Five Essential Bible Passages
1 Corinthians 2:14
1st Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio in Clayton, NM. I’m Bryan Kimsey, one of two pastors from 1st Baptist church in Des Moines. This week we’ve been looking at 5 essential Bible passages that I picked for their application in my personal growth as a Christian. If you missed any of these messages, just give us a call at 575.278.2421 and I’d be happy to send you a free CD of all these messages. Or visit the church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org. If you have any questions about the things I’m discussing, feel free to give me a call. As always, may God bless this message, may it glorify Him, and it may it reflect the truth of His word, thru His son Jesus Christ, amen.
Today, I’d like to look at a passage from 1 Corinthians that I think addresses several of the problems that I see in today’s churches. Now remember, I didn’t grow up in a church and I don’t have a history of “churchianity”. I did go to church a few times in my life, but I often felt like someone was trying to sell me something. In other words, the preacher would often clearly use psychological tactics or a play on emotions to try to convince people to buy his message. I used to feel, and I still do feel, that many preachers would make really good used car salesmen, no offense to used car salesmen! All that changed, though, when two things happened. First, I met and heard a man who was not like that, but simply preached the Bible and let the text speak for itself. Secondly, and most importantly, God opened my ears and softened my heart to hear the message, apart from the speaker. I think we’ll see both of these themes in action here in 1 Corinthians and you’ll see why I picked this passage for today’s lesson. Let’s look at the first section of this passage.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (3) I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Keep in mind now that this is Paul speaking. Paul was a very educated man, very knowledgeable in Jewish history, and able to speak several languages fluently. He was at once Jewish and a Roman citizen- a rare combination. He gives us his former qualifications in Philippians 3 and in modern day terms, he had the equivalent of 2 PhD’s. Paul was no dummy.
Yet, here’s what he says in his letter to the Corinthians- “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God”. He did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, but set those things aside. That is, Paul did not use his deep “preacher’s” voice, he didn’t get voice lessons so that he might better communicate, and he didn’t use his great wisdom to overwhelm and convince his listeners. Instead, as he says in verse 2, “…I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” There’s the key of the message- Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is the message that Paul preached and this is the whole reason that we preach- Jesus Christ and Him crucified. So the next time you listen to a preacher, including me!, ask yourself this question- “Am I listening to this man’s great voice, superb multimedia presentation, or clever demonstrations, or am I hearing ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’? Am I draw to this message because of the speaker’s charisma, because of the enthusiasm of the people around, because of a play on my emotions, or am I hearing the message ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’?”
This is such an important question that Paul expands on it in verses 3-4 where he says: “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom….” Now you might think “Well what’s wrong with a good presentation?” I’d reply, “Nothing’s wrong with a good presentation, but don’t let the presentation become the message!” If you strip away the presentation, is the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified still there? Does the presentation deliver that message? In many cases, the presentation over-rides the message and the message is lost. Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards gave a very famous sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” During this sermon (which takes close to 2 hours to read aloud!), his audience was so convicted of the reality of hell that many of them lifted their feet off the floor because they could feel the heat. People cried and fell on their faces on the floor.
And how did Jonathan Edwards preach this sermon? Did he use a powerful voice, full of fire and brimstone and emotion? He did not. He read his sermon in a monotone voice, never looking up at the audience. And he did this for the same reason that Paul did not use persuasive words of human wisdom. We find that reason in v. 4-5: “…my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Both Paul and later Jonathan Edwards knew that salvation is of God. If people are saved through the wisdom of men, that wisdom will fail, and their faith will crumble and fall. But when men are saved through the power of God, that faith will stand. Therefore, Paul discards his wisdom and his excellence of speech and preaches the message of Christ and Him crucified.
Now, this does not mean that later on we can’t apply brain-power to the message. After all, Jesus himself said that the greatest commandment was:
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
Hebrews 12 tells us that we’re to grow as Christians and partake of solid food, not to exist solely on spiritual milk:
Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (14) But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
There’s nothing wrong with investigating the deep things of God and, actually, we’re told to do that. But, we should not be convinced of the truth of the gospel solely through persuasive preaching. The message must be there and our faith must rest in the power of God. We’ll see more of this in just a second.
The theme that we’ve seen so far is that wisdom cannot bring us faith. Only God can do that. Paul expands on this in the several verses:
1 Corinthians 2:6-10 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, (8) which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) But as it is written: "EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." (10) But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
Here he plainly tells the Corinthians and us, that the wisdom of God is hidden from the wise and that “none of the rulers of this age knew” this wisdom, rather “God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” From this passage we can see that the wisdom of God must be revealed to us- no amount of intellectualism can do the job, not until God reveals it. We cannot come to faith by works. In this passage, we also see the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals the things of God to us.
Again, Paul expands on his theme and verses 11-13 tell us:
1 Corinthians 2:11-13 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (13) These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Here he says “what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man..” Everyone has their deep secrets and thoughts and even couples that have been married for 50 years still find out things about each other. A person standing on the outside can never know the inside of a man. Only the spirit of the man himself knows the things of that man. Likewise, Paul says, only the Spirit of God can know the things of God. Now, since natural man does not have the spirit of God, how can he know the things of God? This goes right back to yesterday’s lesson, from John 3, where Jesus said “you must be born again. That which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is sprit.” We must have the spirit of God to understand the things of God. Paul tells us that very thing in v. 14:
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Now, you might think that Paul is getting off topic here since he started out by saying “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, but actually what he’s doing is showing us how it is that we can come to understand Christ and Him crucified. We’ve seen that intellectual works cannot give us the faith required to understand and accept Christ. We’ve seen that the natural man, that is, the man who has not been born again of the Spirit, does not, can not, and will not understand the things of God. Romans 5, in fact, tells us that we are enemies of God and hate the things of God! What all this point to is that true faith requires an act of the Holy Spirit. True faith is given by God and does not come through the wisdom and persuasive power of man. True faith is an act of God from start to finish and being of the power of God will stand. Therefore, Paul did not worry about how good his presentation was, or how powerful his speaking voice might be, but he simply preached Christ and Him crucified and let God do the work in the hearts of his listeners.
As modern preachers do we know better than the apostle Paul? I think not. Therefore, I will follow Paul’s example, which we’ve discussed today, and the message given by Jesus himself, which we discussed yesterday, and repeat “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unless Christ’s atoning work at the cross is applied to your personal sins, you will perish in those sins. Look to Christ and be saved.
May God grant you His Spirit so that you see the truth of His word. In Jesus’ name, amen!
5 Essential Bible Passages- John 3
5 Essential Bible Passages- Matthew 16