Isn’t it fun to read titles after people’s names? — John Q. Public, Ph.D; Jane Doe, D.D.’ James Smith, D.O.; Mary Jones, M.D. I know you have probably heard what one speaker had to say about these initials: “The letters after a person’s name are like the curly little tail on a pig. It may be cute, but it means nothing.” I’m sure those who have gone to graduate school and invested years of their lives and thousands of their dollars in the pursuit of higher degrees might argue with that assessment. But, the truth is, the letter mean nothing if the person isn’t able to produce!
I believe in education. I encourage everyone to seek after knowledge. I have a Masters Degree and wish I had gone after my doctorate. I’ve been involved in the education process for Ministerial Studies—teaching some classes, serving as Director of our School of Ministry. I’m presently serving as Chairman of our district’s Ministerial Studies Board. I believe we should all always be students—students of life, students of relationships, students of Creation, students of God’s Word. Whenever we stop pursuing knowledge and wisdom, we begin to die. Oscar Wilde once said, “I am not young enough to know everything!” Only the young and foolish believe they know it all. A mark of a learned person is, the more he or she learns, the more he or she realizes how little he or she knows!
In our Wednesday evening Bible Study we are working our way through the Epistle of James. And one of the recurring themes in James concerns Wisdom. In our lesson this past week we read the phrase, “The Wisdom that comes from heaven…” (James 3:17). And that is a theme that we find in our passage today in the writings of Paul.
1 Corinthians 2:1-10
We know that Paul was a very intelligent person. In our day and age there is no doubt that he would have been called “Dr. Paul.” Every seminary in the land would offer to reward him an honorary doctorate degree. And he probably would have several earned graduate degrees under his belt, as well. We know that even as a young man he stood with the intellectuals of his day. He had the finest education of his day—he had studied at the feet of Gamaliel, a renowned Jewish Rabbi. That would be equivalent to saying, “I’ve completed my studies at Harvard or Yale or Princeton or Vanderbilt, or any other high-brow school you could name.” A study of the writings of Paul in the New Testament reveal that he had a superior grasp of the Greek language, was well acquainted with the secular philosophies, and had a highly disciplined mind capable of sophisticated thought in highly technical subjects. We know that he spoke to high-ranking government officials, reasoned with the Greek philosophers, and was used of God to cause kings and Roman officials alike to tremble as he reasoned of sin and righteousness and judgment to come.
Yet for all that, Paul emphasizes a principle that he first introduced in chapter 1:23 where he stated, “But we preach Christ crucified…” Now he continues this thought: 1 Corinthians 2:1-3 says, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
In the early days of our country, the Puritans were very strict in their religious practices—they frowned on too much humor and they encouraged their people to wear drab colors. And they even frowned on too much emotionalism in the preaching of sermons. Their influence was seen on some of our great leaders in those formative years of our nation. Somewhere I read that the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards, one of the foremost theologians and leaders in the Great Awakening that swept our nation in its early years, read all his sermons in a monotone voice, careful not to make eye contact with the congregation, so that everyone would focus on the message of the sermon and not upon the personality of the preacher. And it was while he was reading in a monotone one of his sermons that the Holy Spirit moved upon the people in a powerful way that caused sinners to be terrified at their sins and to cry out to God for mercy, and so stirred up a revival that moved out into the streets and swept the nation!
Is this what Paul meant? Did he preach in monotone? Did he read all his sermons? I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that he meant that the conversions and victories in Corinth were God initiated, not man manipulated! He takes this whole chapter to underscore that any true growth in the church, and, for that matter, any true growth in the individual, must be God induced and God sustained!
It is not our degrees that matter. It is not even our own intelligence. It is God’s Wisdom working in us that makes all the difference!
In chapter two Paul is still laying the foundation for addressing the problems in the Corinthian church. He says that there is a wisdom that is different from the type of wisdom the world generally recognizes. It is this wisdom that must be the guide in all that follows. Let’s consider some of the implications of his message today:
I. THIS WISDOM IMPLIES THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD MUST BE MORE THAN INTELLECTUAL—IT MUST BE EXPERIENTIAL.
a. Verse 4 says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
b. I’ve been in church services where God’s Presence and Blessing was so powerful, and I’ve heard people testify in such settings and say things like, “It’s better felt than tel’t.” That’s a wonderful experience—to feel God so close and to bathe in His love!
c. Let’s think about the difference between intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. When our children were very small we told them such things as, “Don’t touch—it will burn!” or “Be careful—the dog will bite!” And our children intellectually began to associate certain warnings with certain objects. But, most likely, the child would reach up sometime and touch the hot stove, or be snapped at by the growling dog. And when they experienced firsthand the sensory shock to their little systems, then their intellectual understanding suddenly was grounded in an experiential understanding. You can talk about hot ’til you are blue in the face, but one good burn gets the message across!And we’ve learned in the church that an experiential knowledge of Missions will transform people in a way that mere intellectual knowledge never could. Those who have gone on Work and Witness Mission Trips and have seen firsthand the poverty or the cultural obstacles, and have worked hand in hand, side by side, with the residents in those mission settings, have an experiential knowledge that they could never have by just reading a book! And this understanding has powerfully impacted the way we do missions in our denomination!It’s the same with most everything in life—love, tragedy, sorrow, joy, victory—We can read about these things, study their effects on others, but, until we experience these things ourselves we will never understand them!
d. And that’s the way it is with God. Yes, we must consider the facts and explore the evidence, but until we actually have a personal encounter with God, we will never really be convinced! It has been said of our children that a parent’s values “are better caught than taught!” Of course, there must be both, but we must never forget the importance of the experiential side of Christianity. I’ve tried to stress throughout my ministry the importance of this experiential nature of Christianity with the reminder that Christianity isn’t just about adherence to rules and creeds; It’s about entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ! Come see His miracles! Come feel His love! Come experience His forgiveness and cleansing! There’s no substitute for the experience of knowing Jesus Christ personally!
