Sunday, February 6, 2011

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

MasterPiece Church
06 February 2011

Slice a tomato and ask -- vegetable or fruit? Why is it fruit? (It develops from the ovary of the plant and has seeds.) But in the way we use it is more like a vegetable.

Here is a good saying: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that you don’t put a tomato in fruit salad.

Perhaps you have some favorite tidbits of wisdom or proverbs.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.
  • You can’t win if you don’t play...
  • Others?
Two Sundays ago we talked together about knowledge and wisdom. Last Sunday Daisy talked about wisdom. Are you starting to see a pattern or theme in 1 Corinthians? So, yes, this Sunday we’re going to talk about wisdom -- even more. Except we’re not talking about wisdom as it is conventionally understood. Wisdom is often seen as practical knowledge -- what to put fruit salad -- how to do things -- how to get along...

And the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is full of that kind of wisdom. There is nothing wrong with seeing wisdom that way. It’s great. I love the book of Proverbs perhaps more so than any other OT book. Street wisdom.

But that is not what Paul is talking about here in 1 Corinthians 2. Look for example at verse 6 --
“Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom...”

A little background -- Wisdom was kind of a code word or concept used by some of the people stirring up trouble in Corinth -- and they weren’t just telling people what to do or not do with tomatoes.

Their so-called wisdom was more along the lines of mysterious utterances that members of a secret society might pass along to one another from generation to generation.

Or perhaps it involved a secret ritual. You know that the city of Corinth housed a huge temple dedicated to the veneration of Aphrodite -- and there was sexual ritual associated with the temple as a means to gaining the secret wisdom or knowledge associated with Aphrodite (or Venus was her Roman name).

With this way of thinking the worshipper worked himself into an ecstatic state, speaking in mysterious tongues, and which culminated in a sexual act -- and in the midst of that -- supposedly occurred the impartation of a secret enlightenment or wisdom.

Had some of that kind of thinking worked its way into the new church? Backwash? We can’t really know for sure but I’m guessing that the wisdom and knowledge under discussion was of that nature -- so-called deeper experiential wisdom -- wisdom not really related to whether tomatoes belong in fruit salad.

And instead of blasting apart the advocates of the so-called deeper wisdom, Paul takes a more calculated approach and begins to speak their language. Except he spins it his way and infuses it with new and even deeper meaning.

In verses 1-5 he says “We didn’t come to you with a bunch of the fancy lofty words. We didn’t put on a knowledge show. We weren’t clever or cute -- not even particularly impressive by common standards. We more or less threw out human convention -- and trusted solely in the moving of the Spirit.”

That’s the kind of wisdom WE’VE got!

Verse 6, “Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.”

This isn’t pop wisdom -- the kind of stuff that you’d find in self-help books or on a motivational poster. No we’re looking at something deeper and more powerful -- might we even say, SOMETHING more mysterious?

Verse 7 -- “No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.”

You know, we’re really listening in on only one side of a phone conversation here -- but it seems clear that Paul sees his wisdom -- the wisdom of the gospel -- the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit -- as foundational wisdom.

We’re offering, he says, something which has its origins from before the world began. We’re talking about what God has been, is, and will be up to.

Now you might be thinking -- “ Okay, but really, I could use some fruit salad right now. And I’m trying to decide whether to include tomatoes. For me, that would be more helpful than knowing what God is up to. I’m not so sure how his plans concern me -- I’m feeling a bit hungry.”

But think about it for a moment -- wouldn’t it be nice to know the secrets of God, the one who created you -- and programmed you. Think of the edge you’d have by tapping into what he’s up to. Total insider information for the world.

And we are talking about the secrets of God. The off-track leaders in Corinth were offering wisdom to whoever would follow their exclusive system -- people who would send them three easy monthly payments of $19.95 each to receive the entire DVD set.

But Paul is countering and saying that God is offering his insider wisdom -- his superior secrets to the whole world -- that is, to everyone in the world who loves him.

Verse 10 (and here we’re getting to the really good part) -- “But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” -- his mysteries.

Well, what exactly is this deep secret that has been revealed? The mystery? The great truth which flows from the the depths of God himself?

Jump all the way back to verses 1 & 2 -- “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters I didn't use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

That’s it, right there -- the very thing which Paul says forms the core of his message to the Corinthians -- the very thing which he proclaimed openly and publicly. “Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified...”

Sometimes people copy little sayings of wisdom that click with them. You see Post-it® squares or refrigerator notes -- or even tag lines on email with tidbits of wisdom. Well, here’s the wisdom tag line for God’s email signature -- “Christ crucified.”

Are you surprised?

The death of Christ on the cross is the deepest mystery in the mind of God -- that through his death all of creation would be transformed -- that sin would be forgiven, that new life would be introduced.

The cross is at the center of all that God is doing.

If you’re reading Scot McKnight’s book One.Life with us perhaps you caught the paragraph near the end:
But in Golgotha (that is the place where the crucifixion took place) everything was destroyed. Or so it looked like everything was destroyed. Three days later Jesus was raised, and the cross morphed from an instrument of injustice into the place of grace. The cross, where Jesus bore the pain and sins of others became both a place of redemptive power and a model of discipleship. Our sins morph into his, our death morphs into his, our stories morph into his. And at the very same time his righteousness morphs into ours, his life morphs into ours, and his story morphs into our story.
That is, Christ crucified.

