Please read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 in your favorite Bible. FYI: I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.
As we observed weeks ago, the conjunction of Resurrection Sunday and April Fools Day is something that only comes along every 20 years, give or take. It seemed to me that this is my only shot at preaching on this occasion and the Lord gave me a passage that has elements of both Jesus’ Resurrection and April Fools.
The history of April Fools’ Day is uncertain, but many believe it began in 1582 in France when King Charles IX required a switch to the Gregorian calendar; the one we currently use. This makes today the 436th observance of April Fools’ Day.
The change was invoked on April first. People who weren’t informed of the change were ridiculed as fools and that’s how the day was named. As the new calendar took hold around the world, so did the custom of April Fools’ Day as a time of playing pranks and practical jokes to have a laugh at others’ expense.
This morning we’re going to take a look at the worst kind of foolishness; rejecting God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ. Don’t be fooled by lesser offers; find life in Christ.
Unbelief is foolishness: don’t you be fooled!
1. Folks who were fooled crucified Jesus.
The first comparison of the passage: two kinds of WISDOM are contrasted: worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. Heavenly WISDOM is only for the MATURE (6). Who are MATURE people? They are people who have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation by faith. And they go further, continuing to learn by study and practice in daily living. MATURE people have received salvation and are undergoing sanctification. This WISDOM is centered on the cross and the empty tomb; it is summed up in what we have gathered to celebrate: Easter!
The “wisdom” of THIS AGE and the RULERS OF THIS AGE are both futile; they inevitably come to NOTHING (6). Why are they doomed to failure? Because they refuse God’s gift of salvation by faith and stubbornly insist on works to earn it. To these people the message of the cross is FOOLISHNESS. (Here is our first tie-in to April Fools Day.) So it comes down to a distinction between believers and unbelievers.
The “wisdom” of THIS AGE fooled some folks into crucifying THE LORD OF GLORY (8). The RULERS OF THIS AGE probably refers to the leaders of government and religion at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. But based on how Paul used this phrase elsewhere, some scholars think he is referring to spiritual beings. If the devil thought he could silence Jesus by killing him on the cross; boy was HE FOOLED!
Whether leaders or devils or both, the powers opposing Jesus fooled themselves when they guessed the cross would be the end of the story! This is our second tie-in to April Fools’ Day.
Because they operate without the Spirit, God’s truth seems like FOOLISHNESS to unbelievers (14). Here’s our third tie-in to April Fools’ Day and our second contrast. The contrast here is between material things and spiritual things.
People who only believe anything their five senses can verify do NOT ACCEPT truths that come from spiritual sensitivities; such things seem foolish to them. Spiritual discernment is a kind of “sixth sense” and is available only as the Spirit reveals it.
2. Believe the truth and be saved.
God’s truth is quite different from the world. It is for the spiritually MATURE (6). It might help to think of the word as “maturing” instead. That way, we realize the Christian life is a life-long process of growth in wisdom.
The truth is, salvation is the destiny of God’s chosen (7). It is clear that the Bible writers want to say that God knew and chose those who would be saved, and that people have to choose to accept God to be saved. It is appropriate to say that God knew from before the creation of the world who would receive His salvation. I want you to take this promise personally: GOD DESTINED this wisdom FOR OUR GLORY BEFORE TIME BEGAN. BEFORE TIME BEGAN God knew you and loved you and did all of this so you could be part of His big heavenly family.
The truth is a SECRET, HIDDEN thing (7, 9). It is SECRET and HIDDEN in three senses. One, God revealed the truth over the course of several centuries of human history. What is promised and hinted at in the Old Testament is fulfilled and declared openly in the New Testament. Two, it can only be perceived by faith. The Holy Spirit guides believers into all truth, but unbelievers’ minds are clouded by their own choice to reject God. Three, in verse nine, Paul quoted Isaiah 64:4 to show that God’s plans are too wonderful for the human mind to grasp on its own. We just can’t “get it” on our own.
God’s truth is revealed only by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote; GOD HAS REVEALED IT TO US BY HIS SPIRIT (10). The Spirit replaces ignorance with knowledge. God reveals Himself to us very plainly in the Bible, the word of God. The Spirit helps us to be sensitive to the words in the Bible, to understand and apply them.
The SPIRIT knows this wisdom because it SEARCHES ALL THINGS, EVEN THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD (10). God knows ALL THINGS, revealing to us even the DEEP THINGS OF GOD by means of the Spirit. This will sound crazy to people still stuck in a worldly frame of reference, but it is true because God said so.
Paul offers an example in v. 11: it is true of human beings that we can’t read each other’s minds. THANK GOD! Am I right?! If we can’t read each other’s minds then it is impossible for us to know the MIND OF GOD. Only the Spirit KNOWS THE THOUGHTS OF GOD. It’s obvious we need help: that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in to reveal truth to us.
God gives us His Spirit to know His truth. In verse twelve we find a second comparison. On the one hand, we have NOT been given THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD. The WORLD is the system that opposes God. It relies on human reasoning, senses, and even lies to dispute God’s word.
On the other hand, we HAVE received THE SPIRIT WHO IS FROM GOD. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is given to all persons of sincere faith. True faith originates in, and is perpetuated by, the Holy Spirit. The purpose of God the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD HAS FREELY GIVEN US. The Spirit helps us UNDERSTAND the love of God expressed in Jesus. Don’t overlook the word FREELY. It is Paul’s reminder salvation is by grace, not by works.
By the Spirit we express SPIRITUAL TRUTH IN SPIRITUAL WORDS [variant text: “men”] (13). SPIRITUAL TRUTHS must be expressed in SPIRITUAL WORDS by spiritual people. How can we possibly do that? We can do it only as the Holy Spirit teaches us how to do it.
By the Spirit we show good judgment (15). In our culture the word “judgment” has been misidentified as a vice. However, the fact is that we must show good judgment in the choices we make. The Holy Spirit informs our morality as it does our spirituality. People of faith are to be more loving in word & deed.
By the Spirit we share THE MIND OF THE LORD/CHRIST (16). This is a staggering claim: we who believe have the MIND OF CHRIST! On an individual level, this measures our kinship with Christ. We can think as He thinks, share his attitudes, and do what Jesus would do in every situation. On a church level, this measures our unity. We talk about being “like-minded,” referring to agreement on a particular issue. But this is a more significant depth of relationship.
Our life with Christ is not an overlay on our personality, but a shared personality, a level of accord and maturity that will be unmatched by anything on earth!
Unbelief is foolishness: don’t you be fooled!
How do we take part in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? In what way is Easter our victory, shared with Christ? What does God ask of us?
God asks us to believe. He has already done 99% of what is necessary for us to be saved. Our 1% is to believe.
We receive His salvation by faith, not by works. It is an act of grace He prepared even before He formed the universe.
Salvation is free, but it will also be the first step in a lifetime of change, a continual pursuit of maturity. Salvation is free, but we gladly exchange all the world offers in order to attain more and more to a life that follows Jesus’ example.
Receive this gift this morning. Make it the best day of your life, one that has eternal benefits. Receive the Resurrected One, Jesus Christ, and one day, you will be raised with Him!