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Session 4: The Cross and Divine Wisdom

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

In light of what we just heard, I invite you to return to the letter of 1 Corinthians to the second chapter in order that you can see how Paul executed on this cross-centered paradigm in his ministry. In this session, we’re going to observe how Paul’s cross-centered paradigm clarifies and simplifies our ministry, how it helps us stay on target in our ministry in order that we, through our ministry and by God’s grace, unleash God’s power in our ministry, which is the effect of divine wisdom.

Looking at 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul writes this: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I 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. I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in 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.

“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 have not 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.’

“These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. But 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. And 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, 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, and he is himself to be judged by no one. For who, who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him. But we have the mind of Christ.”

Three points are going to guide us through this great chapter, and knowing that I’m going to cover a chapter in the session, it means that I’m only going to be able to hit the high points and skip off the tips of the waves. But nonetheless, three points we’re going to run through this chapter, and we’ll see how this chapter really does set a direction for our ministry.

And here’s a first point if you’re taking notes tonight,  number one, it’s this: Unleash God’s power in the cross. Unleash God’s power in the cross. And of course, I will offer this caveat, that I don’t mean unleashed by our own strength, by our own power, by our own wisdom, by our own understanding of God’s power. It’s not us who unleashes it, but it’s just in the fact that if we do preach the cross, clearly, articulating the truth about the cross, not pulling any punches, making it clear, understandable, that is God through us by His grace, unleashing the power of that message through our preaching, through our ministry.

That is to say that the power of God is actualized. We could say the power of God is made effective when the wisdom of God is heard through the preaching of God’s Word that’s centered in the cross. If we say this a different way, when we focus all our attention on hearing the voice of God in the Word of God, people hear the wisdom of God, and that unleashes the power of God, and that power is an effectual power. It is a real power. Another way to say it, it actually does stuff. It accomplishes things.

So the Corinthians, and as we discern from Paul’s letter, they were jeopardizing this whole process, this whole enterprise. They became distracted. Their attention was fractured among the various teachers that they had elevated over against one another, teachers that they had rallied behind and then formed behind and formed factions underneath those teachers, and then pitted one teacher against another. And these are all servants of God, even one of them Christ himself. This worldly-mindedness was blinding them from the whole point of God sending teachers in the first place.

Paul starts addressing the problem. You can go back to 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and see right away in this letter, back in 1 Corinthians 1:10, he gets right after it. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there would be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind, the same judgment. For it’s been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is this, that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollo,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’”

And it’s from this point on through chapter 4, Paul is confronting this problem, this Corinthian factionalism. He’s confronting it, he’s correcting it through these four, first four chapters. By pitting Paul against Apollos, against Cephas, against Christ, dividing into factions, this has caused them to miss the point entirely, which is evidence of a man-centered thinking. This is theology-of-glory thinking, and it’s depriving them of true wisdom and true power.

So to help the Corinthians, Paul takes them back in time. He takes him down a little trip down memory lane in order to help them remember how it is that God planted this church in the first place, how he planted it in pagan soil in the most unlikely city and in the most unlikely of circumstances. And we go back to 1 Corinthians 2:1: “When I came to you, brothers.” So he’s talking about when he first arrived, and you can read about this in Acts chapter 18.

“When I came to you, brothers, I didn’t come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my message were, were not in plausible words of wisdom,” read “human wisdom,” there, “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.

The record of Paul’s entrance into Corinth is in Acts chapter 18, and it was, as we read there in Acts 18, that entrance into Corinth was attended, as per usual, with controversy, with Jewish opposition. The Jews became particularly angry, not just at the message of the cross, which to them was a stumbling block. How could this man curt, clearly cursed of God, how could he be the promised Messiah?

So they were offended from the very start with Paul’s message, particularly offended when Paul looked at the Jews and said, “You did this. You crucified your Messiah.” They became particularly angry, though, when the ruler of their synagogue, a man named Crispus, “believed in the Lord,” Acts 18:8 says, “together with his entire household.” After that, many Corinthians were hearing the Gospel and then believing and then being baptized. That bugged them. That’s, that’s an irritant. That’s like giving them a paper cut and pouring lemon juice in it, putting OC spray in their eyes. They’re irritated. They’re angry about this.

So the Jews tried to bring a case before Gallio, the Roman proconsul in Corinth, and Gallio, he decided not to mess with it at all. He just made a summary judgment, dismissed the case outright, which angered the Jews even further. And to protest Gallio’s decision, they took a man named Sosthenes, who is the new synagogue ruler, Crispus is gone, he’s in their place, and he, they beat him in public, too, right in front of Gallio’s tribunal. And Gallio simply ignored them.

But once again, what the Jews intended for evil, God used for good. Because contrary to all human expectation, God used that public beating that he endured to open the heart of Sosthenes to the Gospel. Paul names him in the very first verse, 1 Corinthians 1:1, calling him “our brother Sosthenes.” God, God turned Sosthenes into a preacher of that same Gospel that got him a beating, the very same Gospel the Jews hated so much, the very same Gospel they tried to silence.

Now listen, that is power, and that is power displayed in the moment of the, the weakness of Crispus and the weakness of Sosthenes, when they are at their lowest, when they are beaten in front of, in public, as Don was going through the crucifixion of Christ, a public display of, of hatred, of despisal, of, of shame, of rejection, of cursing. Here’s these two men; their entrance into the Christian faith is through a public beating, a humiliation, them shown to be at their weakest point. And God used that to open their hearts to the Gospel and bring about salvation. Now that’s power. That’s power.

The Jews, coming from a functional theology of glory, they thought that by opposing the Gospel with human power, they could stop the Gospel. That’s theology of glory. They thought by a, a display of physical strength and power and domination, that they could silence its preachers. And God then took the men who had been so terribly shamed with this public beat-down, Crispus, Sosthenes, he saved them through the Gospel, turned them into his agents, and they became trophies of God’s unstoppable power, his sovereign grace, evidence of the Gospel’s power.

So in the face of Jewish hostility, Paul turned to the Gentile audience. “You Jews don’t want to listen? Fine, I’ll go to the Gentiles. They’ll listen.” And he preached the cross to them, and God, even though the message to them was foolishness, folly, “You’re worshipping your God crucified on a cross, can’t save himself, he’s going to save us?” and yet, preaching that bold, unadulterated message, God saved many Corinthians, converted many more Corinthians. In fact, it seemed to be an effective evangelism strategy: more opposition to the preaching of the cross, more people saved.

