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1 Corinthians 2:1-16

By January 17, 2021Sermon Notes

The summer of 1969 Apollo 11 Landed on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong famously said as he stepped on the lunar surface…”One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The crew of Apollo 11, before their mission to the moon, spoke of their hope and expectation that this epic event would bring humanity together.

It did, in some very limited ways…but for a very short time.

The race to the moon was said to be an achievement for all of Mankind…but it was in fact a part of the larger cold war with the Russians.

50 years earlier…

11 November 1918…on what used to be called Armistice day (now Veterans day)…marked the end of WWI…ushering in what was thought to be a new and lasting era of world peace…but it wasn’t so.

Just 21 years later…WWII began…it ended in 1945…and the Cold War was already on.

So the landing on the moon was less about a giant leap for mankind and more about a strategic act in the larger cold war…it revealed a problem, it didn’t heal one.

Humans can’t fix themselves.

It did bring many technological advancements…and it was amazing.

But it did not change the world of humans…it couldn’t.

The world is changed at the individual heart level.

Wars ending…then new, bigger ones beginning.

Epic achievements…long forgotten

Medical advancements…all good…but they are not the hope of humanity.

What is the hope of humans?

There are limited options for human hope:

  1. We are our own, collective hope…science, education, politics, mission to the Moon…whatever we can think up and do for ourselves.

But how can we be our own hope, when we are our own problem.

Harrison Ford: 1986 movie Mosquito Coast  (paradise away from people…but he brings the problem himself)

  1. We have no hope…many believe this…not as many actually live this way.
  1. We make it up for ourselves individually…you have yours, I have mine…whatever makes you feel hopeful (of course you can feel hopeful and in fact, be in a hopeless situation)

How do we know…do we have to figure this out on our own?

The philosophers have a name for this topic…Epistemology.

-The study of knowing

There are three main ways to “Know”



Revelation: God telling us what we can’t reason out or discover on our own.

Some say you can’t know truth…but ironically and illogically…they think that it is true that you cannot know truth…so we can discount that as a real position to be held.

There is a place for experience, and reason, of course…but to know what we most need to know…we need God to reveal it to us.

Our problem, our solution, our purpose…our future destiny…all the things that are tied up hope…these are tied up in knowing what is real and true.

The ways we should be thinking, the things we should loving, the deeds we should be doing…these can’t be discovered completely by us…we are unable on our own, to figure this all out.

We need someone to tell us…but someone who is not “us”…someone not a part of the problem…but who can communicate with us…show us.

Jesus, God become human flesh…sinless…

He entered time and space and spoke to us…he told us and he showed us what life is about…where hope is found…how the world is changed.

Furthermore…God spoke through the Spirit…to men who wrote down truth for us.

Walking on the moon, new vaccines, the joy of the end of a war…all good stuff.

But not enough, never enough…they don’t address what is fundamentally wrong with us…so they are inadequate as solutions.

So…look at 1 Cor. 2

  1. When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

For Paul there can be no foundational reliance on his own power of persuasion or wisdom.

He used his mind, his used his gifts…he didn’t place his confidence there.

The central truth of his life message was the crucifixion of Christ.

-God, the all-powerful one…Became human…dying on a cross.

This is the center of his message that is the only hope for humanity.

Paul said…

“I came in weakness, fear, much trembling”


“So your faith would be in God, not me…or in the wisdom of any man.”

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who despised any idea, philosophy, religion that espoused weakness

The son of a pastor, at the age of 24, became the youngest person to become a professor of languages at the University.

He resigned at age 34 for mental health reasons…had a complete mental collapse at 44…died at 54 in an utterly broken state of body, mind, and soul.

His life was, tragic…and his thinking…foolish.

He despised weakness in ideas and philosophies…yet he embodied weakness in his actual life.

He thought Christ was the only real Christian…and yet he also thought that Christ was a fool for espousing weakness and sacrifice as a way to human fulfillment…and salvation.

