1 Corinthians 2:1-16 May 17, 2015
The title of our message this morning is “Spiritual Wisdom”. That which God wants for us, to become spiritual men and women.
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, which is in Greece, Southern Greece. It’s a church that he founded himself on his second missionary journey, and the church at this point that he’s writing this letter to is about five, six, maybe seven years old at the most. So, in other words, it’s a very young church. Can you imagine a church all filled with new believers? You can imagine the immaturity in things that would come because they’re not growing in their faith yet. So he’s writing the letter to address some of those immaturities to increase the strength in their faith, that they would grow in their maturity and no longer be babes in Christ.
Now, one of the things we’ve been mentioning in the last several weeks is what happens when a believer comes to faith in Christ. They come out of the world, and they bring a lot of the world with them. These are the immaturities. These are the things that God wants to take hold of and grow in our faith. Now, having said that I think we should all recognize that we’re all a work in progress. There’s no one who can say “well I have obtained the maturity of Christ completely in my life.” If you have said that I would like to talk with you because we’re all growing. There’s areas of maturity that God is still pressing into all of us. Isn’t that true? But having said that when you’ve got a whole church of new believers there’s something that can be addressed, and they brought a lot of the world.
Now, the culture they came out of, that they brought with them. The culture in Greece at the time was one of debating. They loved to debate and take different positions of different philosophers one group might take Socrates, or Euripides, and they would start to debate from those different perspectives. And they’d gather together in the market place, and as amateur philosophers, debate with one another. This was the culture that they came with.
Now, this mentality came into the church, and it was very divisive as you can imagine. One group, they said “well we are of Paul, he founded this church and we’re of him.” Another group said “well yeah, but we like Apollos better, he’s smoother on the speech, and we just like his methods better. So, we’re of Apollos.” Another group said “well you know what, Peter is older than both of those guys so we are of Peter.” And then another group taking the ultimate righteous high ground. “Well, we’re of Christ, and we’re over all of you guys.”
“Wait a minute” Paul says, “This is not right. Are you not mere men? Are you not just like the world you came out of?” So he’s going to confront the inconsistency. Listen to what he says, “The wisdom of the world and the ways of the world stand in direct contrast to the wisdom and the ways of God.” The philosophers of the day were debating from a worldly perspective. Without a view of eternity, didn’t even believe in eternal life. Therefore, Paul is saying now look you can’t discern spiritual wisdom from worldly perspectives. You can’t discern. Don’t use, therefore worldly wisdom and the world’s methods of debating in the church.
There was an interesting example of this that was going on in fairly recent church history. Maybe 30, 40, 50 years ago or more where it was fairly common for pastors to debate with other pastors from their pulpit. And so what would happen is that a pastor would have a particular theological axe to grind, and so he would go to the Scriptures searching for those things which support his particular theological position. And really what he was doing was debating with the pastor across town. And the pastor across town would have his theological perspective and his axe to grind. And he would be preaching against the other guy in town. And then the church got involved. Different groups, and the church started taking different theological camps, and all kinds of fighting and debating.
He says “this is an immaturity.” Well you know what I have to tell you, praise God. There is today. Churches and pastors are working together more than ever and I tell you there is a group of pastors that meets here, right here in this church regularly from all different stripes of theological backgrounds. And we pray together for revival, we’re praying for one another, we’re enjoying worship together, we read Scripture together, we’re having fellowship together. And of course we eat some donuts too, but we are really developing a friendship, and a common bond in Christ Jesus. I tell you it’s beautiful, and so this is a really important thing.
Paul is speaking of spiritual things, to bring spiritual maturity to process into greater faith. Now, when he speaks of spirits and things, and he compares them to worldly wisdom. It is important to understand that there are certain aspects of the world’s wisdom which we can certainly appreciate. We’re all benefited by the advancements of medicine. We’re all benefited by the advancements of technology. I’m completely into it, it’s wonderful, and there are many examples of the world’s nature of wisdom that can be very practical. And you can find wisdom from many different sources, even from the mouth of babes.
In fact, I have some interesting examples of wisdom that’s found from the mouths of children. For example, Michael age 12, he said “now when your dad is mad at you, and he says “Do I look stupid?” do not answer that.” Michael, wise man that he is, also said “Never tell your mom that her diet is not working, do not say that.” Lauren, age 9 said “Permanent markers are not good to use as lipstick.” Eileen, age 8 no doubt from experience says “Never baptize a cat.” But I love this one. Naomi, age 15, very wise. She said “If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse.”
