Dear Radio Friends,
We preach Christ crucified! Paul emphasizes this truth in the first three chapters of his first letter to the Corinthian church: the preaching.
The preaching of the gospel is the power God uses to save His people. God’s Word in the first few verses of I Corinthians 2 teaches us that a man’s faith does not stand in the wisdom of man but in the power of God. The persuasive oratory of a mere man cannot work faith in the heart of a person. God does not need a man who uses enticing words of man’s wisdom to convince others. The preaching of the gospel is in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. When the gospel is proclaimed, God uses it to convict and move to faith and repentance His people in Christ. In fact, what is preached is to most men foolishness and an offence. It belongs to only a few who, sitting under it, are moved by the Spirit to a knowledge of sin and salvation.
We found in our last broadcast that such is the emphasis of the chapter in which we find the Word of God that we study today. Consider with me for a few moments I Corinthians 2:7, 8, and 10: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
The wisdom proclaimed in the preaching is a hidden wisdom—it is a mystery to all those who hear it. God has not revealed it to many—not even to most. He reveals that hidden wisdom to only a few. Only to those whom God has foreordained unto eternal glory! In the hearts of these few the preaching is all powerful to accomplish what God desires. Certainly, Paul teaches you and me that when we sit in church and hear the Word of God proclaimed in truth, then something is going on. When the minister faithfully expounds the Word of God and applies it, he is not merely lecturing us. God’s saints do not merely sit in church as one would in a school classroom or in a business seminar. God is at work.
The truth that stands at the heart of our text today is that of revelation. God reveals Himself to His people by various means. One is through the creation around us. It is as an elegant book that speaks to us of our Creator. But God also reveals Himself to His people in a special way. He uses the Bible to speak to us of Himself as the God of our salvation. In that connection, God reveals Himself to us even more particularly. When God’s Word is taken in hand and preached, God reveals Himself through that preaching. This preaching, coupled together with the work of the Spirit in our hearts, is the very power of God unto salvation.
I. What it is
“We speak the wisdom of God.” Paul writes of himself and every faithful pastor. This wisdom of God stands in contrast to “the wisdom of this world,” referred to in verse 6. It is also called “man’s wisdom” in verse 4. You see, in contrast to those who are spiritually wise, there are those who are worldly wise. The Greeks had their wisdom of man that they honored above all. The great Greek philosophers Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle were lauded as the wise men of the ages. These men delved into the deep questions of life and attempted to answer them according to unbelief. They had answers for the meaning of life and our purpose here in this world. Their writings were considered words of wisdom because these men, it was thought, set forth the best way possible for a person to find peace and contentment in this present life.
The Jews too boasted of their own wisdom. They claimed that this was found only in dwelling in covenant communion with Jehovah God. In this they were correct, but the way that they sought to find this fellowship was just as wrong as was that of the Greeks. The Jews sought joy and happiness by the works of the law. They thought communion with God was by means of their own righteousness. But the wisdom of the Jews and Greeks was the “wisdom of the world,” or “man’s wisdom.” It was so, in the first place, because both the Greeks and the Jews were concerned, not with the life to come, but with life in this present world. They wanted joy and peace here in this world—and did not concern themselves with the world that was to come. Secondly, both of these looked for the way to joy and contentment within man himself, rather than looking to a Savior. Man could achieve his own glory—an earthly glory. By it he could find the way to happiness and joy in life.
In contrast to these, Paul says, “we [that is, the true preachers of the gospel] speak, we preach, the wisdom of God!” We preach the best possible way to achieve peace and happiness (that is true wisdom). We preach to you Christ crucified! That is wisdom!
How is it that this wisdom? Well, wisdom is the knowledge and the skill to achieve a certain end. The end we seek to achieve is peace, contentment, and true joy in a world of misery and heartache. The knowledge and the skill we must possess to reach that end is Christ and Him crucified! That is true because this human race has fallen into sin. It is this sin that causes all the misery and heartache in this life. Sin robs us of joy. Sin has resulted in all the restlessness, grief, and discontent we see in this world. Walking in the way of sin, therefore, cannot bring us true happiness in this life. It will only bring more sorrow! What alone will bring us joy is salvation from this sin. Deliverance from the misery and hold of sin. And that deliverance comes only in the cross of Jesus Christ. Man cannot find such deliverance in himself. He must look outside of himself to the cross of Jesus Christ. This joy and peace found in that cross is true joy and peace because it is not temporary. It will last unto all eternity. It is not limited only to the here and now but will follow those in Christ into heavenly glory, where there will be joy unspeakable and full of glory.
