THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS IS ONLY FOOLISHNESS TO THOSE WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND THE COMING GLORY
Even though God is in the business of revealing truth to His chosen ones; never forget that the unsaved have no capacity to understand spiritual truth. This should actually be a tremendous encouragement to believers. We appreciate our privileged position of having been predestined to be blessed with an understanding of God’s program for salvation. We also have a better perspective on the blindness and opposition of the rulers of this age.
This section is part of the overall emphasis on the need for Christian unity. The Corinthian believers had been aligning themselves with different preachers on the basis of human wisdom criteria (who sounds most impressive, who speaks most eloquently, etc.) rather than focusing on the message of the gospel and the person of Christ. They needed insight into the true wisdom of God and how it operates.
Boyer: The contentious spirit which was being manifested in the church at Corinth was due to a wrong conception of the gospel. Evidently, they were thinking of the gospel as another of the philosophical movements of the day and were comparing it and its advocates with others as a type of rival philosophy. Paul has made clear that the gospel is far from being another philosophy. It is, in fact, foolishness. Now, however, he changes his approach. Actually, the gospel is not foolish at all. It is wisdom, but an entirely different kind of wisdom. He goes on to show in what sense the gospel is wisdom.
SIX INSIGHTS INTO THE WISDOM OF GOD AND ITS MYSTERY ASPECT
I. (:6A) GOD’S WISDOM IS ONLY APPRECIATED BY THOSE WHO ARE RECEPTIVE TO THE TEACHING MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
“Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature”
Wisdom – emphasized by position in the text (direct object of the verb placed first in the Greek sentence); this is what we speak – not the type of human wisdom that has no power (described in 2:1-5), but God’s Wisdom.
Telios – the perfected ones; having reached their end; Not perfect people;
Difficult issue to precisely pin down who comprises this group – obviously the unsaved Jews and Gentiles who regard the wisdom of God as foolishness are excluded;
1) are all the elect included here (since the context of the message preached is the cross of Christ – not some esoteric doctrines) cf. Charles Hodge, MacArthur, etc. or
2) some subset of telios believers (in contrast with those spoken of at the beginning of chap 3 — cf. 1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 3:15) = those who are submitted to the Spirit of God and thus able to receive the spiritual teaching which the Spirit of God seeks to communicate; in this context it would include all who are actively growing – even if they are fairly young in the faith – it has more to do with their heart attitude of allowing God’s Word to accomplish its intended goal in transforming their lives – I would favor this view in light of the direct context of Chap. 3. It should include all believers – but Paul is making the point that some believers are not responding to the Spirit like they should and therefore do not recognize the wisdom of God for what it is
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Piper: I think verse 13 gives the answer, but there is a translation problem here. The Revised Standard Version says, “We impart this (divine wisdom) in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit,” or more literally “to those who are spiritual.” If this is correct then the “mature” of verse 6 are explained as the “spiritual” of verse 13. We speak a wisdom among the mature, that is, we interpret the wisdom revealed by the Spirit to spiritual people. . .
A second reason I think v13 refers to spiritual people who are the same as the mature in v6 who receive God’s wisdom, is that in 3:1 “spiritual people” are contrasted with babes in Christ. “And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as to fleshly (or carnal), as to babes in Christ.” It is clear that being a babe is the opposite of being “mature.” But in 3:1 the opposite of being a babe is being “spiritual.” Therefore being mature and being spiritual are probably the same. So one answer to the question, Who can receive the wisdom of God which we speak? is the mature, that is, the spiritual. . .
He means a person who is led by the Spirit of God and bears the fruit of the Spirit. We know this from Galatians 5:16-6:1 . . .
This was a surprising discovery for me, namely, that the prerequisite for grasping the wisdom of God is not a certain level of intelligence, or education, or experience. The prerequisite is moral, not intellectual. It has as much to do with what you love as with what you think. Not education but sanctification is what makes one receptive to the wisdom we speak. Not natural ability but spiritual humility opens a person to the wisdom of God.
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The Apostle Paul proclaimed the exact same message of God’s Wisdom to everyone – the unsaved, the saved; the immature believer, the mature believer. He might have had a different emphasis – but it was always God’s Wisdom. But only the spiritually receptive believers could appreciate God’s wisdom. The same message can have different levels of meaning to different levels of maturity: a milk level and a solid food level.
