Skip to content
Aug 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 8, 2021



And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-10

Intro: Is there a foreign country you’ve always wanted to visit?

Russia was never on my bucket list – it seemed dark and foreboding
– a man I kept running into at conferences pressured me to visit orphanages in Russia
• one morning I felt like God told me, “Do this”
• so twenty years ago this summer, I made my first trip
– a small part of my experience was what I expected
• but there was a great deal more I had not anticipated
◦ mile after mile of incredible natural beauty
• but most of all, underneath language and cultural differences,
◦ Russian men and women were like us
◦ the have the same dreams, the same love of poetry and music, the same national pride

Travel is a unique education – you step into history, geography, and culture
– it is an education by immersion
• what I am getting at, is a specific challenge Paul faced
◦ and how he had to provide a unique education to those he led
◦ to inform them of intangible realm that could not be seen, heard, or imagined
• the only way they could know it, was to experience it — to have an education by immersion
– last Monday, while reading in Colossians I came across these verses
. . . pray for us, that God may open a door for the word to declare the mystery of Christ . . . that I may make it clear (4:3-4)
◦ I scrawled my meditation, and here is some of what I wrote:
“This is my current challenge, to communicate the mystery of Christ. Much of Jesus’ story is comprehensible, because like us he was a human person in the world. Yet his entire existence is enveloped in mystery. John’s gospel demonstrates this from the start. How do I make clear a reality that words cannot describe? A reality that can only be experienced, but not explained?”
Arthur Deikman, “According to mystics, the fundamental reality underlying appearances is not accessible to the senses. It cannot be described in terms derived from the ordinary world, but it is accessible to mystical intuition. The perception of that underlying reality gives meaning to individual existence and does away with the fear of death and the self-centered desires that direct the lives of most people.”
• a couple days later I came to an answer–we’ll get to it,
◦ but first I want to go over a few intriguing phrases in this chapter

“Plausible words of wisdom” (v. 4)

To me, plausible sounds like “credible” or “believable”
– here the Greek word it translates means “convincing,” “persuasive”
• Paul avoided the known rules for winning arguments
◦ centuries earlier, Aristotle had identified elements of a persuasive speech
• Paul perceived a potential weakness in using those tools
so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (v. 5)
◦ if people can be argued into the faith, they can be argued out of it
– however, there was a deeper wisdom running through Paul’s message
• that brings us to another intriguing phrase

“Not a wisdom of this age” (v. 6)

Here is a German word you can use to impress your friends and terrify your enemies
Zeitgeist: the “spirit of the age”
• zeitgeist is the defining thought or mood of a particular period of history
◦ in verse 12, Paul says we have not received the spirit of the world
• what God imparts to his people,
◦ cannot be found in curriculum of any college class
◦ cannot be examined in a lab or explained intelligibly
– spiritual wisdom is unknown to the rulers (“authorities”) of this age
. . . for if they had [understood this], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
• they just don’t get it
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (v. 14)

Now, we cannot assume this isn’t a problem for us too
– the world we inhabit in our daily lives is the world of human culture
• we live in it like a fish lives in water, often unaware of its presence
• we don’t think that much about culture or its influence,
◦ until we bump into another culture
– the more our minds are absorbed with this fabricated world,
• the thicker the wall between us and God will be
even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world had blinded the minds of the unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
◦ do you remember when Jesus said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me?
◦ why was Peter a hindrance to Jesus?
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mt. 16:23)
◦ the spirit of the age is a powerful narcotic
• over-exposure to an environment that is exclusively material and human,
◦ a world devoid of God can wreck a person’s faith
◦ it interferes with our awakened experience of God
◦ even a Christian of many years can stop believing in God,
◦ or at least behave as if living in a world where no God existed
Arthur Deikman, “The Sufis made the particular point that most people are ‘asleep,’ because their consciousness is taken up with automatic responses in the service of greed and fear. The brain, thus occupied, is said to be incapable of the special perception whose development is the true destiny and task of human life. Thus, ‘the secret protects itself.’”

The next intriguing phrase: “we impart a secret and hidden wisdom” (v. 7)

Paul is not saying that God unlocks for us the secrets of universe
– or enlightens us to hidden mysteries of supernatural realms
• rather, God makes himself known to our spirit
• we pick up this wisdom through our encounters with God
– some churches teach: “Test your experience by theology”
• I agree, but I would add: “Test your theology by experience”
◦ if your beliefs are ideas you can only think about,
◦ they are somehow flawed
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (De. 29:29)
◦ divine revelation demands a human response
• God gives himself to us in an experiential knowing

“these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (v. 10)

This is where things get tricky
– we can hear about Christian salvation (the “gospel”), perhaps from an evangelist
• we can understand the basics, and we can respond to the message
◦ but what happens next is inward–invisible and intangible
◦ as Jesus said,
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:8)
• no one can say “how” the Spirit works God’s life into us
– we have received “the Spirit who is from God” (v. 12)
• how are we awakened to this?
◦ some people are ready for it, and it just “happens” – for them, it seems to be an intuitive awareness
◦ others of us need a wake up call (a near-death experience can do it)
◦ all of us have to practice “receiving” God’s Spirit
• not with our greedy hands and not with our rational minds
◦ but with our spirit
(of course, that means we each need to find our spirit)

“We impart this in words” (v. 13)

Again Paul emphasizes the message is not framed by human wisdom,
not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit
– now, back to my meditation last Monday – it kept me thinking of the Bee Gees’ song
“It’s only words, and words are all I have”
• I know that I use too many words
some of what I wrote in Wednesday’s meditation included the following:
. . . you received the word of God . . . not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you (1 Thes. 2:13)
“Recently I have been concerned for our Reflexion community; that my current talks will be of little benefit. I can communicate ‘ideas,’ but we need more than that. Education in ‘things unseen’ does not bring us into the experience of those things. We can thumb through a travel brochure, but never visit the country described in it.
But what do I get from the gospels or the letters of Paul? Words! Ideas, concepts, information. But how are these presented? In stories, parables, statements that challenge our worldview, and so on. The words of Jesus are the foundation for a solid life in God; they are seeds that grow into fruit-bearing trees. Paul tells us that the words he used were not his, but God’s. And with that word there came the power of the Spirit to give his words life–and to bring life to those who heard.
My words, lame as I am, can help people wake up to life–to God’s presence. My words are not everything, but neither are they nothing.”
– the last line of verse 13 is difficult to translate
• I take it that the way God teaches us is by combining spiritual things with the human spirit
• or, God communicates with us Spirit to spirit (cf. Ro. 8:16)
The Message Bible, verse 13 reads like this: We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand personal way.

Conclusion: A weakness of mine is that I’m always thinking I need more information

I need another book, do more research, ask more questions,
but eventually all of that gets in the way
What is working for me presently
is that I am training myself to be receptive
One day last week, while walking the dog, I asked myself,
“What am I seeing?”
and then I noticed the world around me,
simply experiencing the sight of it, without labeling anything
“What am I hearing?”
and I listened
“What am I smelling?”
“What am I feeling?”
“What am I thinking?”
that question reminded me to let go of my jumble of thoughts
and return to the sensate experience of the world around me,
finding my place in it,
and opening myself to God and his Spirit

We do not raise ourselves up to God,
he comes to us
We just need to clear stuff out of his way,
That is one way that we train our spirit
to be receptive to his Spirit

Leave a comment