What does Christian wisdom look like? What are fundamental truths that can shape our lives? In this message on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Pastor David Platt calls Christians to look at the cross as the source of our wisdom. He shares four inevitable exhortations as we consider to truth of the cross.
- Let’s be desperate for the Spirit in order that we might know God’s glory.
- Let’s seek discernment from the Spirit as we trust God’s generosity.
- Let’s live different by the Spirit as we reflect God’s goodness.
- Let’s go with dependance on the Spirit as we proclaim God’s gospel.
If you have Bible, and I hope you do, turn with me to 1 Corinthians 2. It was seven years ago next month when I officially came to pastor the Church at Brook Hills. I was 27 years old. Talk about in over my head. What were you guys thinking? What was I thinking? First Kings 3 summed it up when Solomon said, “I am only a little child, and do not know how to carry out my duties” (1 Kings 3:7). To be perfectly honest, seven years later, I feel the same way. Some of you might, too. What were we thinking? Actually, seven years later, I think I’m more in over my head because I still feel in over my head when it comes to pastoring this church, but in that seven years, I’ve also added four kids to my life. Parenting has made clear to me: I am in over my head.
Does anybody else ever feel like that in some way, maybe many ways, in your life? Some of you may have it all figured out, but others of you, do you ever find yourself in marriage just thinking, “I don’t know what to do”? In parenting, with certain children, maybe all your children, do you sometimes find yourself at the end of yourself? Do you ever feel like that as a single mom or a single dad? Do you feel like that as a widow or a widower, thinking, “I don’t know what to do without that person I love around?” Do you feel like that as a single adult, maybe even with a desire to have that person around and longing for that in a way that’s unfulfilled and not being sure what to do with that longing? Do you ever feel like you’re in over your head at work? Or maybe just in life in general? Do you ever feel like you’re at a place in life, maybe it’s a good place, maybe it’s a bad place, but regardless, you find yourself asking, “What do I do now?”
And not just in our lives, but as a church. We talked a couple of weeks ago about all that God is doing—good things—in and through our faith family, but with growth come challenges. The church will always have challenges, and the more we go into this city and scatter to the nations, the more we’ll be in over our heads. It’s interesting that right after Solomon said, “I’m only a child, and I don’t know how to carry out my duties,” he said, “And so I pray for one thing. I pray for wisdom.”
God was pleased that this is what he asked for, which begs the question, “Why is wisdom the one thing that Solomon needed?” And why is wisdom the one thing that we need, in our lives, and across this church? Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern what is good, right, true, and lasting. That is what we need, isn’t it? Don’t we all want to know and experience what is good and right and true and lasting in our lives, in our families, in our relationships, as a church? This is why I have found myself praying literally every single day over the last seven years for wisdom. I long for wisdom to know how to shepherd this church well, wisdom to know how to love my family well, wisdom to know how to live my life well, in a way that’s good and right and true and in a way that lasts, in a way that counts.
This morning I want to show you the inextricable, the inseparable link between the cross of Christ and our need for wisdom in this life, not only in this life, but beyond this life. I want
us to read this text, God’s Word for us on this Sunday, 1 Corinthians 2:6–16, and I want to show you two foundational truths in the text that I think sum up what God is saying to us here. Then I want to encourage you, exhort you in four specific ways as a people who, in so many ways, are in over our heads in our lives, at our work, in our marriages, in our families, and as a church.
When we come to 1 Corinthians, in the one chapter and five verses that we’ve already read, we might have the impression that Paul is against wisdom. In the start of this letter, he seems to have systematically launched an all-out assault on wisdom. Look at 1 Corinthians 1:17. Paul said, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Three verses later, verse 20, Paul asks, “Where is the one who is wise?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Next verse, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom…” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Next verse, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:22–23). Skip down to verse 26, where Paul says, “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…” (1 Corinthians 1:26–27). Then, you get to 1 Corinthians 2, and Paul says in verse 1, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1). And then, in verse 4, “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
By this point, it sounds a lot like Paul is anti-wisdom, but the reality is, it’s worldly wisdom that Paul is on the assault against. There’s another type of wisdom, a godly wisdom that’s good and that we desperately need. He says in 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. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 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”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 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. 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. 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 natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6–16)
Two Foundational Truths…
1 Corinthians 2:6–16 and The cross of Christ is the pinnacle of wisdom:
God purposed to glorify Himself by saving undeserving sinners through the sacrifice of His one and only Son.
