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Understanding the Wisdom of God

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 26, 2022 4:00 am

Understanding the Wisdom of God

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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April 26, 2022 4:00 am

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But when the world gets into the area of trying to understand where man came from, why he's here, where he's going, what his meaning is, when it tries to define God, when it tries to define morality, when it tries to define real joy, real peace, real happiness, it wipes out.

That's philosophy. Some people think those words demonstrate incredible wisdom. Well, whether or not you think that's an outstanding example of wisdom, ask yourself this. To what extent can human insight, even the greatest example of it, help you and your church minister to people's deepest spiritual needs?

Under what conditions is human wisdom instructive and helpful, and at what point does it exceed its usefulness? John MacArthur helps you answer those questions today on Grace to You. He calls his series The Foolishness of God, and now here's John. I suppose that from time to time all of us examine what we do to try to just define a little better the things that we do, especially as Christians. And one of the things that constantly is going through my mind in terms of definition is what is it that I'm endeavoring to accomplish as I teach the Word of God week in and week out? Am I attempting to entertain the people? Well, not really, although I hope parts of it aren't boring. Am I endeavoring to inspire and motivate them?

Yes, but more than that, I hope it's inspirational and motivational. Basically what I'm endeavoring to do is to tell you what the Scripture means. And I think it's important for us to back up to that particular perspective from time to time so we can see what it is we're supposed to get so we know when we've gotten it. Our objective in studying the Word of God is not to entertain you, that'll pass fast, not to motivate you and inspire you, that will pass fast, but to explain to you what the Bible means.

Then you can go back to it as a point of reference with understanding. And so my task as a teacher of the Word of God is just that to show you what it means and perhaps along the way to inspire or entertain or whatever happens to help you to better grasp what it means. And so we want to discover what it means by what it says in 1 Corinthians 2, 6 to 16. Now as you remember, one of the many problems that existed in the Corinthian situation was the failure of the Christians to break with human philosophy. The Corinthians were in a very, very immoral and humanly intellectual society, a world that was pretty well based upon the reason and the lusts of men. And when they became Christians, they dragged this kind of immorality and this kind of rationalism into the church. And the book of Corinthians is written to try to get them to cut the cords of their former worldly life, both philosophically and in terms of moral behavior. One of the problems that was existing was the fact that these people before they became Christians were aligned with certain philosophers. And when they became believers, they tended to attach continually to that philosopher so that they dragged the human philosophy into the church and there was a lack of unity because they couldn't agree on philosophy. And so Paul writes a lengthy section from chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 2, 3 and even part of 4 telling them to cut off from human philosophy, to sever the connection that human philosophy is unnecessary, that human wisdom has nothing to offer them. And the purpose then of this section is to continue Paul's argument against the necessity of human wisdom.

Let me add a footnote because I don't want you to misconstrue what we're saying. We realize that man has really developed some amazing things scientifically and technologically that have been to our benefit. When we say we reject human wisdom, it doesn't mean that we reject any application of human wisdom to anything at all.

It means we object to human philosophy, that is, that part of man's reasoning which attempts to answer ultimate questions. We don't have an answer to everything as Christians. For example, if my wife's washing machine goes wrong, I'm a Christian but I still can't fix it.

I've got to get an unsaved guy to fix it or whatever. I mean, there are some things that human wisdom provides for me that I don't have, you know. So that isn't the issue. If I need my car fixed, I'm not so concerned that the guy's a Christian as that he is a good mechanic. And we're not disparaging that.

Some of the greatest teachers I've ever had in my life, some of the people who have taught me the most, some of the people who have had the greatest influence on my life in terms of framing my personality have been non-Christians who really knew something about their area of education or technology or whatever it might be, history, science. But when the world gets into the area of trying to understand where man came from, why he's here, where he's going, what his meaning is, when it tries to define God, when it tries to define morality, when it tries to define real joy, real peace, real happiness, it wipes out. That's philosophy. So we're not saying that man's technology hasn't helped us. We're not saying that medical technology, that scientific technology, that advancement in many areas has not helped.

