“I do not believe that a single thought of God ever enters into man’s mind by intellect. It is always by conscience, not by intellect.”
- The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Salvation (1:17-31)
- The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Teaching and Preaching (2:1-5)
- The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Understanding (2:6-16)
- The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Service (3:1-17)
The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Salvation (1:17-31)
The Ministry of the Apostle Paul (v.17)
When Paul says "Christ sent me not to baptize" he is contrasting his special commission with that of the twelve. The twelve were commissioned by a risen Christ on earth; "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19). Baptism makes us disciples in the kingdom, which is connected with this earth. When Paul was called, a new order of things began that was heavenly in character. He was "sent" (that is what 'apostle' means) by a risen Christ in heaven, not on the earth (the Jewish hope). It isn't that Paul didn’t baptize, or didn’t understand baptism. In fact, no one explains baptism more profoundly than Paul; read Rom. 6, Gal. 3, and Col. 2. But that was not the focus of Paul's ministry. There are only two outward Christian ordinances: baptism and the Lord's Supper. This second ordinance is what Paul received in a special way from Christ; "For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, etc." (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Both baptism and the Eucharist speak of Christ's death, but one has to do with individuals in the kingdom, the other collective for the Church of God. Baptism is connected more with this earth and has no part in Paul's ministry; he came to preach the Gospel.He was careful to insure that his preaching was not done in a fleshly way. If Paul were to bring human wisdom into his ministry it would nullify the cross. Why? You can’t borrow resources from the flesh to preach the end of the flesh. He goes on to explain in vv.18-25.
The Cross of Christ (vv.18-25)
- vv.19-20 First, he draws out a principle from the Old Testament; the illustration of Israel under attack by the Assyrian, to show two paths and their outcomes: to rely on human wisdom, and to rely on the Word of God.
- v.21 Secondly, Paul brings the same two principles forward into the New Testament and applies them to the preaching of the cross.
The Sovereign Call of God (vv.26-29)
- “Wise“, that is intellectual and well educated
- “Mighty“, that is wealthy or political
- “Noble“, that is important or of high social status.
The Believer’s Standing “in Christ” and Its Associated Blessings (vv.30-31)
- Entrenchment of the left. It stirred up the liberals to be more consistent and biblical in their theology; thus the formulation of Covenant Theology as a systematic framework.
- Over-correction of the right. Many false cults and Adventist groups (ultra-right) emerged taking many away from orthodox Christian doctrine.
- Romans – the cross and its essential meaning,
- 1 & 2 Corinthians – clearing away the muck of liberalism (Greek mind),
- Galatians – clearing away the mire of legalism (Jewish mind),
- Ephesians & Colossians – revealing the wisdom of God in a Mystery!
The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Teaching and Preaching (2:1-5)
- v.2 The premise of the message… that man is nothing, Christ is everything.
- v.3 The posture of the messenger… in weakness and trembling.
- v.4 The procedure of its delivery… by demonstration, not oration.
- v.5 The purpose of the whole operation… to establish souls in the Word of God.
- Getting a famous worldly person (e.g. a football player) to market the truth.
- Using techniques that play on the emotions.
- Using music or special effects to stir up the emotions.
- Measuring success by head count, and the size of collections.
5 that your faith might not stand in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. v.5 The purpose. If Paul had used human wisdom in his presentation, the people’s faith would rest on human wisdom… a very flimsy foundation. But instead, he left all that aside and taught by the power of the Spirit. The result? The recipient can rest on the convicting power of the Word of God. If we are convinced by intellectual arguments without our conscience engaged, we may go on for a time, but then will be turned aside by another more convincing argument. A true teacher wants his hearers to be settled in their souls because God said it.
The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Understanding (2:6-16)
God’s Wisdom Hidden in the Mystery (vv.6-7)
The Impossibility of the Natural Man Learning the Wisdom of God (vv.8-9)
- The Eye – learning through observation. Man can look around him at creation, at his fellow man, but he will never learn anything of the wisdom of God. A good example of this was Eliphaz (Job 2:11) who seemed to get his understanding of the world through his own experiences. It is possible to learn something of God from creation (Rom. 1:20) but never the wisdom of God in the Mystery.
- The Ear – learning through tradition. Man ascribes value to myths and folklore that is passed down. Even the Jews placed more value on their traditions than on the Word of God (Matt. 15:3). A good example of this was Zophar (Job 2:11) who lived by principles passed down to him in a legal way.
- The Heart – learning through intuition. Man can listen to his own mind, and fashion a view of God based on the imaginations of his heart… but it will be a distorted view. He can listen to his conscience, but it will never yield an understanding of the wisdom of God. A good example of this was Bildad (Job 2:11) who spoke through his conscience.
Step #1: Revelation by the Spirit (vv.10-12)
Step #2: Inspiration by the Spirit (v.13)
Step #3: Illumination by the Spirit (vv.14-16)
The Futility of Man’s Wisdom in Service (3:1-17)
Carnality Manifests itself in Divisions (3:1-4)
- A fleshly appetite. Inability to digest spiritual meat.
- A fleshly attitude. Strife and division between brethren.
- Emulation. A competitive spirit between people manifested by each trying to out-do the other, or imitate the other’s actions. Of the two, this is the more subtle character.
- Strife. Open conflict or disagreement over issues. This is the more blatant of the two characters. Usually when strife is manifested, emulation has been going on under the surface.
- To deal with emulation (a spirit of competition) Paul explains that the Assembly is God’s husbandry (vv.5-9), and therefore the servants are not to be exalted or followed.
- To deal with strife (a spirit of conflict) Paul explains that the Assembly is God’s building (vv.10-17), and therefore fleshly things in the Assembly will come under the scrutiny and judgment of God.
The Assembly is God’s Husbandry (3:5-9)
The Assembly is God’s Building (3:10-17)
The Foundation and the Importance of How We Build (vv.10-12)
Good Work and Bad Work – Tried By Fire (vv.12-15)
Two Facts that Guard Against Carelessness in the House of God (vv.16-17)
- God Himself inhabits the assembly as His Temple.
- God’s Temple is holy and He will destroy those who defile it.
- The Gainer. This is a true workman who builds according to the wisdom of God. He will receive reward! Corresponds to “the spiritual man”.
- The Loser. This is a true workman who builds according to the wisdom of this world. He will suffer loss. Corresponds to “the carnal man”.
- The Defiler. This is a false workman who purposefully introduces destructive doctrines into the Christian profession. Corresponds to “the natural man” only he is worse, because he maligns the truth.
- Desiring to confine ourselves to Jesus crucified, in the way it is urged, is, I repeat, to confine ourselves to as little as possible of Christianity. In Hebrews 6 the apostle says, he is unwilling to do what they would make him say in this place; he altogether condemns that which is urged upon us. “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” says he, “let us go on unto perfection.” – Darby, J.N. The Hopes of the Church of God. Lecture 11. Geneva, 1840.