The Pursuit of God

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Applying 1 Corinthians 2: What Yahweh Has Revealed

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This is a continuation of Applying 1 Corinthians 1.

When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you Yahweh’s secret plan. (1 Cor. 2:1)

The secret plan being referred to here is Yahweh’s New Covenant. Yahweh has been hinting about His New Covenant and His coming Messiah for centuries, but it was only after Jesus resurrected and began explaining things to people that His followers finally started to grasp what was going on.

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ and His death on a cross. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. My message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:2-5)

Like many of his fellow Jews, Paul is dramatic and exaggeratory. Did he really stand around trembling in front of people? No. But Paul is an alpha tank personality who has an extremely high opinion of his own intellect and public speaking skills. He wants the Corinthians to know that while he was with them, he was intentionally stifling himself and putting on a shy act so as not to wow them with his amazing intellect. This speech sounds rather pompous, but that’s Paul’s way. The point he’s trying to make is that he didn’t try to manipulate the Corinthians. He tried to just let God speak for Himself.

We can see what Paul is trying to say, but it just doesn’t work. He’s trying to boast about how humble he was in his approach, and humility is something you just can’t boast about. Trying to be applauded for how much you didn’t manipulate people is like saying, “You ought to be impressed with how I didn’t steal your wallet when I had the chance.”

Now if you’re currently functioning as some kind of teacher in the Church, this passage raises some good food for thought. When you know that you are speaking for God, it can be very tempting to try and convince people to listen to you by flashing some kind of credentials in their faces. We see good and bad teachers falling into this trap all the time as they try to wow the world by posting their impressive bios online. But here’s an important point to remember: you can’t promote God and yourself at the same time. In the previous excerpt Paul is saying “I, I, I.” When we talk about ourselves, we turn the spotlight onto ourselves and off of God. How do you think He feels about this? God is jealous for glory. He’s really not a fan of us going on and on about ourselves.

Now when you know that you’re putting out truths that could save people’s lives, it’s easy to fall into self-promotion as a way of trying to help souls accept what you’re saying with blind trust. The common logic here is “I know I’m a safe teacher. So if I teach them to blindly trust in me, I can get them to accept a lot of critical truths that will help their souls.” Yet this kind of thinking is fraught with problems. For starters, you aren’t the one who illuminates souls with truth. That’s the Holy Spirit’s turf, and He isn’t about to give you the keys to unlock anyone’s brain. Unless the Holy Spirit decides to speak through you in a moment, your great wisdom is going to come across like random babbling.

Next, we need to realize that it is always wrong to teach souls to blindly trust in a human being. Blind trust is only appropriate for God. You might mean well by trying to convince souls to view you as a safe teacher, but can you really guarantee them that everything you say will be utterly flawless? Of course you can’t. God hasn’t shown any of us the entire truth, and He is intentionally leaving flaws in our understanding to prevent souls from becoming too dependent on us. We must remember that though we might use the title of shepherd, God is the true Shepherd—we’re just hired hands who are supposed to be driving the flock back towards Him.

So now that Paul has let the spiritually young Corinthians know that in their presence, he toned things down, he goes on to say that when he’s with more mature believers, he goes back to his normal brilliant self and lets the pearls of wisdom fly. Then he launches into a discussion of how strange this new download from Yahweh is. After all, how crazy is it to realize that there are multiple Gods?

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of Yahweh—His plan that was previously hidden, even though He made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. None of the rulers of this world understood it. If they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what Yahweh has prepared for those who love Him.” [Isa 64:4] Yet these are the things Yahweh has revealed to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:6-10)

You’ll notice that Paul brings up the glorification of humans a lot in his letters. Way too much, in fact. If Paul really thinks Yahweh came up with the New Covenant “for our ultimate glory”, the man is utterly delusional. Yahweh doesn’t glorify humans, He glorifies Himself and His two God Peers. But Paul is also the guy who tries to tell us that we’ll be co-reigning with Christ in Heaven. The man is much too eager to squeeze into God’s spotlight—a clear indicator of his own spiritual immaturity. The fact that Paul was a spiritual infant in so many areas shouldn’t be a problem for us unless we stat pretending that this isn’t the case. But in the Church today, you’re taught to view Paul as an icon of spiritual maturity. You’re told he is a brilliant theologian with an advanced understanding of truth. This is when the reality of Paul’s immaturity becomes an enormous stumbling block for you because you start calling foolishness “wise” and lies “truth”.