II. THIS WISDOM MUST NOT BE JUST SELF-TAUGHT—IT MUST BE SPIRIT-TAUGHT!
a. Verse 12 says, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
b. This wisdom is not just a worked-up emotional condition. I believe in emotions. God created us as emotional beings. I can cry at the tearjerker movies with the best of them! And I like getting my emotions stirred up in church services. I have found that walking with God is the most exciting, the most thrilling, the most joyful experience in all the world. But I do not like it when people try to manipulate me to buy something or to do something by just yanking on my heartstrings! God’s wisdom comes not by just appealing to our emotions. It comes through Self-revelation through His Spirit.
c. As good as human intellect may be, as powerful as human emotions are, the things of God are out of reach from merely the human perspective. Verse 9 says, “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”
d. Have you ever heard someone say, “Before I became a Christian I tried to read the Bible, but it just didn’t make sense to me? But after I became a Christian, I find that what didn’t make sense before suddenly makes a lot of sense!” What made the difference? I can tell you, the Holy Spirit makes all the difference in the world. He is the Spirit of Truth who instructs us, opens our minds and grants us understanding. And until we have the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we can never grasp fully the Mind of God as revealed in His Word!Verse 11 says, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Our knowledge of God, our possession of any spiritual Wisdom, can only come through the instruction of the Holy Spirit of God! He quickens our Spirit and guides us to all truth.
III. THIS WISDOM DOES NOT STOP WITH SALVATION—IT CONTINUES TO TAKE US DEEPER INTO THE MIND OF GOD.
a. Verses 6 & 7 say, “We do, however, speak a message among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.”
b. The word translated in the NIV as “Mature” and in the KJV as “Perfect” comes from the Greek root word “Telos.” It means, “To be fulfilled or completed.” It carries the idea of “Fulfilling the purpose for which it was made.” So, when Paul says, “We speak a message among the mature,” he means that he has a message for those who have already given their hearts and lives to Christ, have been redeemed and saved, and are now living for Him as God intended. You see, Wisdom doesn’t end with getting saved—that is when it begins. The Christian walk is an adventure of always going deeper into the MInd of Christ, discovering the riches of His Wisdom. He is an infinite God and there is no end to the depths of His Mercy and His knowledge!
c. There used to be a commercial for one of the high speed Internet carriers that showed a guy surfing the ‘net. The computer says to him, “You have reached the end, you have completed the search.” He goes in and sits down and his wife says to him, “I thought you were surfing the net.” And he says, “I’ve finished!” The reason that was funny because everyone knows there is no definable end to the Internet. It is already too complex and far-reaching for anyone to fully search everything that is on the Internet.And that’s the way it is with God, only infinitely more so! No matter how much you know about God, there is more to know. No matter how much you experience Him there is more of Him to experience. No matter how deep you search His understanding you’ve only scratched the surface!
d. And so, when we face the problems of life, problems like the Corinthians were facing, we don’t have to just apply our human wisdom to finding a solution. Human wisdom is too limited. But as Christians, we have access to the infinite Mind of God through His Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Verse 16 says, “For who has known the Mind of the Lord that he may instruct him! But we have the mind of Christ.”It is this possession of the Mind of Christ that authorizes Paul to address the problems of the Corinthians. And it is this possession of the Mind of Christ that makes the problems of the church and of our selves solvable! When our wisdom fails, God’s Wisdom has barely begun!
So what does this Wisdom mean to us?
1. Don’t be content to just know about God. Seek to know Him intimately—to experience His Presence and Power working in your life.
2. Don’t think you have arrived—that you are so mature that there is nothing else to learn, nothing else that God can teach you. God takes the simple things of this world to confound the wise, and of His Wisdom there is no limit!
3. When you face the normal problems of life, don’t neglect the prayer for guidance. Our human wisdom will fail us. Our limited knowledge may lead us astray. Always seek God’s Will. Try the spirit to make sure it is of God. But walk in the Spirit, keep step in the Spirit. Do not quench or grieve the Spirit, but be filled with His Spirit.
What is His Spirit saying to you this morning? Is He pointing to some sin in your life? Confess it and be forgiven and cleansed.
Is He pointing to a weakness in your witness? Bring it to Him and let Him strengthen you.
Is He calling you to a special task? Be obedient to Him. “Yes, Lord, Yes—to Your will and to Your Way!”
Is He trying to teach you something new? Keep a humble and teachable spirit.
Let God’s Spirit bring His Wisdom to bear on your life this morning. Let Him have His Way with you!