I just love that, reminds me of our granddaughter Aviah. You know we’re raising our granddaughter. At one point she said “Now grandpa when I turn 16 can I start dating?” She said “Or when I turn 16 I can have a dog.” I said “You can have a dog. I’ll pay for everything because you’re not dating until your 30.”
Now Paul is contrasting worldly wisdom to a spiritual wisdom that God reveals through His Spirit. A wisdom that is eternal in nature, and his point is that spiritual wisdom makes spiritual men. And he wants to increase them in their faith, in their relationship to the Lord. So, let’s read it, 1Corinthians 2:1, “Now when I came to you brethren. I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom proclaiming to you the testimony of God. I determined to know nothing among you except Christ Jesus and Him crucified. That is the substance of my message, the cross of Christ. And my message of the Gospel and Jesus crucified. I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and was trembling.”
Yeah, he just came from so many troubles in his travels, and my message and my preaching were not in using persuasive words, or of the wisdom of men. In other words, it was in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I didn’t come to you with flowery words and great oratory. I demonstrated by the Spirit and the power of transformed lives.
I. Faith must Rest on the Power of God
God is on the move, you saw it. So, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. It’s about faith isn’t it? He’s building, and strengthening their faith. Yet, we do speak a wisdom among those who are mature. A wisdom, however, that is not of this age nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Interesting comment, the Word of God never passes away he said, but they are. But we do speak a wisdom in a mystery, a hidden wisdom. What does this mean? We’ll see in just a few minutes, this wisdom God predestined before the ages to our glory. This wisdom, which none of the rulers of this age has understood. For if they have understood it, they would have not crucified the Lord of glory. Now that is a powerful perspective, what a word. There’s a lot of depth to that.
Then he quotes from Isaiah, “Just as it is written, things which I have not seen, ears have not heard, which has not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God has revealed them through the Spirit. Though the Spirit searches all things even the depths of God.” Then he teaches us something about the Spirit. For who among men knows the thoughts of the man except the spirit of man which is in him, even so. The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now, we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things which are freely given to us by God. Oh, what God is giving to us, spiritual words, spiritual wisdom, spiritual thoughts that we might grow to be spiritually mature. These things we speak, verse 13 “not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those words taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
Now verse 14, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit. They are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised. He who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.” This is really important. “For who has known the mind of the Lord that He should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
We have the words of the Spirit, we have the thoughts of God that we might increase in spiritual wisdom that we might become men and women who are mature in our faith. All right, let’s go back over these words. One of the things we need to see from the very first versus is about faith, and he makes his point very strongly to us. “Faith must rest on the power of God.” When you came to faith you didn’t come to faith through flowery words, but you came to faith because of the demonstration of God’s power.
A. God demonstrates His love
Now, this is really important for us to understand because in verse 1 he says “I didn’t come to you with flowery persuasive superior speech proclaiming the testimony of God.” That’s a good phrase, it means a witness. God gave Himself a witness, this is a powerful demonstration, in fact it’s to the point. God demonstrates Himself when He proclaims His love for you He proves it, He demonstrates it. Very important key.
Let’s step back and see the big picture. God sent His Son. God sent His Son with a message of love, but His Son is a witness and the testimony to prove God’s love. He demonstrates God’s love. What is the famous verse we love out of John 3, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life?” God sent His Son with that message and then demonstrated it.
There’s an interesting story that unfolds in Luke 5. When Jesus was coming down this mountain, this was very early on in His ministry, and there was a leper. Now, lepers were unclean, and people would move away. No one would – in fact a leper would have to call out, “I’m clean, I’m clean” as he’s going down the street. Jesus comes to this man, sees him, and an amazing thing. He comes up to him, and He lays His hand on the leper. He touches the leper with His hand. This is absolutely a shock, but when He touches the man, the leper, the man is cleansed and is healed of His leprosy. Then, this is Luke 5:24 very key phrase. He said “Now go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing as Moses commanded.” Get this, “As a testimony to them.”
See what had happened was that Moses in the Law had written, of course, through the inspiration of the Spirit, that if a man was ever healed or cleansed of leprosy, which was incurable, that he was to come to the priest, and bring an offering, according to that which was prescribed. Here’s the thing, in the history of Israel no one had ever come to the priest. No one had ever done it, it had never happened, not one time that someone had come to the priest and said “I had been healed of leprosy, I would like to perform those things which are prescribed in the book of Moses of the law of God; never happened. So you can imagine the shock when the man approached the priest, and he said “I was a leper, Jesus touched me, healed me of my leprosy, and He sent me here to you. I am now ready to do that which was prescribed in the book that God has given through Moses.”
