THE WISDOM OF THE GOSPEL

1 CORINTHIANS 2:6-16

Some time ago I was talking to a Christian who was contemplating leaving the church he was attending and looking for another church. When I asked what the reason might be, I was told, "Because I am tired of hearing the same old teaching and I want to be taught some of the Ďdeeper things.í"

I want you to know that I can identify with that answer. When I was a very young Christian, I came under some Bible teaching that was very simple in nature. It consisted of going to each passage of the Bible and seeing how it related to the gospel and how we ought to be witnesses of Christ. After a while, I began to see the shallowness of this kind of teaching. I became unconvinced that this was all there was to the Bible and I began to turn to other Bible teachers and commentaries to search for those "deeper truths."

For many years, I searched and studied, digging into the Greek and Hebrew texts and searching out the historical backgrounds and comparing Scripture with Scripture.

Finally I began to realize that there was indeed a "deeper truth" that provided a foundation for the entire scope of the Bible. It was the truth of the gospel.

The problem that my original teachers had was not in looking for the gospel in every passage, but only in that they held to a very shallow view of what the gospel really was. All too often, they had fallen short of the depth of the riches of the cross.

This same problem was evident in the church at Corinth. These people had heard the message of the gospel and had believed. But now they had departed amidst a search for those elusive "deeper truths."

Paul calls them back to their point of departure. The problem is that they are looking for that which they already possess. Their problem is not some hidden truth that is yet undiscovered. Their problem is that they have not fully realized the truth that is already theirs.

There is a principle here of which you need to be aware. A lot of well-meaning people are running round today, trying to find some sort of "second blessing." You need to know that, if you have already come to Jesus in faith and repentance, then you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing. You have it all. Every blessing that belongs to Jesus Christ is your present possession.

The problem is that these blessings are not visible to the naked eye. They cannot be measured in a test tube. They are hidden.

 

GODíS HIDDEN WISDOM

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).

Paul has just finished telling the Corinthians that his preaching has been of such a nature that their faith should not rest on the wisdom of men (2:5). He did not come to them with superiority of speech or with wisdom in his message (2:1). And yet, he wants them to know that there is indeed wisdom in his preaching.

Paul speaks words of wisdom, but that wisdom is only recognized as being wisdom among a certain group of people. It is only those who are "mature" who receive and understand Godís wisdom.

This brings us to a crucial question. What does it mean to be "mature?" Most commentaries have tried to define this as a certain level of Christian growth. They point out that when a Christian is first saved, he cannot understand complex doctrine and so he must be fed "baby food." Then as he grows and develops as a Christian, he can handle some of the heavier things of the Bible. It is a very nice interpretation, but I believe it to be dead wrong.

Paul has been contrasting Godís wisdom with the wisdom of the world. He has been contrasting the outlook of the Christian with the outlook of the unbeliever.

Unbeliever

Believer

Sees the message of the cross as foolishness

Sees the message of the cross as the power of God

"Those who are perishing" (1:18)

"Those who are being saved" (1:18)

Tried to come to know God through its wisdom (1:21)

Came to know God by the preaching of the cross (1:21)

"The Jews ask for a sign and the Greeks search for wisdom" (1:22)

"But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness: (1:23)

That your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men (2:5).

That your faith should... rest...on the power of God (2:5).

As Paul begins this next section, the contrast that was started in the previous chapter will continue.

Unbeliever

Believer

The wisdom of this age

The wisdom of God

The natural man

The spiritual man

The person who has merely dabbled in the wisdom of men

The one who has partaken of the complete and mature wisdom of God

The word "mature" is misleading. It is translated from the Greek word teleios. This word is usually translated "perfect."

      1. It is used by Jesus when He commands His followers, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:46).
      2. It is used in Hebrews to describe the greater and more perfect tabernacle (Hebrews 9:11).
      3. It will also be used by Paul here in Corinthians when he says that when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away (1 Corinthians 13:10).

Who does Paul speak of when he describes "the perfect"? It is the believer. The one who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has been perfected because he has been identified with the One who is perfect. It is to him that Paul speaks wisdom. This wisdom is the same wisdom that we saw in the previous chapter. It is the wisdom of the cross.

This does not mean that we do not preach this message to unbelievers. It does mean that the unbeliever does not recognize it as wisdom. He hears the message and thinks that it is foolish.

The wisdom of the cross has not been recognized as true wisdom by the people of this age or by the rulers of this age. The mighty Roman empire took no notice of the death and the burial and the resurrection of Jesus. Life went on as usual. People did not recognize the significance of the cross.

The same is true today. Many people think that a little bit of religion is okay as long as it is confined to a one hour time slot at the neighborhood church. But they do not recognize the cross as being the center point in all of human history.

There are three things that are mentioned here with regard to Godís wisdom.

m It is Godís wisdom.

This is not something that men dreamed up. It is not the result of manís philosophical speculation. It did not originate with man. It was not even known by man until it was revealed by God.

m It is hidden wisdom.

