Introduction: Empirical and Existential Knowledge.
Some have referred to our modern age as the information age. The result of this can mean that many times people will conclude that “knowledge” is a sign of maturity. We turn to those whom we deem to be “experts” when we want understanding. The problem is knowledge is only half of the truth. Not everything can be solved with mere knowledge. There has been a growing tension in humanity for a long time. There are two factions that are opposed to each other. One I would call the “empirical” faction. They love factual evidence, scientific method, logic, reason, and etc. The other is the “existential” faction. They love intuition, instincts, feelings, emotions, and etc. Many in the factions believe these are opposed to each other. This makes its way into the church today.
Across the western, and even in our own region, we can see people who are so tired of “thinking” in their jobs that when they come to church they want to turn their minds off. Others want their spiritual experience to be just as thought provoking as their jobs.
If you spend enough time at Refuge you will find that we use a couple of different kinds of discipleship material. Some of those encourage you to think about your faith, while others encourage you to experience your faith. We encourage the use of empirical evidence but also existential intuition. We do not believe these two truths need to be opposed to each but can compliment each other. Knowledge needs Wisdom, and Wisdom needs Knowledge. If we are going to understand how to hold knowledge and wisdom in balance I think we need to understand some foundations our text today.
Theme: The spiritual person will regularly see God, hear God, and experience God in Christ.
1. There is a difference between natural and spiritual wisdom.
In this section of I Corinthians Paul uses a few words that will help us begin to understand how Paul makes this separation. Opens this first section with this phrase, “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom”. The implication here is there are those who “mature” and “immature” among you. In every organization, family, and church there are people who are mature and those who are immature. We must keep in mind where Paul is going—READ I Corinthians 3.1-3. Paul is comparing those who are mature and those who immature in the church he is writing to. Those who are cultivating a culture of strife, jealously, division, quarrels, and etc. are those who are still on milk. This does not mean they are not necessarily Christians, but they certainly immature ones. We explore this theme more toward the end of the sermon today.
But another layer to understanding this is Paul’s use of two other words—READ I Corinthians 2.14-15. Paul says the “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The word for “natural person” is where we get our word “psyche”. Biblically this is anyone who is a son or daughter of Adam (which is everyone). We are born with sin into a world full of sin. Everything we are is influenced by sin. Everything we think, say, and do.
Therefore what Paul wants his reader to understand is there is a LIMIT to our understanding. We are finite beings. Those limitations effect the way we look at something, hear something, and even feel about something—READ I Corinthians 2.9. Our abilities are limited. As a sinful fallen people Paul wants to remind us we must be willing to regularly acknowledge the limitations of our understanding. So how can we deal with this problem we all face? How can we begin to understand? First let’s look at different passage from Job 42:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know...I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”—Job 42.2-6
Job needed wisdom and insight. Let’s not forget that Job in the OT is Wisdom Literature section. Job needed the wisdom of God. And what decided to reveal to Job was God. He needed to SEE God, HEAR God, and FEEL God. He realized he did not answers, or more knowledge of his circumstances, but God. This type of posture moves into the second thing Paul wants to understand.
2. The Spirit reveals spiritual wisdom to spiritual people.
God reveals Himself to those who recognize their need of Him and His wisdom—READ I Corinthians 2.9-10. The One moving, the One initiating here, is God. Paul says, “God has revealed to us through the Spirit”. God will choose when He wants to reveal things to us.
This can be very difficult for those of us who live during the “information age”. But look with many how many times mentions the word “age” in the first 3 verses—READ I Corinthians 2.6-8. God decrees when things will happen, what will happen, how it will happen, and who it will happen to. God knows why and He does not have to explain Himself to us. Why is that? There are several reasons, but some are because He is just, perfect, holy, trustworthy, and loving. But the main reason is because He is God and we are not. There are things “too wonderful” for us.
Those seasons when we have to go through that in life are dark and sometimes very lonely. Here are some verses I read this week that reminded of a wonderful truth that I can hold onto during those times:
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?...This I know, that God is for me.—Psalm 56.8-9
This is an example of what we need is REVELATION friends. While we cannot reveal God to ourselves we can certainly keep ourselves in regular rhythms that will help us SEE God, HEAR from God, and FEEL God. I cannot give you an exhaustive list of those rhythms but the basics are IMMERSE yourself in God’s Word, prayer, and in God’s Family. These are where we can regularly see God, hear from God, and experience the presence of God. But even in those regular rhythms there is something we regularly need to see, hear, and experience. And I believe that is the third thing Paul wants to understand from our text today.
3. The Spirit helps us understand spiritual wisdom through Christ.
In order to understand this last point Paul is making I want to read verses 14-16—READ I Corinthians 2.14-16. Paul says we cannot understand the Spirit of God if we are still a “natural person”. Who is this natural person? The natural person is the person or people who do not see the wisdom of Cross.—READ I Corinthians 2.8. Those who believe the Cross of Christ is meaningless and worthless are those who are still natural people.
But those who absolutely LOVE the message of the Cross, the truth of the Cross, the power of the Cross, the wisdom of the Cross are those who are being made more and more spiritual. And when this happens Paul tells we are able to do something the rest of the world is not able to do—READ I Corinthians 2.15. We are able to judge or understand things of the world better. Why? Paul says because we are no longer under judgment. God promises He will judge the world, and those who do not love the message of the Cross, will be judged by their works. But those who love the Cross will be judged by the wonderful, perfect, beautiful work of Christ on the Cross. And because of our love for the Cross, we can now understand things in the world that others cannot. We can look at our parenting, marriages, jobs, decisions, and whatever else through the lens of the Cross—through the mind of Christ. We now have been given the wisdom of God in Christ—READ I Corinthians 2.16.
In closing let me return to what I began talking about today. One of the frustrating things in Christianity is what does maturity look like. I think the danger we can all run into is intermingling the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. We need to be very cautious about this.
The best way I know how to move onto maturity is by what I see in Scripture. Simply put that is by going deeper into what God has already revealed to me. Paul closed this section and begins the next section with that revelation—READ I Corinthians 2.16- 3.1. If we want to better understand the depths of God, if we want to see God, hear from God, and experience God then we need to go deeper into understanding Christ. Let me give you two biblical examples of this.
The first is the pattern I see in the book of Acts. Many love to emphasis the works of the Spirit in Acts, but the pattern I notice in Acts is when the Spirit comes people cannot stop talking about the Christ. They talk about His life, His death, and His resurrection. If you want to know if you moving onto to maturity, if you want to know if becoming more and more Spirit-filled then consider how much more you are seeing Christ, hearing Christ, and experiencing Christ. The second example is found in Hebrews 5:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.—Hebrews 5.12-6.1a
And what has the author just come out of talking about in Hebrews 5.1-11? He was explaining to us how the OT example of Melchizedek helps better understand Christ. This is what mature believers can do for our author. WHAT?! Did you just hear what I heard?! I am like, “Dang yo! I guess I am immature!” This is a humbling reminder for me to continue to go deeper into understanding how my life, parenting, marriage, Bible reading, prayer, and every circumstance of life is opportunity for me to know Christ better. As we practice this rhythm in our all of spiritual rhythms we begin to see more of God, hear more of God, and experience God more. And the result of this is WORSHIP. We worship God in Christ in our empirical and existential pursuits. Christ holds them together.