We Have The Mind of Christ
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Key Verse 2:12
“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
The letter was written to those who had once heard, received and accepted the Gospel of our Lord’s death and resurrection. Now he found himself having to remind them once again of the Gospel he had preached to them, which they had received and on which they had taken their stand. He tells them in verse one that he had not come to them with eloquence of speech as he gave them the Gospel. He also tells them that he had come to them that first time resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Look at verse 3. “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” These words are a window into Paul’s heart— to see what’s in there. And when we look in on his heart we see that he was fearful, weak and trembling as he came to them that first time brining with him the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These words seem strange for someone who is trying to impress his hearers to listen more carefully to his message rather than the message of those who had come later with impressive words and style of preaching. But they are not strange. They are the words of a humble man in Christ. Paul was genuine and sincere in all that he says, because he does not even hide the condition of his heart from those he loves and is eager to serve. He did not pretend at power and authority. He did not pretend at keeping an air of superiority. He had learned that in sharing his weakness with others, especially with those whom he loved, it in fact glorified the Lord, the very thing he was always eager to do. One time when he prayed about a certain weakness he had, the Lord responded like this:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In this he had learned that true strength is not in hiding weakness, but in sharing his weakness with the family of God. Indeed God loves the humble man who relies on God in all things, even in exposing his own weaknesses and fears. Therefore, in all humility of heart Paul expressed to the church at Corinth the condition he was in at the time he had come to them. For Paul coming to the people of Corinth with the message of the cross was like going into the lion’s den. He had had a bad experience in Athens when he had tried to preach the Gospel there. In Acts chapter 17, before Paul went to Corinth to preach the Gospel, he preached Christ to the Athenians in the garden of the gods. And they sneered at him.
Paul also may have experienced fear when he visited them not because he was lacking in enough eloquence to impress them, but because of a decision of faith precisely not to try to impress them as those who had come later to them tried to do. He was fearful that he may not be able to reach their hearts with a simple Gospel message. But he was not trying to seek their approval nor trying to impress them. Those who try to impress, often are in the habit of seeking the praise of men. In the Gospel work, it is evident that there are always those who seek the praise of men and those who seek the praise of God. As Jesus once said of the pompous religious leaders: “For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43)
In verses 2-4, we see that Paul had made up his mind to come to them in weakness, with the simple message of the cross. And when he did— when he came to them equipped with the simple message of the cross, in weakness and in fear, God blessed his decision of faith and honored the age-old faith in Paul’s heart which depends on God rather than on human skill, and he blessed Paul’s faith with a demonstration of God’s power. The Holy Spirit worked with power to fill them with grace and to cause them to believe and to accept the message deeply and personally in their hearts. By the same power of the Holy Spirit they were also changed in their inner person. It was a clear demonstration of the Spirit’s power at work in their hearts.
What Paul is saying here is in his own words: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” (4) What he is saying here is that the change that happened in them, their change of heart, their change of attitude, their renouncing of their sins, their longing for forgiveness, their overwhelming desire to be reconciled with Father God, their desperate need to be removed from the world filled with overpowering temptations, their sudden increased love for Jesus, their desire to live by faith, to hope in the impossible, their need to join the ranks of those who live to spread the Gospel, and much more— that change that happened on the heart level could not possibly have been done by wise and persuasive words, for no human words nor reasoning could ever effect the kind of change that took place as the Gospel reached their ears, then their heats, and finally settled into their souls suddenly opening their eyes and ears to see and to hear what the couldn’t see nor hear when they lived in the darkness of the world. What happened to them could only have happened by a power not of this world. For “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) These are the words of Jeremiah the prophet, who understood the human heart with a wisdom that not of this world. The heart of man can be swayed by emotion, and steered by reasoning, powerful enough to change the world. But it cannot change itself, for there is no power on earth that can change it. But the power Paul was talking about that changed their hearts was not of this earth. It was as he says: a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
There is preaching and then there is preaching. Not all preaching is done with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This generation has seen some majestic preaching unequalled to in all the world, sermons that invite the elite of society to churches that overflow with staggering numbers of worshipers. Such sumptuous sermons that invigorate the human intellect with profound thoughts and arguments on religion. But when the messenger of the word of God is more concerned with style of preaching, with exotic topics aimed at baffling the audience with mind numbing theological challenges, it is mostly a demonstration of knowledge rather than a demonstration of God’s power. Such a messenger does not have God’s interest in mind nor the interest of the listener. Jesus had something to say about such people whose concern is a demonstration of knowledge rather than a demonstration of God’s power. On the other hand, there are those like Paul whose concern is the praise of God. And what praises God more than a glorious demonstration of his Spirit at work in men’s hearts! To convict the heart of sin; to encourage the heart to repent; to challenge the heart to turn away from folly to God! A messenger that can effect that change to hearts of stone, is indeed not concerned with a demonstration of knowledge but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
Read verse 5. “So that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” This verse gives rise to a serious question! What does your faith rest upon? Did you come to faith because of the power of God working in your heart, or did you come to faith because of wisdom’s persuasion? Paul did not present the Gospel to the Corinthians on a plate of human wisdom, with intellectual argument on the existence of God. He did not present the Gospel with a philosophical argument on man’s need of a deity or of religion to fill up a God-sized hole in his innards. Rather Paul presented the Gospel to them on a plate of truth— the truth of “Jesus Christ and of him crucified.” This is precisely how Paul presented the Gospel to them. He relied on this simple but profound message of the cross to work its way to their hearts.
The message was simple, directed at the very heart of the sinful man— directed at the center of his conscience where a man’s heart has a chance to deeply consider its evil ways and its wickedness and then realize how desperately it is in need of forgiveness and of salvation. Paul’s message was directed at the heart of man where intellect and reason are rendered obsolete when the heart is aching for redemption; when the heart is aching for a moment of peace amidst the anxieties and fears and doubts that flood it day and night. Paul’s message was directed at the heart where a man’s guilt and shame, though hidden from worldly eyes are like a fire within that consumes him and where he longs to find peace and joy. Paul spoke to them of Jesus— of God who was willing to sacrifice himself for their salvation. He spoke of the heart which longs to find paradise in a sea of turmoil. As Jesus had spoken his simple message: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15), so Paul also spoke of the hope of the kingdom of God, the only hope a man may have in a world of perishing hopes. Paul also spoke of the love of God to an unworthy and unlovely humanity deserving death.
Paul also spoke of “him crucified”. He spoke of the sacrifice God was willing to make in order to redeem his lost children. When Paul spoke as such, doubts disappeared, despair disappeared, a sense of crime and punishment disappeared. And faith rose in their hearts. Faith was planted and established and nurtured in their hearts until this faith in Christ became a window of hope out of eternal condemnation and into the forgiveness of sins, out of eternal separation from God and into reconciliation with God. Paul’s message did not touch the intellectual mind nor did it even stimulate it nor impress it. His message touched their hearts and brought a change within that no man could ever hope to bring to the broken soul. Paul’s message— the simple Gospel— invited faith, and faith invited repentance, and repentance invited forgiveness and forgiveness invited the Holy Spirit who came upon them with power— power that rescued them from eternal condemnation and from the cesspool of sin, and brought them back to God as his holy and beloved children.
To every man or woman who are interested in how to deliver the message of the Gospel, Paul offers wisdom beyond imagination— a secret. The message must be simple such that even a child could understand it. The message must expose sin and its consequences. The message must exalt Christ and his sacrifice of atonement on behalf of the sinner. The message must be directed at the heart and not at the mind.
Verse 6 reads: “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” But just because Paul chose to avoid the worldly wisdom in presenting the Gospel and chose a simple and intellectually unimpressive message instead, does not mean that wisdom is lacking from the message he gave them. Now here, he begins to explain the unimaginable wisdom contained in the simple Gospel message, which he had once preached to them, and by which they were transformed from condemned sinners to children of glory! Paul explains that his message is not lacking in wisdom at all for he says in verse 6: “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” None of the wisdom found in the world is able to explain what God had done in and through Jesus Christ. None of the world’s wisdom is able to explain the message of hope contained in the message of the cross. Certainly not any contemporary wisdom or philosophy or reasoning this world and its rulers rely on or advocate. As fickle and changeable as worldly wisdom have proven to be throughout the generations, they along with their supporters are certain to eventually come to nothing.
Verse 7. “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” Paul uses the word “secret” or better yet this “mystery” as the KJV puts it, is not the kind of mystery we find in a novel, such as a crime which needs to be solved, nor the kind of mystery which is enigmatic or inexplicable. Rather this is the kind of mystery which was once hidden or unknown but came to be revealed or known in time. Therefore, the mystery Paul was talking about is what had not been revealed throughout Old Testament times, but what is now fully revealed in the New.
What then is that which Paul calls a mystery yet is now fully revealed? The mystery is the very great wisdom of God which far surpasses and nullifies all the wisdom that the world could muster to no avail. The mystery is Jesus. The mystery is about Jesus. It is about the great promise of ages which God had made to mankind when he promised Adam and Eve a Savior who would in time recover their fall in the Garden. The promise had remained a mystery even when it was passed down to the descendants of Abraham, and then expounded upon and nurtured in the Scriptures of the Jews. And finally the promise came alive in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to save the world from sin.
Jesus’ Gospel of death and resurrection— the Gospel of salvation— the hope of mankind, was hidden in the heart of God from the beginning of time until Jesus came. And with the coming of Jesus, the Old Testament law which was powerless to effect salvation, was surpassed by the grace of God freely given to all people, both to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. It was a glorious mystery made known through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Paul exalted the wisdom of God, revealing what true wisdom is all about.
The contrast between the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom is indeed staggering. We may consider the world’s wisdom as a growing list of principles and pertinent knowledge as developed over time and which have proven to be useful in the advancement of societies. But all the wisdom of the world, which brings about achievements, and effects progress in any and every field of knowledge, cannot reach the heart of man, nor save him from the power of sin and of darkness that the world has been mired in since the beginning of time. Neither science nor technology, neither academics nor philosophy, nor anything else of this world could solve the fundamental problems of human life— which is of sin. But the wisdom of God, that wisdom which is rooted in the very nature of God, his grace, his unimaginable love for his creation, his plan of salvation, his righteousness which brought about the perfect plan for effecting justice while at the same time redeeming condemned offenders— rescuing the sinful race from inevitable eternal condemnation with an ultimate act of love— all that godly wisdom puts to shame the world’s futile attempts at wisdom. And with all the wisdom that the world boasts about, it could not fathom even the simplest of Godly wisdom.
In verse 8 Paul says: “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Simply they could not understand God’s wisdom. They could not understand what God has planned from the beginning of time. Whether Jewish scholars and priests or the philosophers of the age could not fathom the heart and mind of God. The Jews with their Laws and regulations, the sacrificial system and their religiosity could not fathom the simplest of Godly truths such as what God says in the Bible: “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12) Nor could they understand that sin cannot be solved by human endeavors but by God’s mercy. For if they did, Paul says they would not have been quick to rid themselves of the one who had come to offer them grace. Nor the rulers of this world understood the wisdom of God, even when their hearts condemned them and their consciences testified against them. Otherwise they would have embraced the Lord of glory rather than condemn him to death. But in wisdom God made the ultimate sacrifice of love. He gave up the Son he loves to redeem his lost sons and daughters.
Verse 9 reads: “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’”. This verse has been strangely used to comfort those who suffer for the Lord and his Gospel— that better things await them. Others use this verse to comfort those who are saying farewell to a newly departed Christian— that better things await them . But Paul speaks of the wonders and glory given to those who love God— the wonders and glory they can actually see and hear even now as they turn their harts to God and witness and experience his wisdom and mystery of God right here and now. How?
Verse 10 reads: “But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Rear verses 11-12. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” Paul explains this well. Just as we in many things understand each other because we have a human spirit and share at times the same human experiences, which helps us share in the understanding of the world we all live in, so also by the Spirit of God who lives in us, we too understand the spiritual tings God intended to share with us. And indeed they are glorious things that God reveals to his beloved children.
In verse 13 Paul says: “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” This is what I am talking about, Paul tells them and us. We understand them because the Spirit of God who lives in us reveals them to us.
If you are not seeing the Love of God, if you are not feeling his grace, knowing his riches, understanding his call to live by faith and holy mission, willing to suffer together with him for the hope of salvation that burns in his heart, you have not the Spirit of God. Jesus calls us to suffer with him, to sacrifice for him, to love, to be generous towards each other, forgiving the unforgivable, serving with all humility and tears, striving for unity and abolishing division, obeying his words with all our hearts, to honor and to uphold the Christian principles at home and in church and everywhere— these are the glorious thing that are ever at the heart of God, they are the call of the Gospel. These are the things that every Christian knows are true.
But if we complain about everything, if we avoid doing what we know we should do, then the Spirit of God is not with us. If we envy the world, if we are impressed more with the lofty words that speak of spiritual jargon, and if we despise simple words that speak of God’s love and of Jesus’ cross and his suffering for the forgiveness of our sins, then we have not the Spirit of God.
In verse 14 Paul says: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The natural man does not accept the things that come from God. Sacrifice is foolishness to him. Prayer and faith, hope and endurance, and all such things are foolishness to the man or woman who do not have the Spirit of God.
On the other hand, look at verses 15-16. “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” Paul means to say that the spiritual man or woman— judges— or understand the heart and mind of God, what the Lord longs for in the lives of his children and servants. The spiritual man judges, understands, the message of the cross as the wisdom of God, a message which brings life to the lifeless, and hope to the hopeless, and which overcomes any problem be it in life or in the church. Paul in his letter needed to battle the false idea that the more eloquent and superior the message the better it is. He was battling to explain to the Corinthians that what they had heard him speak— the simple Gospel— was the very power of God which had touched their hearts and changed them into the people of God that they were. They shouldn’t be foolish being swayed by words of human wisdom which in the end amount to nothing. And those who are advocating a better message, a more sophisticated message, a nobler style of preaching, a worldly-wise preaching— these proudly assume they can instruct God. Paul ends the chapter by asserting that he is of one mind with God. They should listen to him. As we should too. May the Spirit of God continue to rule our hearts as we learn to embrace God’s way of evangelizing and spreading the Gospel to the world.