This sermon is number 6 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 6
"God's Wisdom Understood"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 2:6-16
Verse 1 of chapter 2: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ".
Last week we looked at the subject: 'The Foolishness of God vs The Wisdom of Men', and tonight after spending some time on that subject we want to home in on the wisdom of God specifically, and God's wisdom understood. I think every parent at some time in their life, and I'm waiting for the day coming up in the not-too-distant future, will hear the famous words: 'That's not fair!'. Whether it's to the stamping of feet, or to the screeching of a voice, in teenage years or early toddler years, the terrible two's or whatever it may be - sometime you may hear those words: 'That's not fair, everybody's doing it, why can't I do it? It's just not fair!'. Even when you seem to explain, as an adult in child's terms, 'Son, it's for your own good', or 'Love, it's for your own good. Listen to what I'm saying', it just doesn't seem to make sense at times to children, the reasoning and the decision-making process of the adult mind.
You know better than I do that it may even take years, maybe even decades, for those children to see the sense in your adult decision-making. It's not particularly because they're rebellious or iniquitous, or terribly sinful, although that comes into it, but it's probably more to do with the fact that they're just too immature to understand the human wisdom or to grasp your reasoning in coming to the decision that you have made. They just see a thing that they want as children and they want to get it, they don't think of all the implications, and they don't have particular wisdom to make a decision upon. They don't understand your adult wisdom probably primarily because they are immature.
Really what Paul is saying in this passage specifically tonight is that the wisdom of God is only for the mature, not for the immature but for the mature. Now you know that you see things clearer in your adulthood than you did when you were young, and I'm still waiting for the day when things are going to become clearer and clearer to me in future! But what is the case in the natural realm, Paul is simply saying that it's no different in the spiritual realm. There is spiritual immaturity, and those who are spiritually immature cannot grasp the wisdom of God. There is a process of development, a process of sanctification, a process of maturity, and Paul speaks here of a wisdom for the spiritually mature - a wisdom that they can understand.
So he has already said that the wisdom of God is not something that the wise men of this world will understand. In fact they think that God's wisdom is foolishness. But there is a wisdom, it's not that God's wisdom is in essence intrinsically foolish, it's not that the gospel is foolish or God is foolish, it is foolishness to those who do not believe - but to those who are mature it is the wisdom of God, and they understand it and perceive it and can conceive it as such. Now what is the relevance of all this to these Corinthians? Well, you know as well as I do in chapter 1 we saw that in verse 13 of the chapter Paul was asking the question: 'Is Christ divided? Some of you are saying that you're of Apollos, of Cephas, some say 'I am a Paul', some even say 'Oh, I am of Christ, I'm not of a mere man, I'm of the Christ of God''. But really the basis for all their pompous pride and divisiveness and schism was upon their own human understanding, and their claiming to have human wisdom: 'We're wiser than the group called Cephas, we're wiser than those adhering to Apollos, or Paul, we're wiser than those adhering to Christ' - but it was all based upon the foundation of their human wisdom.
They were showing evidence, according to Paul, and it's still seen in the church of God today, of believing human wisdom rather than divine wisdom. The irony of it all is that they thought that they were wiser than anyone else, but really what they were doing was showing their spiritual immaturity - and the proof of their spiritual immaturity was that they were using the wisdom that they had to divide the church of Jesus Christ into schisms. Whether it was human allegiance to a philosophy of a man, or a particular leader they were following and adhered to and idolised, whatever it was their self-exalting human wisdom was causing immature division within the church of Jesus Christ - and it was ultimately keeping them from God's divine wisdom. They thought they were wise, but they were making themselves fools, because in their immaturity they couldn't see the divine wisdom of God that unites the church and does not divide the church. Ultimately they were forfeiting spiritual growth and spiritual unity, so Paul has to come again and remind them of what true wisdom is: 'Sit up, Corinthians', he says, 'True wisdom is not to be found in the world, it is not to be found in philosophies of men, it is not to be found in following a human leader - but the wisdom of God can only be given through Christ and through the Spirit of God'.