Yet…Nietzsche, who wrote of human strength and independence…lived in tremendous weakness (he lived an immoral and unhappy and broken life).

This man who espoused his own form of wisdom…died in folly…a complete mental collapse.

While Christ…the wisdom and power of God… died on a cross in voluntary weakness…rose in resurrection power…reigns in supreme authority…and will return as the true King.

This is not church mumbo jumbo…this is a description of reality as it is…this is where human hope resides, this is how the world is changed.

Paul knew…that all current versions of human wisdom and power…are dust…the winds of time will blow them away.

**What we see around us in our culture in terms of the reactions that are doing harm and dividing us…are largely the expressions of the desperation of humans not wanting to face their terrible weakness…we are not strong, smart, or good.

We cannot save ourselves…we can hide from death…but death in time will find us.

We are not in control…we are not our own hope.

verse 6:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory

Paul rejects the wisdom of men, but not wisdom itself.

This is not “faith-ism”…faith in faith.

This is  Christian Theism…faith in the Triune God…whose plan of the gospel was in his mind before time existed.

Many have formed, though they would deny it…a religion that has been called “scientism”.

Faith in science…blind faith in some cases.

Not science as an academic pursuit of knowledge…but science as more than it’s intended purpose…science as the explanation for everything…science that denies anything it cannot see or explain.

It is absolute, religious-level belief in science.

I once read a university professor who after looking at the math, the facts, regarding Macro Evolution said…”Evolution is impossible…but I believe it anyway because the alternative is unacceptable to me.”

That is “scientism”…a strongly held belief system…a religion…a faith.

Paul was not anti-wisdom…or anti-science…he was opposed to those who thought that wisdom began and ended with humans.

If you have believed and received the gospel…you, Paul is saying,  have a mature wisdom.

Maybe you can’t debate current theories of philosophy, physics, political science…maybe you only know “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

Then, your wisdom is mature, lasting and true.

9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

 I used to quote this (out of context)…I used it to describe that the fact that we can’t know all that God has planned for us.

That is true…but it’s not the point of this verse.

The point of this verse is that God has in fact revealed to us what we cannot know on our own.

Eye hasn’t seen

Ear hasn’t heard

Mind can’t conceive

But God has REVEALED.

We cannot on our own…know what God alone can reveal.

Humans on their own cannot find real wisdom…no matter how far out into space we go, or how far into speculative wisdom we delve.

God alone has revealed to us…specifically to those who “love” him…who are in covenant relationship with him…what is real, true, and valuable.

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

“To us” here, is emphatic…meaning there is emphasis in the way Paul wrote this phrase “to us”

So, it is not the learned philosopher but the humble Christian (the “us”) to whom God’s truth has been revealed.

I said there are three ways to “know” something:

  1. Reason it out

-This is how fire works…fuel, air, heat…creates combustion.

  1. Experience it

-“Ouch, that hurts…what is that?”  “That is called “hot”, don’t touch.”

  1. Revelation

-Things we cannot discover on our own…God has to tell us.

-“Why did fire destroy my home…is there any meaning this…is there purpose in my life?”

Reason and experience can’t tell you “why”…and that is the real human question.

It’s not that smart people can’t understand revelation…many do.

But it’s not because they are smart…it’s because God has made himself known to them.

In fact, most early scientists…and many contemporary smart people are Christ-followers.

But the point is…what we most need to know, we can’t know unless God tells us.

The essential questions of human purpose, life, thriving…cannot be discovered by humans.

How are we here

Why are we here

What is our problem

What is the solution

What is our purpose

What is the truly good to do?

What happens when we die?

No experience, no experiment can tell us these answers…and in the end, these are the questions that mean the most to us.

So, my grandmother…we called her “grannie”…could not have out argued a well-read 6th grader in regards to philosophy, theology or current scientific trends.

But she was “wiser” in the reality and truth of God than any Nobel Prize, PHD who fails to understand the truth of the gospel.

