N MY LIFE AS A CHRISTIAN, I have encountered many born again, spirit filled believers who often misquote or misapply scriptures without consideration to the context of the scripture. I believe the reason for this is that for majority of us Christians, most of the things we know or the understandings we have of God are usually things we have heard through various preaching or read from a book. We easily run with every hint of revelation and do not make time to verify what we hear or read. We don’t have the attitude of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11.
- And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
One of the most misquoted or misapplied scripture in my opinion is 1 Corinthians 2:9.
- But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor Ear Heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Some Christians quote this scripture; they shout, scream and get all excited about it. I suspect this excitement hinges on the fact that they believe they don’t know what God has prepared for them yet and it is some mystery that is not “in the now.”
Whenever I hear this scripture been quoted, especially by believers, I become anxious and keep telling myself: “read on…please read on” but unfortunately it always ends with verse 9 leaving out all the important passages that surrounds verse 9.
Through this book, I want to share some of the insights I had about this scripture and hopefully get the Christians who still think 1 Corinthians 2:9 means they don’t know now what God has prepared for them to start re-examining their belief and come to an understanding that they as Christians—Spirit filled Christians can know what God has prepared for them.
I will want to appeal to you as you read, have a readiness of mind and verify anything I write: especially those things that will appear new to you. I am sharing these insights with you, with the hope that as you read, you will be inspired to make time to pray and study the word of God for the Holy Spirit to show you the things God has prepared for you. As a matter of fact, it is the right of every Christian to hear from God—our father. Hearing from God should not be the preserve of a few. Spend time with God and you will hear from Him. Be challenged and desire to know God and hear from Him. God still speaks. You might have heard a lot about Him. But I believe it is time to hear from Him yourself.
The Samaritan woman who Jesus encountered at Jacobs well in John 4, preached Jesus to the Samarians. But later on, hear what they said in John 4:42.
- Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
1 CORINTHIANS 2
N THE INTRODUCTION, I mentioned that 1 Corinthians 2:9 in my opinion, is one scripture that has been misquoted or misapplied by many Christians without consideration to its context, creating the impression that we (Christians) don’t know what God has prepared for us yet. In this book I will want to advance an argument from a Biblical perspective to let us know that as Christians, we can know what God has prepared for them that love Him.
I have purposely quoted the whole of 1 Corinthians 2 so I will get the background to speak on vs 9 in detail. 1 Corinthians 2 contains all the truth by which vs 9 can be interpreted. From vs 1 through to vs 8; the Apostle Paul has been speaking about the wisdom of God.
Note also that Paul mentions the wisdom of man, the natural man, the spiritual man, the spirit of the world and the spirit of God. These phrases are very important and we need to keep them in mind whilst reading. The wisdom of God, described as a hidden wisdom in summary is the redemption plans God had towards mankind. “…by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Redemption means:
- “buy back” or “ransom”. In ancient times, one could buy back a person who was sold into slavery. In the same way, Christ through his death bought us from our slavery to sin. Radmacher, Allen, et al.1
BACKGROUND OF THE LETTERS TO THE CHURCH IN CORINTH
Bible scholars have indicated that the Corinthian church was situated in a very complex society characterized by immorality and abundance of human philosophies—old wives’ fables (1 Timothy 4:7), Jewish Fables (Titus 1:14) and cunningly devised Fables (1 Peter 1:16).
John Drane, in his book, Introducing the New Testament, wrote about the challenges of the Corinthian church.
- One of the things that characterized the city of Corinth was the varied nature of its society. Its position as an important sea port on one of the busiest routes in the Mediterranean ensured this. In the streets of Corinth, military men from Rome, mystics from the east and Jews from Palestine continually rubbed shoulders with the philosophers of Greece. When Paul had preached the good news about Jesus in this city, it was a cross-section of this cosmopolitan society that responded and formed the Christian church in Corinth. Not surprisingly, men and women from such different spiritual and intellectual backgrounds brought with them into the church some very different concepts and ideas.2
I studied classical civilization as part of my combination for my first degree and I can confidently say that, second to the Gospel of Christ, Greek civilization and philosophies have influenced the thinking of the world so much. Aristotle, Socrates, Archimedes, Aesop, Odyssey, Zeus, Aphrodite are all Greek influences that shaped the world at a certain point.
The Bible records the extent to which Greek Philosophy had influence on society.
- Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) (Acts 17:18-21).
It is on the background of such arguments and propounding of philosophical debates and human wisdom that Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 2 was a letter to set the records straight. It was a letter to address the human wisdom that was been imported into the Church. And I believe this letter to the Corinthians has a message for the church today.
I believe as Christians, we have to start re-examining closely our beliefs, whether we have not diluted it with human wisdom. Knowledge is good— but when the world’s way of doing things is wholly imported into the church without any system of filtration, then we are in trouble!
THE NATURAL MIND AND THE WISDOM OF GOD
Redemption is a whole package. In this package we have predestination, justification, sanctification and glorification (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:29-30, Hebrews 10:10, 1 Corinthians 1:2). The redemption package—the hidden wisdom of God, is a mystery to the natural man. Please note that the use of man here is generic and applies to both male and female.
A natural man is one who has not got the Spirit of God living in them. The person who has not come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is a natural man. The things of God are foolishness to the natural man. Why? Because the wisdom of God defies logic and common sense:
- But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
- For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).
It does not make sense to the natural mind that God—the creator of the heavens and the earth—takes the form of a human being and is conceived by a virgin. It does not make sense to the natural mind that through one man’s sin, every human being is declared a sinner (Romans 5:12). Where is the logic in the fact that another man’s death on a cross brought salvation to all who will believe in his name (Galatians 2:20)? Can you imagine? They are sited in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, far above principalities and all power (Ephesians 1:21; 2:6), another of their dumb talk. A natural man will exclaim. By the beatings a man received, they claim they are healed (Isaiah 53:5)—another goof. They will drink poison it will not harm them, they will pick up snakes it will not hurt them (Mark 16:18).
What group of people are these, who sound so unrealistic and believe weird things? That is what the natural man will say. The fact of the matter though is: this is the wisdom of God and they (the natural man) will not understand it.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1Timothy 3:16).
THE WISDOM OF MAN
I have tried to explain the wisdom of God and I will want to throw some light on the wisdom of man. Let us go back to our scripture again and read from verse 1-5.
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
In the vs 1, Paul made us understand that he doesn’t declare the message of the gospel via excellency of speech or human wisdom. What he is saying is: “Listen, when I speak to you about the gospel, I don’t use human wisdom and human reasoning. I speak to you by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.”
Excellency of speech means good presentation: it is a well planned message, a message that excites people without any power. Look at vs 4: “…My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom.”
Enticing words of man’s wisdom is to dazzle people with oratory and eloquence. It is a message full of human ideologies and arguments. It is to make people feel good— it is a message that throws out the Holy Spirit and load people with humanism. Excellency of speech and enticing words of man’s wisdom is the philosophy of this world—the philosophy of self. Excellency of speech is reasoning— intellectual, logical and stimulating arguments. Paul says when I am speaking to you, I don’t do these things.
A.W Tozer said: “If you have to be reasoned into Christianity, some wise fellow can reason you out of it!”3