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2 Corinthians 11:4; Another Jesus

10/18_2 Corinthians 11:4; Another Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201018_2cor11_4.mp3

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Bear with my foolishness. Bear with me, because I feel a godly jealousy for you. You are being seduced. You are being deceived. The snake from the garden is influencing your thinking. You are in danger of being led astray from your simple devotion to Christ.

Bear with me, because you bear with false teachers well enough! You bear with the proclamation of another Jesus; you readily receive a different spirit; you are willing to accept a different gospel. If you willingly put up with the foolishness of false teaching, why not put up with my foolishness?

Paul employs thick irony to rebuke the Corinthians and warn them of the danger they are in. There is satanic deception going on, and they are putting up with it.

What does he mean that they are putting up with the proclamation of a different Jesus, receiving a different spirit, accepting a different gospel?

Jesus and the Spirit and the Gospel

These three go together: preaching Jesus, receiving the Spirit, accepting the gospel. Paul preached Christ crucified; the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved (1Cor.1:18,23-24). He asks the Galatians ‘Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?’ (Gal.3:2,14). He tells the Romans ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’ (Rom.10:17). He also tells the Romans ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Rom.1:16). Christ sent Paul to preach the gospel, and not in a way that the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1Cor.1:17).

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds the believers of

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

The good news message by which we are saved is the proclamation of Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again. It is the message of the cross. And as he tells the Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

When you heard the gospel and believed in Jesus you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Proclaiming Jesus, receiving the Spirit and accepting the gospel are inseparable. If the right Jesus is not preached, it is not the true gospel that is accepted, and it is not the Holy Spirit of God that is received.

Another Jesus

But what does Paul mean when he says that they are putting up with the preaching of another Jesus than the one he proclaimed? Is there another Jesus? We could answer the way he answered the Galatians about another gospel;

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

They were turning to another gospel which in reality is no gospel, no good news at all. The Corinthians were being seduced away from the simplicity of Christ to another Jesus which in reality is no Jesus, or we could say is anti-Jesus, or anti-Christ.

But there were some who preached another Jesus. John, in his letters warned against those who preached a false Christ.

1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

John warned that some denied that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, fulfillment of the Old Testament. He who denies the Father and the Son, who denies the trinity, is the antichrist. John also points to different spirits.

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist…

There were some in John’s day that were denying that Jesus had come in the flesh.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Docetism

Jesus is God come in the flesh. There were some who denied the incarnation, known as Docetists, from the Greek word ‘δοκέω’ – ‘to seem, to think, or to suppose.’ They claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, he only appeared to be come in the flesh and die. But it wasn’t real human flesh and he didn’t really die. But if God didn’t truly come in the flesh, if he didn’t really become human, then he couldn’t legitimately take our place and die for our sins. Those who deny the incarnation, deny that God came in the flesh to save us, preach a different Jesus.

But this was not the only false Jesus that was being proclaimed.

Sabellianism / Modalism

There was a teacher Sabellius (c.215), who taught that God is not three persons, but one person who appeared in three different forms or modes, first as the Father, then as the Son, and finally as the Spirit. This heresy is known as modalism; that the one God put on different masks or manifested himself in different ways at different times. They deny that the one God eternally exists in three distinct persons.

Arianism

Arius (256-336) taught that Jesus is not eternal God but was begotten by God at a point in time. He taught that Jesus was like God but not the same essence or nature as God.

Adoptionism / Dynamic Monarchianism

Theodotus (c.190) and Paul of Samosata (c.260) taught differing forms of an adoptionist teaching, some of which denied the virgin birth and held that Jesus was merely human, but was adopted by God (either at his baptism, his resurrection or his ascension) and became divine from that point forward. They denied that he was the Son of God from all eternity.

Apollinarianism

Apollinarius (c.361) taught that at the incarnation, God took a human body but not a human mind or spirit, so Jesus was part divine and part human, neither fully human nor fully divine.

Eutychianism

Eutyches (c.378-454) taught that Christ had only one nature and that the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature creating a different kind of nature, neither fully human nor fully divine.

Nestorianism

Nestorius (c.428) taught that Jesus was fully man and fully God, and his divine and human natures were united in purpose not in person, so Jesus remained two separate persons, one human and one divine.

Throughout the history of the church, heresies and cults have re-defined Jesus in ways that contradict what the Bible teaches.

Some have said that Jesus is really the archangel Michael, a created being. Others teach that Jesus was firstborn of many spirit-sons of God, and that he is Lucifer’s older brother.

Why does this matter? Paul says that there are satanic deceptions that proclaim a different Jesus and a different spirit and a different gospel, and a different Jesus cannot save. A Jesus who is not fully God does not have the power to save. A Jesus who is not fully human is not able to substitute himself for humankind. A Jesus who is not a distinct person from his Father could not offer himself to his Father as a sacrifice for our sins. We must neither confuse the persons nor divide the substance (Athanasian Creed, c.500). A Christ who had a beginning, who is less than God is not worthy of our simple and pure devotion and worship. Our conception of Jesus matters. What we believe about Jesus matters.

