Studies in First Corinthians
by Bob Burridge ©2016
Lesson 7: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)
Greater Things To See
It’s not just war, crime, and immorality that challenge us here. All of nature itself was effected by mankind’s fall in Eden. This is why natural disasters, diseases, and physical disabilities strike without favoritism. Some are born with handicaps and are blind, unable to walk, hear, or speak. Often disasters and disabilities can be compensated for with training or modern technology.
But there’s a disability no human effort can overcome. The afflicted are not even aware of it. It’s a spiritual disease that infects everyone from the moment of conception. It makes us unable to see things as they really are, and to respond to situations the way we should. It distorts and confuses things, and makes it hard for us to get along with one another.
This is why there is such a serious breakdown in communication about things that really matter. We do not always see what others see, and we do not all share the same basic values and goals. The lost world we live in does not comprehend the basic truths about God and life itself.
Those who are redeemed by God’s grace have a challenging responsibility. A duty goes along with the gift of spiritual sight. They need to rise above the illusions that fill our world to see and tell about how God works through all the wonders he’s made.
There were divisions growing in the church at Corinth. Outside influences had crept in. The attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the Christians were becoming confused.
Paul wrote to expose the danger, and to help them get back to living by God’s truth. There were some among them who loved to promote themselves, and to steal God’s glory. But to correct the problem, they should not use the alluring ways of the confused world. The world sees God’s methods as foolish and unworthy of consideration. Christians are to tell about how God fulfilled his ancient promise, how he came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to redeem his people, how he lived a morally perfect life in their place, and died the death they deserved for their sins.
Paul began the 2nd chapter by warning them that the gospel shouldn’t be dressed in the clothing of the world to make it effective. The world persuades by manipulation, threats, and by appealing to our yet selfish feelings. God’s way is to transform hearts by the power of the work of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation for living by true wisdom, instead of by the fraudulent wisdom that surrounds and influences us in this fallen world. The great discoveries and magnificent accomplishments of man fail in this most important need. They can not really change what drives people to do corrupt things.
and we dare not miss them.
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.
7. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
8. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9. 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”–
This godly wisdom should not be kept as a secret. We have an obligation to tell what is true, to impart what God says, whether people believe it or not. Those transformed by God’s power will appreciate it, and those who remain in their sad state of corruption will not. If they understood God’s true wisdom they would not have crucified Jesus, the Lord of glory. Generally the fallen world prefer leaders who lack this true wisdom.
In this sense God’s truth is a mystery. It’s translated as “a secret” in the ESV. The KJV says, “we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.” The Greek word is “mustaerion” (μυστήριον). It means something that remains unknown and hidden until it’s made known. It can not be discovered from what nature and providence displays about God. The universe, the flow of history, and man’s conscience tell about God’s nature, and about our moral duty to obey and honor him. But it does not reveal the way of restoration through the Savior so they can admit what they reveal. That is made known by God’s Special Revelation perserved in his word, and it’s our job, the duty of God’s people, to make it known.
The Apostle’s challenge here is to believers, the beneficiaries of this message. He calls them the mature ones. This does not mean they are all fully grown up spiritually yet. The original Greek word, “teleios” (τέλειος), is translated “perfect” in the King James Version. The word mature is a closer word in English. The word Perfect goes too far. Paul is talking to those who have reached some goal or level of accomplishment.
Here they are not contrasted with weaker Christians, but with those who are unsaved. These are the only two groups of people in this part of his letter. Later Paul deals with immature Christians who were being influenced by the unbelievers. But that’s not the comparison Paul is making in this passage.
All believers have reached that for which they were made. They are made able to fulfill their human purpose: to glorify of God and to enjoy him forever. They are matured into what God created humans to be. We all have a lot of growing and maturing to do as we improve in our sanctification. But redeemed believers are matured from spiritual death into spiritual life.
