How God Works

1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:30:51
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Big Idea: God’s wisdom is understood only through the Spirit’s revelation. Spiritual maturity comes from applying God’s wisdom to all aspects of life.
The world has been searching for God, groping in the darkness toward God, seeking to discover Him,
knowing that He is but not knowing Him, unable to find Him.
How ought we to have responded, when seeing us in our ignorance and sin, He came to us in Jesus Christ?
Ought we not to have said, “Here He is at last! Our quest is over! The God for which we have been searching all along has come to us, shown Himself to us in Jesus Christ!”
But what did we do? We nailed Him to a Roman cross and spat on Him. For all its claims of wisdom, the world misses the wisdom of God completely. doesn’t it?
1. By the standards of the world, Paul has been saying, the Gospel message is foolishness,
The members of the church for believing it are universally regarded as weak and foolish themselves, and the ministry fails frankly to measure up to contemporary norms and expectations of really what ought to characterize powerful rhetoric or charismatic leadership.
And yet, for all of that, it is precisely through this foolish message proclaimed by an unimpressive ministry that these weak church members have been saved to the glory and praise of God.
God uses the ordinary. Like the Corinthians when they were called,
Paul was nothing in the eyes of the world. Contrary to the Corinthians, however,
Paul had no desire to display his own accomplishments. He had come solely to proclaim Christ.
Anything other than the gospel and the cross of Christ becomes central in a church the fabric of oneness begins to tear
After these reminders of the church’s beginning, Paul expands his discussion to include favorite catchwords from the Corinthian cliques. The Corinthian Christians are misusing terms like “maturity,” “wisdom,” “knowledge,” and “spirituality.” The terms themselves are not wrong, but they must be reinterpreted in light[1]
2. One of the many problems that existed in the Corinthian situation was the failure of the Christians to break with human philosophy.
The Corinthians were in a very, very immoral and humanly intellectual society, a world that was pretty well based upon the reason and the lusts of men and when they became Christians they dragged this kind of immorality and this kind of rationalism into the church.
3. When the world gets into the area of trying to understand where man came from, why he’s here,
where he’s going,
what his meaning is,
when it tries to define God,
when it tries to define morality,
when it tries to define real joy, real peace, real happiness, it fails.
That’s philosophy. The study of wisdom. And it refers to ultimate wisdom.
We’re simply saying that when human wisdom is applied toward ultimate truth or toward the things which deal with God and sin and man’s destiny and salvation and transformation of life and morality and ethics and all that, that man’s philosophy is bankrupt. Absolutely zilch.[2]
I. Paul presents Christ and Him crucified. It’s very simple.
In fact, they said it’s so simple it’s foolish, remember that?
The preaching of the cross was to them that perish what?
They said this is stupid.
This is nonsense.
You mean you expect us intellectuals with all the wisdom that we’ve gained and all the education and all the sophisticated philosophies,
you mean that you expect us to believe that somewhere, some time one guy dies on a cross and that’s the whole crux of human destiny?
And I’ve heard people say the same thing today.
They say for little kids and old ladies, right?
No intelligent man would believe that. I can’t buy it. I’ve had many people say that to me. And when Paul comes along, and when you come along, and say now we don’t preach human wisdom they say you’re sure right. What you’ve got is foolishness. Now[3]
Here appears Paul’s third method for heeding his appeal to heal the wounds of divisiveness (1:10–17). In addition to the first two methods—Christians must concentrate on what is going right (1:1–9) and on Christ and him crucified (1:18–2:5)—now Paul advocates that they focus on true godly wisdom (2:6–16). In this section, Paul uses numerous technical terms that the Corinthians employed to justify their spiritual elitism (“wisdom,” “mature,” “secret,” “spiritual”) and redefines them so that they include that which is available to all believers.
I. To the Mature
1 Corinthians 2:6 (ESV)
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
There is no talk of spiritual status but only of application of God’s wisdom.
· The mature are those whose understanding and actions are changed by Christ’s cross.
· The immature are those who continue to live on the basis of human wisdom and merely add special experiences and theoretical points of teaching to their way of thinking.
Their actions have not changed; they are like those who reject the cross.[4] True believers are the only ones among whom the gospel can be wisdom. To all others it is a stumbling block or foolishness [5]
II. True Wisdom Is Not Humanly Discovered
1 Corinthians 2:7 (ESV)
7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
But to His people, His called and perfected ones, God predestined before the ages to give His wisdom through His Son to our glory.
Before time began, our heavenly Father determined to give us His saving wisdom that would lead ultimately to our eternal glorification (Rom. 8:18).[6]
It is not a new, transient wisdom but one that has been true since before time began. Even then, God willed for it to be revealed in Christ.
A lesser creature can't understand a more advanced one.
