There is a wealth of knowledge in our world society today, both individual and collective, but it seems that all our accumulation of knowledge does not seem to help us handle life better. It’s certainly not a lack of knowledge, it’s the lack of true wisdom where our problem lies. It is nothing new to this day and age, the apostle Paul wrote about this same situation in the city of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2, and we can gain some insight from his experiences.
His letter begins with a reference to his first visit to Corinth.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
Paul chose not to preach at Corinth along the lines of the wisdom of men. He was an educated man and he could have used flowery words and impressive language but instead he started with what the wisdom of the world would call a negative note, the cross of Jesus Christ.
The wisdom of the world always sounds impressive and exudes confidence. We are exposed to it all the time through the media of television and newspapers and the business world and even in our conversations with others. We are constantly bombarded with the so-called "wisdom of the world.” Television ads encourage us to go after "the good life," and to find the "real thing." They sound very attractive, never mind that they are half truths, and they usually offer us a way to get it.
We all know that using a different deodorant is not going to change our life drastically, even though the ad tells us that is what will happen. Those things are obvious, but the fact remains that we are continually exposed to this idea that it is within our power to make our life the way we want it to be.
There is an element of truth to that. God made man a potentially wonderful creature and there are possibilities in every human being that need to be developed but if we follow the wisdom of the world we will go astray.
Satan will see to it that we are exposed to the idea that if we know the right things, if we take the right course, or follow the right program we’ll achieve what we want. It’s always supported by arguments that sound convincing and then it’s confirmed on television in wonderful colorful advertisements and by very impressive slender people quoting impressive facts that make it seem right.
Things were no different in Corinth than they are here in America. When Paul visited Corinth the first time, people were following the same lines. The whole city was given over to the fulfillment of life through philosophical schools, business enterprises and an immoral religious system. When Paul evaluated this, he decided to bring them the gospel in simple and straightforward words and not in the language of the worldly educated. He said; "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
He brought out the fact that the cross of Christ is a judgment on the wisdom of man. Man’s wisdom is to reject it, deny Christ, crucify Him, get rid of Him any way they can. If none of those work, just ignore Him. That is what they did in the 1st century and that is still going on today. Why does the world’s wisdom say to resist Him? The answer, of course, is because they are afraid He is right and that threatens people.
The cross is the result of the world being confronted with the ways of God, and the only thing the world could think of to do was to reject His Son and all that He had to say and nail Him to a cross. Figuratively, this is still done today, and that’s why Paul wrote that the whole Christian message rests on the crucifixion of Jesus. It is God's judgment on the whole of man’s wisdom and our attempts to handle our lives apart from redemption in Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote the letter to the Romans from Corinth. He wrote, in Romans 3:10-12, "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." He could see what was wrong with mankind.
In spite of all the schools of philosophy, all the brilliant thinkers, there is only one answer and that is to accept by faith what God has done on our behalf. He wipes out all of man’s impressiveness and shows us the wisdom of God, which is the only true wisdom of life. Paul said to start by forsaking all trust in our own wisdom, or the collective wisdom of man through the ages.
Verse 3-5. “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5. that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
I think that passage is encouraging to any Christian who has tried to be a witness for Christ. I think we have all had similar experiences. It’s easy to speak about the things of God where you’re with brothers and sisters in the Lord. However, when you try to talk about these things with people who come from entirely different philosophies and goals and who are committed to taking care of number one first you find it very difficult. You may feel weak and inferior but don't let that stop you. One of the greatest evangelists of all time, the apostle Paul, felt that way, and that ought to be an encouragement to us.
Paul began with God’s judgment on the thinking and the wisdom of man. That is not what the world wants to hear about itself. But man’s approach leaves man without hope.
The book of Acts tells that he came to Corinth from Athens. He had been driven out of Thessalonica and Philippi and Berea and when he tried to witness in the Areopagus in the Athens marketplace, his witness, based on the cross of Christ, was not received, so he went to Corinth to witness for Christ there. In Corinth he started by simply telling how he felt. He felt fearful, weak, and ineffective, that his words were not outstanding; he felt he did not impress anybody by the way he came at this.
Have you ever set down with somebody to witness to them and felt like you had two tongues stumbling over each other, like you didn’t seem to have the right answers to things? I have.
