God’s Wisdom

I Corinthians 2

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2023

Today, we want to talk about wisdom.  What does the Bible say about wisdom?  What does the Bible say about knowledge?  Is the Bible anti-intellectual?  Is God against reason?  Is He against knowledge?  Is God against logic?

This is a topic that many Christians get wrong.  It is a topic that many preachers get wrong.  This is a big chapter on wisdom and different types of wisdom.  Not all wisdom is the same.  We will see two different types of wisdom.

I Corinthians 2 is an important chapter.  It talks about wisdom.  It talks about evangelism. It shows us how Paul witnessed when he arrived in Corinth.

It is a passage that talks about the spiritually mature (I Corinthians 2:6).  Are all believers spiritually mature?  No.  We will see that next week (cf. I Corinthians 3:1).

This is an important chapter on God.  This chapter mentions THE TESTIMONY OF GOD (I Corinthians 2:2).

It mentions THE POWER OF GOD (I Corinthians 2:5).  Does our faith rest on the wisdom of men or on the power of God?

It mentions THE WISDOM OF GOD (I Corinthians 2:7).  It even mentions THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD (I Corinthians 2:10 NIV).  What are the deep things of God?

It mentions THE PLANS OF GOD (I Corinthians 2:9), the incredible things that God prepared for those who love him.

They are described as something that no eye has ever seen, and no ear has heard, and no human mind has ever conceived.  What are they?

It is an important chapter on Jesus.  This passage mentions THE MIND OF CHRIST (I Corinthians 2:16 NIV).  What does that mean?  It doesn’t mean that we know all things.  It means that we think like Jesus.  He lives inside of us.

Jesus is called in this chapter THE LORD OF GLORY (I Corinthians 2:8).  It is one of the greatest titles of Jesus in the Bible.  It is proof that Jesus is God.

Jesus is called “the Lord of Glory” two times in the NT, once by Paul and once by James (I Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1).  A divine person came down from heaven to earth, became a man, died a violent death by crucifixion but also rose from the dead.  He is the Lord of Glory.

This is a very important chapter on the Holy Spirit.  This chapter is all about the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing in it about speaking in tongues or healing but a lot about the Holy Spirit.

The chapter mentions two spirits – the SPIRIT OF THE WORLD and the SPIRIT OF GOD.  They are contrasted in I Corinthians 2:12. What does it say about the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is an INDWELLER. He indwells every believer.

The Holy Spirit is a REVEALER.  He reveals things to us about God (I Corinthians 2:10).  He is also a TEACHER.  He teaches us things.  He teaches us what God has freely given us (I Corinthians 2:12).

The Spirit teaches us things that we can’t learn from people.  We see that in I Corinthians 2:13. Paul says that if you have the Holy Spirit, you understand some things that other people cannot know.

In fact, without the Holy Spirit, you think that spiritual things are absolute foolishness.  They are stupid.  They are a waste of time but if you have the Holy Spirit, you have a completely different perspective.

There are three important Christian doctrines taught in this chapter: the doctrine of revelation (I Corinthians 2:10), the doctrine of inspiration (I Corinthians 2:13) and the doctrine of illumination (I Corinthians 2:12, 14).  All of them involve the Holy Spirit.

Do you know the difference?  REVELATION is truth is communicated by God in a special way.  It is when you learn something supernaturally that you could not have learned naturally.

INSPIRATION is when he puts that revelation down on paper.  Inspiration is verbal.  The thoughts of the Bible are not just inspired but he the actual words.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught WORDS. (I Corinthians 2:13 NIV)

ILLUMINATION takes place when people understand what the Spirit has written in inspired scripture.

Paul’s Testimony

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (I Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV).

Paul begins the chapter telling us how Paul ministered in Corinth.  It is not the way most pastors would describe their ministry today.  It gives us some tips on evangelism today.

Tips on Evangelism

1) Present the gospel and leave the results to God

It is our job just to present the message.  We don’t have to convert anyone.  We don’t have to convince anyone.  That takes all of the pressure off.  All we have to do is to present the gospel.  That is all that Paul did.

He simply declared the gospel.  He preached a simple message and let the Holy Spirit do the persuading.  We are in charge of preaching the message.  God is in charge of the results.

Many preachers act like high pressure salesmen who try to sell you something that you don’t want.  They use high pressure tactics to get conversions.  They don’t last.  Paul did not do that.

He preached a simple message.  All he did was to deliver the message of the gospel.  He did not jazz it up.  He didn’t use big words.  He wasn’t eloquent and yet he got results.

2) Rely on God, not your own strength

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  Have you ever been physically weak?  Have you ever been afraid of something?  Have you ever felt inadequate?  Have you ever felt unable to do something that you needed to do?  Have you ever been afraid of failure?

Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness with great fear and trembling.  Most pastors do not experience fear today.  Most preachers don’t either.

What was Paul afraid of?  Was he afraid for his own safety in Corinth?  No one knows exactly.  Paul does not tell us why he was afraid or why he was trembling.

Why was he weak?  Was he sick?  Did the apostles ever get sick?  Apparently, Paul did.  He was sick when he ministered to the Galatians.

