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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
Preached At:
Title:Through His Spirit God makes sinners value the message of Christ crucified
Text:1 Corinthians 2:10a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 59:1,2,8 November 6, 2005

Psalm 85:1,2

Psalm 85:3,4

Hymn 37:1,2

Psalm 119:49,50

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Acts 13:26-41

1 Corinthians 2:10a

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

All of us in one way or another interact with the world in which we live. So many of us, I am sure, experience that as we seek to interact with the world in which we live, we find ourselves feeling out of place, awkward. We believe in salvation through Christ crucified, and that is a concept the world finds madness, moronic. While the world will tolerate us having that opinion, they continue to consider it foolish, ludicrous and all the more so when we want to live a lifestyle consistent with the gospel of the crucified Messiah.

In the face of that reaction of the world we tend to feel on the defensive. We tend to feel insecure, less, inferior. We want to belong. We want to be normal, accepted.

This morning the Apostle Paul tells us that as long as we value the gospel of Christ crucified, we shall never be considered normal by the world around us. We shall never be accepted. And that is not because we are less but, says Paul, it's because we have more. And it's the more that the world can never understand and never appreciate. We have what the world doesn't have and that is the Holy Spirit.

I summarize the sermon this morning with this theme:


I ask your attention for two points:

  1. Why people don't see the truth.

  2. How God reveals this truth.

1. Why people don't see the truth.

Of the verses we read this morning from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, brothers and sisters, it is possibly the verses 14 and 15 that are the most well known. That may be for the unhappy reason that those two verses have been abused over many years. Verse 14 tells us that 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 can't understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man on the other hand makes judgments about all things. These verses have been abused in this way, that persons in the church have used these two verses to say: our thoughts, my thoughts on a given point of doctrine are correct, because I am a spiritual man and I have the spirit. If you criticize, and if you think that I am wrong, then that is because you don't have the spirit as I do, and you'd better read verse 15: "the spiritual man makes judgement on all things", and I made a judgement. I know what is right. But "he himself is not subject to any man's judgement". You're going to condemn me? You're going to find fault with my thoughts? Doesn't the Lord himself say, the spiritual man isn't subject to any man's judgment?

That is how these verses have been abused and we understand well that reading it that way leads to arrogance, an arrogance of: I am right and anybody who disagrees with me is obviously in the wrong. But that in turn makes it impossible for anyone in the church to admonish such an arrogant brother. What do you say when he says, I am spiritual and you are not, and no one may judge a spiritual man?!

As it is that is not the apostle's point. To interpret those verses that way is to pull these verses out of their context. What the apostle is saying in the passage we read together, the verses 6-16, is caught in the words of verse 10. That summarizes the whole passage. God has revealed it to us by his spirit, and the us, that is the apostle Paul and the saints of Corinth, all of them, and so all of God's people today too.

The word that Paul uses here for revealed means to unveil, to disclose. Picture if you will a table with a cloth on the table and under the cloth a bump. Now what is that bump? And the Lord God has revealed it, has lifted that cloth a bit so that we could see underneath and find out what that bump is. God has disclosed it. But the ‘it’ of our verse is not the bump under the cloth on the table, the ‘it’ of our verse is the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. It is the material of chapter 1:18 through chapter 2:5. That whole notion that the Lord would give His only Son to be the Messiah of the world, and then lead things in such a way that this Messiah is actually crucified, in order to obtain redemption for sinners. That, says the apostle, has been revealed to us

Of course the apostle says that in reaction to the response of the gentiles to a message of Christ crucified. They say: redemption in Christ crucified? You've got to be mad to believe that. Well if that is their reaction then a question arises, are the Christians of Corinth in fact mad? How come they will believe there is redemption in something so idiotic as the message of the crucified Messiah? For that matter, how come we believe it? Paul’s answer is: we believe it because God has lifted the veil for us. God has disclosed it to us.

We understand that we on this earth cannot reach into heaven to learn by ourselves the truths that God has prepared in heaven for our salvation. We understand well that God has to tell us the gospel. We realize too that the Lord God has told us the gospel. It is here in the bible and it is something that God has been busy revealing to mankind ever since the beginning, since the fall into sin. But when the apostle, congregation, says in our text that God has revealed it to us, then the apostle is not referring in the first instance to the fact that God from heaven has come to earth with a message, that he has told us he has given us the bible. No, what the apostle is referring to with the word ‘reveal’ is the notion that we people who have the bible, can't understand it on our own strength. Our eyes need to be opened to read the bible, our ears need to be opened to hear the message of salvation, our hearts need to be opened to understand it.

