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1 Corinthians: The Gospel for the Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:11
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My Grandma Lindy—a wonderful woman, a faithful woman, a woman who loved Jesus—had an interesting expression or two, one of which still gets me to this day.
My sister or I would fall down and scrape a knee or we’d get upset about something inconsequential. And to this, my loving Grandma would say, “Oh, now. You’ll forget it by the time you’re married twice.”
Knowing Grandma, I really don’t think she was advocating for multiple marriages. She wouldn’t advise divorce—married to one man for 56 years.
What she was saying was the simple truth: as you mature, you come to a better understanding of things and you’re able to put things in perspective; as you mature, you acquire a measure of wisdom (at least in theory; I don’t believe for a second that every person matures as they age. I’ve met a lot of very immature people who have some age on them).
As you mature, you should acquire wisdom. This is true spiritually.
If it seems like we’ve been talking a lot about wisdom…well, we have. The word wisdom (sophia) pops up all over 1 Corinthians 1-2, and all throughout the Bible, for that matter.
When Solomon was made king, he said:
1 Kings 3:7 NIV
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.
Right after Solomon admitted he didn’t know what he was doing, he prayed for one thing: wisdom
1 Kings 3:9 NIV
9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Wisdom is the ability to discern what is good, right, true, and lasting. This is what Solomon needed; it’s what the Corinthians needed; it’s what we need today.
I pray often for wisdom. I should pray every day for wisdom, but there’s times I think I can handle things—at home and at church and in my various roles in the community—I think a lot of time I can handle everything all by myself.
We need wisdom—wisdom from God.
From what we’ve read and studied already in 1 Corinthians, it might seem as if Paul is anti-wisdom. In the start of the letter, Paul seems to have systematically launched an all-out assault on wisdom:
1 Corinthians 1:17 NIV
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 1:20 NIV
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1 Corinthians 1:21 NIV
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:22–23 NIV
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
1 Corinthians 1:26 NIV
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
1 Corinthians 2:1 NIV
1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
1 Corinthians 2:4 NIV
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
By this point in his letter to the Corinthians, it sounds a lot like Paul is against wisdom; but the reality is, it’s worldly wisdom Paul is against.
There’s another type of wisdom, a wisdom that’s good, a godly wisdom; one we desperately need.
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do) please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 2. And if you’re able and willing, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. I Corinthians 2:6-16
1 Corinthians 2:6–16 NIV
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 declare God’s wisdom, a mystery 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: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so 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, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
May God add His blessing to the reading of His Holy Word!
>You see, Paul’s not badmouthing wisdom altogether; he’s just contrasting the wisdom of the world (the wisdom of this age; the wisdom of the rulers of this age)—Paul’s setting that wisdom against the wisdom of God.
Both the wisdom of this age and the wisdom of the rulers of this age are “coming to nothing.” It’s all passing away; we need to realize this.
This is a good thought experiment for us all. Let’s stop and think: what occupies your thoughts? What consumes all your time and energy? How do you spend your money? What is most important to you?
I’m guessing, for most of us, what occupies and consumes, what we spend and what is most important is that which is coming to nothing; we invest an awful lot in the temporary.
Now, think about what informs you: what tells you what is good, right, true, and lasting? From where does your wisdom come?
If you’re letting CNN or Fox News inform your thoughts about what is good, right, true, and lasting, you are headed down the wrong path, a scary path.
If you’re letting Dr. Phil or Oprah, Ellen or Joel Osteen inform you—you’re being led astray.
If you are most concerned with what your friends think, with being popular, with fitting in, with being cool—if you let that which is of this world inform you, you have sold out to worldly wisdom.
Worldly wisdom is coming to nothing. Paul says true wisdom, God’s wisdom, the pinnacle of God’s wisdom is the cross of Christ.

The Cross of Christ is the pinnacle of wisdom

God purposed to glorify Himself by saving undeserving sinners through the sacrifice of His One and Only Son.
This is how Paul defined the wisdom of God in chapter 1. Christ crucified is the power of God. Christ crucified is the wisdom of God.
Christ crucified is, according to 1 Corinthians 2:7, God’s wisdom:
1 Corinthians 2:7 NIV
7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
It’s the cross of Christ—God’s wisdom, a mystery; the cross of Christ represents God’s predetermined affection for sinners.
God loved us when there was nothing in us to love; God loved us before we were. God loved us and sent a Substitute to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Before the ages, before God even created man, God purposed to save man from his sin. And this so that no one could boast. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
God ordained and designed salvation, not so that the richest and noblest and wisest in this world could be saved by their achievements and accomplishments.
Wisdom is not found in the ways of the world; wisdom is not found in devotion to power, position, possessions, prosperity.
Those things—power, position, possessions, prosperity—were what the Corinthians equated with power in the first century.
These are the mantras of our day: “Gain power and influence. Attain prestige. Climb the corporate ladder. Acquire possessions. Pursue pleasure. Enjoy prosperity.”
Wisdom is not found in any of these, not in devotion to power and position and possessions and pleasures.
Wisdom is found in death of pride.
That’s the message of the cross. When we come to the cross, we die, not just to our sin. We die to ourselves, and we die to the stuff this world offers us.
Why would you live for short-term pleasures you cannot keep when you have a promise of long-term treasure you will never lose?
The cross of Christ is the pinnacle of wisdom; this—the cross of Christ—is how God chose to save us. Not through our exercise of worldly wisdom, not through the power and status of this world, but through the cross of Christ.
If you’ve never embraced the cross of Christ—maybe you’re exploring the claims of Christianity, maybe you sit here today uncertain; or maybe you’ve been living in cultural Christianity that, if you’re honest, has yet to penetrate the depths of your life.
If you’ve never embraced the cross of Christ, I urge you to do so here today. Lay aside your pride, come to the cross of Christ, and receive new life through Him today. Turn from your sin and from yourself, and trust in Christ today.
As I say that—and urge you from the bottom of my heart to run to Jesus for life everlasting—as I say that, I know the only way anyone can embrace this wisdom is if the Spirit of God reveals this to you.
1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