Paul felt that way, but after he had been in Corinth for a while the Lord appeared in a vision and said "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." Acts 18:9-11.
Paul had been branded a religious fanatic and beaten up in other cities, nevertheless he faithfully continued to talk about what Christ had done.
The plan of salvation should never be complicated and it doesn’t require fancy words. Christ died on the cross for our sins and through confession of our guilt we receive forgiveness. We are saved by faith in His death for our sins and His ability to forgive us. Paul preached this and before long there was a visible result. The Holy Spirit began to work and people started coming to Christ. You can read the account in Acts 18. First, the rulers of the synagogue turned to Christ, and then hundreds of the common people became Christians. There was a spiritual awakening and a church was planted in the midst of this worldly city. Real evangelism occurs when people like you and I share the gospel with the unsaved.
Paul’s approach was nothing dramatic, nothing exciting, there was no great awakening, but there was a quiet movement of the Spirit of God that was touching and changing lives every where -- a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul tells us some wonderful things were happening. He says, "Some of you were idolaters, some of you were adulterers, and some of you were homosexuals; some of you were drunkards; you were swindlers, thieves and robbers -- and it has all changed. Such were some of you," he says, "but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus,"
Does that encourage you? It does me. When you sit down with somebody over a cup or coffee and hardly know how to say it, but in a simple way you stumble over some words about what Jesus Christ has meant to you, you may reach somebody who may never have been reached by eloquent preaching.
This is what Paul used so effectively, the simple approach. He told them the truth about their life. He was simply being honest with them. Later on, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
Paul knew that no church could flourish in Corinth that didn’t recognize the weakness of the wisdom of men and that failed to rest on the power of God.
In the next section, he describes the content of the wisdom and power of God.
Verse 6-10. “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.”
Just because Paul didn’t come with high sounding words of man’s wisdom doesn’t mean there isn’t a wisdom in Christianity. In fact, the greatest wisdom of all, the wisdom of God, is there. He is referring to the truths which ought to be the standard for Christian education in any church. They are the "mystery of God" in Verse 7, and the "hidden wisdom of God." and in Verse 10, the "deep things of God."
Paul carries the thought even further with the "thoughts of God" in Verse 11, the "gifts bestowed on us by God" in Verse 12, and "spiritual truths" in Verse 13. Finally, at the end of the chapter, he ties it all in a neat bundle with the fact that it is"the mind of Christ."
This is basically the missing link of human understanding, we do not have the “mind of Christ.” In our natural state we do not see ourselves as God does and are not able to function as God intended us to. We have a God sized hole in our heart that needs to be filled. These are truths that people all over the world are searching for, and if you come to those people with a simple declaration of what these truths are, you’ll find they will listen. People want to understand these secrets of God that can lead them to a life without guilt and fear. Man needs to be filled with the love and power from God. These are not merely "religious" truths and they are only available to the believer in Jesus Christ. They are the secrets of our humanity that were lost in the Garden of Eden when man sinned and we only find them after we experience the facts brought out in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
These are permanent truths; they’re not just for a time. 1 Corinthians 2:6. “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.”
1 John 2:17. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
This is not a passing fad that will change in the next decade: this is truth that is eternal and unchangeable forever. Verse 7. “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”
It is intended "for our glory." Our glorification means the fulfillment of all the possibilities that are in us, discovering the "real you," to put it in modern terms.
We can’t discover this truth by natural processes. Verse 8. “which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." When Paul spoke of "the rulers of this age," he included more than the officials of his day. He is talking about the mind benders, the shapers of public opinion, the philosophers, the sociologists, the politicians. They don’t know these secrets. They do not understand this body of truth, that’s why nothing they propose ever works in the long run. Neither can we observe it with our eyes, or ears, or by reason. We won’t get it in school or in any secular teaching or learn it by observing life. It can’t be gained by studying all the history of the past or by our own deep profound thinking about all the things of life. Nevertheless, God has revealed it to the believer through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and teaches the people of God.
When we seriously study the Bible, we are beginning to explore the greatest source of knowledge available to man anywhere. We, as believers, will start to understand the hidden secrets about life that will never be discovered in the secular world around us, and yet, when we come to understand them they will give us peace and joy and love and grace like we never dreamed of, regardless of our situation at the time.