|1st Corinthians - Wayne Barber/Part 19|
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|We have seen in Corinthians already that there are two kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom of man, fleshly wisdom, and then there is the wisdom of God. Of course man thinks he is so smart, but he shows himself to be a fool when he looks at God’s wisdom and calls it foolishness. Man does not want to hear about God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is wrapped up in a message, in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.|
1 Corinthians 2
The Wisdom of God – Part 1
Turn to 1 Corinthians 2 where I want to focus on “The Wisdom of God.” We have seen in Corinthians already that there are two kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom of man, fleshly wisdom, and then there is the wisdom of God. Of course man thinks he is so smart, but he shows himself to be a fool when he looks at God’s wisdom and calls it foolishness. Man does not want to hear about God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is wrapped up in a message, in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That has been Paul’s argument since way back in verse 10 of chapter 1. The apostle Paul preached the message of the gospel which contained the wisdom of God. Apollos, who was his successor, also preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Simon Peter, who is called Cephas, also preached that message. Now, what Paul is doing here by talking about the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God and people who preach the gospel, he is attacking a problem in the Corinthian church. They have heard these preachers, these great preachers, and they have attached themselves to them. They have not allowed the message to attach themselves to Christ. So Paul is saying, “You have made a terrible mistake.”
Verse 12 of chapter 1 says, when he speaks of the division in the church there in Corinth, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying [now when he says “each one of you,” it has affected the whole church] each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I am of Apollos,’ and ‘I am of Cephas [then, of course, you have that other group], and I am of [[Christ]].” That is the worst ones. They have the right person and the right message but the wrong motive. Don’t worry about them. They have attached themselves to a preacher.
Now Paul does not mention Apollos or Cephas, but he talks about himself. He puts himself into the forefront. All the way through he is saying, “Why in the world would you attach yourself to me?” In verses 16 of chapter 2, he takes them back to when he first came to Corinth. He says, “You examine my message. Nothing I did pointed to myself. Everything I told you, even the way I went about it, pointed to Christ. I made a choice. I wasn’t going to come with the eloquence of wisdom. I wasn’t trying to woo you to how smart I am. I brought the message of the preaching of the cross to you.” He said, “Look at my message. My message wasn’t about Paul. My message was about Christ. And not only that, look at my motive, the motive of my heart.” He said, “I came in demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God. I did not come as a man filled with his own wisdom. I came as a preacher filled with the wisdom of God.”
I love the verse found over in 2 Corinthians 4:5. It is exactly what he says in verses 15 of chapter 2. He says, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord.” That is so important to remember: that is the same thing he is trying to remind them, “We do not preach ourselves as lord, we preach Christ as Lord.” Then he says, “And ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”
So, in verse 6 of chapter 2 he continues now to go deeper into that argument. Why would you attach yourself to a preacher? Why would you do that? He goes on to explain why they should not do that, which is the narrowed context of what we are in.
We are going to get into some troubled waters here and if you don’t stay with the narrow context that we have already seen, very fixed and very clear, a lot of things can happen in your mind and a lot of wrong things can come out. So stay in that narrowed context. It is very, very important. Once again he shows us that it is immature, it is silly for them to attach themselves to men. It makes no sense whatsoever when they realize that these men who have preached the gospel did not preach it because they had come up with it or because they had discovered it. The only reason Paul preached it was because God had revealed it to him.
If you have a preacher that you just like, do me a favor and pray for that person, but don’t put that person on a pedestal. I just want to encourage you with everything in me, because that preacher is no different than any of us who can’t get out of the rain without the grace of God. It is God who has revealed to him the message. Whatever a preacher says that is eternal and brings out the depths of the scriptures of God did not come from that man’s brain. It came as a result of the revelation of the Holy Spirit of God. Please understand, this is what Paul is attacking. He will bring it up again in chapter 3. I mean, he is not through with it yet. Don’t attach yourself to a preacher. Listen to the message. And if the depths of it are there and God is being revealed, then let the message drive you to Jesus and attach yourself to Him. That is the key. The preacher is not the man who came up with it. It is God who revealed it to his heart.
