Paul told the Corinthians that, when he came to them, it was not with lofty speech or wisdom. But this doesn’t mean that Paul didn’t tap into wisdom when he was there. We know this because Paul continued, “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” (1 Cor. 2:6 ESV).
The wisdom was a “secret and hidden wisdom of God” and it was ancient. For Paul, it was important to impart this wisdom to the mature. Had he attempted to impart this wisdom to everyone, it would have fallen on deaf ears. The most effective way, then, to proclaim Christ to the masses in Corinth was in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
While he used a demonstration of the Spirit and of power to the larger population of Corinth, Paul also imparted wisdom to the mature. Why was this important? Because “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, Paul says that “we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). Those who are spiritual will understand the wisdom of the Spirit.
For this reason, we need to teach Christians the importance of being spiritual. Being spiritual leads to being Spirit-led. And for the mature, wisdom is imparted.
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When Paul first came into Corinth, he was alone for the first time since he began his missionary journeys. He had been chased out of Macedonia and had to separate from the rest of his companions. He boarded a ship and sailed down to Athens, preached there, then moved into Corinth. For whatever reason, Paul was fearful and felt very alone.
When Timothy and Silas finally joined Paul in Corinth, Luke says that “Paul was occupied with the word” (Acts 18:5). This is interesting because Paul told the Corinthians that, when he first came, he “decided to known nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul was very, very focused on Jesus and the cross. In fact this was his sole focus.
Paul makes it clear that Paul came to Corinth in weakness and in fear and much trembling. Though he later says that he imparted wisdom to the mature, at first his message was not shrouded in lofty speech and wisdom. Rather, it was 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” (1 Cor. 2:5).
Sometimes we get so troubled with getting our message right that we lose focus on Jesus and the cross. The irony is that the message ends up getting diluted. Paul was more interested in remaining focused on Christ and him crucified than he was getting his speeches right. Because Paul maintained this focus, he was able to witness by way of demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This is what transformed people in Corinth. Where the Spirit of God is at work, there is life!
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Wisdom comes from God. If it didn’t our wisdom would come from what we believe to be right in our own eyes. But wisdom from above produces good works, is gentle, patient, and honest. James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in meekness of wisdom.”
The opposite of this is jealousy, selfishness, and dishonesty. James continues, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:14, 15). James says that these earthly passions lead to disorder and every vile practice.
Instead, James calls his listeners to seek Godly wisdom. James tells them that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. This is the kind of wisdom that we all need to seek.
There is so much discord in churches all over the world because of jealousy, selfishness, and dishonesty. If there is ongoing inner turmoil, rest assured that decisions are not being guided by Godly wisdom. Peace and righteousness are true markers of wisdom from above.
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As we focus on the theme of wisdom this year, it’s appropriate to talk about struggles in the context of wisdom. Oftentimes, in the middle of our deepest struggles, wisdom is what carries us through. Wisdom allows us to see beyond the tragedy so that hope can emerge and come into deeper focus. Wisdom helps us make guided decisions so that we don’t remain in a permanent rut.
Without wisdom, we would never understand that trials can actually deepen our faith. They have the ability to refine us and make us stronger. James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:2-4).
Most of us don’t have the first instinct to be joyful when trials hit. It is not our fist response. Our sight gets clouded by the agony of the pain. We often are dazed, shocked, and have to focus on just breathing. But it’s wisdom that helps us see the big picture. Wisdom tells us that there is a loving God who validates our suffering. Wisdom tells us that we can put one foot in front of the other and that each step is another movement forward.
But we also need to ask in faith. James says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” In all of our trials, we need to ask for more wisdom. Our faith will be tested. Our faith is tested. Let’s ask for wisdom as it is tested.
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