Paul says that we speak God's wisdom in a mystery. When we think of a mystery, an image of a suspicious looking butler from an Agatha Christi novel comes to mind. But that is not what the Greeks thought of when they spoke of a mystery. To them, a mystery referred to a hidden knowledge that was only possessed by the initiated. They had a whole series of mystery cults into which the initiated were reputed to have some secret knowledge.

When you were initiated into the cult, you were given the secret knowledge of the cult. In so doing, you became initiated into its mysteries. These mysteries were kept from the outsider. They were only for the initiated.

Christianity is like that. You cannot stand on the outside and look in and understand its truths. It is only when you have come to Christ in faith and have been initiated into the family of God that you can begin to understand the glorious wisdom of the cross.

God predestined this wisdom before the ages: The hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory (2:7).

The cross was not a last minute idea that God had. He did not created Adam and Eve and watch them sin and throw up His hands and say, "Oh no! What will I do now? My creation has fallen and death has come in and ruined everything and I donít know what to do!" The cross was not a divine after-thought. Rather the world was created with the cross in mind. Before any of the ages began, God planned to send His Son to the cross to die for sins.

Neither the Jews who plotted His death nor the Romans who carried out the crucifixion had any idea that Jesus would be able to rise from the dead. The fact that they crucified the Son of God is evidence that they did not understand the wisdom of God.

The rulers of this world still do not understand the wisdom of God. They remain blissfully ignorant of who Jesus really is and what He has done.

The fact that Godís wisdom has been hidden from mankind in general and from the rulers of this world in particular was promised in the Old Testament. To make this point, Paul takes us back to the Old Testament book of Isaiah (64:4). It is a passage that promises blessings to the people of God.

I used to think that this passage talked about the blessings that will someday be ours when we arrive in heaven. But Paul is not talking about heaven. He is not talking about the sweet by and by. He is talking about the nasty here and now.

Donít miss this! God has prepared some wonderful blessings for us and we possess those blessings right now. You do not have to wait until you are in heaven to become a child of God. You have already been adopted into the family of God and the benefits of being Godís child are yours right now. Eternal life is a present possession of those who believe in Him. His people have a righteous standing and are co-heirs of the Kingdom of God. All of these things are present possessions.

The world cannot comprehend those blessings. The human eye has not seen them. No ear has heard them. Manís rationality has not revealed it to them. They are not visible. They cannot be seen. They cannot be tasted. They can only be known as God had revealed them to us.

 

GODíS REVEALED WISDOM

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Just as it is impossible for the unsaved man to see or to hear or to imagine the wisdom of God, so also it is unnecessary for the Christian to attempt any such means to learn of that wisdom. It is unnecessary because God has freely revealed His wisdom to us.

God is not playing hide-and-seek so that you have to go and look for Him and then one day you find Him. God has revealed Himself to us and He has revealed His plan to us. He did this through His Spirit.

In Old Testament times, God revealed Himself in a wide variety of ways. Hebrews 1:1 says that it was in many portions and in many ways.

He spoke to Job out of a whirlwind.

He spoke to Joseph in dreams.

He spoke to Moses in a burning bush.

He spoke to Joshua through an angel.

He spoke to Samuel in a voice in the night.

He spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice.

He spoke to Daniel in a vision.

In each of those ways and means, God was speaking to us through His Spirit. He continues to do so today, not in those specific means, but through His Word. The Bible is the in-breathed ("in-spirited") word of God.

There is no one more qualified to tell us about God than the Spirit of God. He alone is competent to reveal to us the mind of God. We have been given Godís wisdom from the very highest source. We have been given Godís wisdom from Godís Spirit.

Only God knows how God thinks. The only way you can think the way God thinks is by having the Spirit of God reveal those thoughts to you. That is exactly what God has accomplished.

 

GODíS RECEIVED WISDOM

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

Two spirits are mentioned here. They are contrasted with one another. They are the spirit of the world and the Spirit who is from God.

The Spirit of the World

The Spirit who is from God

We have not received this spirit (2:12)

We have received this Spirit (2:12)

They speak of this spirit in words taught by human wisdom (2:13)

We speak in words taught by the Spirit (2:13)

The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (2:14)

But he who is spiritual appraises all things (2:15)

When we refer to the "spirit of the world," we are speaking of the outlook of the world - that which motivates the world and gives it a distinctive character. It is that which makes the world what it is.

We are familiar with the worldís outlook on life. We know how the world views Jesus Christ and the cross and spiritual life. The world views these as foolishness.

On the other hand, we have received the Spirit who is from God (2:12). God has provided His Spirit. That Spirit teaches us the wisdom of God. What is the wisdom of God? It is the gospel.

Donít miss this! It is the Spirit of God who teaches you the gospel of God. No man ever hears the gospel and believes it and is saved unless the Holy Spirit has been at work in his heart teaching him.

GODíS REJECTED WISDOM

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).

In contrast to the believer who receives the Spirit of God is the natural man who does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.

Who is the "natural man"? The phrase in the Greek is yucikos anqrwpos -- the "soulish man." He is the unbeliever. He is the man who is still in his sins. He is the man who holds within his heart the spirit of the world. He has the worldís outlook. He has the worldís concept of wisdom and of power and of might and of nobility.

