Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S HIDDEN WISDOM”

First Corinthians 2.7

 

“The city of Corinth is situated on a narrow neck of land in Greece with a harbor on each side of it. On the east side the harbor of Cenchreae faces across the sea to the Roman province of Asia and Ephesus. On the west side the port of Lechaeum faces Italy and ultimately Rome. . . Corinth was thus a major center for international east-west trade. . . This favored location for east-west trade was matched by an almost equally favored position between northern and southern Greece. . . Corinth stood at the crossroads or intersection between north and south and between east and west for business and trade. In Paul’s time, it had become a busy, bustling, cosmopolitan business center. By comparison Athens might have seemed a slumbering university city, dreaming of its greater past.”[1]

Though the city had been sacked by Rome two hundred years earlier, in 146 B.C., the location was too strategically significant to ignore, so Rome resettled the city in 44 B.C. By the time the Apostle Paul arrived on the scene it was a hub of manufacturing, and there existed the kind of patronage you would expect from settlers who were mostly retired Roman soldiers, Roman citizens, Roman slaves, and a few Jews who had been expelled from Rome by emperor Claudius in A.D. 49.

“The people of Corinth were in general terms a thrusting, ambitious, and competitive people. The competition for success was everywhere apparent. . . ‘Getting ahead’ was the order of the day.”[2] “It is not surprising that the culture of the day in Corinth expressed a degree of self-satisfaction, if not complacency, alongside a drive to compete and to succeed. The culture was one of self-promotion alone. When Paul carried the gospel to Corinth, it is not surprising that he” arrived in a state that he described as being “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”[3] “For the gospel of a humiliated, crucified Christ was an affront to a people who cherished success and who loved winners.”[4]

It is clear from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians “that Christians in Corinth still carried over into their Christian experience many of the cultural traits that characterized their pre-Christian culture.”[5] Of particular interest to us this morning is the Corinthian understanding of knowledge and wisdom. “Clearly knowledge and wisdom in the sense of knowing the right people, knowing the markets, and operating the right strategies of success are necessary qualities for success in the rough-and-tumble of the world of trade, business, manufacturing, promotion in employment, and even a slave’s desire to improve his or her situation (cf. 7:21). Paul does not belittle wisdom as such, but wisdom is more than mere cleverness, especially if cleverness is used for self-interest.”[6]

Turn in your Bible to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where we will read some verses that clearly show how Paul contrasts the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of the businessman, the wisdom of cleverness and bargaining, the wisdom of personal advancement, with the wisdom of God.

 

1:17      For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

1:19      For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

1:20      Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

1:21      For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

1:22      For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

1:24      But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

1:30      But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

2:1        And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

2:4        And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

2:5        That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

2:6        Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

2:7        But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

2:13      Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

3:19      For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

 

When Paul uses such phrases as “wisdom of words,” “the wisdom of the wise,” “the wisdom of men,” “man’s wisdom,” and “the wisdom of this world,” he is clearly contrasting merely human cleverness with what he labels in our text, First Corinthians 2.7, as “the wisdom of God.” You might also notice that Paul contrasted his approach to speaking with the approach favored by the Corinthians, who tended to greatly favor speaking style over the substance of what was spoken, but that issue is a symptom of the root issue, which is wisdom.

Rehearse with me what we have heard so far. The Corinthians were aggressive, ambitious, hard driving, success oriented, and they tended to favor style over substance in their communications. How were they much different from 21st century Americans? Are we not, largely, a country of aggressive, self-promoting, success oriented, materialistic, bargaining, personal advancement emphasizing, style over substance people? Of course, we are. The danger, of course, is that such people as we are are very prone to make exactly the same mistakes the Corinthians made when it comes to such issues as what we think is “the wisdom of God.” I am terribly afraid the Apostle Paul would label much of our thinking about spiritual matters as “the wisdom of this world,” “the wisdom of words,” “the wisdom of the wise,” “man’s wisdom,” or “the wisdom of men.” Of course, these are all labels for the same thing, the wisdom of the natural man estranged from God, even when it is thought by the untaught and immature Christian to be genuine wisdom.

Understand that the problem Paul addressed was not found among the Corinthians alone. Consider his remarks to the Romans in Romans 1.21-23:

 

21     Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22     Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23     And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

 

The fact is, lost men everywhere think they are wise. When it comes to science and technology, men are very clever and ingenious. When it comes to organizational skills, we are quite adept. However, when it is thought that man is capable of wise perceptions and wise decisions with respect to spiritual matters, what passes for wisdom in the realm of men is clearly foolishness from God’s perspective.