Of course, even today, if you were to make a big deal about the crucifixion of Christ as the fount and source of all wisdom and knowledge -- people would likely think you’re crackers, a quaint eccentric,or even in some cases -- a dangerous religious fanatic.

But Paul is saying, in all of its complexity there is nothing simpler or more basic about it -- life, purpose, wisdom... But like all mysteries -- all deep wisdom -- it does not necessarily make good sense upfront.

At first glance the tomato appears to be a vegetable. But when you open it up you see that it is fruit. At first glance the crucifixion of Christ appears to be a scandalous tragedy -- a wanton mistake. But when you open it up and look more closely you see that it is the fruit of all that God has been doing throughout history and throughout your entire life he has been leading you to the point where you
would embrace it as good news.

Chapter 1, verse 18 -- “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

How is it that through the scandalous death of the one person -- all people can reconnect with God? That’s not the kind of wisdom or mystery that people will “get” or grab onto with ease!!!

People will gladly pay good money for a self-help program that promises secrets to success in life -- as long as it doesn’t disrupt their lives too much. But the idea of a crucified savior is not only disruptive; it is downright disturbing!

Give me something I can do for myself or a secret handshake I can learn or a proven but untapped formula for success in attracting a mate, keeping a mate, making money, raising tomatoes... whatever. But don’t tell me that the secrets of the universe all revolve around the crucifixion of Jesus Christ -- that’s foolishness! At least at first glance.

There is no wisdom or knowledge greater or deeper than that which belongs to God -- AND it is freely available to us through our partnership with Christ the crucified. (key point)

You don’t have to buy an add-on to get it. And if you do buy an enhancement, it won’t do any good or won’t work because it’s not good enough or deep enough.
It is not rooted in God himself.

Vs. 13 -- “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.”

In other words, says Paul, I’m just passing along what God himself says about his deep spiritual truths.

Verse 14 -- “But people who aren’t spiritual” (that is those without a connection with Christ) “can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

That is, unless you are tuned into the Holy Spirit -- that’s what he means by “spiritual” -- unless you are tuned in, this wisdom, this mystery sounds like a lot of static -- a bunch of gibberish. However, in contrast, verse 15 -- “Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.”

That is, they don’t have any peers when it comes to their wisdom for they get their wisdom from God himself. They evaluate or judge all other forms of wisdom -- but they themselves are not evaluated in the same way. For, verse 16, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?”

The implication of course is nobody. He has no peers or superiors. Nobody can teach God. Nobody on their own can know what he’s thinking. You have to wait for him to reveal himself.

“But” -- end of verse 16, “...WE understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” AND THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS!

Because we are by faith connected -- in partnership with him, to borrow the language of 1:9 -- we understand him -- what he is thinking -- what he is about -- we are tapped into the wisdom and mysteries of his mind.

Do you remember Mr Spock in the old Star Trek? He could lay his hand on someone’s head and do a Vulcan mind-meld. He could enter into that person’s mind -- usually a painful experience for him.

Or Daphne, the 16-year-old in No Ordinary Family -- she has the super power ability of mind reading.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do mind reading. Sometimes I think I can read minds. You’re thinking -- “I wish that guy would hurry up and finish talking because I want to go home and watch all of the Super Bowl hype on TV.”

Well, what if you could read the mind of Christ -- the mind of God? Mind meld or super power or whatever -- what would you discover? The secret wisdom of God -- that’s what. And that secret wisdom is Christ crucified. And YOU HAVE IT!

You see, we do have the mind of Christ -- we can read his mind -- we can know the mystery -- the greatest wisdom. For there is no wisdom or knowledge greater or deeper than that which belongs to God -- and it is freely available to us through our partnership with Christ the crucified.

This morning we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The church in the Western part of the world has called the bread and cup a sacrament. In the Eastern Churches, however, they tend to use a different word to describe it all. They call the bread and the cup the “mysteries” -- for in the mysteries we encounter again the mystery of God -- Christ crucified. We taste and smell the wisdom of God.

This morning, as we prepare to do that we will be using the Apostles’ Creed as an affirmation of faith. The creed is important in that it gives us language to summarize that which all Christians believe and confess.

Take a look at it and I want to draw your attention to a few points because I know that some people are not familiar with it. The first thing I want you to see is that it is Trinitarian. It is divided into three sections -- each highlighting the activity of one of the members of the Trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Notice in the section on the Son that it says that he “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again.” Those lines are the highpoint of the creed -- and they briefly flesh out the point that Paul is making in our text this morning -- the great mystery of God’s wisdom -- the mind of Christ -- that is, Christ crucified.

And then finally I want you to note the phrase -- “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church...” The word “catholic” as used here does not refer specifically to the Roman Catholic Church. But it refers to the church universal -- that’s what the word catholic actually means -- all the believers in all time, and in all space, who trust and follow Christ -- the communion of saints.

And indeed when we share together in the bread and cup -- all who trust and seek to follow Christ the crucified are invited to participate. We don’t have age restrictions -- but we do ask that you come in faith -- regardless of how much or how developed your faith in Christ is.

Let’s join together with the Christians throughout the ages in affirming our faith, using the words of the Apostles’ Creed.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again
to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

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