God's Secret Wisdom

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"Knowledge is power" so wrote Francis Bacon, if that is true that certainly we are amongst the most powerful beings to have ever walked the earth. Knowledge has never been so accessible. We're the Google generation; just a few clicks of my mouse took me to this: [ppt slide of the busyness of each of the Britain's train stations].

Not the most interesting set of data I'll grant you but it certainly illustrates the point. Data, mere knowledge isn't enough though we want wisdom, a wisdom that will allow us to live better lives, to be happy, to gain power, to satisfy our dreams and passions. The world around us is happy to try and offer us that 'wisdom', we're bombarded by it everyday from the very blunt: [ppt slide of self-help books]

To the more subtle preaching of our news media…[ppt slide of newspaper]…and entertainment industries: [ppt slide of Hollywood]

Ironically in a culture which abhors the idea of being preached at we are only too happy to allow the TV, books, the newspaper, the blog, the cinema to preach at us for hours at a time. All this in the search for wisdom; wisdom that will provide us with meaning, or happiness, or status, or power.

Now in 1 Corinthians 2.6-10a Paul starts talking about a new 'wisdom'. If you've been here over the past few weeks you might find that surprising, Paul has spent the last chapter systematically attacking 'wisdom'. So it comes as something of a surprise then when Paul begins this section in v6 by saying;

'We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature…'

Paul is beginning a section which will end claiming that Christians have not just a form of wisdom but the very mind of Christ. You'll have to wait until next week for that though, this morning we'll content ourselves with three things that Paul teaches us as he turns upside down our ideas about wisdom, totally redefining it:

1. God's Wisdom is revealed

2. God's Wisdom is Spiritual

3. God's Wisdom leads to glory

We're on p805, 1 Corinthians 2.6 if you're not there already.

1. God's Wisdom is revealed

True wisdom comes from God not us. The first distinction Paul makes between the worlds' 'wisdom' and the wisdom he speaks is locational; its source is God not man.

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…

skip to v10

… 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The wisdom Paul proclaims is one that has been hidden, it is only available because, v10 tells us; God has revealed it to us. Paul isn't claiming that he has discovered a grand unify theory which explains the universe by his great intellect or spiritual insight. No, he's simply the messenger bringing a wisdom which God has chosen to reveal.

Paul is moving wisdom's centre of gravity away from us and toward God. God is both the source of wisdom and the one who makes wisdom known.

Allow me to illustrate; earlier I showed you a slide showing the busyness of every train station in Britain. I could've claimed that I spent last summer collecting this data from each train station and that I have such brainpower that I can instantly recall the comparative busyness of each. I would be lying though and hopefully you would think enough of me to spot that. The more truthful answer is the source of this data was The Guardian's datablog website and that I accessed them via a Google search.

Paul says that it is similarly impossible for man to claim he has a grasp on wisdom; he is neither the source of wisdom nor is he able to access the source on his own. It's like a fly trying to grasp astrophysics or a clay pot questioning its maker about its design. We need God to reveal himself the source of knowledge to us. God is too far above us, too beautiful, too incredible, too holy, too vastly incomprehensible for us to know without his help.

The wonderful news and the reason why Paul can bring this 'message of wisdom' is that God has chosen to make himself known to us. He has done this through his creation, through the prophets and finally and comprehensively through his son; Jesus Christ in whom all the fullness of God dwells and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2.3)

For Paul the Cross of Christ is wisdom. It's the ultimate display of God's passionate love for us held in tension with his furious holiness which cannot look at our sin. The Cross is the framework which underpins Paul's understanding of what true wisdom is. It is the centrepiece of God's glorious plan to rescue a people for himself, the place where the full beauty of God's holiness and mercy are revealed to us and also the place where God makes it possible for us to know him.

So what does this mean for us? Two things:

1. Humility –We are not the source of wisdom, God is. We seek God's wisdom rather than our own. So we preach simply, from a text in the bible and we trust that God will, by the Holy Spirit, reveal himself to us. That should be reflected in the songs we sing, the courses we run, even the architecture of this building. We lay our agendas down, we submit, we obey God's commands because they are wonderful and wise.

2. Praise - We praise and thank God for choosing to reveal himself to us, for allowing us to glimpse his majesty, his purity, his otherness. We glory in the way that he has done this; by sending his Son to earth, to die, for us.

2. God's Wisdom is Spiritual

Paul has already made clear this message of wisdom is from God, he is both the source and the one who reveals true wisdom. He does so spectacularly, by sending his Son to death on a cross. Wisdom is not an intellectual quest or a test of our insight into the human condition. No, wisdom is a moral response to Christ Crucified.

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.

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.

8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Paul says that he is bringing this message of wisdom to those who are mature. So if you're under 30 you might as well leave now! Of course that's not what Paul means, the word 'mature' can also be translated 'perfect', we might as well all leave then! What's Paul getting at? Verse 1 of chapter 3 helps us;

1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly— mere infants in Christ.

The immature, those that are 'mere infants' are the worldly, those whose understanding is limited to the material world, to questions of power, money, status and who quarrel over these things. It's the attitude of the Corinthians in chapter 1 divisive and power hungry, concerned about their own reputation rather than the truth.

