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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to take a minute to acknowledge everyone who visits HBS and I pray they’ll consider the idea of returning regularly to study God’s Word with us.
Please know there are no membership requirements and zero fees involved, I promise not to ask you for donations or money at any time, and I also promise not to test you on the material we’ve gone over – bonus... HBS has been set up so that you can study your Bible at your own pace, according to your schedule, and in the comfort and safety of your home with friends and family members if you prefer to do so.
I take the time at the beginning of the year to remind the assembly about how we function here at HBS and I liken this to Vince Lombardi’s approach to pre-season football training. As the coach of the Green Bay Packers, he walked into the locker room and wasted no time getting straight to the point. Coach Lombardi went to the front of the room, and made sure he had eye contact with the assembled staff and professional team players. He paused for several seconds, held the pigskin out for all to see, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” With these few words, Lombardi communicated his point. He intended to start with the basics to ensure the team was executing all the fundamentals from the “kick-off” to the final “whistle.”
With us Believers it’s absolutely essential to not only know what you believe it’s important to understand why you believe. For this reason I do my utmost to compare Scripture with Scripture when I teach in order to show you what the Word of God says as well as what it doesn’t say.
I don’t believe that a person who handles the word of truth should do so carelessly. Teaching the Bible is a tremendous responsibility. Jesus Christ said, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; (Luke 12:48b), meaning if you are given the opportunity to impact many lives, then you have a great responsibility and should proceed with extreme caution. Anyone who teaches the Bible should do so with the leading and the directing of the Holy Spirit. My prayer week in and week out has been “Lord, prevent me from teaching a Biblical error or misleading anyone.”
Then, proceeding from that thought, if I can stimulate people’s curiosity, get them interested in what God has said, and help them understand that spending time in the Bible is an enjoyable experience, much like spending time with your best friend (Proverbs 18:24); then HBS is accomplishing one of its goals.
The Corinthian Church had split into small philosophical factions, because when they became Believers, they still held on to their own particular philosophies (a.k.a. baggage). But here’s the truth concerning human wisdom or philosophy. It is unnecessary. Why? Because when man has it right, it will agree with what God has said in the Scriptures, so you don’t need it. But when man has it wrong, it will disagree with what God has revealed to us, so you don’t want it! So, you see, in the end philosophy has little if anything to offer us. It’s foolish and meaningless chatter; otherwise known as babbling.
My friends, we don’t need human wisdom or philosophy. All we need is God’s Word; it has stood the test of time and the countless attacks of Satan: The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). As I’ve pointed out many times before and will continue to do so, “The Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, but it does tell us everything we need to know.” If you understand what God has said, you understand what you need to know. The Bible contains the solutions to life’s problems, especially man’s #1 problem, sin.
All things considered there are only two views of anything: man and God’s. Man’s view is self-indulgent, shallow, short-sighted, and unrealistic. It’s fleshly in nature, elevating desire, and supports pride of self. It also advocates independence and makes man the center of his own universe. Human philosophy fulfills the meaning of Romans 1:25: it exchanges the truth of God for a lie and worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator. (Genesis 3:5)
At verse 19, Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah from chapter 29:14 saying that the wisdom of men would be swept away by God. In effect, Paul is saying: man’s wisdom is temporary; God’s wisdom being Divine in nature is everlasting.”
At the beginning of verse 20, Paul asks a question that has three parts: “Where is the wise man? Where is the Scribe? Where is the debater of this age?” Or, “Where are all these educated people who are going to solve all of the world’s problems?”
I think you would agree with God and Paul that there are more than a few problems in the world. Identifying them isn’t the problem; expecting man to find solutions to their own problems – now that’s the real problem…
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 1:20.
1 Corinthians 1
20: Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
What Problem Has Human Wisdom Ever Solved?
Parents scrimp and save to send their children to college because it is believed that without a college diploma their chance at success in life is greatly diminished. I remember when I was in school how the counselors, teachers, and society as a whole promoted the idea of higher education, and I knew people who were striving for college beginning in the 6th grade!
But with all the resources thrown at this endeavor is our society any better today? Sure, you can respond to the question by saying, college-educated people are living in real nice homes, driving expensive cars, eating in swanky restaurants, and wearing the latest fashions, while communicating on their newest i-phone. You can say these folks live longer lives because of their access to expensive medical programs. You can also tell me that we’ve been to the moon and back, we have astronauts living in space now, NASA wants to build apartments on the moon and there are plans for a trip to Mars - all thanks to higher learning.
But here’s the thing… you’re missing the point. People haven’t changed; in fact, they’re more godless, self-centered and unloving than ever before (2 Timothy 3:2). People are running to sin today not from it – they can’t get enough of it (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 24:37-42). No, people haven’t changed; we’re just more comfortable and complacent in our sin. People aren’t any different today then the Corinthian’s were back in 56AD… they’re carnal (controlled by the flesh, its passions, and lusts) and they give hearty approval to those who practice the same things (Romans 1:26-32).
