1 Corinthians 2 (Lord’s Day 7) Knowing Jesus

If you do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, you do not know Jesus. He cannot be known in any way apart from the Holy Spirit.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
What is true faith? Well, we have a definition of true faith in Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 21. We are told it has three parts – knowledge, conviction, and assurance. I have to know something, I have to believe it, and I have to believe that it is true for me.
And all of this has at its very centre the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ – what I have to know and believe and be assured about in relation to me has to do with Jesus.
So we want to see this today from 1 Cor. 2.
And we especially want to see that Jesus Christ cannot be known apart from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not add the last link to the process, or the final 20%, or the third of three ingredients. No, IF YOU DO NOT KNOW JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOUR AND LORD, THEN YOU DO NOT KNOW JESUS CHRIST.
So today we consider 1 Cor. 2, where we see THE MESSAGE, THE MESSENGER BEHIND the message, and finally THE ‘MEAT’ of the message.

So firstly then, the message.

Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian believers. And as you can see in ch. 1:10ff, there were some serious divisions among the believers in the church there. Many in the Corinthian congregation, it appears, were looking to worldly wisdom with its philosophies and styles of public speaking, rather than to the wisdom of God. In their minds, Paul and preaching and Jesus Christ crucified were not adequate for the Jews and Greeks of Corinth. Success was far more likely if you used the methods and the style and the philosophies of Apollos or Cephas or Christ (For some there even put Paul and Christ in different ‘camps’!). And that is why there were these factions as we see from 1:12.

Now, we must not understand this list as suggesting that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas had started up these factions. They worked hard to uphold each other and to reject this divisive spirit. But there were certain characteristics of P, A, and C and Chr that members of the congregation tried to champion over the others. And this is what led to the factions.

But here was the problem. If you preached Jesus Christ crucified, Jews were offended by that message and the Greeks found it disgusting. In Galatians 3, Paul has to carefully explain why the cross was necessary. And this is because the Jews believed that anyone who was hung on a tree became cursed by God. And so, many Jews found this an intolerable stumbling block and would not listen for a moment more. And the Greeks, as I said, just found this crude and disgusting and just beneath them. So the Corinthian believers had convinced themselves that the problem was the message and the way it was communicated; different approaches were needed in Corinth. Paul and preaching and Jesus Christ crucified, just does not work!

Well, Paul will have none of this! He ‘puts it through the shredder of the gospel’ as ch. 1 unfolds. The message of the cross is offensive; it is foolishness “to those who are perishing,” he says in v18, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Or, from v23, “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

So Paul summarizes the message, very plainly and succinctly, in 2:1-2. He says, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Now, we want to move on to consider our main point which is the role of the Holy Spirit in creating true faith. But congregation, the message of Jesus Christ crucified is just as offensive or foolish today to many. So church after church has gone the way of Corinth and begun to downplay sin or not mention hell or go easy on the exclusive claims about Jesus. They have ‘toned down the message.’ Or, they have removed the pulpit and the sermon and have brought in the flashing lights and the band or the videos or the puppet show to package Christianity in a more appealing way.

Now, by all means, let us always ask ourselves if we are preaching Jesus Christ crucified clearly and helpfully? But the Corinthian alarm bells need to be ringing when we hear voices wanting to do away with preaching the message of Jesus Christ crucified.

But secondly, note what Paul says about THE MESSENGER BEHIND the message.

If you look at v1, it becomes clear where the Corinthian factions thought the power was – eloquence and/or superior wisdom. And these terms have their parallel in v5 where Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.”
• Put Paul up the front with the message of Jesus Christ crucified and soon the room would be empty, bar one or two, perhaps.
• Put Apollos up the front and let him talk for 2 hours, and he would have the audience eating out of his hand! Why? Because Apollos could talk to the people where they were at – he knew his philosophy and he knew how to package it so that it was extremely persuasive.
For them it was all about what you said and how you said it.

And it is precisely because of this that Paul stripped his message and his ‘style’ of anything that even remotely smelt like that. As he says in v1, “When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom.” And v4, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.” And v5 tells us why – Paul knew that if he preached that message in that way, their faith would hang on Paul and his public-speaking abilities, and not on God.

Instead, continued Paul, My message and preaching were “WITH A DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT’S POWER.”

• The word translated as DEMONSTRATION comes from the courtroom. It signifies conclusive proof that cannot be refuted.
• The “Spirit’s power” has in view those things that the Holy Spirit produces.
o And as we think about 1 Cor., we might immediately think about the spiritual gifts of that time like speaking in tongues and healing and prophecy. In reference to these gifts, 12:11 says, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit.” When someone began to speak in a foreign language that they had not learned, in connection with the gospel, it was clearly the Holy Spirit at work. It was undeniable evidence of God’s power.
o But turn with me also to 1 COR. 6:9. There we read, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” But Paul continues, in reference to the Corinthian congregation, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
o Some in the Corinthian congregation had lived lives given over to serious and habitual sin. But those lives had been left in the past. And when you see that, you are seeing undeniable evidence of the Spirit’s power!

And these are the evidences that Paul is appealing to. He is saying to them, You may not think much of my sermons. But look at what the Holy Spirit has produced through them! For that ought to tell you something about the sermons! The messenger behind the message is the Holy Spirit.

And brothers and sisters, young people and boys and girls, there is warning here for us also whether we be in the pew or in the pulpit. If we are in the pew, we must not let our faith rest on the pulpit style of whoever is in this pulpit. Our calling is to listen to the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus, not Andre Holtslag or elder whoever is doing a reading service.