Let’s look at the two foundational truths in this text. Number one, the cross of Christ is the pinnacle of wisdom (the height, this is the pinnacle of wisdom): God purposed to glorify Himself by saving undeserving sinners through the sacrifice of His one and only Son. This is how Paul defined the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 1.
Look back at verse 22. We read it just a second ago. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but…” Here’s the contrast “…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22–24). Did you hear it? Christ crucified is the power of God, and Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. So this is the wisdom of God: Christ crucified, according to God’s eternal design. Which is what Paul’s saying in 1 Corinthians 2, verse 7: Christ crucified is “a secret and hidden wisdom…which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). What a statement! See this, feel this. God decreed the cross of Christ before the ages for our glory. Think about this!
Think about the cross from eternity past (before the ages) to eternity future (our future glory), and see the wisdom of God. Think about what the cross of Christ represents. The cross of Christ represents God’s predetermined affection for sinners. Before the ages, before God even created man, God purposed to save man from his sin.
Paul says the same thing a few pages later in your Bible in Ephesians 1. “Before the creation of the world…in love [God] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace…” (Ephesians 1:4– 6). Then, he goes on and says, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8). Follow this! “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment…” (Ephesians 1:8–10). God’s affection for us, His loving pursuit of us in the cross of Christ was already in place before man was ever made. Paul calls this wisdom “secret and hidden,” which is a reference to how, in the time leading up to Christ, the reality of the cross was hidden in shadows and types—in pictures like the Passover Lamb or the sacrifice of atonement—and in prophesies like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Then, in the actual coming and eventual crucifixion of Christ, God’s plan for the salvation of sinners was fully revealed.
Which leads to the next reality: The cross of Christ represents God’s past substitution for sinners. The wisdom of God. How could God, in His perfect holiness, satisfy His justice against sinners and show His mercy toward sinners at the same time? The only way—and we have walked through this time and time again in the gospel—the only way is by substituting Himself in the place of sinners. This is the most glorious reality in all of the universe, and it is the pinnacle of the wisdom of God.
We stand before God in our sin, deserving of holy wrath and eternal judgment. His holy justice demands it, requires it. Yet God, in His mercy, has come to us Himself in Christ, and He has stood in our place as our substitute to pay the price for our sin. God, in His wisdom, has expressed His full judgment upon sin. At the same time, God has endured His full judgment against sin, and in the process, God has enabled salvation for sinners. All of that happened at the cross. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Christ crucified, the wisdom of God!
The cross of Christ represents God’s predetermined affection for sinners, God’s past substitution for sinners, and keep going here. Don’t miss the next step in what Paul is saying. The cross of Christ represents God’s present execution of sinners. That’s strong language, but I mean it to be strong, because this is what Paul is saying, and this is what the Bible teaches. Think about Jesus’ words to would-be disciples in the Gospels. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Right? That’s what we heard Jesus say, and now Paul is saying the same thing.
The cross is not just a place where Christ died for sin in the past; the cross is a place where we die to ourselves in the present. That’s the whole point here in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. Look at the end of 1 Corinthians 1. Why did God design this plan for the salvation of sinners? Verse 29, “…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:29–31) That’s the climax of all that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1.
God has designed salvation, not so that the richest or the noblest or the wisest in this world can be saved by his or her achievements and accomplishments. No, wisdom is not found in the ways of this world. Wisdom is not found in devotion to power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity. This is what the world equated wisdom with in the first century. Jews demand signs, Greeks seek wisdom. They value power and prestige, noble position and worldly prosperity. This is what the city of Corinth equated wisdom with in the first century, and this is what the culture around us equates wisdom with in the twenty-first century. These are the mantras of our day. Gain power and influence. Attain prestige. Climb the corporate ladder as you promote your position. Acquire possessions, pursue pleasures, enjoy prosperity.
