Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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1 Corinthians 2

July 15th, 2012 by Vic

1 Corinthians 2

“Spirit of this world vs. the Spirit of God”

July 15, 2012


On his way to start the church in Corinth, Paul had been in prison in Philippi, was asked to leave Thessalonica and sent out of Beroea by his friends.  Then he visited Athens and gave his famous speech on Mars hill to a group of trained orators who were used to debating on a high philosophical and intellectual basis.  These people liked to show off how much they knew.  Paul knew the current philosophies, rhetoric, and sophistry.  He had been trained in the University in Tarsus, which was even more prestigious than the one in Athens.  He knew how philosophers thought.  He knew how orators debated.  He used their vocabulary and identified their idol ‘to the unknown god’ as a means to preach the gospel to these educated scholars.  His scholarly plan didn’t work very well.  Only a few believed.

Coming from this cold response Paul entered Corinth.  He started preaching to the Jews in the synagogue.  They also rejected him.  He left the synagogue and went next door, renting a hall and preaching the gospel for a year and a half.  The Lord built a church.


A couple years after Paul left Corinth he wrote this letter back to the church.  There were some growing pains in the Corinthian Church.  There were conflicts and divisions.  It had to do with spiritual pride and the Greek’s love of a good argument.  In the first chapter Paul reminds them who God is and who they are.  They should be very thankful and not arrogant about their way of organizing a church.  They may think they are smart, but the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of the world.  In one sense Christians themselves are really the foolishness of God.  The power of Christian rhetoric is not in the speaker, but in the message of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 2 reveals a number of ways in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives.  He is an incredible gift to every believer in Christ.  The Spirit knows the heart of God and continually reveals to us the beauty of the grace we received when we became a Christian and are now receiving as we walk in the light.  We grow from grace to grace.  We begin to see things more and more from God’s point of view.


2:1-5  It is impossible for us by any effort of the mind to understand the stigma attached to the cross of Christ in the first Century.  The cross for us has become an honored symbol.  To them the cross was attached to painful death, curse, reproach, suffering, and scandal.  If Paul was trying to plant a church, why would he preach about Jesus Christ crucified?  That would not be contextually appropriate, politically correct, or seeker friendly.  But Paul was not planning to plant a church.  He was called to preach the gospel.  Jesus was planting the church.  Paul found joy in watching the Spirit of God demonstrate the power of God in changed lives.


We do not know what Paul was thinking when he was coolly laughed out of Athens (Acts 17:32).  But his preaching changed when he came to Corinth.  In Athens he had spoken the language of the philosophers and used their own terms and quoted their own authorities.  He had tried to discuss Christianity in philosophic and contextual terms but with very little effect.  He had tried to be seeker sensitive.


However, like the showing of the Jesus film, the simple story of Christ has the power of God to change lives.  The power is in the message, not in the preacher.  Paul decided he would no longer rely on his own excellence of rhetorical display, eloquent wisdom, or philosophical subtlety.  He chose rather to preach the wisdom/mystery (7) of Christ crucified which tripped up (1:23) the philosophers and the Jewish scholars (stumbling block).  Most preachers today are taught to use persuasive words to bring sinners to a decision for Christ (4), but Paul chose to let the Spirit convict hearts and change lives.


Today, our seminaries have again tried to make preaching an art form like Paul tried in Athens.  There is no new method, prophet, guru, hobby horse, Power Point illustration, or counseling technique that makes preaching more relevant, popular, or powerful than the simple message of the cross.


Have you tried living by the wisdom of this world?  How’s it going?  The city of Portland is proud of their bikes and breweries.  They don’t brag too much about their strip clubs.  Portland has the most strip clubs/capita of any city in the U.S.  They are #2 in the sex trade.  How’s the wisdom of this world going?  I recently heard that some historians are suggesting that Jimmy Carter may have been one of our wisest Presidents in recent history.  Reagan apparently reversed some of the policies that Carter initiated and we are suffering the financial consequences.  Carter sought the wisdom of God.


Paul came to Corinth in weakness and fear (3).  I suspect that every real man of God comes to Sunday mornings with some fear and trembling.  You can tell when I have invested some time in prayer for you and the message I share with you on Sunday morning.  God speaks to your heart.  When I use a sermon that I have used before and fail to get my heart right, you will know it has no power.  When I think I have it all together and I relax until Sunday, you will know.  When I find this great outline on the internet and all I have to do is go through the outline with you and add a few comments off the cuff, you will know.  Paul did not want us to base our faith on the logic of man’s wisdom, but on the power of God (5) in our heart.


2:6-9  Paul makes a distinction between 2 kinds of wisdom.  There is a worldly wisdom and a godly wisdom.  Only the mature Christians will understand the godly wisdom.  The word Paul uses for ‘mature’ is ‘teleiois’.  It is also translated ‘perfect’.  This thought is really encouraging.  Paul is reminding us that new Christians cannot understand much Truth of God.  God’s truth cannot be discovered by man.  It can only be revealed by God (10) and that takes time.  Next week we will hear Paul call the Corinthians infants (3:1).  We should be growing in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.  We begin as infants.