Phil Johnson always used to tell us that when we were working at Grace to You, and there’s something that John said or John did, or John wrote, John MacArthur being the “John,” there, but something that he wrote, or something that he said in public that caused great controversy and everybody’s all up in arms. “Oh, can you believe what John MacArthur said this time?” And Phil’s, Phil just quietly smiles, wry smile, and says, “Controversy never hurt this ministry. In fact, it drew more attention to the truth of the message.”  

Jewish opposition of the word of the cross became so fierce, the pressure so great, bearing down on the Apostle Paul, himself being a man, having a limit to his strength, the risen Lord Jesus Christ chose to appear to Paul one night in a vision, encouraging him to continue preaching. “Keep on, Paul,” assuring him. “Don’t be afraid, Paul. Go on speaking. Do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” What a promise. “If you keep preaching, you will find them. If you keep preaching this message of the cross, they will come, they will come out, they will show themselves. I will draw the people whom I’ve chosen by the clear proclamation of the Gospel by the word of the cross. Keep it up.”

Luke tells us in Acts 18, Paul stayed for a year and a half in Corinth, very productive ministry. He was teaching the Word of God among them. The message of the cross came with power, and it was evident in the conversion of the most unlikely people, evident in the planting of a church. In a climate of violent opposition, even, even hostile soil, the Gospel of the Cross has produced lasting fruit.

Somewhere between Paul’s initial ministry there, the planting of the church, and the writing of this first Corinthian epistle, many of the Corinthians had reverted back to their worldly thinking. They had forgotten that message that came with such power, such demonstration of the Spirit’s ability to save. They had forgotten it. They’d, they’d kind of, as many of you can attest to, you sometimes forget the, the beauty and the, and the power and the glory of the message that saved you. And time can go by, and you, you find yourself back into your old thinking.

It happened with the Corinthians. They had forgotten so much. They’d forgotten that Paul and other ministers are only servants through whom the Corinthians had believed. They never elevated them before. Whatever they were hearing from Paul, Apollo, Cephas, Christ, they were just hearing truth. They were hungry for it. They were hungering and thirsting for righteousness, finding themselves to be poor in spirit. Nothing od, to offer to God, mourning over their sin, longing for a Savior, longing for a righteousness they didn’t possess. And they found in the message that was coming through these servants, this message that saved their souls from eternal death.

And yet, over time, instead of focusing on the message itself, they started focusing on the men of the message. They started focusing on the servants. Instead of magnifying the wisdom and power of God, they had returned to their native paradigm, which was what? A theology of glory, right? A theology that elevated human wisdom, a theology that focused on the man, not the message, focused on that which impresses people: eloquence, oratory, skill in moving a crowd. And so that necessarily dulled their thinking. It dimmed their vision. It turned them away from the manifold grace of God, where they should have been focusing, continuing forward to understand the true wisdom of God, all of it packed into the Gospel of the cross. They had so much to learn, but they, they were side-tracked.

I think every single one of us can say, “I’ve been side-tracked before, and God has been so gracious to bring me back on track,” and I hope that that’s what this conference is doing for many of you, it’s bringing you back on track, to get your focus back on the theology of the cross.

But instead of seeing God’s power in the message of the cross itself, the Corinthians, as I said, were elevating the human agents, and they were taking pride in the servants, boasting in their favorites. “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollo, Cephas, Christ,” and Paul rebukes them and he says, “Is Christ divided? No. Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Three rhetorical questions, all in, emphatically answered in the negative. “No, no, no, no, no. None of that’s true.” And then he says this in verse 17, chapter 1: “For Christ did not send me to baptize.” “I didn’t come to create personal disciples. I didn’t come to win fans and followers and friends, that they’d be devoted to me. Christ sent me not to preach myself. He sent me to preach the Gospel,” and “not in words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

When he refers to “words of eloquent wisdom,” Paul brings that up again in chapter 2, verse 1, as “lofty speech or wisdom,” we just read. In verse 4, he calls it “plausible words of wisdom,” and he’s referring to what the Corinthians considered wise, what the Corinthians saw as lofty, lifted up, elevated, esteemed, that which they regarded as plausible, believable, worthy of listening to. Paul says, “When I came to Corinth, I communicated in ways, I was intentional to speak in such a way, that I would not impress everyone. I did not want you to be impressed with me. And I made sure that my language did not impress you in and of itself.”

He used a manner of public address called preaching. “And the content of my preaching and my sermonizing was something that you hate and despise, something that you make fun of, something that is, that is not spoken in polite company and in, in rude and crass company. It’s a joke. I came to you in that way even though I knew both my manner and my message, when correctly interpreted, would be disregarded, rejected, maligned, made fun of by the wisdom of Corinth, by the wise people of Corinth, by the sophisticated.”

We could say the power of God is made effective when the wisdom of God is heard through the preaching of God’s Word that’s centered in the cross.

Travis Allen

That’s what he’s saying here. Why would he be saying this? Why would he be saying this to the Corinthians? I mean, what preacher is that intentional about making sure that his target audience, having clearly understood his message, is certain to reject what he’s preaching? Not seeker-sensitive of him at all, is it? I mean, clearly he has not read all the modern church growth manuals, all the books. He is way behind the times, isn’t he?

But what we need to see here is that every faithful preacher of the Gospel thinks exactly this way because every faithful preacher of the Gospel knows that Paul’s paradigm for preaching and Paul’s paradigm for ministry is the only way to come to Christ, be converted, be saved.

If it’s going to accomplish the salvation of anyone, it’s going to come through the bold proclamation of an offensive message confronting people in their sin, warning them of coming judgment and eternal hell, warning them about the wrath of God, telling them that the wrath of God is not only coming, but they deserve it, and that the only, the only salvation comes in self-denial, cross-bearing, following Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and putting their faith in what he has done and accomplished on the cross. No longer about a, an accomplishment of men, no longer of man-centered; all focused on what God has done, what God has accomplished. No boasting.

There is some historical context to what Paul says, here. Little background of this, about this that I need to tell you about. In the Greco-Roman world, there developed this class of professional orators called Sophists. Sophists, a word formed off the Greek word for wisdom, which is sophia. And these men, these Sophists, made a living from sounding good, from looking good. And then they taught others to polish their image and protect their image. It was all about brand management, image management. You might think of them, to use a modern expression, you might think of them as influencers.

