A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Sunday, August 20, 2017 – Pentecost 11B
The English language can be funny sometimes if you stop to think about it. For example the difference between wise man and wise guy seems like it should be minimal. A man and a guy are pretty much the same thing. But a wise man is one with wisdom, who knows what to say and when to say it. A wise guy, on the other hand, usually has some smart Alek reply. He's got wit, but tends to fire off a sarcastic remark at an inappropriate time. Both are wise, in a sense, but only one really has wisdom.
That's the theme for this morning's lessons: wisdom. And what makes one a wise person instead of just a wise guy? And the answer really depend on what you mean by wise? Do you just mean witty and worldly wise? Or do you mean wise in God's eyes? Of course, you and I want to be the latter. And the Apostle Paul tells us how to "Wise up!" in godly wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16…
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
The Corinthians took pride in how wise they were. The city was full of scholars and philosophers who would wrestle with life's challenging questions. They had orators who were masters of giving great, flowery speeches. And then there was Paul, neither eloquent in speech nor impressive in stature. Some wondered if they even ought to take such a lousy preacher seriously. But Paul knew what made one truly wise: the message he came to share: the gospel.
Do you consider yourself wise? Well, you may know the best way to hunt a moose or catch a fish. You may know the best way to build a fence or teach a class. You might be smart. But do those things make you wise?
Americans love their self-help books where they read to gain knowledge and wisdom on how to find and keep love, how to earn and save more money, how to win friends and influence people. But do those things make you wise? Not if you make a ton of money, are surrounded by friends, enjoy every luxury of life and then die and go to hell.
That's where, "the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age" ultimately brings. Worldly wisdom teaches us how to serve the desires of our sinful nature. But it ends in damnation! They who trust such worldly wisdom, "are coming to nothing." Wise up! The world's wisdom isn't smart; it's stupid. It's not wisdom, but pure foolishness! They're not wise people but wise guys!
But friends, before we talk about those stupid people out there with stupid priorities and foolish investments, we really need to talk about these people in here. I foolishly waste my time on things I know won't bring me lasting happiness, while foolishly letting my Bible, which I know will make me truly wise, collect dust. I waste my money and energy on things that bring me fleeting escape from my problems while heartlessly ignore the terrible fate on those who need to escape an eternity in hell.
I read a lot and love to learn. But that doesn't necessarily make me wise. Sometimes I can be just as stupid as the godless heathen out there. I may be smart at making and saving money, at winning friends and influencing people, at getting the things that I want out of life. But I'm often pretty stupid when it comes to pleasing God. And I deserve hell for it. So do you.
What's the solution? Well, it's nothing you could ever come with on your own. You could study nature and science and learn all you could about the universe, but never discover a solution to your sin. You could search the globe to try to find answers to life's big questions and find nothing on the top of the highest mountain or in the deepest depths of the ocean trenches. You could read all the books the world with all its wisdom has to offer, and never find a fix to your biggest problem. Only one book has the answers to the questions, "Where did I come from?" "Why am I here?" and "Where am I going?"
And without that book, we are blind, deaf, and stupid! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…"
As a blind man can never see a beautiful sunset, so too, on our own, we could never see what God had in store for us. As a deaf man could never hear a beautiful symphony, so too, on our own, we could never hear of his plan for our salvation. As stupid man can never master quantum physics or become a neurosurgeon, so too, on our own we could never grasp or fathom God's plan for our eternity. It would be, as Paul said in the previous chapter of this letter to the Corinthians, complete "foolishness." So I can tell you to wise up all day long, but you can't! Not on your own!
Here's why: What am I thinking right now? Anyone want to take a guess? Nope. I was thinking of a number. Anyone know what that number is? Nope. It was 331,462. How come you didn't know that?! Because there's no way to know what I'm thinking in my head unless I communicate it to you. And there is no way that you could ever know what God had in store for you unless he revealed it to you.
"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." And, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them…"
But you'll notice that earlier I said "on our own, we could never see…" "on our own, we could never hear…" "on our own, we could never grasp…" But we are not "on our own"! You could never know what God has in store for you unless he revealed it to you. But he has! He has revealed it to you! The Spirit of God has revealed to you all you need to know!
"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… We have [received] the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us… We have the mind of Christ."
God doesn't just tell us to wise up; he gives us the wisdom we need! We know where we came from: God made us to love and serve him and to be his own. Why are we here? To serve him by serving others. Where are we going? Well… we deserve to go to hell. But we're going to heaven anyway. How come? Because of Jesus, who is "the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:24) "Christ Jesus… has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)
We have gained true wisdom because the Holy Spirit has revealed to us what God has done about our problem of sin. He's revealed the answer to our problem of hell in his Word (the Bible): "words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words."
And in that Word, he revealed how he fixed our problem for us: He sent his own Son to take on human flesh that he might live under his own law. And as true God he kept that law perfectly in our place. Jesus took on human flesh that he might die for our sins on the cross. And as true God that death paid for the sins of all people of all time. That message may sound like "foolishness to those who are perishing," (1 Corinthians 1:18), but to us, it is true wisdom.
You and I are completely forgiven for the times that we've been so stupid in falling for satan's tricks and falling into temptation. We're forgiven for the times we've chosen to be blind to the Word and refuse to read that which will make us truly wise! We're forgiven for the times we've chosen to be deaf to that Word and refuse to hear and obey it when it meant we wouldn't get our selfish way. We are fully and freely forgiven for every sin we've ever committed because of Christ and his work for us!
And because the Holy Spirit has made us know and believe these things, we are truly wise. "From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15) You may not be smarter than a fifth grader. You may not be the best reader the world has ever seen. You may still struggle with basic math. And you may feel like more of wise guy than a wise man. But you have true wisdom in Christ. You are far wiser than Socrates and Einstein and Gates and Jobs all put together!
Continue to grow in wisdom as you read the Word. (Now, with the start of a new school year is a great time to renew your commitment to be a student of the Word!) And as you do, you will gain even more wisdom and grow wiser as you listen and learn from the Word.
Then, finally, share your wisdom with others. "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." And as you do, they will gain wisdom and wise up. And they too will have the peace and joy that are ours. Then they too will be not just wise guys, but truly wise men and women. In Jesus' name, dear friends, wise up! Amen.