1 Corinthians 2:13-16
I have a friend who is older than me; we’ll call him Ron. I see Ron almost every day at work, and we have great conversations. We talk about the hikes that Michelle and I go on every week, about sports, politics, and the Bible. Ron is not a believer, although he is very religious. He is blinded by his religion as well as his intellect and thinks he knows more than everyone else, including God. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God; he believes that it’s a book written by theologians throughout history. He believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than a book about the history of the Jewish nation and has no significance. He says the God of the Old Testament was an angry God who was constantly destroying people and says he wants nothing to do with a God like that. I had challenged him to read the Old Testament, all of it, specifically paying attention to those times when God took out His wrath on His people and to look at how many chances, He always gave them first.
The last time Ron said this, I asked him if I could read my favorite verse in the Bible. When he said I could, I took him to Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I then asked him, does this sound like an angry God to you?
But here’s the thing about Ron. No matter how many times he reads the Bible, or talks to pastors, or tries to reason it out, he will never understand the thoughts of God until he has been indwelled by God’s spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul says, “13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” You see, when we speak by the Spirit, the world cannot understand us. Years ago, I knew two pastors in the same town who both pastored in the same denomination. One of them was a great man of God. He preached from the Word, discipled his people, taught them how to win souls, and ministered all over town. The other stood up every Sunday and read the sermon that had been sent to him that week. When I would speak about spiritual things with that one, he would stand there with a blank look on his face. You could see it went right over his head.
When I tried to speak with Ron or that pastor about spiritual truths, they both saw it as foolishness. As we just read in verse 14, that’s how the world will respond. 1 Corinthians 1:18 also tells us this when it says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” So, if people see spiritual things as foolish, how can they be saved? Paul goes on to say, just a few verses later, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. People will be saved through our foolish preaching. You see, we can’t save anyone! Throughout my life, I have heard so many pastors saying things like, “I saved 200 people this year.” No, you didn’t! If they were saved at all, it had nothing to do with you. God used your foolish preaching to reach people and bring them to salvation. When we preach, or blog, or do a podcast, or even witness to someone, we need to remember that all we can do is share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.
Now, that doesn’t mean we say whatever we want and leave it up to the Holy Spirit; we must be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” And, then again in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” You see, the Lord will only bless our foolish preaching if we are prepared. We must study, work hard, and be prepared to give an answer. Look at the end of that last verse where it says, “who correctly explains the word of truth.” We must be ready to explain the word of truth CORRECTLY. The KJV says “rightly dividing,” and the NASB says “accurately explaining.” The only way you can accurately explain the word of truth is to know what it says. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and be ready to explain it. We must put aside everything men taught us and study the word by taking it literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to pastors or read commentaries. What I am saying is when you do, test it against scripture, even what I am writing. God doesn’t want any of us to sit back and coast. He expects all of us to do the work.
In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this subject. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In this passage, Paul says that God has given a gift to the Church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These people were given to the Church to equip them to build the body. A trainer for a bodybuilder doesn’t do the work for them. The trainer provides the proper equipment and teaches them to use it. In the same way, your pastor isn’t there to do the work for you; he is there to teach you how to use the equipment you have properly. So, let’s get to work and be prepared!