Last week I ended by stating that Paul does not use arguments that appeal to human wisdom. Let me say again, however, that I do not think Paul is claiming he never makes intellectual arguments when trying to convince the nonbeliever. There are many times when someone will have an issue that blocks their thinking, and if they are to consider anything else we say, we must first remove the obstacle. This is largely what Christian apologetics is all about. We have a responsibility to give reasonable arguments for the faith that we have (1 Peter 3:15).
However, we should always combine the best rational arguments with the most penetrating assessment of the human moral condition. If the “issue” becomes more of a point of pride with that person rather than something they honestly need answering, then we do that person no good by prolonging the argument. We must recognize that, at least when it comes to some areas of knowledge, people cannot have understanding until they open up to God’s Spirit. This is Paul’s contention in the final verses (14–16) of chapter 2 in 1 Corinthians (NASB):
14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
16For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (Emphasis original.)
In verse 15, we find a remarkable statement. For those who are Christians, I am sure you can identify with the experience of meeting someone who you immediately know is somehow different, and later discover to be a fellow believer. I have had this experience even with people that I could not communicate with because of a language barrier.
On the other hand, there are other people I have known for many years, who know me as well as anyone could, and yet have no clue as to what really motivates me regarding the issues of life, other than that it is a “faith thing.” It is, at times, frustrating, because I am unable to share the most exciting things of my life with a person I care so much about. I wish I could let them see me on the inside so they could comprehend the words I am using.
Of course, what they really need is the Spirit of God, and that is the whole point Paul is making. To really know the things of God, we must have the mind of God. Receiving this mind of God is tantamount to receiving His grace. It is called grace because it is a free gift, not based on any merit in ourselves. He will give it to anyone who asks.
While we cannot earn it, there is one requirement that we must meet. First Peter 5:5 tells us that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We must come to Him in a spirit of humility. That is why the essential core of any kind of repentance is humility. We are acknowledging our dependence on Him. When we are willing to come to Him on that basis, He will give us His Spirit, and open up to us things that we have never conceived of on our own.
At least some of the Corinthians were willing to take that step of repentance. Will you take that step?
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6|