The Corinthian Correspondence, Part 6: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; "Divine Wisdom: Out of This World"
Corinthian Correspondence, Part 6: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 “Divine Wisdom: Out of This World” I have a question as we begin the message today. What is wisdom? Some would see it as good, old-fashioned common sense. Heeding good advice. Like these statements I found the other day. “Do the most important thing first in the morning and you’ll never have an unproductive day.” “Slow down. Speed is the enemy of everything that really matters.” “Learn the secret of being content with what you have. More is rarely better.” There are other things that people describe as wisdom, like these: Wisdom of the self: “I know who I am, what I'm good at. I understand my shortcomings.” Book wisdom: “I understand ideas very well. I love learning about past authors, their thoughts. I love exploring new worlds through books and gaining insight from them.” Street wisdom: “I can smoothly understand the ways of the world. I understand how to survive in a volatile and dangerous environment.” Now, like common sense we just talked about, or book wisdom or even street wisdom, 2 things need to come to mind whenever we consider it, because wisdom can be boiled down to 2 parts: 1 - get knowledge and 2 - know when and how to use it. I came across this statement relating to the Second Amendment the other day: Knowledge is in knowing how to use a gun; wisdom is in knowing when to use it and when to keep it holstered. The bottom line about wisdom is simply this: practical application of knowledge. There are two other kinds of wisdom I want to mention today and they are both the focus of our passage: human wisdom and divine wisdom. Speaking of practical application of knowledge, throughout this message I want us to keep in the back of our minds these 2 questions: 1: Do I merely possess human wisdom or have access to divine wisdom? 2: How do I know? As we have seen for a couple of weeks now, Paul’s major concern so far in his Corinthian correspondence was how much human wisdom still affected his brothers and sisters. It was human wisdom that caused them to forget about loyalty to the Lord Jesus alone. Many began to follow human leaders and the church was on the verge of splitting into different groups. Paul said that he wanted the faith of the Corinthian Christians to rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Remember how Paul described his coming to them: he had 1 message--Jesus Christ and him crucified. This was and remains, a foolish message to the unsaved world. Paul said that he made it a point to not present this message in ways that would only stir the emotions or leave the people thinking, “Wow! What a powerful speaker Paul was! Don’t know what he meant, but man, did he move me!” Paul had 1 goal--if anybody in Corinth was going to be saved, God would be the one to do it. Not clever words. Not signs and wonders. But the power of God. How would the Christians at Corinthian know of this power? By the changes that took place in their lives. And as an aside, I thought last Sunday was a precious time, as we told our stories of how the power of God through Christ changed us. You and I have been tested. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in countries hostile to the gospel are being tested. I’m glad for the tests the Lord allows to come our way, aren’t you? Not that I love trials and tribulations. But I love being on the other side of the test, after having passed it! Remember how Amir Sarfati told his viewers about our brothers and sisters in China. How they don’t want us to pray for a change in their government, but they want us to pray that they would have strong backs--they would endure the trials and tests of their faith. Truly, trials reveal how genuine our faith in Christ is. I have titled the message: Divine wisdom: out of this world. Our passage for today is 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. So turn there if you will. It is on page 1054 in your pew Bible, and it will take a couple of keystrokes on your phones to get you there. Today we are going to see the sources of human and divine wisdom in vv.6-9. These sources are literally worlds apart. In vv.10-13, we will take a look at the Spirit’s essential role in giving God’s people access to divine wisdom. Then in vv.14-16 Paul talks about the status of 2 kinds of people in the world, because from God’s point of view there are only 2: the natural person and the spiritual person. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9: 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. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 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”. If you have carefully followed what Paul said in the first 2 chapters of this letter, you see a familiar theme: the radical difference between God’s ways and man’s ways. Paul said for example in 1:18 that the preaching of the cross had a radically different effect on the 2 kinds of people in the world. To those who were perishing the message was folly, literally moronic. But to those who are being saved, that same message, was the power of God. How can that be? Think of the summer sun, a block of ice and soft clay. The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. In other words, the preaching of the cross and the conviction of the Spirit either melts or hardens the heart, depending on the sinner’s response. In chapter 2:6-9, we see these verses come right after chapter 2:5. Pretty observant of me, you think? But if we look there, we see that Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians the foundation upon which their faith rested: the power of God. It is a great thing that their faith rested on the power of God and not human wisdom. But notice how closely Paul ties God’s power in v.5 to his wisdom in v.6. It is very important that we see this as he talks about divine wisdom. Power is in a sense no good unless it is used. Imagine building a house costing a million dollars, furnished with the best of everything. You install the best electronics and the finest appliances, all the things that will make your house a great place to live in. But there is a problem. For some unexplained reason the local power company is not able to provide electricity to your house. Now what? The point is: though the Corinthian’s faith rested on the power of God, there were those who did not apply God’s word to their lives. And he will address them in the next chapter. The power of God was never meant to be at rest. It was meant to be applied. It was to be alive in their lives. That is what Paul was driving at when he said the leaders in the church in Corinth imparted wisdom among the mature. Remember what wisdom is--practical application of knowledge. One learned man put it this way: God’s wisdom refers in context to the wisdom of the cross applied to everyday life. Mature Christians in Corinth understood that the power of God changes a person. Why? Because of the one who saved them. They understood that the one who was crucified was no ordinary man. This was the Lord Jesus. The Messiah. The king. The God-man. The one who had the right to tell his people what to do. It was not theology that changed those who Paul called mature. It was their relationship to the one in whom dwelled almighty power. Divine wisdom. The Lord who was saving them was the crucified, and now resurrected Lord of glory. It’s no secret that divine wisdom is vastly different from human wisdom. First of all, divine wisdom is revealed from God. It does not reside in this age or in the rulers, as in the movers and shakers in the world. Some learned people see the rulers as being human, while some see the rulers as evil spiritual forces pulling the strings and controlling human rulers. Either way, divine wisdom does not live there. It is not accessible using human means. The only wisdom this age or the rulers of this age has access to is what Paul called human wisdom. Let me a take a couple minutes and flesh out human wisdom as seen in our day. Things have changed in the almost 2000 years since Paul wrote this letter. But if there ever was a time when human wisdom has shown itself it is now. So, where is the source of human wisdom? Whether in Paul’s day or ours, the source has always been in the human heart and in the system of this world. It has been with us since the Garden of Eden when the serpent told our first parents: “In the day that you eat of the forbidden fruit, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” We know the story. They ate the fruit. And ever since, we have been living life on our own, assessing issues and problems because we know good and evil--so we think. In other words, we have been living out our death sentence because God said, “in the day you eat of the fruit you will die.” Let me give you 2 of the biggest issues in our day where we see human wisdom in action. One is saving the planet. When human wisdom is applied to this issue, we observe that earth’s resources are running low and we cannot save the earth without taking drastic measures. What to do? For starters, some advocate stabilizing population growth. There have been many studies conducted and most have included abortion as part of the solution. Human wisdom tells us therefore, that abortion is OK. And 54 million people have been killed in their mother’s wombs worldwide, last year alone. That’s on one side of the age spectrum. The other side is withholding medical treatment from the elderly, and even advocating euthanasia. I heard a presidential candidate speak about his health care policy proposals the other day. He said, for example, if a 90 year old man has prostate cancer, too bad. Patient comfort is all he would offer. In other words, abortion is on one side of the age continuum and what could and probably would amount to government sanctioned euthanasia is on the other. Human wisdom says we have to cut down the population somehow. And the mantra for climate change is to reduce greenhouse gasses. We had better hurry up, though. We only have 12 years before the planet overheats! But there is a way forward they tell us. Much tougher clean air standards. Like eliminate air travel. And control bovine flatulence. We do that by drastically reducing the cattle population, leaving us carnivores with little to no steaks to eat. And enjoy. But what does divine wisdom tell us in relation to these issues? God revealed his will to us and said, “Be fruitful and multiply”—no limit as to the number of people by the way—and “take care of the earth.” He did not mention abortion or euthanasia or cutting down on greenhouse gasses. How different is divine wisdom than human wisdom!? Another major issue is transgenderism and homosexuality. This is nothing other than human wisdom applied to love. What is the mantra when it comes to so-called gay marriage? We must allow anybody to marry whomever they love. And who are we to say otherwise? Human wisdom applied to love requires radical acceptance. The term is called positive tolerance and it means this: If I don’t embrace and celebrate everything you are, that means, by definition, I hate you. If you cause me emotional pain by giving me even