- Series: Each ... All ... Every
- Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
1 Corinthians 2:6 – 16
God’s Spirit at work in Us
We’re not good at not understanding!
You will have seen in the news in the last couple of weeks, that the Voyager 2 space craft has passed out of the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles that radiate out from our sun, and it’s now moving through inter-stellar space at about 54,000 kilometres an hour.
It’s only the second man-made object to leave our little corner of the universe. The first object to boldly go where no craft has gone before, was its twin, Voyager 1, which crossed into inter-stellar space back in 2012.
Now, I feel a certain degree of affection for Voyager 2, because it was launched in 1977, which is the year I was born.
I’ve always found that interesting!
Two things coming into existence in the same year, one of which has achieved great things for human knowledge and understanding, the other is a space-craft hurtling through the universe!
No, I’m just kidding!
But you might have heard, that what both Voyager one, and Voyager 2 encountered at the edge of the heliosphere, is, as the New York Times put it, what “no one expected, and no one can yet explain.”
It seems the data that’s coming back about that’s out there, is the exact opposite of what the scientists anticipated!
And it was interesting to see how these researchers, some of them, the most senior people in their field in the world, how they struggled, and reacted against the fact, that here was something they didn’t understand and couldn’t make sense of.
Some of them tried to explain away the fact that they couldn’t figure it out
Some though, rather reluctantly admitted, “The truth is, we do not understand. This is beyond us.”
Now, aren’t we all, a bit like that at some point?
We’re not good at accepting that we don’t understand things.
We don’t like being told that something is beyond our comprehension!
Lots of us will be able to remember, being told as a child, “You’re too young, you won’t understand.”
And we don’t like that.
Being told that something is beyond our understanding rubs us the wrong way
There are two types of wisdom (v 6 – 7)
And yet the Apostle Paul says here in this letter to the Christians in Corinth, that the message he preaches;
That is, the message that he’d taught the Corinthians when he was with them
The message that we know as the good news of Jesus, the gospel, the Christian message,
It’s a kind of wisdom,
But a kind of wisdom that some people don’t understand, and because of how they like to look at the world, they can’t understand.
Look at verse 7, we declare God’s wisdom
But verse 8, None of the rulers of this age understood it
There are 2 different types of wisdom,
The wisdom of our age: “Think like you’re told to”
The wisdom of this age, verse 6 is all about thinking in the way that society wants us to
Valuing the things the world values
Believing what we’re told to believe.
So, “You can be whatever you want to be
No one can tell you what to do
You can do no wrong, as long as you’re true to yourself.”
That’s the wisdom of this age.
Of course one difficulty with the wisdom of this age is that it changes. You’ve got to try and keep up!
We spent the better part of the last 2 decades being told that there is no such thing as absolute truth. “You have our truth I have mine. They can be completely contradictory and that’s OK”, said the wisdom of our age.
To the point that in 2016 the Oxford Dictionary even identified “post-truth” as the word of the year, summing up the wisdom of our age! Trust doesn’t matter!
But now the biggest insult you can level at someone is to say their message is “fake news” as if objective truth matters again!
We were told all along what to believe and what to value, now we’re being told something different!
But that’s the wisdom of this age
And to people who operate with the wisdom of our age, and who assess things according to the priorities and values of our age, the message of the cross, the message of a crucified saviour is foolishness.
The good news of Christianity what we long for people we know, and people in our region to understand
The message that we’re working to give each person in all the Mount Barker region, every opportunity to respond to,
The message of a God who breaks into the world that he made, in the person of Jesus, and stands in the place of his creatures who have rebelled against him
Taking the penalty that they deserve for that rebellion
That message appears foolish if you look at it through the lens of the wisdom of our age that says “I’m great, I’m wonderful, I can be anything I want to be.”
Plenty of my friends think I’m crazy, for trusting in Jesus’ death for a right relationship with God.
And if you’re a Christian, which probably most of us are, maybe you’ve wondered, “Am I being unwise, to believe this?”
Or maybe you’re not a Christian, you’re looking in, kind of from the outside, maybe you think yes!
