Wisdom Beyond Measure
1 Cor. 2:1-12
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, February 5, 2017
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters,[a] I did not come proclaiming the mystery[b] of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom,[c] but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
Here we go again! That apostle Paul, speaking in run-on sentences, hyperbole, and what some would call “reverse psychology.” Paul continues his argument with the church in Corinth about what God’s wisdom is really about. This is anything but a polite rhetoric of words to enhance a church to “move on.” It is rather a confined group of words that may even crush a church from looking any further than the front of it’s nose.
The ongoing theme in this text is all about “wisdom,” all about the “knowledge” that one possesses and uses to gain advancement in the world. Remember, we (actually Paul, that might have been a Freudian slip) are dealing with people who think that the carnal knowledge one exemplifies is the highway to “the truth” Paul continues to argue fervently here with “the church” that it is not the wisdom of humankind but actually the faith that is illustrated in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus on the cross that gets us to the “truth.” It is a simple, yet complex case of good verses evil in the search for the truth. Paul is adamant that even among the mature teachers of religion we speak with wisdom, “though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish; But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (v. 6,7) For Paul, the utterance of human wisdom would never cease; I firmly believe he understood that. However, his concern is based on the fact that human wisdom was not enough, nor relevant for salvation. Only Christ crucified was the relevant claim for one to make for salvation in the process of their Christian living.
One must also note the urgency that is found here in that the church at Corinth was at a task of quick readiness to anticipate Jesus’ return. Yet, enough time had passed where doubt had set in and the “knowledge” that Paul was battling had set in.
Richard Hays, one of the most respected New Testament scholars and Pauline authority, makes a huge discovery in this text of which I think is worth noting, because it’s not far off the grid of where we are today. Hays suggests that Paul is using irony when speaking to the Corinthian church. Irony in that he has taken upon himself the very attributes and conversation tactics that the knowledgable people of Corinth have used. He basically is putting it back in their face, with the name of Jesus. Now, that sounds a bit absurd, but just read this text! He comes at the point of argument just as if he was agreeing with them but with a twist to solidify the fact that true knowledge was only found in Jesus crucified!
If Richard is on to something here, and I believe he is, possibly Paul is using the word “wisdom” to refer both to ways of knowing in the world and to the ways of God, he is in fact ironic. Yet the simple understanding of this concept is to make sense of the fact that God’s wisdom is always at odds with the “world” thus creating congregations with “insiders” and “outsiders,” those that have been initiated so to speak on the ways of the church and those who happen to visit and are searching for the truth. We always run the risk then; how do we bring in those who are the “outsiders?” Do we hire the next “church guru” to formulate a special formula? Do we, as one commentator suggests, “follow the 12 easy steps?” or adopt the mission statement, “Jesus is the Answer,” then never ask, “what is the question?”
We run the same risk of trying to fix the problem with an easy fix, a supernatural turn around from a complex problem, but when those items are presented, those who conjure up those ideas and patterns are then rewarded. Thus we fail to see what Paul was illustrating for us in his message that there was a mature hidden message in the spiritual format and that was, “the Wisdom of God” is the cross!
This in itself is hard to comprehend. Contrary to Western thought, the power of God’s wisdom is hard to “measure.” In fact, it cannot be measured, even in the sense of power! For we live in a world that relies on power that is manifest in ways of action; war, justice, the law, and the list continues. It is this type of power that we believe we can measure, both by accolades and accomplishments. The burden of proof is measured by the success that one has in implementing these methods of power.
Where as the power that Paul talks about is seen in the mystery of God upon the cross where God is revealed in weakness and vulnerability and the self-emptying love of God!
This continues to be a struggle for most 21st century Christians who are enveloped in a political world, therefore it becomes increasingly important that we lay our claim of faith at the cross and the story that surrounds the cross in suffering, death, and resurrection. Thus, it becomes even more clear, our need to come to the Table of Our Lord on a regular basis and feast at the banquet of wisdom that needs no measure. Come, let us keep the feast!!
AMEN & AMEN