This message is one of a series of messages dealing with the mysteries of the Christian faith, so turn to First Corinthians 2.7, where we find a convergence of this subject of mysteries with this important matter referred to by Paul as “the wisdom of God.” Once you find that verse, stand, and read the verse aloud with me: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”

Four straightforward observations about “the wisdom of God in a mystery.”

 

First, GOD’S WISDOM IS NOT MAN’S WISDOM

 

Easy to say, while it is a difficult reality to comprehend. From the series of verses that I read a few moments ago, it is very clear that the Apostle Paul drew a stark contrast between the wisdom of the natural man and the wisdom that comes from God. However, we need to ask ourselves how these two kinds of wisdom are different in their essence and in their effect.

I would suggest that the difference between “man’s wisdom” and “the wisdom of God” could be appreciated by examining their effects upon the person who possesses each kind of wisdom. Their effects are simply stated, pride on one hand versus humility on the other hand. The wisdom of man is the result of pride, promotes pride in the individual, while the wisdom of God is not, and does not. Wisdom that comes from God is manifested in fear, since the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, Psalm 110.11 and Proverbs 9.10, and is the close companion of humility. The wisdom of man is self-exalting, such as when Lucifer’s words are recorded in Isaiah 14.13-14:

 

13     For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14     I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

 

The wisdom of God, on the other hand, is humbling, such as we read of in Philippians 2.5-8:

 

5      Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6      Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7      But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8      And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 

Man’s wisdom points to self and insists on self-exaltation, engaging in self-pity and whining when anything happens that detracts from a high estimation of self. God’s wisdom, on the other hand, recognizes the truth about self. Listen to the wisdom of God expressed in an evaluation of self by Job, and then by the Apostle Paul:

 

Job 42.5-6:      5      I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

6      Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

 

Romans 7.18:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”

 

Man’s wisdom tends to exalt man, diminishes the distance between God and man, while God’s wisdom sees God’s lofty elevation and man’s debasement, and acknowledges the vast gulf that separates God and His abilities from man and his abilities.

 

Next, GOD’S WISDOM IS NOT DISCOVERABLE

 

Man’s wisdom is obviously discoverable. That which man supposes to be wisdom is that which he devised himself, whether it is the so-called wisdom of the ancients of Hinduism and Buddhism or the towering intellectual attainments of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle in ancient Greece.

How far beyond human discovery, is God’s wisdom? Look down to verse nine, where Paul writes, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” In other words, God’s wisdom is completely beyond the reach of human investigation, and even human imagination.

God’s wisdom, so different than man’s wisdom, is clearly declared to be hidden wisdom, kept away from the sight of men and angels in the bosom of God, we saw in Romans 16.25, “since the world began.” Since God’s wisdom is not discoverable, for it to be known it must somehow be revealed to us.

 

Third, GOD’S WISDOM IS KNOWN ONLY AS IT IS REVEALED

 

How is it revealed? The revealing of the mystery is accomplished, as we saw last week in Romans 16.25, by preaching. Preaching, we have already seen, is the means by which God’s communicates the hidden truth that was once concealed.

If God’s wisdom is not discoverable, cannot be investigated and found by the curious, how are you to know it? The key to wisdom is to see it against the backdrop of the whole Bible. We know that preaching is imperative, but preaching is not all. Read First Corinthians 2.10-16 with me to understand that factor in comprehension that cannot be seen:

 

10     But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11     For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12     Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13     Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14     But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15     But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

16     For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

 

The way God’s wisdom is known is by God’s Spirit. Man’s wisdom comes from man’s spirit, but God’s wisdom comes from God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. However, this mystery of God’s wisdom also comes through preaching, specifically preaching Christ.

A lost man cannot possess God’s wisdom because the lost man does not have the Spirit of God, Who alone can instruct to give God’s wisdom. However, when the lost man comes under the preaching of the gospel and is born again, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that that same Spirit then indwells man. When that happens, as that man hears the preaching of God’s Word he is then instructed by the Spirit of God and grows in wisdom from God.

 

Finally, GOD’S WISDOM IS HIS SON JESUS CHRIST

 

Remember me telling you that man’s wisdom tended toward pride, while God’s wisdom tended toward humility? With that in mind, look back to First Corinthians 1.29-31.