“What on earth are these people doing?
“Any wise person can tell you this is nonsense, trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and relationship with God.”
The wisdom of God: His great rescue plan
But Paul wants us to know that the message of Jesus, is far from foolish.
See verse 6, We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature,, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing., 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden, and that God destined for our glory before time began
See, Paul’s point is not, “Well, yes, the message of Jesus is foolish but believe it anyway, maybe just in case.”
You know, people who say, “I know the horoscopes are not true, but I still read it every morning! Still keep my eyes out for that tall, dark stranger I might meet!”
No, we want to acknowledge that the gospel of Jesus appears foolish to some people, maybe even some here today, but we also want to say “that’s not the reality.”
In fact, the message of Jesus crucified for our rebellion against God, dead, and risen
That message is wisdom.
God’s great rescue plan;, sending Jesus into the world, God considers that the ultimate display of his wisdom.
“Wisdom” is not really a characteristic that we tend to talk up in ourselves much. You know, you meet someone, “tell me about yourself”
“Well, my name’s Clayton, I’m very wise”!
We don’t operate like that much! But if there was a moment in your life you could point to
Something that you have done, or something that you could do, to demonstrate your wisdom
Communicate your wisdom;, what you value
How you look at things
How you think
I wonder what it might be, what you might point to.
Sending Jesus to die in the place of people like us, because of our rebellion against God and rejection of him,
God thinks, that’s the clearest display of his wisdom.
If you want to understand how God looks at the world
How God thinks of the world
What God values
Then it’s to the cross of Jesus, that you need to look.
And there’s plenty of people here in this church who can help you do that, and there’s coloured booklets on the Info Desk that you can take for free, to help you think about that.
But as Voyager highlighted for us, we don’t like being told that we don’t understand something
And so you can imagine, those people Paul refers to in verse 6, the rulers of this age, not necessarily political rulers, but those who lead the philosophical outlook of the age,
Remember last week, we thought about the Q & A panel
This is any group of people who like to think of themselves as opinion-makers and shapers
The term these days would be “social influencers” wouldn’t it?!
And you can imagine some of them, kind of spluttering, protesting, if your question to the Q & A panel was “excuse me, why don’t you follow God’s wisdom?”
Some of them would write you off immediately, “That’s nonsense, foolishness”, we’ve seen that.
But actually some would say, “No, no, we do follow God’s wisdom
We understand what God wants
Jesus said lots of great things
We want people to be like Jesus
We understand all of that, thank you very much.”
So you know there’s a new TV show called “God Friended Me.” God friends this guy on Facebook, and then he suggests other people the bloke should meet.
And lots of people think “that’s what God is like;
Just kind of sits in the background, but I know he’s there and that’s all that matters.”
But here we see the proof that worldly wisdom cannot understand the wisdom of God.
Because it was popular opinion
Human religious efforts,
People who thought they had God exactly where they wanted him,
Who crucified Jesus.
Verse 8, None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
Look at Jesus the way the world around looks at Jesus, and you’re thinking just like the people who killed him.
So if you want to work out whether you understand the wisdom of God
Do you look at the world the way God does?
Ask yourself, “What do I see, when I look at the cross of Christ?
Is it the most significant event in human history,
The great bridging of the divide between humanity and God
The place where God’s wisdom is displayed most clearly,
Or do I see it as some insignificant moment in history?
An obscure religious leader coming to an untimely end?
That right there will show you, whether you understand God’s wisdom.
God’s wisdom is beyond our reach (v 8 – 9)
And it shouldn’t surprise us that people don’t understand the wisdom of God, because left to ourselves, God’s wisdom is beyond our reach.
Verse 7 again, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began
A little while ago I started reading the Sherlock Holmes books.
And each story, I tried to figure out the mystery, before, Sherlock announces it!
And I figured I could piece together the evidence, pay attention to the details, and be able to solve it.
Which is precisely not what happened!
I don’t think there was a single mystery that I figured out!
Turns out it’s not elementary!
To call God’s wisdom a mystery, is not to say it’s something, that we can figure out if we pay careful enough attention,
Piece the clues together.