These Sophists were known for their punditry, their commentary, philosophical insight, worldly wisdom. They had mastered the skill of performance. They made an impressive appearance, an impressive entrance accompanied by powerful oratory, fine-sounding rhetorical delivery. To sum it up, they just had stage presence. They could captivate an audience, spellbind them and capture them, and hold them to the very last pregnant pause.

Sophists were essentially teachers, but they were really public-image gurus. They were, they were speaking coaches, life coaches. They sold their services to those who wanted to advance in society, those who wanted to, saw the advancement in society, which it was in this time, by improving public-speaking skills, debate, rhetorical skills, enhancing their image. They, people like this were seeking careers in law, in the court, in politics. They even in some cases could secure an ambassadorship to represent Rome and other places. High positions, prestige, good pay.  

So the oratorical skills of these Sophists were highly regarded. These men were experts. They were employed, in fact, by ambassadors to represent governors, even emperors. As one commentator says, “By this means cities secured financial concessions, provincial honors, imperial favors.” These guys were there on the side, coaching these ambassadors to benefit the cities or benefit the, the cause that they represented. And further, since Corinth was a highly litigious society, as ours is, Sophists and their skills were in demand in arguing cases in court.

So this professional class of orators, the Sophists, they were in high demand, as I said, to teach oratory, rhetoric, logic, debate, politics, philosophy, and joined with this highly affected, dramatic, theatrical presentation. Stage presence was essential in order, as I said, to gather, hold fast, and sway a crowd. Many of these Sophists, at least at first in their life, they were itinerant teachers. They would travel from city to city, and it was the successful ones who were able to plant somewhere, open schools, take on students. And they called these students “disciples.” Students learn by lecture, but mostly by imitating their teachers, following them wherever they went, imitating their oratorical style, dressing in the same way that they dressed, and even walking in the same way that these guys walked.

Since there were only so many students to go around, and only so many able to pay the exorbitant rates of these Sophists, these guys were in constant competition with each other by trying to undermine the other guy, trying to gain students, steal students. So you can understand them, making, when they entered into a city, making a strong first impression was everything. That was their livelihood. This is their bread and butter.

So when a Sophist came into town, he had to make a grand entrance. Bruce Winter gives us an idea what this looked like. He says, “On first arriving, the teacher advertised by sending out invitations indicating the time and the place where he would present his credentials and then declaim.” “Declaim” means to kind of present oratory. “And at the appointed hour, he addressed the gathered assembly. Seated, he would engage in an encomium on the city.” An “encomium” means to flatter them, you know, praising the city. Flattery is their stock and trade. “And then he’d make an oblique self-commendation,” a subtle, it’s kind of like a “humble brag,” we’d call it today. “And then the Sophist would invite the audience to nominate any topic on which he would declaim, and once known, he would rise from his seat, declaim immediately, thereby displaying his great ability and extemporary rhetoric.” End quote.

These guys were good. These guys were people you would want to listen to. You would, you would cross the street for these people. You would buy tickets for these kind of people. So by making a good first impression, and get this, they did that by speaking to whatever interested the audience. Felt-needs philosophy is nothing new. They would appeal to whatever felt needs, whatever interests the audience had. Philosophical speculation, political controversy, all of it delivered with wit, all of it with a hint of intelligent comedy.

This is how the Sophist grabbed attention, secured interest, won himself a following, gathered disciples after himself. He had to bring notoriety to his name. He had to elevate his brand, and this is why Paul said back in 1 Corinthians 1:14: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus in Gaius, so that no one may say you were baptized in my name.” He’s not dismissive of Christian baptism, there. He’s just cautious, extremely cautious. He doesn’t, he didn’t want to come across like a Sophist. He does not want them to think that he’s playing them at all.

The greater the notoriety for a Sophist, the more disciples he could train, the more money he could charge, which spread his fame, which attracted more disciples, which increased his fees. And by building his brand and by building momentum for his brand, a Sophist could turn his, this entire thing, into this thriving, money making, self-perpetuating business. That’s what’s going on here.

So when Paul comes to Corinth, he recognizes the potential for confusion. He is a preacher, and all the people there are going to think he’s an orator. He’s a Sophist. He looks like them. He’s out in public, he’s preaching, he’s declaiming on something. So Paul intended to make sure the Gospel ministry of the, the ministry of the Gospel, the Gospel ministry, the ministry of the cross, it looks nothing like that Sophist model. He was intentional about distancing himself, so they saw that in contra-distinction from himself.

Rejecting lofty rhetoric and fine-sounding oratory, Paul refused to cater to a Corinthian appetite for performance. “I didn’t come to you proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” Does our society, does it crave performance? Do we not give Academy Awards and all those self-congratulating actors and everybody who’s on strike right now? It’s kind of like a praise-the-Lord-moment, right? “Huh, the whole thing’s melting down. Maybe it’ll go away.” Not so fast, bud.

Rejecting the perception that Sophists wanted to give, that is, they could declaim on any subject, they impressed audiences by speaking on any topic, and Paul decided, “That’s not what I’m going to do. I’m not even going to use it as an introduction. I’m not even going to use it to, to get to know you at all. I’m not doing friendship evangelism here. I’m not trying to flatter you in making you think I’m interested in whatever thing you’re bringing up. I don’t care.

“Here’s what I care about: your soul, and you need to hear this, the message of the cross. So I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified because that’s what you need to know. If you walk away from this little gathering, and you get hit by a bus,” or I guess in his day it’d be a chariot or whatever, “there’s no hope for you standing before a holy God. You, draped in your own sin and not draped in the righteousness of Christ? I’m not going to have that on my conscience.”

Rejecting the Sophists’ concern for appearance, they wanted approval with their impressive performance, Paul cared about nothing of the sort but about fearing and pleasing God, and that’s why he says, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” He didn’t come because he was scared of them. He came to them humble and contrite and trembling at God’s Word because of the weight of what he is doing.

And every true preacher feels this weight, stepping into a pulpit to deliver the oracles of God, preach about the cross, rejecting the manner and speaking, the manner of speaking and a message that seemed plausible to men, a message that would impress unbelievers, that would win him a hearing. Paul wanted to remove any, and any tendency to focus on the human messenger. He wanted to become invisible to the audience so that he was nothing more than a conduit of divine revelation.