There is only one God, who eternally exists in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Jesus is God from all eternity. At a point in time, remaining what he was he became what he was not. He became fully and genuinely human. Anything else is false teaching.

But our problem is not always theological, misunderstanding the being or nature of God, but more practical. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross, but I need to do my part. What we are saying is that what he did was not sufficient. And to say that what Jesus did on the cross is not sufficient is to believe in a different Jesus, a Jesus different from the one who hung on the cross and declared ‘it is finished!’ Paid in full. There is nothing you can contribute.

Many look at Jesus and say ‘I thank God that there is nothing I can contribute. I prayed a prayer and put my trust in Jesus, I have my fire insurance to keep me from hell, but I don’t have to follow Jesus. I don’t have to change the way I live.’ That’s not the Jesus who said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt.16:24). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2Cor.5:17). The Spirit of the living God transforms you from the inside out and you have different desires. We must put to death the sin that so easily trips us up. We must follow Jesus. We can contribute nothing to our salvation, but his salvation freely given changes us. We want to be like Jesus. We want to be holy. A Jesus who leaves us in our sins and does not transform is a different Jesus and a different spirit.

The Other Jesus of the Super-Apostles

But what was the satanic deception being promoted in Corinth? In what ways was their ‘another Jesus’ different than than the Jesus Paul proclaimed? If we simply page through 2 Corinthians, Paul holds up the Jesus he proclaimed in contrast to the Jesus of the false apostles.

Right up front in 2 Corinthians, Paul introduces Jesus as the suffering Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

Christ suffered, and authentic minsters and followers of Jesus share to some extent in his sufferings. This was not a popular message in Corinth. They looked at Paul’s sufferings as evidence that he was not experiencing God’s blessings, that he must not be walking in the Spirit. But Paul makes a point to highlight his sufferings.

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Paul paints himself as broken and needy, so weak that he considers himself dead. Paul is utterly dependent. He could not rely on himself but on God alone. Paul is weak, and they want power. Paul changed his plans, and they want bold and self-assured leadership. They prize letters of recommendation and compare themselves with themselves.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,

Paul claims no competency for ministry that was not a gift.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Paul refused to promote himself, except as a slave of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul argued that authentic ministry is follows in the footsteps of Jesus, who laid down his life for others. Authentic ministry looks like the cross. Jesus triumphed over sin and death and hell by dying. On the cross, Jesus looks broken and hopeless and defeated. All his glory is hidden in his suffering. Infinite treasure in a fractured clay pot.

The Satanic Temptation to Avoid the Cross

If we look back at the gospels, one of the Satanic temptations was to avoid suffering, avoid the cross.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus rejected this satanic temptation of a cross-less path for himself or his followers.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

The false apostles gloried in outward appearance (5:12), promoted a spirit of authority and privilege, and preached a gospel devoid of the cross. Ralph Martin writes:

“another Jesus” for the opponents is the wonder-working Jesus, rather than Paul’s crucified and risen Lord. The alien “spirit” is the spirit of power and ecstasy which these messengers claimed to possess and embody in their ministry, rather than the Spirit of Christ which Paul exemplified. The new “gospel:” is the message of power and present glory, based on demonstrable tokens of the divine and evidences of authority in their lives as Christ’s servants (v.13), rather than Paul’s kerygma of the suffering Christ whose power is displayed incognito and in patient love (13:3,4). [Fallon (94) cited by Martin in WBC p.341]

Much of this remains all too relevant today. Many are pursuing supernatural experiences by the Spirit, seeking power, popularity and the praise of man, and peddling a gospel that promises health and blessing now if we only have enough faith to receive it. Let’s not talk about sin and our need for a Savior. This is not the gospel Paul preached. This is not the offensive message of Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.1:23; 2:2).

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

…21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We do not have the right to create our own Jesus as we imagine him to be. We must believe in the Jesus who really is, the I AM, as he reveals himself to us through his word. Sincere devotion to the wrong Jesus is as empty and worthless as the object of that devotion is non-existent. We must continually be in his word, meeting him there, subjecting our own opinions about him to who he tells us he is.

George Guthrie writes:

“The church in the West stands under the most grave attacks in terms of spiritual warfare, an attack in some ways worse than the physical and social persecution faced by our brothers and sisters around the world. False gospels offered by false teachers thrive in a context of biblical and theological illiteracy. Paul understood what was at stake for the church. The question is, Do we?” [BECNT, 477]

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 22, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:7-11; To Each a Manifestation of the Spirit

09/07 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 To Each the Manifestation of the Spirit ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140907_1cor12_7-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. 8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, 9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, 10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ προφητεία, 1 ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, 2 ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· 11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

We are dealing with a very controversial topic in this section of Scripture. Paul is answering a question about what it is that makes someone ‘spiritual’ and teaching about the distributions of various grace-gifts by the Holy Spirit. Paul lists gifts like healing, faith, miracles, tongues, interpretation, distinguishing of spirits, prophecies, and words of wisdom and knowledge. Some people believe that many if not all of these gifts have ceased and are no longer relevant or given in the church today. Others believe that they are fully in operation in the church, and that they personally possess one or more of these gifts. I am guessing that we have both positions represented here today. These issues were divisive in the church in Corinth, and they are divisive in many churches today. Much of this letter is written to confront the issues over which they were dividing, and to bring greater unity. Paul has some important things to say to us, if we are willing to listen.

