Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, and more specifically is found in verses eight through sixteen of the second chapter. This particular passage of scripture builds upon that which was previously written by the apostle Paul in the opening seven verses. When you begin reading this second chapter of the first epistle of Paul unto the Corinthians you will find this strong and stark contrast between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. What is actually even more telling is not only the contrast between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world, but the direct connection between the wisdom of God and the foolishness of the preaching of the cross. In fact, in the first chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle declaring of the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ as foolishness unto the Greeks who sought after wisdom and a stumbling block unto the Jews. I find it to be absolutely amazing that the preaching of the cross seems to draw a dividing line between both Jews and Greeks, as well as between wisdom and signs. One of the most powerful questions I am finding myself being confronted with surrounds that which we seek God for. The more I continue reading the epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints which Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation, the more I am confronted with those who seek God for wisdom, and those who seek God for signs. If I am being honest, I would have to write that there are countless among us who seek after God for wisdom, and would seek to increase knowledge and learning—even as it pertains to the knowledge of the divine and of the supernatural. Moreover, I would dare say there are those among us who come to and who seek God—not for wisdom, but for signs. These individuals seek after signs, seek after wonders, and seek after miracles performed by the living God.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN SIGNS AND WISDOM. How absolutely tremendous it is to consider the reality that the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ cuts to the very heart of that which we seek God for. The preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ displays the wisdom of God, and yet the very preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who cannot receive it. One of the most confrontational questions I am finding myself asking is what I truly come to the living God seeking after. When I consider and examine the life and ministry of Jesus, I am immediately and continuously confronted with the reality of men and women who drew near unto and searched for Christ because they desired to hear the words which proceeded forth from His mouth. There were those who drew near to Christ in order that they might continually be exposed to the doctrine and teaching of heaven, and could have perhaps cared less about the signs, the wonders, and the miracles. Conversely, there were those who would seek after and seek out Christ in order that they might witness, and perhaps experience some sign, some wonder, some miracle for themselves. There were those who sough out Christ because they knew He had the authority and the power to meet their physical needs—this being regardless of whether those physical needs were hunger and thirst, or healing of some ailment and/or infirmity. The more I read and study the life and ministry of Jesus, the more I am confronted with that which draws men unto Christ. When speaking to Nicodemus Jesus declared that if He be lifted up He would draw all men unto Himself. The truth of the matter, however, is that there are those who are drawn to the wisdom of Christ, and there are those who are drawn to the power of Christ.
If you study and examine the life and ministry of Jesus you will find this absolutely wonderful balance and manifestation of the wisdom of God, and the power of God. When the Spirit descended upon Christ upon coming out out of the waters of baptism, the Spirit descended upon Christ in bodily form, and filled Him beyond and without measure. When the Spirit of God—the third person of the divine and holy trinity—came upon and indwelt Jesus the Christ, Jesus was endowed with both the wisdom of God, as well as the power of God. When considering the ministry of Jesus the Christ it is necessary and imperative to recognize and understand that the ministry He was engaged in was both one of the manifestation of the power of God as evident through the display of signs, wonders and miracles, as well as the wisdom of God as displayed through the various sermons He taught, the various parables He told, the various teachings He engaged in, and the various times He taught in the local synagogues. If we are being truly honest with ourselves and with the Lord we will have to admit that there were in fact those who were drawn to the wisdom of God as displayed within the life of Jesus Christ, and there were others who were drawn to the power of God. The question I can’t help but ask is how many of us truly find a balance when it comes to that which we seek Jesus for, and that which we actually need. I can’t help but be gripped with the fact that there are those among us who are unable to distinguish between that which we actually need from God, and that which we want from the Lord. What’s more, is that even though we might feel as though we know and understand what we need from the Lord, there might be a vast distance and difference between what we think and feel we need, and that which the Lord of hosts knows we need. What we must recognize and understand is that when it comes to the Lord’s awareness of what we need within our lives, it is that the Lord always knows exactly what we need—even when we ourselves can’t seem to understand or recognize what it is.
It’s worth noting the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the latter part of the first chapter of this first epistle unto the Corinthian congregation, for it helps to set the stage for that which he wrote in the second chapter. Beginning with the seventeenth verse of the first chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Paul unto those saints which were at Corinth: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputed of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according, as it is written, He that Gloria the, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31).
