February 27, 2005

Who Bends Your Ear

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:6–16


Who Bends Your Ear

1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Pastor Randy Smith

Today we seem to have insurance policies for everything, but try this one on for size. For $156 a year, a London company (called Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson) will insure you in the event you're nabbed by an alien. If you're 'merely' abducted by aliens they'll pay you $312,000. But if you're abducted and you're partly eaten you'll get a whopping $468,000 (Campus Life, Strange World, v. 56, n. 6).

This might not be a bad investment since statistics gathered by Luntz Research reveal that 53% of Americans believe aliens have visited the earth in the past 100 years (George, 12/96). Then again 10% of those surveyed in this poll believe Elvis Presley is still alive!

But why is it whenever we consider the world of the extra terrestrial that we never view ourselves as the aliens? We're always the normal ones. We're the citizens. We're the ones who act, think and look in the acceptable way. I'm sure many of us process in this manner, but if you are in Christ Jesus, the Bible speaks to the contrary. Twice in Peter's first epistle, Christians are referred to as aliens (1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11). In other words, we are not the acceptable ones.

Why is that? It is because we have submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ. We no longer have a worldly mindset, but have adopted a biblical perspective on life. We follow the wisdom of God and deem the wisdom of the world, foolishness. We place others needs above our own. We value God's glory as the ultimate priority in all we do. We gather with people we once mocked. We enjoy activities we once distained. We embrace values we once ignored. We share a message we once hated. We should stand out. We should see a noticeable difference between the world and us. In the world's eyes, we're abnormal. We are aliens.

For the past seven weeks we have been studying Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. The epistle is corrective in its nature. And the need for correcting resulted from a church that continued to act just like the rest of the world. They never became aliens in the biblical sense. And since wordiness spells disaster for the church, this church was naturally plagued with many problems.

Paul's initial concern was the divisions within the flock. Their desire to rally behind a specific leader at the exclusion of others was an indication of their worldliness and the cause of major disunity. Therefore Paul spent the first four chapters of this letter addressing the root of this specific issue.

What is the ultimate cause of disunity within a church? What is the source of these worldly divisions? The answer is very simple - pride! Pride is when we think too highly of ourselves. On the contrary, humility is when we see ourselves as God sees us. So Paul reminded the church that "by (God's) doing (they) are in Christ Jesus" (1:30). Paul reminded the church that God often chooses the weak, foolish and despised things of the world (1:26-28). Paul reminded the church that the wisdom of the world is foolishness before God (1:20). Paul reminded the church that their salvation was not based on philosophical brilliance or oratorical superiority, but rather the simple message of "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (2:2). Who are we to be prideful?

When we consider ourselves rightly, we must come to the conclusion "that no man may boast before God" (1:29). When we consider ourselves rightly, we must come to the conclusion that "him who boasts (can only and must only) boast in the Lord" (1:31). What is the point in all this? Humility before God that esteems His glory is the biblical cure for pride and the subsequent worldly divisions that it produces.

Now, as we conclude chapter 2, Paul informs these Corinthian believers that they cannot live with one foot in the church and one foot in the world. God demands absolute allegiance and the ways of the world are diametrically opposed to the ways of God. And until they jettison their worldly way of thinking, they will never overcome the problems of disunity nor will they be a church that honors the Lord.

So in verses 6-16 of chapter 2, Paul contrasts the voice of the world with the voice of God. Are they listening to the world or are they listening to God? In their estimation, who speaks wisdom and who speaks folly? Who's bending their ear? Whose side are they on? Are they living as the world or are they living as aliens?

What happens when we follow the world? What is the wisdom of God? How has it been revealed? How can I be sure I am following it?


First, in verses 6-10 Paul identifies the characteristics of godly wisdom. Naturally those who belong to God will hear, esteem and follow this wisdom. Even Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10:27). However those of the world will reject God's wisdom and deem it foolishness. Remember, 1 Corinthians 1:18? "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing."

Since the world has its own wisdom, they will naturally reject the wisdom of God. As the middle of verse 6 says, God's wisdom is "not of this age." It is out of fashion. It is foolish. It is incomprehensible. It is outright offensive. Those who dwell in this fallen age outright reject the wisdom of God. And at one time we did too because at one time we belonged to "this age" as well! But Christ "gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4a). Christians have been delivered by the precious blood of Christ from this evil age. How dare we still cherish its ways? For the sake of Jesus, we must be an alien and reject the wisdom of this age.

In the end of verse 6 Paul also mentions that God's wisdom is not "of the rulers of this age" either. All the leading people, all the individuals in authority, all those with power and influence will soon realize that their wisdom has amounted to foolishness before God. Romans 1:22 comes to mind: "Professing to be wise, they became fools." Just as they are "passing away" (verse 6), so is their wisdom. Both them and their wisdom are fleeting. Both are coming to nothing. Both are doomed to depart from existence. Christian, why do we envy their worldview? Why do we want to be like them? According to the Bible, they are not the epitome of wisdom, but the epitome of foolishness.