Some of you may be clueless, this is the first you have ever heard that there are gifts that the Spirit gives to believers, wondering if you have any or where you can get some. Some of you may be curious, wondering which side I take on the issues. Some may be cautious, concerned that we are heading off the deep end and into craziness.

My goal is to submit myself to the text of Scripture, listening to what it says, believing it, and making an effort to adjust my life and practices accordingly. I want to keep the main thing the main thing, focusing on the clear things and admitting there are things that we just don’t know. I want to be honest about what is clear and about what is not so clear in the text, not overstating one side or the other. I want to be teachable, not with a head set in cement, thinking I know everything already, but eager to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. I hope you are eager to learn along with me.

In order to understand any passage of Scripture, we need to see it in its proper context. The context of 1 Corinthians is a church that is divided, and many of the issues they divided over centered around pride and self-seeking. They wanted to be thought well of, to seek status and to impress others. Paul tackles the issue of what makes one spiritual by starting with the basic biblical fact that no one believes in Jesus as Lord except the Holy Spirit has done a work in him first. Everyone who confesses Christ as Lord has been born of the Spirit, has God the Holy Spirit residing in him, and is therefore spiritual.

He then highlights the nature of the spiritual by pointing us to the character of the gifts as grace-gifts. They are unearned, undeserved freely given by a generous God. The gifts are sovereignly distributed by the one triune God. They are services, intended for the good of others, they are powerful workings energized by the power of almighty God.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We could summarize what has been said so far this way:

Every believer is spiritual / indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Every believer is given the manifestation of the Spirit.

Every grace-gift is undeserved; no credit to the one who receives it.

Every grace-gift is intended for the common good.

Paul now goes on to enumerate 9 various gifts, redundantly stating that they all come from one and the same Spirit. Grace-gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, given through the Spirit, according to the same Spirit, by the same Spirit, by the one Spirit. They are all empowered and apportioned by one and the same Spirit. Paul’s emphasis is on the divine Giver who gives gifts to each just as he chooses. He lists 9 gifts here, a sampling of gifts to make his point that whatever gifts believers have all came from one and the same Spirit. This is the main point, and we would do well not to lose sight of the main point as we look at some of the other details of this passage.

Lists of the Gifts

Paul lists 9 gifts here, and another 9 at the end of this chapter. 5 of the gifts are common to both lists, and the other 4 are unique to each list, so in the chapter he gives us 13 gifts in all. As we look around the New Testament at some other listings of the gifts, we realize that of the 13, only 2 show up in the other lists. Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, powers healings, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, helping, administrating, tongues, and interpretation of tongues do not show up in any of the other lists. Other things, like evangelists, shepherds, exhortation, generosity, leading, and mercy are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians. This should caution us against thinking that we have an exhaustive list of all the gifts. The gifts listed are merely examples held up to make a point, not intended for us to create a comprehensive list and then administer tests to see who has which gifts. Whose list do we use? Which gifts do we include? Which gifts are describing the same thing using different terms? It is at least possible that there are some grace-gifts that are not mentioned in any of the biblical lists. There is nothing wrong with taking a test to help you understand what gifts you might have, but realize that the unique equipping God has gifted you with may not fit into the neat categories the maker of the test came up with. And don’t think that until you can list which gifts you possess, you are useless and have no purpose in the church. Every believer has been gifted exactly as God intended, and countless believers use their various gifts very effectively and regularly to strengthen the church without having a clue what gifts they have or even that they are using gifts at all. This is Paul’s point in inserting some seemingly ordinary non-exciting gifts like helps and administration in amongst the more obviously supernatural and dramatic gifts. These plain everyday activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of the church are no less supernatural and Holy Spirit empowered than the flashy attention grabbing manifestations of the Spirit.

What Are The Gifts?

Another challenge we face in studying the gifts is that we don’t know exactly what they are or how they were used. We can try to piece together the data we are given in the text to better understand what the gifts were, but the truth is we don’t know for sure. John Chrysostom, who lived AD 347-404 in his comments on this passage wrote:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? [Homilies on First Corinthians. Homily XXIX, 1]

Chrysostom lamented that this passage is obscure because the things it describes were no longer happening in the church. If one who lived within 300 years of the apostles was aware of his own ignorance in understanding the gifts, how can we who live some 2000 years later assume that we know what they mean? We can look at what modern day Christians practice and identify by these biblical names, but it is not certain that what some today call prophecy or tongues or healing is necessarily the same thing that Paul referred to when he used those words to describe gifts in the early church.

Structure of the Passage

What can we say about these gifts? First, we can see some structure to the list that he gives. There are two different Greek words that are all translated ‘to another’ in this passage. One tends to mean another of the same kind, and the other can mean another of a different kind. The first two are paired, the next 5 are connected, and the last two are paired. The utterance of wisdom is paired with the utterance of knowledge, both speaking gifts, and the final two, various kinds of languages and interpretation of languages, are also speaking gifts. The middle 5 are all lumped together, with faith as a more general gift that may find expression in some of the other gifts, and then the two pairs, healings and miracles, and prophecy and distinguishing of spirits.