Paul mentions the Spirit six times here.

The Holy Spirit…inspired the men who wrote Scripture, and opens our minds to the truth of God revealed in Scripture.

Paul uses the analogy of the fact that looking at a person from the outside…we can only guess what is going on inside of him or her.

But that man or woman…they are not guessing…they know what they are thinking.

In the same way, no one outside of God can guess what is on his great mind

But the Holy Spirit…an inside member of the Trinity

He isn’t guessing…so he alone can reveal to our minds and hearts…what is on God’s mind and heart.

If you have committed your life to Christ…if you have believed the gospel…you have received the Spirit of God.

You have access to wisdom, truth, that was not fully available to you in your BC (before Christ) life.

You still have to work, read, listen, apply the truth.

But the Holy Spirit in you…is able to take that truth and make it fully operational in your life.

You need to put the truth in your mind, love the truth with your heart, and do the truth in your life…but the Holy Spirit is active in all three aspects of this engagement with truth.


This truth we have received we are then to freely pass on to others.

“This truth is what we speak” Paul wrote.

We speak the truth to others…but not in an arrogant way.

How could we possible consider being arrogant about knowing the truth…after realizing we had no part in discovering the truth?

Truth found us…we didn’t find it.

We have found the truth regarding Covid vaccine…but we can’t find the truth behind why we exist or what happens when we die….what is the purpose of Covid, or suffering or joy or love.

We are to be grateful that God has given us truth…and we are to go out…in love for God and others…share the truth.

It has been said that evangelism is “One beggar telling another beggar where they found bread.”

It cannot be seen as “A smart and good person(me), telling a foolish and bad person(you)…how to change.”

No one is good or smart except God.

14 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. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:  “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

This is literally “the natural person”…some translations say “the man without the Spirit”

They are saying the same things.

Natural man…is not saying “bad person”…but just the absence of real spiritual discernment…no spiritual life in them.

Spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit…who enters upon faith in the gospel of Jesus.

The natural man…is the one whose field of view is bounded by his own life.

So, imagine a person who believes God exists…but that this God is not involved in human affairs…just sort of lets things run on their own….or  that God doesn’t exist.

Either way…we are on our own…we figure it out.

Then someone shows up claiming to be God…the God… in human form…and says God is intimately involved in human affairs…he has as specific will for us as people.

What will happen next?

Perhaps we will change our entire view of the world and believe this person…but more likely we will filter all we see and hears through what we already believe.

This happened, in the time of Jesus,…people heard what he said, they saw he did…and they refused to believe their own ears and eyes.

Jesus said:

Matt. 11 John(the baptist) came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

What Jesus is saying is that people are prone to filter everything they experience through what they already believe…they trust themselves.

John the Baptist…lived an austere life “Ahh, He’s demon possessed…crazy”

Jesus, lived among the people…living life with them “He’s a glutton, drunk…friend of bad people.”

This “natural” person does not accept…or welcome the things that come from the Spirit of God…however they come.

They are refused, rejected…not welcome in their hearts and minds.

Why?  Because this person is just so bad or ignorant?

No, because the things of God are not something they can make sense out of…using their own powers of wisdom.

If it doesn’t make sense to me…it is nonsense.

They lack the “equipment” to tune the music of God.

They are like deaf men judging a music competition.

However, the spiritual man or woman can form a judgment on all things.

What does this mean…sounds suspicious?

To the brain surgeon “I’m a Christian, you should cut there.”

What Paul is saying is that the believer now has reason, experience, and revelation at his or her disposal.

A full-scale epistemology…an opportunity to know the full scope of reality.

The scientist who has learned his or her science…AND knows the Gospel…is equipped to understand both the what of the world and the why.

They can do good science…and they can live a joyful…God honoring life…AND THEY KNOW PURPOSE IN ALL THINGS…even hard things.

Knowledge is not limited to what he or she can reason out…or what he can experience…but in addition God has made known…how to be forgiven, how to live a life of purpose, how to have real and lasting hope.