Let's follow his reasoning in this thesis that he gives. The first thing that he says in verses 6 through to 9 is: God's wisdom is hidden from the world. That's the first reason why you shouldn't go to the world, that's the first reason why you shouldn't depend on human wisdom even if the person is a Christian, because God's wisdom, true wisdom, divine truth, is hidden from the world. Now I believe that one reason Paul was addressing this is because he didn't want them to fall into this trap of thinking that the Christian faith is in itself, in essence, foolishness. It is foolishness in the eyes of the men of the world, but Paul is reiterating to them: although it's foolishness to the world, it is only revealed to those who are truly mature, those who are truly wise. Look at verse 6: 'Howbeit we speak wisdom', we do speak wisdom - it's not that we're always talking foolishness, but we do 'speak wisdom among them that are perfect'.
God's wisdom is only to be understood, Paul says, by those who are perfect. You might say to yourself: 'Well, is that not a bit elitist?'. Surely this was one of the problems in the church of Corinth? One was saying: 'Well, I'm better than you because I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos, I am of Christ' - is this not just engendering and breeding even more their elitism? Who are these perfect people? Is this a special spiritual superclass that is in the church of Corinth, those who are more spiritual than another? Well, if we look at the Greek word for 'perfect' here, it's the word 'telios' which has been translated in other places in our New Testament as the word 'complete'. Some translations translate it as 'mature', it came to mean 'a member', being fully initiated into some kind of an organisation or a group or a club. Really what it is saying is that this wisdom of God is for those who are spiritually mature, and it doesn't mean those who are more spiritual than the low Christians, but what Paul is actually saying is: those who have come to full spiritual life in Christ, those who have been inaugurated into the church of Jesus Christ and been given the life of God.
Remember last week that we saw that there are only two different classes of people, spiritually speaking, in this world. There are those who are saved and those who are lost. Those who are lost see the wisdom of God as foolishness, they don't understand it, it's ridiculous to them - whether they're Greeks or whether they're Romans - for the Jew it is a stumbling-block, for the Roman and the Greek it is foolishness that this One dying on a cross could bring redemption. So what has to take place is a supernatural act of grace whereby God's Holy Spirit changes the perception of a creature, so that what is previously foolishness to a man becomes the wisdom and the power of God. That is who Paul is talking about when he speaks of those who are perfect, of those who are mature - well then, why is he telling the Corinthians to do it if they're saved? Simply because they are not living up to their name. They ought to have been mature in their faith, not looking after the wisdom of this world, human wisdom which is foolishness unto God, they should be looking for divine wisdom because that is what they were saved through first of all - they ought to be mature Christians in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, in Galatians 1 and verse 4 reiterates that when he said: 'Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father'. It is God's will, and it was Christ's purpose in going to the cross, to deliver us from this present evil world - so how could anybody be said to be a mature Christian who is living in the world, hankering after the philosophies and the wisdom of man's human ability and aptitude? Paul is more or less saying: 'That's not what saved you, Corinthians, so why are you starting to look after man's wisdom now?'. Paul is saying that a worldly Christian, a worldly-wise Christian is foolishness of the highest order and extreme, and he's rebuking them for seeking human wisdom. In fact, what he does is he takes the terms that they themselves use in human wisdom and he redefines them. He uses the word 'wisdom', he's using now the word 'mature', he uses later the word 'mystery', the word 'secret' - he uses even the word 'spiritual' that they used of themselves to set themselves above other believers whether they were in the other camp or the other schism or the other faction.
Paul takes these words and he applies them to ordinary believers, to show them what true wisdom is. He was trying to teach them that wisdom is not acquired, the wisdom of God is not something that you climb up a ladder and you qualify to be given because you're something special as a believer, that you're a cut above the rest. It's not acquired, but the wisdom of God, he says, is revealed! It is something that is given to us by grace through faith in the Spirit of God. Well, you might think that that's obvious, you might even think that that's not what he's talking about here - but I want you to note the difference: in chapter 3, God willing, that we'll start to look at next week, he does talk about two types of Christians, and anybody familiar with the book of 1 Corinthians will know that he speaks of the carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian. But that is not the difference and the contrast he's making in chapter 2, don't fall into the mistake of thinking it's the same, but this is a contrast totally different for it is a contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian, the child of light and the child of darkness, the one who sees the Gospel as foolishness and the one who sees the Gospel as the power and the wisdom of God. That is the difference, and that is all the difference in the world, and that's why Paul says: 'Don't be running to the world as children of light to get wisdom, because God's wisdom is hidden from the world!'.