As you know, it was because of AN ILLNESS that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. (Galatians 4:13-14 NIV)

There is an important truth here that Paul teaches.  Paul teaches a theology of weakness.  The way to become strong is to become weak.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIV).

It is a Bible paradox.  It is the exact opposite of what we would expect to be true.  We would think when we are weak, we are weak, but Paul said, “When we are weak, we are strong.”

When we minister, we should not rely on our own gifts and abilities but on God.  Paul did not rely on his eloquence.  He did not rely on his education.

He studied under the great Gamaliel.  He did not rely on his rabbinical training.  He did not rely on his evangelism techniques.  He relied on God.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God (II Corinthians 3:5 ESV)

3) Look for a demonstration of divine power.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul did not preach eloquently.  He was not a great public speaker but his preaching was powerful.  Some preaching today is powerful, and some is not.

 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (I Thessalonians 1:5 NIV)

What made Paul’s preaching of the gospel powerful?  Why was it powerful?  The gospel has the power to save a sinner from Hell.  Paul said that it is the power of God UNTO SALVATION (Romans 1:16).

The gospel does not just have the power to SAVE but to SANCTIFY.  It has the power to completely transform lives that are broken and messed up.

Paul also had miracles that accompanied his preaching.  He was a genuine apostle.  He may not have been a great orator but after he spoke miracles took place, like in Acts 20.

While Paul was preaching a man fell out of a three-story building and died.  That is further proof that Paul was not a great preacher.  He put people to sleep when he preached but he went and raised him from the dead on the spot.

True Wisdom

Now, we come to a big topic.  In this chapter, Paul talks about wisdom.  Many preachers think that wisdom is bad.  Knowledge is bad.  Preachers say that.  The Bible does not.

Jesus is NOT against wisdom.  Paul said that in Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3 NIV).

God is NOT against logic and reason.  He says, “Come now, let us REASON together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

The Holy Spirit is not against wisdom.  Two gifts of the Spirit are the word of WISDOM and the word of KNOWLEDGE (I Corinthians 12:8)

Paul is not against wisdom.  He says, “We do, however, speak a message of WISDOM among the mature” (I Corinthians 2:6 NIV)

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he REASONED with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. (Acts 17:1-3 NIV)

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he REASONED in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4 ESV)

Types of Wisdom

Paul makes a very important observation about wisdom in this chapter.  There are two types of wisdom.

There is God’s wisdom and Man’s wisdom.  There is God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom.  There is earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom, “the wisdom that is above” (James 3:17).

They are not the same thing.  They are very different.  We think that God is just like us and He thinks like us.  The opposite is true.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)

There are two kinds of wisdom.  What’s the difference?  Which one are we going to follow?  Whose wisdom are we listening to?  Whose wisdom are we going to build our life on?  This is a huge topic.

Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of marriage?  Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of sexuality?  Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of morality?

Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of ethics?  Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of gender?  Whose wisdom do we follow in the area of child-rearing?  The list could go on.  What is the difference between the two types of wisdom?

Worldly Wisdom

What is worldly wisdom?  It is wisdom that we get from reason and logic.  It is wisdom that we get from other people.

1. Its Value

Is there any value in worldly wisdom?  Yes.  Education is good.  It has all kinds of value.  I have a few diplomas myself.

I work in that field myself. There are some things you can learn in the world that you can’t learn in the Bible.

You learn in the world how to read and write.  You learn in the world how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  You learn in the world how to speak a foreign language.  You don’t learn that from the Bible.

You learn how to cook.  You learn how to ride a bike and swim.  You learn about nutrition.  You can’t learn that in the Bible.  You learn important things from school as well.

If you want to become a doctor, you go to medical school.  If you want to know how to become a lawyer, you go to law school.  If you want to know how to become a pilot, you go to flight school.

Worldly wisdom is valuable.  It is important.  It is wisdom that comes from schooling.  It comes from education.  It is wisdom that comes from experts.  It comes from teachers.  It comes from society.

2. Its Problem

What’s the problem?  You can learn a lot of things from the world, but there are some things the world doesn’t teach you. In fact, the most important things in life cannot be taught by the world.

If you look to the world for answers to ultimate questions, you will get the wrong answers.  Try looking to the world to find the true religion.

Try looking to the world to interpret the Bible.  You can study the Bible in secular universities.  Without the Holy Spirit, you will come up with some crazy interpretations.

The world can’t teach you morality.  You won’t learn in school what is right and what is wrong.

It can’t teach about heaven and hell.  It can’t teach you if God really exists or how to know Him. The world did not know God through wisdom (I Corinthians 1:21 ESV)

Worldly wisdom will not give us God.  The world not only rejects the things of God but mocks the things of God.

For the message of the cross is FOOLISHNESS to those who are perishing (I Corinthians 1:18 NIV)

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. (I Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

Worldly wisdom will NOT get you salvation.  It will NOT lead you to God.  It will fill your head with facts, but it won’t lead you to God, no matter how smarter you are, no matter how educated you are.

You can be the smarted person in the world and not know God.  You can have an IQ of 300.  You can be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon and not know God.  Pontius Pilate is a good example.