How can anything understand something more complex and advanced than itself?
For a flea to understand a dog it would have to be at least as advanced as a dog.
For a dog to understand a man it would have to be at least as advanced as a man.
How much greater distance is there between Creator and creature.
Men can imagine what God might be like, and people have plenty of ideas about Him. Almost everyone has an opinion as to what God is or is not like, or as to whether He even exists. But man’s opinions are irrelevant, because they can never be more than speculations.
By his own resources, the creature cannot possibly comprehend his Creator.
Paul repeats the assertion that he is indeed speaking wisdom: but we speak God’s wisdom … the hidden wisdom.
The natural man does not know and understand it, and considers it foolishness, because it is wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom.
Mystery (mustērion) does not refer to something strange and puzzling but to that which is held secret.
God intentionally holds His wisdom a secret from natural man. and his earthly wisdom (cf. Matt. 11:25; 13:10–13).
III. The Rulers Did Not Understand.
1 Corinthians 2:8–9 (ESV)
8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
The natural eyes, ears, and hearts of men cannot know or comprehend His wisdom. It is prepared only for those who love Him.
Neither externally nor internally, objectively nor subjectively, can man discover God. His external searching is empirical, experimental—represented by seeing and hearing. God’s truth is not observable by the eye or the ear, no matter how many sophisticated instruments we may use.
We are just as helpless in trying to discover His truth subjectively, through our minds (heart).
Rationalism cannot reason out God’s truth.
Man’s two greatest human resources, empiricism and rationalism, his observation and his reason, are equally useless in discovering divine truth. They will always, in fact, eventually turn men against divine truth. Ultimately they lead men to crucify Christ.
But God’s truth, God’s plan, God’s wisdom, is not hidden from His children. All that God has prepared for those who love Him.[8]
Those with the Spirit Did Understand.
Paul isn’t talking about heaven. He is talking about God’s secret, hidden wisdom revealed with the coming of Jesus Christ crucified. That is the message that eyes couldn’t search out, ears overhear or hearts invent. It’s a message Paul is trying to tell us that is beyond our capacity to deduce, calculate, or discover on our own.
IV. True Wisdom Is Divinely Revealed
1 Corinthians 2:10–11 (ESV)
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
It is as unnecessary as it is impossible for man to discover God’s truth on his own.
What man cannot find God has given. Man cannot come to God on his own; but God has come to him. The Holy Spirit has invaded man’s closed box and shown him God—through revelation, inspiration, and illumination. [9]
How is it that the Corinthians have come to know God? What hope is there for us if we are by nature doomed always to dismiss and distort the saving wisdom of God, seeing it simply always as foolishness and nonsense?
In a similar way, only God’s own Spirit can know Him intimately. And, wonder of wonders, it is the Spirit of God, the One who intimately knows the depths of Godand the thoughts of God, whom God has sent to reveal His own wisdom to those who believe—to us.[10]
Life guidance comes from God’s Spirit, not from human orators.
Only God’s Spirit can grant the power needed for a person to live a life that demonstrates God’s wisdom (2:4).
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. The neuter noun “deep things” can be translated “depths,” “areas,” “thoughts,” or “concerns.”
Humans may search for wisdom in many areas, but only the Spirit can search the depth of God’s heart and reveal it to humans.
That should not surprise anyone; the same holds true with the spirit of a person (2:11).
No one but the person knows his or her own deepest thoughts.[11]
V. By inspiration
1 Corinthians 2:12–13 (ESV)
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The process of the Spirit’s transmission of God’s truth is called inspiration.
His truth cannot be discovered by man; it can only be received. In order to be received, something must first be offered.
God’s truth can be received because it is freely given.
The Spirit who is from God, not the spirit of the world (that is, human wisdom) has brought God’s Word—which comprises the things freely given to us by God.
The Bible is the Spirit’s vehicle for bringing God’s revelation. [12]
Do you see what we are holding in your hands? The mouth of God, the voice of God! God is speaking in His Word.
How do you neglect the Book? This is not a book among others. Its contents are not simply to be placed on a par with any other historical or ancient texts. This is the very Word of God; God Himself speaking to your soul. How do we neglect the Book of God?
VI. By illumination
1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV)
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is the difference between some of us sitting here today. Some of you were once in darkness and have been brought into the light.
Some of you remember the day when the Holy Spirit turned the lights on and you saw the truth – the truth about yourself and your sin and need and the truth about Jesus, a perfect Savior – and you were enabled to run to Him and trust Him and you received forgiveness and were made a new creature.
Now you see and as you hear the Word, it’s life and light, it’s food for your soul, it’s guidance for your steps, it’s riches, it’s a source of joy!
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and You Will Be Saved
But others of you have heard the same message week in and week out and you can’t make head nor tail of it.