Human wisdom hasn’t solved any real problem and our representatives in Washington, D.C. are yet more proof of this. They’re highly educated, sophisticated, and “speak eloquently,” but in the end produce nothing of value to society. This is why their approval rating is currently at 11%. No, the truth is human wisdom can’t solve our problems it can only make us “feel” more comfortable with our current problems.
This is why our Apostle Paul asked the Corinthian Church:
Where is the wise man? – In this passage from Isaiah 19:12, God’s talking to Egypt saying, Egypt, you’re in trouble. You’ve gone after false gods and worshipped them (v1). You’ve denied My truth, and you’re going to be judged. He prophesied that Egypt’s rivers would dry up, that the sea wouldn’t give them water anymore, and that all the reeds would be broken (5-6). He prophesied that Memphis, the great capital city, would be destroyed (Ezekiel 30:13). All these things happened. This is when Isaiah said, “Where are your wise men?” In other words, who’s going to step up to offer solutions to the destruction of Egypt by God? The answer, of course, is no one! Egypt went seeking answers for these terrible problems from her soothsayers, mediums, and wizards and got nowhere with that (v3). Is this America’s future?
Where is the scribe? - A scribe was a (counter) writer. Paul quotes this statement from Isaiah 33:18a where God is addressing the Assyrians. They had sent their army down to Israel along with some scribes. The scribes were to write down all the things the Assyrians took when they conquered Israel. Meaning, they were to list all the booty and to record all of the tribute that was to be exacted from the conquered foe (Isaiah 10:16). But what happened? There was no victory (2 Kings 19:35), and the scribes had nothing to write down so Isaiah says, “Where is he who counts (the scribe)…?”
Where is the debater of this age? – There isn’t an O.T. reference to chase down here. But the word Debater in the Greek language is Suzetetes (pronounced: sood-zay-tay-tace) and means a disputer, i.e. someone who has paid a fee to become a learned disputant. (See Sophist and the Sophist Movement and the effects it had on Greek and Roman culture http://www.philosophybasics.com/movements_sophism.html). To be honest its influence is still being experienced in the 21st century. As King Solomon said, “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Once again, Paul asks: “Where are your philosophical debaters now? Where are the people versed in philosophy? Where are all those who have been specifically trained in rhetoric? In truth, where are they when you really need them - it matters little because human wisdom is foolishness.”
Flash forward to today and we can see that the world hasn’t changed. What has human wisdom or philosophy contributed to mankind? That is to say, has it conquered society’s immorality problem? Has it made the human heart more loving or trusting? Has it done anything to promote the knowledge of God? The answer to all three questions is no; and yet these people are highly esteemed by society and well paid I might add just as in Paul’s day. However, all the world’s philosophers combined, with all their accumulated wisdom, can’t alter the destination of a fallen person’s soul… they’d rather argue whether or not the soul exists at all then deal with what God the Father accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ, at the cross.
Now for back section of verse 20 where Paul states: Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? Paul isn’t saying all human wisdom is foolish. Certainly ethics, kindness, and love are valuable concepts in this world. He is saying that these human philosophies, no matter how wonderful they seem, never get to the real issue that matters above all – the eternal destination of a person’s soul. (Hebrews 4:12)
Looking back on history we know this. God permitted man to seek solutions to mankind’s suffering and unhappiness by their worldly wisdom. When after forming a “think tank,” conferring, debating, and discussing they believe they have come up with a solution to a problem, they prepared a philosophy. But what do we Believers on this side of the cross recognize? Their best efforts resulted in failure because they left out the one thing that they needed the most – the knowledge of God. Put another way, they never knew God. For only in God, through Jesus Christ, can a person find forgiveness, hope, joy, and peace. Because human philosophy never considered God men and women never found these things. So now God moves in to do what human wisdom could never accomplish.
1 Corinthians 1
21: For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who (did what) believe. (1 Corinthians 1:27; Luke 12:32)
22: For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;
23: but we (servants of Jesus Christ) preach Christ crucified, (and not believe in His name which was the requirement in the kingdom gospel’s message) to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,
Paul’s saying, as wise as man professed to be, with all their accumulated knowledge, they did not come to know God, even though the evidence of God is all around them and within them. Please turn with me to Romans 1:19-20: that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been (what) clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without (what) excuse.
If you’ll turn to John 1:9, I’ll show you a companion verse to the one above: There was the true Light (note the capitalization; John’s referring to Jesus Christ the Light of the world) which, coming into the world, enlightens (frees from ignorance) every man (and woman).
There’s some disagreement as to what this passage means. But if we take it at face value, and I have to believe this is what we’re meant to do with this particular verse, it’s saying every child born into this world has received a certain amount of “Light” or knowledge regarding the Creator God, and consequently they are without excuse.
Some people may refer to this as a natural conscience – the knowledge of right vs wrong to begin with. So, this verse means to say if you think you’re going to live your life without God, His Son, and the cross in it, when you appear before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment (no Believers will be present at this event) to answer for your unbelief and for all the things you’ve done in this life, attempting to explain to Jesus Christ that you weren’t aware that He existed isn’t going to get you anywhere – you’re without an excuse.