When this mystery language is used in the New Testament, it means something that is completely beyond our ability to comprehend, and the only way for us to understand it, is for it to be revealed to us.
Mystery in the New Testament is not like a mystery for Sherlock, which he can figure out!
It’s like the mystery for me, that I have no hope of figuring out, and I need someone to explain it to me.
So most of the time in the New Testament, the word mystery is accompanied by a word like proclaimed
Or made known
God’s wisdom is beyond our reach, but it’s not that with a little persistence, some practice and some discipline, we will be able to reach it.
God’s wisdom is entirely out of reach of the person who operates just according to the wisdom of the world
The message of forgiveness, reconciliation, salvation, through Jesus’ death on the cross, cannot be understood, through human wisdom and human efforts.
And Paul drives home his point by quoting from Isaiah 64 and 65, “What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him
God’s wisdom, the good news of the cross of Jesus doesn’t remain forever beyond our reach.
That quote was originally written in the 8th century BC
And it says that what had been, in the past, hidden from people, unattainable, is now revealed.
Revealed to the mature, verse 6
To those who no longer operate according to the wisdom of this age
But howhas that change taken place?
Well, as we see there, these good things God has prepared for those who love him, these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit of God makes the thoughts of God known. (v 10 – 13)
How can we know the mystery of God, the wisdom of God?
Well, not by human effort
Not through the popular view of God, we’ve seen that!
No, the only way to understand the message of the cross, is through the work of the Spirit of God in us.
Have a look from the middle of verse 10, The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
In the 5th Century BC there was a Greek philosopher by the name of Empedocles, who’s most famous today as the guy who first listed the 4 classical elements;, earth, water, wind, fire.
But more usefully perhaps, he also stated the principle that
“Like is known by like.”
You can only understand things that are similar to you.
Us, slightly less eloquent Australians, would probably translate it “It takes one to know one”!
Well Paul uses that truism, “it takes one to know one”, to show that the only way that someone can understand what God has achieved for us in the cross of Christ, is through God himself, making those things known.
That’s the role of the Spirit of God, and that’s what people in our region need, if they’re to come to faith in Jesus.
That’s how they’ll understand the message of the cross.
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
I don’t know whether you saw in the news last year that a South Korean company claimed to have discovered a shipwreck containing 176 billion dollars worth of gold.
And they want to send divers down, and bring up these treasures.
Until someone pointed out that under Korean law, to get a permit to bring up treasure from a shipwreck, you have to first pay, 10 percent of the estimated value! Which would be a 17 billion dollar permit!
They revised their value down by 99.999 percent in order to afford their permit!
God’s Spirit is pictured here, like a diver, delving into the depths of God’s thoughts, and bringing back those treasures for us.
We can’t access those deep things, but the Spirit searches, the deep things of God and brings them to us.
Understanding the thoughts of God who is completely different to us, and completely beyond us, that’s impossible.
Like is known by like
It takes one to know one.
If our friends and family,
The people in our region, if they are to understand who God is and what he’s done for them,
They need God to make himself known.
Why are we praying for the people whose names we’ve written on our 5 Friends 5 Ways cards?
Why isn’t our starting point just to talk to them
To tell them about Jesus?
Because our friends will only come to understand the good news of Jesus, if God makes himself known to them by his Spirit.
Many of you will know that I prefer online shopping to actual shopping, where you have to drive, and park, and queue, and all that!
And it’s got to the point now that if my kids see my looking at my phone, they’ll just say, “Dad’s looking for bargains!”
But I was reading about these robotic vacuum cleaners.
You may have seen them, you may have one,
A little round thing that scoots all over your house, guided by lasers and satellites, and secret military technology.
And I saw a review by one lady, who was quite frail, and she commented how great her vacuum cleaner was, because it searches out the dust under the couch, behind the desk, and in all these places, that she had no hope of ever searching out herself.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God
That is, the spirit gets to the place, that we have no hope of ever reaching on our own.
We can’t know the mind of God
It takes one to know one!