It’s vital that we keep Paul in perspective. The man’s grip on many essential truths was seriously lacking. This is hardly a surprise once we realize he grew up as a Pharisee. Jesus spends all of the Gospels ripping all over the Pharisees as spiritual rebels who were on their way to Hell. Paul is a man who never got his act together under the Old Covenant, so he’s really having to start from ground zero when he becomes a Christian. If he’d at least been a devout Yahweh follower, he would have been miles ahead when he made the switch to Christianity. But since he spent the first part of his life entrenched in spiritual rebellion, we’re basically getting our education on the New Covenant from a spiritual infant who doesn’t even have an understanding of Old Testament basics such as the sovereignty of God. Realizing this, we need to lower our expectations and raise our critical thinking shields. We don’t want to be held back by Paul or try to imitate the man’s foolishness. We want to sift through the foolishness for any useful kernels of truth and then move on.

Now whenever New Testament writers quote the Old Testament, we want to do a little cross-referencing of our own. Guys like Matthew and Paul are frequent abusers of Scripture. Let’s now check out what passage Paul is quoting when he says:

But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what Yahweh has prepared for those who love Him.” [Isa 64:4] Yet these are the things Yahweh has revealed to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

The closest match to this quotation is Isaiah 64:4. While Paul’s quotation here in 1 Corinthians is often used to describe the coming joys of Heaven, in Isaiah 64, the mood is very far from joyful anticipation. This chapter is part of a prayer that the prophet Isaiah begins back in Isaiah 63:15. At the time he pens this prayer, the prophet is more than a little frustrated. His fellow Jews are up to their necks in willful rebellion and Isaiah doesn’t see any sign of hearts softening towards Yahweh. He feels impatient and he wishes God would do something to force the Jews to wake up. After all, it’s Yahweh’s fault that everyone’s rebelling in the first place…isn’t it?

Why, Yahweh, do You make us stray from Your ways? You harden our hearts so we do not fear You. Return, because of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. (Isa. 63:17)

Even good prophets have bad days. Isaiah is way out of line to try and say Yahweh is the problem in this situation. Yahweh has given the Jews countless chances to repent. He’s done everything short of taking their free will away and turning them into robots of obedience. So no, Yahweh isn’t “making” the Jews stray. The Jews are choosing to stray because that’s what they want to do.

If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your Presence—as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil—to make Your Name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your Presence! (Isa. 64:1-2)

Isaiah now asks Yahweh to put on some miraculous show that would wow everyone because he thinks such a show will inspire the Jews to obey. Well, no, it really won’t. If Isaiah would reflect back on his nation’s history, he’d recall how Yahweh wowed the Jews with ten awesome plagues in Egypt, then led them through a miraculously parted sea only to have them come out on the other side and make themselves a new calf god to worship in His place. Miracles are not the quick cure for spiritual rebellion that we want to think they are.

You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before You. From ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, and no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. (Isa. 64:3-4)

That last line is the line Paul is summarizing in his letter. Notice how Isaiah speaks of only one God because Yahweh is the only God he knows about. Paul adjusts Isaiah’s words to have a different meaning. Isaiah’s point was that no one compares to the gracious Yahweh. Paul’s point is that Yahweh has been storing up a bunch of glorious surprises for us which He is now suddenly revealing in His New Covenant. Neither man is talking about all the goodies that are waiting for us in Heaven. So when you hear 1 Corinthians 2:9 quoted as a reference to how sweet our eternal life will be, realize that Paul’s original meaning is being ignored. Paul isn’t talking about secrets that are yet to be revealed in Heaven, he’s talking about the great wonders of Yahweh’s New Covenant which the Holy Spirit has already explained to the early Christians. This is why Paul says:

But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived what Yahweh has prepared for those who love Him.” [Isa 64:4] Yet these are the things Yahweh has revealed to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

Notice that past tense on revealed. First Paul misquotes Isaiah by suggesting that the prophet was referring to secret things that Yahweh was planning to give future believers. Then today we misquote Paul by saying that he’s referring to our future joys in Heaven when he’s really talking about the revelation of salvation through Christ. The bottom line is that everyone is ignoring context and just making the text say whatever they want. If this is what the scholars mean by studying the Bible, who needs to pay thousands of dollars to attend Bible college?

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of Yahweh. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of Yahweh no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:10-11)

Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was not recognized as the separate Deity that He is, but instead He was believed to be a mere extension of Yahweh. Pull up an online Bible and search the term “the Spirit of the Lord”. Notice how often the letters of Lord are spelled in miniature capitals. Every time you see those mini-caps (aka small caps) being used, it means that the original Hebrew said Yahweh right there. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is mostly called the Spirit of Yahweh because Yahweh taught His followers that He was the only God in existence, then He would talk about His Spirit. Well, who could His Spirit be if not a mere extension of Himself? It was Jesus who taught the Jews to view the Holy Spirit as a God who was separate and distinct from Himself and Yahweh. This is why Jesus commands His disciples to baptize people using the Names of three separate Gods:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19)

Also notice how Jesus differentiates between Himself, the Holy Spirit, and Yahweh in this next passage by describing Yahweh as sending the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers and the Holy Spirit (not Yahweh) giving them instruction. The Holy Spirit will also remind believers of things that Jesus (not Yahweh) said.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jn. 14:26)

It’s very strange for Old Covenant Jews like Paul to get used to thinking of the Holy Spirit as a separate entity from Yahweh, but he’s making progress. Notice how he describes the Holy Spirit as having an intimate knowledge of Yahweh’s secret thoughts in this passage:

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of Yahweh. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of Yahweh no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:10-11)

That last line isn’t quite right. Jesus knows Yahweh’s mind as well. Our three Gods are intimately acquainted with One Another. Paul’s point is that the Holy Spirit knows Yahweh as well as well as you know yourself. Paul is also saying that just as no one can hear what you’re thinking, you can’t hear what God is thinking. Well, duh. What does this have to do with anything? Well, Paul is trying to make people understand what a privilege it is to receive the Holy Spirit. The idea of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell all believers is a radically new concept which is unique to the New Covenant. Paul is saying, “Hey, don’t you guys see what this means? Because we have the Holy Spirit, we all have direct access to Someone who knows the thoughts of Yahweh Himself. How awesome is that?”

Now we did not receive the spirit of the world, but we received the Spirit that is from Yahweh so that we can know all that Yahweh has given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with words given to us by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:12-13)

Paul now loops back around to the discussion of how he teaches. As an apostle, he claims to be speaking words and wisdom that come straight from the Holy Spirit. Well, sometimes he manages to do this. But there’s a whole lot of guff stirred into Paul’s teaching as well, such as his mangling of Isaiah’s comment about Yahweh. So no, we’re not going to accept the very absurd teaching in the Church today that everything Paul says in his letters is some amazing bit of wisdom that fell from the lips of the Holy Spirit.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14)

This statement sounds good at first glance, but it has problems. First, how are we defining “the person without the Spirit”? Usually we think of those without the Holy Spirit as unbelievers. Yet in real life, before people get saved, they receive a ton of illumination from the Holy Spirit. If they didn’t, salvation would be impossible. The better wording here would be, “Without the Holy Spirit’s help, we can’t understand truth.”