The problem is that, just as this worldly wisdom had penetrated the church at Corinth, this worldly wisdom has penetrated the church in our culture today. So many who claim the name of Christ are running after the same things that the world is running after. This is where I went off track real quick as your pastor right after coming here. As people’s attention was drawn to the church and what we were doing and this young pastor, I found myself enjoying it, like I’d arrived, living in the American church dream with a nice house and seeming prosperity in this Christian culture we’ve created. Yet in my heart, I had this sinking feeling that I was missing the whole point.
Wisdom is not found in devotion to power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity; wisdom is found in death to pride. That’s the message of the cross. When we come to the cross, we die, not just to our sin. We die to ourselves, and we die to the stuff that this world offers us. We die to these things. To quote Paul in another letter, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.” That’s the point. The cross is not just a place of crucifixion for Him; it’s a place of execution for me. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
My life is not my own, to use Paul’s language from later in 1 Corinthians 6. I don’t live for myself, and I don’t run after what the world runs after. I have died to the pursuit of power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity. I’m no longer living for these things. I am no longer living for pleasures in this world; I am living for treasure in the world to come. My goal is not to gain, but to give. My aim is not safety, but sacrifice; not fame, but faithfulness. To quote the song we sang earlier, “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.”
In the wisdom of God, He has chosen to save those who die to themselves. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is foolishness to the world. You go up to the successful American businessman who’s acquired power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity in this world and tell him that he needs to turn from himself and all his stuff and put his trust in a naked man hanging dead on a wooden post 2000 years ago, and he’ll say you’re crazy and move on with his life. Or maybe, like many professing American Christians, he’ll give lip service to that naked man because it’s the culturally acceptable thing to do while he continues on with his devotion to the wisdom of this world.
I think of a friend of mine whom I’ve known for many years and whom I love. He professes to be a Christian but is living in deliberate, unrepentant sin. Yet, in the middle of it all, he’s pursuing and experiencing worldly prosperity and worldly pleasures and worldly possessions. I’ve tried to call him back to Christ, but he’s so blind. He’s so blind, and he doesn’t see that what he equates with wisdom is utter foolishness. He doesn’t see that all the stuff he’s putting his hope in instead of Christ will one day burn up in the fire. And he doesn’t see what he’s missing out on.
This is the ultimate beauty of this entire picture. Don’t miss this. This can sound somber and hard—the cross is a place of execution. To come to Christ is a call to die, but that’s not the end of the story. The cross of Christ doesn’t just represent God’s present execution of sinners. No, that’s not where it stops: The cross of Christ represents God’s future glorification of sinners.
This is the end of 1 Corinthians 2:7. “God decreed [Christ crucified] before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Keep going to verse 9, which is a conglomeration of Old Testament quotations. Paul says, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:9) This is true wisdom. Trust in what God has prepared for you. This is wisdom in this world. Why would you live for short-term pleasures that you cannot keep when you have a promise of long
term treasure that you will never lose? In His wisdom, God has designed the cross of Christ in eternity past for our glory in eternity future, so that everyone who comes to the cross, everyone who dies to their sin and dies to themselves, will rise to live forever with Him.
If I could just pause at this point and speak specifically to those in this room who have never embraced the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God. Maybe this is your first time in church. Maybe you’re exploring Christianity. Or maybe you’ve been living in cultural Christianity that, if you’re honest, has yet to penetrate the depth of your life. I want to invite you, I want to urge you to embrace the cross of Christ today as the wisdom of God.
See it. Before the foundation of the world, before a star was ever set in the sky, before mountains were ever placed upon the land, before oceans were ever poured upon the earth, God Almighty purposed to send His Son to pay the price for our sin, so that anyone and everyone who would turn from their sin and from themselves to trust in Jesus as the crucified Savior and the risen Lord might receive life forever and ever with Him. See this morning what condition you are in apart from Christ, separated from God by your sin, immersed in the ways and the wisdom of this world that (1 Corinthians 2:6) are doomed to pass away. The world says these ways are wise; they are not wise. See how the gospel is perfectly and eternally designed by God to meet your deepest need. The Lord of glory has died for your sin in your place. See the unimaginably glorious future that God has prepared for those who love Him. See these things, and put aside your pride. Come to the cross of Christ, and receive new life through Him. I urge you. Turn from your sin and yourself, and trust in Christ today.