You are still a natural person, not a spiritual person.
That is to say, God by His Spirit has not yet broken in upon you and given you the light of life shining upon you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
You will hear the greatest preachers sit under the best arguments. You will have Christian friends plead with you day in and day out and it will have no effect, no effect unless God, by His Spirit, gives you light.
You can’t reason your way to this.
You can’t be argued into this.
You don’t stumble upon this. It is the work of God and so today,
Your greatest need is not for a better argument, it is for the outpouring of the Spirit of Christ to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
to open your eyes to see that while you’ve been ready, as Spurgeon put it last time – do you remember? – “to do fifty things.
Only one thing is needful – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
1. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things.
Paul’s point is not that a person who has received the Spirit is above reproach in all matters. Rather, he is bringing his rhetorical argument to its full conclusion.
If someone is truly a mature spiritual person, the wisdom of the cross will guide every decision and influence every attitude. No higher criterion is given, and no human wisdom can outrank it. Those who are spiritually mature are guided by the Spirit, who searches the depths of God and reveals the mind of Christ (2:16).[13]
Do you see it in verse 16? “Who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” As though he were anticipating an objection. No one has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything.
n verse 15, “the spiritual person judges all things.”
2. We find our way under the governance and direction of God through His Word. The mind of Christ is ours. No longer bumbling around in the darkness; now we see! And yet, for all the glories of the Scriptures, for all the access it provides us to divine revelation,
Unless and until the Holy Spirit gives you light, you will never see.
Cry to God, cry to God to open your eyes so that you might behold glorious things in His Word.
Cry to God that He would make you a new creation, a new creature, that He would bring you to Jesus.
Cry to Him that He would turn the lights on and illuminate the dark room of your mind to see your need and see how Jesus perfectly answers to your need that you might run to Him today without delay.
Because God’s wisdom has a different aim from human wisdom, sinful human nature cannot recognize it and will not accept it. It must be revealed to the believer by God’s Spirit. Only God’s Spirit can open the believer’s eyes to God’s wisdom and ways.
1. Christian maturity is demonstrated through applying God’s wisdom.
Now, as then, people confuse giftedness with maturity. Paul’s point in this text, however, is to make the Christians aware that they have fooled themselves if they think they are mature because they have certain spiritual experiences, know certain things, or can speak with conviction and eloquence. Such things have little to do with Christian maturity. To the contrary,
Christians evidence their maturity when they exhibit the mind of Christ—that is, when their whole perspective on life is so guided by the message of the cross that their attitudes and actions are changed by it.
To be a Christian is to be filled by God’s Spirit, the Spirit that reveals and interprets God’s heart and purpose to his people.
2. The Spirit gives power to overcome the temptation to act according to human wisdom.
Habits are hard to break. It is difficult to swim against the current. It can be dangerous to stand out in a crowd. Such expressions illustrate the difficulty of living a life that follows God’s wisdom. The temptation to make little or no lifestyle change after becoming a Christian is enormous. In light of the cultural pressures from our surroundings, and from other church members, it proves easier to follow the crowd and reduce faith to an additive—something that adds yet another nuance or flavor to life. To act like Christ, to consider others greater than oneself, to give up personal rights, to accept suffering when there could or should have been praise is no easy matter. But, as Paul argues in this text, God’s Spirit empowers the Christian to overcome these fears and difficulties. The Spirit empowers Christians to follow God’s wisdom.[14]
What the world thinks is foolishness, the Gospel of the cross, is, in fact, the revelation of God to the world.
Revelation. We have access to it today in the inspired words of the apostles preserved in our Bibles. How we ought to love this Book! Inspiration. It is only by the illumination of the Spirit that saving understanding will ever dawn in our hearts. Would you pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the light of life? Revelation, inspiration, illumination. May the Lord bless to us His holy Word that we, all of us, may come to love the book divine and by the illumination of the Spirit hear and respond to His Word. Let us pray together!
[1]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians(M. L. Strauss, Ed.; p. 34). Baker Books. [2]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. [3]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Grace to You. [4]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians(M. L. Strauss, Ed.; p. 36). Baker Books. [5]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 60). Moody Press. [6]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 60–61). Moody Press. [7]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians(M. L. Strauss, Ed.; p. 36). Baker Books. [8]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 61). Moody Press. [9]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 62). Moody Press. [10]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (p. 62). Moody Press. [11]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians (M. L. Strauss, Ed.; p. 36). Baker Books. [12]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 62–63). Moody Press. [13]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians(M. L. Strauss, Ed.; pp. 36–37). Baker Books. [14]Vang, P. (2014). 1 Corinthians(M. L. Strauss, Ed.; pp. 38–39). Baker Books.
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