More Pondering from the Ponderosa. We have briefly covered the Holy Spirit’s role in regeneration, baptism, indwelling, sealing, and equipping. Today I want to begin a short look at His teaching ministry. This will take a few days to cover, but it will be worth the trip. Jesus Christ gave tremendous insight into this truth. He told the disciples that there were many things that He wanted to teach them, but they just could not handle them at that time (John 16:12). He promised after He had gone back into heaven, He would send a Great Teacher – the Holy Spirit. Jesus called Him “the Spirit of truth” and said that He would guide them into all truth. By “all truth” He meant all truth pertaining to God’s Word.
He said that the Holy Spirit would not speak on His own authority, but whatever He heard He would speak, and “He will tell you things to come.” Not speaking from His own authority means that He would become the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He will glorify Me (Jesus) for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The word “glorify’ means to shed light upon. The Holy Spirit would work in the background to cast light upon Jesus Christ. If you find yourself connected to a group that glorifies the Holy Spirit, you best quietly leave and go where Jesus Christ is glorified. Jesus said that all things that the Father had were His. Therefore, He said that He (the Holy Spirit) will take the information that is His (the Lord Jesus) and declare it to the disciples (John 16:13-14).
Now we will transition to the church at Corinth to learn how this teaching happens. Paul began his letter to the Corinthian church by reminding them that his one goal was to preach the gospel. Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. He was not demeaning water baptism, just putting it in its proper place. Paul added this. He said that he presented the gospel not mixed (watered down) with the wisdom of human words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect (1 Corinthians 1:17). Many feel today that they must embellish the gospel with a barrage of human anecdotes to make it palatable to human taste buds. The Corinthian believers were fussing over what person had baptized them. Oh my! Some were partial to Paul, others favored Apollos, and some Peter. The Corinthians were caught up in approbation lust – the lust for the praise of man. Preaching the plain gospel of grace was not as popular but took far greater priority. The gospel is the truth about the identity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1–3). This is the major truth—not the identity of the one who baptized you or any other petty issue.
Paul reminded them that he did not preach the gospel to them mixed with the wisdom of human words. To have done this would have nullified the effect of the gospel. The cross work of Jesus Christ is effective only when it is preached accurately and clearly. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). When the gospel is taught accurately, it will be considered foolish or powerful, depending on who is listening. To those who are on their way to hell, it appears to be foolish. To those who are being saved, it is the sweetest message on the planet, the very power of God.
Paul quickly added these words from Isaiah: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Corinthians 1:19; Isaiah 29:14). God seems to delight in baffling the wisdom of worldlings. He will ultimately destroy all human wisdom and render human understanding of no consequence.
Paul compared human wisdom with God’s wisdom. Where are the wise (intellectual)? Where are the scribes (students)? Where are the disputers of this age (those who constantly argue about trivial issues)? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:20)? Worldly wisdom can never accomplish God’s will – never. At the end of man’s greatest achievements, there will still be war, hunger, and disease (viruses), and corruption of every kind. The world charted by man’s wisdom will never lead to peace on earth and good will toward man, despite what the politicians so eloquently say.
Human wisdom cannot be used to lead a spiritually dead person to knowledge of the living God. It pleases God through the foolishness of the message preached (not foolish preaching) to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). The fact that all men died spiritually in Adam appears to the human mind to be foolish. The fact that Adam’s sin is passed down to every generation of man appears to the human mind to be foolish. The fact that God became flesh through the virgin birth appears to the human mind to be foolish. The fact that God in the person of Christ died on the cross to pay the sin debt appears to the human mind to be foolish. The fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead appears to the human mind to be foolish. The fact that God gives eternal life to those who hear these facts and trust in Jesus Christ alone appears to the human mind to be idiotic.