God’s wisdom is revealed through His Spirit

God’s wisdom is not a product of the human mind; the wisdom of God is a gift from the Holy Spirit.
The story of every believer, every follower of Christ is this: you were blind to your need for Christ until God opened your eyes to see.
It’s only by the mercy of God that we see forgiveness and not folly when we look at the cross.
It’s the choice of God the Father to reveal this to whomever He pleases:
1 Corinthians 1:26–27 NIV
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
It’s God’s mercy, God’s choice, and the enabling of God’s Spirit:
1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV
12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

God’s wisdom is revealed through His Spirit

Only the Spirit of God can reveal the glory of God to us. God not only sends His Son to die for our sins, but sends His spirit to enable us to understand what His Son has done for us.
There’s a progression of thought in verses 12-16. Bottom line is this: the mind of Christ, the words of Christ, the truth of Christ, the revelation of God in Christ has been revealed by the Spirit.
If not for the revelation, the drawing, the conviction, the calling of the Spirit, no one would come to Christ. None of us jumped out of bed one morning and thought, “Okay, guess it’s time to believe in Jesus.”
No one decides on a whim or a man-made feeling to give their life to Christ. Any person, every person who truly believes in Christ has been called by the Spirit—effectually, unmistakably called and moved by God’s Spirit.
This is necessary because we are separated from God, not just by our sin, but by our smallness.
We are small, small, small. How good God is to even look in our direction, yet alone, send Jesus to save us.
Phillip Yancey highlights our smallness for us: “If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup…This vast neighborhood of our sun - in truth the size of a coffee cup - fits along with several billion other stars and their minions in the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100 billion such galaxies in the universe. To send a light-speed message to the edge of that universe would take 15 billion years.”
We are so small. We have finite minds; God is infinite. There’s a gap between His nature and ours.
The Spirit bridges the gap; the Spirit makes up for our smallness. The Spirit enables us to understand God.
You and I cannot grasp God apart from the work of His Spirit in revealing Himself to us.
“How does the Spirit reveal God to us?”
Answer: through the Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 NIV
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
God-breathed. Theopneustos.
God’s Word—the Bible in its 66 books—reveals God to us. The Spirit uses the written Word, the preached Word, the taught Word of God to show us God.
God’s wisdom is revealed through the Spirit. Those without the Spirit can never understand. Thank the Lord for His Spirit who gives us understanding of Him.
>Okay, it’s confession time. I came to this text during what turned out to be one of my busiest weeks (3 funerals and a wedding and a smattering of other stuff mixed in). I came to this text and wanted to run in the other direction. It almost made me wish I was a topical preacher so I could just pull out an old sermon or pick a familiar passage and preach that. I even had my secretary do some study for me and help me figure out what the application of this passage was.
I came to the end of the week, the end of everything, when I’m usually done studying and writing and I was still asking, “So what? What’s the point? What does any of this matter to us?”
And then I thought about wrong turns. Before GPS and all the technology available, I did pretty well with the old glovebox map; you know, the one that folded like 22 times and took up the entire front seat of the car when it was unfolded.
Armed with a map then, and even now with my phone or my car telling me which road to take and when, I still, from time to time, take a wrong turn. I’ve never gone too far out of the way. But sometimes I’ll take a left instead of a right and end up miles out of my way.
In our spiritual lives, we can make some critical wrong turns. And these wrong turns can have an incredible impact on our lives.
If you depend upon the wisdom of the world to get where you’re going, you’re going to fit in very well to this world, but you will be lost when it really matters.
Francis Bacon wrote: “The lame man who keeps the right road outstrips the runner who takes a wrong one.”
If we follow the wisdom of this world instead of the wisdom of God, we will end up very far down the wrong path.
No amount of earthly wisdom will save or help; taking the path of worldly wisdom will reveal itself to be a wrong turn with colossal implications. We need God’s wisdom—the Good News about the Cross of Christ—and that is only revealed by the Spirit.
Repent of trusting in yourself. Repent of following the wisdom of the world and believing it could ever do anything for you. Repent and run to Jesus, believing that He alone is the way of salvation.
If you feel that tug, that nudge, that conviction, that’s the Spirit calling you. You won’t be able to ignore it. And He won’t give up.
If He’s calling you today, give your life to Him; it will be the wisest decision you’ll ever make.
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