Such wisdom is not invented or discovered by man; such wisdom is graciously revealed by God.
Now, even as I say that, even as I urge you to come to Christ and to embrace the cross as the wisdom of God – God has purposed to glorify Himself by saving undeserving sinners through the sacrifice of His one and only Son – even as I say that, I know that the only way anyone can embrace this wisdom is because of the work of God’s Spirit in the world. That’s the other foundational truth here in 1 Corinthians 2.
Such wisdom is not invented or discovered by man; such wisdom is graciously revealed by God. Plainly put, man did not, could not make this up. G.K. Chesterton once said, “I won’t call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God made it; and it made me.” Paul says in verse 10, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The wisdom of God, Paul says, is not a product of the human mind; the wisdom of God is a gift from the Holy Spirit. That’s the whole point here in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. The world dismisses this kind of wisdom as folly.
I mentioned earlier my friend who just seems so blind. I think about Brian, our brother who we all heard speak and saw baptized on Easter who had it all in this world—intellect, degree, job, success in all the ways this world offers—yet he was blind to his need for Christ until God opened his eyes to see. This is the story of every follower of Christ. It is only by the mercy of God that, when so many in the world look at the cross of Christ and see folly, you and I, Christian, look at the cross of Christ and see forgiveness. Remember, we talked about this in the first week in 1 Corinthians 1. Why do so many see the cross of Christ as absurd and yet you see the cross of Christ with awe? Is it because you’re smarter? Is it because you’re better? Is it because you’re superior in some way? No, it’s only by the mercy of God.
We talked about this, so this is a review. Behold the choice of God the Father. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28) Behold the choice of God the Father.
Behold the crucifixion of God the Son. Was this the way you would have designed salvation for sinful men? In the words of Francis Chan, talking about the wisdom of God,
Would you have thought to rescue sinful people from their sins by sending your Son to take on human flesh? Would you have thought to enter creation through the womb of a young Jewish woman and be born in a feeding trough? Would you have thought to allow your created beings to torture your Son, lacerate His flesh with whips, and then drive nails through His hands and feet?
Behold the mercy of God in the choice of God the Father, in the crucifixion of God the Son, and behold the call of God the Spirit. You keep going in verses 10 and 11, and you see that only the Spirit of God can reveal the glory of God to us. Verse 12 says, “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” (1 Corinthians 2:12). That’s it! God not only sends His Son to die for our sins, but God sends His Spirit to enable us to understand what His Son has done for our sins.
See the mercy, the grace of God. The word there in verse 12—these things are “freely given” us by God. Christian, think back to the moment – if you can remember, which some of you may not be able to, but some of you can – when your eyes were opened for the first time to the beauty of what God had done for you in Christ. You saw your need for Him, and you leaped in faith toward Him. What caused that? That was the Spirit of God at work in your heart.
I think about another friend who recently put his faith in Christ. I remember sharing the gospel with him, and we’d been talking about it for weeks, but at that particular moment, it just all came together, and he said, “Yes! I believe. I need Christ to save me.” I pray this is happening for many people in this room today.
Some might get confused and say, “Well, does this mean that if someone is not a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is not calling them?” This is where I just want to come back quickly to this reminder that we see throughout Scripture. Unquestionably, man is morally accountable for how he responds to the cross of Christ. Every single person in this room is accountable for how you respond to the cross of Christ. No one can blame their blindness to the cross on anyone but themselves.