God ultimately gives to His people peace and contentment that will never end! That is the way of God’s wisdom. “I preach that,” Paul writes! Such the church of Christ and her faithful pastors preach yet today. We preach Christ crucified! If we think the way to joy and happiness is found in the things of this world, we are wrong! We are fools when we follow after the vain teachings of men. We are fools when we think happiness is found in the earthly and sensual. We are fools when we think contentment is found in the way of sin itself! You want to be happy in this life? Is your life miserable? Then you need to turn daily to the cross of Christ. There alone is wisdom to find happiness.
But though this may be preached over and over again, it is and always will remain a mystery. A mystery is something that is unknown. It is hidden from view. It is something people seek to find an answer to. Some mysteries are solved. Others remain hidden. Hidden! Paul writes, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden? That is what the wisdom of God is, after all: Christ crucified. But is that gospel of Christ crucified hidden? It is a mystery—that is, unknown to men. How is that possible? Paul preached it. The church has been preaching it for thousands of years now. We do not keep it secret that the way to eternal joy and peace is only through the cross of Jesus Christ. God has sent forth His ambassadors into all the earth and they preach that wisdom of God indiscriminately to all who will hear it. How is it, then, that Paul can write that he spoke a hidden wisdom which is in a mystery? That is a good question! It deserves answering.
Well, dear listeners, it is obvious that what Paul says is true. In verse 8 he brings up what is conclusive proof that the wisdom of God is a mystery, is hidden. We read there, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Obviously, the princes or rulers of Paul’s day did not know this way of God’s wisdom. They did not view Christ as the only way to glory. If they did know Christ and honor Christ as the only way to salvation and happiness, they would not have killed Him. If they believed in Christ, they would not have nailed Him to a tree and crucified Him there. Consider that once. The church at that time killed Christ. The Sanhedrin condemned Him to death. The people raised the chant: “Crucify Him! His blood be on us and our children.” The reprobate wicked killed Christ. Herod was consenting to Christ’s death too. The world of the Greeks condemned Jesus. Pontias Pilate condemned Jesus to death though he knew Jesus was innocent of any crime. The rulers of the age in which Jesus lived killed the Lord of glory.
Notice how Paul identifies Jesus here in our text: “the Lord of glory!” They crucified the one man who held in His hands the power to overcome sin and death. They put to death the one man who alone is the way of wisdom since He alone is able to perfect a person. He alone rules over the way to glory, to eternal peace and joy. They killed Him! Surely, if the princes of this world had believed in Jesus, if they had known the way of God’s wisdom, they would not have crucified Jesus. So, what Paul tells us is true. Christ and Him crucified is a mystery. It is unknown, it is hidden from the eyes of many.
Why is this? Unbelief, friends, unbelief! That is the reason the wisdom of God can be preached everywhere yet remain a mystery, hidden to many. Men are lost in darkness. They do not and cannot see or understand the things of the kingdom of heaven. A minister of the gospel can expose their sin to people, the need to repent and turn to the cross of Christ as the only way to eternal peace and joy, but he cannot open their hearts to the things of the kingdom of heaven. They might learn intellectually all about those things. They may know all about them. But that does not mean they believe on them. I can speak to you in these broadcasts expounding the gospel of the cross and the great truths of Scripture. But I am not able to make any of you who are listening able to believe them! I can use all the enticing words of man’s wisdom I want. I can be as logical and persuasive as I want. I can be dynamic and charismatic about the truths of God’s Word. But, after all is said and done, it is God that works in us to will and to do of His commandments. I cannot cause a man to know God and Jesus Christ!
II. How Revealed
But God can and God does!!! There is evidence of that too. Do you believe in God? Do you look to the cross of Christ for forgiveness? Have you found the joy of salvation and the peace it gives? Then you are evidence that God reveals the mystery of the gospel to some. It does not remain hidden to all! There are those whose eyes and hearts God opens to see and know the things of His kingdom. Concerning them we learn, first, what is explained to us in the last part of verse 7: “God has ordained this wisdom before the world to our glory!” Whose glory? The glory of the people whom He has chosen in Christ! That we bear in mind first of all. God has chosen, before the foundation of the world, a certain people unto Himself. These He chose to glory. These He determined to receive salvation from sin and to have a place in heavenly glory. It is to our glory, to the glory of God’s elect, that God has predetermined His way of wisdom. That means that God, before the world was created, has chosen us in Christ. He has chosen us to receive the joy and peace of eternal glory. And He has chosen us to receive that in Christ, who is the only way of wisdom, the only way unto glory!