Word of Wisdom

What is the grace-gift identified as the word of wisdom? We can guess, or we can look around at current practice, but I believe we will be better served to look in the text to find our answers. Both wisdom and knowledge were buzzwords in Corinth. The word ‘wisdom occurs 17 times in 1 Corinthians; 16 times in the first three chapters, and then once in this verse. Looking back to the first section of this book, we see that ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ were prized in Corinth, and Paul draws a contrast between the so-called wisdom of the world that God will destroy, and the true wisdom of God in the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The message of Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:23-24). In chapter 2, Paul claims to impart to them a secret and hidden wisdom of God, things God has revealed to us through his Spirit (2:7-10). He says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The things freely given us by God, the secret and hidden wisdom that we understand through the Spirit, is that the Lord of glory was crucified. The word of wisdom is to ‘know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (2:2). Paul claims to impart this wisdom of God in words taught by the Spirit, which fits perfectly with what he says here about the grace-gift/service/working of the Holy Spirit in the utterance or word of wisdom. When Paul says in chapter 15 “I would remind you of the gospel …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…”, he is exercising the grace-gift of an utterance of wisdom. We could say that the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to understand and communicate the good news of Christ crucified so that Christ is perceived as the power and wisdom of God among those who are called.

Word of Knowledge

What is the grace-gift called the word of knowledge? Paul begins this letter:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge

This seems to be an affirmation that they possessed this grace-gift of the word of knowledge. This word ‘knowledge’ shows up 5 times in chapter 8, and then 4 times in the chapters dealing with grace-gifts. In chapter 8, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Paul points to their so-called knowledge which puffs up, knowledge of theological truth which frees the one with that knowledge to eat at an idol’s temple, thus by that knowledge destroying a brother for whom Christ died (8:11), and contrasts it with the way we ought to know, which is in truth being known by God, loving God, and building others up in love. We could conclude that the grace-gift of the word of knowledge is the God given ability to properly understand theological truth and humbly apply it in a way that others are built up in their relationship with God and their love for God.

Faith

What is the gift of faith? We can see from the entire New Testament that faith is believing in, trusting in and depending on God’s promises. We are saved by God’s grace as a gift, and we are saved through faith or relying on God, which itself is a gift from God (Eph.2:8-9). But that cannot be what Paul means here, because here he is looking at a specific grace-gift that is given only to some believers. He has already said in verse 3 that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit”, which is looking at the gift of faith given to ever believer. Here he is talking about distributions of various gifts, services, or activities, different manifestations of the Spirit given to different believers. So what is this additional gift of faith that goes beyond saving faith? Chapter 13 gives us a clue.

1 Corinthians 13:2 …and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

This seems to be an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. When we look at this in the context of manifestations of the Spirit given to each for the common good, we can see that the unshakeable confidence in God of one individual can be an encouragement and support to the entire body, stimulating the group to move forward with boldness and confidence.

Gifts of Healings

What are gifts of healings? Both words are in the plural, indicating that there may be multiple grace-gifts for different kinds of healings. Clearly in much of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles recorded in Acts, physical healing of diseases, and healing of those oppressed by demons were central. We also see Matthew 13:15, John 12:40, and Acts 28:27 all citing Isaiah 6:9-10, which says:

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

This indicates that one aspect of healing is healing of unbelief, where blind eyes see, heavy ears hear, and dull hearts understand, turn and believe in Jesus. Peter says:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

This healing is comprehensive healing, spiritual and ultimately physical. There were occasions where Paul told a man crippled from birth to ‘stand upright on your feet’ and he was healed (Acts 14:10), there were occasions where handkerchiefs that had touched Paul were brought to the sick and ‘their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them’ (Acts 19:12); There was also occasion when Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim.5:23) and when Paul “left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Tim.4:20). It seems clear that the gifts of healings did not ensure that everyone was always physically healed. So the gifts of healings may be diverse, including physical healings, healings from demonic oppression, healings from spiritual blindness, healings with a word, and healings through more natural means like medicines.

Workings of Powers

In workings of powers, both words are plural, again indicating that there may be varieties of powerful workings within this one classification of Spirit-gifting. The grammar of this phrase could be read as workings of powers in the sense of doing miraculous deeds, or it could be read as workings over powers in the sense of exercising authority over demonic powers. We could look to Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead at the apostles’ feet when they lied to the Holy Spirit, (Acts 5:1-11) or when Elymas the magician was seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith, and Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit rebuked him and he was struck blind (Acts 13:8-12)

Here in 1 Corinthians, where the people were seeking power and status, power primarily refers to the power of the gospel to save sinners. So workings of powers could include authority over hostile spiritual forces, workings of miracles, and a demonstration of the power of the gospel of Christ crucified to rescue sinners.

