Category Archives: Holy Spirit

2 Samuel 6

The Rejoicing King

Discussion Question

Make a list as a group of things in your life that you tend to take for granted.

Background (Context)

We’ve come to enjoy watching David now as we, the reader, witness this man of God, whom God has elected to be king over Israel and to shepherd them in peace, illuminate us with regard to the Kingdom of God. He has demonstrated patience and trust in the LORD to deliver him in all situations. He inquires of the LORD no matter how confident he may feel about the outcome. He wrote the laments that the people ought to cry when their king is dead or a faithful man falls at the hand of the wicked. He shows us a kingdom that is gentle, merciful as well as just and able to bring down the enemy and the wicked. This is the kingdom of God under the reign of king David. Will he show us anything new? How else does he illustrate the Kingdom of God under the LORD Jesus Christ?

Michal was David’s wife and daughter of Saul. She was taken from him by Saul and was given to another man. Before David was enthroned, he made sure that Michal was returned to his kingdom. She was torn away from her second husband also.

All Israel have come to their senses and established David as their head. He has driven out the pestering Philistines who dogged Saul all of his reign. He has captured Jerusalem and claimed it as his own. One major event needs repairing. The Philistines had carried away the Ark of God back in 1 Samuel 4. It was passed around like a hot potato until it came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a town of Israel but not the city of the king (1 Samuel 7:1-2). The Ark of the covenant should be in the Tabernacle. God’s promises to Abraham consisted of his descendants being a great nation named the people of God, residing in the Promised Land with God’s rule and blessing. The great nation now has the land free of enemies and sitting under the rule of a great king. We need to have the Ark returned.

Read 2 Samuel X

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah z in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, b the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. m

9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • All the King’s horses and men went to get the ark (1-5)
  • David’s mission fails (6-11)
  • David humbles himself before the LORD (12-15)
  • The daughter of Saul does not approve (16)
  • The people are blessed through David (17-19)
  • David explains why the daughter of Saul is wrong (20-23)

All the King’s horses and men went to get the ark (1-5)

“David again brought together all the able young men of Israel – thirty thousand…to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God…” This story begins with the strength of David and his men. It does not take 30,000 young men to carry a box! David is the leader of a great army. His mission: to bring back the ark of God.

“…the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.” The story does not want us to underestimate the importance of this box. David is tasked to pick up the very worship piece that communicates that the God of all armies is in their midst and for Israel. It is an item of contract between God and Israel. It is not where God literally sits but it may as well be! And what does David equip himself with to pick up such an item? His army? This is not good. He wants to come to God with his own strength. We have come to know David and one who inquires of the LORD before going to battle but here there is no clue that David has inquired of the LORD about the ark mission. It’s as if he is treating the LORD Almighty as an equal.

“They set the ark of God on a new cart….Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab…guiding the new cart…Ahio was walking in front…David and all Israel were celebrating…” What a show. They made a new cart which is highlighted twice for us to stand out. Abinadab had been taking care of the ark. “Sons of” is not usually a title that creates confidence. The sons of Samuel were wicked. The sons of Eli were the same. These two examples come from the beginning of the 1-2 Samuel saga. We don’t expect good things when we here of “sons of”. And David is celebrating with all of Israel. This seems like a good thing but we’ll see that the attitude toward God is flippant. Over familiar.

David’s mission fails (6-11)

“…Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.” Here is the problem of the story. Is this the right action? Will Uzzah be blessed or cursed because he reached out to aid the ark when it was in distress? Although we have empathy for Uzzah who may just have done by instinct what seemed right, he illustrates for us in this story that the LORD Almighty does not need a lift. The army of David had come to collect their God. They were carting him around like any other idol of the other nations. They did not inquire of the LORD and they are showing off their own strength.

“…God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” The narrator does not tell us plainly what the error of Uzzah was. We must, firstly, respond in awe at the mystery of God who does not need to explain himself to anybody. But, secondly, we can follow the clues from the narrative that David and his people had approached God with force and might and self-sufficiency and presumption rather than with humility. A seemingly small incident of a bump in the road brought forth the anger of God for how his people were approaching Him. Again, He is not like some dumb idol, but is the living God Almighty.

“Then David was angry…” The response from David may be righteous or selfish. It is hard to pin down. Was he angry at God, at Uzzah or at himself? He was certainly frustrated with something. He renames the location where God’s wrath ‘broke out’ against Uzzah. Remember Baal Perez? Yahweh had broken out against the Philistines but now he has broken out against a priest of the ark. God is not someone whom you can tame.