That we must bear in mind first and foremost. Those to whom the wisdom of God remains hidden are those whom God has not chosen to eternal glory. They, in fact, have been rejected by God and left in the darkness of their sin and the blindness of unbelief. But to those whom God has chosen in Christ He gives the light of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. To us, God has revealed this wisdom. We come to know Christ and to seek Him as the way to joy and peace.
The question is yet, how does God choose to do this? How does God reveal to His chosen people His wisdom? Objectively, through the preaching. “We speak the wisdom of God,” Paul writes in our text. God has chosen to make Himself known and to make known our salvation in Christ through the official proclamation of His Word by the church. God calls through the church and sends forth ambassadors, heralds who are specifically ordained to proclaim the good tidings of the gospel. These take God’s Word with them and proclaim “Thus saith the Lord!” to all who will hear. They, through the preaching, make hidden wisdom plain!
Never may we minimize this way that God has chosen to make known the mysteries of His kingdom. It is the God-ordained way. Today, churches belittle the preaching. They see little need for it. It is either pushed out of the worship service all together or given only a small part in it. Music, testimonies of men and children who speak of their life’s experiences, skits or movies, clapping and shouting, all these have replaced the preaching. The sound explanation of the Word of God is considered boring and lifeless. In the face of all of this we must realize that the preaching of the Word is indeed the power of God unto our salvation! The preaching is in demonstration of the Spirit and of power in order that our faith not stand in the wisdom of man but in that power of God. But though the preaching heralds the hidden wisdom of God, there is only One who can make it plain to a person. God alone can open the heart of a person so that He will believe and know that wisdom. God alone reveals this mystery.
The way God reveals the mystery is given us in verse 10: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” The Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, making known the hidden mystery of salvation. Who is this Spirit? It is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God. The Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. His particular function in the Trinity is that divine link that unites the Father and the Son into one. The Spirit searches the deep things of God. He is involved in the covenant life that goes on in God Himself between the three Persons. As such He knows and immerses Himself in the deep things of God, that is, in God’s thoughts and purposes, His plans and providence. The Spirit knows what is in God: God’s purpose in creation, in the fall, and in the salvation we receive in Christ. And, knowing all this, the Spirit makes known to us these deep things, which is the Spirit’s function as the Spirit of Christ as well.
No, not in the sense that we are made able to know everything about God. God is and always shall remain the incomprehensible One. But rather in the sense that we are made to know and love and serve this great God. We have come to learn in a small earthly way God’s purposes and plans. We have come to know of creation, the fall of man, and the way of wisdom in our salvation in Christ. We have by that same Spirit come to believe on all these things. We begin to live out of this knowledge in this world. We are those therefore who are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led as we walk through this life.
Without that work of the Spirit it is impossible to know the wisdom of God. Without the work of revelation, therefore, it is impossible to know the mystery of the gospel in Jesus Christ. We who believe in Christ come to believe in Him only through the work of that Holy Spirit in our hearts. Those who say we must accept Jesus as Savior first, before He works in us our salvation, deny this truth of revelation. Christ must first send forth His Spirit into our hearts. Then that Spirit works in us in such a way that we turn to Christ and see and know Him as our salvation—the wisdom of God.
III. In What It Results
That is the result of having that hidden wisdom revealed to us. You and I were lost in the darkness of unbelief. Christ has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts. We hear the gospel call preached to us. Many others do too, but it remains hidden, a mystery to them. They never discover the truth. But by means of the work of the Spirit in the hearts of God’s people, they come to understand the mysteries of the kingdom. As a result of this, we in whom that Spirit works flee to the cross of Christ. In faith we cling to Him. And as we do? We receive a joy and peace in our hearts that passes all understanding! And we begin to long for that day when we will enter into the perfect bliss of heaven—a place that is beyond the richest imagination of man as to what God has preserved for us there! You talk of joy! There will be joy!