I once asked a preacher friend of mine about a certain other preacher who I was kind of wondering about, like, is this, is this faithful? And he told me, “You know, I went to listen to that preacher once. I was in a conference and sharing a platform with him, and I listened to that preacher preach, and I wanted to hear Christ. But there was too much of that guy in the way.” The true preacher wants to be invisible. He wants you to see nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ, hear nothing but the cross.

Rejecting the Sophists’ interest in attracting people to themselves, Paul wanted to get himself out of the way. He wanted, he, he wanted to make a connection not between him and them. He didn’t care about that at all. He wanted to make a connection between the Spirit of God and these people. That’s the connection he wants to broker. That’s the bridge that he wants to build, to make sure that he is invisible in the process. He’s a nothing but an empty conduit, a pipe, so that the Spirit is on one end, coming through directly into those people’s hearts. That’s all he cares about.

He wants to be nothing more than a conduit for divine power by the Spirit through the message of the cross, rejecting the Sophists’ profit, profit-driven motives and winning people’s trust, flattering them, making them feel good about themselves. Paul wanted the Corinthians’ faith to rest not in the wisdom or eloquence of men, in whom there is no salvation, but in the sight, saving and sanctifying power of God, where there is the only salvation to be found.

To make this inescapably plain and bring it up to our time, let me illustrate it this way. If Paul came into one of the cities of 21st-century America, and he’s talking to a media-saturated people like us, people who are always online, always following the latest trends, always seeing things in the media. He would be very intentional to make sure he sounds nothing like a telecaster, nothing like a like a media-influencer, nothing like a like a pundit, nothing, nothing like a commentator on a sports program. Nothing like, and I’m going to use names here, Jordan Peterson. He don’t want to sound like that. He don’t want to sound like Joe Rogan or Ben Shapiro or James Lindsay or Bill Maher, just to name a few.

He does not want to sound like any of those people that, that are regarded by the American public. He’s not interested in taking up the debates of the age, whether President Biden should stay or go, on what side of the Christian Nationalism debate we should be on, or whatever. He doesn’t care about any of that stuff. It’s a distraction. It fractures people, people’s attention. It divides them up and puts them into their little camps, where they elevate men and get into issues rather than the simplicity of their eternal soul. I shouldn’t say “eternal soul.” Their immortal soul: That’s going to live on forever somewhere. If they have their sin, they’re going to live on forever in hell underneath God’s wrath and judgment and punishment. They will dread for all of eternity.

You think similar controversies weren’t swirling around Corinth when Paul visited? You think politics and issues of the day were not subjects of conversation? He could easily get into those things. Of course they were. Paul refused to take up popular topics, not because he was ignorant or uninformed about them, so much evidence and no time to go through it, that Paul he, he, he had the pulse of the culture. He understood everything perfectly, but if for no other reason than this, he ignored it. He sought to distinguish himself from all that noise. He wanted to cut through all that clamored for Corinthian attention so he could deliver just one message, one message, the message of the cross.

Why is that? It’s because the wisdom of men has no power whatsoever to save. It’s because all this stuff that people are attracted to and clamor for and, and live for, all of it is empty, futile, coming to nothing. It just keeps their minds dulled while they are on that great conveyor belt going to judgment. It’s like watching people at an airport on that, that moving escalator with their headphones on, their head down, looking at their phone, until all of a sudden they hit that bump, right? Boom. And we laugh about it. But that’s what’s going to happen to so many people. We’re dulling their brains with all the stuff that does not matter. It’s only the power of God unleashed through the wisdom of God as it is preached and proclaimed clearly and simply in the cross of Jesus Christ that has the only power to save men from their sins.

And what power did Paul point to? Against all odds, two synagogue leaders had been saved: synagogue leaders, Jews; Sosthenes, 1 Corinthians 1:1; Crispus, 1 Corinthians 1:14. Against all odds, a church is planted in the pagan city, the pagan soil of Corinth in verse 2. Against all odds, but wholly due to divide, divine power. The Corinthians were in Christ, who became to them wisdom from God,” verse 30, “and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

No human power could accomplish that. As Jesus said, Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church.” Not, “I’m pretty certain about it.” Not, “I got a good feeling about this.” Not, “I’m, you know, I’m a glass-half-full kind of a guy.” “I will build my church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He says the same thing two ways. And he just did it once again in Corinth, building this church. That’s power.

The word of the cross not only has nothing to gain from human wisdom, but human wisdom is a barrier. It is a detriment to receiving the word of the cross. If you want to follow the same paradigm in your ministry, listen, unleash God’s power in the world. Preach the cross. Make sure you sound nothing like the world around you. Nothing like it.

Second, second point: Unveil God’s wisdom in the Cross. Unveil God’s wisdom in the cross. And again, I’ll add this caveat that of course we are not the unveilers of God’s wisdom. It’s the Spirit of God who does that. But how does he do that? It’s through the means of the message that we preach. Paul had just, it seems, criticized wisdom. He’s not decrying all wisdom; he’s just decrying human wisdom. He’s just decrying that which men and women regard as wise, as plausible, as, as intelligent, as sophisticated. That’s what he’s talking about.

So lest the Corinthians get the wrong idea and misunderstand him, he says there in verse 6, 1 Corinthians 2, “Yet among the mature, we do impart wisdom.” “Those who are saved, they get it. Those who are saved and maturing, those who are not distracted by this world, like you Corinthians are doing, but those who are the mature, we do impart wisdom to them, and they recognize it.”

Now let me just get a simple definition of wisdom here. What is wisdom? Biblical wisdom, you say this, is true knowledge, and we know that there’s a “knowledge” falsely so-called, right? Evolution is an example of that. It’s knowledge falsely so-called. It’s regarded as knowledge, it’s regarded as true, but it is false knowledge. So I’m talking about true wisdom. Biblical wisdom is true knowledge, true knowledge that is applied righteously.

Where do we get a definition of righteous? Right here in Scripture. What’s the standard of righteousness? God and his character, right? The law of God, God’s character displayed in the law of God. So it’s biblical wisdom, true knowledge applied righteously, applied according to the Word of God, according to the law of God, to accomplish God’s purposes, to accomplish God’s good purposes. Biblical wisdom: true knowledge applied righteously to accomplish God’s purposes. And that is the wisdom that Paul imparted. That is what we unveil, the Spirit unveils through our preaching, through our testimony about the cross.