Isn't that enlightening? Especially for young people, to know that the worldview, whatever the world perspective on things: morality, immorality, or in our age amorality - whatever their perception is of God and faith and religion and the church, whether it changes from age to age it doesn't really matter: ultimately the worldview of our age contemporary to Paul, or our age contemporary to us, is opposed, diametrically opposed and different and other than everything that is divine truth and the revealed wisdom of God. You remember that! Always be careful what you hear espoused in the world, because most of the time it will be contrary to God's wisdom and God's Word. That's why it is foolishness to try and assimilate the world into the church, and try to bring the church up to speed with the way the world thinks.
Just to prove to you that this is what Paul is saying he gives a tremendous example of how these two wisdom systems are different, the human wisdom system of the world, and God's wisdom system of divine truth. He talks in verse 6 of the princes of this world, look at it: 'Yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought', or come to nothing. 'Princes', it's a word that simply means 'rulers', those who are powerful in our society: our political leaders, our Prime Minister, our Kings and Potentates. Now as you look at them, look at Tony Blair and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and President Bush, and you can go through them all - even members of Parliament, you tend to look at them and feel that they are important people, and it's right that we should do so because we're to respect the powers that are ordained of God. But we can look at them as items and idols of success, the epitome of what it is to be wise, what it is to get to the top echelons of society - but Paul is saying the opposite here, he says: 'No, princes and rulers, potentates and political leaders are not the epitome of wisdom'. They may be the epitome of human wisdom, but if they have rejected the Gospel they are foolish!
This wisdom, he says in verse 6, is not the wisdom of princes and potentates and political leaders. Now let me give a little bit of rebuke and encouragement to your mind here, because I feel that too often we look at the world and we judge them as the normal ones, don't we? It's as if we're looking into the world from outside, from Mars or outer space or something. Now we know we're all different, we know we're not the same as the hoy-polloy that are on their way to destruction, but we look in on them and we think they're normal in what they do, what they say, the way of life that they live - but it is the exact opposite! We need, in our minds as believers, to change our perspective and our worldview - they are not the elite ones, whether they're Prime Ministers or Kings, they are not the high-flyers! We're not the odd ones, we are the ones who are right with God! It is the opposite, you've got to turn it on its head - they're the ones to be pitied, they're the ones to feel sorry for! Whether they've got power or authority, or prestige or kudos, it doesn't matter because Paul is saying that without God it is all foolishness! Ultimately, in verse 6, he says that when Jesus Christ comes to this earth again, in His ultimate return when His feet stand upon the Mount of Olives, all of their earthly, human, wise achievements will come to nothing!
Well, that levels the playing field a bit doesn't it? We shouldn't envy those who are in the world, we shouldn't envy those who are in the high echelons of successful society. Why should we not? Chapter 1 and verse 25 is why we should not: because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. The foolishness of our God is greater than the position and prestige that they have been given, that only men can give to them! The weakness of our God is stronger than the power that even the great President of the States has with his little red button! You shouldn't envy them, at the same time we shouldn't be intimidated by them. Paul uses a metaphor for their immaturity, and he's almost saying: 'Look, you're like children in your hankering after wisdom. Your wise thoughts are like the little playing games of children, simplistic reasoning of a child'.
You see that this is a theme in this epistle. If you turn to chapter 13 Paul says of his own experience in this great chapter upon love, and in verse 11: 'When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things'. He wants the Corinthians to mature, to not hanker after the wisdom of men and human wisdom, but the wisdom of God - to grow up! If you don't think that's enough, if you turn to chapter 14 and verse 20 he spells it out categorically: 'Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children', in the wisdom of the world be children, 'but in understanding', the understanding and wisdom of God, 'be men'. Their trouble was they had imbibed and assimilated the world's philosophies in Corinth, and the way people lived and way people practised in their lives, all that they had to do, that they didn't know any longer where to find the true wisdom of God - they had become ignorant of it.