But those of us in the pulpit have to ask questions like: Am I getting in the way of the gospel? Do I proclaim the mighty acts by which God has borne witness to himself in Jesus? Is Jesus Christ and Him crucified both the theme of my preaching and the centre of my living? Does my preaching demonstrate the power of the Spirit? Do the results of my preaching demonstrate the power of the Spirit? Are people’s lives being changed? Do they know the power of the Spirit in their own lives?

The MESSAGE is Jesus Christ crucified. The MESSENGER behind the message is the Holy Spirit.

But thirdly and lastly, we come to THE ‘MEAT’ of the Message.

And by ‘Meat’ I mean substance – weight – filling. Many of us men do not think a sandwich is a sandwich unless it has meat in it!! Lettuce and cucumber, by itself, just doesn’t qualify!

You see, you may be thinking to yourself, “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified” – just preaching that could mean that listening to sermons gets pretty repetitive, pretty quickly. But “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified” is not a 5 word sentence that needs to be repeated Sunday after Sunday! It is the full-orbed gospel that has the LJC as its living and breathing centre. It is Doctrine, it is Christian living, it is history, it is art, it is ethics – it is everything understood in relation to and to the glory of the LJC.

Look at v7 – “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” And the Greek word Mysterois is in there – mystery – something previously hidden that has now come to light on this side of the cross. There are many lifetimes of discovery in the Words of God as we seek to understand God and ourselves and this world in the light of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”!

But note how this happens from vv8-9. All this was not understood by the rulers of that time. How is it understood? V10 – “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” And that, pretty much, is rest of the chapter – The Spirit – by the Spirit – Spiritual words… until finally, it comes to this grand climax in v16 where it says, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
Now, theologians debate whether this refers just to the apostles, as in they have the mind of Christ, as apostles, or whether this refers to all believers. Well, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” And Colossians 3:1 urges us to “set our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
So, as we conclude, I borrow some thoughts from a theologian called A Comrie, which I have extensively paraphrased. But as we hear these words, let us recognize the scriptures in them – let us listen to the Spirit – let us hear Jesus Christ and Him crucified!

1. True faith is a Divine light of the Holy Spirit through the Word, by which I begin to understand the contents of the gospel of salvation, which previously was to me a closed book. I may have been familiar with its teaching and able to repeat it back to you; I may have even memorized verses or chapters; I may have been able to explain to you the relationship between the OT and the NT and the Markan priority in the Gospels!, but I knew nothing of its power to support my soul in the great distress, conflict, and anguish which the knowledge of God and of myself bought upon me. But now I have learnt by the inward torch-light of the Holy Spirit the contents of the gospel. Now as I read these words, my soul feasts on Jesus.

2. True faith is a Divine light of the Holy Spirit through the Word, by which I know Christ, who is its Alpha and Omega, as the glorious, precious, excellent, and soul-rejoicing pearl and treasure hid in this field. I thought I knew all things, but I did not know Jesus by the light of the Spirit. And so, my soul was a white-painted tomb with the bones of a dead man inside. You see, this letter is nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. But by this letter and the Spirit, I know my absolute need of Christ. I see that I have a debt of 10,000 talents, but am without even a cent to pay. I see that I am a lost sinner in need of a Saviour. I see that I am dead and impotent in myself and that I need he who is able to make me alive. I see that before God I cannot stand, and that I need Him as a mediator. I see that I go astray and that He must find me. And the more this necessity of Christ presses me, the more earnest, intense, heartmelting, and persevering the outgoings of my soul are from the faith He has worked within!

3. True faith is a Divine light of the Holy Spirit through the Word, by which I know that Jesus is adapted to my every need. Tell me, why did you buy the last light bulb that you bought? Was it not because the old bulb had blown and without a new one it would be dark? And so convinced of this were you; so certain that you needed a new light bulb, you persuaded your legs to walk to the store and your hands to pull the cash or the card out of the wallet, so that you can have that bulb. Well, when the Holy Spirit causes me to see Jesus as my necessary Saviour and Mediator and Prophet and Priest and King in such a measure that I judge it impossible to live another happy hour, except this Jesus becomes my Jesus, then my affections become so resolved and settled toward Him that if it must be that I lose everything else, including my life, I would welcome this and suffer it all with joy in order to have this Jesus as my Saviour.

4. True faith is a Divine light of the Holy Spirit through the Word, whereby I know Christ as sufficient. Though my sins are as scarlet, heavier than mountains, greater in number than the hairs on my head and the sands of the seashore, there is such abundance of satisfaction in Jesus that though I had the sins of the whole human race, they would be as a drop in the bucket compared with power of the blood of Jesus to wash clean. Or putting it more briefly as John Newton did, “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour!”

5. And lastly, true faith is a Divine light of the Holy Spirit through the Word, by which I know the person of the Mediator in His personal glory. There are a great many who would stand up and give us a lecture about Jesus –He did this and He did that and He taught this and He should be understood in this way and He was a teacher and He is love, and on it goes. But then there is Acts 7 and Stephen. He had been arrested and stood on trial before the Sanhedrin. And listen to what we read, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”” By the faith worked within the believer, the bright light of the Holy Spirit brings the Person Himself in substantial form to the soul, so that he or she falls in love with HIM. And he or she is so in love with HIM that he or she joins Solomon in singing of Jesus, “My lover is mine and I am His (2:16); Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned (8:6-7).”

Congregation, Jesus Christ cannot be known apart from the Holy Spirit.

But by the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, Jesus Christ is known, personally and beautifully!

So let us pray that Spirit of God would lead us to know, believe, and be assured that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of MY sins.