“… but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. … Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:12).
The big point that the apostle Paul is making here is this: If by grace and the working of “the Spirit who is from God” you know the wisdom of God which is Christ crucified, then you are wise and have a depth of understanding about life that the “wise” and the “strong” (1:27) of this world will never have.[i] Or to say it simply: if you confess Christ crucified you are wiser than every talking head on TV.
No, you probably don’t have the title “Dr” in front of your name; most of us don’t have a string of important sounding letters after our names; and you’ll never get interviewed as an expert on the current pandemic; but as one who confesses Christ you are wiser then every one of those individuals, in fact wiser then all of them combined.
In the church of Corinth there were lots of issues that needed addressing. What’s more, that church of new Christians lived in a world that confronted them with all sorts of questions and challenges. The supposed “wisdom” of the world seemed so persuasive. It was hard to refute.
Our world, too, is applying its collective smarts to answer the big questions we are facing right now. And there is no doubt that the medical, political and economic experts have their place in teasing out an appropriate way forward.
But when the Corinthian church members are confronted with big questions Paul pushes all the arguments and supposed “wisdom” to one side and effectively says, “if you want to get a handle on anything you’ve got to begin with a focus on the cross”. There is no real wisdom apart from Christ and Him crucified.
How so? Well, think about it from the perspective of our current situation. Confessing Christ and Him crucified gives you a view of reality and life that provides answers that the talking heads on TV or the writers of Google News will never come to. To say it this way, confessing Christ and Him crucified gives us a world-view that allows us to have a wisdom that shows up the “wisdom” of this world for what it is, foolishness!
Because, what do you know that they don’t know? You know this pandemic is ultimately a result of the fall into sin. As we said before, with this pandemic God is very really reaching into our world. They don’t know that. And so they scramble around looking for answers, medical solutions and the like. And we can be thankful that they are doing that. But how foolish of them, they fail to call us as nation to repentance.
What else do you know that they don’t know? Our world-view, built on the central truth of Christ and Him crucified, informs us that our King has this world in His hand and that He is using also this current pandemic for His purposes. But they don’t know that. And so, how foolish of them, they never stop to ask “What might God be telling us here?”
What else do we know that they don’t know? Our world-view gives me the wisdom to confess that my King is in control. It also impresses upon me the reality of my King’s love for me. And so I know that even if I was to contract the virus I have no reason to fear. But how foolish of them. So much of what they do and decide is driven by fear… a fear that hates the thought of having to confront death.
What else do I know that they don’t know? My Christ-crucified-and-risen-again world view gives me the incredible wisdom to know that when God reaches into my life like this, it’s a very appropriate time for deep self-examination. But more, having reflected on my life and having realized that there’s sin from which I need to flee and for which I desperately need forgiveness, I have been blessed with the faith to know that my Father’s wise solution to my sin problem is Christ! But how foolish of them. They never pause to think about their sin with the devastating consequence that they miss out on the greatest gift of all time.
There’s so much more we could add but let’s finish with this. We’re blessed with the wisdom to know where all this is headed – the day of our Saviour’s return on the clouds of heaven. But how foolish of them. For them this world is all that there is. And if that were so then of course you’d hold on to it as tightly as possible. But our citizenship is in heaven and so, if necessary, we’re ready to let this world go so that we might be with our Lord forever.
Do you understand how much wiser you are? Actually, let me rephrase that question more biblically. Do you appreciate how blessed you are in that you “have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God”? And, brothers and sisters, do you appreciate how blessed you are in that you “understand the things freely given us by God”?
All of which leaves a question: what are you going to do with this wisdom that you’ve been so graciously granted? Yes, of course, thank God for it and live on the basis of it! But then this too: where the opportunity presents itself, tell others about it so that they too might be blessed to understand the things freely given by God… that they too might become wise!
[i] You really do need to read the opening two chapters of 1 Corinthians to grasp the big point that the apostle Paul is making here.