why would you continue to trust in it? Look to Christ and be saved.

If you are a spiritual person with wisdom from above, then notice what Paul is saying about you in these verses. You have received the hidden wisdom from God through the power of the Spirit. You have been given the gift of the Spirit so that you can know and discern truth. You have the mind of Christ that unites you together with other believers for the work of bringing glory to God by faithfully proclaiming the good news of the cross. How blessed we are as followers of Christ! United by the mind of Christ, may we be confident in the wisdom from above, the message of the cross given to us by the Spirit, so that our faith will not falter and our witness will not waver. Amen. 
 
1 Vaughan Roberts, Authentic Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), p. 26.

~ William Marshall ~

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