Those who remain lost can not possibly appreciate things as they really are. Paul used familiar words taken from Isaiah 64:4 and 65:17. The eyes of the unredeemed are blind, and their ears are deaf to God’s real wonders. They can not even imagine an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God. They neither want nor know of a Savior who took up the sins of those who offended him, to make them into his beloved children forever. The world we live in has a different expectation of what God’s message ought to be.
But, regardless of what the majority believes or accepts as true, there are wonderful things for God’s people to behold and to experience. It is tragic when our eyes are diverted by the distractions of corruption. It keeps us from seeing our Good Shepherd’s hand at work in our lives and all around us.
It came directly from God.
10. these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
It’s dangerous to prefer being manipulated into a false sense of security when things are really not ok.
So instead of being taken in by the deceptive promises the world imagines as hope, our confidence should rest in what God himself makes known by the Holy Spirit. Our Bible, not the feigned wisdom of human thinkers, intellects, and promoters, leads us through the choices and circumstances we face every day. When we follow God’s path, we discover the wonderful things he’s given us to behold in life.
It’s not wise to expect to get truly good advice or to learn about a sound moral foundation from those who are not submissive to the teachings of God’s word. Yet so many run after one trendy promise after another. Like lemmings so many follow bad counsel over the brink of destruction.
Paul warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 , “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
the majority in this world, are unable to understand.
14. 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.
15. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
16. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The depravity of fallen man is not just a cold doctrine. It’s a tragic truth. Those born without sight, hearing, or limbs can learn to be productive and successful in life. But those who remain in their spiritual disability can only find substitutes for real inner joy. The truth about God and man’s true lostness are repulsive to him, so he follows after religions designed to appease his fears and to give him a false hope. He busies himself with hobbies and vocations and indulges himself with material wealth. But he has no concept of the things of the Spirit of God. He does not like those things. He can’t see the value in them.
Spiritual truths are spiritually discerned. The original word “anakrino” (ἀνακρίνω) means to scrutinize. It’s to look something over very carefully, to investigate, and determine what it is, and to determine it’s worth. A spiritually dead person doesn’t have the capacity to see the real value of things. The redeemed have that capacity.
The same word is used in verse 15. The fallen world does not only mis-judge spiritual values, it doesn’t rightly understand or appreciate the redeemed believer. The natural man, as we all are except for God’s grace, is puzzled by true Christianity.
The majority of churches that call themselves Christian today do not respect God’s word. They show little evidence of this spiritual discernment. Many today teach that Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses never really lived. They say they are just made-up mythical characters invented as folk tales. Many teach that Paul and Peter included their own prejudices in their writings. Many seminaries and popular books suggest alternatives to the unpopular teachings of these Apostles. Many say the moral teachings of the Bible are outdated. This is why we see many denominations ordaining homosexuals to the ministry, and supporting same sex marriages.
They add stories of alleged modern miracles that promote the worship of saints, angels and Mary. They imagine mystical priestly powers that remove sins by their own powers or by the sacraments. Many talk of Jesus as if he was just a great martyr whose senseless death should simply inspire us. Some talk of him as if he was unable to control his own destiny.
Recently, the there has been a fascination with so called “faith-based ” shows and movies. Most of what we see, hear and read about Jesus is not found in the Bible.
It comes from speculation, mystical visions, and the pronouncements of unbelieving theologians. Promoters and commentators say Jesus was against the idea that there is only one way to heaven. They seem unaware that Jesus said he is the only way, and that those who don’t believe in him perish.
Jesus is even used in promotional advertising to advocate things he clearly opposed. He has been used as if he was against the military, and eating meat. Stories in the media about the Shroud of Turin have said it’s “one of Christianity’s most sacred .. relics.” But biblical Christianity recognizes no sacred relics.
