Problems Plaguing a Local Church, Part 4

In our message, NO EYE HAS SEEN… (1 Cor. 2:1-9), Paul continued to point the church in Corinth back to their identity in Christ- focusing on the Gospel which is “the power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18, 24). After showing them that “Christ crucified,” the supposed “weakness God,” is stronger than the greatest achievements of humanity combined (1 Cor. 1:23, 25; Isa. 29:10-16, etc.), and that most of the Christians themselves in Corinth were “despised” in the world’s eyes when “called” by grace possessing not even a human reason to boast (1 Cor. 1:24, 26-29; Titus 3:5, etc.), Paul then offers his own preaching as evidence for the uselessness of human wisdom as a means to earn merit with or be made right before holy God (1 Cor. 2:1; Isa. 55:8-9, etc.).
Unlike the itinerant philosophers (spell-binders) in that day who would advertise their meeting to draw a crowd, pandering to popularity through impressive presentations and eloquent words as a means for financial gain and prominence, “when [Paul] came to [them, he] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1). The apostle readily admits here his preaching by human standards was unimpressive. He did not use lofty words to try to sound good, but simply declared “the testimony of God” which was “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). As a proclaimer of the gospel, Paul’s preaching was not based on worldly wisdom in its message, method, or motive because the Lord had taught him deeply about grace (2 Cor. 12:9, 15; Phil. 2:17; 3:8, etc.). Contextually, the statement, “And I,” in 1 Cor. 2:1 looks back to the previous verse showing Paul’s desire to “glory [only] in the LORD” (1 Cor. 1:31-2:1). We see this also in 1 Cor. 2:2 as Paul shares His one desire is “not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This was not just Paul’s message preached but the life he wanted to live so Jesus would be formed more and more inside of him (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 3:12-16, etc.).

Not only was Paul’s preaching unimpressive in the culture’s eyes, but he came to them “in weakness… fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Whenever we share the gospel, there is spiritual warfare that accompanies the task, and this was true for Paul also as he spoke in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10, etc.). God comforted Him and held him up as He does us. In our own strength we are weak, but Christ inside of us- the hope of glory- will give us the ability to “speak, and… not keep silent” sharing His everlasting words of life as we follow Him (Acts 18:9; Eph. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 3:16, etc.). When we let Him fill us and share through us it is not our “persuasive words” or “human wisdom” that we speak with, but it is God speaking through us “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4). The word “demonstration” here is not a ‘performance’ but means a ‘legal proof presented in court.’ When we preach “the message of the cross… Christ crucified” we are telling the world “the truth” that the only “way” to have eternal “life” and go to heaven is by having their sins forgiven by grace through believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- the God-Man (1 Cor. 1:18, 23; 15:3-4; John 14:6, etc.). When a person trusts this simple message and is saved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son, their faith rests NOT “in the wisdom of men” whether it be a person or an idea, but in the everlasting, eternal unassailable “power of God” (1 Cor. 1:5; John 10:29; Rom. 8:31-39, etc.). This truth is also important for us as Christians to remember because looking to a person or idea like the Corinthians were doing (i.e. “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…”) will not help us weather the storms of life (1 Cor. 1:11; Matt. 7:24-29; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; Heb. 12:28-29, etc.). As Christians we have been saved by grace, and it is also true Jesus is the only sure foundation with which to build our lives upon (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 3:11; Isa. 28:16, etc.).

The proof here that human wisdom is folly, does not mean that God puts a premium on ignorance or rejects wisdom of any sort. We see there is true “wisdom”- spiritual wisdom that is from above which the Lord wants His children to understand and grow in (2 Cor. 2:6a; James 3:17; Prov. 1:7, etc.). The Holy Spirit shows us here God’s wisdom, however, is for “those who are mature” (1 Cor. 2:6a). We will see in Corinthians, much of the church in Corinth was not “mature” or “spiritual” but “carnal” because of unconfessed, persistent sin (1 Cor. 2:6; 3:1-3; Col. 3:1-3, etc.). God’s concern throughout this book of the Bible is to get Christians to understand who they are in terms of the cross and stop acting like non-Spirit people. While all Christians possess the Holy Spirit by grace through faith and are God’s children (Eph. 1:13-14, etc.), it is also true that spiritual wisdom can only be understood and apprehended by Christians who are walking with their heavenly daddy (1 John 1:9; Phil. 3:12-15; Heb. 5:14, etc.). Unbelievers, of course, only possess “the wisdom of this age” since they can’t even “see” God’s kingdom being “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (1 Cor. 2:6b; John 3:3; Eph. 2:1, etc.). That is why “the rulers of this age… are coming to nothing” (- that is they “are perishing” 1 Cor. 2:6b NET; Rev. 20:15, etc.). “The wisdom of God” hid this mystery in ages past but at the right time revealed it was through His apostles and New Testament prophets (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:5, etc.). God “ordained [this] before the ages for our glory” but kept it “hidden” until He chose to bring Jesus into the world (1 Cor. 2:7; Gal. 4:4-5, etc.). The human rulers of that time did not recognize this because had they really known “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” sealing their own doom (1 Cor. 1:8), nor did the spiritual and demonic rulers of this present age know because the so-called weakness of God (i.e. “Christ crucified”) first and foremost sealed their eternal destruction (Rom. 8:28; Col. 2:15; Eph. 2:2; 6:12f; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19; Col. 2:15; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:15, etc.).

God’s wisdom shows us “…EYE HAS NOT SEEN, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9 from Isa. 64:4; 65:17- caps my emphasis). There are many things we can know only by revelation- by the Holy Spirit as He teaches us the Word. This is true for the Gospel for a person to be saved, but it is also true for each of us in our call to grow in Christ after we have been saved (Heb. 11:6b; John 5:24, etc.). Heavenly things can only be seen and understood by the Christian who is “spiritual” because they are revealed by the Spirit as He forms Christ in us (1 Cor. 3:1; Eccl. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; Heb. 5:5-6:3, etc.). Are we spiritual today? (James 1:16-17, 22; Rom. 12:1-2; 11:31-32; Rom. 12:1-2; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:28, etc.). Or is there something we need to repent of to “know… Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2, 9-10; etc.).