So Paul reiterates for them in verse 7: 'We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory'. This wisdom of God is not like human wisdom, but it is mysterious wisdom. It is the wisdom of the Gospel, it is a wisdom that is so mysterious that it's still hidden to unbelievers today. It is a wisdom that is so mysterious that in the Old Testament it was hidden, and it's only been revealed in the New Testament through our Lord Jesus Christ, and specifically in Paul's epistles. All the mysteries, look at the book of Ephesians, it's only revealed there - but there was a time when it was hidden, and it's still hidden to those who are in the camp of the foolish wisdom of this world.
When Jesus came He revealed that He would have to die on the cross, and three days later He would have to rise again - but no-one knew about that before He came, did they? In fact, in the counsels of God before He planned the creation week, it was there, according to this verse in verse 7, ordained before the world unto our glory. God had predestined in His eternal counsels before time began that this is the way it should be! Hidden before even creation was planned or made! These things are hard to understand, aren't they? But the fact of the matter is this: that this is above human understanding, and the wisdom of this world which is only temporal leads to destruction, but Paul is saying in verse 7 that the wisdom of God ultimately leads to life, eternal life, satisfaction. It leads unto our glory.
Paul brings a masterful illustration here to hammer this point home, and we're going to get it tonight no matter how long it takes us getting it. It's a perfect illustration because it comes, it's plucked straight out of the Gospel in the last week and the last days of the life of our Lord Jesus. Look at it in verse 8: 'Which none of the princes of this world knew', this wisdom of God, 'for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory'. None of the powerful rulers of Paul's day, none of the powerful rulers of our day - if they do not trust in Christ - have the wisdom of God. But it was exactly the same when the Lord Jesus Christ stood before Herod and Pilate, they did not have the wisdom of God. There they were at the pinnacle of society, they had as far as the naked eye could see everything that this world and money and pleasure could offer - but they didn't have the wisdom of God, because if they did they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!
Now what an illustration is that! Herod did not understand, Pilate did not know God's true wisdom. Why did they not know? If you look at chapter 1 and verse 23, the preaching of Christ crucified, that was standing before them ready to be crucified, to the Jews - Herod a Jew - it was a stumbling-block. 'How could He be Messiah, King of the Jews? I'm going to put Him to death! Cursed is anyone that hangs upon a tree, Deuteronomy says'. Pilate, the Roman, the Gentile: 'It's foolishness!'. He couldn't see any fault in this man, but foolishness to think that this man could reign as a King, He could die on a cross, He could rise again one day! They did not have the wisdom of God, and even though they had everything that human hands and philosophies and esteem and pride could pander to them, they did not have the wisdom of God.
Some commentators believe that when it talks about princes here that we could even interpret and go into the spiritual realm - and you know and I know both, that we would have to say that behind Pilate's hand and behind Herod's hand there was the hand of evil itself directing the affairs of the crucifixion. What God meant for good, we know and believe Satan meant for evil - but you can find times within the Gospels where the devil doesn't really know what he's doing, because one minute He's saying: 'Come down from the cross if you're the Christ', and the next minute he's trying to stop Him going to Calvary through Peter: 'Oh, You're not going to die, Lord - far be it from Thee! Put it out of Your mind!'. In one sense what it's saying here is that even the spiritual, demonic realm does not have the true sovereign wisdom of God.
That's a blessing to my heart, I can tell you that! For we attribute to the devil and to his hordes and demons, I believe, at times far far too much. Do you see what this passage is saying? Do you see what Paul's illustration from the crucifixion of Christ is really saying? We said it last week, you would nearly think to hear some Christians that if you really sought after wisdom and you became so intellectual and you tried to find out with your mind what true sincere truth really is, you would find God. That's not what the Bible teaches. Do you know what the Bible teaches? The exact opposite! If you use all the human wisdom that is available to you in this earth, not only will that lead you into foolishness, not only ultimately will it destroy your eternal soul, but it will lead you to the crucifixion of the Lord of glory - because that's what it led Herod and Pilate to! Isn't that astounding stuff? Do you see the impact of what Paul is saying? You Christians who have been saved by the Spirit of God and the grace of God, what are you doing now? You're running after the world for human wisdom - do you know what I'm telling you? When you run after the world for human wisdom, you're siding yourselves in the camp of the crucifiers!
