Sermon: God’s Wisdom—Our Glory

1 Corinthians 2:6-9

Levi Durfey

20140824FBCAM

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1) Where Does Real Wisdom Come From?

 

I came across a story about wisdom that involved Henry Ford and an four-foot tall electrical genius named Charles Steinmetz:

 

Jack B. Scott wrote in to tell of his father’s encounter with the Wizard of Schenectady at Henry Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

 

Ford, whose electrical engineers couldn’t solve some problems they were having with a gigantic generator, called Steinmetz in to the plant. Upon arriving, Steinmetz rejected all assistance and asked only for a notebook, pencil and cot. According to Scott, Steinmetz listened to the generator and scribbled computations on the notepad for two straight days and nights. 

 

On the second night, he asked for a ladder, climbed up the generator and made a chalk mark on its side. Then he told Ford’s skeptical engineers to remove a plate at the mark and replace sixteen windings from the field coil. They did, and the generator performed to perfection.

 

Henry Ford was thrilled until he got an invoice from General Electric in the amount of $10,000 [a single Model T cost less than $1,000]. Ford acknowledged Steinmetz’s success but balked at the figure. He asked for an itemized bill.

 

Steinmetz, Scott wrote, responded personally to Ford’s request with the following:

 

Making chalk mark on generator    $1.

Knowing where to make mark         $9,999.

 

Ford paid the bill.[1]

 

Most of us desire to have wisdom…the ability to think our way through situations and make good decisions. But, while Steinmetz’s smart remark is humorous, it’s not the kind of wisdom that we ought to seek.

 

The Bible tells us that:

 

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

 

In other words, real wisdom begins with God.


2) The Corinthians Struggled With Worldly Wisdom

 

The Corinthian Christians lived in a culture that valued wisdom. They were still pursuing this worldly wisdom as Christians. That’s probably why there were divisions that had crept into the church. They were focused on who was wiser, who was right.

 

This is why Paul has spent time discussing God’s wisdom with them. God’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are pursuing worldly wisdom. Today, a conversation might go:

 

CHRISTIAN: So God created the world in six days…

EVOLUTIONIST: Bah Humbug!

CHRISTIAN: Human beings are sinners needing a Savior…

EVOLUTIONIST: Bah Humbug!

CHRISTIAN: Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins…

EVOLUTIONIST: Bah Humbug!

 

As you can see, it’s kind of hard to get anywhere with people nowadays! That brings up an important question:

 

I) WHO CAN RECEIVE GOD’S WISDOM?

 

1) Those Enamored With The World Cannot

 

1 Corinthians 2:6 

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: 

yet not the wisdom of this world, 

nor of the princes of this world, 

that come to nought:

 

1 Corinthians 2:8 

Which none of the princes of this world knew:

for had they known it, 

they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

 

Twice Paul uses the phrase, “the princes of this world” to describe the kind of people who do not receive God’s wisdom. “Princes” refers to leaders and rulers, but not necessarily of a nation or state only. 

 

The religious leaders of the Jews failed to recognize our Lord, as did also the Greek philosophers. Today’s “princes of this world” would include politicians, media stars, sports stars, university professors—anyone who influences others.

 

The Greek word for “world” is not the usual word for “world” but refers more to the culture or the times that people live in.  So these are people who live according to the world’s or culture’s wisdom instead of God’s wisdom.

 

When you put it together—“the princes of this world, what you have is people, with worldly power and influence, who seek wisdom from their culture instead of God.

 

Why did Paul mention “the princes of this world” instead of something more generic like, “the people of this world”? Because it was the rulers—the Pharisees and other Jewish leadership, the Roman leadership, who sought for and authorized the death of Jesus Christ. So Paul says that, if they had known God’s wisdom, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

 

And why was Paul picking on the specific rulers who had a hand in crucifying Jesus Christ? One reason is that the wisest thing any person could do is to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Yet, the wisest people of the world—the Pharisees, for example, were unable to see that Jesus was their Savior.