The unfortunate success of the film The Passion of Christ is another example of confusion. While it contains some biblical material, it’s slanted by things added from outside the Bible. Much of the movie is based on visions of a Westphalian nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich. In the late 1700’s she claimed to have had visions of Christ’s passion. Producer Mel Gibson cites her book Dolorous Passion of Our Lord as a helpful source and one of his inspirations for the film. In keeping with Roman Catholic mysticism, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is presented in the film as sharing in Jesus’ suffering and atonement as a co-redemptrix or co-redeemer with Jesus. She has a mystical awareness of his presence and pain, and had powers over the Romans. The film adds a Romanist tradition that Jesus argued with Satan in Gethsemene, and it adds characters from the apocryphal books and mythical legends.
The movie The Young Messiah is partly based on material from “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas”. In that later apocryphal book the boy Jesus used his powers to kill children in the neighborhood, and he playfully made clay birds and brought them to life.
Just as it was in Corinth, today we have a confused blend of truth with fiction. When you add a lie to a true story, its whole meaning changes.
The truth about Jesus has been changed and edited to fit with what people would rather believe. His entire mission is distorted from what the Bible says it was. Whatever sells relics or books, raises money, and packs meeting halls becomes the doctrine of this synthetic religion that fits what the crowds want to hear.
Sadly this is the only Jesus many hear about and understand today. The victorious and living Savior who promises inner peace and victorious life to his people, and who rightly judges those who refuse to trust in his finished work alone, is not only missing from popular notions of him,
he is openly rejected, and his followers are called narrow-minded bigots.
In contrast with these distortions, Paul says we have the mind of Christ. The mind of God — truth as he knows it to be — is revealed to us in Scripture. What makes it clear to us is the work of the Holy Spirit on our otherwise hardened hearts. By grace the barricade of our guilt is removed because Jesus lived, suffered, and died in our place. The Holy Spirit specially ministers understanding to regenerated souls through the plain self-evident teachings of the Bible.
There is a wide gap in understanding between God’s people, and those who remain lost spiritually. It’s neither that we work from different dictionaries, nor that the one has a lower IQ than the other. It’s a far more fundamental difference. The regenerate have a transformed nature that rest on a different foundation for truth.
As verse 14 says, “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.”
But this fact of depravity is not a wholly negative reality. It shows the overwhelming power of grace that works in the undeserving who are redeemed. Our regeneration didn’t come from someone who convinced us, or by circumstances in our lives. It did not come because we were smarter, or better educated. It came from God who works supernaturally as an evidence of undeserved love for his people.
God has prepared wonderful things for his children beyond anything our senses can perceive. Redeemed eyes can see things to which the world is totally blind. The ears of transformed souls can hear what they missed before grace made them alive. Even the imagination of the heart is set free from the chains of sin. The wonders of God’s true provisions are no longer barred from entering into their hearts.
Those regenerated by grace are made able to behold the wonders which God has prepared for his children.
and serve Christ in a world so vastly different?
We need to rest in and take advantage of God’s promises which are ours by his Amazing Grace. Do not consider a day well spent, if you haven’t read or considered what God has said in his word. That word alerts you to the errors and lies that want to deceive you. Pray diligently not only for the sick and needy, but also for your own spiritual health. Dare to walk boldly where the light of God’s truth leads you, rather than to stumble along the twisting rocky route laid out by the world. Keep in meaningful contact with others who are redeemed by God’s grace. Be an encouragement to them, and be encouraged by their friendship. Open your eyes to the wonderful things God has promised and done. Exercise your self in them. Tell others about them. Trust fully in them.
What we see in the world around us is what we would be like if it was not for that grace which is greater than our sins. It should not surprise us that the world works hard to create a false Christianity. It distorts the way of salvation, gives us a mythical savior and an uncertain system of morality. It does not matter that the redeemed are a minority. There is nothing wrong with being a minority, if it’s God’s minority. He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the powerful.
Stop to consider the way things really are – the things the mighty of this world fail to see. Look around and see the hand of God at work, where fallen hearts see only chance, human choice, and the blind laws of physics.
Let these familiar words of Jeremiah 32:17 direct us to what God reveals to his people, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)