God’s wisdom cannot be dethroned by man
Okay, he is going to go deeper now into the wisdom of God. First of all, God’s wisdom cannot be dethroned by mere man. In other words, it cannot be dethroned and taken off of its pedestal where it ought to be and brought down to the level of man to where man could take credit for it. Paul says that it is foolish to think that a preacher would ever take credit for what he said and want people to follow him because God’s wisdom, the message of the gospel, cannot be dethroned by mere man.
Look at verse 6: “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away.” Now, I want you to look at that phrase, “Yet we do speak.” Remember, the narrowed context. The narrowed context tells us Paul is referring to the apostles; in other words, the ones who gave us the doctrine. He says, “We speak, yes, but we speak with a wisdom that is not from ourselves.”
Now in a broader sense it can refer to anyone. But in a narrow sense, the context, I believe he is talking about the preachers, those who people are attaching themselves to. He is defending the fact that they are not doing it out of their own strength. They are not doing it in their own power. They are doing it in the power of the Spirit and they are doing it with a message that comes from God. The word for “mature” there is sort of an interesting word. It is not really “mature.” It can be translated that, but it is the word teleios. It means to accomplish a goal.
If I am running a race and I see the finish line ahead of me, I have not accomplished my goal until I have crossed that finish line. Whether I win or not is irrelevant. Do I cross the finish line? When a person has crossed that finish line and met that accomplishment, then the word teleios is used. So you can see the word “mature” can come from that word, but the idea is to come to a point to where something happens as a result of that.
Well, there is much discussion as to who are the mature he is talking about. He says, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are the mature.” First of all, could it be that the mature are the believers who did not see the gospel as foolishness, but because of the grace of God were wise in receiving it and received Christ into their hearts? Now they understand what Paul is saying. Then the wisdom of God would be the gospel. That is what he has been talking about. He has not strayed from that at all as he has walked his way through the context. By His grace they can now understand.
There is another side thought here. It could be that the mature he speaks of in this verse could be compared to the babes in Christ in 1 Corinthians 3:1: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.” In this case the mature would be those who could receive the solid food, and the immature would be the babes who had to receive only milk. What Paul would have been saying there is, “The mature group of you who understand the surrendered and the daily walk of the cross, you can understand what I am saying. Now some of you can’t.”
Maybe that is what he is saying. I don’t think so. I think the first definition is what he is using here. I am not going to fight anybody over it, but I think the word for “mature” here refers to believers in respect to mankind. Mankind in general has rejected the gospel message, but believers have received it. Therefore, they are the mature. When it comes to humanity, there is a group of people who has accomplished a goal. They didn’t actually accomplish it. God accomplished it for them, but they are at a point they can understand the things of God, whereas the people of the world who profess themselves to be wise, these are the ones who cannot understand the word of God.
Why do I think that? He has only had two groups in mind as he has come down to this point. One group has been the foolish and the other has been the wise. The foolish are those who have looked at God’s gospel and rejected it. The wise are those who have received it. He has not changed at all as he has walked down his defense why they should not attach themselves to men. So I think the word “mature” here would cover just the believers, those who have been brought into a place. Now the Holy Spirit lives in them, and they can understand the things of God. So he says, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature.”
Let’s go on in the verse: “a wisdom, however, not of this age.” Paul is saying no man in this age can take any credit for the gospel message that we are preaching. The word for age there is the word aion. If you have a King James Version, I think it says, “not of this world.” That is not a good translation. An eon is an age that starts and has an end to it. However, within an age there are many ages. Let me give you an illustration of that.
I was born in 1943. I don’t know when I am going to die, but there will be a stopping point, just as there was a starting point of my physical life here on this earth. In the midst of that, there are many ages. I was in preschool from age one to five. I started the first grade at six years old; then from first grade to sixth grade; from seventh grade to ninth grade; from tenth grade to twelfth grade. I went to college and seminary. But these are ages within my life.