 

But it’s not merely the possession of power and influence that blocks people from gaining God’s wisdom. Instead, it’s the desire for that power and influence and the wisdom of the world and culture that keeps a person from God’s wisdom.

 

In Mark 11, we find an example of this very attitude among some Jewish leaders who approached Jesus:

 

27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 

 

29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 

 

31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. 

 

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Mark 11:27–33)

 

Why were they unable to answer Jesus and therefore gain God’s wisdom about the baptism of John? Because they feared the people. They feared what would happen to themselves—their lives, their reputations. So they had no desire to seek God’s wisdom. 

 

It’s like when someone who is not feeling well refuses to see the doctor—they fear the wisdom of the doctor and do not desire to learn from him. They might even make statements to the effect that the doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing, or that all he wants is their money—basically, they call the doctor foolish.

 

Why do many people not want to seek God? They are enamored with the wisdom of the world—today that’s evolution and the like—all the wisdom that focuses on human beings. They want to make up their own rules. That’s their deep desire. So there’s no way they’ll seek the wisdom of God because it will mean betraying themselves.

 

Instead of accepting God’s wisdom, they claim it’s foolishness. They ask questions that they suppose disprove God, like how could a loving, all-powerful God allow evil things to happen. 

 

Or they look at the hypocrisy of some Christians, or people claiming to be Christians, and declare that God must be some angry white guy sitting in his throne pulling strings and laughing at the results.

 

They simply do not desire to receive God’s wisdom. So that leads us to the next question:

 

Who can receive God’s wisdom?

 

2) The Mature Can Receive God’s Wisdom

 

1 Corinthians 2:6a 

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect:

 

Who are the perfect? The word for “perfect” (τέλειος) simply means “mature” or “full-grown.” It doesn’t necessarily mean completely perfect, without sin or flaw.

 

But who are these mature people in verse six? Is the phrase “them that are perfect” referring to mature Christians (versus immature Christians) or is it referring to all Christians (versus all unbelievers)?

 

Now, if he is referring to only mature Christians, then does he mean that immature Christians cannot receive God’s wisdom?

 

Those who believe that Paul is talking about mature Christians and immature Christians point out in the very next chapter, Paul says:

 

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1)

 

We need to careful here—In chapter 3, he does indeed make  a contrast between spiritual (mature) and carnal (immature) Christians. But in chapter two, that is not his concern—in chapter two he is making a different contrast, one that he clearly brings out at the end:

 

14 But the natural man [i.e., the unbeliever] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual [i.e., the believer] judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:14–15)

 

I am convinced that the contrast Paul is making in verses 6 to 9 is that the “perfect” or mature person in verse 6 (what he calls the “spiritual” person in verse 15) is a believer as opposed to an unbeliever, not a mature Christian as opposed to unbelievers and immature Christians.

 

Why is it so important to get the distinction here right? 

 

One reason is that there have been groups throughout Church history that have taken this passage and supposed that certain Christians—a special, “perfect” Christian—could have access to more of God’s wisdom than anyone else. They have claimed the “hidden wisdom” of verse 7 is special and only available to certain Christians.

 

So it’s important for us to see that Paul isn’t saying that God’s wisdom is only available to mature Christians.

 

Yes, immature Christians need milk before they can have meat—but they have access to all of God’s wisdom because all his wisdom he has revealed is in the Bible. There isn’t anything that is hidden from them—it’s just a matter of them learning it.

 

Let’s turn now from who can receive God’s hidden wisdom, to the vital question…

 

II) WHAT IS GOD’S HIDDEN WISDOM?

 

1 Corinthians 2:7 

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, 

even the hidden wisdom, 

which God ordained before the world 

unto our glory: 

 

1) It Is Now Revealed

 

What did Paul mean when he said we “speak the wisdom of God in a mystery”?

 

The word “mystery” today means a puzzle, a riddle, an unsolved problem. Detectives solve mysteries by finding clues and putting the pieces together to figure out who done it.

 

But that is not what “mystery” means in the Bible. In the Bible “mystery” simply means something that was hidden and is now revealed. 