Prophecy and Discerning of Spirits

Prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues are the main subjects of the next chapters, so we will explore them more fully when we come to them, but for now we can say that prophecy is speaking something that God has brought to mind for the purpose of building up, encouraging or consoling others (14:3), and is to be subject to those with the gift of discerning the spirits. Paul says in 14:29, ‘let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said’. In 1 Thessalonians Paul instructs:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Various Languages and Interpretation of Languages

Again, there will be much more to say on the issue of tongues, but we can preliminarily define tongues as words of prayer or praise spoken to God, not always understood by the speaker, and requiring explanation to be understood by others. Paul defines it for us in 14:2

1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

Empowered, Apportioned, Willed

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Paul brings us back to the main point; there are various distributions of grace-gifts to different believers, but it is the same Spirit who powers them, and distributes them to individuals according to his own good purpose. There is a tendency to champion one gift above others, to claim a particular gift or type of gifts as evidence of advanced spirituality. Paul claims that every believer is energized by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to each individual exactly as he intends. They are given to us but not for us, they are given for his good purpose, and that purpose is for the common good. He does not grant gifts based on capability or performance, they are freely given, and they are given to whoever he wants to give them. We can claim no credit or status based on what we have been freely given, because grace is directly opposite to merit. We must rejoice in the unity of the one Spirit displayed in the diversity of gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 7, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Spirit Revealed Wisdom

04/28 I Corinthians 2:10-13 Spirit Revealed Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130428_1cor2_10-13.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ. 11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν· 13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις, ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Paul is addressing problems in the church in Corinth. Primary among their problems was their divisiveness over who followed whom. This divisiveness was rooted in a prideful desire to be thought wise, so Paul addresses head on the issue of wisdom. This word ‘wisdom’ appears 51 times in the New Testament, 16 of those are in these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. That is over 31% of the usage of this word ‘wisdom’ concentrated into this section. Out of the 20 times the adjective ‘wise’ is used, half of them are right here in these first three chapters. The Corinthian believers are enamored by what is popular, what is fashionable, what is considered wisdom in the world. Who, after all, wants to be thought a fool? Who wants to be set aside, rejected, considered irrelevant? We all naturally seek the approval of others. But Paul puts this wisdom in an eternal context. What the world considers wise and sophisticated when viewed from the eternal perspective is only so much rubbish on the trash heap of yesterday’s news. From God’s perspective man’s wisdom is doomed to pass away. Worse yet, the rulers of this age who are pushing their wisdom are doomed to pass away (2:6). God has set himself against man’s wisdom. He says ‘I will destroy; I will thwart (1:19); I will make it foolish (1:20); I will shame the wise (1:27); I will bring it to nothing (1:28) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1:29).

God’s Hidden Wisdom

God says that man’s wisdom has failed to know the one thing that is most important. Man’s wisdom is bankrupt in achieving the one thing that really matters; the one thing that will matter for all eternity. The world did not know God through wisdom (1:21). Man’s wisdom can never lead to a right relationship with our Creator. So the foolishness of God is wiser than men. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by the investigation of man; eye has not seen. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by paying careful attention to what can be known in the world; ear has not heard. God’s wisdom cannot be uncovered by the power of human reason; it has not entered into the heart of man. God’s wisdom is beyond all human capacity to find out. Not because it is too tricky or complex or confusing; but because it is too foolish, too simple, to basic for it to possibly be the thing that leads us into a right relationship with our Creator. What is this secret wisdom that God decreed before the ages, that God prepared for those who love him? What is this divine wisdom that shames the wise and brings to nothing the things that exist so that no one may boast in the presence of God? It is the folly of what we preach. It is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified, the gospel. The thing that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the thing that God decreed before the ages for our glory and has prepared for those who love him is the cross where his own Son was sacrificed as a substitute. The wisdom of God is the scandalous message of a crucified King.

Hidden Wisdom Revealed

This was hidden in the Old Testament. God had revealed enough so that Adam or Abraham or Aaron could understand that they were sinful and separated from God, and that God was the only one who could save, and trust that God would somehow provide a substitute that could make satisfaction for sins. But now the cross is a historical event. The apostolic preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is recorded for us clearly in the New Testament. And yet many still do not believe. The cross of Christ is still hidden wisdom. There may be some here this morning to whom the bible is still a closed book. It is just another piece of religious literature that teaches moral principles of being nice to others and obeying the golden rule. It is a religious rule book of things God expects his people to do. They miss the good news of the gospel. Others understand clearly the facts of the gospel and could even communicate them clearly to others. But to them Christ crucified is not attractive, not compelling, it holds no power. How can this be? It is because ‘to us God has revealed them through the Spirit’. How is it that the foolish message of a crucified Messiah suddenly becomes the power and wisdom of God that saves believers? How is it that the gospel becomes to us the best news we have ever heard or will ever hear? How is it that the cross becomes not just a historical event that we believe took place long ago, but a power that begins to transform us from the inside out? No credit can go to us for our superior wisdom or insight, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. To us, us who are being saved as opposed to those who are perishing, to us whom God chose in order to shame the wise, to us who are mature or perfect, who have been given God’s wisdom, in contrast to the rulers of this age who in their ignorance crucified the Lord of glory. To us God has revealed; God took the initiative. I would never have experienced the power of the gospel unless God had unleashed it on me. This is something hidden that only God could make known. How does this happen? How does God reveal the gospel to us? Verse 10 tells us that God reveals the good news of the gospel to us through the Spirit.

