In the middle of a Biblical study on wisdom, maybe it is helpful for us to take a look at where true Godly wisdom comes from. What is its source and how are we to underhand it? In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes an important distinction. True wisdom can only be understood through the internal leading of the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, July 24th
Larger Portion of Scripture - 1 Corinthians 1 - 2
Focused Passage for Reflection - 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Reflecting on the Text:
When I have been in non-English speaking countries, in order to communicate with others I’ve needed a translator. I trust that the translator is providing an accurate and honest rendering of my speech to others. I also trust the translator is doing the same as others speak to me. So with a good translator, I am able to give and receive information.
When I am at the doctor’s office, I need a different kind of translator. You see, I understand my doctor’s English…at least most of it. I just don’t understand the concepts he is trying to communicate. In addition to needing someone (aka my wife) to translate the medical information I am receiving, I also need that someone (again, my wife) to translate just what it is I need to ask of my doctor. In other words, I don’t even understand my own body enough to know what needs to be done.
So sometimes I need a translator to translate language. Sometimes I need a translator to translate concepts. But in 1 Corinthians, Paul seems to be saying that in addition to language and concepts, we need a translator to translate reality. This “translator” he speaks of is the Spirit of God.
In these verses, Paul compares the “natural person” with the “spiritual person.” The natural person is the person who has not been born again. They are living out of a sin nature…the same sin nature they inherited at birth. And with that sin nature, they interpret the world around them through a sin lens. Oh, it's not that they as bad as Hitler. By His common grace, God restrains our sin so we are not as bad as we could be. But the natural person’s general (sinful) orientation in all of life is toward self. Self is the lens through which they look at, interpret, and interact with the world.
Alternatively, there is the “spiritual person.” The spiritual person has been born again. The Spirit of God has graciously changed their nature so that the lens through which they examine the world is no longer exclusively a sin lens, but a Spirit lens. It’s not that they no longer sin, or struggle with sin, but something foundational has changed in their heart. Their orientation is towards God instead of against Him. This foundational change is marked by a present and growing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. It is also fueled by, and led by, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
In this way, the Holy Spirit “translates” all things for the believer. He opens the believer up to the new spiritual reality, so that the believer can begin to understand and grow in the wisdom of God. This wisdom, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 1-2, is not merely a mechanical wisdom so that we know how to do things better and more efficiently. This wisdom is ultimately wisdom incarnate…Jesus Christ.
Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ Jesus has become the wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). This makes no sense for the natural person. Indeed, the natural person can not, will not comprehend it. This truth, or this wisdom, has not yet been given to them. But the spiritual person has been given the mind of Christ…all as a gift of God’s grace.
What does all of this have to do with our time in Proverbs, though? It is a reminder that we are not merely studying better and more effective ways to live our lives. Though there are practical applications and benefits to Biblical wisdom, our study of wisdom is ultimately meant to point us to Jesus. It is a study which can only be fully grasped through the internal leading (translating) work of the Holy Spirit. We are not studying the mechanics of wise living. We are studying the practical outworking of our union in Christ. So as we continue, continue in prayer. And be limber to the movement of the Spirit, that you might discern spiritual truths.
Questions for personal reflection:
In what ways are you nurturing the mind of Christ? In what ways are you thwarting the mind of Christ?
How does the natural vs spiritual distinction change the goal of Biblical wisdom?
How might you become more limber to the movement of the Spirit in your life this week?