 

It is revealed, that is, to those willing to understand it—Christians, both mature and immature—but not to unbelievers (verse 14). 

 

The unbeliever can look at this revealed mystery of God’s wisdom as it’s found in the Bible, but he takes it as foolishness. It remains hidden to him or her.

 

The next thing that we learn about God’s hidden wisdom that is revealed to believers is that…

 

2) It Is For Our Glory

 

We are told in this verse that this is a wisdom that “God ordained before the world unto our glory.” God planned something in eternity past that would benefit our future. What was it? The most important thing any human being can have—an eternal future in “glory.” 

 

It doesn’t mean we’ll get rich or healthy or whatever now, but that our future will be one of glory. Paul wrote:

 

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

 

Human wisdom naturally focuses in on glory in the here and now. Get all the riches and fun you can now…for tomorrow you may die.

 

God’s wisdom points us to something greater, a glory that is incomparable to what we go through now, whether it is good or bad. I love the words of 2 Corinthians where it says:

 

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

 

So God’s wisdom is better than anything the world has to offer us because it is glory for us. God’s wisdom, Paul says in verse 9, is greater than anything we can imagine:

 

1 Corinthians 2:9 

But as it is written, 

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, 

neither have entered into the heart of man, 

the things which God hath prepared 

for them that love him.

 

This isn’t a verse directly about Heaven, but it is about what God has for us in his wisdom, which would include our heavenly home. 

 

We have all sorts of ideas and imaginings about what is in store for us when we get there. Often we think of being reunited with friends and family that have gone there already.

 

Listen—“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…” In other words, we haven’t even touched the surface of the glory that is to come! We haven’t even thought about it!

 

That is why all those books about how “I went to Heaven and saw it came back to tell you about it are so wrong.” They don’t know what they’re talking about. They end up making Heaven look smaller.

 

What is this hidden wisdom revealed to those who love God? What is this wisdom that will be, as the song says, glory for me? At the very heart of God’s wisdom, we find that…

 

3) It Is Christ Crucified

 

In verse 8 we learned that the princes of this world ignorantly “crucified the Lord of glory.” The believer’s glorious future is secured because Jesus died for our sins. 

 

That is the key part of God’s hidden wisdom that, when you finally come to understand it, it becomes the focal point of your life. Paul said that he…

 

2 …determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

 

Now do you see why the “perfect” or mature people of verse 6 cannot be mature Christians versus immature Christians? The “hidden wisdom” of God here is nothing more, and nothing less, than that the “Lord of glory” humbled himself and died on a cross for our sins. That is a wisdom that every Christian, mature or immature, understands, or they aren’t a Christian.å

Did you notice the bit of divine irony in verse 8?

 

1 Corinthians 2:8 

Which none of the princes of this world knew:

for had they known it, 

they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

 

Had the “princes of this world” known the hidden wisdom of God, which is that he would send Jesus to be crucified for our sins, then “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The ones who were trying to do away with Jesus were actually accomplishing the very plan of God!

 

God’s wisdom is hidden to all who do not receive Jesus—it is foolishness to the unbeliever.

 

God’s wisdom is our glory, a glory that surpasses the worst and the best that this world has to offer.

 

God’s wisdom is Christ crucified for our sins.

 

CONCLUSION

 

How do we get this wisdom?

 

As long as you view what the Bible says as foolish, outdated, quaint, or the like—you will be unable to have God’s wisdom.

 

As long as you insist on having your own way instead of God’s way in your life—you will be unable to have God’s wisdom.

 

God’s wisdom is only for those who are willing to humble themselves; who are willing to set aside their prideful thinking and desire to learn from God. He says in Isaiah:

 

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

 

God’s wisdom tells us that we are sinners—are you offended by that? Or are you humbled? Are you ready to seek the solution that God offers to those who place their faith in the one who died for their sins? 

 

Are you ready to place your faith—your hope of eternity—in the wisdom of a crucified Savior—Jesus Christ?


Notes:

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/charles-proteus-steinmetz-the-wizard-of-schenectady-51912022/?no-ist

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