“David was afraid…” David becomes sober-minded and realises that even he is not worthy to receive the ark. He feared the LORD. This turning point in the story shows us David realising that he had approached the LORD with strength when he should have approached with weakness and humility. But he aborts his plans to take the ark back to Jerusalem, the City of David.

“…he took [the ark] to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite…and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.” The form of the blessings was perhaps prosperity which coincides with many children (1 Chronicles 26:4-5). This Gittite was not an Israelite. The ark was residing with a foreigner and yet he is blessed. This gives David food for thought.

David humbles himself before the LORD (12-15)

“So David went to bring up the ark of God…with rejoicing…he sacrificed…” Verse 12-13 describe David’s mission to collect the ark taken back up again with rejoicing and a large dose of humility. The first being the act of sacrifice after only six steps from its resting place.

“Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might…” In contrast to the military David we saw in Verse 1, we now see a stripped down (literally) version of David. It is clear later that David is making no attempt to look awesome and important because it is the ark of God that he now wants to celebrate and praise with thanksgiving. He leads the humiliating praise and Israel joins with him. The ark is coming to Jerusalem and the people celebrate with shouts and the sound of trumpets. And so God’s people should when they know that the blessing of the LORD is with them. What is self-preservation and pride when God looks for a humble heart? I recall the response of the people of Jerusalem when Jesus came to them lowly and riding on a donkey. They went nuts for him!

The daughter of Saul does not approve (16)

“…Michal daughter of Saul watched…and…she despised [King David] in her heart.” When the ark of the LORD is brought to the City of David, Michal has her eyes and disdain on her husband. What is key here is that Michal is of the house of Saul (by name and by nature in this instance). No king of Israel ought to be parading around like this in her opinion. Leaping and dancing! How degrading for a king. She does more than disapprove of this decision – she despises him.

The people are blessed through David (17-19)

“…inside the tent that David had pitched for it…” This sounds quite shabby but he has placed a home for the ark in a tent as described in the books of Moses. 1 Chronicles 15:1 informs us of this preparation. He had made sure that in his City was the place where God would dwell with His people.

“…and David sacrificed…” David continues in worship before the LORD. Burnt offerings and fellowship offerings are not all for the forgiveness of sins. They are ways of worship and thanksgiving to Yahweh. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

“…he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread…to each person in the whole crowd…And all the people went to their homes.” This time, the LORD did not smite anyone but came to rest, and the King blessed the people and distributed food offerings to all the people. Perhaps this is a little symbol of how the LORD would be a blessing to the people through David. He blessed ALL the people and the blessing was in the name of the LORD Almighty. It is not David and his army that is shown as great at this stage of the story but the name of the LORD that has come into the City of David. There is joy in David’s humility.

David explains why the daughter of Saul is wrong (20-23).

“When David returned home…” The blessing on all the people who were free to return to their homes (V19) is followed by what David was met with when he returned to his own home. He comes to bless but he receives contempt.

“…Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him…” She is not described as the husband of David but as the daughter of Saul. Perhaps a clue from the narrator that she is speaking from the philosophy of the old camp. What we hear from her mouth is the language of pride.

“…going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls…as any vulgar fellow would!” Michal’s resentment of David may be many layers deep. But what’s on the surface here is her disapproval of the way David has presented himself before the servants of the land. To the lowly slave girls, David has paraded around in a vulgar manner – according to Michal. He has not distinguished himself from them. To her, David should have displayed an air of importance. But this is the very thing that David started out to do and he was taught, by the wrath of God, to be humble.

“It was before the LORD…I will celebrate before the LORD.” David is not the important part of this kingdom. God is. He chooses who will be king. And they are not first and foremost David’s people but God’s people. As such, David is first and foremost a member of God’s kingdom. If humility before the LORD is required, then let all the house of David show humility.

“…who chose me rather than you father…” It feels a little childish of David to bring Michal’s father into this discussion but, given the way this story ends in Verse 23, it is Michal who needs to be rebuked and David is simply stating the facts. Again, the emphasis is not on how great David is but on how God does the choosing. As for David, he will celebrate before the LORD. He cannot say, like Joshua (Josh 24:15) “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” But he can say, I will serve the LORD.

“I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! David promises to remain humble before the LORD and not rise above where he has gone today. No matter how large his army (6:1), David will trust in the LORD and forever give praise to Him.

“But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.” The proud people will envy the rich and powerful but the lowly in heart and wealth will love the humble and lowly. Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven and the meek will inherit the earth! Michal did not understand this honour. While David experienced the joy of humility, Michal suffered the misery of pride (to paraphrase John Woodhouse, Preaching the Word: 2 Samuel).