We spend our lives running from God
We’re born thinking we’d be better off if God stayed out of the way, and kept his opinions to himself thank you very much,
How are we,
How are our friends, the people in our region who are just the same as us, ever going to get to a point where God’s wisdom makes sense?
Where they want to respond to Jesus, as we really long for them to?
Only if God makes himself known,
Only if God works within someone.
The Spirit is God, not just some lackey sent by God. This is God himself at work in people.
And we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God,, so that we may understand what God has freely given us
Have you ever been given a gift, and you really don’t know what it is until the person giving it to you explains it?
You can’t quite work out if it’s a handkerchief, or socks, or a tie, and it’s actually a picnic blanket!
Well, God offers us a great gift in Jesus, but we’re so busy running from him that we don’t understand what he’s given us, until he tells us.
The death of Jesus is our place is what achieves forgiveness and relationship, but in order for someone to come to a saving knowledge of God, they have to hear the message of that great sacrifice, and God has to be at work in them so they can respond.
so that we may understand what God has freely given us
You might know that there’s not a professor in any history or classics department, in any reputable university in the world, who disputes the events of the life and death of Jesus as recorded in the Bible.
In fact among those who research history, the New Testament is considered the gold standard. If you really want to know what happened in those parts of the world in the first century AD, they’ll tell you the first place to look is the Bible.
But for these academics, simply knowing the facts, the eye-witness testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection, being convinced of them, actually building their career and livelihood on them, doesn’t mean these men and women understand the cross of Christ as the demonstration of the wisdom of God
Doesn’t mean they see in Jesus’ suffering and death, a great act of love from a holy God to a rebellious people.
People will only understand the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God
They’ll only see it as God’s rescue offer to them, if the Spirit of God is at work in them.
When we want our friends and family to come to know Jesus, when we make our plans and strategies to give each person in all the Mount Barker region every opportunity to respond to him, we need to be praying that God’s Spirit will be at work, or all our plans will come to nothing.
It takes one to know one.
To know God, you need the Spirit of God.
The Spirit reveals the wisdom of God through our gospel message (v 13)
And so in the last few verses, we see where our efforts fit in people coming to understand God’s wisdom.
We’ve seen that our friends and family, people in our region, or maybe you, if you’re trying to find out about Jesus
People need to experience the work of the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God works through the message of the gospel.
This is what we speak, Paul says, verse 13, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit,, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words
How will the Spirit of God communicate the thoughts of God to people?
Well, through Spirit-taught words,
Through words that come from God himself.
And that all sounds fair enough.
But where do we find theseSpirit-taught words?
How does someone get their hands, or their ears, on these words that make God known?
Do they need to walk around listening to mysterious voices that might come from the Spirit of God?
Well, perhaps surprisingly, Paul says in verse 13, those Spirit-taught words, are the words that he speaks.
This is what we speak,, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words
He’s talking about the gospel message
The message that he and the other eye-witnesses of Jesus’ life announced.
He’s talking about the message of the cross that he was commissioned to preach by Jesus.
He means the message that’s been passed down to us, unchanged, in the pages of the Bible, and in the New Testament particularly, as the fulfilment of the Old Testament.
That message he says, is not a message that humans came up with, words taught us by human wisdom, verse 13,
No, these words that come to us from the Spirit of God, and are the means by which he makes known to us those thoughts of God, thoughts that are as far unreachable to us on our own, as the dust under that lady’s couch was unreachable to her.
Why do we want to create every opportunity for people in our region to hear the good news of Jesus?
Because the message of the gospel, the words of our Scriptures, are Spirit-taught words, that bring the otherwise unknown and unknowable thoughts of God and wisdom of God, into people’s lives
When you speak the gospel message to someone whose name you’ve written on your 5 Friends 5 Ways card, You’re speaking words that come from God, and that make God’s thoughts known.
When you have a conversation, and you tell some of the story of the gospel;, Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserve for rejecting God, rose to rule as God’s king,
You’re speaking words that come from God, and that explain the wisdom of God.