We will learn from this letter that Paul does not attack or criticize the Christians.  He reminds them of their immaturity and offers them a more excellent way (13:1).  This world offers you the wisdom of this age.  This wisdom is different in different cultural settings and always changing.  What Obama said 4 years ago is not the same as he is saying now.  God’s wisdom is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


God’s wisdom is a mystery that could not be known fully until Christ came.  God’s plan from before time was that our lives would bring glory to His name.  The mystery of God is that God reveals His truth in the lives of the believers and the world chooses not to see (9).  Neither Isaiah nor Paul were talking about heaven, but about the here and now in Christ Jesus.  God has prepared something special for those who love Him today.


2:10-16  Neither scientific investigation nor human reason has ever been able to discover God’s thoughts.  The truth of God never entered man’s mind.  The truth of Scripture was never found by the logic of man.  For God has revealed/uncovered truth to the Biblical writers through the inspiration of His Spirit.


God’s plan was to transmit His truth to the heart of man by revelation (10).  By inspiration, the Bible writers were enabled to write down God-chosen words (13), and by illumination, believers were enabled to understand the truth given by inspiration (14).


The first word for men in verse 11 is the general word for mankind.  The second word for man is the individual man.  ‘Who is there among mankind who can know the thoughts of another man except the spirit of that man which is in him?’  If you can’t know the spirit of another man how could you possibly discern the heart of God?  The spirit (pneuma) of man is the highest element of the human personality that hears the Spirit of God.  We can’t hear the heart of God without the Spirit of God.


You’re not going to discover the wisdom of God by reading ‘7 Habits of Successful People.’ You’re not going to understand the Spirit of God by applying the wisdom of Buddha.


So how can those who are spiritually blind become enabled to see what God has revealed?  It will happen only through and with God’s help!  It takes a spiritual connection with God to understand spiritual things.  God reveals Truth.


We are born with the spirit of this world with its pull toward selfishness and sin (12).  As Christians we are born again and receive the gift of the Spirit of God that we might know (illumination) the beauty of God’s grace.


Spiritual things are not revealed to the not-yet Christian in the physical realm of what you see, hear, or even what you think about.  The Philosophies of man do not enable us to reach out and touch God.  It takes God reaching out and touching us – spiritually.  The Spirit of God teaches us by combining and comparing Scripture with spiritual words (13).  Jesus said when you become a Christian, the pure in heart will see God in everything.


The natural man, soul man, or man without the spirit (14) (NIV) is a translation of a Greek word Aristotle coined to distinguish an educated man at the height of his intellectual powers (psychikos anthropos).  He is the man whose powers of discernment are a product of his observation and reason.  This word could probably be used for Sherlock Holmes.  The best thinker in the Greek world can see a lot of things but has no power to understand the things of the Spirit of God.


This verse literally reads, “A natural man (the world’s best thinker) chooses not to receive the things of the Spirit of God for to him they are ‘moronic’ (foolishness) and he cannot (has no dunamis) know them because they are spiritually discerned.”  The psychikos man lives as if the visible world is all there is to life.  He is unable to know the reality of God because he has chosen to reject the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and reign.


But on the one hand the spiritual (pneumatikos) man has received the Spirit of God and discerns and judges all things.  He on the other hand is discerned by no one (15).  You cannot know the heart of another man.  When you speak, you usually know what you want to say.  You try to choose the words that carry the meaning you want to communicate.  But words can never accurately carry the innuendoes and shades of meaning in your heart that you want to share.  The other person really doesn’t know where you are coming from.  So there is a misunderstanding.  Our Bible is the Word of God from the heart of God, revealed to inspired men who wrote it down.  We must receive illumination from the Spirit of God to accurately understand the heart of God expressed in the story of God.  Spirit to spirit; Heart to heart.

The Truth of God is uncovered/revealed through an intimate relationship with God’s Spirit.  Jesus lived a life in harmony with the Story of God.  His life was an everlasting protest against the wisdom of this world.  He has shown us what to admire and approve in this life.  He has shown us abundant life by living in obedience to the will of God.

When we think like God thinks and listen to the teaching of His Spirit, the whole world comes to life.  We see the world more clearly.  The pure in heart see and hear God.  Our God sang Creation into existence.  He is a God of incredible diversity and differences.  Notice the colors, the rhythms, the music, the noise, the silence, the dirt, the majesty, the mystery!  Give thanks.

We share God’s joy in the play of our children and we share His anger when we see a city full of sin.  We share His smile on the face of all Creation and we weep His tears when greed misuses God’s gifts.  The Spirit helps us see our lives and our world from God’s point of view.  We have the mind of Christ.  I’m concerned about what we laugh at on TV.  Proverbs 14 says the fools mock sin or fools laugh at sin.  Jesus wept over the city.  Are we laughing at sin?


There are some attitudes in our lives that need to continually change or be tweaked a little.  We need to grow up.  There are some short circuits in our thinking that we inherited.  The values of this world are not in harmony with Kingdom values.  When you became a Christian you did not become instantly wise and godly.  Your thinking was not always God’s way of thinking.  Your words were not God’s words.  Are you still growing in Christ?  Are you following in His steps?


1. Listen for God’s heart beat

2. Study his word and meditate on it

3. Listen for God’s heart beat

4. Watch the examples of Godly men and women

5. Listen for God’s heart beat

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