So not only is Paul referring to the age in which he is living, that no preacher such as himself or anybody else can take credit for the message they are preaching because it is a wisdom that is not of that age, but he is also saying, of any age. There is no man who ever drew breath on this earth who can take credit for the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is a message that God gave to man. Why would you attach yourself to a preacher when God Himself had to give the preacher the message? We are preaching to those who can now understand a wisdom. And this wisdom is not of this age.
Then he goes on to say, “nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away.” The word for “rulers” is archon. It means the leaders, the ones up front. When we think of the leaders of our age we think of government officials. We think of intelligent people, of Nobel prize winners and people like that. Paul says, “Listen, all of these rulers here of this age are passing away.”
There are many things that he is thinking of here. First of all, let me identify the rulers he is talking about. Look in verse 8. He identifies himself. He says, “the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood.” Evidently he is talking about the lost ones, the Jewish and the Greek and the Gentile rulers of that age: “For if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Now these rulers who have rejected the gospel message in their own foolishness are passing away. There is no man who can take credit for the gospel message. I mean, even the ones we want to deify and lift up among the world, they are passing away.
There is an idea in this. The word for passing away is katargeo, and here it means they are really ceasing to exist and their message has to continually be upgraded. Have you ever noticed that every age has somebody with something new that they are finding? All of a sudden, it makes everything else obsolete. Then all of a sudden he is gone, and what he has found is gone, and somebody else comes up with something new. Then all of a sudden he is gone. It is constantly like that. But with the Word of God, the wisdom of God, it is not that way. It is the same yesterday, today and forever. That is what Paul is saying. He is saying, “Listen, the wisdom that we preach to you is not something that man can come up with and somebody else can improve upon. It is the same message that has been there all along. In fact, it was predestined before the foundations of the world.”
Let me share something with you before we get any further in this. If you ever hear a preacher or somebody say, “I found a new truth,” you had better back off and get on your knees and pray for that individual. Because when it comes to the Word of God and the gospel message, there is no new truth. It is all there from cover to cover, and it is not going to get new. I am hearing this kind of stuff when I watch television. They come up, “Well, I have got a new revelation about this and I have a new truth.” No, that is the way it is in the world, you see. And the next generation will come up with something new and the next generation will come up with something new. But when it comes to what we preach and what Paul said he preaches, it is the gospel, it is the wisdom of God and no man of any age can ever take credit for it because it is not of this age. The rulers of this age are passing away.
What we preach and what he preaches has been hidden since before the foundation of the world so that man cannot take credit for it. It says in verse 7, “But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” Note the narrow context here. He is defending these preachers who brought the message to Corinth. He says, “You should not attach yourself to them because what they speak is God’s wisdom, not theirs. It is in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”
The word for “mystery” there is the word that means something that is not naturally known. In other words, what Paul is preaching you can’t sit down in a little study group and come up with it without the Word of God and the Spirit of God. What Paul is saying here is that this wisdom, this gospel mystery, has been hidden. It has been hidden. It is something hidden. The word for “hidden” comes from two words. It means to hide away from where you can’t get to it. Perfect passive. Perfect tense means he made a decision back here and that is the way the gospel is going to remain because of a decision he made back here. Passive voice is, man didn’t have anything to do with it. God decided it was going to be this way. And so, when you hear a person preach the gospel and you take a friend to hear it and that friend just spits in its face and says, “That is stupid. That is foolishness,” and walks off, don’t expect him to be able to figure it out by his human mind. It is revealed by the Spirit of God. It is not something man can discover. It is something which has to be revealed.
Paul said, “We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” The word “predestined” is proorizo. It always expresses purpose of something. It means to make a decision beforehand based on knowledge that one has. Before man was ever born, before there was ever a glimmer of man’s wisdom, this wisdom of God had been determined before a man ever drew a breath on this earth. This wisdom which contained the gospel message, the redemption of all mankind, which contained all the benefits of salvation, which contains the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, was hidden and was chosen before the foundation of this world.