“And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” This is a familiar reference to misery in the Old Testament narratives. Obed-Edom was blessed with many children but Michal was not. Saul’s house is included in this reference to misery. It was the pride of Saul, his disobedience and inability to truly repent that saw his downfall. We must not conclude that anyone without children is cursed by God. That is taking a generalised symbol of the Old Testament too far.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Our God is not a dumb and passive idol but the living God who blesses those who come to him in humility and in truth. He does not look for strength but a thankful heart that rejoices in His strength. It is not we who carry Him but He who dwells with us. Humility is a virtue that turns our hearts to the true God in rejoicing. Pride is an evil which blinds us to the graciousness of God.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: We must never carry a flippant attitude toward God. This definitely includes a flippant or casual attitude toward the LORD Jesus Christ. David’s power and strength were only the result of waiting on the LORD Almighty for deliverance. Yahweh owes David nothing. We are not equals with Jesus but indebted to him (with a debt that we cannot pay and he does not demand). The church that we build, the reputation that we carry are no comparison to the work that God has done for us at the cross. He is our righteousness. He delivered and called the church into being. He made us a people who were not a people. In our attitude toward God, in church and everywhere else, let us recognise that He is the LORD Almighty who choses to dwell with us out of His great mercy toward us. We only love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Topic B: Sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. If you could inherit the greatest kingdom the world has ever known and all you had to do was give praise and thanks for that – would you do it? As your mother always said (I’m guessing), “Thank you’s don’t cost you anything!” David offered free-will sacrifices to God. They were costly. God has given us an inheritance that will never spoil, perish or fade. He has done this through the sacrifice of His Son who now lives and dwells in our hearts through the Holy Spirit! I often wonder why it is so hard to celebrate the gift of forgiveness and having peace with God. David almost showed the people what it looks like to celebrate and sacrifice with praise. We sing at church because that is what Christians do and have done throughout the centuries. The people of God sang Psalms. The disciples sang with Jesus  (Matthew 26:30). The church in the New Testament sang (Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). Even as ‘Anglicans’ we could learn to praise genuinely. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16

Topic C: Pride and humility. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”. Proverbs 11:2. Of course, we can take pride in something as a job well done. But that is not on display here. Michal wanted David to be distinguished and untouchable. She was bitter toward him because of it. David saw humility as a lesson learned and one that he will learn again. His joy was in praising where the praise was due. Sure, he was the king of Israel and he did have a large army. But heaven forbid that he should rob the LORD Almighty. If David was to show pride it would be in the LORD’s work and not his own. “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16.

Study 9 – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Using your temple wisely

Discussion Question

What sort of things do you think every person has a right to?

Background

Let’s not forget how Paul greeted the church in Corinth back in chapter 1. They are the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. Yet the way they are thinking and behaving does not fit with that description. They were quarreling over which leader is the greatest and thinking like people of this world. They were even taking one another to court over matters that could have been resolved with Christian wisdom and unity. And they had somehow allowed sexual immorality to become commendable! Things that even pagans would condemn were being practiced by members of the church. They were not behaving as the people of God.

Paul had instructed them to celebrate and nurture the community of God, cleansed by the blood of the Passover Lamb and love being a community devoted to pursuing holiness – keeping the Festival as though they themselves are unleavened bread. In Chapter 6 Verses 1 to 11, it seems that they were more concerned with their rights than they were with Christian living and forgiveness.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”d 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.e

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. They were once sinners but now they have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. They need to learn to be the people that God has made them to be.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)
  • The melding of body and soul (14-17)
  • Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)

“I have the right to do anything” This sentiment is quoted twice by Paul to mimic what he believes the Corinthians to be saying. How pointed to the age that we live in. Which comes as no surprise because sin, when left unchecked, grows into a tree of self worth and the rejection of care for others or God. Human rights is an important topic but to say that we have the right to do anything is not thoughtful on the implications on others. What did the Corinthians have in mind? Well, if you have been taught that Christ’s death has paid for your sins completely (Romans 8:1) and that keeping the Jewish laws are no longer included in the New Covenant, (Acts 19:9-15), then this surely gives us liberty and freedom to eat and enjoy the good things in life without concern. “We are free in Christ” has become for them: “We have the right to do anything.”

