About Jesus       Steve Sweetman

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Chapters 2:8 to end of chapter 3

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ch. 2:6-16     ch. 3:1-23

Wisdom From The Spirit  (ch.2:6:16)


Even though Paul says that he did not come to Corinth with words of great worldly wisdom, we must realize that he himself was a very educated man.  He could stand side by side with any of the educated men or the philosophers  in the city.  It was his choice to only discuss things of the Lord Jesus, the cross and His resurrection.  Once again, this is what he meant when he said, “I resolved to know nothing … but Jesus Christ…” 


In verse 6 Paul balances what he has said concerning wisdom.  Though he did not get into great discussions with the educated in Corinth, he did “speak a message of wisdom among the mature”.  When in mature Christian circles Paul did not leave his sanctified intelligence at home.  Paul used great wisdom in the things he said, which is quite evident in this letter.


So Paul did speak intellectually “but not with the wisdom of this age…” (ch. 2:6)  It is quite clear that Paul distinguished between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom from God.


It is important to note at this stage how wisdom and intellect go together.  Godly wisdom with a sanctified intellect go a long way in teaching the truths of God.  We need to know how, why, and when to share what we know.                 


In verse 7 Paul defines a little bit of this heavenly wisdom that he is talking about.  Paul calls this wisdom a “secret wisdom that has been hidden”.  This wisdom was in the mind of God “before time began”, and was hidden from past rulers, for if they had of understood this wisdom “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”.  It is clear that the term "past rulers" refers to the Jewish rulers, as well as the Roman rulers. 


Though this wisdom was a secret from worldly man, this secret was reserved to be revealed to us and “to our glory”.  Paul quotes from Isa. 64:4 where the prophet says that “eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him”.  You can clearly see that God has hidden certain truth from the general population of this world.  Yet Paul does not stop here. He says in verse 10 that “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit”.  The great wisdom of salvation is now available to those who accept this salvation, and it comes through the Holy Spirit.  This wisdom cannot be attained by human reasoning.  It comes only by the Spirit of God.  In actuality the Holy Spirit deposits His truth into our hearts and into our minds.  He transforms our thinking processes.  This is why Paul can speak with great wisdom using the intellect that God has given him. 


Paul continues by saying that “the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God”.  Paul explains his point by saying that only the spirit of a man knows what is in the mind of a man.  The same with God.  Only the Spirit of God knows  what is in the mind of God.  The fortunate thing is that we have the Spirit of God within us.  As a result we can know the deep things of God, the secret things of God, as He decides to tell them to us.  I say, “as He decides to tell us” because many crazy thoughts and ideas have come to Christians that they claim are from the Spirit of God and clearly aren’t.  Many people have used this verse to support all sorts of weird teaching.  This should not be the case.


In verse 12 Paul says that we have received the Spirit of God “so that we can understand what God has freely given to us”.    This qualifies somewhat what kind of wisdom that Paul is speaking about in these verses.  Paul is not suggesting, since we have the Holy Spirit that we can know everything there  is to know about God.  The things that the Spirit shows us are the things that “God has freely given us”.  What has He freely given us?  He has freely given us salvation.  So the secret truths that God is now revealing to us concerns our salvation.  This narrows things down considerably.  So if someone comes to you saying that God told them that there are living creatures on Jupiter, then you might not accept that is the truth, because such knowledge has nothing to do with our salvation.


The Holy Spirit teaches us these truths, “expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (ch. 2:13). Paul goes on to say, “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. (ch. 2:14)  How true this is.  The world simply does not understand the things of the Christian life.  They do not properly understand what the Bible is all about.  They can’t understand because they do not have the Holy Spirit within them to shed light on these things.


The Greek word “anakrino” is translated as “judgement” in verse 15.  This word means, “examine, investigate, or question”.   The verse says, “the spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment”.  What Paul is saying is that the spiritual man, because he has the Holy Spirit is capable of investigating, questioning, or examining all things.  We as Christians are capable of Godly discernment when we are in tune with the Holy Spirit.  At the same time, no man can properly discern or examine us, because he does not understand anything concerning the Holy Spirit.  This is what Paul is saying.  It sounds pretty exclusive and not politically correct in our day, but this is what he tells us.


Paul closes this chapter by saying, “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.”   Paul asks, “who knows the mind of the Lord?”  He answers by saying that we can know the mind of the Lord because we have His Spirit.  The world cannot know God’s mind because they do not have His Spirit.  Yet so often you see the world talking about Christian things as if they are experts.  The world often talks about God these days as though they were experts.  Once again, the things we can learn from the mind of God relate to our salvation.  This should end much of the weird things that people often come up with that they claim are from God.  


On Divisions In The Church (ch. 3:1-23)


Paul begins this chapter by telling his readers that he could not address these people as “spiritual but as worldly”.  Now this is interesting.  Paul has just told these people that Christians are spiritual because they have God’s Spirit living in them and that they are capable to judge and discern.  Yet now he tells the Corinthians that he can‘t talk to them as if they are spiritual.  He has to “feed them milk”, not solid food.  They are still babies in Christ. 


