Lesson 7: “Legitimate Wisdom”
I Corinthians 2:6-12
Several years ago my family and I had a wonderful vacation on the beaches of Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico. And one of the sights we could see offshore was three large offshore oil rigs. Later, as we were leaving the area, we drove past a large equipment yard where the derricks from some of those rigs were stored. And as I realized the relative size of those derricks it dawned on me that the part that we see above the water is just a small part of the whole rig – there is a great deal more under the water than we see on top! Now that is exactly the way God’s wisdom is. An unbeliever sees only the “surface” of Christianity – they see the church-going and the offering taking and the things that are prohibited and it seems simplistic and unrealistic. But believers have the ability to see below the surface to the real essence of the plan of God. Now because of that Paul has been telling the Corinthians that their faith “should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
But even as he says that he realizes that some might interpret that to mean that there is something “unspiritual” about being intelligent or well educated. So in this passage he is going to explain the legitimate use of God’s wisdom. And for purposes of outline we are calling this section the presence of divine wisdom. Look at verses 6 through 12:
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, (8) which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) But as it is written, “eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (10) But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God (11) for what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.
Even though we downplay the use of human use of human wisdom Christians are able to speak with great wisdom – so in verses 6 and 7, Paul gives the description of wisdom. First he describes it from the negative standpoint in verse 6
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
It is not derived from human wisdom. Human wisdom would tell us that it is “reasonable” that if a man does the best he can, he will get to heaven, and that it is not reasonable that God would kill His own son to pay for our sins. In Paul’s day this human wisdom took the form of Gnosticism, mysticism, astrology and so forth. (And it is interesting to note that many of those “isms” are making a comeback. In our day it is still humanism, existentialism and astrology, etc.) But any religion based on human reason results in nothing.
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. In verses 7 and 8 Paul explains this wisdom from God from the positive standpoint – and each of these serves as an explanation of why the unsaved can’t understand it.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.
First, as to it’s source – it is the wisdom of God. The Bible’s claim throughout is that it is from God. But anyone could claim that: and many have down through the years. So how do we really know which is the real truth from God?
First there is the test of history: the resurrection, fulfilled prophecy, etc.
Second, the test of consistency: 66 books written by different men over a period of 2,000 years and completely consistent in their overall message. And then the test of credentials: the miracles, of Jesus and the apostles and so forth.
But perhaps the most important: the test of experience: the changed lives of countless Christians
Down through the years. And this is one of the reasons the unsaved cannot understand it – they do not have any connection with God.
The second positive aspect of the wisdom of God is as to its nature: a mystery. The word ‘mystery” used in the New Testament is not a “who-done-it” kind of mystery. The word “mystery itself is a translation of the Greek word “musterion.” And it refers not to a puzzle or a riddle, but to a previously unrevealed secret from God. There are at least 12 “mysteries” referred to in the Scripture (such as the church, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so forth) What a privilege to live in this day of revealed mysteries! (Perhaps a good “homework assignment” would be for you to see if you can find some of the others)
So that is the description of God’s wisdom. But then, in verses 8 through 12 Paul explains the dispensing of this wisdom. How does one go about acquiring this wisdom? And again, he starts with the negative standpoint in verses 8 and 9. First, verse 8 tells us that it is not by man’s wisdom or education.
Which none of the rulers of this age known; for had they known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The understanding of this verse is wrapped up in the phrase “the rulers of this age who . . . crucified the Lord of glory.” Think about it: they were highly educated theologically. To have been in the positions which they held they would have had to basically memorize the entire Old Testament. And yet all of that knowledge didn’t enable them to see who Jesus was. Apparently they were just “going through the motions” without giving any thought to the fabulous truths that God had given them in the Old Testament with all of its pictures of the coming Messiah. Does that perhaps seem familiar to you? Is it possible that for whatever reason you have drifted away from the truths of God and are only putting on a show for others around you?
So verse 8 shows that the wisdom of God does not come from education or religious office. But verse 9 shows that neither does it come from the senses or the intellect:
(9) But as it is written, “eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
The senses – “eye has not seen nor ear heard . . .” the intellect – “neither have entered into the heart of man . . .” Again, the point is that just hearing the gospel or seeing it demonstrated is not enough, in and of itself to save – it must be mixed with faith for salvation. And the same thing is true of spiritual growth. So if the wisdom of God does not come through education, intellect, or observation, how do we get it? Verses 10 through 12 describe the dispensing or wisdom from the positive standpoint. First, verse 10 says, God simply reveals it to us (believers.)
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the spirit searches all thing, yea the deep things of God.
Initially it is revealed through the gospel. Then, after the gospel is accepted, it is further revealed by the study of the scripture. And this process is described by means of an illustration in verse 11:
(11) for what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.
I have no idea what may be going through your mind as you read this. You could easily be thinking about something else that has nothing to do with what I am writing about. And by the same token, you have no way of knowing what I am thinking about.
Now here is some of the most amazing news you have ever heard. I don’t know what you are thinking about (although I hope you are thinking about what I am writing about) and you don’t know what I am thinking about, but if you and I are both believers we can both know what God is saying to us because He has given both of His Spirit!
Now one of the practical aspects of that wonderful truth is that because we have God’s Spirit within us and He has written down a great many of his thoughts for us, (Let me digress here for a minute and tell you that the Apostle John said that he wrote his gospel so that we have all that we know to know about how to be saved. And the Apostle Peter says that he wrote his letter to us so that we would be able to know all things that pertain to godliness.) Now that would apply in one way or another to anything in the Bible, because the Apostle Paul said that “all scripture is “God breathed” we have the privilege of sitting down and reading those thoughts and meditating on them. It is the next best thing to being able to have a face to face conversation with Him. And down through the years Bible scholars have developed many “tools” to help us find the location of single verse or even a single word in the Bible, if we want to, or even a whole subject, for that matter. Another practical aspect of this truth is that because of all of this, we believers have the ability to know more of what God thinks about a particular subject than our closest friend does. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as his savior, the Spirit of God moves into his or her heart and takes residence in our human spirit. And the Holy Spirit knows all there is to know about God. And He reveals that knowledge to us to whatever extent we allow him to. In fact, there is a sense in which this is the very purpose of our salvation: Look verse 12 again:
(11) for what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, who is from God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.
We may look forward to going to heaven. And that is true, we will. But it actually goes much deeper than that: God’s real purpose is to have fellowship with us in this life and spending eternity in heaven is just a better setting than here. Some years ago I was listening to a message by Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter, a very dignified, scholarly English pastor. And when he came to this passage he stopped, paused and almost shouted, “PARDON ME – HALLELUJAH”
We might think that God’s purpose with humans is keep people from going to hell. Or to educate as many people about the Bible as we can. But I believe that God’s basic purpose in creating humans in the first place is to be able to have fellowship with us
In this beautiful passage we see that the “foolishness” of the gospel isn’t foolishness at all – it is a deep, beautiful truth. But we need to be careful to realize that becoming a Christian is not all there is to knowing the wisdom of God. There are many Christians who stand and gaze at “the tip of the iceberg” of God’s wisdom. If you have become a Christian, but haven’t allowed the Spirit of God to fellowship with you, but you can begin today!
The purpose of these studies is to move you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know Him it is our prayer that the studies will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” If you are already a believer in Christ we hope that the studies will help you to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”