I believe the greatest proof of their foolishness is found in verse 8. "None of the rulers of this age has understood (God's wisdom); for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." What was the outcome of worldly wisdom? It led to the crucifixion of our Lord, Jesus Christ! Incarnate God was standing before their eyes and in their wisdom they nailed Him to a cross!

Worldly wisdom has no place for a humble Messiah. It has no place for One who exposes weakness and brings light to the deeds done in darkness. It has no place for fleeing to Him for mercy and then surrendering to His lordship. So in the essence of its own wisdom, the world came to a verdict. The world murdered Jesus. The world in its own wisdom did not come to know God (1 Cor. 1:28); on the contrary, they crucified Him!

Are you feeling Paul's heart? Do you see how wrong worldliness is for the Christian? Do you see how awful these divisions were in the church?

Let's continue with our alien theme. Imagine how the wisdom of the world would appear to an alien from outer space.

"We have heard a rumor that God visited your planet many years ago. Is this rumor true?" "Well, there was a man named Jesus Christ. He claimed…" "Yes! That's it! Jesus Christ! Did he really come?" the aliens asked excitedly. "Yes," said the earthling, "but…" "What an extraordinary thing! What a wonderful thing!" exclaimed the aliens. "Tell us, what did you do when God visited your planet? Did you bring gifts and throw them at his feet? Did you run the streets celebrating and singing? Did all the world finally realize how much he loves them? Please, tell us, what did you do?" The human pondered for a moment and then sheepishly said, "Um…we killed him" (Adapted from: Pastor Nate Barbour, "The Aliens have Landed").

Shouldn't the wisdom of the world appear this foolish to us as well, as aliens separated from the world and citizens belonging to another kingdom? It even goes beyond folly. Running after human wisdom is basically siding with the camp of those who crucified Jesus.

Therefore, in verse 6, Paul said, He "(spoke) a wisdom among those who are mature." While leveling the wisdom of the world, He brought to the Corinthian church, those who are led by the Spirit, those who should be able to discern between godliness and worldliness, the wisdom of God. Is that you? Are you of the "mature?" Do you have ears that hear and feet that run after the wisdom of God?

Verse 7 begins by saying this wisdom is a "mystery." In other words, God's wisdom is unknown and "hidden" from natural man and must be revealed through the Spirit. Verse 7 also says God's wisdom was "predestined before the ages to our glory." Once God spiritually opens our eyes we see this wisdom, accept Christ, and allow Him to transform us to His glory. Listen, worldly wisdom leads one to reject Christ. Godly wisdom leads one to become like Christ.

Verse 9 summarizes this thought. "But just as it is written, 'things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.'" Though many have misinterpreted this verse to refer to heaven, verse 9 (as Paul is quoting from Isaiah 64:4), is teaching us that the human senses on their own cannot perceive the wisdom of God. Jesus affirmed this. Do you remember after Peter's confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16), that our Lord responded by saying, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 16:17; cf. 11:25).

If humans are to understand all that God has prepared for those who love Him, they are dependent on Him to provide, as Jesus said (Mt. 16:13; Mk. 8:18), eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart that can comprehend. Our two greatest human resources, observation (empiricism) and reason (rationalism) are wonderful to accumulate worldly wisdom but insufficient to understand and accept the wisdom of God.

But when God enables us to accept His wisdom, it goes beyond anything we could have ever expected.


However, as we move to the second point, we are dependent on God for more than merely giving us the ability to accept His wisdom and flee from the wisdom of the world. We need to back it up a step. We need God to reveal Himself to humanity in the first place. We need Him to reveal what He has "prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9)


Therefore Paul says in the beginning of verse 10, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit." As finite and fallen human beings, we are totally dependent of God for revelation. Revelation is defined as "the act of God whereby what once was concealed from men is now made known to them" (Piper, The Wisdom We Speak, 1980). Had God not chosen to reveal Himself, who He is, what He demands of us, how we may approach Him in Christ Jesus, we would have no hope.

But how has God chosen to reveal Himself? Verse 10 says, God has revealed Himself "through the Spirit." Though God has revealed Himself in many ways, ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2), in this context the Holy Spirit is the agent of transmission whereby God has chosen to make Himself known. It was the Holy Spirit that enabled the Apostles to speak with authority (Eph. 3:5), and it was the Holy Spirit that enabled them to compose Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) so that a record of divine revelation would be available for future generations.

Why is the Holy Spirit sufficient for such an awesome responsibility? Paul answers that question by providing a wonderful analogy. Half way through verse 10 we read, "For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughtsof God no one knows except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:10b-11).

Just as no human can fully know the depths of my heart better than my own spirit, nobody know the depths of God, better than the Holy Spirit. Because of His interpersonal relationship with God the Father, the Holy Spirit, being God Himself knows the mind of God the Father perfectly. We cannot fathom the depths of God (Rom. 11:34; Job 11:7), but the Holy Spirit can. And as the Apostle Paul states, the Holy Spirit searches God and then reveals God.