That sentence, incidentally, in its Greek ordering, says, “Yet wisdom we are speaking among the mature.” That’s the ordering in the Greek text. The, the sentence gives you really a three-part outline for what follows. “Yet wisdom we are speaking among the mature.” So by unveiling the nature of wisdom in verses 6-9, he’s showing divine wisdom is superior to human wisdom. By explaining what “we are speaking” in verses 10-13, he’s explaining the nature of his ministry. And then by identifying “the mature” from verses 14 through chapter 3 verse four, he, he’s identifying his target. He’s identifying the true recipients of his ministry.

So we’ll start in verses 6-9. I’m not going to hit all these points, but just verses 6-9 as Paul unveils the true nature of wisdom. This is the essence of his preaching. First, you can say this, these are little sub-points if you want to put them in your notes that way, sub-points. First, true wisdom is eternal. True wisdom is eternal, verse 6. “Among the mature we impart wisdom, though it’s not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away.” Even the best and the brightest, even the strongest and the wealthiest among men, they bring nothing to the table with regard to wisdom.

Why is that? It’s because the wisdom of this age and of the rulers of this age, verse 6, “they are doomed to pass away.” They will come to nothing. They are not eternal. They are finite. Human wisdom, verse, Isaiah 46-48, says, says this: It’s temporary. “All flesh is grass. All its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it.” Surely, the people are grass. And we think about us. We grow up, and I’m sensing this more and more the older I get, I’m, I’m; the flower is fallen, let’s just put it that way.

But we see the grass growing, and then it grows taller and taller, and then it flowers, and then it fades. The winter comes and that grass is gone and dead. Human beings are like that. We’re all like a field, and you see that grass coming and going and flowing. We don’t perceive it because we’re living through it. “Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but,” what, “the word of our God will stand forever.” Stand forever. That is the nature of true wisdom, which is divine wisdom. True wisdom is eternal. True wisdom remains forever. If it’s true knowledge and it’s righteously applied, and it accomplishes God’s good purposes, that’s wisdom. It’s knowledge that is effectual. It’s knowledge that remains because it’s implemented; it’s put into practice. That’s what wisdom is, and it’s eternal. It’s fruit remains forever. God does that.

By contrast, the wisdom of the Pew Research Center, the wisdom of the Gallup pollsters, the wisdom of the marketers of this age, all that stuff is by nature instant, temporary, fading. It’s, it’s actually irrelevant as soon as it’s published. And the marketers, they really don’t care about that. Why? Because they’re a flash in the pan in an industry that’s all about making immediate impressions, getting instant feedback, instant results. They’re just like the Sophists, getting people’s attention, gaining an audience, ultimately making merchandise of people. It’s about the moment. Our concern is with the nature of true wisdom, which is eternal and lasting, and therefore it is always relevant.

Second, true wisdom is not just eternal, but it’s also, also decretal, decretal, meaning it’s by decree, verse 7. “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” Secret and hidden wisdom. There’s another translation that puts it this way: “God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom.” “God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom.” The word mysterion in the New Testament is translated as “mystery.” It’s not referring to something that’s mysterious. It’s not talking about something esoteric. Rather, it’s something, a mystery is something, biblically speaking, that was once hidden, but now it’s revealed in Christ. It’s now made manifest in him, through him, in his ministry, through the explanation of the Apostles. That’s a mystery.

Peter writes about this mystery of Old Testament prophetic truth. It was once hidden, but it’s now revealed in the incarnation, now fully made known in the cross of Christ. He says this in 1 Peter 1:10: “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,” what did they just prophecy? A mystery, something that isn’t known or understood until it actually comes to pass. They made careful search and inquiry, these prophets did. They prophesied things that they didn’t fully get. They were seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.

How do we understand the, the suffering and the glory? Many of the Jews, including the Apostles, at the time when they were walking with Jesus on the earth, they focused on all the glory, ignored the suffering. They were theologians of glory, had to be taught to be theologians of the cross, just like us. These are the truths the Spirit of God made known to the Apostles and New Testament prophets; and it was by the gift, the special gift, an apostolic gift of immediate special revelation.

It’s what Jesus said to the Twelve back in Luke 10. I’ll just, I’ll just turn there, but you can write it down, Luke 10:21-24. Jesus said this: “In this same hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you Father, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the understanding, and you revealed them to little children. Oh, yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

“And then turning the disciples, he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. And I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see. They didn’t see it. They wanted to hear what you’re hearing. They didn’t hear it. But you do.” How blessed are you? Blessed are you, and praise to the Father who is pleased to make that distinction.

How did they know? How did the disciples know, these mere men? Peter, who’s, who’s speaking satanically as we talked about last night, how do they know what these many prophets, these many kings, desired to see in here but couldn’t? God decreed it. God chose it. Proorizo is the verb “predestined,” “marked out before the ages for our glory.” The revelation of true wisdom, mysteries solved, secrets revealed all by God’s sovereign choice. God decreed, God predestined, God decided before the ages those to whom the truth would be revealed, those to whom He would make known the Father, and the Father would make known the Son. The wisdom in the message of the cross pre-existed creation itself. It’s prior to Genesis 1:1, when God decreed the creation of the heavens and the earth. God’s wisdom was consummated in Christ. His wisdom endures eternally.

The divine counsel of God, his eternal decree, as I said, began to be revealed in divine creation. But the fullness of his decree, the completion of it, that awaited the revelation of divine redemption. That awaited the revelation of the Incarnation, the Son of God taking on human flesh in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Until that time, the fullness of divine wisdom was secret and hidden, as Paul says here, secret and hidden from the best, from the brightest. “None,” verse 8, “none of the rulers of this age understood this. For if they had,” if they got it, if they saw it, they would not have done the unthinkable, “they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of Glory.” It would have been utterly preposterous to them, a major misstep.

The best and the brightest of humanity, the greatest rulers of humanity, they had, they all had the capacity to rule. They have the wealth and the know-how to gather around them the best of human intellect and human counsel. These men have the, have the wealth and the power and the qualities to lead and inspire and motivate the mightiest among men. And yet, with all of that power and wisdom around them, yet without access to divine wisdom, they blew it. They crucified the Lord of Glory. Bad move.

It’s not just that they failed to see the significance of Jesus. It’s not just that they failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ. They were acting completely contrary to God, going completely against his wisdom, doing what is absolutely foolish and destructive and deadly and damning. And they conspired together to commit the most heinous crime in human history, which is crucifying the Lord of Glory.

The wisdom of this age: It can’t see past its own nose. It can’t see past its own time. It can’t understand the scope of history, let alone the, the present, let alone the future. God sees it all in an actualized instant, always a present reality. That’s what his omniscience is, it’s to know everything, all the time. No potential in God. It’s actual in God.

