At Compass, we’re going through a study on the Holy Spirit. A couple weeks ago, the focus scripture was from 1 Corinthians 2:1-16. The Holy Spirit is not something we talk much about around Baptist circles, for whatever reason. But on the eve of leaving to South Asia, the Holy Spirit is exactly who I need to understand better. Anyone who has been raised in church knows the standard lines of what the Holy Spirit does for us. He convicts us, gives us discernment, helps us understand scripture, etc. As we read and discussed these particular verses, an amazing insight came to me that is so relevant. Pretty cool how as we are learning about the Holy Spirit, He was giving me an understanding of what He wanted me to know about Him. The first few verses say:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
In his letter, Paul was relating his previous visit when he proclaimed Christ to them. He’s being quite transparent in this passage. He told them that it was pretty simple: he didn’t need flashy words or crafty quips. He didn’t need to garnish his words or have a 3-point outline or make it relevant with “life-application” . He just proclaimed Christ and let the truth of Him speak for itself. What’s interesting to me is what follows. He admitted his fear as he preached to them. At first I easily decided that his fear was probably based on not wanting to mess up the message. Something I’m very much in tune with right now. But if you look at the rest of the verse, I think we get a bit of deeper look at the source of his fear. He didn’t use his own words of wisdom, but relied on the Holy Spirit to speak as a demonstration of God’s power. That way, the people’s faith would not be reliant upon Paul himself, but come from God Himself! As with today, our faith does not come from our pastors. Our faith comes from God. As with Paul, I certainly do not want anyone we may lead to Christ to be dependent on us. The whole point of us going is to identify potential leaders for a church plant that can start reaching their own people, and thus multiply. Paul didn’t want to be the source of the people’s faith; He wanted God to be that source. And rightly so!
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
Again, the wisdom Paul imparted to the Corinthians were not Christian cliches or witty responses, but rather a wisdom that has been kept secret before time was time. Our wisdom is fleeting; God’s wisdom is timeless. Throughout the Old Testament, God imparted this wisdom in bits and pieces through prophets and leaders. But with the glorification of Christ came the Holy Spirit–a piece (that’s not exactly the right word, but what word could describe such a mystery?) of God within each of His children. What was once secret and hidden is now revealed. That’s why Christ said a teacher even greater than He would be coming after He departed. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He had a choice of obedience and willingly followed the commands of His father. He taught what His father had Him teach. However, the Holy Spirit is the very mind of God.
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
I do not have access to your thoughts, nor you to mine. (Both good things, right?) If you want to convey something to me that is on your mind, you have to tell me or show me in some way. The only one who fully knows the mind of the person is that person. Paul says it is the same with God. Here’s the crazy part! If the Spirit alone knows what is in the innermost depths of the mind of God and we have that Spirit inside us, the amazing beauty is that we have direct access to the mind of God! I may not be able to see what’s going on inside your mind, but God has made it possible for us to see into His! Ever played the telephone game when you were little? The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle. One person says something into the next person’s ear and the message is conveyed around the circle. In the end, you get something completely different than the original message. We don’t have to worry about such a problem with God’s message because we have direct access to His mind inside us. I may wonder what you’re thinking at any given moment; I don’t have to wonder with God.
Why do we tend to have such doubts and frustrations then? There’s a thousand reasons why, but it all has its roots in the fact that we make it too complicated. The simplicity is we are here to give God glory and make His name known throughout the earth. When we give God ourselves, when we willingly give our lives, when we understand what it means to suffer with Christ, that’s when the promises that “all things work together for good” come to life. As long as any part of any decision is about “me”, then it’ll be complicated and we’ll cause ourselves to wonder if what we think God is saying through His Spirit is really what we think He’s saying.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We have an understanding of God that people who don’t have the Spirit do not have. Many truths in scripture just don’t make sense to people who are followers of Christ, and they never will make sense until they become His disciples. Guided by the Spirit’s wisdom, rather than the wisdom of the world, we are able to discern–of if you would appraise or judge–all spiritual matters. Because the world does not hold this wisdom, they cannot accurately appraise or judge the matters of children of God. As an aside, I think we must be careful to not take the verses to mean we shouldn’t judge people. Us Christians are very fond of throwing out, “don’t judge me” as much as the rest of the world. But Paul quite clearly demonstrates that brothers and sisters in Christ are to hold each other to account for disobedience. Paul ends by referencing a verse from Isaiah that asked who could possibly understand the mind of God? We now have the answer: we who have the mind of Christ, that is, the Spirit.
We go to South Asia completely dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I have prayed ceaselessly that we don’t take one step without His stepping with us. We can practice our stories until they flow smoothly, but it is the word of the Holy Spirit we want to come out of our mouths. These people whom we travel to have not seen, have not heard, nor could their hearts even imagine, the love God imparts to them and how much He desires for them to enter His kingdom and give Him glory. The Spirit is already at work as much in the people God is going to cause us to meet as He is in us. I sense the same fear and trepidation that Paul did, but also, very likely, the same feeling of excitement and awe at watching the Spirit work. I believe the Spirit is working in you as well, as you pray and intercede for us. Due to the time difference, don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night, for example, and sense a need to pray. For the sake of God’s work, don’t roll back over. Pray!