Devastating, isn't he, to any seeking after worldly wisdom? That's why I say to you tonight, Christian, don't be intimidated by this world, don't be intimidated by their so-called wisdom - because wisdom without God leads the world to crucify the Lord of glory. And if He was here today they would crucify Him again, over and over again and again, because that's all the wisdom they have and that's all that their wisdom leads them to. You hear some of the wisest people in the world, it seems that when they go into University - some of them - and get to the highest pinnacles of learning in Oxford and Cambridge, I don't want to just pooh-pooh those universities, but in all their universities, the more men learn at times the more antagonistic and blasphemous they come before the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that not the case? Professing themselves to be wise they become absolute fools, and what it really betrays is, as it betrayed in the person of Pilate and the person of Herod, that the more of worldly wisdom and human esteem that you heap upon yourselves it proves that you've no wisdom at all!
Paul is laying down the law that human wisdom had no place in the church, for it is human wisdom that crucified the church's Lord - and if you crave human wisdom it places you among the company of those that crucified our Lord. Now you might say: 'Well, Paul wasn't there, how would he know?'. Well, apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we'll look at later, Paul experienced this in his own personal conversion. If you turn with me to 1 Timothy - we haven't got time to look at all the portions speaking of Paul before he was converted, but you know he was a Jew of the Jew, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, in the law he was blameless as far human beings can be spoken of. But in this chapter, 1 Timothy chapter 1 verses 12 and 13 he says: 'And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief'. All of his human wisdom, yes even his religious wisdom, did not lead him to the conclusion that Jesus was the Christ and God's salvation was by grace through faith, it led him to persecute the church in ignorance!
Paul knew what he was talking about here. Now let's ask the question for a moment: what are the apparatus of human wisdom? What are the faculties that men and women use to bring themselves human wisdom? Paul gives us it, verse 9, and let me say this is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted verses in the whole of Scripture. It has got absolutely nothing to do with heaven, nothing to do with the future or the eternal state, more it has got to do with today: what is the believer's today through the wisdom of God. Verse 9: 'It is written', he's quoting Isaiah, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard', back to Corinthians now, 'neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him'. What are the human faculties of learning? Eye, ear, and heart. That word 'heart' is the Greek word that also means the mind, we could say: eye, ear, and the mind - that is how men learn, the human faculties alone that they can bring wisdom to themselves. But Paul is saying that if that is all that they use they will never ever perceive the mysteries of God.
The scientist can use his eye and observe experiments and nature, but he will never just with his eye bring to him the wisdom of God. A philosopher can listen to arguments of men, philosophies of men, theories and hypothesis of men, but he will never just through listening or even through looking learn the wisdom of God. A mathematician can use his mind, a theologian can use his mind and even use the word of God with his mind, but that alone - to think with the mind - will never bring to him the wisdom of God. The senses alone that men use for human wisdom cannot perceive God's wisdom. Neither can a man know God externally. We have evidences of God in the lights of the sky, the stars, the trees, nature - but he can't really know God fully through nature. Nature will not save you, neither can man know God internally, although Romans tells us that God's law is written upon our hearts - we have something in us that is, if you like, on God's side, a conscience no matter how seared or buried it may be - but a conscience cannot save you!
Man cannot know God internally or externally, he cannot know Him objectively or subjectively, he can't know Him experientially with the eyes or with the ears, he can't even know Him rationally with his mind. The greatest two human resources that men have: experimental resources, rational resources, mean absolutely nothing in the sight of God! Isn't that astounding? Ultimately what it will turn out to mean if you seek after these things is that you will reject God's truth and turn against God's truth, and crucify the Lord of glory. I say to you again, I hope the message is getting through here, don't be intimidated by the wisdom of this world. Don't be frightened by what they say about God. I don't care whether it's Stephen Hawking, he talks about a Big Bang, and he's been the most famous man in this particular century perhaps for the fact that he seems to have found some kind of a scheme in his mind to explain it, hypothetically speaking - you can't prove it, it's only a theory. He believes he's denied the existence of a personal God. Einstein said that his discoveries and the discoveries of science have obliterated the idea of a personal God. They may believe in some kind of a force out there other than ourselves, but it's not a personal God that we can know, and we can love, and that we can be near and will ultimately save us.
