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God's Wisdom Comes from God's Spirit (I Corinthians 2:1-16)

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.


Introduction: God's Available Wisdom

There is a story that I once heard about the Greek philosopher, Socrates. A young man came to him and asked him for wisdom. So, Socrates told the young man to follow him. The youth followed Socrates to the edge of the sea and then into the water chest deep. All of a sudden, Socrates grabbed the young man and pushed his head under the water and held him there. For a while, the youth went along with the object lesson until he started running out of air. Then he began to struggle to get his head above water. But Socrates was too strong, and he continued to hold the poor young man under the water. The man kept struggling but to no avail.

Finally, the young man went limp and ceased to struggle. Socrates then dragged him to the beach and, after making sure that he wasn't dead, he walked away, leaving him there.

A few hours later, the youth came angrily up to Socrates and demanded for him to tell him why he almost killed him. "I asked for wisdom, and you tried to drown me!" he said. Socrates replied: "As soon as you want wisdom as much as you wanted air, you won't have to ask for wisdom!"

This story seems to be telling us that wisdom is available to all who want it badly enough. Interestingly, if we look at the Bible, it seems to tell us the same thing about it. We can see the truth of this illustration by just a glance at the book of Proverbs. For instance, there is Proverbs 2:1-6 which tells us:

"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding-- indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

The book of Proverbs also tells us something similar in 16:16. It says:

"How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver."

However, the one main difference between the wisdom that most of mankind seeks after, and biblical wisdom is that the Scriptures teach that true wisdom begins with an acknowledgement of Almighty God. We see this in verses like Proverbs 9:10 which tells us that:

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

And, of course, Proverbs 14:1a explains to us that:

"The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God."

We can read in many places in the Bible about the wisdom of man that tries to somehow compete with God's eternal wisdom. And man loses every time. This fact is seen quite well in the writings of the Apostle Paul. An example of this is found clearly in I Corinthians chapters 1 and 2.

In these chapters Paul points out how the people of this world have things all mixed up and actually call God's wisdom foolish. And this is seen most clearly in how the world views the preaching of the cross of Christ. The Apostle tells us this in I Corinthians 1:18. He writes:

"For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

As we continue our study of I Corinthians we see Paul, in chapter 2, continuing where he left off in chapter 1. He had stated the fact that God had not sent him to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom.

To summarize what was going on that lead to the letter, the church at Corinth was divided in several ways. One of which was a division over who they should be following as a leader of the church. Paul answered that Christ is not divided. They should not be following any mere man, even if it was Paul himself. Indeed, the Apostle Paul was not crucified for them. And they were not baptized in his name.

Paul went on to say that he thanked God that he hadn't baptized very many of them lest they should say that they were baptized in his name. For Christ didn't even send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. It was here that he brought up the fact that he was not preaching the good news with the wisdom of words. For to use human wisdom and cleverness would make the cross of Christ void of its power, which came from God and not man (1:17).

Indeed, the cross to the world is mere foolishness. To think of a crucified God was crazy to the Greeks. And a crucified Messiah was unthinkable to the Jews. After all the Scriptures taught that anyone who hung on a tree was accursed (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). So, Jesus' death on the cross was utter nonsense to the world. But this seeming nonsense is the very power of almighty God for the world's salvation. And further, God uses what seems foolish and weak to confound the powerful and the wise men of this age.

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The fact is that Spiritual wisdom and truth, which is God's real wisdom and His real truth, can only be seen by having it revealed to a person, by God Himself. Specifically, it is revealed by God the Holy Spirit.

Let us look at chapter 2 a little bit more closely as we see Paul demonstrate the Spirit's role in our understanding of God's wisdom by His revealing of the eternal plan for our salvation and the salvation of the world through the Cross of Calvary.

I. Salvation Is by God's Power and Not Man's Wisdom (2:1-5)

The apostle begins chapter 2 by saying in verses 1-5, that he came to them, not with superiority of speech in proclaiming the testimony of God. He was determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. He actually came in his own personal weakness.

Paul was certainly a wise man and could have held his own with anyone who wanted to debate him. He was very learned in the world's wisdom. However, he refused to use his skills in this area in proclaiming the gospel. And his preaching was not with words of wisdom and rhetoric or persuasion, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of God's power.

Paul really didn't want the faith of the Corinthians to rest on human wisdom, which would eventually come to nothing. Rather, he wanted them to acknowledge the power of God, which is eternal, as demonstrated by the cross.

Man's wisdom could not ever bring to anyone the salvation that God wants to give to us because mankind has a need to be in control and show how powerful they are. However, in reality, they are extremely weak. And God's strength and ability is demonstrated most vividly by man's weakness and inability to save himself. What man could never do; God did by sending His Son to die for us.

As we progress through chapter 2 of I Corinthians, Paul explains that God's true spiritual wisdom, that has brought us salvation by the gospel, is only received by the Spirit of God. Man cannot attain it on his own, any more than he can attain salvation apart from the Holy Spirit's work in his life.

In other words, spiritual wisdom has to be revealed by God.

II. Spiritual Wisdom Has to be Revealed (2:6-9)

The apostle Paul, in verses 6-10, relates to the Corinthians that he indeed does speak a type of wisdom but only to those who are mature. Others cannot see it and they will view it as foolish. But, in fact, it comes from the mind of the God who is infinitely wiser than they.

Paul uses this word 'mature' here, or the word 'perfect' in the King James, to refer to genuine believers who have been saved by Christ. This wisdom that the mature have is not of this age and is not intended for the rulers of this age.

