The Promise of God's Perspective (I Corinthians 2:1-16)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: 1 Corinthians 2:1–2:16
I. The Red Pill
The 1999 film, The Matrix, could be easily dismissed by most people as simply yet another high-octane, shoot-em-up, fantasy flick. From one perspective, that’s exactly what it is. But in contrast to many films that might fit in that category, The Matrix was actually constructed around a variety of religious and philosophical themes.
One of these themes has to do with the idea of mental or spiritual blindness to what it true and real. You see, in the film, the “Matrix” is an artificial, computer-generated reality constructed to enslave the minds of human beings. Listen to how one of the main characters, Morpheus, a man who has escaped the illusion of the Matrix, listen as he explains all this to Neo, a character who is eventually presented as the Messianic figure of the story.
Morpheus: …The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth.
Neo : What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison...for your mind....Unfortunately,
no one can be...told what the Matrix is...you have to see it for yourself.
Morpheus opens a container which holds two pills : a blue one, and a red one. He puts one in each hand, and holds them out to Neo.
Morpheus : This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.....You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up and believe...whatever you want to believe. You take the red
pill.....you stay in wonderland...and I show you just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Neo pauses for an instant, then reaches for the red pill. He swallows it down with a glass of water, and looks at Morpheus.
Morpheus : Remember...all I'm offering you is the truth : nothing more.
Now, I can’t offer you a red pill this morning. But there is way for our eyes to be opened to the truth. Interested? Turn with me this morning to I Corinthians 2.
III. The Passage: “The Things of the Spirit” (2:6-16)
This morning we are continuing our study of what Scripture teaches us about the Holy Spirit.
As we've seen in previous studies, the Holy Spirit is not simply from God; he is God. He is one of three persons who, in a kind of tri-unity, compose the essence of God himself. We call this concept the Trinity... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three distinct person, but only one God. But we also learned in our first study how the Spirit's role in God's divine rescue mission is to bear witness to Jesus, God the Son in human flesh. Listen to how the opening verses of I Corinthians 2 emphasize these same themes. Paul tells the disciples of Jesus in Corinth:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
But keep that in mind as we continue reading in this chapter. As we do, I believe God will show another critical aspect of the Spirit's work.
1. A Secret and Hidden Wisdom (2:6-9)
Look at what Paul goes on to say in verses 6-9:
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”...
So what exactly is Paul doing here? Well, he's trying to correct the Corinthians in regard to true wisdom. Like most Greeks, the Corinthians were easily drawn to the charisma and public speaking skills of traveling teachers who promoted themselves and peddled their wisdom from town to town. But as we heard in verse 5, Paul has rejected the “wisdom of men”.
And yet, that doesn’t mean he's not interested in wisdom. As he tells them here in verse 6, he is imparting wisdom. But the wisdom he is declaring is “a secret and hidden wisdom”; it is wisdom that “God decreed before the ages for our glory”.
Furthermore, notice it's not a wisdom based on human intuition or ideals. Paul tells us here (in both verses 6 and 8) that even “the rulers of this age”, the best, the brightest, those who possessed worldly power, even they could not understand this wisdom of God. And because of their inability to grasp the wisdom of God, they condemned God himself, God in human flesh. Not surprisingly, they are (according to verse 6) doomed to pass away.
Also notice that Paul goes on to confirm the hidden-ness of this wisdom in verse 9, with what may be a very loose translation of Psalm 64:4. What God is doing, God’s plan, is nothing that human beings would ever imagine or anticipate.
But there seems to be somewhat of a contradiction in this passage: Paul is “imparting”, he is “speaking”, he is making known, a wisdom that is “secret and hidden”. Huh? So how does Paul understand? How can anyone, including you and me, understand this wisdom?
2. Revealed by the Spirit (2:10-12)
We find the answer in v. 10: these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
God’s secret and hidden wisdom has been revealed by God’s Spirit. Look at how Paul describes the work of God’s Spirit in verse 12. He has been given to followers of Christ so “that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” Paul is telling the Corinthians, “What the rulers of this age could not understand, you can because of the Holy Spirit.”
Paul explains why this is the case in verse 11 by comparing the Spirit of God with the spirit of man. That which is within you, in your spirit, your thoughts and desires, can only be known fully by... you. In the same way the wisdom of God, that is, God’s thoughts and desires are known only by His Spirit… but… they are freely given to us. Isn’t that amazing?
And unlike the traveling teachers who profited from their trade, who demanded payment for their priceless wisdom, the wisdom of God himself is given to us freely through the Spirit.
So what does all of this mean in terms of the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God; in terms of God’s people and the world?
C. The Spiritual vs. the Natural (2:13-16)
Look at how Paul goes on clarifying the tension that he’s already begun to describe. Verse 13:
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We see here Paul coming back around to the truth he expressed in verse 6: the Spirit of God reveals the wisdom of God through “words”, words that are “imparted”. But these words are words “taught” by the Spirit, not according to any human power or wisdom.
In verse 14, Paul drives all this home by describing human beings in their natural condition. The phrase “natural person” comes from a phrase that we could literally translate, “the man of this earthly state”. Jude uses this same term in describing “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 19) In every passage it is used, it is set in stark contrast to that which is spiritual or eternal or heavenly.