Don't be worried about Charles Darwin. On Sunday nights I believe there's this programme going on, and it's the top 100 or so Britons. Darwin, I believe, is going to be right up there at the top of it, he's going to be up there. He's on our - is it our five pound note, or ten pound note? - he's on one of them. Don't be intimidated! This is the wisdom of men, this is wisdom divorced from God. What Paul is actually saying to the believers was: 'This is the wisdom that you're dividing over!'. You're on shaky ground to have your viewpoints adhering to men, to your dogmas devised from men, because God hides His wisdom from men. He hides His wisdom from those who are wise in their own eyes, He frustrates men's wisdom, He confounds men's wisdom, He pulls down men's imaginations that exalt themselves against God!
I'm glad I'm on God's side, I can tell you that - are you not? If you turn to Matthew chapter 11 we find that Paul is only saying what the Lord Jesus spoke of. You remember He upbraided the cities where most of His mighty miracles were done, Chorazin and Bethsaida. He said that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than it would be for them. They were so puffed up in their knowledge, they believed that heaven had come down to dwell with them - but the Lord actually said that they were practically in hell because of their rejection of the Messiah. But do you notice what He says as He lifts His eyes to heaven in verse 25: 'At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes'. It seemed good in God's sight that that is the way things should be done.
If you turn to chapter 13, now this is very perplexing but this is the truth of God and we must accept it, in verse 10 he says: 'And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand'. The Pharisees and the Scribes, men and women that were listening to Jesus' words, seeing His great miracles, were only using the faculties that they had of human wisdom - the eyes to see with, the ears to hear with, and the mind to think with, but it was not God's wisdom and that was proved in them concluding the gospel of Christ as what? Foolishness.
Dr William Ostler visited, as it was in that day, a very modern and new hospital in the city of London. The staff were proudly showing him around all the new equipment and beds in every part of the building, and Dr Ostler picked up some of the patients charts detailing all their conditions. He noticed on the charts a system of abbreviations, and one of them was 'SF', scarlet fever; another one was 'TB', tuberculosis; and 'D', for diphtheria; and so on and so forth they went on in their abbreviations. But finally he saw these initials: 'GOK', and they were all over these charts - 'GOK', and he didn't understand what it was. He was a great doctor himself, and so when he got an opportunity he turned to one of younger doctors and he said: 'Doctor I say that you've a sweeping epidemic of GOK in this hospital, because it's written all over the charts. I'm unfamiliar with this term or what it means, can you tell me - what is 'GOK', G-O-K?'. The young doctor says: 'Well, when we can't diagnose what a disease is, we just say 'God Only Knows, and we put 'GOK''. 'GOK', God Only Knows.
My friend, listen, if our nation and our people could get a good dose and epidemic of 'GOK', that God only knows, it would do them all a world of good - because man needs to admit that he doesn't know anything without God! Well, it poses a fundamental question to us: well then, how can we know God? If you can't know God with your eyes or your ears, or with your mind, if you can't bring yourself to God in any way through human understanding or learning or intellect, how can we really know God? It must be impossible! Well, if it were left entirely up to yourselves, yes it would be impossible - but hallelujah, in verse 10 of our passage it says this, I love this word 'but' - don't you? Right through the Scriptures? - 'But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit'.
God's wisdom, is our second point, is revealed by the Spirit. You see, maturity cannot be found by human wisdom because salvation is not found by human wisdom. These Corinthians started off in the Spirit of God being saved, and they were trying to mature in their Christian faith through human wisdom and it wasn't possible because they weren't saved by that in the first instance. But not only is it impossible to be mature and to be saved through human wisdom, it's not necessary! Because God hath revealed unto us by His Spirit the wisdom of His own heart, and man cannot come to God on his own, but - praise God - God has come to man! The Spirit of God has invaded the world, the territory of man. The Spirit of God has saturated this world with the gospel of God and the knowledge of Christ, and has shown God to men!