For what? He says there in the verse it was predestined “to our glory.” Now what do little phrases like that mean? The little preposition eis means something that is moving into something with a result in mind. Why did God predetermine before the foundation of the world this marvelous wisdom that He is going to encapsule into the gospel message? Why did He do it the way He did it? Well, He did it for our benefit. For all of us that now have not been foolish but have received what Christ has done for us. We have not looked at the message of the cross as foolishness, but we have received Christ into our life. We have been wise in that respect. We have been brought into an understanding now of what the Word of God has for us. We have all the benefits in salvation, and one day, when we see Christ, we will have a brand new, glorified body. All of that was thought about before the foundations of the world. It was hidden and put into the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what Paul is saying is, “When we preach to you, we are preaching something that never has changed. It has been that way since the foundation of the world, predetermined by God Himself. And you can’t just figure it out with your own human mind. It is something the Spirit of God has got to reveal to your heart.”
Verse 8 says, “the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood.” These rulers that we talked about a moment ago are the ones who crucified Jesus, the Jewish leaders and the Gentile rulers of that day. If they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord. Now, I guarantee you, Paul made a lot of people mad when he preached these kinds of things. There are a lot of people who say, “Wait a minute. I have all kinds of degrees, and you know good and well I can figure it out. You just give me enough time and I will figure it out.” But Paul says, “No, you won’t either. You will come up with one conclusion. The conclusion all men have come up with, that the gospel is foolishness. You can’t even see yourself as lost. It is the Spirit of God that convicts a man as to his lostness. It is not what man discovers on his own, it is what God reveals to the human heart.”
The wisdom of God cannot be dethroned to where man can take credit for it. So why would you attach yourself to a man? That is the whole point. That is the argument Paul has been giving to them. Don’t attach yourself to the preacher. If the message opens up your heart and you have received the things of God, you attach yourself to God who is the author of that message.
Verse 8 goes on, “for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Then in verse 9, as if to document how this wisdom of salvation, this gospel message that Paul preached, was so precious and predetermined before the foundation of the world, look at what he quotes. He quotes out of Isaiah 64:4. He said, “But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
In essence, by quoting this passage what he is saying is, “There has never been a man on this earth whose eye has witnessed this, whose ears have heard this in order to perceive it, whose minds have conceived of it. There has never been a man on this earth until he sees a believer and he realizes this believer has something within him that is far beyond what man could ever do or man could ever think up. It came from God and it was predetermined before the foundation of the world.”
It has to do with our salvation and with the benefits of our salvation. No man could come up with this, folks. You won’t hear it in a classroom. It is when the Holy Spirit of God reveals it to man’s heart.
Turn over to Isaiah 64:4, because Paul doesn’t quote it quite exactly the way it is written in Isaiah. I think this is important to understand. When Paul uses an Old Testament reference, sometimes he doesn’t quote it exactly and some people have trouble with that. No, Paul has a point to make and he pulls the main thought out of something. He may quote it differently to establish the point that he is trying to make. You see, all the benefits of our salvation are wrapped up in the gospel message. It is not just getting saved. It is everything that goes along with our salvation and our calling. All of that has been hidden. It is a mystery. And until the Spirit of God reveals it, man is not going to know it. Therefore, how can a man take credit for it?
Isaiah 64:4 reads, “For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee.” There has been nobody to compare to our God. Now note the last phrase. “Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Paul is saying, “Man, when I came among you, there has never been a man on this earth who could ever sit and say, ‘I have seen something like that. I have heard something like. I have perceived it. I came up with it.’ No, no. They stand back in awe at the message of salvation.” But not just the message of salvation; it is also how the God of salvation deals with the people who receive that message. They have never seen anything like it. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard. Man cannot conceive of this.
You take the Buddhist, the Hindus and the different religions of this world. Man came up with them. There is nothing in those religions that will come anywhere close to what Christianity is, what the message of salvation brings to our heart. And every man has to stand back and say, “We have never seen anything like this. We have never heard of anything like this. We have never conceived of anything like this.” Paul said, “You see, it is something that had to come straight from God.”
I tell you what, when you watch people walk through difficult times and valleys and trauma, the world has to stand back and say, “I have never known anything like this. I have never conceived of how God would intervene in the lives of His people like that. Our God doesn’t intervene in our life.” You see, Buddha is dead.
Buddha said there was no way of salvation. He had these followers who came after him and they say there was no way of salvation. There is no salvation. This is it. Then one day he died. His followers said, “Well, since he said there was no way, he must be the way.” And so they all worship him and he is dead. He is in the ground. He is gone.
There is nothing like what we know. It came from God, predetermined before the foundations of the world. No human eyes have ever seen and no human ears have ever heard to perceive and no mind has ever conceived of it. What we know in salvation comes only from God, and it astounds the world when they see how our God works in our lives, how He intervenes and how one day He puts a hope within us that when we see Him, we will be like Him. There is nothing like this in the world. It came only from God. Therefore, how could the men who preach this message ever take credit for it? How could they ever dethrone the message to where it could become theirs? It is not theirs. It is God’s, and it has always been God’s. It is from the foundation of this world. God’s wisdom will never be dethroned by man seeking to take credit for it.
I tell you what, folks, watch out for a person who preaches and draws attention to him and what he says and does not draw attention to God and what He does. You be real careful. How do you know somebody is right? Well, when you leave, who did you leave impressed with, the Christ of the message or the messenger to where you would want to attach yourself to him?
Paul is warning them right here, I think, on both sides. Not only don’t you attach yourself to a preacher, but preachers, don’t you ever employ any human methodology that will cause people to be attached to you either. The message you preach is from Him, not from you. And it is so astounding. It has been a mystery and a mystery has to be revealed. It cannot be just discovered. It is the kind of thing that when you get into it, human minds cannot reason it. It has got to be the Spirit of God in the mix who helps a man to understand.
The wisdom of God cannot be discovered by man
That is our next point. The wisdom of God cannot be dethroned to where a man can take credit for it. But the wisdom of God cannot be discovered by mere man so that man can take credit for it. In other words, you can’t bring it down to man’s level, so man cannot discover it. It has to be revealed.
I keep bringing you back to that narrow context. Don’t attach yourself to a preacher because man’s wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom of God. Look at verse 10. Look at the “to us” there. It is very important. “God revealed them,” the things of verse 9 which man has never heard or perceived or seen, “through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” God’s wisdom must be revealed to man or man will never find it. He says, “For God has revealed to us.” Who is he talking about? I think again he is saying these preachers of the gospel, the apostles, remember it is by revelation of God that we speak to you in that day. Of course, the wider meaning would include all of us, but I think the narrow context refers to them.
God has revealed. The word for “revealed” means He has uncovered, has taken the lid off. He has taken the lid off this message. He has helped us to understand it. We couldn’t understand it apart from Him. But God has revealed it in our life. Later on in 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” That is another way of saying the same thing. He is saying, “Hey, I got it from God, and I just gave it to you. Why in the world would you want to attach yourself to me?” “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
He says, “For to us God revealed them,” but how did He reveal them? It is getting exciting here. How did He reveal them? He revealed this truth, that has been hidden before the foundation of the world, that is a mystery to the minds of man, through the Spirit. God reveals it through the Spirit. And, of course, when he says “the Spirit” he is speaking of the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity.
You know, it is amazing how we are living in a day where we think that there are three Gods instead of one. It is one God in three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Do you believe the Holy Spirit is God? All of God? Absolutely all of God? You had better believe that because if you don’t believe that, you don’t believe the Word of God. Is Jesus all of God? Yes. Is the Father all of God? Yes. But He is one God in three persons. So many people get confused on that. They say, “Well, explain it to me.” I can’t explain it to you. If I could explain it to you, God would be no bigger than my brain. If that is the case, what are we doing in church on Sundays. I mean, He is bigger than any of us. We can’t understand that. That is why Jesus said the Spirit will come to be in you, but I will be with you and the Father will be with you. That is very important to understand. When you get Jesus, you get all of God. It is the Spirit of Christ. There is no jealousy in the Trinity. The Spirit of God is the one who reveals to us.