Unquestionably, man is morally accountable, but ultimately, God is sovereignly gracious. I don’t understand how all of this mystery comes together, but I do know this: The mercy of God is the only reason I have been saved by the cross of Christ. He didn’t just send His Son to die for me 2000 years ago and leave it to me to figure out if I would trust in Him. No, He sent His Spirit to draw me to Himself, and apart from the work of His Spirit in revealing His grace, I would be forever lost, doomed to pass away. There is absolutely no ground whatsoever for boasting in my salvation.
It is only by the mercy of God that we have the mind of Christ, Paul says. Follow the progression here starting in verse 12 and leading to verse 16: “…we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). There’s debate and discussion among Bible scholars about whether Paul is referring generally here to how we, all as followers of Christ, have received the Holy Spirit, which is certainly a truth taught in many places throughout the Bible, or if Paul is referring specifically to himself and others who were apostles and who were receiving direct revelation from God to write down what is now in our Bibles. Those who think the latter is what’s going on here point to the next verse where Paul says, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13) In other words, Paul is passing on what has been revealed to him by the Spirit.
Regardless of whether or not this is Paul talking generally about all Christians and all Christian teaching or specifically about the apostles and the teaching of the apostles in the first century that forms the basis for much of what we have in our Bibles, the overall picture here is clear. The mind of Christ, the words of Christ, the truth of Christ, the revelation of God in Christ has been – follow this in your notes – revealed by the Spirit. Follow this. We are separated from God, not just by our sin, but by our smallness, right? Yes, our sin keeps us from seeing God perfectly, as He is. And also our smallness. We have finite minds, and God is infinite in His character. There is a gap between His nature and ours. What Paul is saying here is that the Spirit of God bridges the gap. As we’ve talked about, the Spirit crosses over the depth of our sinfulness and our smallness to enable us to understand God. Plainly put, we cannot grasp God apart from the work of His Spirit in revealing Himself to us.
You say, “Well, how does the Spirit reveal God to us?” The answer is through the Word. Whether Paul is specifically referring here to his own teaching or not, the reality is that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), literally “breathed”, “inspired by God’s Spirit”. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:20–21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21). What we have in the Word is literally the revelation of God through His Spirit.
That’s not where the story stops because many people can read this Word and still not trust in Christ and know God. We have the mind of Christ because it has been revealed by the Spirit through the Word – look at the last part here in your notes – to our hearts. This is so key. I hope it’s obvious by now, but when Paul is talking about the revelation of God’s wisdom, he’s not merely talking about wisdom on an intellectual level. The problem is not that the natural man or woman (without the Spirit) can’t understand intellectually the cross of Christ in history. It’s not that this truth is so high and lofty that only the intellectual elite can comprehend it. No, knowing the wisdom of God is not ultimately based on intellectual comprehension; knowing the wisdom of God is based upon spiritual submission. The problem with natural man is that though he or she may understand the cross of Christ, he or she is not willing to lay down their pride and submit their will to its implications for their lives. The only way we can have the mind of Christ is by the mercy of God who reveals Himself by His Spirit through His Word to our hearts.
1 Corinthians 2:6–16 and Four Inevitable Exhortations …
Let’s be desperate for the Spirit in order that we might know God’s glory.
Which leads us right into four inevitable exhortations that just flow from these two foundational truths, exhortations for our lives and for our faith family. Number one, in light of these two truths, let’s be desperate for the Spirit in order that we might know God’s glory. I’m speaking, yes, individually to us here, but also corporately to us, particularly after this last week where we prayed and fasted together. I want to say to us as a faith family, let’s be a people who are marked by desperation for the Spirit. Do people look at your life and say, “That’s a man or that’s a woman who’s desperate for the Spirit of God”? Do people look at this church and say, “That’s a people who are desperate for the Spirit of God”?
I want to call us to that, and here’s why. First Corinthians 2 has just shown us that only the Spirit of God knows the fullness of the glory of God. Paul used an analogy in verse 11: “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). So, you don’t know my thoughts unless I share my thoughts with you, and I don’t really know your thoughts unless you share them with me in some way. The same is true with God. We can’t know the thoughts of God—the truth about who God is and how God works—unless the Spirit of God shows us these things because, last part of verse 11, “no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
Only the Spirit of God knows the fullness of the glory of God, which means that, if we want to know God, then we need the Spirit to reveal Him to us. Simple, right? That’s the only way we can know God—through the Spirit. Therefore, people who are desperate to know God will be desperate for His Spirit.