Paul tells these people, that though they are Christians, they are worldly, “because there is jealousy and quarrelling among them”.  This means then that they are not capable of properly discerning the Lord’s will as they should be.  This means that even though they are saved, they are not much different than the sinner in respect to knowing God’s will for their lives and for their church.


He continues to say that these people are “mere men” because they have factions, because some follow Paul, some follow Peter and so on.  Does this not sound a little like the modern church?  Would Paul call us worldly today?  Would this be why it is so hard for us as individuals and as churches to really know and understand God’s will.  It is clear to me from this passage, that most church groups today aren't really in the will of God.  I'm not saying that God doesn't use them.  I'm sure He does despite of us, yet if Paul says that factions hinder us from doing God's will, then our factions today will do just that.


It appears that we can be saved, we can be Christians, yet act like worldly sinners at the same time.  Of course, we do not reap the Godly benefits from the lifestyle that we have chosen.  This results in not understanding God’s ways for us and being a very poor witness to those we need to share Jesus with.  In my thinking, this is one reason why the church does not see the power of God as it did in the first generation church.   


The opening paragraph of chapter 3 does not speak well of the Corinthian church.  Paul calls the church worldly.  He says they are baby Christians.  He calls them “mere men”, when in fact they should have been “spiritual men”.  The reason for these negative comments is because of the quarreling based on factions.  We will see other problems in later chapters, but for now Paul is quite unhappy with the church being divided, but he still calls this group a church.  .


Once again, as Paul did in the last chapter he asks a couple of questions.  “What, after all, is Apollos?  What is Paul?”  (ch. 3:5)  Paul answers his question by saying that they were only “servants through whom you came to believe”.  This says something about Paul’s thinking concerning church leadership.  Paul believes that church leaders should be servants, not “superstars”.  Paul looked for loyalty in his churches, but he did not want an over emphasis on the importance of the church leader.  That is to say, church leaders lead as servants.  They themselves are subject to the Lord and His Word.  The proper role of leadership is a big subject and we will not discuss it in this context. 


In verse 6 Paul explains how being a servant works.  He says that some plant the seed, while others water the seed, but it is the Lord Himself that makes the seed grow into a full grown plant.  So give credit to where credit is due, and in this case credit should go to Jesus who performs the miraculous.  Planting and watering is not miraculous.  It is simple manual labour, and many of us don't even do that.  If that is the case, how can the Lord provide the miracle when we haven't done our part.  I often remember the last verse of the book of Mark.  My paraphrase to this Scripture is, “we as Christians go out  and do the manual labour by preaching the gospel, but the Lord Jesus confirms our words by miraculous works”.  We do the manual labour and the Lord provides the spiritual ability needed.  Like Paul says here.  Some water and some plant, while the Lord causes growth.  We must realize our place in the process, and not elevate our place above where it should be.


In verse 8 Paul tells his readers that both those who plant and those who water “have one purpose”.  They are working in harmony with each other to see the plant grow.  They are planting and watering for no other reason than to see a healthy plant.  His tells me that no one is higher than the other.  No one's job is more important.  Our jobs are equal, all part of a total effort for Jesus' sake.


Each person will be rewarded for what they do, Paul says.  This tells you something.  We are saved by God's grace alone, not by anything we do.  Yet we are rewarded for the good works that we do that are a true result of our trust in Jesus.  Works that we perform for any other reason are not rewarded for.  They will be burned with fire, as we will see later.


Paul says in verse 9 that the Corinthians “are God’s field, and we are God’s co-workers”.  Paul, Apollos, and Peter were just simple farm hands working in the field.  Remember Paul is saying these things to put church leaders in proper perspective.  They should not be elevated to a height beyond where they should be.  This does not mean that we should not honour our leaders.  Paul speaks to this issue in some of his other letters.  Yet these people were making “superstars” of the particular leader they liked and quarreling over this, causing major divisions.  This sounds a little like today’s church to me.


Now I have used the term “simple farm hand”.  In one sense Paul, Peter and Apollos were simple farm hands, at least when you compare them to the Farm Owner.  Yet at the same time Paul says he was an “expert builder”.  He has just used an analogy of growing plants, and now he switches to an analogy of building a building.  Many people are involved in building a building.  All have the same purpose, and that is to finish the job.  They are not competing for attention.  They just want to see the job finished, and finished right.  Paul says that the only way this can happen is by the “grace of God”. (ch. 3:10)  As a result Paul gives a warning.  He says that “each one should be careful  how he builds”.


Continuing with the building theme, Paul speaks about the foundation of the building as Jesus Himself and that there is to be no other foundation.  Paul is not the foundation.  Peter is not the foundation.  For us today, no Christian leader or non Christian leader is the foundation.  Paul is exclusive in his thinking.  Only Jesus is the foundation of this building that we are a part of as Christians.