Now I want to tell you what Paul just did. It is very subtle. You might miss it. What he just did was take all the religions of mankind that men have come up with and he just sat them on the shelf. He showed that Christianity is transcendently superior to all these religions because ours had to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God. His wisdom is beyond the wisdom of man. It goes even back before the foundations of the world with His predetermined plan to do what He has done. The power of the Spirit of God.
Look at verse 10 again: “For to us [[God]] revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit [now look at this] searches all things, even the depths of [[God]].” Oh, the Holy Spirit, [[God]] the Holy Spirit, is the one who searches the very depths of [[God]]. Now, before we go any further, you can’t understand this to mean investigate. He doesn’t investigate anything. It sounds like that when you first read it, doesn’t it? He goes out and searches all of this stuff and gets the information and brings it back to us. No, He is the information, folks. That is what he is saying. The Holy Spirit of [[God]], present tense, searches. He is the one, now listen, who sounds the very depths of the wisdom of [[God]].
A Christian has someone living in him that a nonChristian doesn’t. So, we can’t even be understood by the people of this world. The things we know didn’t come from a classroom. The things we know came as revelation of the Spirit of God through the Word of God. All this has been a mystery and a part of God’s predetermined plan. In other words, He is always available to reveal whatever it is our minds cannot fathom.
Now folks, I tell you, that gets really overwhelming when you think about it for a while. Included in this would be the attributes of God. Do you realize that we make statements in the pulpit like this and think that some people understand it when yet that one statement could take you a lifetime and you would never understand it apart from the revealing of the Holy Spirit of God. We are all guilty of that. Omniscience. My goodness, what does that mean? Omnipotence. Omnipresence. He is ever present. How in the world does that work? The attributes of God, the grace of God, the goodness of God, the judgment of God, the wrath of God. All these things. The thoughts of God, the purposes of God, the plans of God, the providence of God. All of that. In these deep things that the Holy Spirit reveals would be included the cross of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the incarnation, the union of our spirit with God’s Spirit. You could just go on and on and on.
And there are times when I am studying the Word of God I think I am getting more stupid as I get older. The more I think I know, the more I realize there is to know. I am thinking, “You know, God, I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of Your knowledge.” And God says right back to me, “That is right, son, and you don’t you ever forget it. But My Spirit searches the deep things of God and My Spirit will help you understand that which I want you to understand. You just continue to live in that relationship with Him.”
In Romans 11:33 it says, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” I am always getting burned for something I say about counseling, but I want you to know that I thank God for them. But I want you to know I realize the task that you have because when you try to explain the things of God, I am in the same boat. When I try to explain it, they are unfathomable. They are unsearchable.
Paul is saying, “When we came amongst you and we preached, it had to be that which God had revealed to our hearts for that which we received we preached unto you. We would have never known anything were it not for the Holy Spirit who searches and sounds the depths of God.”
Verse 11 he says, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” Now he is going to make an illustration here. He starts off with the illustration of human beings. You know, sometimes when I am preaching you ought to see what I see. I see people yawning. Every now and then I will catch somebody staring off into space. I will start off the message and I will say something profound and I hear snoring. Most of the time, you can’t tell what is going on inside somebody else. You can’t tell it. I wish I could. But you just can’t do it.