Here’s the convicting part for me personally and pastorally. If we (you and I) are not desperate for His Spirit, then that is a sure indicator that we have grown content with knowing little about God. One of our values as a church, based on Acts 2:42, is that we pray desperately, we fast desperately. I was taking my two older boys to IHOP for breakfast (to break the fast) this week. They had just fasted from one meal. As we were going to the restaurant, they were recounting to me the purpose of fasting. Joshua said, “Daddy, we fast because we want to know God more than we want to have food.” And I said, “Yes, that’s right, buddy.” How badly do you want to know God? How badly do we as a church want to know God? Tozer said, “We have but to want Him badly enough, and He will come and manifest Himself to us.” It’s true, and it’s what Paul is saying here. When we are desperate for His Spirit, we will grow to know God with the very perspective of Christ.
This is what Jesus promised to us. In John 16, He tells His disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking form what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13–14). Follow this. “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15).
Did you hear that? All that belongs to God the Father belongs to God the Son. Jesus says, “I will send the Spirit to make all that belongs to me (i.e., all that belongs to the Father) known to you.” Yes! Church, let’s be a people who are desperate for the Spirit, who pray and fast and read and study and memorize the Word given to us because we want, we long to know God in all of His glory. Let’s be desperate.
Let’s seek discernment from the Spirit as we trust God’s generosity.
Second, let’s seek discernment from the Spirit as we trust God’s generosity. Tie 1 Corinthians 2:6–16—this wisdom that comes from the Spirit—with James 1:5. “If any of you lacks wisdom…” If any of you needs wisdom, i.e., all of us, “…let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5–6). Let’s seek wisdom from the Spirit as we trust God’s generosity in every facet of our lives.
I hope that this Word today is a clear reminder to us that we have limited wisdom. Our wisdom is limited for a variety of reasons, namely, as we’ve talked about, our sinfulness and our smallness. Think about the limited wisdom of man. I’m thinking specifically just about our smallness here, not even taking into account our sinfulness. In our smallness, we lack knowledge, perspective, and experience. We lack knowledge. Sometimes we act unwisely simply because we don’t have all the facts. We think we’re doing something wise, but then we find out some key information later that would have totally changed what we would have done. We lack perspective. Sometimes our perspective is distorted or limited, so we make unwise choices. We don’t realize how our decisions affect this or that person in this or that way. We lack experience. We often lack wisdom in situations that are new to us. We’ve not been there before, so we’re not sure what to do. All of these things are evidence of the limited wisdom of man.
This is the story of my life and my marriage. My precious wife is so patient with me. As I was preparing this sermon, I was trying to think of a good personal illustration here, so I asked Heather, “What comes to your mind when you think of unwise things I’ve said or done in our marriage?” We just laughed as we both started listing off one thing after another. This was not a hard exercise. She’d say, “Well you remember that time you said this,” and I’d say, “Then there was the time I did that. What was I thinking?” Whether it was early in our marriage, telling Heather one day that she said, “I love you” too much, or whether it was a few weeks ago when, with her and our four kids (including a crying baby) in the car, I ran out of gas on the side of the road. I am an unwise man and husband and dad and pastor. I hope this doesn’t frighten you as a church, but you’re unwise too, you know!
We all lack knowledge and perspective and experience, and it shows. There are things like these that we can laugh about (later), but there are also many more serious things in our lives, serious decisions we’ve made or will make, serious circumstances that we are facing and will face. We come to all of them with limited wisdom.
But consider the limitless wisdom of God. He has perfect knowledge, eternal perspective, and infinite experience. Perfect knowledge. God never says, “Well, if I would have known that, I never would have done this.” No, God knows all of that. There’s nothing that He doesn’t know. He never finds out new information that would have affected His decisions. He has eternal perspective. He sees every detail in our lives and every detail in the universe
in light of every detail in all of history. And He has infinite experience. He goes before us, and nothing is new to Him.