Can you imagine the shock? Who? Who touched you? His name is Jesus, He’s from Nazareth. Well you can imagine a few chapters later, the further shock when Jesus healed 10 lepers at one time. And then told them all to go show themselves to the priest. Can you imagine the shock, all ten of you? Yeah, Jesus touched all, Jesus healed all of us. We’re all healed, what a shock, but it’s a demonstration of the power of God.
Now get this, the greatest demonstration of God’s love and power is what Paul calls the word of the cross. The word of the cross is the demonstration of God’s love and God’s power. Notice Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners”. Christ died for us, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God to the death of His Son.
Now, the ultimate proof, the ultimate demonstration mentioned this before. The ultimate proof and demonstration of God’s love and God’s power, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. And I want to quote a verse in Acts 17 that I quoted last week. I want to bring it in because it’s so important for us to take hold of. Please mark it in your Bible. He writes it this way, “having overlooked times of ignorance, God is now declaring to all men that all people everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom he has appointed.”
That’s Christ, here it is “having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” That is the ultimate, that is the definitive proof, that is the substance of our faith. It is the point of history that all of our faith turns on. It is so important, Paul said that if Christ is not raised from the dead your faith is worthless, and you are still in your sins. Now you’ve got to love Paul. He is bold straight up with it. I’ll give it to you in 1Corinthians 15:14 and 17. Here’s Paul, I’m unashamedly calling it straight out. He says it’s like this, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain.” Which is to say empty. “Your faith is worthless, and you are still in your sins, but praise God, Jesus has been raised.” Which is why he then said in another place “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should I be ashamed? It is the power of God and to salvation. Therefore, I believe and I proclaim it in all boldness because I believe with all of my heart.”
B. Faith is reasonable
See, this is important, faith. Faith now, and faith arises, it’s everything here. But this is the point I want to make, faith is very reasonable. Faith is a reasonable thing. See, Paul says in these chapters, “Though what the world calls foolishness, is actually a wisdom. A wisdom of God far beyond the capacity to understand.” That’s why he said in the previous chapter “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Therefore, we can understand God’s wisdom is reasonable. Verse 6, “We speak wisdom among those who are mature. A wisdom, not of this age, nor the rulers of this age who are passing away.” Faith, based on the wisdom that God has revealed to us.
For example, it’s reasonable to believe that God made the world by the Word of His power. Do you believe that God is the Creator of all things by the Word of His power? If you believe that you have faith. You believe that by faith. Hebrews chapter 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what was seen was not made out of the things which are visible.” That’s reasonable to believe that.
Now there’s something else that he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7, he says, “for we walk by faith and not by sight.” Is that reasonable? I submit to you that it is very reasonable.
In fact, take your Bibles and look at John 20. Just go back a couple of books, John 20. Beginning in verse 24 actually. John 20:24, this is a really amazing story that unfolds, this takes place after Jesus was resurrected, raised from the dead, and He appeared to the disciples but Thomas was not there. Now this is really a revelation. Notice with me verse 24 that Thomas, one of the 12, called Didymus was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples, therefore, were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord with our own eyes. We’ve seen the Lord.” Now you’ve got to imagine the scenario for the moment. So, Jesus appears, Thomas is not with them. When Thomas does come back and arrive they’re all excited as you can imagine. Thomas does what? The most amazing thing, the most wonderful thing we got to tell you. Jesus Himself appeared in our midst and guess what? We saw Him with our own eyes. Isn’t that glorious, isn’t that wonderful Thomas?
This is what Thomas said, verse 25. “Unless I shall see in His hands, the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side. I will not believe.” Interesting, now after 8 days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas, this time, was with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut or locked. He stood in their midst, and He said “Shalom, peace, peace be unto you.” Then, I love this part, he turned to Thomas. “Thomas, wilt share your finger? See My hands? Reach with your hand, put it into my side.” Listen, “be not, unbelieving but believing faith.” It’s all about faith, but notice what he says. Thomas responded “My Lord, my God. I believe now. My Lord and my God.” Jesus then said “because you have seen me you believed? Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed.”
Now that is interesting, blessed are they who did not see and yet believed. If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you find yourself in verse 29. You are right there, because you didn’t see the resurrected Lord, yet you believed. Is that reasonable? Yes, it’s very reasonable because it’s reasonable to believe eyewitnesses. The disciples said to Thomas “we saw Him with our own eyes, Thomas.” He wouldn’t believe their testimony, but it’s a reasonable thing which is why Jesus corrected him. It’s a reasonable thing to believe eyewitnesses. In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:4-6 Paul writes, “He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He appeared to Cephas. That’s Peter, then to the 12after that, He appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time most of whom remained until now”. In other words, you can go find them. You can talk to them, and then interestingly he adds actually “and then as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
C. We speak God’s wisdom
It’s very reasonable your faith and the substance of your faith is based on the demonstration and the proof of what God has done. He demonstrates His power and His love because our faith rests on the power of God. That’s His whole point that He might increase our faith to bring it to our minds. That’s what he says, as a result we speak God’s wisdom. We’re convinced we’re persuaded we’re going to speak God’s wisdom.