This book says instead of choosing to know God, the vast majority of mankind chooses to worship man-made objects; they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Romans 1:23). They never attained the ultimate goal of God’s creation – for the creature to know their Creator (Psalms 25:4-5).
Since man’s wisdom couldn’t reach God, God made a way for man to reach Him through the substitutionary death of His Son on the cross (John 14:6; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:15) - God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who (do what) believe.
Your salvation and mine is obtained through simple faith plus nothing else. This truth throws a lot of people off track. They think, “It can’t be that simple; surely, I have to work to obtain it.” But it is just that simple. Listen, God’s plan of salvation is complex; too deep for us humans to fully understand it, and we never will this side of heaven. But when this book says all you have to do to receive God’s mercy and free gift of Grace is believe the gospel that’s what He means (Ephesians 2:8-9).
…the foolishness of the message preached – The Greek word for preached is Kerugma (pronounced: kay’-roog-mah) meaning that which is proclaimed by a herald or public crier. But this is actually a poor translation. It’s actually the word Kerugmatos, which has nothing at all to do with the act of preaching, but instead with Kerugma, the message, or “the content.” This is what Paul is saying, “It pleased God by the ridiculousness of the gospel message (the content of the cross) to save them that believe.”
Paul’s not saying the preaching of the gospel is foolish, so don’t misunderstand. The point he’s making is the foolishness of the gospel itself seemed so ridiculous to those who bothered to listen to it. To the Greeks it wasn’t intellectually deep or mysterious, it was so uncomplicated. To them it was foolish to consider that Jesus Christ could save anyone since He couldn’t even save Himself. To the Jews it was a definite stumbling block… their Messiah dying on a cross; how stupid (moronic) is that.
Both the Jews and the Greeks thought they might submit to the message of the gospel and to God just as soon as they “prepare a philosophy” about Him. Meaning, they need to fit God into their “way of thinking” before they can fit Him “into their lives.” When confronted with the message of the cross, Jesus Christ hanging there to save them and all mankind from their sins, they believed this to be utter nonsense. They saw no wisdom in the cross because they examined it from a human point of view which was destitute of faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Let’s press on to verse 24.
1 Corinthians 1
24: but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The word called in the Greek language is Kletos (pronounced: klay-tos) and means invited (by God through the gospel) to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom through Jesus Christ. “Those who are called” is parallel to Paul’s statement “those who believe” in verse 1:21 and “us who are being saved” at verse 1:18. God’s invitation of salvation, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, goes out to everyone, as Paul writes: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men (and women). (Titus 2:11)
Here’s the thing, although God’s gift of grace is offered freely to all, people have to be willing to listen to it, be receptive to it, and they have to accept it. In case you haven’t noticed, people aren’t exactly running to the cross and no one who understands the rudiments of this book should question why this is so. Jesus Christ Himself gave us a parable explaining that the world-at-large would not receive His invitation graciously at Matthew 22:1-14, ending it with these words: “For many are (what) called, but few are chosen.”
Unbelief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when you get right down to it, is an insult to God the Father, because the reason the unbeliever offers for his or her unbelief has been met by the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. At verse 23 the Apostle Paul says, the Jews asked for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom and this covers the make-up of humanity according to God, leaving out God’s Church of course because they’re Believers. Our Apostle Paul says the objections being voiced by the Jews and the Greeks are not only unreasonable they are weak because God and Jesus Christ have met them.
Considering the Jews first, they asked for signs. The book of Exodus is an account of Yahweh (Jehovah) introducing Himself to His chosen people forging them into a distinct and separate nation apart from the world. The LORD God chose to make Himself known to His people through acts of supernatural power. The ten plagues of Egypt were certainly a divine demonstration of God’s power. By freeing the Israelites from slavery and acting on their behalf time and time again God sought to establish His people’s trust. And so signs were given to them repeatedly, including the birth of their promised Redeemer: “Therefore the LORD will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). As Paul states, Jesus Christ is the power of God, He fulfilled 353 Messianic prophecies according to the Old Testament Scriptures. The miracles, signs, and wonders Jesus Christ performed on earth were sufficient (John 21:25). If the Jewish nation had the will to believe they would have had found abundant reasons for believing.
As for the Greeks, who will not believe unless a sound philosophy supports the notion, Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. If they had bothered to investigate this subject they would have discovered truths so profound and so deep the wisest of the wise might have drowned in them (Acts 17:10-12). As I’ve said previously, the Apostle Paul kept the gospel message simple (straightforward), but it is not a shallow gospel. It is too complex, too deep, for us to understand this side of heaven. (Isaiah 55:8)
1 Corinthians 1
25: Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The Lord Jesus Christ’s cross make foolish human wisdom. The cross insults man’s intelligence (too simple), ability (leaves me with nothing to do), and ambition (where’s my opportunity for boasting or fame?). Man still believes unless he builds the tower he’ll never reach heaven. But God says that’s foolishness. He has given us His Son, and the cross. Those who believe in the content of its message will be saved – it’s as simple as that my friends (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
(To be continued)
[Published weekly on Friday]
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