When we come to the second chapter of this first epistle unto the saints which were at Corinth we find the apostle Paul continuing to build upon this concept of the wisdom of God and the power of God—especially as it pertained to the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ. Within the first five verses of the second chapter we both find and read these words written by the apostle—“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but isn’t he power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). As you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in these five verses, it is necessary and imperative that before we seek to understand that which the apostle Paul did come unto the Corinthian saints with, it’s first necessary to recognize and understand that which he did not come to them with. Within the first verse of the second chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul declaring that when he came unto the Corinthian saints, he came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom when he declared unto them the testimony of God. In the fourth verse of the same chapter we find yet another powerful description of that which the apostle Paul did not bring with him when he came unto the Corinthian congregation to declare unto them the testimony of God—namely, that he didn’t come with enticing words of man’s wisdom. Furthermore, we go on to read that when the apostle Paul came unto those saints which were at Corinth, he determined not to know anything among them, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. In other words, for the apostle Paul the single greatest reality within and among the saints which were at Corinth was Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. For the apostle Paul nothing else mattered among them save the reality and presence of Jesus the Christ and Him crucified. For the apostle Paul it was the reality of Jesus the Christ and His death and crucifixion that mattered most. The apostle Paul did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom, and the apostle Paul did not come with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, for he did not want their faith to stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
I can’t help but be consumed with the underlying thought of what your faith in God truly rests upon, and what your faith is built upon. There is an old hymn that has within it the words and language which are as follows: “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” and I can’t help but wonder of how many men and women these words are true. The apostle Paul was not willing that the faith of the Corinthian congregation should stand upon the wisdom of men, and it is necessary that we understand this reality and concept within our hearts and lives. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women have their faith in God dependent upon, and standing upon the power of God. If you were to take a careful and close look at yourself right now—of your faith in God and your faith in Jesus who is both Christ and Lord—what does that faith stand upon, and what is that faith built upon? What defines your faith in God and your faith in Jesus who is both Christ and Lord? What’s more, is what actually defines your relationship with the true and living God? What is your relationship with the Lord of hosts and with Jesus who is the Christ truly built upon? The apostle Paul clearly sets the stage for the possibility that men’s faith can in fact stand upon the wisdom of men rather than the power of God—something which is actually quite dangerous within our churches. The apostle Paul was very clear to state that both his speech and his preaching came not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but rather, in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, in order that the faith of the Corinthian congregation might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. When the apostle Paul came unto Corinth, he did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom when declaring unto them the testimony of Jesus Christ, for he sought to safeguard and protect their faith in the true and living God, and in Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. This is absolutely and incredibly imperative to recognize and understand, for when seeking to examine and understand our own faith, we must ask ourselves what our faith is truly built upon and what our faith is founded upon. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women have a faith that is built upon the personalities of men, the wisdom of this world, wise and enticing speech, as well as charisma and gifts which might very well be present among their churches and congregations.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the old familiar song bearing the title “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,” for the words contained within this song are absolutely worth making note and mention of when seeking to gain further clarity and understanding concerning that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation. Consider if you will the words which are found within this old familiar hymn: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood; when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; in Him, my righteousness, alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” The words found within this familiar hymn remind me of the words which Jesus spoke at the conclusion of His famous Sermon on the Mount when He spoke of two distinct individuals who claimed themselves to be His disciples and followers. Beginning with the twenty-fourth verse of the seventh chapter we find and read the following words—“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
TWO HOUSES, ONE STORM! When I read the words which Jesus spoke unto all those who gathered unto Him on this particular day to listen to and hear Him speak, I can’t help but get a strong sense that there might very well have been two houses with two different individuals living within those houses, and yet only one storm. I can’t help but get the strong sense that while there might very well have been two houses, and while there might very well have been two different individuals, there was one storm which produced two different outcomes. Within this particular portion of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus clearly sets forth a powerful dividing line between those who heard His words and did them, and those who heard His words and didn’t do them. I can’t help but be gripped with how there were two distinct individuals who are referenced within this passage of Scripture, and yet the only difference between the two mentioned was what they did with the words which Jesus spoke unto them. Jesus makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that both individuals heard the words which He spoke and taught unto them, and yet one heard those words and actually did them, while the other heard those very same words, and yet did not do them. THE MESSAGE IS THE SAME; THE RESPONSE IS NOT! I can’t help but be gripped with how many men and women hear the very same message—hear the very same words and teaching of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord—and yet there are those who will do those words which they hear, and those who will refuse to do the words which they heard. To help illustrate this even further, it is necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the words which James wrote in the first chapter of the epistle which he wrote. If you begin reading with and from the nineteenth verse of the first chapter, you will find the following words:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engraftment word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdest himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is in vain. Pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:19-27).