He says “now listen, the Word of the cross is for those who are perishing foolishness.” Just know it, but to those who are being saved, it’s the power of God and it is the wisdom of God. Therefore, he says we speak of wisdom. A wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age. A wisdom, now this is key, which the rulers of this age has not understood. If they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. If they could have understood they would never have done it. This is very much like what Jesus said when He was on the cross. John 23:34, Jesus said “Father forgive them they know not what they do”. They don’t know what they’re doing, but I suggest to you that they could have known, and should have known and therefore are without excuse. They have suppressed the truth because the truth was right before their eyes.
Romans 1:18 - 20. Very interesting insight, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven that gives all the godliness and righteousness in men.” But get this, who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature has been clearly seen so that they are without excuse”.
There was an interesting story that unfolded when some Jews gathered around Jesus one day, and asked Him to say it plainly. Say it plainly if you are the Messiah, say it. This is John 10:25-27, they said it this way, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, if you are the Messiah tell it to us plainly.” Jesus answered and said “I told you, but you do not believe. The work that I do in my Father’s name, these testify of Me”. I’ve already demonstrated and proved it over and over but “you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.”
And then Paul says a very interesting thing. Very perplexing, he says that God’s wisdom, this is verse 7, “we speak God’s wisdom which is a mystery. Hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages for our glory.” He means by this that God has been pointing to Jesus Christ. God has been pointing to the cross all through the Old Testament, but when Jesus came and lived before the Israel people and the disciples it was revealed in all its clarity and all its beauty.
In fact, when you go through the Old Testament, chapter by chapter, verse by verse which is what we’ve been doing at our Wednesday study. We started at Genesis 1:1 we’re just now finishing the Old Testament. I’ll tell you what is amazing, you go through every chapter and every book and you’re going to find Jesus all through it. He has pointed out all through it, but it’s when you see the reality in Christ presented in the Gospels that you see your eyes are open.
There’s an interesting thing, after the resurrection there are two men walking on the road to a town called Emmaus. Jesus came up to them, now their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him although their eyes were open later. Jesus said, “what are you discussing amongst yourselves?” And they said, “Are You a visitor, are You the only one in Israel who does not know the things that have been happening?” And they said, our Lord has been crucified, but then we heard an amazing report. A report has come to us that he has been raised from the dead. This is an amazing thing. All right, this is Luke 24:25- 27. So, Jesus he said to them, “Oh foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.
II. God Reveals the Wonder of His Love
“Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things, and then into His glory?” Then, get this, beginning with Moses, which is to say starting in Genesis, and then through all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all of the Scriptures. I would have loved to be in that Bible study. What a glorious revelation.
You could talk to a Jew today. You could say could you explain to me Isaiah 53? Isaiah 53 is one of the most plain straightforward prophecies of Jesus Christ. They will answer, no I cannot explain it. It seems to be getting from my eyes, but you said Jesus Christ next to Isaiah 53 and your eyes will marvel. Look at that, would you? It’s all right there. It is an amazing thing. What God has revealed to us. What is He revealing? God reveals the wonder of His love. That’s the message of the cross. All through it is the message that God reveals the wonder of His love.
A. The Spirit reveals the thoughts of God
The things which were formally hidden. God has now revealed for our glory. For those who love Him, and then He quotes from Isaiah. Notice in verse 9, “things which eyes has not seen, nor ears heard which of not entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him”. Now, a lot of people when they hear that verse they think that Paul is speaking about the unimaginable and wonderful things that God has in store for us in heaven, but that’s not what he’s referring to.
In verse 10 he goes on to explain that He’s speaking of those things that God is revealing to us now through His Holy Spirit, and the revealing of Jesus Christ, and the greatness of His love. The Gospel is the glory of God revealed. In fact, he goes on to say that the Spirit reveals the very thoughts of God. The thoughts of God toward us, what great wisdom. What great truths, what great promises that God has revealed for those who love Him. He’s revealed them through the Spirit who knows the depths of God. The same Spirit we received when we opened our heart to receive Him as Lord and Savior. If you’ve received Jesus Christ, and opened your heart to Him. He has placed in you, resident within you, the Holy Spirit of the Living God. That we might be changed, and transformed, and become spiritual men and women because we are growing through the Spirit, giving us spiritual thoughts, and spiritual words to strengthen us.
