TITLE : The Holy Spirit makes the Difference !
DATE PREACHED : 21st March 2010
What makes the church unique ? What would want to make you want to love and serve this body of people more than anything else in this world ? Why should you prefer the fellowship of the church to any social club , sports club or charity organization ?
Let’s face it . If we would face a situation such as we read of here in the church at Corinth – a divided church , any other organization might indeed look much more peaceful and desirable and appealing than the church ! And because of such things , no doubt, many so called ‘para- church’ organizations have come into existence to substitute for the apparently frustrating slowness and sinfulness of the church .
Are we at liberty to find a substitute for the church ? The problem with such thinking is that God seems to have ordained no other organization, or body other than the church on earth.
Should we not be thinking more biblically about the real causes of conflict and divisions , and submit ourselves to biblical thinking and action in this matter ?
Unfortunately we do not always seem to have the spiritual wisdom and knowledge to understand the ultimate cause of church divisions.
I had reminded you recently from the Scriptures that Satan is the arch-enemy of Christ and His church - the body of Christ . Satan is always the prime mover behind everything that is contrary to the method of gospel living. It is therefore important that we should not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11) . It is important that we should learn to uses biblical strategies ( such as employing the spiritual armour in Eph 6:10-18) to cause Satan to flee from the church , rather than abandoning her in favour of other causes . We cannot ever be to intimidated by the divisive schemes of men in the hands of the enemy of the church who sometimes knowingly , and most often unknowingly undermine the work of the church through their careless living and lack of biblical thinking in the realm of churchmanship .
So , allow me to press this question upon you again : Why should we love and serve the church even amidst her shortcomings , weaknesses and trials ?
The answer is plain from the text that we have covered so far in our expositions. We must love and protect the church because God uniquely loves her ! I will put it to you in terms of a Trinitarian statement , all deriuved from 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 and 2 :
The church is the body of people that called the Church of God (1:2). God the Father chose the members of the church (1:27,28)
Christ the Son laid down His life on the cross, sanctifying the members of the church by His death (1:2,30)
and now in this section of Scripture ( 2:6-16) we shall learn that the church , God’s people, are uniquely blessed with the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit . When something is ‘illuminated’ then that means that the lights have been switched on . The church is a people in whom the Holy Spirit is pleased to switch the light of the wisdom of God on . The Holy Spirit makes the difference in the church !
The deductions from such an observation are simple . A body of people who are so loved and so esteemed by our Triune God , must surely also be esteemed by us . Learn us therefore to love and embrace this biblical wisdom ! Love the church !Love what God supemely loves !
Let me then remind you once again concerning the basic issues in our text . Paul has been addressing the basic problem of disunity in the church , and in so doing he takes us right to the solution . Any disunity in the church (or for that matter in the marriage or in the family) must be managed by returning to the word of the cross . There is our level ground ! To understand this requires biblical wisdom . Be careful that you possess the right kind of wisdom when you work with the church !
Paul says that there are two kinds of wisdoms in this world .They are the wisdom of this world (1:20) and the wisdom of God ( 1:24) . We also note that these two wisdoms are respectively employed by the “natural person” (2:14) and the “spiritual person” ( 2:15) . Let us consider these two approaches as they determine our ways of handling conflict .
What is a "natural man"?
The word for "natural man" ( Gr. psuchikos) is also used in Jude 19 : "It is these who cause divisions, worldly people (i.e. psuchikoi - natural people), devoid of the Spirit." Natural people here are seen as divisive by their nature ; they are people who do not have the Holy Spirit. They are not born again of the Spirit , and therefore they only think with their natural senses , without the influence of the Holy Spirit upon their thoughts .
What is a “spiritual man “?
The opposite of "natural man" is the "spiritual man" ( Gr. pneumatikos) —a born again man - “ one who understands the things freely given us by God…” as 1 Cor 2:12 affirms .
What is the difference between the two ?
The Holy Spirit makes the difference between the two! It is He who leads us into the depths of God , because He comprehends the thoughts of God (v.11) - because He is God . A natural man is a person who has not received the Spirit. That's why he can't understand "the things of the Spirit of God."