Pilate was the judge in the trial of Jesus.  He was well educated.  You do not get to that position without being smart.  He knew many languages.

When he was crucified, he put an inscription over his head that said, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” and he put it in Greek, Latin and Hebrew (John 19:20).

He knew politics.  He knew that the Jews delivered Jesus up for envy.  He knew when to send Jesus off the Herod.  He would have made a great political commentator today.  He would probably be working for CNN.

He knew a lot, but he was clueless when it came to spiritual things.  He was the one who said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).  He was the one who crucified Jesus.

Pilate wasn’t too smart because he crucified the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:8).  He committed a huge miscarriage of justice.  He also wasn’t too smart because he didn’t listen to his wife (Matthew 27:19-20).

Many people say, “I follow science.  I believe in science” (almost like it is a religion).  Science doesn’t have any final answers.  It can’t teach you morality.  It doesn’t have answers to life’s most important questions either.

Science is constantly changing. The science of today is completely different from the science of one hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, we did not know anything about DNA.

There are some things that science used to say that we now know are false.  Science used to say that the Sun went around the earth.

What society says today is not what society said a hundred years ago or even fifty years ago and what one society and culture says is different from what another society says.

Divine Wisdom

Paul says that there is another kind of wisdom.  It is completely different from worldly wisdom.  What is the difference between human wisdom and divine wisdom?  There are two main differences.

1) Divine wisdom is supernatural, not natural

Human wisdom you can come up with yourself.  You can learn it yourself.  It is not the result of a lot of study.  It is not the result of a high IQ.

Divine wisdom has to be revealed by God.  If God does not reveal it to you, you won’t have it.

God doesn’t reveal it necessarily to the really smart people. He often reveals it to people who aren’t that smart.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11:25 NIV).

Harry Ironside was a famous preacher.  He was a pastor of Moody Church in Chicago in the 1930s. Ironside once made a rather propound statement.

“Take a poor, simple, ignorant Christian who can barely read or write and put him down over his Bible in dependence on the Holy Spirit of God, and he will get more out of a given passage of Scripture in half an hour than a Doctor of Divinity … who studies it with a lot of learned tomes about him depending on his intellect instead of upon the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of God opens the truth to those who depend on Him.  I am afraid that many of us are absolutely careless of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

We are trying to make our own way through the world to find out what is right and wrong in spiritual things, instead of handing over everything to the Spirit of God and depending on Him to guide and lead and open the Scriptures.  He came to do this very thing and He delights to fulfill this mission.”[1]

What kinds of things does He reveal?  He reveals mysteries or what we would call secrets.  We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began (I Corinthians 2:7 NIV).

He reveals things that you cannot learn by your five senses.  He reveals things that you cannot learn by reason and logic.  He reveals things that you cannot learn by intuition.

As it is written: “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. (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV)

That is one of the most misinterpreted and misquoted verses in the Bible.  Many preachers have quoted this verse out of context.

The problem is that we only read half the verse.  There is a danger in only reading half of the Bible.

That is a big problem today.  It is a problem for Christians.  That is why some Christians have bad theology.  They are not balanced.

They see the truth in Scripture.  They teach it and emphasize it, but they don’t talk about other truths that are also in the Bible.  They have their favorite pet doctrines.

The Jews in Jesus day and most today believe that when the Messiah comes, He will rule and reign.  He will bring peace.  That is true but He was also predicted to suffer and die.  They read only half of the OT.

We use this verse in I Corinthians 2:9 to talk about heaven.  We use it to show that heaven is beyond our wildest dreams.  It is beyond our imagination.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

That is obvious until we read the next verse.  These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

It is not just talking about things that will be revealed when we get to heaven and get to see what God prepared for us.  It is talking about things that He reveals to us now.  It is talking about the plan of salvation.

2) Divine wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit

This type of wisdom has to be revealed and it has to be revealed by the Holy Spirit.

“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—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

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. (I Corinthians 2:9-11 NIV)

That proves the Holy Spirit is God.  No one knows the thoughts of man but man.  No one knows the thoughts of God but God.  The Holy Spirit knows them.  He knows all of the thoughts of God, even the deep things of God.

John mentions that some were learning “the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24).  Paul mentions “the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:10).

You can get the deep things of Satan in the world.  You get the deep things of God in the Scriptures.  Some would rather learn the deep things of Satan.  I am more interested in finding out about the deep things of God.

3) Divine wisdom can only be understood by certain people

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. (I Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

Non-Christians do not know about this wisdom.  It is hidden from them (cf. I Corinthians 2:7).  If you are unsaved, you will not understand this wisdom at all.

The chapter ends with a confusing verse.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (I Corinthians 2:15 ESV).  What does that mean?

What does it mean that the spiritual person is judged by no one?  Does it mean that Christians are immune from criticism?

Does it mean that we can live any way we want, and no one has the right to judge us, even if we break the law and commit crimes?  No.  That would not be a spiritual person.  It would be the opposite of a spiritual person.

What it means is that Christians understand this world and spiritual truths as well, but the world does not really understand Christians.

[1] Harry Ironside, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 98.

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