He’s pouring into us to give us a depth of faith and maturity, but notice in verse 14 but listen “a natural man does not accept the things of the spirit of God. The foolishness through him.” He’s caring nothing about faith, or spiritual maturity, but if you have received Jesus Christ you are no longer a natural man or women because the Holy Spirit is given to you to press into you spiritual words, and spiritual thoughts, and God’s wisdom. That you might become a spiritual man, or a spiritual woman. You’re no longer natural. See this is important to understand, He wants to transform you by pressing the things into you from above. See, I love James 3:17-18. “The wisdom from above, is first of all pure. Then it’s peaceable.” These are the things He’s going to press into you. Peaceable, it’s gentle, it’s reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit unwavering without hypocrisy. The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sewn in peace by those who makes peace.
B. Spiritually appraise all things
Now, get this in verses 14 and 15. We have an interesting insight that I do not want us to miss because it is really, really important. He's telling us here the spiritual appraise all things. Spiritually appraised, what does this mean? He says “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” Why, because they are spiritually appraised, and he who is spiritual appraises all things. Very, very important. What does it mean? What does the word appraise mean? Well, it means to judge the value of something. To estimate the worth of something. So, here is the point that He’s making. If you have God’s thoughts, spiritual thoughts, spiritual words, the wisdom of God. You are now gaining God’s perspective. From God’s perspective you are now able to judge, or estimate, the value of something. It’s a very different perspective. That’s why he’s saying you are to spiritually appraise the value of what’s before you.
See, if you want to sell your house, you want to get an appraisal. Someone is going to estimate the value of what your house is worth. From a spiritual perspective, you are to estimate the value according to the perspective from God. He gives you spiritual words, spiritual wisdom, spiritual thoughts, so that you can become a spiritual man, or a spiritual woman, and be able to spiritually appraise all things.
My wife, Jordi, met several times with the wife of one of our favorite pastors, Pastor Ron Mehl. He’s now since gone to be with the Lord. But in those conversations, which had meant so much to her. An interesting observation, an interesting thing came out in the conversation. They were talking, and Joy said, “You know Ron and I, in all the years of our marriage, have never had a fight.” That kind of stood out. So she said “Really, you’ve never had a fight, like never, ever?” And she’s like “No, we’ve never had a fight. Yeah we’ve had disagreements but we’ve never had a fight.” And she says “How is that? How is that come to be?” And she said “We have both understood, and decided that our relationship is too important. It’s too valuable to ruin it by fighting. It’s more important than winning a fight.” Now that is insightful.
What is she saying? We have spiritually appraised the value of our relationship. We have spiritually appraised the value of what God is doing, and now that we are seeing it from God’s perspective, we are able to see that the value of winning the fight is not worth much, but the value of honoring this gift that God has given is worth much to us. Spiritually appraised, that’s interesting.
If we could only understand the value of our soul. The value of faith, the value of becoming mature spiritually, if we could only understand it. Jesus said as much in Luke 9:24-25, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what has a man profited if he gains the whole word, but loses, or forfeits, his soul.” In other words, do you see the value of your soul?
If someone came to you and offered the whole world in exchange for your soul, Jesus has said it’s a bad deal. God knows the value of your soul. God knows the value of spiritual things in your life. He sent His Son, His only begotten Son, to die on the cross. To pay the penalty so He might redeem and win you and bring you to Himself. Why? Because He knows the value of who you are. If we could only understand. These things are spiritual appraised, but we need to gain a different view, a different perspective. That’s how we appraise spiritually.
You all, no doubt, heard of stories of people who come to garage sales, and they find some great vast treasure that no one has ever seen. The greatest story of that was when this fellow, Rick Marsidian, saw in a garage sale two boxes of glass plates. Flat glass plates, they looked like- I think those are negatives. These could be very valuable, begin to recognize the age. So, he bought them for $45. Took them in to be appraised to understand what they actually were. Turned out they were the photographic negatives captured by the famous photographer Anzel Adams worth close to $200 million.
The perspective to spiritually appraise is very, very important. Oh, if we could only understand the value of faith. If we could only understand the value of growing spiritually. If we could only understand the value of God’s love in our lives. If we could only understand the value of relationship, we would press in. We would value it, and that’s what God wants us to see. Will you spiritual appraise? God’s giving you wisdom, God’s giving you spiritual words, God’s giving you spiritual thoughts. Would you open your hearts and press in? Let’s pray.