The truth of the identity, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very message that God uses to give life to those who believe. Paul invited the Corinthians to take a look around at the fellow believers sitting next to them. Do you see many that the world would consider wise or strong or of royal descent? In fact, the majority that you see are just common people. This is God’s design. He planned it this way so that no one could take any glory from Him for their salvation. God chooses to use weak people to demonstrate His amazing strength, people who appear foolish to demonstrate His wisdom, and the nobody’s of the world to become somebody’s in His eyes. In every case, God gets all the praise and He will share His glory with no human being – not one (1 Corinthians 1:26–31).
When the Corinthians looking around at their small congregation, there were “not many” among them that the world would consider wise, strong, or of royal decent. There may have been some who were very intelligent, strong, and maybe even a few dignitaries. The point Paul was making should be obvious. The Corinthian believers had not received the new birth through any of their human abilities.
So, if the gospel is not to be preached or received through human means, how does the gospel spread? Paul quickly answered that question. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus.” Of Him is what is known in the Greek language as a genitive of source. All of these people became Christians from the source of God. God alone must make salvation happen. To do so, He uses the simple gospel message.
God has never been impressed with human greatness. When Jesus came to earth, He could have come to any one of the world’s great capital cities. Instead He entered the world in a little backwoods village of Bethlehem, surrounded by a group of shepherds. Bethlehem just happened to be King David’s hometown. A King was being born (Luke 1:31-33). The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus, calling Himself “the bread of life” came to the right place, don’t you think (John 6:35)? He chose to be born in a stable to a lowly peasant girl. When one thinks of it, a stable is a fine place for a Lamb to be born (John 1:29). This Lamb would also be known as “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14). The shepherds meant far more than just providing pictures on a Christmas card. And oh, by the way, the peasant girl’s role was predicted some 700 years before she arrived there (Isaiah 7:14). What amazing coincidences!
When the Lord Jesus was ready to call His disciples, rather than going to the religious elite – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the scribes, and some of these were morally good people – He went to the very ones that this religious group had rejected: smelly fishermen, tax collectors (social rejects), prostitutes (obvious rejects) and those whom everyone called sinners, the down and out crowd (Matthew 11:19). Why? Only the sick recognize their need of a doctor.
Likewise, when Paul came to the Corinthian people, he did not come with excellence of speech (he probably could have), but he came declaring the testimony of God. He simply taught the gospel. He was determined that he would know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. His speech and his preaching were not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom but were a demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Corinthians 2:1–4).
Paul had no desire to bring attention to himself at all. He did not attempt to use logic or fancy words to convince the Corinthians that what he said about Jesus Christ was true. He did not seek to compete with the world to market the gospel. He depended solely upon the Spirit of God and the powerful seed of the Word of God to accomplish God’s purpose (Romans 1:16; Isaiah 55:8-11).
More than anything, Paul desired that the faith that his hearers placed in Christ would not be the result of human emotion based on the effect of his persuasive abilities (what Paul called “the wisdom of men”) but based on the power of God alone (1 Corinthians 2:5).
Human logic and rationalism can be very powerful and very persuasive. A lawyer must be skilled in debater’s technique. Two lawyers represent their clients. One client is guilty; the other is not. It really is of little consequence to the lawyers what the truth is. What matters is what the jury believes. In the end what the jury thinks is that which the lawyers want them to think. The lawyer who can make the most convincing case can win.
Paul realized that he could not use such techniques to make the gospel work. He could not mix human philosophy with the gospel and still have the gospel. He made the conscious decision that the heart of his message was the Christ who was crucified and raised and that the message would be given in simple understandable words (1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3). The result, therefore, was solely in the hands of God.
This is the wisdom taught by the Spirit of God. Paul said, “We speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The people who believed Paul are referred to as mature or spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13, 15).
Many may be moved emotionally and respond tearfully to heart wrenching stories and heartrending music that are laced with portions of Scripture passages. The stories may be filled with illustrations of shared love or with moving drama and compassion, and they all may be wrapped around the name Jesus. But in the end, those making decisions may have rested their hope on the wisdom of men and not the power of God. Satan is a great deceiver, and he is good at what he does (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Stay safe and stay tuned.