How to do science, or business, or teach, or parent…with all their heart, mind, strength…and soul.

And Paul said that this person is not judged by anyone…this is not an excuse to be an arrogant fool.

“I’m a Christian…you can’t tell me I’m wrong.”

This is in line with the larger context…what I believe about the gospel, human hope, human purpose…

…is not something someone now or in the future is going to suddenly…discover to be wrong.

Paul’s point is…this wisdom came from God…no one is going to come along who is smarter than him.

And if you know him…”you have the mind of Christ”

He has made known to you, what is on his mind.

Rejoice that God has made truth known to you.

You are not smarter or better than others…just be grateful.

This doesn’t mean that we understand all of the Lord’s thoughts…but that Christians do not see (or don’t have to see) the world from the viewpoint of the mere “natural”…

we can see life, ourselves, others from the viewpoint of Christ.


1.Belief:  Know that ultimate truth is knowable.

Let’s bring back the two dials

We ended our Proverbs study with the wisdom of keeping your hands on two dials in order to tune the music.

Much of life is holding truth in tension

One dial:  I cannot know all truth, I am vulnerable to error…

dial in humility and teachability.

One dial: I can know true truth, God has made it known and my capacity for knowledge of spiritual truth is intact(God’s Spirit)…

dial in confidence…no need to doubt…God is clear and faithful.

He is not hiding truth from you.

Because I can’t know ALL the truth of God does not mean I cannot know truth at ALL:

-I can know truth…

Accurately (I can trust the truth I know to direct my life in the right direction)

-Adequately (I can know enough truth to be and do what God wants me to be and do…I will not lack for enough truth.)

Deut. 29:29 “The secret things belong to God…the things revealed belong to me to obey”

“But, It’s so confusing, so many opinions, so many differences…why even try”

Like saying…”I can’t love my wife and children perfectly…I won’t try at all.”

Aim for perfection…but embrace direction in the way of truth.

Using the husband/wife analogy…the closer I get to treating my wife in line with the truth…the better life is for both of us.

I don’t need perfection in every action to be happy…I do need to be moving towards truth in direction.

This past week I saw in person, yet another example of the long-term consequences of not living a life of truth

-I saw up close family disfunction(not here at our church) showing up after many years of not actively pursuing truth

Day to day…the pursuit of truth is not alwaysobvious…but over time it becomes crystal clear….beauty emerges.

Likewise…day to day…not pursuing truth is not always obvious in its consequnces but the day comes when your life is in the ditch, completely off course…disfunction has set it.

Don’t let the difficulty of knowing truth perfectly keep you from pursuing more truth consistently.

It is much, much more difficult to live with the consequences of not knowing truth…than to do the work to know the truth…please trust me on this.

Don’t think everyone around you has it all nailed down…that’s not even remotely true.

We are all wading in an ocean together…some have just been in the water a bit longer..

“But the Bible is big, confusing…it is an ocean…where do I begin?”

Begin with what you know, what is clear and work forward from there.

Which takes us to heart.

  1. Value: Have a heart that says “yes” to what is clear to you now.

Not always, but often…the idea that the Bible is confusing can be a smoke screen for…

A heart that is not ready to fully engage what we clearly know to do.

I have questions about the Bible (not whether it is true but what some things mean) and I study it virtually every day…have for decades.

But the most persistent problem I have with the Bible is the stuff I clearly understand…I just don’t always want to do.

This is a heart not a head problem.

It has been my experience that when I live with a ready “yes” to what God wants (a heart orientation)…I am positioned to better understand what God wants.

  1. Behavior: Do what you know, you will know more

John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Want to see God at work in and around you…know truth, love truth, do truth.

We cannot stand by waiting for God to show up before we will step out in faith and trust him.

It works the other way round…

So…embrace whatever God has clearly revealed to you…get after that…and he will be faithful to continually open up more of himself to you.

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