And we do accept that and we do believe in that and we do respond to that. But the thing that bothers us is all of the philosophy of man that continues to drown us. Do you realize there are two thousand new pages printed every second? There are 365,000 hardback books printed every year and that doesn't include the paperbacks? Different books.

There are 60 million pages a year produced. So we're not denying the place of human wisdom at all. We're simply saying that when human wisdom is applied toward ultimate truth or toward the things which deal with God and sin and man's destiny and salvation and transformation of life and morality and ethics and all that, that man's philosophy is bankrupt, absolutely zilch. So Paul says to the Corinthians, now you don't need this philosophy, junk it.

It's unnecessary. Now Paul illustrates the fact that he doesn't believe in the necessity of human wisdom by chapter 2 verses 1 to 5. He says, you remember how it was when I came to you? I didn't come with excellency of speech, verse 1, or wisdom. Verse 4, my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom. Verse 5, I didn't want your faith to stand in the wisdom of men. In other words, Paul says, you can see that I didn't put any stock in human philosophy. I didn't put any stock in human wisdom by the very way that I came to you.

That's obvious. Verse 2, I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I didn't come to you with some sophisticated words or sophisticated philosophy. I came to you with simplicity. You see, the gospel does not need the addition of human philosophy. God does not need man's reason, man's innovation. Everything the gospel comes in really is very simple.

The preacher comes along in Corinth like Paul did and presents Christ and Him crucified. It's very simple. In fact, they said it's so simple it's foolish.

Remember that? The preaching of the cross was to them that perish what? Foolishness. They said, this is stupid. This is nonsense. You mean you expect us intellectuals with all the wisdom that we've gained and all the education and all the sophisticated philosophies?

You mean that you expect us to believe that somewhere, sometime one guy dies on a cross and that's the whole crux of human destiny? Now watch verse 6. However, we are speaking wisdom.

Stop right there. It may not be the world's wisdom and you may think it is foolish and you may say it is simple and simplistic, but we are speaking wisdom. You may not see it as such, but it is. I reject human wisdom. I reject human reason, but we do teach true wisdom. They object that He doesn't teach philosophy. He says philosophy can't save. Do you realize that after all the philosophies and philosophers of the ages, man is just as bad as he's ever been?

If not worse, more wars, more crime, worse. And so He says, we are speaking wisdom, what's this? Among them that are perfect. The problem is that only the saved know it. Perfect, teleiois here, refers to full grown or mature and in this context, incidentally, the word teleiois or teleos, wherever it's used to speak of perfect ones, it has to be interpreted in the context because it can mean a Christian who's very mature or it can just mean a Christian period. A Christian is one who has come to the place of knowledge, of being complete in Christ. And so here it is referring to a Christian, not a super Christian, just a Christian, because he's not contrasting mature Christians with infantile ones. He's contrasting Christians with unbelievers. We are speaking wisdom among those that are believers. The only people who know this as wisdom are the Christians.

See if you can illustrate it in your own mind. Some of you can't remember when you weren't a Christian. Like the little kid said, you know, are you a Christian? He says, all my life, you know, I've been a Christian.

I don't know anything else. And maybe you're in the same boat. Maybe ever since you were a little kid, that's all you've ever known. I've always been a Christian. But if you can think back to the time that you weren't a Christian and think about your reactions to the gospel, usually your reaction was the gospel was pretty stupid, pretty foolish. And it didn't really seem very profound, did it?

Christ dies on the cross and so that's it. And when you became a Christian, all of a sudden the whole meaning of the gospel got some depths to it that just were unfathomable. And you began to realize that this stuff was deep. And the longer you've been a Christian, the deeper it all gets, right? And the more unsearchable, and you feel like the apostle Paul who in Romans 11 33 says, oh, how unsearchable are thy ways, how past finding out how deep is your wisdom and knowledge.

But before you were a believer, it was all very simplistic. And then when you become a believer and you begin to look at the cross and you begin to look at the gospel and you begin to look at the incarnation and what went on at the cross and you can't even begin with your human reason to plumb the depths of all that is there. And so the apostle says, yes, we are speaking wisdom, but the only people who understand it are the believers.