And this is not merely a difference of opinion, a different but equally valid way of seeing the world. No Paul says those who don't follow this wisdom, they crucified Christ, v8:

8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The difference between the spiritually mature and the rulers of this age is not greater intellect, not in having discovered a better way of viewing the world. The real difference is in how an individual responds to Jesus. That's the key question; 'What will you do with Jesus'. The rulers of this age, those who were powerful in Corinthian society, they were the very people who put Christ to death. Paul says don't chase after the wisdom of those who killed the Lord of Glory, they don't have anything worth saying. They've missed the point.

It's a bit like the advice that you get when you're sitting exams. Remember what they said about writing an essay – 'make sure you answer the question', if you're a teacher you'll know the painful experience of sitting down to mark an essay full of interesting points and well developed arguments but has nothing to do with the question that has been asked.

That's what Paul is saying to the Corinthians, answer the question; 'Who is Jesus?'. There are many types of wisdom of knowledge, many things that are true, good and beautiful but they all fall under this big question; 'Who is Jesus?'; is he the Lord of glory who brings us into relationship with the living God or is he nothing they're the two options.

It's not just a question for those weighing up Christianity, it's a question for each of us daily; is Jesus my Lord, is he the defining thing in my career, family, politics, sexuality? We read Psalm 111 together earlier, we said;

10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom

The wise are those who have at their very centre a right understanding of who God is. Wisdom begins with God, he is the source of it therefore we must respond rightly to him and to his Son, not just intellectually knowing who Jesus claimed to be but to daily claim him as Lord, those who love him, that's who the promises in v9 are made to;

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him

We must respond with our hearts to Jesus before our minds can be wise. We need God's help to do that, Paul's just been reminding the Corinthians in the first few verses of this chapter that their first response to the Gospel wasn't due to wise and persuasive words but by a 'demonstration of the Spirit's power', God's grace not Paul or the Corinthians intellect allowed them to respond to Christ.

We need God to give us faith to recognise Jesus as Lord. Three practical implications of that:

1. Answer the question – 'Who is Jesus?'. Do what you need to, to answer that question. CE, take 'Case for Christ'. Speak to one of us.

2. Prayer – If true wisdom isn't purely a matter of understanding of education, if it's a response from the heart. If we believe that then we will pray;

- We'll pray for those who don't yet call Jesus, Lord

- We'll pray for ourselves that our hearts would respond to the king of glory in repentance, obedience and faith.

3. Holiness – If wisdom comes from the heart as well as the head then we will need to look after it. We need to guard our hearts, to fight sin and pursue holiness. Robert Murray McSheyne a powerfully used, Scottish preacher said that his congregation's greatest need was his own personal holiness.

3. God's Wisdom leads to Glory

So this wisdom is different locationally; it comes from God and it's understood not intellectually but spiritually by responding to Jesus. The third difference is where this wisdom leads to. The end of God's wisdom is glory; unimaginable brilliance, joy and satisfaction. Paul says that the wisdom of this age is coming to nothing but v9:

… No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—

Paul sets his sights again on the false wisdom of the rulers of this age. He says in v6 that they and their wisdom is coming to nothing. It's the same word that Paul uses in 1.28;

28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are

The wisdom of this age has a limited life span, it is fading away – like entropy in the end it will all dissolve. We experience this all the time, the frustration that our world is held in. Education, science, technology, philosophy can be wonderful but they have their limits. They haven't and they can't provide a lasting or complete solution because they don't deal with our hearts, nor with our position before our creator. Jesus is coming back and he will judge, he will judge the wisdom of this age, those who have chosen power and status above good.

The end for those who respond to this message of wisdom is very different though; it's beyond imagining, beyond our comprehension. This end will not pass away it is eternal, it's life with our creator, it's true humanity – being who we truly are free from the desires that lurk in our hearts toward selfishness, lust or greed. It's freedom from disappointment, from depression, from being let down. It's everything made new, no more pain, no more suffering only deep, lasting joyful fulfilment as we do what we were always meant to do – enjoy and glorify God – it's our chief end.

The problem is it's difficult to get our minds around, to grasp. Allow me to customise a C.S.Lewis quote to show you what I mean, he said:

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

I think that gets the sense of what Paul means when he says what we sung earlier:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him

How can a child who has never seen the sea know what a holiday there would be like? But what if they could see, what if they had stowed away somewhere a old photograph of the seaside, could they begin to imagine. What if they were given just a taste of ice cream could they begin to imagine what it would be like to eat one every day in the sun, perhaps.

Paul isn't setting us an impossible task; this isn't some mystical quest to El Dorado. Paul says that we can know this wisdom will end in glory, how by looking at the cross and the king of glory, that's who was crucified not just a man, but the God-man; Jesus, the King of glory. It's on the cross where this wisdom works itself out, where we see apparent weakness triumph. The mystery long hidden emerges from it enigma and into glorious light, as the stone is rolled away and the king of glory rises.

1. Look at Christ - He is God's wisdom displayed. Our certain hope of coming glory

2. Live counter-culturally - According to the wisdom of the Cross. Implications for media we consume, time/money we spend, the way we think about everything.

For:

'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him'

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