Today’s wisdom, man’s wisdom, cannot be the basis of anything because it has no history, it has no antiquity, it has no foundation set in divine decree. And we see the wisdom, we preach the wisdom that stymied kings and that bewildered the very greatest of men. Isaiah 52:15, says, “Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard, they understand.” They only understand that by divine grace. God subverted all human wisdom in the cross, even using human wisdom to oppose Christ, crucify him, and to bring about the salvation of his elect. That’s wisdom. That’s a wisdom no one could foresee.

And also, thirdly, it’s a little sub-point here, true wisdom is wonderful. True wisdom is wonderful. I mean that word “wonderful” in its sense of awe and wonder, as in astonishing. It’s what silences our, our mouths. It’s what stops us in our tracks. It’s what makes us step back in awe and, and reverence. Paul says in verse 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. These things,” verse 10, “God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”

He’s taken that language from Isaiah, Isaiah 64:4, 65:17; and it’s not only to show the infinite superiority of divine wisdom. It’s to let the Corinthians know the nature of what he and his apostolic associates, what he is imparting to them, to know that this is beautiful, this is priceless, this is infinite, this is eternal. It’s majestic, it’s glorious. Paul says, “We’re speaking. We are imparting to you. Don’t, don’t dismiss it. Don’t despise it by preferring human wisdom. Don’t disregard this. We’re speaking, imparting what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard.”

The eye, the ear, what are they? The senses by which we learn from external sources. Teaching, books, traditions, all comes in through the eye and ear, what we can investigate by empirical observation. So science, philosophy, mathematics, none of that came up with God’s redemption plan. None of it. What can be known by human intuition or imagination, the heart of man never conceived of God’s redemption plan. It’s impossible to even think this: that God would use a crucified Messiah to save the world, this deplorable symbol, the dreaded reality of the cross.

At this point I want to stop and, and talk about why is this God’s wisdom? I mean, what is it that’s showing his wisdom in this plan of redemption? And I just want to make clear one aspect. I mean there’s so many angles that we could look at this, the many facets of this diamond, and see glory and, and beauty and majesty and wonder. But I just want to talk about one revealed in the cross of Christ.

We could say, and I, I hope, I hope this analogy makes sense. But you know the parables of Jesus. Jesus said that those parables were to hide knowledge from most people. That’s what he, that’s what he gave the parables for, “that seeing they may not see, hearing they may not understand and believe.” Parables are a form of speaking to the masses, the crowds that judge the hard-hearted, that judge the blind.

But you know what else parables do? Parables draw out of that massive crowd, the myriads of people who came and thronged around Jesus, it draws out those who are truly being drawn by the Spirit, illuminated by his ministry, by his, by his illuminating work drawing them to Christ, to salvation. And there’s, a there’s an image of, and I, I’ve, I’ve used this with our church. I hope it’s clear to you as well.

Think about a, one of those old churches made of stone, maybe a former Catholic church, and they’ve got stained glass, and it’s a bright sunny day and you see the stained-glass windows. But you’re, if you’re standing on the outside, and there’s, the, the lights are off on the inside of that church, you can’t really see the image of the stained glass. How do you know what is in the stained glass? You got to go inside and look at the light shining through the stained glass. It’s light that makes the image visible to you, and it depends on your perspective if you’re in or you’re out.

That’s what the parables are like. That’s what the parables of Jesus do. For those who are standing on the outside and have no light to see what the images are, they just think, “Huh, interesting story. Had a weird twist. What’s for lunch?” But those who are being drawn, those for whom the lights are on, they’re seeing wonder, beauty, glory. There’s questions they have to ask. And so, after the telling of the parable of the soils, what did the disciples do? “Hey, whoa, there’s something there. Tell us more. Tell us what’s going on.”

In a similar way, we could say the cross, it is like a physical parable. It is a living, or we could say dying, parable. A dying man on the cross? It condemns most of the world because they look at it and they despise it. They reject it. They say, “Ridiculous! Foolish! Moronic! Stupid! I like, I like men who weren’t crucified or the Jews. ‘Cursed is someone who’s crucified,’ it’s a stumbling block. I’m not going there.”  

Every faithful preacher of the Gospel knows that Paul’s paradigm for preaching and Paul’s paradigm for ministry is the only way to come to Christ, be converted, be saved.

Travis Allen

But for those whose eyes are being opened, they look at the cross. You know what they see? Hope. Sinners see the cross, and they say, “That’s what God did. That’s what God did. That’s what he thinks about my sin, that he would place my sin on that man and crucify him instead of me. Could it be that that is my salvation? Could it be that there’s hope for me?” And they put their faith in the penal substitutionary atonement represented in the cross of Jesus Christ. That only comes if the lights go on.

In the text Don preached last night, a glorious Gospel message. I mean, I was telling somebody today he had seven points, and it was basically seven Gospel messages all through the night. It’s glorious.

In Romans 3:26, God revealed in the cross the only solution to the greatest dilemma of all human existence. You want to talk about a mystery? You want to talk about something that is an unsolved mystery? It’s this: How can God remain just, on the one hand, giving each and every single sin its just punishment; and then on the other hand, forgive sinners? How can both be true of the same God? The dilemma is as old as God’s self-proclamation of Moses in Exodus 34:6-7. He refers to himself, there, as “the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” and then this: “but who will by no means clear the guilty.”

What? He will forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin, but he won’t clear the guilty? How can both things be true? How can God forgive iniquity when he will by no means clear the guilty? Isn’t that a clear contradiction? I mean, if God is inexorably just, and he is, which means he must punish all sins, every sin, be sure to not leave one sin unpunished. And if he leaves one sin unpunished, one sin that offends his eternal character, if he leaves one sin unpunished, you know what he denies? Justice. And if he denies justice, he has no right to judge anybody. He has ceased being God, and if he ceased being God, boom, we all go out of existence.

He must punish all sins. He can’t leave one sin unpunished, and therefore how could he ever forgive? We read this in Proverbs 17:15. It’s a verse that seems to tie God’s hands, hiding the mercy and the grace that defines his character, hiding it behind his exacting justice, restraining his steadfast love, preventing him even from forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. The verse says this, Proverbs 17:15: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” Will the Lord justify the ungodly, thereby becoming an abomination to himself? Is God caught in the horns of a dilemma, bound in his own character? Do his own attributes war with one another, bind him to be impotent and powerless and unable to fulfill his promise?