When the natural man is confronted with the things of the Spirit of God, he does not accept them?

To what "things" does this refer? It is the wisdom of God and the power of God. What is the wisdom of God and the power of God? It is the GOSPEL!

I donít want you to miss the point that this is speaking directly to how the natural man reacts to the hearing of the gospel. He does not accept the gospel. He does not believe the message of the cross. He does not accept the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who died for sins.

He does not believe the gospel. Indeed, Paul goes on to say that he cannot even understand the gospel.

The reason that the unbeliever cannot understand the message of the cross is because there is something missing inside him. It is not a matter of religious training or seminary education. The scribes and the Pharisees were trained in the highest schools of the land, yet they could not comprehend the teachings of Jesus. They were versed in the Old Testament, but they had missed its central message. They knew all about what the Scriptures said concerning the Messiah, but when He stood before them, they did not recognize Him.

It is impossible for the natural man -- the unsaved man -- to understand the things of God.

Did you know that there are a host of sounds, voices, movements and images all around you that you are unable to see? There are hundreds of colors in the air around you that your eye cannot detect. But if I were to bring in a television set and turn it on, you could tune in on those sounds and voices and movements and images. They are coming through the air into the room where you sit. But you cannot understand them unless you are equipped to understand them.

By the same token, the unbeliever cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God because he does not have the equipment needed to receive it. If he hears the word of God, it seems to him to be foolishness. Just as the physically blind man cannot see the sun, so also the spiritually blind man cannot see the Son.

On the other hand, the man who has a spiritual base (the believer) can understand the things of God because he has the mind of Christ.

 

GODíS RECOGNIZED WISDOM

But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).

There is a man who hears the wisdom of God and who recognizes is for what it is. He is the one who is spiritual.

Paul does not say that it is the intellectual man who recognizes the wisdom of God. He does not say that it is the gifted man who discerns Godís truth. He says that it is the spiritual man who appraises all things.

Who is the spiritual man? Is he some sort of exceptional saint? Is he the bionic believer? Is he the Christian who has reached some sort of exemplary plateau? I do not think so.

I believe the spiritual man is simply the man who is operating under the influence of the Holy Spirit. You might argue, "But all Christians are under the influence of the Holy Spirit." And that is exactly right. The spiritual man is a reference to one who is a Christian. He is the man who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. As a result, the Spirit of God has come into his life and, forever after, his life will be influenced by the Spirit of God.

And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27).

The Holy Spirit indwells each believer. In fact, the indwelling of the Spirit is one of the evidences that you are really a Christian. The result of this indwelling is that we have a teacher living within us who teaches us all things.

Verses 15-16 are presented in the format of a chiasm:

He who is spiritual appraises all things

But we have the mind of Christ

ê

é

Yet he himself is appraised by no man

è

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?

Just as the natural man is unable to appraise or to discern things of the Spirit of God, so the spiritual man appraises and discerns all the things of the Spirit. On of the marks of the Christian is that he is able to discern spiritual truths.

Paula and I were talking to some old college friends a number of years abo and the subject turned to the Bible. I suddenly noticed that their faces had gone totally blank. They were completely lost in the conversation, almost before it had started. I stopped in my tracks and asked about their understanding of the gospel. They had none. They thought of themselves as "Christians," yet they had never come to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The reason they couldnít follow the conversation wasnít because we were using big theological words or difficult concepts. The reason they could not understand spiritual truths is because they were not spiritual. They were not Christians and did not have the Spirit of God within them.

The story has a happy ending. They did come to believe in Jesus Christ and the next time we came together to talk about spiritual matters there was a dramatic change. It was as though someone had turned on the lights inside. They had a new ability to discern spiritual truths.

The world looks at the spiritual man and cannot correctly discern why he is different. To all outward indications, he appears to be the same. He looks the same. His facial characteristics are the same. He has the same intellect. He has the same natural ability.

It takes another spiritual man to understand a spiritual man. Just as it is impossible for the world to understand the message of the cross, so also it is impossible for the world to understand the people of the cross.

This question is echoed from the Old Testament. In Isaiah 40:13, this challenge is issued to those who claim to understand the plans and purposes of God.

Unbelievers often try to set Christians straight. They want to argue about the truthfulness of the teachings we believe. It is as though they want to tell God what He can and cannot do. "God canít send people to hell because that wouldnít be loving and God has to be a God of love."

They meddle in that which they do not understand. There is no way they can judge the truths of God because they are not equipped to understand those truths.

Christ thinks Godís thoughts. He understands Godís wisdom. He is thoroughly acquainted with the wisdom of the cross. And we have the mind of Christ.

Do you see the point? If no one can judge God and His truths and if we have the mind of Christ, then no one can judge us. Except God. And except for others who also have the mind of Christ.

This is important for you to know. You need to know this because, as you live the life of Christ before an unsaved world, you are going to come under the judgment of the world. The world is going to look at you and criticize your beliefs and your manner of life. If you are living for Christ, then the world is going to label you a fanatic. But the world has no basis from which to judge you. The world can no more judge you than it can judge God. You stand strong in this truth. You have the mind of Christ.

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