ONE MESSAGE, TWO RECIPIENTS! ONE STORM, TWO MEN! As I read the words which Jesus spoke at the conclusion of His Sermon on the Mount, I can’t help but be gripped with the tremendous concept that that which Jesus was setting forth was actually a dividing line between all those who would gather themselves together and draw near to Him. There would be a number of men and women who would hear the very same words—would hear the very same teaching and preaching—and yet that group of men and women would be divided between and divided among themselves. In all reality, I am convinced that within each and every church and congregation there are two distinct groups of men and women—those who not only hear the words which are brought forth from the word of God, but do them, and those who hear the words which are brought forth from the very same word, and yet choose not to do them. To help illustrate this point even further, I feel it necessary to present you with an account from the life and ministry of Jesus which is recorded for us in the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John. While the entire chapter can in fact serve as the backdrop for that which I am seeking to set forth, I am choosing to begin with the forty sixth verse of the sixth chapter and continue through to the end of the chapter. Consider if you will the following words which are recorded within this very chapter:
“Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, aging, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth. My flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth m e, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? IT is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.k But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed no, and who should betray him. And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe, and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:43-71).
I am utterly and completely amazed at how a group and crowd of men and women can hear and listen to the same message, and hear the same preaching and teaching, and yet there are two completely different hearts and two completely different spirits that are present. There are those among us who hear the words which are spoken among them in their midst from the word of God, and yet they not only hear the words spoken unto them, but they do them as well. There are, however, those among us who hear the words which are spoken among us in our midst, and yet all they do is hear those words without doing them. The reason I mention this passage which is found in the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John is because it brings us face to face those who heard the words which Jesus spoke, and who as a result of His words and sayings being too hard for them to handle, began to murmur among themselves. In the sixty-sixth verse of this chapter we find that there came a point when many of Jesus’ disciples went back and walked no more with Him. It’s worth noting that that which caused a number of men and women to turn back and walk with Him no more was because of the words which He spoke, and the difficulty they had with such words. It wasn’t signs, it wasn’t wonders, it wasn’t miracles, it wasn’t hunger, it wasn’t thirst, it wasn’t unmet needs that caused men and women to turn back and walk no more with Jesus, but rather the words which He spoke unto them. It is both necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for one of the dividing lines between those among us within our churches is in fact the words of Jesus, and the words contained within the word of God. There are those who would hear the words which Jesus spoke, and yet they would not only be unable to handle and bear such words, but they also would not do them. As I am sitting here this morning, I am convinced that there are two specific groups of people within our churches and congregations who we need to be aware of—those who hear the words of Jesus and yet do not do them, and those who hear the words of Jesus, and yet His words, His demands, His requirements are too difficult for them to handle and bear, and as a result, they turn back and walk no more. It’s worth noting that at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, there wasn’t two separate messages—one heard by the wise man and one heard by the foolish men—but one single message which was heard by both. Furthermore, there weren’t two separate storms which came upon the shore threatening the houses of both the wise and the foolish man, but one storm. The underlying difference wasn’t in their hearing the words of Jesus, but their response to the words which Jesus spoke.
When we come to the latter part of the second chapter of the epistle of Paul unto the Corinthian congregation, we find him speaking of the wisdom they spoke unto those which are perfect, yet not a wisdom of this world, nor a wisdom of the princes of this world that come to nought, but the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom. The apostle Paul would then go on to make a very bold declaration concerning this wisdom, for he would go on to declare that had the princes of this world been aware of this wisdom which God ordained before the world unto glory, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory . Please don’t miss the significance and importance of these words, for it was precisely because of the wisdom of God which was unto those present during Jesus’ day that caused them to crucify Him. The question we must ask ourselves is what we are doing with the wisdom of God—even the hidden wisdom of God. What are we doing with that which has been revealed by the very Spirit of God through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ? What are we doing with the words which we hear from Jesus the Christ, and are we merely hearing those words, and yet not taking them to heart and doing them? The ancient prophet did indeed write, saying, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him,” but the apostle Paul would go on to write and declare that “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” The apostle Paul would go on to write that we have not receive the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, in order that we might know the things freely given to us of God. It is these things we have received which we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are a natural and carnal individual, or whether we are a spiritual man, for the apostle Paul would go on to write—“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritual discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”