Without the Spirit, the wisdom of God is not only NOT “understood” as we saw in verse 8, and also here at the end of verse 14. It is, in fact, foolishness. The quote from Isaiah 40 in verse 16 simply confirms human inability to understand the things of God apart from the Spirit of God. But by the Spirit of God, those who believe now have “the mind of Christ”.
IV. Living with the Mind of Christ
This morning, as we consider once again the work of the Holy Spirit, I think the question we need to ask in light of this passage is what does it mean that the Spirit reveals these things to us (v. 10); or, to put it another way, what does it mean for us to “understand the things freely given to us by God?” (v. 12); or what does it mean to be “taught by the Spirit?” (v. 13); or what does it mean to “accept the things of the Spirit of God”? (v. 14)
For some, this simply means God's Spirit opening our minds so that we make a “decision” for Christ. Others see this passage as basically teaching that the Holy Spirit is our ultimate Bible study tool. That we can now “interpret” Scripture accurately because the Spirit is teaching us. Still others think this passage is about a deeper kind of mystical experience; that Paul talking about a 'super spiritual' life guided by promptings and voices and impressions.
But if we consider this passage in light of its context, we discover a different answer. This passage about the illuminating work, the revealing work, the teaching work of the Holy Spirit was not written to a group of unbelievers; this passage was not written for people who were having a tough time filling out Paul’s latest Bible study booklet; this teaching was not given to people who were deficient in miracles and mysticism, or to people who were not sensitive to the Spirit’s impressions.
No. This passage was written to people who could not get along with each other (1:10). It was given to people who were tempted to downplay Christ’s death on a criminal’s cross because it was too negative; it was not affirming enough (1:18).This was given to people who were being conformed to the world’s ideas about status and strength and success (1:27).
You see the Holy Spirit is not simply the “red pill” that opens our eyes to the reality of the truth of God, and to the reality of the world's lies. He is that. But the Holy Spirit is the promise of God’s perspective in all things. That means seeing everything and living every moment in light of the cross of Jesus Christ. We might express it this way:
The Spirit of God enables us to accept the wisdom God revealed in the cross of Jesus, which means we can stake our lives on the fact the world is not right, we are not capable, and God is not limited.
You see, you might mentally grasp and even emotionally respond to the truth about Christ, but without God's Spirit, without that supernatural intervention and illumination, you will never stake your very life on that truth. And staking your life on Christ should be a daily reality.
This is precisely why Paul sums it all up the way he does in verse 16. Even though we, in our own basic, broken condition cannot begin to grasp the mind of the Lord, through the gift of and the work of the Spirit of God, we have “the mind of Christ”. And the mind of Christ is not simply about theological skill or biblical knowledge or godly opinions or church attendance or mystical experiences. It is about thinking like Jesus Christ; and thus, it is about living like Jesus Christ.
So in subscribing to the wisdom of the world, the Corinthians were failing to learn the Spirit’s lessons. They were failing to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, in order to think the thoughts of Jesus, in order to love one another with a self-abandoning, self-emptying love.
You see, you may be interested in a God who lovingly dies to save us. But without the Spirit, we consider it foolish to die for each other each and every day. We may respond positively to Jesus, who bore our punishment. But without the Spirit, we consider it foolish to turn the other cheek when someone hurts us. We may weep in light of a Savior who denied himself in order to suffer for our sins. But without the Spirit, we consider it foolish to deny our desires and suffer because we cannot have this or that. We might sing about a man who put His life on the line believing that God would triumph. But without the Spirit, we consider it foolish to believe that God can really work when things seems hopeless.
In fact, you may hear and understand and agree with the words I’m saying right now, but without the Spirit of God, they simply will not do what they are intended to do in you and through you. It ultimately doesn’t matter how I craft my words or how clever or persuasive I think I am. If I do not believe that all of this is really the Spirit’s work, I am only serving my own ego, and nothing else.
Brothers and sisters, friends, the goal of studying God’s word is not simply that we know God’s thoughts, or proclaim God’s thoughts, or even agree with God’s thoughts. In light of the Spirit’s work, the goal of studying God's word is that we would think God’s thoughts. “But we have the mind of Christ”.
So what can we do? What should we do? We should, in humility, confess our absolute need for God's Spirit, and pray regularly in light of that need, as we dwell on God's word. The NT boils it all down for us: you are either following Jesus, or you are following the wisdom of this age. Does the story of your life, do the details and desires of your life, does the trajectory of your life, reveal the instruction of the Spirit... or the indoctrination of the world?
Please be encouraged: the cross doesn't simply reveal wisdom. It reveals grace. It reveals mercy. It reveals forgiveness. There is forgiveness for all the times we choose a human or worldly perspective over God's.
So wherever you are spiritually, please hear and hold onto this beautiful, liberating truth:
The Spirit of God enables us to accept the wisdom God revealed in the cross of Jesus, which means we can stake our lives on the fact that the world is not right, we are not capable, and God is not limited.
Remember, these are (v. 12) “the things freely given to us by God”. Will you, even now, in humility, confess your absolute need for God's Spirit, and pray in light of that need, as you dwell on God's word? I hope you'll do that with me even now.
More in The Spirit of Promise (2020)
June 28, 2020The Promise of God's Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
June 14, 2020The Promise of God's Purchase (Ephesians 1:13, 14)
June 7, 2020The Promise of God's Purpose (John 15:26, 27)