The Spirit

So far in this letter, Paul has said much about God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the 31 verses of chapter 1, Paul has mentioned ‘God’ 20 times and ‘Christ’ or ‘Christ Jesus’ 17 times. In 2:4 Paul turns our attention to the work of the Spirit, and in 2:10-14, he mentions God’s Spirit 6 times in 5 verses. The way Paul preached the gospel in Corinth was in demonstration of the Spirit. God revealed the wisdom of the cross through the Spirit.

Called by the Spirit

This answers a question that has been developing from the beginning of the book. Back in 1:2, Paul said that we were called to be saints. In 1:9 he said that God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, the foolish message becomes to those who are called Christ the power and wisdom of God. In 1:26 we are instructed to consider our calling. How were we called? In what way do we receive the divine summons to be saints? How does the Father call us into the fellowship of his Son? Here we see the answer. God calls us into fellowship, into a relationship with himself through the revelatory work of the Spirit. The difference between those who are perishing and us who are being saved is that we were those who were perishing until God revealed to us the gospel through his Spirit. In 1:21, we are told that ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.’ How did I come to believe a message I considered foolish? The message of Christ crucified, that which we once perceived as foolish, offensive, even scandalous, now we see as God’s power to save us. This is the work of God the Spirit. So we begin to see that God the Father, Son, and Spirit were at work to bring about our salvation. God the Son was crucified as a substitute for my sin, carrying out the wise plan that his Father decreed before the ages. God the Holy Spirit opens my blind eyes and renews my dead heart so that Christ crucified becomes the source of life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1:30). D.A. Carson, in his excellent little book on 1 Corinthians, writes “if we should express unqualified gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp the gospel of his Son” (p.52).

The Depths of God

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Paul gives us a human analogy to help us understand. I wonder what some of you are thinking right now. As far as I can tell, you are fully engaged with the text of scripture that we are studying, eager to grow in your relationship with Jesus. But only you know what you are really thinking about. Your body might be here, but your spirit might be planning out lunch, more interested in the game this afternoon, hoping that by God’s grace we might finish early today. Only your spirit can know your own thoughts, unless you choose to reveal them. In a similar way, God’s Spirit is the only one who can fully comprehend God’s thoughts. This analogy only goes so far, though, because our human spirit is a subset of our being, a part of us that makes up the whole. God’s Spirit is not a subset or part of who he is; God’s Spirit is a person in his own right, as this passage shows, a thinking, feeling, willing person distinct from the Father. He comprehends, searches, and reveals. He interacts with the Father and the Son, and with us. He is not to be confused with the Father or the Son, yet he is fully divine, God the Holy Spirit. As God, he fully shares the Father’s thoughts, even the depths of God. The depths of God, in this passage, refers to the hidden, secret, mystery wisdom of God, the wisdom that God decreed before the ages, what has not entered into the heart of man, what none of the rulers of this age understood, what God had prepared for us, this God has revealed to us through his Spirit. The depths of God, that he would crush his only Son, who would bear our sins in his body on the tree, who would become sin for us, whom the Father put forward as a propitiation by his blood. The depths of the hidden wisdom of God, God has revealed to us through his Spirit.

We have Received the Spirit

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

We have received. We, us who are being saved, us to whom God has revealed his hidden plan to rescue us through the crucifixion of his Son, we who are called by God’s Spirit into fellowship with his Son, we have received the gift of the promised Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus, a follower of Jesus who has not received the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 makes this abundantly clear.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. …14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

If we belong to Christ, we have received the Spirit of God. Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We have received, as a gift, not the spirit of this world, not the spirit of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away, but the Spirit who is from God.

Understand the Things Freely Given

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

‘That we might’ is a purpose statement. The purpose of the Spirit being given is ‘in order that we understand’. The implication is clear. Had we not received the Spirit of God, we would never comprehend the things freely given us by God. What are the things freely given us by God? Jesus. God gave us his only Son. And in him we have forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, all the good gifts of grace freely given to us. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would never understand the death of Jesus as our Lamb offered by the Father to take away our sin.

Spiritual with Spiritual

13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Paul is coming back around to defend his manner of preaching. If God is destroying and thwarting and bringing to nothing the wisdom of this world, then it would be utterly foolish to try to imitate the wisdom of this age or employ the methods of this age or to emulate the popular and powerful of this age who are being brought to nothing. They are all ignorant of the one thing that really matters, the one thing of eternal significance, the only way to have a right relationship with the Lord of glory. So let go of the world’s methods, the world’s approval. Embrace the rich depth of the wisdom of God in the offensive message of a Messiah crucified for our sins. Speak it simply, speak it plainly, allow room for a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Refuse to employ manipulation of any kind. Refuse to tamper with or adjust the message in any way.