If you’re not a Christian, but you’ve got a family member who keeps trying to get you to read the Bible, or they always want to talk to you about who Jesus is and what he’s done, then those words that you read or hear, are words that come from God, and that God wants to use to make himself known to you.
When you share the Word of God with someone, “here’s a favourite Bible passage
Here’s a verse from the Scriptures that I’m praying for you
Here’s a promise in the Bible that I hope can be an encouragement to you”
When you do that, those words that you speak are not just a nice collection of words that the Holy Spirit had some influence in gathering together into a neat pile and putting in a book.
The Holy Spirit himself, spoke the words, that Paul preached
That we read
And that we want to see, brought to bear on the lives of those we love, and others in our region.
And actually, any of those 3 things;, sharing a favourite passage
Letting someone know how we’re praying for them, with our prayers shaped by the Scriptures
Seeking to encourage friends and family with the promises of the Bible that have been especially significant and encouraging to us.
Any of those 3 conversations is a relatively easy place to start, isn’t it?
At that point where not engaging in a complex theological argument. These are just, well, these are just the things that friends do.
I think most of us, without too much difficulty, can have this kind of conversation with someone we know.
And yet even in these kinds of very simple conversations, when we speak the message of the gospel, we’re speaking God’s own words, the words he uses, to make himself known.
When we speak the gospel to our friends, we give the Spirit the tool that he uses, to shine the wisdom of God into that person’s life.
I remember someone asked me once, what kind of “tools of the trade”, a pastor could claim a tax deduction for?
He’d wondered about holy water
He thought probably robes, and he’d also figured incense would count,
I told him I hadn’t spent any money on holy water, robes or incense in the previous financial year or ever!
But Holy Spirit’s primary tool of the trade, the one thing he can claim a tax deduction for , if that helps you remember it, is the apostolic message
The message of the cross
The message in the Scriptures.
That is how he communicates spiritual realities
To people in our region
To people we’re talking to about Jesus
To people here,
If you’re not a Christian and you want to know the thoughts of God, pick up a Bible, read the message of the cross, and pray to God, ask that he, by his Spirit, will reveal his thoughts, his wisdom to you.
Without the Spirit of God, people cannot understand the message the Spirit brings (v 14 – 16)
The Spirit of God makes all the difference.
See there in verse 14, The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
There will be plenty of people who consider the message of the gospel as foolishness
And if you’re a Christian that can be disheartening
It can make you wonder if you been conned,
And if you’re not a Christian, but you’re interested in finding out Christian things,
Then all those people saying “Christianity’s a myth
There is no God”
That can put you off!
But here we see that people who don’t have God’s Spirit, are patently unqualified to make judgements about spiritual things.
And so when they say “its’ all nonsense”, well, of course they’ll say that! They don’t have the qualification or ability to see it as it really is.
Someone here might be fortunate enough to have a Pro Hart painting, or a David Dridan, hanging on your wall at home.
If I come to your house, see your painting, and say, “It’s fake, let me explain why
Chuck it in the bin”,
Should you do that?!
Not at all!
I know, almost literally nothing about art! I am entirely unqualified to say, “what you’ve got is worthless. Here’s all the evidence.”
And yet it’s easy to put so much stock in the assessments of people, who think according to human wisdom
Who assess things according to the prevailing worldview of our day,
And who tell us, “the message of the cross is foolishness.”
We’re so easily unsettled by them, but they are entirely unqualified to make judgements about spiritual things, they cannot understand them, because they are discerned only through the Spirit
Don’t throw out a work of art because I tell you it’s worthless.
Don’t ignore the message of the cross of Christ, because someone unqualified tells you it’s foolish.
Will you pray, with me, for a great work of the Spirit of God in our region?
Will you pray, that the Spirit of God will speak the wisdom of God, the thoughts of God, into people’s hearts and minds, making God known?
And will you speak Spirit-taught words, the message of the gospel, the words of the Scriptures, centred as they are on Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Will you pray?
Will you speak?
And will you adopt and develop the mind of Christ, verse 16,
The cross-shaped mind of Christ, where power is seen in weakness
And wisdom is seen in what appears foolish.