That is what he is saying. He said only the spirit of a man, that particular man, knows what he is thinking. He compares that then to the Spirit of God. But before we go any further, remember something. Any tangible illustration never fully and completely explains a spiritual eternal truth. Remember that. Sometimes you get hung up in that. For instance, Jesus said the branch should abide in the vine. Now what branch wakes up in the morning and says, “Hmmm, I think today I will abide in the vine.” No branch does that, it just hangs there. But as believers, we do make a choice. And so you don’t use a tangible illustration to fully explain it. And this does not fully explain the work of the Spirit, but it brings its point and it is well taken. He says, “Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”
The word for “knows” there is eido. In other words, perceives, knows and understands. The Spirit is God. The motives, the thoughts, the volitions of an individual man nobody knows but that man himself. But in the same way, only God knows the thoughts of God. No man can discover them. No man can crawl up and say, “I figured it all out.” No, sir. Those thoughts have to be revealed to man. Only God knows those thoughts. Paul makes his point.
Then he says in verse 12, “Now we have received.” Now who are the “we” that he is talking about here? What is the narrow context? What is he defending? He is defending the fact that you never attach yourself to a preacher. But now the “we have received,” in a wider sense, means all believers. But let’s stay in the context of what he is talking about. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.”
We have received not the spirit of the world, thank God. The spirit of the world is what crucified Christ. The spirit of the world is what thinks the gospel is foolishness. That is not the spirit we have received. We have received the Holy Spirit of God who searches the deep things of God. The word “received,” aorist active, means we willfully receive. He says, “We have not received the spirit of the world.” The word for “not” means absolutely not in any way, shape or form. The word for “world” there, kosmos, has the meaning of the disposition of the world, the mindset of the world, the desires of the world without Christ. He said, “We didn’t receive that spirit. We received the Spirit who is from God.”
Then he says, “that we might know the things freely given to us by God.” The word “know” is the same word we says earlier, eido. The Spirit knows. He comes to live in us so that we might know. It means to know and intuitively understand, the perceive something, to grasp it and be able to handle it.
We know the things freely given by God. The word is charizomai. It is the word that means that we could not have deserved in a million years.
Paul then drives the point home in verse 13. Here we go again: “which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” He is saying, “Listen, guys, I am an apostle. I am set apart in the gospel of Christ. I have come unto you. Don’t you attach yourself to me. What I am saying to you, the Spirit of God first of all has revealed the thought and then empowered the words to speak to you. It doesn’t come from me, it comes from Him. And if there is a change that comes in your life and if there is something eternal that happens in your life, it is not me, it is God in me and through me that is causing this to happen.”
The wisdom of God cannot be dethroned as if man could take credit for it. And folks, I am sorry to say, but there are many preachers who love taking credit for it and love that kind of affection. They love to draw people to themselves.
Secondly, it is not discovered. It must be revealed unto man. I was at a conference several years ago in another state. One of the speakers opened his Bible, read a verse, shut the Bible, pushed it aside and used that verse to help him say what he really wanted to say that night. As a matter of fact, he told funny stories from the very first to the last and I laughed till I thought my sides were going to split. He was the funniest man I think I have ever heard in my life. But at the end of his message, I left, not being impressed with Christ or anything eternal. Being impressed with a humorous man who could really tell some stories.
The next speaker got up. He said, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, hopefully you feel as I do. Maybe you are finally ready and hungry enough to hear from God and not from man.” Oh. And he went to the Word of God and I want to tell you, he did not back off an inch until he finished that message. When he finished, my sides didn’t hurt from laughing. When he finished, as a matter of fact, I was so jerked on the inside by the Spirit of God and convicted about things that I knew that God had done something within me that was eternal. And when I left, I didn’t leave remembering the man. I left remembering the Christ that the man talked about.
Now that is the key. The times when I get in the way of that, you just pray for me, because I have stepped over into the flesh. We are to be vessels through which Christ works. Why would you attach yourself to a man? Why? It makes no sense in the world, but people are doing it in the 20th century, just like they did it at Corinth. “I am of this pastor. I am of that pastor. I am of that pastor. He just does something for me that nobody does. I am telling you. He is just wonderful.” Bless your little immature heart. If you would get attached to the one he is preaching about, watch what He will do in your life that will awe you for all eternity. That is the difference.