a hint that you don’t approve of everything about me, then that means you hate me and therefore I can do what I want to you. This is love as human wisdom defines it. But how does divine wisdom define love? God revealed it in the Old Testament and Jesus repeated it in the New Testament: If you love me, keep my commandments. There is no room for positive tolerance in God’s dictionary. God, who is love, has every right to tell his creatures what love is. This is wisdom out of this world! So we see that mere humans have no access to divine wisdom and are stuck with mere human wisdom. Divine wisdom must come from outside the world’s system and the human heart. But look at the blessing of God’s secret and hidden wisdom imparted to those whose faith rests on the power of God. Divine wisdom was decreed before the ages . . . wait for it . . . for our glory! In other words, before God said, “let there be” on the first creation day, God pronounced, Divine Wisdom! My brothers and sisters do you see this? As part of divine wisdom, before God spoke the universe into existence, he decided to create us and do something for us for our glory. And what is that? 1 Corinthians 1:30: And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God—described as righteousness and sanctification and redemption. What is this glorious thing he would do to and for us? God chose to save us by sending Christ to be our sin bearer. This is profound divine wisdom. Before God spoke the universe into existence, he set salvation’s plan in place to save people he knew would sin against him. And for all those who would be in Christ, they would have access to divine wisdom. Again, how is divine wisdom described? Righteousness: God declares us in a right relationship with him through Christ. We live out his right ways in our lives by the power of his Spirit. Sanctification: All of us in Christ are set apart for God, to glorify him and enjoy him forever. Redemption: All of us in Christ are to live separated from the immorality of the world and its ways, refusing to live any longer by human wisdom. This is divine wisdom and this is what salvation looks like! So, when it comes to divine wisdom, we see 3 things: 1-it is completely inaccessible to those who live in this age only. 2-God decreed from before the foundation of the world that he would be pleased to save sinners by the sacrifice of his Son. And 3-Divine wisdom is revealed in his word. V.9 tells us that though absolutely beyond our ability to comprehend it, God has prepared salvation through a righteous, sanctified and redeemed relationship with Christ. Now let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:10–13 as we discover how essential the Holy Spirit is in communicating divine wisdom to his people: these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 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. 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. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. There is a simple, but essential spiritual fact of life in these verses. Paul describes to the Corinthians the vital lifeline the Holy Spirit is in revealing divine wisdom to his people. The very short answer is if it was not for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, no Christian could understand, let alone receive, divine wisdom. Let’s take a brief look to see the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. First, as we saw a minute ago, God revealed divine wisdom by the Scripture. But who wrote the Scripture? 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 give us the answer. 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. The origin of Scripture begins in the mind of God, and is breathed out by him. Remember what we just read about what the Holy Spirit does—searches the mind of God and reveals divine wisdom. So how is divine wisdom, revealed by the Holy Spirit communicated to humans? 2 Peter 1:21: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. So one way God reveals his wisdom is in the Scripture, which the Holy Spirit had a vital part in producing. A second way the Holy Spirit communicates the mind of God to his people is that he himself lives in the life of a Christian. Again, 1 Corinthians 2:12: 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. Notice, people of God don’t merely receive divine wisdom, as great as that is. We actually receive God himself, permanently taking up residence in our lives. And when he does, giving us divine wisdom is just the beginning! He even writes on our hearts the Torah—the teaching of God’s ways, making his ways to be the most valuable, most precious thing to us. He gives us assurance of salvation. He convicts us of sin. He matures us toward Christlikeness as we live in grateful obedience to him and his ways. And on and on and on! Time fails us to even go into a small study of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the saint. But the bottom line here is that a Christian has the Holy Spirit living in him or her. And lest we think that all we need is the Holy Spirit, wrong-o! Look at v. 13. Paul says, And we, as in the leaders in the church in Corinth, impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. What is Paul saying here? Spiritual gifts in the body of Christ are in operation! In this case, church leadership teaches God’s word, to God’s people, who have the Holy Spirit living in them. As the leader teaches, the Holy Spirit in the Christian helps him or her to understand what is being taught. The Holy Spirit in the Christian also safeguards him or her against false teaching as well. There’s a LOT I need to say about