This is the God who says, “Ask of me, and I will give you wisdom.” How foolish do we have to be not to ask and not to trust that He will give it? He gives generously to all who ask. Why would any one of us choose our own ways instead of trusting in His wisdom? People say, “I just don’t know if I can follow God’s Word in this or that area of my life.” Increasingly in our culture, people say, “God’s Word is irrelevant. Get with the times. God’s Word is antiquated. There’s a new wisdom in our day.” See the utter foolishness of such thinking. The new wisdom of this day is doomed to pass away. Trust in the Word of God, ask for the wisdom of God, and walk in the ways of God.
Let’s live different by the Spirit as we reflect God’s goodness.
Which leads to the next exhortation: Let’s live different by the Spirit as we reflect God’s goodness. Again, the wisdom that’s being talked about here is not merely intellectual. It’s not merely a matter of the mind. It’s a matter of the heart, and it has implications for our lives.
Let’s again tie 1 Corinthians with James. This time James 3. I want to put it up here on the screen. Follow along here with me. James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” Let me pause here and say this is exactly what Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians—a people who, in pride, were dividing the church over different teachers, creating factions marked by jealousy and driven by selfish ambition.
Look right after 1 Corinthians 2 at 1 Corinthians 3:3, where Paul says, “You are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are not of the flesh and behaving in only a human way?” Paul is saying, “This is foolishness.” To continue in James’ words,
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:15–18)
See what the Bible is saying here. Worldly wisdom results in selfish living. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The world says wisdom is found in devotion to power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity, and all of this driven is by the self-centered nature of man’s heart. But Paul says, the Bible says, you who have come to know the wisdom of God, the wisdom of God that planned and purposed the sacrifice of Christ for the sake of your soul. This kind of wisdom causes you to live radically different in this world. You can’t die to your pride, and then indulge in selfish living. It makes no sense.
Worldly wisdom results in selfish living, but godly wisdom results in selfless love, in you laying down your life in selfless sacrifice for others. This is the wisdom of Christ in action. The wise way forward in marriage, husbands, is to lay down your life for your wife. The way forward in parenting and family and work and church is to serve one another well in peace and gentleness, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, ultimately shown in the fruit of spreading the wisdom of God everywhere you go.
Let’s go with dependence on the Spirit as we proclaim God’s gospel.
The last exhortation based upon 1 Corinthians 2: Let’s go with dependence on the Spirit as we proclaim God’s gospel. Isn’t this exhortation inevitable? If this is true, if the pinnacle of the wisdom of God is Christ crucified, then it is a waste of our lives in this world to keep this message to ourselves. The wasted life keeps the message of Christ crucified hidden, which is what we so often do.
Why is that? Isn’t much of it for fear of rejection? We are afraid of how uncomfortable it might be to share the gospel. We are afraid of how people might respond to the folly of the gospel, so we sit back in silence in neglect of the lost. Do we see the absolute and utter foolishness here of the wasted life—when men and women, who by the mercy of God, have had their hearts and minds opened to the beauty of the cross of Christ, have seen who He is and what He’s done, and they tell no one. Christian, don’t waste your life in silence with the wisdom of God—Christ crucified.
The wasted life keeps the message of Christ crucified hidden, but the wise life makes the message of Christ crucified known. It’s not wise according to the world, no doubt. If you think it’s uncomfortable to share the gospel in this world, you’re right. That’s the whole point here in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But they were once folly to you, until someone spoke them to you. God, in His mercy, by His Spirit, opened your eyes and changed your heart and life through the cross of Christ forever. Do you not think He will do the same thing in others’ lives?
The wise life makes the message of Christ crucified known with confidence in reception, knowing that the Spirit of God uses the spoken gospel to draw people to Himself. He draws people in your home and people at your work and people in this city and people among the nations. The wise life refuses to keep the message of Christ crucified hidden in neglect of the lost. No, the wise life makes the message of Christ crucified known, no matter what it costs. To be wise is to spend your life and lead your family and leverage your resources and for us to do all of this together as a church for the spread of the gospel of God in dependence on the Spirit of God.
