March 8, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1435

March 8, 2020 1 Corinthians 2.1-16

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Spiritual Discernment – The Mind of Christ”

 

1 Corinthians 2.1-16

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6 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.

7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 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”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

11 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.

12 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.

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.

14 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.

15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

 

  • All We Really Need

 

When Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, he had lots of problems to address. We sometimes romanticize the early church to the degree that we think everything was just about how fast the church grew or what great things were happening with the apostles. When Paul came to them he says here that he did not razzle dazzle with fancy words or slick presentations, but he came with the simple knowledge and power of Christ crucified. When all is said and done that’s all we really need to give to those who don’t know Jesus, just Him crucified. Just give the good news that Jesus died so that we might live.

Paul had to address things like divisions in the church, lawsuits among fellow believers, sexual immorality, idolatry, and misuse of spiritual gifts. Nothing much has changed in the church since then! I think much of the church today needs to read these letters again as addressed directly to them, especially on idolatry and sexual immorality. Paul knew he had all these problems to deal with so he began with Christ crucified as a reminder to the church of what was preached among them. When people lose sight of Christ crucified, they fall into, or are seduced into, the problems Paul needed to address and the problems still need addressing today.

Paul did what he knew was best; he relied upon the Spirit of God and the power of God. He did not want them to rest their faith on Paul’s capacity to preach. He did not want them to depend upon Paul for their salvation. He did not want anyone to put his or her trust in human wisdom. His simple message was Jesus Christ and him crucified. Depending on human wisdom is a great temptation in modern times. We think we know better. Certainly the world thinks it knows better than this ancient text of Scripture.

I believe Paul would write this to many churches today...Genuine faith rests not on human wisdom, but on the power of God. Faith does not rest on human reason, but on the power of God. Faith does not rest on human technology, but on the power of God. Faith does not rest on human intelligence, but on the power of God. Faith does not rest on human consumerism, but on the power of God. Paul would remind all of us, and especially those conforming to the world’s standards or lack of standards, that faith does not rest on anything but the power of God, and that power is the message of Christ crucified.

 

  • Secret and Hidden Wisdom

 

In verses 7-9 Paul speaks of secret and hidden wisdom. It was hidden to those who thought they knew better, hidden from the rulers of the age and all who would have Christ crucified. It was hidden in times past, from those who thought they knew better even from those who had hope that God would save. It was hidden from the world. Jesus preached in parables to hide the secrets of God from those who thought they knew more than God. It is still hidden from us to a degree in that ...no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him (2.9).

That secret and hidden wisdom has now been revealed in Christ crucified. The Spirit reveals to us God’s wisdom, spiritual wisdom, not the world’s wisdom, not human wisdom, but the very wisdom of God. This is why the Reformed tradition relies on the Word of God as its final authority. The Spirit is at work to reveal the truth of God and when we rely on other forms of so-called wisdom, we quench the Spirit of God and deny God’s word. The Spirit reveals God’s wisdom to those who are willing and able, by God’s grace, to receive it.

There are those in the world, in our community to whom this is still a secret and hidden wisdom. We tend to think that everyone has at least heard the gospel in one form or another, but we really should not assume that. Don’t you love to tell secrets to others? I don’t mean a secret that betrays a trust, I mean a secret as something someone else does not yet know or realize. Someone is trying to do something and they can’t seem to get it done and we say, “I’ll let you in on a little secret. You have to do this to make that work.” Our secret is Christ crucified. Want life to have meaning and purpose – Jesus. Want joy in life – Christ. Want forgiveness for all the evil you’ve done – Christ crucified. This is our secret hidden wisdom, but it need not remain a secret. God wants us to reveal it!

 

  • No Longer Secret or Hidden

 

I’ll let you in on a little secret...10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 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. 12 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.

 

Here is the good news – we can understand the things freely given us by God. They have been revealed in Jesus, revealed by the Holy Spirit, revealed to the spiritually minded. It is in the Holy Spirit that we have the mind of Christ. We have the wisdom of God. We have the Word of God that teaches and shapes us. Those who are spiritual are able to discern the things of the Spirit. If we compare this statement of having the mind of Christ with Philippians 2 where Paul bids us to have the same mind as Christ, it refers to having the same attitude, the same disposition, the same character. In the case of Philippians it is having humility and obedience. In the case of 1 Corinthians 2 it is having understanding of spiritual things and having spiritual discernment. It is having the transformative news of Christ crucified.

When I think about practical ways we might understand this, I think about seeing the world and the things of our life through a particular lens. We do not just see political actions or nations in conflict; we do not just see medical advancements or economic movements, but we see God moving in the world of politics, nations, medicine, or the economy. We see the underlying cause and effect of God’s action taking form in healing our sick bodies or reconciling our broken relationships. The reason we can even begin to see the world in this way is because the Holy Spirit is writing the Word on our hearts, convicting us of sin, and drawing us ever closer to Jesus. Paul says that we have received God’s Spirit and that the Spirit has revealed to us what was secret and hidden so that we might understand.

Do we understand what Jesus has done on our behalf? Yes, we do. Do we understand what Christ crucified has done to sin and death? Yes, we do. Do we understand what Christ rising from the tomb means for our lives? Yes, we do. We understand because the Spirit has given us understanding, and we have received the Spirit who is from God.

 

  • Spiritual Discernment – The Mind of Christ

 

Have any of you seen the movie IQ with Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins, and Walter Matthau? It is about Ed Walters, an auto mechanic who wants to date Albert Einstein’s niece, Catherine Boyd. She is a brilliant mathematician and niece to Einstein, played by Matthau. There is a scene where Einstein and Ed Walters are talking about why Katherine would never date someone like this auto mechanic because she is so smart. Walters makes the statement that it would be easier if Einstein just loaned Ed his brain.

Einstein: The problem is, she would never go out with someone like you.

Ed: That's easy. Just lend me your brain for a couple of days.

Einstein: What? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Ed: What would be the odds of that happening?


 

Of course the auto mechanic thinks he could never think what Einstein thinks. Haven’t we said the same to others, are you thinking what I'm thinking? This is the question of 1 Corinthians 2.16. Are we thinking what Christ is thinking? Paul says we can because we have the mind of Christ! We have Christ’s mind in the Bible and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is such an amazing thought that by having the Holy Spirit, by having the capacity to discern spiritual things, that we have the mind of Christ. We have the attitude, the vision, the characteristics of Christ himself. We have His words and His actions and His thoughts.

The J.B. Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament renders that last thought it this way: Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ! This is part of what Paul writes in his second letter to Corinth, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete 2 Cor 10.4-6). We take our thoughts captive to obey Christ. We enthrall the mind to the thoughts of Jesus. We take His Word into our minds in such a way that we begin to think like Jesus. It is a part of loving God with all our mind.

I think Paul would not have asked us to consider what would Jesus do, but he might have us ask, what would Jesus think (WWJT!)? When we consider what Jesus thinks of anything, we can take our thoughts captive to His and then our actions will follow those thoughts. Perhaps this was Paul’s strategy in dealing with the problems in the Corinthian church, to get them to think differently, different than the world around them...more like Jesus, more like the Holy Spirit. This spiritual discernment enables us to follow Jesus in all things and to show the world what it means to be a Christian. Are we thinking what Jesus is thinking? What are the odds of that? They can be much better than the odds of a mechanic thinking like Einstein, at least in the 1950s. With the Word and the Spirit, we truly can think like Jesus. Let’s pursue that goal daily.

 
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