And you don't understand it because it isn't human philosophy. It is wisdom, the wisdom of God, only open to the minds of believers. That's what Ephesians 1 8 says, that it's God who's given us the understanding of his wisdom. Now from there Paul divides the rest of the text into two points. I'm just going to give these two points to you, very simple. And yet I want you to get this because you'll find that this can be very, very helpful not only in giving you the understanding of the passage that God's given us, but in helping you to relate this to somebody else.

Two points. Number one, true wisdom is not humanly discovered. Number two, true wisdom is divinely revealed.

That's pretty simple. Number one, true wisdom is not humanly discovered. You can't discover God on your own.

You can't transcend the natural because you cannot escape the confines of a natural existence and leap into the supernatural dimension, come back and tell us about God. You can't leave. You're here. You're stuck.

You're in a natural world. You are unable to know God. True wisdom, that is ultimate truth regarding God, man, destiny, all of that. Salvation is not known to man's mind.

Yet all the religions of the world are efforts on the part of man to discover God, to find God. Christianity says you can't find God. He found you.

Luke 19, the Son of Man has come to what? Seek. Who is lost? To give testimonies, I found the Lord, but he wasn't lost. He found you. If you had to be looking for him, you'd have had a mess because you couldn't find him.

Thank God he came and found us. And so it is that we are not able to transcend our system. Now notice how he develops this in verse 6. We are speaking among them that are perfect, this wisdom. Yet we realize that it is not the wisdom of this age nor of the princes of this age that comes to nothing. It is not a wisdom that is available to either the philosophies or the philosophers of this age which come to nothing. We go on preaching wisdom, not the wisdom of the world Dion in the Greek.

It's translated world maybe in your Bible or maybe age or maybe era. Dion has the idea of time. We are not speaking the wisdom of this particular time. And for every different time there's a different philosophy, right? Philosophers just keep coming and going and coming and going and all of them have come to nothing. Add up all that philosophy has contributed and you get zero. The wisdom of this age, the wisdom of the next era, the wisdom of the next era, the wisdom of the next era, nothing.

It's all katargel, rendered ineffective, empty. And whatever age you happen to be living in, we're not preaching that. I'm not here to tell you human opinion. I'm not here to tell you what I think. I'm not here to give you some wonderful philosophy for life. I'm here to tell you what the Bible means by what it says because this is the revelation of God.

I'm not here to give you my opinion. I'm here to tell you what the Word says. And so it is that Paul says we realize that this ultimate truth is outside the boundaries of the wisdom of this particular era and the philosophers of this era, all of whom come to nothing. But, verse 7, and here's the strongest adversative in the Greek language, Allah, But on the other hand, we speak or are speaking the wisdom of God.

Stop right there. We are not speaking something from this system or from this world, from these philosophers. Rather it is from whom?

From God. He is talking about a divine, supernatural wisdom. Yes, we are speaking wisdom. They said, ah, foolishness.

Nonsense. No, we are speaking wisdom. And the believers understand that it's wisdom. It is not the wisdom from your system. It is the wisdom of God. And the reason you don't understand it, verse 7, is we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom. The reason you don't know it is it isn't knowable to you. Man doesn't know the wisdom of God because God has not given it to man to know.

He has put it outside the boundaries of man's capacity. And when you see the word mystery there, you need to get a definition. Mysterion in the Greek, it doesn't mean something that's occultic or clandestine or puzzling or like a labyrinth or a maze where you've got to sort of find your way on the quest for the wisdom of God.

Isn't that at all? The word mystery means a secret which is impossible for man to penetrate but which God has chosen to reveal. Something man can't know but God has revealed. So the word points to the impossibility of man knowing God's secret and the love of God which makes that secret known. Aren't you glad we couldn't know it? Well, you say, I'm not too glad. Aren't you glad we couldn't know it but God revealed it?

Yes. It would be tragic if we couldn't know it and it got stuck that way. We can't know it. It's outside of us. Aren't you glad it's outside of us? Aren't you glad that all of the truth is outside man?

Man hasn't done much with what he's got. So it is a mystery. That is, God has hidden it. It is called the hidden, that which is hidden. God has hidden it from before the ages.

Pro aridzo. He planned it, foreordained it before the ages began, before time began. God had this marvelous salvation plan.

He hid it. And in Christ, in the New Testament, the mysteries were all revealed. Paul even calls himself the apostle who is given the dispensation of the mysteries to open up the mysteries. And God has opened those mysteries to us, those things which were hidden throughout history. And why unto our glory, our blessing, our eternal excellence. Imagine, for all time and before time, God planned our eternal blessing.

In the right time, he unfolded his mystery. It's something that even the Old Testament people didn't see. They believed in God and they believed in that revelation coming, though they never saw it.

God accepted that as saving faith. But we know the full revelation of the mystery. Not because we comprehend it in human minds, but because God, having hidden it, has now revealed it. So, Paul says, look, it's wisdom. We know you can't understand it.

It doesn't come out of your system. For the first place, for the second place, God has hidden it. The world will never know God on its own. Men will never find God on their own. The world will never develop a religion that is true.

Philosophy will never cut it because it is outside the realm of man's world. It can't come from within his own world. God has hidden it from him. Verse 8 is a living illustration of this fact.

Proof. Look, the true wisdom, none of the princes of this age knew. For had they known, they would not have, what? Crucified the Lord of glory. Listen, what's he referring to?

Watch. None of the princes of this era. Now, what era was Paul living in? The New Testament period.

Who were the princes of that time? They were the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders. He says, let me give you an illustration of the fact that the world doesn't know God. That the leaders of the world have never known God on their own terms, by their own reason. Take, for example, the princes of this age, he says in verse 8. The Roman chiefs and the Jewish ones. They didn't know God.

They didn't know the truth. For if they had, they never would have crucified the Lord of glory, the very God of excellence. And my friend, if you ever doubt that Jesus is God, you better read that verse again. He is called the Lord of glory. Glory is all of the attributes of God. And these are types of all the people of all the ages who have rejected Christ.

This is just the apex. This just proves the point. This is just the high point of showing you that man's wisdom can't know God. Here were all the brilliant Romans and all the educated erudite, well-known, well-schooled in the Old Testament Jews, and together they crucified Christ. Executing the Lord of glory. That shows you how much they really knew. They didn't know anything.

Great illustration. The best and the wisest of the world never knew God's truth, or they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of glory. I love the way he calls him the Lord of glory in contrast to the humiliation of crucifixion. They crucified the Lord of glory.

What a misconstruing of the truth. So Paul contrasts the shame of the cross with the glory of the crucified and shows how far off the truth human wisdom was. All the Romans with all their gods and all their religion didn't know God. They crucified him. All the Jews with all their information didn't know God. They crucified him. You say, but how is it so that they cannot know?

How is it so that this is hidden? Verse 9 gives you the answer. As it is written, and here he quotes from Isaiah 64, 4 most likely.

He says, As it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him. Have most of you heard that verse before? That's the kind of verse you memorize when you're a kid, isn't it? And you know it's like so many verses we memorize, we memorize it out of context. When I was little, I can remember learning that that verse referred to heaven.

Remember that? Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, the glow of heaven seen. That doesn't have a remotest relationship to heaven primarily. Do you find anything in this context about heaven? Is he talking about heaven here? He's talking about ignorance, isn't he? He's not talking about Christians not being able to know what heaven's like. He's talking about unbelievers not being able to know what salvation is like. That's his whole point.

Watch it. Now he says, It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love him. Now God from the ages past prepared some fantastic things for the people that love him. But the people that don't love him can't know what those things are. You see, the world with all of its quest for truth can't figure out what's going on. There are only two ways you can come to the truth from a human viewpoint. Only two ways that a human can make a conclusion about truth. Number one is objective. Number two is subjective. Number one is by the external, empirical, experiential method. The second one is by reason or logic.

That's all. It's either empiricism or rationalism. Here comes the first one. As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. Now, if you're going to look at objective truth, there's only two ways you can assimilate objective truth.

Through the eye or the ear, right? This is how you gain truth. Well, remember folks, through the human eye and through the human ear, ultimate truth cannot pass. No, eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard.

That plan of God prepared for those that love him. It's not observable externally. You cannot discover God. You can't run around, oh, there's God, now I know. No. And you'll never hear a voice out of a big mountain, hi, I'm God, here are a few instructions.

Never happened. You see, it is not observable by human observation, empiricism, experiment. Second, let's go internal. The other way that men draw conclusions is by their own reason, rationalism. Neither have entered into the mind of man.

Heart simply means mind. You can't know it externally from an objective fact. You can't know it internally from a subjective thought process. You can't come to God by observation or by rationalism.

That's pretty hopeless, isn't it? God's got a great plan for those that love him. God has hidden it. It's not known to the philosophers of this era. That's proven by the fact that if they had known it, they wouldn't have executed Jesus. And incidentally, everybody that goes on rejecting Jesus proves continually, continually, continually that they can't know the truth. Doesn't it? And they can try by experiment to find it, and they can try by logic to find it, and they won't. Because it is not known to them by that. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's current study is looking at 1 Corinthians chapter 1. He calls it the foolishness of God. John, today you mentioned that the only reason anyone embraces the gospel is because the Holy Spirit enlightens that person. All Christians have been given wisdom by the Spirit. So I'm wondering, if every Christian has been filled with divine wisdom, if we have the mind of Christ, why are there so many disagreements in the church over doctrine?

Shouldn't we all agree if we're all filled with the same Spirit? Well, let's go back to the first statement that you made, that the only reason a person embraces the gospel is because the Holy Spirit enlightens him. That is explicitly stated in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. No man can confess Jesus as Lord, but by the Holy Spirit. So our salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that gives us life, repentance, and the ability to believe in the gospel. Secondly, no Christian is without the Holy Spirit. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, Paul says in Romans 8, he's none of his. So if you don't have the Holy Spirit, you don't even belong to the Lord. Conversely, if you belong to the Lord, you have the Holy Spirit.

John adds a third element to this. We don't need to be taught human wisdom because we have an anointing from God. In 1 John, that anointing from God is the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit saves us, essentially, by his regenerating power and grants us faith and repentance.

The Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, lives in us, and the Holy Spirit is the anointing from God that enlightens us. And that takes us to what Paul said to the Corinthians, the 1 Corinthians, that the Spirit is the only one who knows the mind of God and can accurately interpret that. All of that simply to say, you have the Spirit to lead you and guide you in understanding Scripture.

Now you say, well, isn't that enough? Well, it is enough, but it's amazing how we can block and hinder the work of the Spirit in leading us to the truth by coming to the Bible, for example, with presuppositions, by coming to the Bible with tradition, by having been taught wrongly. In other words, we can be so front-loaded with error or we can lack the diligence that it takes to submit to the teaching of the Holy Spirit by carefully, thoughtfully, painstakingly, and accurately interpreting the Word of God. There are differences because there are lots of people who don't come to the right interpretation. As I said, we'll one day understand it accurately, of course, when we're with the Lord. But there's no reason not to get the Bible accurately right here on earth because we have the tools, if we're diligent enough, study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman needing not to be ashamed. That's right, and friend, if you're afraid that you're studying Scripture incorrectly or you just want to get better at it, pick up John's book, How to Study the Bible. It's filled with practical instruction for rightly dividing the truth. To order your copy, get in touch today. Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, This is a helpful book that answers essential questions like, what's the best strategy for studying the Bible? Or how do you apply what Scripture says?

And how can you bridge the gaps of history and culture and language? Again, to purchase John's book, How to Study the Bible, call us at 800-55-GRACE, or go to And remember, at there are thousands of practical resources available free of charge. Whether you want to listen to radio broadcasts that you may have missed, or maybe you have questions about marriage or honoring Christ at your job, or how can you minister to a loved one who's suffering, if you have questions like that, you can search thousands of John's sermons and daily devotionals, blog articles, Q&As, to find the teaching that can help you meet your spiritual needs. Our website again, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at the three key ways the Holy Spirit gives wisdom to believers like you and me. Don't miss the next half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-27 03:32:38 / 2023-04-27 03:44:04 / 11

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