this, but the bottom line is that when the Holy Spirit lives in the teacher and the taught, there is a safeguard, because the Holy Spirit is not going to say something different to 2 different people. That does not mean there is no room for differences of interpretation on “minor” issues. But when it comes to who God is, who Jesus is, what salvation is all about, those kinds of things, there must be agreement, for the Holy Spirit will not contradict himself with the primary teachings of truth. And so, if there is disagreement about the primary teachings of Scripture, then somebody is wrong. And somebody is right. And it takes humility to for both Christians to come together on these matters. Because the bottom line is that we are to be unified around truth. Let’s keep the truth, expressed in love at the center of our relationships. Finally, let’s look at the status of 2 kinds of people: 1 Corinthians 2:14–16: 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. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. As I mentioned earlier, God sees 2 kinds of people, bluntly, the lost and the saved. With salvation, there is no in between. Either we are rightly related to God through Christ or we are not. It’s like being married. Or pregnant. The unsaved is a person without the Spirit. He or she refuses to accept spiritual truth. These things are folly to him or her. Why is that? A simple reason: they cannot accept it because they are not able to understand. Understanding can only take place through the Holy Spirit’s ministry. This person cannot appreciate divine wisdom because it is only as the Holy Spirit living in someone is how they can ever get a clue. On the other hand, the one being saved is one in whom the Holy Spirit lives. This person has the ability to understand divine wisdom. His or her faith rests on the power of God. The Torah of God is written on his or her heart, and the Holy Spirit empowers the Christian, giving him or her strength to do what God says. Paul goes on to say that this person is judged by no one, meaning a spiritual person is not judged by a natural person. In other words, the natural person does not have the ability to discern what is really going on in the life of a Christian. But gloriously, the mind of Christ dwells in the life of every person who has the Spirit, precisely and only because the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in the Christian. So, what can we say about this message today? Let me ask you the questions I posed to you at the beginning of the message. Do you possess mere human wisdom, or do you have access to divine wisdom? Those who possess mere human wisdom are those without the Spirit of God living in them. Those who have access to divine wisdom are those who have the Holy Spirit living within them. How does a person know the difference? Let me make it personal. Have you felt the weight of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin bearing on your heart, telling you that you are lost and need salvation found alone in Christ? Have you repented of your sin and believed the gospel of Christ? If you have, then you are a spiritual person—one in whom the spirit dwells. My prayer for all of us is as spiritual persons, we become mature Christians, by putting into practice divine wisdom that the Lord reveals to us in his word by the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit—a heavenly righteous, sanctified and redeemed relationship with Christ lived in the here and now. Finally, let’s remember the reality of things. Proverbs 29:27: An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked. A natural person cannot and will not understand the ways of a spiritual person. So don’t expect him or her to understand. Expect push back. We can do 3 things with a natural person. First, pray. Really pray. We know that God answers us when we pray according to his will. It is his will that all be saved. So pray. Second, live life as a mature disciple of Jesus in front of him or her. The Lord is not asking sinless perfection, though the natural person may be expecting you to be sinlessly perfect. And when you mess up, what happens? He or she is right there, accusing you. So, what to do? When you mess up in front of a natural person, apologize. Seek their forgiveness. And press on. Don’t beat yourself up. Third, give the gospel to the natural person in as many different ways as you know how. As we close today, let’s remember that it’s all about wisdom. Human wisdom is all about self-promotion. “Join us! Make the world a better place. Jump on the bandwagon!” But if you do involve yourself in making the world a better place—it’s not necessarily sinful to do so--don’t be surprised that when you seek to gain a place at the cultural table, you get booted out of your seat when you don’t play by the house rules. Why? Natural people, trying to solve problems with human wisdom, can only expect natural results. They don’t have access to divine wisdom and they will think it strange that you think differently. The bottom line: human wisdom seeks to make the world a better place. Divine wisdom seeks to make the church a better place so that we can show the world they don’t have to live the way they are living. As natural persons watch us at Grace United living together in love and unity, they may discover that they really can have access to divine wisdom. That they really can discover the reason why they were made—to glorify God and enjoy him forever. So, let’s be counted among the mature. Let’s live out divine wisdom that every spiritual person has access to, for the glory of God and the building up of his kingdom.