Well, the solution to this puzzle is the very wisdom of God, is it not? The solving of this mystery is in Jesus dying on the cross. How? He died on the cross as a substitute for your sins and mine and all who have faith in him. God made him who knew no sin, who’s that? Only one qualifies, right: Jesus Christ. “God made him who knew no sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:21, “to be sin on our behalf.”

How is that? He had our sin imputed to him, reckoned to him, accounted to him, accounted against him, the perfect, righteous, spotless Lamb of God, sinless in every way, nothing but merit in his bank account, all of a sudden has the merit overlooked, and he’s got accounted now to him all of my sins, all of your sins, all the sins of anybody who would ever believe. He had our sin imputed to him “in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” That is to say, all of his merit, all of his righteousness, all of his perfect satisfaction of the law of God, every obedience in thought, word and deed, doing whatever God command, not doing whatever God forbade; that’s imputed to me and you and anybody who believes. It’s credited to our account that we have nothing.

Isaiah 53, I can’t help but think about this, because this is, this is exactly the issue, the stumbling block that Don talked about with the Jews. He went back to Deuteronomy and showed us that the Jews counted anybody hanging on a tree to be cursed by God, and they got biblical support for that, to reject this Messiah who’s hanging on a tree. “He’s hanging on a tree. He’s obviously cursed by God. How can we believe in him without committing this grave moral error against Scripture itself?”

And so we see the believing Jews in a prophetic text, writing back to the unbelieving Jews, “Who has believed what he heard from us? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised, rejected of men. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Oh, surely he’s borne our griefs; he’s carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed him stricken. He was smitten by God, and afflicted. Cursed is every man who hangs on a tree. But he was wounded for,” not his transgressions. He wasn’t rejected by God for his own sake. “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was a chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we’re healed.” That’s the issue.

And so in Romans 3:26, God’s wisdom is on full display as his righteousness shines forth. His character is true and steadfast. His own attributes don’t war against him; they’re in perfect harmony, always have been. He is just. Every single sin gets its due punishment. And if you’re in Christ, all those sins are accounted to him, and every single sin placed upon him gets its due reward as God poured his holy wrath on Christ on the cross.

And all those who are not in Christ, they will carry their own sin before the judgment seat of God and pay their own penalty. And that is a, that is a horrible, horrible end. It’s, it’s too terrible to even imagine. He’s just. Every sin gets its due reward, its due punishment, its due retribution. And he is at the same time, Romans 3:26, he is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ. He’s the one who declares that sinner righteous.

This is the wisdom that God kept hidden, tucked away for the right time, the revelation of the cross of Christ. And he did that in order to confound the wisdom of the wise, so that every wise man who looked at that cross said, “Folly!” He wanted to show that their wisdom would not get them there. That way, no one could boast before him. He did that in order to accomplish our redemption. He did that in order to draw his true people to himself and reveal his marvelous wisdom, astounding wisdom, to all those and only those who believe in him, who love the Lord Jesus Christ.

By contrast, the wisdom of this age, which is for us the stock and trade of the marketers and all the church-growth gurus, all the social media influencers and the political pundits, honestly, I mean frankly, it’s boring. It is mind-numbingly boring. It’s the same old trope over and over and over again, and there’s nothing astounding about it at all. In fact, the longer you listen, the more mundane it gets, the more discouragement it brings, the more hopelessness you feel. It darkens the soul. It hollows you out. It dulls the mind. It distracts you.

We’ve got to get back to the wisdom of God because it’s so glorious. It’s so marvelous. And that is in the cross of our Lord. And that is truly wonderful, awe-inspiring, majestic and holy. It shuts every mouth. It stops every argument. It silences every pretension of man.

And this brings us to the final point: the ministry of divine wisdom, a ministry to his people. It’s unleash God’s power by preaching the cross; unveil God’s wisdom, explain the mysteries of the cross; and then also third, unite God’s wisdom to the people of the cross. Unite God’s wisdom to the people of the cross.

Job asked in Job 28:20, this is from dating from primeval times. By the way, write down Job 28 and just read that on your own tonight, tomorrow, whenever. It’s a glorious chapter on wisdom. Job goes through that chapter talking about where is wisdom found? Under the earth by miners? They can’t find it. Out on the sea? You can go anywhere in the world, you can’t, can’t find wisdom. And he says in verse 20, Job 28, “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living. It’s concealed from the birds of the air. Oh, but God understands the way to it. He knows its place.”

Why is that? Because all wisdom is located in and only in God. God is intimately acquainted with himself. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11: “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God,” the bathos of God, the, the deep, hidden places of God. The Spirit goes there. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” This is always my frustration in, in doing counseling, pastoral counseling. I have no idea what the person in front of me, what they’re telling me. I take, I have to take him at face value, and I can ask questions and everything, but there’s stuff hidden in the murky, dark depths of their hearts. I have no idea. And they come thinking, “Ah, you, man of all wisdom, you will be able to unpack everything because you see everything.”

No, I don’t. Only God sees. Man looks on the external appearance, right? That’s just a fact. It’s not a condemnation. Man looks on the external appearance, but God looks on the heart. Only God can see the heart. “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.”

In fact, comprehending the thoughts of God, to comprehend means to get your arms around the entirety of, of God’s thoughts. And what are God’s thoughts? Infinite. He is omniscient. There is no end to what he knows. His knowledge, it’s infinite. That’s why God is fundamentally to us creatures incomprehensible, but not to the Spirit. He is comprehensible, comprehended by the Spirit, because the Spirit is God. The thoughts of God in the limitless depths of God from the infinitude of his divine mind, those are the places the Spirit of God goes searching to bring forth from those depths divine wisdom, verse 10, and to make it known to his Apostles.

You might think Google is the world’s most powerful search engine, but it can’t search the depths of God. Actually, Google itself can’t search anything, really, at least not in this sense. Google retrieves information. Google is like a, a dog retrieving a ball, going and fetching something, but it doesn’t really search anything in a sense of intelligence, in a sense of, of understanding. Google has no understanding, which is very unlike the Spirit of the living God. The Spirit, the verb “searches,” also means “to fully examine, to investigate,” and it indicates and necessitates intelligence, not artificial intelligence, by the way, programmed by the limitations of men. This is divine intelligence: infinite, limitless.

