Christians and Wisdom: Part 1 of 6 (series: Lessons on 1 Co.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

September 1, 2012
Lessons on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 2.5: Christians and Wisdom
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2.6-2.16

1 Cor 2.6-16 (KJV)
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
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.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 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.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
Howbeit we speak wisdom

“Howbeit” is an archaic word that we no longer use, which means “nevertheless”. Here it is used to connect this verse with the verses that precede it, so when they are joined together we read: “…That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God; nevertheless we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

There were among the Gentiles wise philosophers who considered the Gospel foolishness; and although the apostle, with tongue in cheek, had called the Gospel ministry the foolishness of preaching, and the foolishness of God, and even though he had decided for wise reasons, to mete it out in a plain and simple manner, without the trappings of human wisdom; nevertheless he absolves it from the charge of foolishness. He proved it was not foolishness, but wisdom, which he and his fellow ministers preached, and that it was the highest kind of wisdom, and that when the Holy Spirit went along with it there was power to change the hearts of men.

among or with
them that are perfect:
Who are “them that are perfect”? They are adults with good sense and maturity, as opposed to babes and children; they are men and women who have their understandings enlightened by the spirit of wisdom and revelation; who can tell the difference between divine and human wisdom; and who is perfect in a comparative sense, having more spiritual knowledge and understanding than others. However, there is no one, past, present or waiting to be born, that are absolutely perfect in the knowledge they own; and those that know the most only know part of what can be known. Now, it is to such as these that the Gospel appears to be the highest wisdom. But we should not think that the apostle and the other Gospel ministers preached the more awe-inspiring precepts of the faith to a select set of persons that had more judgment and a better understanding of things than others; because, if this was the apostle's meaning, he might be thought to allude to a custom among the Jews, to deliver the inspiring things of the law, only to persons with such and such qualifications. Therefore, they did not permit anyone under the age of thirty to read the first chapter of Genesis and the visions of Ezekiel until thirty years of age; and they took from the Pythagoreans their notion of declaring their mysteries only to the “teleioi”, which is the word used here for "perfect ones." But, that is not what the apostle means, because he preached the Gospel to the “perfect ones,” and to everyone that had the least degree of spiritual knowledge, because the Gospel itself was wisdom.

Some believe this clause refers to things, and not to persons. The Arabic version reads, "we speak wisdom concerning things that are perfect"; which the things of the Gospel are; things such as a bountiful redemption, perfect righteousness, full pardon, total satisfaction, and complete salvation and happiness:
yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

The wisdom of this world is that system of knowledge which the Jews concocted from the writings of their scribes and doctors. Paul is alluding to this present world; not to the world to come; that is, the days when the Messiah will reign as King of kings, and Lord of all. Whether we understand this to have reference to the knowledge of the Gentiles, which was expressed in the perfect elocution of its philosophers, or the knowledge of the Jews, who had made the word of God of no effect by their traditions, which contained a kind of learning they were very proud of. But one thing can be said with certainty about this Grecian and Jewish wisdom; no soul ever could have arrived at such knowledge or wisdom as that communicated by the Gospel of Christ. This was perfect wisdom; and they who were thoroughly instructed in it, and had received the grace of the Gospel, were termed, the perfect. This, says the apostle, is not the wisdom of this world, because that wisdom has never manifested the Messiah.

By “The princes of this world” is meant the rulers or leading men of the Jews, Greeks and Romans; those that are wiser, richer, or mightier than other men—the philosophers among the Greeks, or the rabbis among the Jews. They had not devised or learned this divine wisdom, and they didn’t care for it, since they couldn’t comprehend its wisdom.

Are coming to naught ...
The subject of this clause is "the rulers of this world"; but the meaning is not restricted to the rich and powerful people such as governors and emperors. Paul had in mind all of those who set the pattern for this world, including the leaders in the fields of science and art. Naught is another archaic word, meaning “nothing.” The rulers or leading men of this world came to nothing; or today we would say “they amounted to nothing.” The proof of what Paul said here came within a few years when the Jewish state, Jerusalem, and the temple were utterly destroyed in 70 A.D. This could also be said about the Roman Empire, since that mighty empire eventually sank under the ravages of the invading hordes of barbarians. The ruin of Grecian superstition and mythology soon followed. But it is also true of all history. If human wisdom had any genuine merit, the destruction of war, famine, and deadly disease might be controlled; but every generation has fulfilled its destiny of proving that "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Therefore, human wisdom stands condemned in the very areas where it might be thought to be effective. And beyond that, "Man's knowledge cannot bring about the redemption of the race."

This pronouncement of the apostle is prophetic.

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

But we speak the wisdom of God
The apostle says that his preaching contains the Wisdom of God, because the Gospel didn’t begin in the mind of any man; it began in the mind of God, before He created the world. Man doesn’t have the capacity to design such an amazing plan, and when it was first revealed by the Holy Spirit only a small group of men were informed. Furthermore, the wise politicians didn’t vote on it or form a committee to study and oversee it; the learned philosophers and Rabbis didn’t teach it; and there is no evidence that human wisdom was involved with any part of it; not with designing it, or publicizing it. But in a way, these types of men did have a hand in bringing the Gospel to the people, since they were the “bad example” that Jesus constantly used to symbolize what religion is not. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection; it is Christ crucified and all of this is The Wisdom of God, because it is the sole product of divine wisdom. There is a glorious display of God’s wisdom in those doctrines that the world calls foolishness; such as, salvation by a crucified Christ, justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and satisfaction by his sacrifice.

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