That this is the point of the word reveal (namely, that God has to open our eyes, our hearts) is evident from what the apostle says in the verses around verse 10. I think now especially of what the apostle writes in verse 7, when the apostle says: "No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." It is a pity that our translation uses the word secret here, for the word ‘secret’ makes us think that God’s wisdom is unknowable. And that is not Paul's point. The word that the translation gives here as secret is actually the word mystery. That word appears more often in the writings of the apostle Paul to describe the Old Testament, to describe the revelation of God that the people of Israel have had for years and centuries. They've had it, and yet somehow (and I'll get to that shortly, how), somehow, the people of Israel have not understood the revelation of God they had in their hands.

To illustrate the point, flip back with me for a minute to the passage we read from Acts, chapter 13. For what does the apostle Paul say there? When the apostle preaches to the people in the city of Antioch about Christ crucified, he does not say you can throw your old testaments away, I have a new message for you. No, he says take your Old Testaments, and read it well. What does it really say? Verse 27: "The people of Jerusalem and the rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath." And what are the words that the prophets read every Sabbath? Why, that is the Old Testament. Though those rulers knew the Old Testament so well (for they were the scribes and the Pharisees after all!), they yet did not realize what the Old Testament was saying. The same in Verse 29: "When they had carried out all that was written about him". You see, Paul insists that the Old Testament says that Christ would be crucified. When they had carried out all that was written about him, then they took him down from the tree. Again Verse 32: "We tell you the good news: what God promised our fathers", in the Old Testament, "he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm". And again Verse 34: "The fact that God raised Him from the dead, never to decay is stated in these word", and the Psalmist quotes from Isaiah 55.

That’s Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, when he says that it is revealed. That does not refer to the fact that God is simply for the first time now speaking from heaven and telling people the message of salvation. He has told that years ago. When he says: "it is revealed", he is saying that now the mystery that covers it all, that which has kept it hidden for generations, that is now being unveiled, is being disclosed.

It is because of this thought, congregation, that the church feels free to say in Lords Day 6: "From where do you know the gospel of Christ?" And the answer is: "From the Holy Gospel which God Himself first revealed in Paradise. Later, He had it proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law." The Old Testament is about Jesus Christ crucified.

Equally, that is why our Lord Jesus Christ, when he taught Israel for those three years, could keep on referring to the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, he could learn from the Old Testament that he had to go to the cross and die. And so I read in Matthew 16:21: "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and be killed". MUST. And how does Jesus know it? Because He read his Old Testament. That Old Testament was clear. But the people didn't understand it. So when Jesus said that He has to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die, what is the disciples' response? Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him and said Lord, never, no way can that happen to you (vs 22). Why does Peter say that? Didn't he have the Old Testament? He did, but he did not understand that the message of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ crucified. In fact, none of the disciples understood it. That is why, when Jesus arose from the dead and walked along the road to Emmaus and met the two disciples, that Jesus had to open their eyes so that they would be made to see. “How foolish you are,” he says, “and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into His glory?” (Luke 24: 25f). That is the message of the Old Testament.

The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 makes mention of the rulers. Verse 8: “None of the rulers of this age understood this mystery”, which God had revealed in the Old Testament. They didn't understand it, for He adds, “if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. With the term ‘rulers’ Paul is speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, those experts who knew the Old Testament so well. Yet it was they who demanded the death of Jesus of Nazareth, called out for Jesus' crucifixion. They had the Old Testament, they were even specialists in the Old Testament, but they did not grasp its message. It was a mystery to them, covered, veiled.

Why was it veiled? Why did the rulers, why did the disciples, not understand? Was it because God was unclear? And the answer is, NO. The point is not that God was unclear, it is as the apostle Paul writes in verse 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". If you look through your Old Testament, congregation, you will not find verse 9 quoted anywhere. There are a couple of texts that are similar, but the apostle Paul in vs 9 is not quoting any particular passage of the Old Testament, but he is catching the drift of the Old Testament. That is what he means when he says "as it is written". Read through your Old Testament and you will find time and time again that the gospel of Jesus Christ is beyond what the eye of man has seen, it is beyond what the ear of man has heard, it is beyond what the mind of man has conceived. Oh, it has been revealed before, but people haven't understood it. And why have they not understood it? That's because people's hearts are so hard. I refer here to what the Lord says in Deuteronomy, chapter 29. He says there in Verse 4: "But to this day the Lord has not given you", the people of Israel, "a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. During the forty years that I led you through the desert your clothes did not wear out”, etc., etc., but you did not catch on. You don't learn to trust. You don't learn that the Lord is mighty to care for you, supply all your needs. I refer also to Jeremiah chapter 5. There the Lord says: "Hear this you foolish and senseless people," Verse 21, ”who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?" Declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?", and then in verse 23: "But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away".

And so I can refer to more texts in the Old Testament. Why is it the people don't understand? It’s because they don't want to! It is the rebellion in human hearts, it is our depravity.

You know, congregation, we experience it regularly that communication depends on the participation of both parties. If the speaker speaks unclearly, has gravel in his mouth, then you cannot fault the hearer for not understanding. But equally if the speaker speaks clearly but the hearer is deaf, you still haven't got communication. Now, and here is the point, the Lord speaks clearly, there is nothing wrong with His Old Testament. But the people are by nature dead in sin. The people are deaf. That is our depravity. We do not tune in to what God says, and that is why the material of the Old Testament remains a mystery for so many in Israel, for the disciples, for the rulers that crucified Christ.

But what about the apostle Paul then, and what about the saints of Corinth? For Paul says in our chapter, verse 6: "We, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature". How can Paul know a message of wisdom (that is of Christ crucified), and how come there are mature people there in Corinth who understand that message, have come to grips with the gospel of Christ crucified? That is our second point:

2. How God reveals this truth.

Verse 10: "God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." That spirit is the agent that God is pleased to use to open closed hearts, to make blind eyes see, to make deaf ears hear. Now why does the Lord use the Spirit as His agent? Who is the Spirit?

The apostle explains why the Lord uses the Spirit in verse 10b. "The Spirit," he says, and that is of course the Holy Spirit, "searches all things, even the deep things of God." Explanation, verse 11: "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?" That is something we all know. We all have our own private thoughts and there is no one that knows the thoughts in our minds except ourselves. If you will, the spirit within us, the self; I know what I think, you know what you think. And the apostle says, so too the Lord God. Who knows the mind of God? God Himself does, His Spirit within Him. Verse 11b: "In the same way", as we know our own thoughts, "In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

OK, and where is the Spirit? The apostle says in Verse 12: "We have not received the spirit of the world, but we have received the Spirit who is from God." What is that all about, “we have received the Spirit who is from God”? That, congregation is Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out. And as our Lord Jesus Christ said, when the Spirit is poured out “We will come and make and make Our home in them” (John 14:23), in the chosen people of God. The Lord God in the Spirit has His home in the hearts of sinners, certain sinners. Well, if the Spirit has been poured out and we have received Him, what does the Spirit do, the Spirit who lives within us? Does He just go to sleep? No, the Spirit has a task, and the task is described in John chapter 16:13: “when he, the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth,” says Jesus to His disciples. And while that text first instance means that the disciples are made able to preach the gospel, the fact of the matter is that all who have received the spirit are lead into the truth. The Spirit who makes His home in God's people lets these people of God know the mind of God, let’s the people of God know the gospel that God has prepared for us in Christ crucified. How else do we come to faith? That is the work of the Spirit in our hearts.

Now, the Lord had revealed the gospel of Christ in the Old Testament already. And so there was a disciple such as Peter who knew the Old Testament, and yet when Jesus says he is going to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die, it is Peter who says, no Lord, never (Mt 16:21f). And then the Holy Spirit is poured out. And the Spirit is poured out on Peter also. What happens then? Well, congregation, this very same Peter who said: no way, Lord, You can't go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die, that same Peter says in Acts chapter 2: "Men of Israel listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs", etc. Then he adds: "this man was handed over by you, by God's set purpose, and you with the help of wicked men, you put Him to death”. And God raised Him from the dead because the Old Testament said that's what has to happen (Acts 2:22ff). Isn't that amazing! Now Peter suddenly understands what the Old Testament is all about. And how does he understand? How come his eyes are now open? Because he has received the Holy Spirit!

So too the apostle Paul. That man persecuted the church, he did his utmost to destroy the followers of Christ, until…. And Paul, you have to understand, was a man who knew the Old Testament so well. He studied at the feet of Gamaliel. But despite all his learning Paul did not comprehend the Old Testament, did not realize that the Old Testament is actually about Christ crucified ? until he received the Holy Spirit. Then he went and preached the gospel, including a sermon as we read from Acts chapter 13. It will have struck you, how Paul went through the Old Testament to show that the Old Testament was about Christ crucified.

That’s also why Paul can say to the Corinthians in our chapter that you have also received the Holy Spirit. He says in verse 12: "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit from God", and the ‘we’ is Paul and the saints of Corinth. So in our text: God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

You know congregation, what is received is not taken. What is received is a gift, what is received is not earned. And there is the point too of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of being able to understand the Old Testament. It is a gift. Let nobody be proud. Only by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit can I understand the scriptures, comprehend that the Bible is about Jesus Christ crucified. Here is place only for humility. To believe it is strictly and only, congregation, God's work, God's doing, God's gift. He's revealed, disclosed it to Paul, to the Corinthians, to you and to me. And so there is place for us, congregation, only to marvel, to praise a God who has given so much, even that insight. Opened our ears to hear, opened our eyes to see, opened our hearts to understand, to believe. Here is room only for humility, no place for pride at all.

You see, congregation, we have more than those around us; we do not have less. They have the world with all the things in it that will perish (vs 6b). Why do I want that? I have more, I have the Spirit. He's made his home even in my heart, and because His home is in my heart, I may know all the thoughts of God, for the Spirit in me knows the thoughts of God, he is God. So God has revealed his truth to us, I have more. No, not that I may now replace feelings of inferiority with feelings of superiority, for superiority does not reflect humility. But it is true, I do not have to feel less than those around me. I don't have to feel inferior or insecure in the face of unbelievers and all their questions and all their ridicule and all their laughter and perhaps even all their fun. No, by the infinite mercy of God I am richer, I have the Spirit, my eyes are opened, while their eyes remain closed.

Why is it that they do not appreciate the gospel of Christ crucified? Verse 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 what comes from the Spirit of God? Why, the message of Christ crucified. The unbeliever laughs at that and calls it moronic, that's madness. He cannot understand it because those things are spiritually discerned. But, verse 15: "The spiritual man", that is the man who has the Holy Spirit, that's you and me, that's every Christian. That man, because he has the Spirit, "makes judgments about all things". All what things? Makes judgments about the things of the world and says, that’s not near as good as the things of God. The spiritual man makes judgments about the things of God and he stands in awe that God would give such a message of redemption to the unworthy. And the apostle continues: “that spiritual man is not subject to any man’s judgment”. A spiritual man, that’s you and me, is not subject to any man’s judgment. And who is the “any man”? Why, that is the non-spiritual man, that’s the people in the world who tell you you’re crazy for going to church, for believing Christ crucified. And the Lord tells us, don’t listen to them. You’re not subject to the opinion of the world, but the world is subject to your opinion. You have the Spirit, you have the mind of Christ, you know the thoughts of God. And who is there in all the world that could educate God?! Verse 16, can you instruct God, can any unbeliever? No, says Paul, no one can teach God a thing or two. But we, he concludes, we have the mind of Christ. How come? Because the Spirit lives in our hearts.

My brothers, my sisters, do you feel inferior to those around us? Do you want to be considered normal by them, accepted by them? We are all sinful and we all would like to be accepted, and that is why we sometimes talk like the world and we dress like the world and we listen to the music of the world and we like to tell jokes like the world, but congregation: you are different! You are more, you are richer! You have what they don’t have, you have the Spirit.

What a God to give you and me such wealth. We’re privileged and therefore responsible to carry ourselves, to conduct ourselves as people who are rich, people who have more, more, not because we are better but more, because God is so merciful. To Him all the praise! Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Rev. C. Bouwman

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