How do I know that I am using words taught by the Spirit? Is this some mystical experience where God’s Spirit takes control of my mouth and supernaturally communicates through me? It could be that, but I think there is a simpler way to understand it. The Spirit that we have received is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures and carried along the biblical authors. The sure way to use words taught by the Spirit is to use his words written in the Scriptures. We see Paul giving us an example of that in this passage. He quotes the prophets, he refers to the writings, his mind is so saturated with scripture, that he thinks and speaks in biblical categories. And if all of Spirit inspired Scripture points to Jesus Christ and him crucified, then our speaking should be saturated with Jesus and centered on the cross, and it should be spoken with a deep humility and gratitude knowing that I was a lost, ignorant sinner, and God’s Spirit awakened my dead heart to experience the transforming power of the gospel.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Hidden Wisdom

04/21 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 Hidden Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130421_1cor2_6-10.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. 10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Paul is addressing divisions in the church in Corinth. They were caught up in the pursuit of popularity, wisdom, a desire to be in the inner circle of truly enlightened spiritual ones. They wanted to be on the right team, following the right teacher, seeking the approval of men. The pride that lay at the root of these divisions was what had blossomed into so many other problems in this church.

Up to this point in his letter, he has pointed them to the foolishness of his methods and his message. In 1:17, he says he refused to employ ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ in order to avoid emptying the cross of power. In 1:18 he declares that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. In 1:19-20, he argues from the Scriptures that it was God’s intention to destroy the wisdom of the wise and make foolish the wisdom of the world. In 1:21 since God cannot be know through human wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe in the foolish message that we preach. In 1:23 he calls the content of his message, Christ crucified, a stumbling block and folly. In 1:26-31 Paul points to the foolishness of the believers in Corinth to demonstrate that God chose foolish, weak, low, despised nothings in order that no human being could boast in his presence. In 2:1-5, he points to his own methods as weak; knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. He avoided lofty speech or wisdom, plausible words of wisdom, wisdom of men.

All this could lead one to the conclusion that Paul was anti-intellectual, that wisdom is bad, that Christianity is only for the uneducated, and that we should avoid ever learning anything. This would be to totally miss Paul’s point, so he clarifies in this passage that the wisdom that we as followers of Jesus have access to is truly wisdom, wisdom far superior to anything this fallen world could ever achieve. He says that it is permanent and not doomed to pass away. He says that it is hidden mystery wisdom that not all have access to. He says that it is God’s wisdom, not human, and that it originated before the ages, not recently. This wisdom is intended to bring us glory, not shame. And this wisdom is spiritual wisdom; it comes from God’s Spirit, not human sources.

1 Corinthians 2:6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

If we look carefully through Paul’s discussion of the foolishness of his message, we begin to see that he was indeed pointing to a superior wisdom. He claims in 1:17 that the gospel of the cross of Christ is power. In 1:18, the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved, in contrast to those who are perishing. In 1:21, it was God’s wisdom to save those who believe in this seemingly foolish message. In 1:24 to those who are called, Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and then he says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. In 1:30, we see that God made Jesus our wisdom, so that we can boast in the Lord. In 2:1, what Paul brought to them was nothing short of the testimony of God, but he delivered it in such a way as to leave room for the demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that our faith would be squarely seated in the power of God to save and not in any human method or messenger.

Deeper Wisdom for the Mature?

Here in verse 6, he claims that wisdom is what he speaks among the mature. What is this wisdom, and who are the mature that he speaks it to? Many have seen in this passage a level of deeper Christian doctrine taught exclusively among those who had advanced to a level where they were able to receive it. If this is true, Paul is stroking those who have attained this higher level, and saying that he has deeper wisdom for them. This cannot be. This would fly in the face of everything he has said so far. He appeals to them ‘that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment’ (1:10). If he is now categorizing some of the elite few among them as the ‘mature’ and privately disclosing to them the deeper doctrines of the faith, then this would be contributing to and even creating the very divisiveness and pride and disunity that he is seeking to dismantle in this letter.

Among the Perfect (v.6)

So who are the ‘mature’ that he speaks wisdom to? So far in the letter, Paul has divided all of humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. The word translated ‘mature’ points to the end or goal, that for which we were designed, the completion or fulfillment. It is sometimes translated as ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’. Remember how Paul addressed the Corinthian believers in the beginning of this letter. He said they are those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints. He gives thanks that they have been given God’s grace in Christ Jesus, they have been enriched in him in every way, the testimony about Christ had been confirmed in them, they were not lacking in any grace gift, they were waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, they are being sustained by Jesus to the end, they will be presented guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a description of someone who is complete, lacking nothing, who has been brought into the relationship for which they were designed. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

This does not mean they have no room to grow. Paul will begin to address their immaturity in the very next chapter. But here he is looking at their position in Christ in contrast to the wise, the scribe, the debater of this age, the rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing. Don’t envy or imitate the wise, powerful and popular, because they are incomplete. And don’t look down on your brother or sister in Christ because he or she is complete.