This is tremendous, isn't it? You wouldn't think it to look at some of you, but I think it's tremendous! Now how has God revealed this through His Spirit? Well there's three things in these verses that we have to notice. Verses 10 and 11, through revelation. Look at verse 10: 'God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God' - but it's that wee word 'revealed', you could circle that. 'Revealed', where we get 'revelation' from - and that is what the Bible is. The Bible is God's revelation, and notice that it says the Spirit searcheth all things - Psalm 131 tells us that: you can't escape the Spirit of God, the presence of God. He knows everything, He is everywhere, He can absolutely delve into all things and all people's minds and the dark places, the chambers where polluted things hold empire o'er the soul - He knows! But not only can He delve into all things in this universe, He can plumb and fathom the depths of the deepness of the mind of God! That's amazing! The deep things of God are known by the Spirit.
It's hardly surprising when He is God Himself, how anybody can argue that the Holy Spirit is not God - He's some kind of fluid or influence - He knows all things because He shares divine omnipotence with God the Father and God the Son. I was thinking today how much I know of God, or how much we know of God, I imagine it's definitely less than 1% - wouldn't you agree with me? One per cent - probably 0.0000...whatever% - I don't know if you could even put it in percentages, but everything is known by the Spirit of God - everything! There is not a thing about God that is God that He doesn't know, and therefore, Paul is saying, He is a reliable source of human insight into God's wisdom. If you want to know about God go to the Spirit of God who is our Teacher.
To support the assertion he uses the analogy of the illustration of our own spirit. He says the Holy Spirit is a bit like your own spirit, what does he mean? Well, I can't read what you're thinking - maybe it's: 'When's this guy going to finish, he's always going on too long and never gets through his sermons' - I don't know what it is, but I can't read what your thoughts are and you can't read what my thoughts are. But my own spirit knows exactly what my thoughts are, and what Paul is saying here is that you can't peer into the mind of divinity with your own futility, you can't do it! But there is One who, like your own spirit knows your thoughts, the Spirit of God knows God's thoughts, and the Spirit of God is able to reveal God's thoughts unto us. That is what revelation is, the Spirit of God is the Godhead's agent of transmission and communication. The first step in that communication of His truth and wisdom is revelation, it is the Bible.
Isn't it true? The Holy Spirit is the Author of the word of God, isn't He? He has inspired these pages, He has given us the word of God, and that's why He knows what the mind of God really is. He used human agents, He used the apostle Paul, and James, and He used other writers in the Old Testament, the prophets, all sorts of men and apostles and prophets to write the word of God - and although it was human men writing with human words, it is still the pure word of God! It is a revelation of God from God! Now how could the Corinthians be proud of their own wisdom when they had been given the wisdom of God from the hand of God, and it is the word of God? Oh, that these men could get this, oh that we could get this in our day: wisdom is not acquired, wisdom is revealed. Do you see the difference?
It's revealed by revelation, secondly it's revealed through inspiration - verses 12 to 13: 'Now we have received' - there's the word. 'Revealed' in verse 10, there's the word you need to circle: we have received through inspiration. How the Bible came - how did we get this revelation? Well, it came through inspiration. This is the process of communication, the communication is the Bible, the revelation - but the process of how we got the revelation is inspiration. This wisdom cannot be discovered, you can't dig in some spot with an 'X' on it on a treasure map and find the wisdom of God. You can't acquire it, neither can you discover it, it can only be received - it can only be given and received.
Now if something is received it must be given, and we find it the end of this verse: 'we might know the things that are freely given to us'. Isn't that wonderful? We can receive the word of God and the wisdom of God, why? Because it has been freely given unto us. It was given unto the apostles, the apostles and New Testament writers wrote these things down so that we have God's revelation - and praise God's name, they didn't write down their own ideas and their own interpretations, but they wrote down what God gave them, and that is why scripture - all scripture - is given by inspiration of God, all of it!
There's so much misunderstanding about the word of God today, especially in theology. Liberal theologians and even neo-orthodox theologians are now saying: 'Well, the Bible contains the word of God'. 'It contains', notice the subtle difference - 'Well, we don't know that every bit of it is the word of God, but the word of God is in there somewhere!'. It doesn't contain the word of God, it is the word of God! Every word of it is the word of God, not some kind of subjective thing, but everything they wrote. Remember what the Lord Jesus said to the devil went he tempted Him? 'Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word, every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'. That's why he nails it here in verse 13: 'Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth', not in their words. God didn't communicate divine ideas to men and they wrote it down in their own words - no! God communicated divine thoughts, and those thoughts were transmitted through divine words. There's a difference, and you must note the difference: God gave God's word in His own words.