From verses 12 to 16 Paul speaks of a coming day of judgment when all of our works will be tried and tested by fire.  He says, “if any man build on this foundation…”, meaning the foundation of Jesus, “using gold silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his works will be shown for what it is”.  He says that the fire will “test the quality” of the work done by the builders.  It is clear then that those who work in the church, work to build the building use different material in their work.  The gold, silver and costly stones represent work that is done from pure motives.  Such work will be rewarded for in a positive way from Jesus in the next life.  Yet the work that is represented by wood, hay and straw are works done with improper motives.  These works may indeed benefit the church, but they will not reap any good result to the builder.  Many things are done in the name of the Lord, yet for the wrong reasons.  Many may teach, preach, sing, or serve in any capacity to be seen, somewhat like the Pharisees.  These people’s works will be destroyed on the day of judgment, even though they themselves will be saved.  Then for those who have served because they truly want to follow Jesus, their works will stand the test of fire, resulting in a reward from the Lord.  Remember, this has nothing to do with your salvation.  This has all to do with good works after we are saved.  In verse 16 Paul says, “he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames”. 


In verse 16 Paul asks, “don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you”?  I believe in this verse Paul is speaking of the temple as being the church as a whole, not individuals in the church.  He will speak later as individuals being the temple of God.  In this context Paul is talking about the church, the building of God.  The church is where God lives.  We are His temple.            


Anther reason why the temple being spoken of here is the

Community of Christ in Corinth , that is, the church as a whole, is that the pronoun "you" is plural in the Greek.  It's not a singular pronoun.  You are the temple thus means that you, the church, is the temple.  You don't see the plural as easily in English here as you do in the Greek, but I believe if you study the context you'd see "you" should be understood as plural.  


“If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him”, Paul adds.  Paul takes the gold silver, costly stones, wood, hey and straw point one step further here.  You have people doing good works for good motives.  You have others doing good works for wrong motives.  And now you have people doing bad works, that is doing things to destroy the church, the temple of God.  Paul says that God will not look very favorably on those who do such works.  This thought is interesting in light of the present movement to exclude the church from society and government.  God will not look favorably on the society that attempts to destroy the church, just as God doesn't look favorably on those who oppose Israel.         


Verse 17 is also interesting in light of how so many have destroyed the true nature of the church throughout the last two thousand years.  There have been many who have humanized and even paganized the church.  Paul said that God will destroy that person.  These should be serious words for any church leader today.   


In verse 18 Paul comes back to the idea of wisdom and foolishness.  If there are some in the church that claim worldly wisdom and boasts of it, then they should become a fool, that is, adopt the Christian way of thinking by relying totally on the cross of Christ, and not any wisdom they think they have.  Paul quotes from Psa. 94:11 when he says, “the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile".  Any earthly wisdom may have its place, but when compared to God’s wisdom, it looks pretty foolish. 


If this is the case then, that is, if worldly wisdom is futile, Paul says stop this “boasting about men”. (ch.3:21)  This is the problem that Paul has been addressing.  The Corinthians were divided because of unhealthy loyalty towards certain individuals.  They were boasting about men.  Most of us might like to be boasted about a bit, but not Paul.  He was one of the men that they were boasting about. But Paul says, “stop this boasting”.  Its worldly wisdom.  It leads to destruction.  Anything built on this premise will be destroyed and will not benefit anyone. 


“All things are yours, whether Paul, Apollos, Cephus, or the world, or life or death, or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God”.  Paul seems to be saying here that when you devote yourself to one man, and exclude others, you are missing out on many things.  If the Corinthians listened to Paul only and forsook what Peter had to say, they’d be missing truth from a different perspective.  “All things are yours” means that we gain when we hear what others in the body of Christ say.  A matter of fact all things are ours in the since of life in general, whether in life or death or anything.  We can benefit from it all, as long as we stay connected to Christ, who is connected to God Himself. 


How true this is for us today.  When we devote ourselves totally to one stream of thinking in Christendom, we miss out on so much.  When we exclude others and what they have to say, we become narrow in our own thinking.  I once had a Bible School teacher who told us that we need to have “open minds, yet with a screen to filter out what was not good”.  Though our minds need to be open, we have the responsibility to sensor what comes into our minds.  Having an open mind seems to be a virtue these days, but I've never claimed to have an open mind.  I'd rather have a Biblical mind  


As we close this chapter I cannot help but think what James might have to say about some of these things.  I am sure that James would agree with Paul concerning not boasting about following certain men to the exclusion of others.  I wonder though what he might have to say about Paul's view that some of these Corinthian Christians were worldly Christians.  I wonder if James would view them as worldly or if he would view them as having a “false faith”.  You can read my commentary on James concerning false faith.  It is hard to say for sure what James might have thought.  Yet we do know from chapters 1 through 3 of this letter that Paul believed that a person can be saved, yet not spiritually orientated, but worldly in their thinking and lifestyle.


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