The implication being made here is that once a person does have the Holy Spirit, they understand and accept the things God teaches them. Not hardly. Christians have the Holy Spirit, but Christians reject truths about God all the time. Not all rejections of truth stem from a lack of understanding. Often people understand the concept just fine, yet they willfully reject it. “God lies.” There’s nothing tough about understanding that concept. We all know what it means to lie, and God does lie, yet most Christians adamantly reject this truth. They don’t reject it because they can’t understand it, they reject it because they personally disapprove of it and don’t want it to be true.

Why is it important to dissect Paul’s wording like this? Because when we just gulp down the passages whole, we don’t notice how many subtle deceptions Paul is feeding us. He makes it sound like unbelievers can’t learn anything because they don’t have the Holy Spirit yet while merely having the Holy Spirit protects us from ever rejecting God’s truth as foolishness. This just isn’t true.

The spiritual person is able to judge all things, but no one can judge him. For, “Who has known the mind of Yahweh so as to instruct Him?” [Isa 40:13] But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:15-16)

The judging here refers to evaluation. When you pick up an apple and judge whether it’s rotten or ripe—that’s the kind of judging Paul is talking about. The idea here is that once you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, you have access to all the wisdom of God. Well, yes, but let’s remember that the Holy Spirit doesn’t just download all of that wisdom into your brain. Don’t let Paul’s arrogance lead you astray. The fact that you are a Christian doesn’t instantly turn you into some flawless judge. No matter how mature any of us think we are, we’ve barely begun our spiritual journeys. We have a ton of growing still to do. We are far from perfect evaluators and we are constantly making bad judgment calls in life.

If things were as simple as Paul makes them out to be, Christians would never be led astray by false shepherds. Yet in reality, Christians are led astray all the time. In many cases, rebellion has nothing to do with it—the Holy Spirit is intentionally leading souls down paths of deception in order to set them up for growth lessons. Many sincere souls are being viciously manipulated by evil leaders in the Church today. So no, we really don’t have the ability to judge all things. As a general rule, our judgment is seriously lousy. But Paul wants us to join him on some ego trip of thinking our judgment is flawless and if anyone tries to argue with us we can just throw Isaiah 40:13 in their faces by saying, “Do you dare to question God by questioning me? Are you His instructor in life? Hello, my wisdom is flawless because I have the Holy Spirit, so just step aside.” Well, no, this really isn’t the arrogant attitude we want to take in life.

We are not miniature replicas of Yahweh. We don’t have anything close to His wisdom. Paul was on a better track earlier when he pointed out that none of us can read God’s mind. Because of this, we won’t ever know anything unless God is willing to share His thoughts with us, and God only shares when He is in the mood to share. We need to keep things in perspective and remember that we’re the little dots and our Creators are the massive Beings whose thoughts are far too complex for us to understand. We need our Gods to dumb things way down for us and introduce Themselves to us in teensy little doses that we can handle. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us, and having Him teach us is indeed a thrilling privilege.

Paul concludes this chapter by saying we have the mind of Christ.  This is another famous Paul quotation that has become a useless platitude in the Church today.  What exactly does it mean to have the mind of Christ?  Paul is talking about spiritual understanding in this passage, so is he saying we’re as wise as Christ?  That’s a laugh.  Perhaps he’s referring to the fact that Christ has an intimate knowledge of Yahweh, and now that we have Christ, we get to share in Christ’s mental connection to Yahweh.  Well, not quite.  We can hardly say that we are capable of communing with Yahweh in the same way that His own Peer can.  Yet Paul really wants us to view ourselves as having unique access to Yahweh’s secret thoughts.  As usual, Paul is overdoing it with the exaltation of humans.  Being Christians hardly raises us up to Yahweh’s level.  Our Gods will share Their thoughts with us according to Their own timetable.  If we cherish the things They share with us, They will share more. If we get all arrogant and think we know everything, then They will stop sharing.  Yahweh has said for centuries that He will reward those who approach Him with humility, but He will discipline the proud.  We’re not going to learn humility from Paul, so we need to make sure that we’re not using him as a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

UP NEXT: Applying 1 Corinthians 3: Team Paul vs. Team Apollos

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