And it’s the Apostles and the New Testament prophets as well. They are the “we” and the “us” in this passage. We, don’t read yourself into this verse itself; we are not the “we.” We are not the “us.” We’re not joined with Paul here. This is talking about those who have revelatory gifts, those to whom God gives revelatory knowledge. Paul has explained the nature of the wisdom he’s preached, the wisdom that he has administered in his apostolic ministry. It’s been taught to him by the eternal Spirit of God, and it’s using precise language given to him by this God, the Spirit.

And by the way, the “we,” the “us,” I just had, I just said this, but it doesn’t refer to all Christians. It refers to Apostles and prophets only here as recipients of New Testament revelation. It becomes clear in verses 12 and 13: “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 to us by God.”

Why did he need to have these things immediately revealed to him in the apostolic age? Because the Apostles and the prophets are the, are the foundation of the church set against the cornerstone, Jesus Christ, Ephesians 2:20. They laid down a foundation of truth, a foundation of understanding. This is their gift. Paul said the same thing in verse 10: “These things God has revealed to us,” speaking of himself as an Apostle and of the New Testament prophets, “revealed to us through the Spirit.” “Revealed,” aorist tense, aorist tense, meaning something done, fully completed in the past. Same thing, here, “We’ve received.” Again, “received” is the aorist tense, referring to the revelatory work of the Spirit for the Apostles, for the prophets of the New Testament apostolic era. It’s not continuing with us.

Paul understands these things, freely-given things. Then he teaches them to the Corinthians, verse 13. “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” Now this is the verse I’ve been driving at this whole message, but you couldn’t understand this verse or appreciate it until we went through this whole message. So you’re welcome.

This verse is the verse I’ve been driving at because this is the key verse of all true Christian ministry, the verse that marks the difference between the Sophist and Paul. The difference that marks the difference between false shepherds and true, the difference that marks the difference between fake, wannabe pastors and true pastors, true elders is this verse. Because, following Paul’s example, true shepherds, true pastors, true elders, they take the words that they’ve learned from the Apostles that are written down here in the New Testament, words taught to the Apostles by the Spirit, they take those same words, those same patterns of speech, those same examples of communication, and they join those spiritual words to those who are spiritual, to those who are saved, those for whom the lights are on.

Spiritual words will only adhere to its, to spiritual people, that is, to true Christians. They will not adhere to natural people, unspiritual people, aka non-Christians. Verse 14: “The natural person doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit of God. They’re folly to him. He’s not able to understand them.” Not it, not, not just not willing; he’s not able to. He doesn’t have the ability. Why? “Because they’re spiritually discerned. But “the spiritual person, he judges all things. He himself is judged by no one. For who has known or understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

How do we have the mind of Christ? The mind of Christ taught to Paul, taught to the Apostles, the New Testament prophets by the Spirit of God, the mind of Christ revealed and taught by the Spirit, has been written down in the New Testament, superintended by the Spirit of God himself. These are the very words of God by divine inspiration, 2 Timothy 3:16, “breathed out by God.” Theopneustos. “Men spoke from God and wrote from God,” 2 Peter 1:21, “and they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

They received spiritual words from the Spirit, and they did it, then they turned around and united them, joined them to spiritual people. That’s ministry. That is, that is what we do, not just as pastors, but it’s what you do as Christians. You’re hunting for those people for whom the lights have gone on. You don’t know them. They don’t have a mark on their head. The light bulb doesn’t go on when they’re starting to get it. But you know what you do, the clearer you are with the truth, the clearer you are about the message of the cross? Those people come a-running to you. Other people, they go away.

What is the point of all this? And what are Don and I so exercised about in this conference? What are we trying to convey to you? We want to make the point clear and unmistakable that the pulpit is for preaching this wisdom. It’s for preaching a divine wisdom, never a worldly wisdom, never a worldly pattern of speaking, never human wisdom. We want to make the case of the nature of Christian ministries, to take the wisdom of God revealed in spiritual words and join that wisdom, glue it together. This is the word. Fasten it, weld it together to spiritual people.

Should pastors follow the example of human teachers, modern-day Sophists, sophisticated in matters of cultures and politics, flattering their audiences, chasing all the fads, hitting all the, all the hot-button topics, all the subjects, giving people what they want? Is that what we should do? If we do that, we condemn them to hell.

Or should pastors, and should you, follow the example of the Apostle Paul? Should we take the words that Paul received from the Spirit, those which are spiritually appraised, spiritually evaluated, words that are spiritually appreciated, words that are loved by spiritual people, rejoiced in by the people of the Cross?

Paul took those words he received from the Spirit, words that the Spirit himself joined to Paul, he’s turned around and joined them to other spiritual people, and we implore you to do the same. Follow Paul’s example. We’re calling on all shepherds, pastors, elders to abandon and reject worldly wisdom, all worldly forms of communication. Ignore the surveys. Stop going to the marketing gurus. Stop clicking on the ads that come into your inbox that say, “Come, we’ll show you how to build a church.” Stop it.

We implore pastors and all Christians, all of you: Preach the word of the cross. The word of the cross is divine power to accomplish the impossible, to save desperate, hopelessly lost sinners, who are at an infinite distance from God, a holy God, because of their sins, and now they’re brought near by the blood of Christ. The word of the cross is divine wisdom. It’s true knowledge. Applied righteously, it accomplishes God’s good purposes. And that is this: effective, effectual in saving sinners in the demonstration of the Spirit and the demonstration of his power.

And so when we resolve, like Paul, to know nothing else, to speak nothing else in the world, but to count our lives as just being an invisible vehicle of, of nothing but truth, cross-truth, we know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. We don’t proclaim the wisdom of the world anymore, that which is powerless and empty. We proclaim the wisdom of God, things that eye has never seen, that ear has never heard, that’s never entered into the heart of man, never even imagined, not in their wildest dreams. But this is all that God has prepared for those who love him. That’s our birthright as Christians. It’s our everlasting joy. Let’s pray.

Our Father, we count it such a privilege to be jars of clay in whom you have placed the treasure of this Gospel, and that when we are broken open, that Gospel shines forth. It makes its own case. We pray, Father, that you would make us invisible as speakers, that you would draw your people to the clear message of the cross that we preach. We pray that you would please help us to preach it well, be faithful to take these passages that we’ve learned over the past couple days and what we’re going to learn tomorrow, and just turn around and repeat those things to people. Help us to study to show ourselves approved, a workman of God who does not need to be ashamed, but instead, let us boast forever in the cross of Jesus Christ. We thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.