Look, first, to verse 29: “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” This verse speaks against personal pride, does it not? It supposes humility on the part of the child of God, does it not? Therefore, we know we are on the right track concerning God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom will not promote personal pride. It will provoke humility.

Now, look at verse 30: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” For this message, limit yourself to observing that Christ Jesus is of God made unto us wisdom.

Before we turn to the Old Testament, read verse 31: “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” This rings true with everything else we know from God’s Word. Vital to you glorying in the Lord is getting your arms around this concept of God making Christ Jesus unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. However, for now we will concentrate on this matter of wisdom.

Now turn to Proverbs chapter 8 and read with me:

 

1      Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?

2      She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.

3      She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.

4      Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.

5      O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

6      Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.

7      For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

8      All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.

9      They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.

10     Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.

11     For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

12     I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.

13     The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

14     Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

15     By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.

16     By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

17     I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

18     Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.

19     My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.

20     I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:

21     That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.

22     The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.

23     I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

24     When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

25     Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

26     While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

27     When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

28     When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

29     When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

30     Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

31     Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

32     Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.

33     Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.

34     Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.

35     For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

36     But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

 

In his commentary on Proverbs chapter 8, the notable 19th century commentator, Charles Bridges, opens with these words: “Listen we now to the calls of heavenly Wisdom - to the voice of the Son of God.”[7] In this chapter, wisdom is personified and shown to be the influence on others of the character of one person, who is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

To recap in a few words what I have established with many words, our text shows that God’s wisdom is not man’s wisdom, God’s wisdom is not discoverable, God’s wisdom is known only as it is revealed, and God’s wisdom is Jesus Christ. To state it another way, wisdom of the kind that deals effectively with God is outside of you, something that is concentrated in and actually is another person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the accumulation of facts and the development of clever tricks and maneuvers will do you no good in your dealings with God. In your dealings with God, your only advantage is Jesus Christ. If you have Jesus Christ, all is well. If you do not have Jesus Christ, nothing can make it well for you. Because God’s wisdom is not the accumulation of facts that are cleverly used for personal advantage, which is exactly what man’s wisdom is, Paul rightly saw no advantage to cleverly assembling facts and presenting them with oratorical flourish that emphasized style over substance.

In other words, Paul did not employ the clever techniques of today’s television evangelists and mega church pastors to draw and then influence a crowd. He intentionally avoided the accepted rhetorical practices of his day in favor of the straightforward declaration of gospel truth. He simply and in straightforward manner stated, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”[8]

Sadly, most people do not respond well to substance over style. Most people like to be flattered and bragged on. However, when those one or two in a crowd of people take note that the simple and direct presentation of the gospel rings true and they respond by embracing this one who is spoken of, the Savior of sinful men’s souls who is the Lord Jesus Christ, what is in store for them?

Our text ends with these words: “. . . which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” Glory awaits those who respond to the gospel by coming to Christ. Glory awaits those who are justified by faith. Glory awaits those whose sins are forgiven. Glory awaits those who come to Christ and then live the Christian life until the time of their home going. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, left heaven’s glory to take upon Himself human flesh (yet without sin). He lived among us for 33 ½ years before His arrest, unjust trial, and sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross in fulfillment of God’s eternal plan. Three days later He arose, victorious over sin, death, Hell, and the grave, later ascending to His heavenly Father’s right hand on high, where He is now seated until the time of His triumphal return to earth.

Lost people think they are very clever. In many ways, they are very clever. However, their approach to wisdom will do them no good with God, Who takes issue with their sin. Through the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord Jesus is held up as the only solution to any sinner’s issue before God. In this sense, He is made unto us wisdom.

This great savior, this wisdom of God’s mystery, this hidden mystery, which is made known to you by means of gospel preaching, will save you from your sins and fit you for glory, if you will abandon all hope of finding any solution within yourself to find the only solution which is outside yourself. I urge you, this morning, to turn from your sins and flee to Christ as quickly as you can.



[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical And Pastoral Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), page 1.

[2] Ibid., page 9.

[3] 1 Corinthians 2.3

[4] Thiselton, page 8.

[5] Ibid., page 9.

[6] Ibid., pages 12-13.

[7] Charles Bridges, A Commentary On Proverbs, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, reprinted from the 1846 edition in 1968), page 72.

[8] 1 Corinthians 2.1-2

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org