Think about it. This spring we have sent out couples and families from among us to the other side of the world, to dangerous parts of the world with the gospel, and the culture around us does not look us and say, “Well, that’s smart.” The culture doesn’t look at these men and their wives and their children who have sold all they have to go share the gospel with people who are resistant to the gospel, and say, “Now, that is a wise career path. That is a wise way to raise your children.”
That’s the whole point of 1 Corinthians 2:15, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one” (1 Corinthians 2:15). That verse doesn’t mean that the person led by the Spirit of God in the wisdom of God is always right or is above everyone else in some way. The point is that the spiritual person with the wisdom of God in the cross of Christ is living according to a very different value system than the rest of the world.
This value system, based on the wisdom of God, is why we scatter every week throughout this city to boldly proclaim the cross of Christ. It’s why so many of you will scatter over the coming weeks around the world on short-term mission trips proclaiming the cross of Christ. And it’s why today, we have the privilege of sending out eight single men and women, two married couples, and one family from our faith family on mid-term mission to South America, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
Mid-term mission is the classification we give to people who go out from among us for anywhere between two months and two years to spread the gospel in other places in the world. We are encouraging everyone from high school graduates and college students to young couples and families to semi-retired and retired men and women to consider going mid-term, if possible, into the world with the gospel. The world will not say this is a wise way to spend your college years or your retirement, but the wisdom of God compels us to make the message of Christ crucified known.
I want to invite you to hear from three brothers in our faith family who just recently came back from serving in Southeast Asia, using a creative outlet for sharing the gospel with a people group that is virtually 100% Muslim, and then I’m going to invite Paul A., who directs our mid-term missions, to introduce us to the brothers and sisters that we’re sending out today. We’re going to have a time where we pray for them as we send them out with the gospel of God dependent on the Spirit of God.
- The cross of Christ is the pinnacle of wisdom: God purposed to glorify Himself by saving undeserving sinners through the sacrifice of His one and only Son.
- The cross of Christ represents God’s predetermined affection for sinners.
- The cross of Christ represents God’s past substitution for sinners.
- The cross of Christ represents God’s present execution of sinners.
- Wisdom is not found in devotion to power, prestige, position, possessions, pleasures, and prosperity.
- Wisdom is found in death to pride.
- The cross of Christ represents God’s future glorification of sinners.
- Such wisdom is not invented or discovered by man; such wisdom is graciously revealed by God.
- Only by the mercy of God…
- Behold the choice of God the Father.
- Behold the crucifixion of God the Son.
- Behold the call of God the Spirit.
- Unquestionably, man is morally accountable.
- Ultimately, God is sovereignly gracious.
- We have the mind of Christ.
- Revealed by the Spirit…
- Through the Word…
- To our hearts.
- Only by the mercy of God…
Four Inevitable Exhortations…
- Let’s be desperate for the Spirit in order that we might know God’s glory.
- Only the Spirit of God knows the fullness of the glory of God.
- If we want to know God, then we need the Spirit to reveal Him to us.
- Therefore, people who are desperate to know God will be desperate for His Spirit.
- If we are not desperate for His Spirit, it is a sure indicator that we have grown content with knowing little about God.
- When we are desperate for His Spirit, we will grow to know God with the very perspective of Christ.
- Let’s seek discernment from the Spirit as we trust God’s generosity.
- The limited wisdom of man…
- We lack knowledge, perspective, and experience. The limitless wisdom of God…
- He has perfect knowledge, eternal perspective, and infinite experience.
- Let’s live different by the Spirit as we reflect God’s goodness.
- Worldly wisdom results in selfish living.
- Godly wisdom results in selfless love.
- Let’s go with dependence on the Spirit as we proclaim God’s gospel.
- The wasted life keeps the message of Christ crucified hidden…
- For fear of rejection.
- In neglect of the lost.
- The wise life makes the message of Christ crucified known…
- With confidence in reception.
- No matter what it costs.
- The wasted life keeps the message of Christ crucified hidden…