By Jerry Price
Retired Pastor, Spring Hill
Pastor and author Gordon MacDonald once wrote, “I used to struggle with [overconfident intelligentsia] while living in Boston. I would leave the town of Lexington, where my family and I lived, and I would drive past the towers of Harvard University. Another mile down the road, on the left, sits the campus of MIT, and to the right, the campus of Boston University. Straight ahead were the towering headquarters of many great multinational corporations.
“There were moments when I was tempted to be intimidated by these unmitigated, unadulterated symbols of power. Here were great world leaders being trained in the business school at Harvard.
Over at MIT, signals bounced off Mars every 30 seconds. In those towers, decisions were being made that created and destroyed the economies all over the world. And who was I? What was our congregation with this Christian gospel trying to preach?” (Preaching Illustrations Vol 1. WordSearch, Lifeway Christian Resources).
That may have been a picture of the thinking of the people of Corinth. Who are we in light of all the teachings of the great philosophers and thinkers that live in Corinth? Paul had told them earlier that God had made the wisdom of the world foolishness (I Corinthians 1:20).
He even quoted Isaiah 29:14 where God had said long beforehand that He would destroy the wisdom of the wise and set aside the understanding of the experts. Therefore, there was no reason to be intimidated by them. The church as a whole and every believer in it needs desperately to take those words to heart today. Too often, we are intimidated by all of the clanging and clamor of the world’s foolishness and arrogance around us.
So what is the solution? James 1:5 reminds us if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, gives wisdom to any believer who asks for it.
Paul declared that wisdom to be a mystery — something once hidden that had now been revealed. That spiritual wisdom had been predetermined by God before the foundation of the world.
The person who is not a believer has no way of knowing this kind of spiritual wisdom because he does not have the Spirit of God dwelling within him. When confronted with spiritual truth, he may scoff at it (Acts 17:32a), try to delay (Acts 17:32b), or become enraged by it (II Kings 5:8-14).
Who is this natural man? He is often thought of as a pervert, a drunkard, or one characterized by overt sin. That may be true — but not necessarily. He may be a well-dressed man in a three-piece business suit, one who is well respected in the community and engages in acts of charity. He may be the person next door who would do anything for you. He may be your best friend or your next of kin. But above all, he is lost and needs to know Christ.
Conversely, the spiritual man is one who has come to know Christ in a saving relationship — one who is indwelled by the Spirit of God. He has the ability to evaluate everything — literally evaluate all.
The word translated evaluate means to investigate or probe with the idea of making a judgment. It was a word used of a judicial inquiry prior to trial, much as a pre-trial hearing might be employed today. What does he investigate? All things — every idea, every action, etc. How does he evaluate? The Phillips translation says, “Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ!”