There are many obstacles to receiving the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit:
– Fleshly and rebellious living
– Attraction to the things of this world which are enmity to God
– Failure to confess and turn away from sin
– Being hearers only of the Word of God and not doers
II. (:6B) GOD’S ETERNAL WISDOM BEARS NO CONNECTION TO THE TRANSITORY HUMAN WISDOM OF THIS TEMPORARY AGE
“a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away”
God’s Wisdom did not originate or develop from human wisdom; in fact it is not compatible at all with this age or world system. Therefore, you cannot expect to study philosophy or psychology or religion from the best intellectual thinkers of this age and thereby come to an understanding of God’s wisdom.
Goins: In verses 6-10a Paul lists four aspects of this wisdom of God. First, verses 6-7 say that the wisdom of God is eternal, not transitory. It doesn’t originate in this passing world, with the rulers of this age. It originated before time began in the mind of God. Human wisdom is transitory because, Paul says, its creators are passing away. One of the consistent characteristics of worldly wisdom is that it has a very short shelf life. The current thinking in psychology and sociology will soon be set aside for newer theories
Zeisler: To begin, what is the nature of the wisdom that is from God? God’s wisdom, says Paul in verse 6, is distinct in that it is unlike the wisdom of the “rulers of this age who are passing away.” The wisdom of the world is short-lived; it does not have any staying power. God’s wisdom, on the other hand, will never pass away, is the inference here. It is eternal; its truth will never fade but will grow more and more impressive with time.
III. (:7A) GOD’S WISDOM IS SOURCED ONLY IN GOD (AND MUST BE REVEALED BY HIM – as we will see later)
“but we speak God’s wisdom”
A. Preachers are a Channel for the Ongoing Communication of God’s Eternal Wisdom
B. But it is God’s Wisdom . . . not the Preacher’s
Emphatic placement of “God” before “wisdom” in the Greek here
IV. (:7B) GOD’S WISDOM HAS A BUILT-IN, TIME-DELAY MYSTERY COMPONENT
A. Mystery Aspect of God’s Wisdom
“in a mystery”
MacArthur: This term does not refer to something puzzling, but to truth known to God before time, that He has kept secret until the appropriate time for Him to reveal it.
Hodge: The word always means something into which men must be initiated; something undiscoverable by human reason. Whether its being undiscoverable arises from its lying in the future, or because hid in the unrevealed purposes of God, or from its own nature as beyond our comprehension, is not determined by the signification of the word, but is to be learned from the context.
B. Hidden Aspect of God’s Wisdom
“the hidden wisdom”
No longer hidden to God’s elect, but still hidden to those under the dominion of Satan for the god of this age has blinded their minds and hearts.
C. Eternal and Sovereign Aspect of God’s Wisdom
“which God predestined before the ages”
How can someone say they don’t believe in predestination?
This word stresses the plan of God and the sovereignty of God.
D. Glorification Aspect of God’s Wisdom
“to our glory”
Ellicott: “The Lord, whose essential attribute is glory”
God’s wisdom will ultimately conform us completely to the image of His Son – in love, in purity, in holiness.
Goins: The wisdom of God is for our glorification, our personal benefit. Glorification means to make us just like Jesus, to completely finish the process of sanctification. God’s wisdom was given to define for us who we were created to be. No matter what we feel like right now, finally, by the end of our lives, we will be the kind of people we want to be. We’ll be just as loving, merciful, patient, kind, strong, and self-controlled as Jesus. We’ll become glorified men and women, filled with the grace and beauty of Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate goal of salvation.
Grosheide: The glory of the believers is an essential part of God’s decree. Not only did God fix His wisdom, He also ordained that this wisdom would bring glory to us who are Christians. The rulers of the world, on the contrary, will perish.
V. (:8A) GOD’S WISDOM CANNOT BE COMPREHENDED BY HUMAN WISDOM (OR POWER OR WEALTH)
“the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood”
VI. (:8B) GOD’S WISDOM WILL BE VINDICATED BY THE RETURN OF THE LORD OF GLORY
“for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”
Zeisler: The wisdom of this world does not make good judgments about life. The wisdom of God, on the other hand, attributes worth to that which is truly worthy.
Johnson: Paul linked glory with the crucified Lord, an utter paradox to both Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23) who nonetheless unwittingly (Luke 23:34) took part in that central act of God’s plan of salvation.