To the natural man the gospel , the word of the cross , or if you like, the wisdom of God is "folly" (v. 14) . Compare this also with :
- 1:18 : " For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
- 1:23-24 : "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
The heart of the problem is the natural man’s heart ! His heart is a stone (Ezekiel 11:19;36:26) .This heart doesn’t want to search out the implications of the claims of Christ and the word of the cross for himself . He doesn’t desire to understand Christ’s work on the cross . He doesn’t see what this has got to do with his own sin – and therefore he tries to ignore the implication of what his sin will lead to. Not only does he refuse to see these things , but they are foolish to him.
That is why we need the ministry of the Holy Spirit . Oh, brothers and sisters, pray that the Holy Spirit will be pleased to work in the church ! Make sure that you understand the signs of His working - the fruit of the Spirit which issue in a life that pleases God . The sign of His working are not tongues and miracles. The sign of His working is the interpretation of spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (v. 13) . The primary spiritual truth that ought to move us in the church is the Word of the Cross – Christ our wisdom from God ; Christ our righteousness; Christ our sanctification; Christ our redemption . We have no other grounds to boast in ( 1:30,31)
So I remind you agian : Understanding the work of God is a matter of spiritual discernment (v.14) - a gift of the Holy Spirit . “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him , and he is not able to understand , because these things are spiritually discerned .”
The word translated here as 'discernment' means to make a thorough appraisal or judgement. The Holy Spirit helps us to discerning who Christ really is ; He helps us to discern the nature of His work ; He helps us to discern the nature of the church - all this takes spiritual discernment ! You cannot figure God’s truth out naturally . You need the Holy Spirit as Interpreter !
That is why Paul insists that his own gospel ministry could never be understood apart from the work of the Holy Spirit . The gospel must come to us not only in mere words but also in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power ( 2:4,5) .
You are not here to only hear words repeated from the Bible . You are here, in the presence and under the power of the Holy Spirit to have your stubborn wills moved from self will into the will of God . You are here to learn to love and serve the Son in the fellowship of His church , and you are here to work for the gospel . You are here for the furthering of His kingdom and for the glory of God alone !
That is the word of wisdom that is spoken of in v. 6- to the mature ! (Gr. teleios – finished, complete, perfect) .
Now it is true that all Christians are of course made perfect before God by the completed work of Christ . They are the ones who are indwelt by the Spirit of wisdom .
It is this lack of mature /complete understanding in the natural man that caused the “rulers of this age” who had a hand in handing Christ over to the cross, which causes every other natural person to miss the boat with respect to the gospel . Had they only understood that this foolish , unattractive , poor miracle worker was the Lord of Glory they would not have crucified Him . But flesh and blood could not reveal this to them…
Only the Holy Spirit could do this !
This knowledge belongs to those whose eyes have been opened by God through His Holy Spirit (v. 10) - the Spirit of interpretation who discloses the depth of God to our hearts so that we might understand the things freely given to us by God. (v.12). Likewise the preacher who is born again , and gifted , is helped to impart these words not taught by human wisdom , but taught by the Spirit , interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual . (v.13) . That is why I remind you repeatedly that sitting under the Word of God is not an ordinary lecture - it is a spiritual encounter !
Now the final question :
Why does Paul say these things to a church – a body of born again people ? Aren’t they “spiritual’ ? Aren’t they qualified to understand the deep things of God ? The answer is both “Yes” and “No!”
- “Yes” , because the work of Christ makes a believer wise to the things of God.
- “No“, because if the believer does not respond to the Spirit’s revelation of Christ in obedience , he or she is technically no better than the ‘natural man ‘ . Fortunately the Holy Spirit is committed to the work of sanctification in every true believer . That means that He will not leave you alone until He has produced this maturity(v.6) in you . Over time He will apply His refiners fire to your life so that you will be conformed to Christ’s image .
I must leave you then with this important observation : Although it is true that a Christian can begin in Christ and with the Spirit , it is patently obvious that a christian can act unspiritually and give into a fleshly way of thinking , acting as it were by fleshly impulses and motives.
We will consider this next time as I shall continue with Paul’s words in 1 Cor 3:1 : “ But , I brothers , could not address you as spiritual people… “.
If you find yourself in this unhappy position , my dear brother and sister in Christ , I counsel you to leave that unhappy position as soon as possible and adopt the mind of Christ once more ( 1 Cor 2:16) Amen .