This age, of which Paul speaks, is the sinful period that we are currently living in today. It is one that is opposed to Christ, and which is passing away some day when Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This rebellious and sinful age will end when Christ puts down all opposition to His rule over the universe forever.

In the meantime, the wisdom that Paul and others are preaching, the preaching of the cross, is a mystery to those who rule this world. By 'mystery' Paul is not speaking of something that is puzzling. Rather it is something that was hidden and known only to God before the beginning of time. The Lord has predestined for it to take place but has kept it secret until the appropriate time for Him to reveal it. This mystery truth is that God will save and glorify sinners by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul says in verse 8 that it is:

"...the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

However, we can thank God that the Lord has chosen to reveal His mystery to us who believe. It is the true wisdom that brings eternal life to us who love God and acknowledge His Son as our Savior. Paul quotes loosely from the prophet Isaiah when he says:

"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." (See Isaiah 64:4)

We can praise God that this mystery is no longer a mystery to the saved. It is a present reality of our life now and a reality of our life in the future which will never end because of Christ.

Indeed, we can know that we are saved eternally because of the Spirit who dwells in us and assures us of that salvation. And He is an authority on the knowledge He imparts because He Himself is God.

III. The Spirit Know's God's Mind (2:10-13)

God has revealed this mystery to believers through His Spirit. In verses 10-13 Paul compares the knowledge of the Holy Spirit to that of the knowledge of a man. The truth is that no matter how much we think we know someone, we can never completely understand them, or what is going on in their mind. Even someone whom we know well, like our spouse, for instance. We can never completely know everything about them. We all have our secrets that only we and God know about. And it is only if we choose to reveal our mind, and what we are thinking, that someone will know our thoughts.

However, as we have said, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God. And He, being God, knows the mind of the Lord. So, He is perfectly capable of revealing to us God's thoughts and plans.

We, who have accepted Christ as our Savior, also have God's Spirit living in us and revealing to our minds and hearts what the Lord wants us to know about God's plans for us and for the universe. So, we can understand things that most people, living without the Spirit, can never know. This is how the great apostle puts it:

"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; 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 man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we 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." (2:10-13).

As God enlightens us about His wisdom, we all have a duty to seek to share it with others. And, all the while, we should be praying that God's Spirit will open the minds and eyes of those who are lost in sin as they listen to what we have to tell them.

At the same time, we shouldn't be surprised that the world will hate us as it hated our Lord. And we shouldn't be upset if they call us foolish. For their minds are blinded to the reality of Jesus Christ. This is even more true because Satan himself plays a role in keeping them blind to the truth. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul tells us this:

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (4:3,4).

This brings us to the last section of chapter 2 in which Paul reiterates what he has already said earlier. The natural man considers the things of God foolishness.

IV. The Natural Man Considers the Things of the Lord Foolishness (2:14-16)

We see Paul talk about the natural man in verses 14-16. By natural man, of course, he means the unsaved person and thus the one without the Spirit of God. The apostle says to us:

"But the 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. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."

Sadly, apart from the Spirit's help, spiritual truth will always be incomprehensible to man without God. This shows us that the world is really lost and headed for a Christless eternity. But we have nothing to brag about either. All who have accepted Christ were in that same boat of sin and death. We were all clueless to spiritual truth until the Holy Spirit enlightened us and showed us the reality of our sin and our need for a Savior.

There will be no one who can say, one day, that they made it to heaven by themselves because of something that they did or by their great insights into God's work of salvation. The natural man, without the Spirit doesn't even care about the things of the true God. Nor does he want anything to do with Him. He sees them as foolish. We are saved because of God's amazing grace and not by our works or knowledge.

However, even though the world may call the message of the cross foolishness and may even call us foolish for preaching it, we don't stop preaching Jesus' death, burial and resurrection for salvation. For the Spirit uses this message and this message alone to bring people to God.

Worldly wisdom will never save. And even the best, the wisest, and the most eloquent of preachers will not be able to do anything to win a lost soul to heaven apart from preaching about the work of the crucified Savior.


When all is said and done, it's really the world that is foolish and lacks moral clarity. All that we have to do is to look at the news for an hour and see that the leaders of this age don't have a clue. Non-believers look everywhere but the right place for wisdom. They go to false teachers and prophets who spue out human wisdom to answer their questions and solve their many problems. But, in the process, it leads them to more questions and even greater problems. And finally, it will lead them to a Christless eternity in hell.

The Christian, on the other hand, does not rely on their own wisdom or that of the world around them to live their lives. Instead, they understand that all things must come through Christ who is the Creator and the one who sustains all of existence. And He is the Savior of the world.

Further, the one who follows Christ does not come to that conclusion on their own. They do it through the light of God's Spirit.

And that same Spirit gives us a desire to tell others about the death of our Lord for us on the cross, which is the ultimate act of God's wisdom in history. But we don't preach the gospel to others alone either. The one who gives us the desire, also prepares the hearts of those to whom we are witnessing and gives us the words to say.

May we, as Jesus' followers, never be intimidated by this world. though they may believe us to be fools. But let us, like Paul, preach Christ crucified, which is the power and wisdom of Almighty God for the salvation of the entire world. And then may we pray that the Spirit opens the eyes of all who hear the message of Jesus and His sacrifice for sin.

God's wisdom is indeed found in the cross. I thank the Lord that His Spirit uses us as His vessels to preach to the world that He loves about the sacrifice of Christ.

Let us be open to the Spirit's leading and never miss an opportunity to preach the wisdom of the cross of Calvary to all whom we see every day. For we may be the only hope that they ever will have of hearing that message which has given us life and brought to us God's salvation.

© 2022 Jeff Shirley

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