We believe in verbal inspiration - we don't believe in it - we believe in verbal plenary inspiration - look at your basis of belief - which means not only that this is the word of God inspired of God, but every word is inspired of God, and even the very order of the words, in the original languages now, is inspired of God! We're not talking about translations, sure it's different in every single language where there is a translation! But in the original scriptures written by the apostles delivered unto the saints every word was from God.
Revelation through inspiration, but it's necessary, if we're to understand it, to have illumination - and that's how God's wisdom is communicated to us today. Verse 14: 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ'. I wish we had time, but did you know it's possible to read the word of God and not understand it? Remember the eunuch? Philip said: 'Understandest thou what thou readest?' - he didn't understand it, Isaiah 53. It's no surprise that you still don't understand it today, because they have eyes to see but they see not, they have ears to hear but they hear not, they have minds to think but they think not.
This isn't human wisdom, this is divine. In John chapter 5 we find there that the Lord Jesus said that the Scriptures were where the Pharisees would learn of Him, but they were experts in the Scriptures and they couldn't see Him. Now you explain that! We need illumination to understand the word of God, that's why theologians who are liberal and churchmen and cultists don't accept it, it doesn't make sense to them - yet the fact is that because men do not believe the word of God, because they believe the Gospel is foolishness, they are confirming themselves in the realm of the natural not the spiritual! Because they are natural they cannot appraise or appreciate or discern the wisdom of God - that's why it's dangerous to listen to natural men, no matter how clever they are, because we need God's illumination.
I love McCheyne, and on his daily reading notes - I don't use them now, but I used to - he used to quote Psalm 119 and verse 18, what is it? 'Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things in thy law'. We need God to open our eyes. He has given the revelation, it's by inspiration, but we need illumination - and there were a few people who were inspired of God to write the word of God as we have it, but Paul is saying all men who have the spirit of God and who are in Christ can see the illumination of God. We don't need a modern discovery, we don't need a special man to interpret it, we don't need an organisation - no church, or cult, or movement has an exclusive right to the pages of this book, or authority exclusively to interpret this book. There's no special mystical key or experience that men need to have, they just need to have the Spirit of God - it's not a private interpretation!
Well, we must finish tonight, but let me say this: I believe that even for a man to be saved he needs to be illumined of God. Don't think I'm on a hyper-Calvinistic bandwagon here tonight, because I'm not. Even old Wesley believed that, and he was an Armenian if ever there was one: 'Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I awoke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed Thee'. Don't let that frustrate you - can I just say before I close, don't let it annoy you or confuse you, it's a different perspective altogether. The Father's perspective of my salvation is that He chose me in Christ before the world began, that's His perspective. The Son's perspective is that I was saved at Calvary where He shed His precious blood, and rose again the third day. The Spirit's perspective is when He convicted me and then He regenerated me, He saved me there and then at that moment. What's my perspective? When I heard the Gospel and I believed it, that's when I was saved! When is it? Do you know what the answer is? It is an eternal salvation, and it's not finished yet.
That's the wisdom of God and men can't understand it unless they can understand the mystery, because God's wisdom is received by the regenerate. I have to finish, the question is asked: who knows the mind of God? Do you know what the answer, I believe, to that question is? Humans don't know the mind of God, but how does Paul end? 'We have the mind of Christ', do you know what that word for 'mind' is? 'Nouse' (sp?) - did you ever hear the slang 'nouse'? Do you know where else it's used? In Luke 24 and verse 45 where it says of the two on the road to Emmaus, that Christ drew beside them and opened up their 'nouse' that they might understand the Scriptures.
We had in this chapter the teaching of the Gospel, its agency and propagation, its preaching, its instrument of understanding, its revelation - and it reveals God to man, and man to himself, and the crux of it is the cross. Apart from this Gospel there is no message or meaning to life, and apart from the cross there is no meaning to the Gospel - and I say in conclusion to all these two chapters: God forbid that we should glory in anything except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "God's Wisdom Understood" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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