1 Corinthians 2:11-13 “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
So many people want to find God by looking inside themselves. Looking inside yourself is a fine thing to do…if you want to find yourself. No one knows you better than your own spirit inside of you, Paul says. But don’t be surprised if you don’t like what you see. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his book Mere Christianity, “Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay.” He might just as well have said, “Look inside yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.” That’s what the natural self looks like. Lusts I can’t get rid of, anger I am not proud of, stinginess, impatience, pride all run around deep down inside. It’s not a pretty picture.
But I’m not God, and neither are you. If we really want to know God, it’s his Spirit we need. And by calling us to faith, that is what God has given us: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” When Paul says “understand” he does not mean it in the sense that we have God figured out according to the rules of logic. The Spirit does not give us a new mathematical formula to make sense of the Trinity. He doesn’t take us through a dissection of communion wafers, like high school students dissecting a frog in biology class, so that we can see how “This is my body” works. He doesn’t give us some new kind of telepathy, so that we can sense exactly what good God has in mind for every cross and every burden he lays on us. He doesn’t give us balance sheets or spread sheets that illustrate how the sacrifice of one person, Jesus Christ, accounts for the uncountable sins of billions of people. But he makes it possible for us to know all these things, and to believe that they are true, even though we cannot begin to explain them. This wisdom of God, his grace freely given, has been revealed to us by his Spirit.
That Spirit reveals such things to us, not when we are trying to find the Spirit hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts, but in his word, his message, which is the wisdom of God: “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” The word and the Spirit always go together. Jesus taught us, “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” Paul urged the Ephesians to take up “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Paul didn’t expect the Corinthians, and he doesn’t expect us, to channel all these truths by channeling the Spirit. He doesn’t expect us to wait until the Spirit directly drops the knowledge into our heads out of heaven. He spoke and wrote words, words taught by the Spirit, words expressing spiritual truths because they are spiritual words. Paul’s message is now our message. But it is really neither his nor ours. It is God’s own wisdom revealed by his Spirit.
This is why we preach and teach. The wisdom we need to get along as citizens and employees, the wisdom of math and science and history and literature, is taught in the schools, and they do an admirable job by and large. But there is only one wisdom that saves, one wisdom that can lead us to God. That is the Spirit’s wisdom, the wisdom of God’s word.