In 2:10, God has revealed these things to us through the spirit. In 2:12, ‘we’ are those who have received the Spirit from God. In 2:14-16 the contrast is drawn between the natural person without the Spirit of God, and the spiritual person who has the Spirit of God. So the mature or complete or perfect are those who have God’s Spirit as opposed to those who do not.

True Wisdom (v.6)

What is this wisdom that he speaks among the perfect? Is this some deeper doctrine? Paul has one message, and one message only. His message is the good news of the cross of Christ, the word of the cross, preaching Christ crucified, knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God, this is the wisdom of God and the power of God to save those who believe. This is what the rulers of this age failed to understand, or else they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Secret and Hidden Wisdom of God (v.7)

How is Jesus Christ crucified for sinners secret or hidden wisdom? It seems that everyone who has heard the name of Jesus knows that he was executed outside of Jerusalem on a Roman cross. How is this a hidden, mystery wisdom? To understand this, we need to know what the bible means when it talks about mystery. A mystery is not something deep or complex or mystical or incoherent. A mystery is something that was hidden, not able to be figured out by humans, but has now been revealed by God and made known. We see this at the close of Romans.

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The mystery was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed. The revelation of the mystery is in the gospel and in the preaching of Jesus Christ. It has been made known through the prophetic writings. This is what Jesus did for his disciples in Luke 24

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

…44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Notice that the disciples are rebuked for being ‘foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’. They were so self-centered and hard-hearted that they could not get it. And for that they were held responsible. They should have been tender hearted and eager to believe, but their self-focus had blinded them to what was written in black and white. Jesus had to open their minds to understand the Scriptures. He had to show them that the prophetic writings were all about him. He said the same to the unbelieving Jews.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. … 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

They were blind to the fact that their own Scriptures so clearly pointed to Jesus. Their problem was unbelief. They refused to come to Jesus to receive eternal life. It was a mystery to them, it was hidden, not because it was too hard to figure out, but their own unbelief had blinded them to the plain truth. In their hard hearts they were unwilling to see.

But this is only one side of the truth. We must also say with Jesus:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God hid these things from the wise and understanding. This was his gracious will. Paul says here:

1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

They did not understand, and in their ignorance they crucified Jesus, and their failure to understand was culpable, because it was willful ignorance that refused to believe. So they crucified the Lord of glory.

The Lord of Glory (v.8)

This is the most exalted title for Jesus we find in all of the bible.

Psalm 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory?

The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

Who is the King of glory? It is YHWH, the LORD. Jesus is here called ‘the Lord of glory’. He is identified with YHWH, God’s covenant name in the Old Testament. He is the one to whom all glory belongs. And in their unbelieving ignorance, they crucified their God who had come in the flesh to save them.

For Our Glory (v.7)

This wisdom of God, this secret and hidden wisdom about the Lord of glory, God decreed before the ages for our glory. We, who are the weak, the foolish, the low, the despised, the nothings, we are destined for glory. God created us in his image, to reflect and display his glory. God predestined or fore-ordained the crucifixion of his only Son Jesus before the ages, before the creation, before the fall, to restore to us the glory we were designed to display. Paul wants to be clear that this wisdom of God in the crucifixion of Jesus is no plan B, no patch to try to make the best of an unexpected bad turn of events. This wisdom of God is the same ancient wisdom that was in place before God spoke the universe into existence This is another way of saying what Romans 8:29 says, that we were “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” and “those whom he justified” through faith in the crucified Jesus “he also glorified”. The crucifixion of Jesus was decreed before the ages for our glory, to conform us into the image of his Son.

As It Is Written (v.9; Isaiah 64:4)

Paul references a passage in Isaiah to demonstrate the hidden nature of God’s salvation. This verse in Isaiah comes in the middle of a prayer for mercy and confession of sin. A few lines earlier it says:

Isaiah 63:17 O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.

And then he says:

Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—

He says

Isaiah 64:3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

God’s salvation is unexpected. God’s people look to him for mercy, for help, for forgiveness, for judgment on their enemies. Our God is a God who answers in astonishing ways. Awesome things that we did not look for. No eye has seen – no one has first hand knowledge to predict how God will save. No ear has heard – no information was passed down to communicate in exactly what way God would save. The heart of man has not imagined – there is no possible way for us to deduce how God in his wisdom would rescue his people. ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down’, and who would have ever anticipated that God would indeed rend the heavens and come down, born as a human to an unwed mother away from home, with no room in the inn, placed in a feeding trough for a cradle? Who would have foreseen that God in the flesh would be abandoned by his friends, rejected by his own people, handed over by them to their enemies who found him innocent and yet caved to the pressure of his people who demanded his execution? Who could imagine that he would conquer his enemies by crying out ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Lk.23:34)? Who would have expected the mountains to quake at his presence as he bore the wrath of his Father against our sins and breathed his last, crucified in our place as a dangerous criminal? Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me! ‘Tis mystery all, the Immortal dies! Who can explore his strange design? (C.Wesley, And Can It Be). This is a story only God could write. This hidden wisdom of God no man could anticipate. But God has revealed the word of the cross in a way that it comes to us not as foolishness but as the power of God for salvation. This he has done in us through his Spirit.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 21, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment