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Paul the Preacher
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
The Apostle, Paul, now is speaking of the kind of an entrance he had among the Corinthians. He had been very happy to move among them and preach Christ Now he is presenting to them his own ideals as a preacher. It is not alone to the Corinthians that Paul discusses his message and his ministry.
To the Thessalonians he wrote, "Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." Again he says, "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain." He goes on to say, "We were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention." Then he adds, "For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."
When we come to Paul's message to the Corinthians, there is much of the same tenor. Let us tabulate some things that are in the opening verses of chapter 2.
1. Paul was not an orator. He said, "I came to you, * * not with excellency of speech." We received a letter of inquiry some time ago about a young minister. One of the questions was, "Is he an orator?" They wanted some one who could sway the crowds, and draw in the people by his powers of speech. Paul flatly said, "I came * * not with excellency of speech."
2. Paul did not boast his scholarship. He says, "I came * * not with excellency * * of wisdom." We do not mean that Paul was not educated at the feet of Gamaliel: we mean that that scholarship received there, was not the scholarship which he used in preaching the Gospel. He was taught of God. During his years in Arabia, the Lord spoke unto him. He had somewhat to say because there was somewhat given him of God.
3. Paul was a preacher of the truth as it is in Christ. He says he came declaring the testimony of God. We all know-where he received this testimony. Let me quote from the Book of Galatians: "I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." It is for this reason that we find that Paul added, "We preach * * Christ."
When we are preaching a message from Heaven, we can preach with authority and with assurance.
4. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. Among stronger saints Paul preached many other things. He preached Christ risen, ascended, seated, coming again, and all of the great verities of the faith. Among the Corinthians, he majored in Christ, and Him crucified.
5. Paul preached in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. This is found in 1 Corinthians 2:3 . The verse plainly shows us that the Apostle had no self-confidence. He did not think of himself as some great one. He certainly did not preach himself, as the noble leader and dictator to saints.
6. Paul preached in the demonstration of the Spirit and power. He did not use enticing words of man's wisdom, with which to inveigle sinners into sainthood. His trust was in the power of God, made manifest in the Spirit. Would that we had more ministers, Sunday school teachers, and young people who knew what it was to be filled with the Spirit and endued with power from on high!
I. THE OBJECTIVE IN PAUL'S LIFE (1 Corinthians 2:5 )
"That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
1. Paul did not draw men unto himself. There is always a danger with public speakers to attract their audiences unto themselves. The difficulty in it all is that if we build men upon the arm of flesh, we cause our hearers to trust in man, and their faith may be shaken and wrecked. Paul could say, "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ"; but he never went out to make Paul-ites.
2. Paul did not draw men to the wisdom of man. He said, "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men." If we are going to follow human wisdom, we are certain to collapse, because God will bring the scholarship of men to nought. The house that was builded upon the sand fell, but the house that was builded against the destructive rains and winds and floods, stood.
3. Paul sought to glorify and magnify Christ as God. This to Paul was the magnet by which all men should be drawn, and to which all men should be united. It is a shame when any of us want ourselves displayed as some great one. Would that our ambition always was to magnify the Lord, and to glorify the Son of God!
II. TWO KINDS OF WISDOM (1 Corinthians 2:6-7 )
We have in these 2 verses a comparison between the wisdom of the world and the princes of the world, and the wisdom of God spoken in a mystery. The former is wisdom which comes to nought. The latter is a wisdom which is called "the hidden wisdom"; and which was ordained of God before the world unto our glory.
1. The human kind of wisdom. The word, "wisdom," here refers to scholarship. It is the highest reach of man's searchings and findings; that is, of man in his searchings apart from any Divine Revelation. We know that both in Ecclesiastes and Proverbs wisdom is put on the highest pinnacle of human accomplishment, and yet the wisdom which Paul knew and which he spoke was not a wisdom of the world, nor of the princes of the world.
2. The wisdom which Paul gave was the wisdom of God. It was wisdom which went far back of the wisdom of men, because it entered into the things which were ordained of God before the world was. It was a wisdom impossible to the flesh, because it is spoken of as "the hidden wisdom," "the wisdom of God in a mystery."
The philosophers of this world have, during the ages, sought to discover the first cause of all things. They see the earth filled with good things. They try to get back of those things, and to discover by the human intellect, and by searching, that from which all things sprang. The result of such a quest brought a man-centered law of transmutation of species.
In evolution they think they have found the secret of the Universe, not only of our earth, but of all worlds and planets.
All we can know of such things, are the things which God Himself has revealed. The greatest mystery of all mysteries, the greatest wisdom of all wisdom, is the wisdom of God which He wrought out in Christ upon the Cross, and which was prepared and planned by God, before the foundation of the world.
III. IGNORANCE OF DIVINE WISDOM ACCLAIMED THE CAUSE FOR THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 2:8 )
Concerning Divine Wisdom, God said, "Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
1. The ignorance of the Jewish rulers led them to deliver Christ to be crucified. In the 13th chapter of Acts we read, "For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath Day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the Tree, and laid him in a sepulchre."
The Apostle, Peter, at Pentecost did not hesitate to say, "Him, * * ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Then he said in another address, "And killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead," Then Peter added, "I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers."
Had the Children of Israel known the wisdom of God as set forth in the Prophets, they never would have crucified the Lord of glory. May we not likewise charge much that is done today to the ignorance of the people? Ignorance does not excuse them; however, if men were taught of God and had their spiritual eyes open to the Christ of God, they could do no less than crown Him Lord of All.
2. The present call is to repent. After the Holy Spirit spoke of Israel's former ignorance, He said: "But now commandeth all men every where to repent." If men are now ignorant, they are needlessly so. The Bible is printed in the languages of the world and scattered everywhere. Holy men of God throughout every nation are preaching Christ as the power of God unto salvation.
3. Satan still blinds eyes, but for the most part, they are the eyes of men who hold not the love of the truth.
IV. THE SHORTSIGHTEDNESS OF HUMAN WISDOM (1 Corinthians 2:9 )
1. Think for a moment of what eye hath not seen. The things of God are past finding out. Job was a wise man, and in the Book that bears his name, we read, who "by searching [can] find out God"? When God came on the scene and began to talk to Job, he thrust upon him certain questions which we would like to present to every scholar in every university of the land.
God said unto Job, "Gird up now thy loins like a man; * * and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. * * Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?"
God asked Job again, "Where wast thou * * when I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it? * * Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? * * Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof? * * Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it? * * Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?"
When God got through with Job, Job was ready to acknowledge that he had spoken of things which he knew not. Today God is calling men to repent and turn unto the Lord. Let them renounce the wisdom which is of the flesh, the wisdom which knows not God, and let them bow before the Spirit, who teacheth them all things.
2. Think for a moment of what the heart hath not conceived. Heaven lies ahead of us with unannounced glories.
Millions of years our eyes may wander over the things which He has prepared for those who love Him; while other millions of years, and aeons upon aeons, will be required to glimpse the revelations of the exceeding riches of His grace.
V. THE REVEALING SPIRIT (1 Corinthians 2:10 )
Too frequently Christians quote the 9th verse, and stop with it. They neglect to read the next verse.
1. The promise was: the Spirit will teach you all things. The Spirit preeminently is the Revealer and the Teacher of the things of God. He reaches into the far past, before the world was, and He tells us much of the purposes, and of the determined counsels of the eternal God.
He describes unto us the day when Christ lived with the Father in the beginning, as well as the days when Christ was on earth. The same Spirit reaches on into the things to come, and He opens up unto us everything which God wants us to know about the things which God hath prepared for those who love Him. What a matchless pen picture found in Revelation 21:1-27 and Revelation 22:1-21 ! What a far-flung vision! And yet how real, how literal and how glorious is it all!
2. The Spirit shows us things to come. There are some who think the preacher should never proclaim the Bible's prophetic message. This is wrong. Paul said: "These things teach and exhort." Prophecy is the light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn. Yea, prophecy is the "more sure word," to which all do well to take heed.
VI. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SOULISH AND THE SPIRITUAL MAN (1 Corinthians 2:11-12 )
God now begins to elucidate the realm of the intellect and the realm of the Spirit, Let us notice them one at a time.
1. The realm in which the intellect may move. This is in 1 Corinthians 2:11 : "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." In other words, there is a sphere in which the soulish man may operate. He may know the things of men. He may know the things done under the sun.
There is therefore a place where philosophy may revel in self-content. In this realm the five senses, smelling, hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, all have their place and part.
2. The realm in which the spiritual may move. The last statement in 1 Corinthians 2:11 , is, "Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." These things are the things which are freely given us of God that we may know. We, therefore, who are of God have received not the wisdom of the world, or the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God.
These are the things which belong to the pulpit, to the preacher. Of these things Paul said, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth," This may not be acceptable with many, but it is acceptable with God, because it is of God. Here is the Divine statement: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
VII. THE MIND OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 2:16 )
1. The Lord knew what was in man. So we also, if we have the mind of Christ, will know what is in man.
2. The Lord knew the Father. So, if we have the mind of Christ, we may also know the Father. Jesus Christ said, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
3. The Lord knew the way to God. So may we also know the way to God. The Lord said, "The way ye know." Philip said, "We know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?" Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." There is a glory about the Christian's life into which many of us never enter. The Lord Jesus Christ wants to bring Himself, all He is, and all that He has, and make these a vital part in our lives.
We saw a young woman who was a skeptic, and she plainly told us that while she believed there was a God, she did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. We asked her if she were an honest skeptic. She said she was. We then requested that she should pray this prayer: "O God, I am a sinner, and if Jesus Christ is my Saviour, I confess my need, and I ask Him to come into my heart." The next day she told us that Jesus Christ did enter into her life, as plainly as we entered the front door of her home. She said, "You do not think me fanatic, do you?" I said, "Far from it. A woman teaching mathematics in college is hardly a fanatic." Then, with a plaintive look, she said, "Mr. Neighbour, I believe in Jesus Christ, as my Saviour, but I do not believe the Bible is inspired." We said, "Will you tell God that you reject your mind, your intellect?" She demurred at first. She said, "God gave me intellect, that with it I might think." We said, "Reject it, and ask God to think His thoughts through your mind." A day or two later she said to us, "Oh, it is so different! Everything that we couldn't understand in the Bible seems plain and clear. That which was impossible is possible." God had renewed her in the spirit of her mind. She had given her intellect to God, and He had quickened it with a knowledge Divine, and gave it back to her.
Paul's effacement of himself is thus beautifully set forth: They tell us a beautiful story of Turner, one of the world's master-painters. The incident happened at an exhibition in 1826. Turner's picture of Cologne far outshone anything else in the great hall, but on the morning of the opening of the exhibition when a friend of the great artist led a group of expectant critics up to look upon it in all its glorious wonder he was amazed to find that somebody had tampered with the canvas. The golden skies that had given it much of its splendor had been covered with a dull, dead color, and the picture was seemingly ruined. He ran in consternation to his friend and said, "Turner, what in the world has happened to your picture!" and the story is this:
The painting had been hung between two portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence but with an injurious effect upon them by reason of the exceeding brightness of the sky as painted by Turner on his canvas. Lawrence quite naturally complained, but for some reason it was impossible to make any change in the position, although the rules of the Academy gave to the artists the privilege of making any finishing touches on their pictures before the exhibition opened. In reply to the excited question by his friend, Turner whispered, "Oh, poor Lawrence was so unhappy. It's only lampblack. It'll all wash off after the exposition." The great artist had actually ruined his picture for the time of the exhibition by passing a wash of lampblack over the splendor of the whole sky and thus made his competitor's painting stand out in advantageous contrast with his own. "There is," said George Sands, "but one sole virtue in all the world, the eternal sacrifice of self," and the really great souls of the world are the unselfish ones.
W. E. B.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent