The World, the Church and the Cross 4. What the World Doesn't Know
1 Corinthians 2: 6 - 9
Underline 1 word and pay special attention to it - Paul repeats it 4 times. It’s the word “wisdom.”
There is the “message of wisdom” that Paul shared with others. There is the “wisdom of this age” that really is no wisdom at all. There is God’s “secret wisdom” that is really “hidden wisdom” that the world has never understood and does not understand now.
Wisdom comes from 1 of 2 places—God or the world. God’s wisdom leads us in one direction; the world’s wisdom leads us in another direction. God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom stand forever at odds with each other. You can have one or the other, but you can’t have both at the same time. This principle explains so much that happens around us. It tells us why unbelievers think like they do, and it helps us understand why they sometimes ridicule what we believe. Put simply, they lack the true wisdom that comes from God. There are some things the world simply does not know. Paul mentions at least 2 of them in this passage:
1. The World Doesn’t Understand Who Jesus Is v. 8
Let that thought hang in the air for just a moment. “They would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” If they had known … If they had understood … But they didn’t!
Pilate didn’t know who Jesus was. Yes, he had heard the stories, the wild rumours about healings and miracles, and people brought back from the dead. You could hardly keep things like that private. The news had spread like wildfire. Pilate had heard all of that, and he no doubt believed some of it. He seems to have been a cautious “seeker,” a man who is fascinated by Jesus but cannot commit himself to believe in him.
Pontius Pilate appears as a kind of tortured soul—a man caught between the demands of his job and a genuine curiosity about Jesus. “What is truth?” he asked. It was not an idle question. He really wanted to know the truth. When he washed his hands with water, he was trying to say, “I did the best I could to save this man but I couldn’t. His blood is now on your hands.” It didn’t work; it could never have worked.
Pilate stands guilty of a terrible crime—crucifying the Lord of glory. Only he didn’t know Jesus was the Lord of glory. Exactly who he thought Jesus was, we cannot say for certain. But this much we know—he didn’t know, didn’t understand, and so he ordered him crucified.
The world didn’t understand Jesus when he walked on the earth, and the world still doesn’t understand him today. This fact should give us patience when we talk to unbelievers. Sometimes when lost people say foolish things that are rude and unkind, we may be tempted to retaliate with unkind words of our own. That’s almost always a bad idea. It’s like cursing a blind man because he can’t see the colour green. The lost are not only lost; they are also spiritually blind.
2 Corinthians 4: 4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
1. It is the work of Satan to blind unbelievers to the truth of the gospel. He has a personal interest in keeping the lost blind and confused so they will continue to serve him.
2. This blindness occurs in the realm of the mind so that unbelievers remain confused about the truth of God. The blindness is mental, moral and intellectual. The light shines all around them, yet they stumble along in the darkness.
3. As a result of this moral blindness, unbelievers literally cannot “see” the truth of the gospel. That is why when a person says, “I just don’t see what you’re talking about,” that’s not an excuse, it’s the literal truth. They don’t see it because they can’t see it because Satan has blinded their mind.
We cannot argue people into the kingdom. It’s generally a waste of time to try. The danger of arguing with unbelievers is that when our ego gets involved, we start to take things personally. We get red-faced, we raise our voice, we get angry, and we start to insult the other person, as if by being rude we can convince them that God really loves them.
This truth teaches us that salvation is entirely the work of God from beginning to end. Yes, we are commanded to preach the gospel to the whole world, and we are to speak the truth in love and to tell the world that Jesus saves. But it is not our words that will save people. It is the power in the gospel itself. Even though we sometimes talk about “winning” people to Christ, in the final analysis, we don’t win anyone. We preach and pray and share and talk and discuss and answer questions and we become all things to all people so that we might by all means win as many as we can. But our efforts amount to a big fat zero apart from the mighty working of God’s Spirit.
This truth frees us to be bold because everything depends on God and not on us. When you understand that truth, and when it grips your heart, when you know that the power rests with God and not with you, then you are free to speak up and free to step out in faith even though others may misunderstand and some may oppose you. You can be bold because it doesn’t depend on you anyway. It all depends on God!
2. The World Doesn’t Understand Who We Are
The world has its own wisdom. It has a worldview that systematically leaves God out of everything. It seems that if you are a Christian in a public position these days, you dare not open your mouth about your faith or you risk public ridicule and perhaps the loss of your job.
But what else should we expect from people who do not understand Jesus and therefore do not understand his followers either? When Paul says the rulers of this age are coming to nothing, he means that in the end, they will be exposed as having been wrong about the most crucial fact in the universe. Either they don’t believe in God at all, or they deny his sovereignty over every part of the universe. There is no such thing as “partial sovereignty.” Either God rules all things or he doesn’t rule anything. That’s why the central truth of the Bible comes in the very 1st verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). But when you miss that fundamental truth, everything else in your life will be off-centre.
“Don’t get angry at the evolutionists. It’s the best they can do.” He’s absolutely right. Apart from God, how else do you explain the universe? Where did it come from? Evolution at its heart isn’t about science; it’s all about religion. It’s a religious worldview dressed up as science and put forward as a way to explain everything in the universe without ever referring to God. Why get angry with people like that? Apart from God, what else would you expect people to believe?
But there is something else the world doesn’t know about us. The world doesn’t know or understand what God has promised us – v. 9. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” The world is wrong about Jesus. They are wrong about God. They are wrong about us. And they are wrong about heaven.
Have you noticed how nervous lost people get at a funeral? Death bothers most of us to some degree, but it really bothers those who don’t know the Lord. Funerals remind the unsaved that one day they too will die, and what will happen then? They come late, they hang around in groups and then get away as fast as they can. Everything about death makes lost people nervous. When they come to a funeral, they don’t understand the songs, the Scripture, the prayers or the sermon. It’s all a mystery to them. Why? Because apart from God they literally can’t see it, they can’t hear it, they can’t understand how Christians can be certain that we are going to heaven.
Notice how Paul puts it in v. 6: “But we speak a message of wisdom” and again in v. 7, “We speak of God’s secret wisdom.” We know things the world doesn’t know. We speak things the world doesn’t understand.
How do we know these things? It’s not because we’re smart and the world is dumb. Paul has already said that God chooses the weak and foolish and despised things of the world to make up his family. It’s not because we have high IQs and lost people are stupid. The people of the world are no dumber and no smarter than we are. How is it that we ended up with this incredible wisdom from God? v. 9 says that no eye sees, no ear hears, no one understands these things. But that’s not the end of the story. Look at v. 10 “God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” Everything we know, we know because God has revealed it to us. We didn’t discover it or figure it out through human logic. Everything we know about God and Jesus and the gospel, all that we know about heaven has been revealed to us by God. If God had not chosen to reveal these things to us, we would not know them.
We would still be blind. We would still be deaf. We would not see, we would not hear, we would not understand.
There is one difference, and one difference only, between us and the people of the world. That difference is God! He has revealed the truth to us by his Spirit. Now we see. Now we hear. Now we understand. It’s God and God alone who deserves the credit. All praise to him. None to us, not now, not ever.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.
There is no room for boasting, and no need for it either. We should never be surprised at what the world says or does. They don’t understand because they can’t understand. They don’t see because they can’t see. They don’t hear because they can’t hear. They are truly lost, truly blind, truly deaf, truly dead—and they don’t even know it. If you are among those who can see and hear and understand the truth, do not take any credit for it. Get down on your knees and thank God for opening your eyes. Thank God for rescuing you from the pit of despair. Thank God for turning your life around. Thank God for giving you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand his truth.
Then pray for those who are blind and deaf and without understanding. Ask God to do for them what he has done for you. Speak up and tell them the truth because it is the truth that sets people free. Do not despair if they do not understand. There was a time when you did not understand either. Look what God has done for you. Who knows what God may do for those who don’t know what they don’t know? In that hope we preach and pray and sing the praises of our gracious God. Amen.