To whom did the Holy Spirit reveal God in such a special way? The answer is found in verses 12 and 13. "Now we (the Apostles) have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

So how did we get our Bibles and why should they be trusted as the Word of God? Well, according to these verses, God the Spirit searched the depths of God the Father and revealed truth to the Apostles and their close delegates. 2 Peter 1:21 says these men were "moved by the Holy Spirit (to speak) from God." These men inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote Holy Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 confirms this when it says, "All Scripture is inspired by God." Literally we can say that the Bible is "God breathed." Therefore when we read the Bible, we are not only reading the words of the Apostles, but ultimately we are reading the Word of God - from God the Father to God the Spirit to the Apostles to us. And since it is the Word of God, it comes to us as absolute truth and with ultimate authority.


And as we read the Word of God, God speaks to His children through Holy Scripture. And since we have the very One who wrote Scripture living within us (1 Cor. 6:19), believers are not only able to understand, but also desire Scripture. Every time we read this Book or hear it taught or recall verses we have memorized, we hear the very voice of God.

I can't tell you how many new Christians have commented that once they got saved the Bible has become more meaningful for them. It was a Book they rarely opened, and if they did, they found its contents very confusing and at times quite disturbing. However, once indwelt with the Holy Spirit, the words, as I often hear it, began to "jump off the page." This process is called the doctrine of illumination. The Holy Spirit that lives within us is making the Book He authored clear to us whereby we might follow the revelation of God's wisdom and not the wisdom of the world.

In contrast to the believer, the unbeliever's attitude toward Scripture is described in verse 14. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."

It has been said that the natural man can only "gnaw of the bark of Scripture without getting to the wood." The spiritual man has the Holy Spirit, but the natural man is spiritually blind. Consider the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus. They knew the Scriptures inside and out. They knew the finest points of every text, but yet completely missed the entire message. Jesus said to them, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life" (Jn. 5:39-40). Consider the Apostle Paul himself. All his religious training and knowledge of the Bible led him to persecute the church (Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:12-13). Neither the Pharisees nor pre-converted Paul knew the wisdom of God because they failed to recognize Jesus Christ as the "Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8). Remember, Jesus Christ is the "wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24; 30).

As verse 14 says, to the natural man, the wisdom of God as revealed in the Scriptures is incomprehensible and offensive and therefore regarded as "foolishness." An individual devoid of the Holy Spirit "dead in (his or her) trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) cannot be expected to appreciate that which is "spiritually appraised."

However, the spiritual person is illuminated by the Holy Spirit can evaluate, discern and understand spiritual issues. We should expect a difference. We see this contrast stated in verse 15. "But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one."

The Spirit of God enables us to receive the Scriptures as God's Word. He helps us understand (Psm. 119:18; Lk. 24:45). He softens our heart. He shatters our pride. He gives us humility to accept the truth we find without twisting it. He helps us to see the beauty of Christ crucified. There is still a place for human teachers (Eph. 4:11-12) and there is still a place for diligent study (2 Tim. 2:15), yet through the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures now have a significant purpose in our lives. That which we once deemed foolish, now has become precious as it reveals the wisdom and power and glory of God. As the Psalmist said, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psm. 119:97).

Natural man will mock the Bible and mock those who cling to it. So Paul concludes this chapter with a quote from Scripture itself (Isa. 40:3). Verse 16, "For 'who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?'"

Natural man clings to a sense of religiosity. He has deemed in his own heart who God is and what expectations He has (if any) for us humans. But in coming to these man-made conclusions, natural man has neglected the revelation God has provided. He has rejected the Scriptures and has determined in his own sinful heart who God is. He has sought to (verse 16) know the "mind of the Lord" and through his own insight (verse 16) "instruct" God Almighty Himself as to who He is and how He should act.

But verse 16 closes with yet another contrast. Natural man seeks to reject God's revelation and instruct Him, while spiritual man humbly receives God's revelation as God has revealed Himself. He understands that he would never know God rightly apart from what God has given him. He takes and follows what God has given him. Why? Because as verse 16 says, "We have the mind of Christ."

There were divisions in the Corinthian church. The reason was because they were acting just like the rest of the world. The world loves its wisdom, but the alien, the child of God, loves the wisdom of God.

Paul's point: Why follow the wisdom of the world when it led to the crucifixion of Christ? Why follow the wisdom of the world when God's wisdom leads to our glory? Why follow the wisdom of the world when it is passing away? Why follow the wisdom of the world when we possess and have the ability to understand God's revelation. Based on this morning's text, following after the world is about as foolish as it gets!

So how do we act like an alien? We live contrary to the world. We let the Holy Spirit guide our actions. We follow the Word of God. And in doing so, we will be humble and not prideful. We will have fewer divisions and more unity. And we will bring God much glory and ourselves much joy.

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1–40 Series: 1 Corinthians

Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 18


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Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21–27 Series: 1 Corinthians