“…but not everything is beneficial…I will not be mastered by anything.” Paul has two responses to the statement, “I have the right to do anything”, which are both about discipline and wisdom. From the very beginning, mankind has been given the challenge to be wise. Think about the test in the garden of Eden with regards to the fruit. Binge TV watching is a Christian liberty but is it really beneficial? Enjoying the things of this life is excellent but if something becomes an addiction, is that really helpful? Something may begin as a liberty but grow into a demand. Should I mention coffee? Alcohol? Candy-crush? What about TV and movies with nudity/course language and anything that can train us in ungodliness? What other things could fit the category of not beneficial or possibly addictive?

“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” This local man-made proverb is capturing the idea that we are just inhabiting a temporary body which will disappear one day and so let’s not care about it. Faith and worship are about the spirit. The body is for food (and sex) and they will not be coming to heaven with us – or so the idea goes. What Paul goes on to talk about is a push-back on the idea that the body does not matter.

“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul has moved from the proverb about food to what he’s really concerned about: sexual immorality. This is the theme of chapters 5 to 7. We are not made in order to abuse sex. All things that are good in this world come from God. Sex, money and power all have their place when used for the glory of God. But all three can be misused and abused to the detriment of ourselves and others. Our bodies – our fleshly, creaturely matter – are meant for the Lord. And Paul will continue to explain what he means by “and the Lord for the body.”

Notice in Verses 12 and 13 how the Corinthians are celebrating a transient life – what they do in the here and now has no effect on eternity. This is an extreme misuse of the doctrine of grace. But pushes back on this hyper-spirituality and says that the body matters!

The melding of body and soul (14-17)

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead…” In order to place emphasis on the body, Paul goes to the resurrection! It is no light matter that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! It is also no light matter that Jesus was made flesh to begin with in order to die! Salvation occurred through the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“…and he will raise us also.” The bodily resurrection. A Christian doctrine that says we will not be spirits in the sky but, with a new heaven and a new earth, we will also have new bodies. This current passage is putting emphasis on the point of bodies. The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body. When God gave us life, he also gave us bodies. Our flesh and bones mean something to God. When mankind was made, we were described as being in the image of God. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, he said “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This can have multiple implications but he is saying that they are both flesh! As Christ was raised in bodily form, so we will be raised in body. Jesus is described as the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1). His resurrection is not the only one, but the body of Christ will rise in Him also. So, I’ve opened a can of worms, I’m sure. Cremation vs burial. Do we sleep when we die or do we rise straight away? How old will we be in the new heaven and earth? Good questions which I will not answer here.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” Now Paul introduces a new level of complexity. We are not simply talking about his body was important and so ours is also. Paul now reminds us that, as Christians, we have died with Christ and we rise and live with him (Romans 6)! Being part of the body of Christ is not just an illustration for church life! There is something extremely practical and real about actually being attached or united with Christ.

“Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” So, the sexual immorality is unveiled a little here and we see that prostitutes are involved. Unfortunately, some people even in our church may need to hear Paul’s words here. Let’s quickly remind one another also that Jesus equated the thoughts of the mind with adultery in Matthew 5:27-28. The Corinthians may have had easy access to prostitutes in temple worship (most commentaries will talk about that) but we have so much access to virtual prostitution through porn.

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” This is an amazing statement. It’s all too common to here the idea that sex is just biology. Paul is arguing for a deeper connection with the body and the spirit in this passage. We are united with Christ in the body. When we unite with somebody in sex, there is a connection that transcends probably anything else. Paul wants us to hear that it’s not just biology.

“For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”” Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24. Sex is for marriage and marriage is the place for sex. Our society has so cheapened sex and likewise cheapened marriage. In God’s wisdom, he has created us to be united closest through this physical act. That does not mean that every sexual act is a highly spiritual one. Life is messed up because of sin. But, all things being equal, sex is a wonderful gift of God given for the purpose of bonding two human beings together – for life. Does that mean that if someone has engaged in casual sex is now married with that person in the eyes of God? No. But understanding the place, purpose, and origin of sex teaches us that our bodies were made for a reason. We are not spirits, we are flesh and blood. Our bodies are united with Christ and they are also the temple of the Holy Spirit…

“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” This sounds awfully new agey and quite bold to think that we can say, “I am one with the Lord in spirit!”  Ever thought that? Paul wants us to stop thinking 2-dimensionally (or 3 or 4 for that matter). When we are here in body, we are also one with God in spirit. There is a unity between body and spirit. Paul wants us to understand the link between our bodies and our spirit and the union of our body with the Spirit of God.

Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)

“Flee from sexual immorality.” I love these direct applications in the bible. Get out of there! See some sexual immorality threats? Run the other way. In case of personally engaging in sexual immorality – run for your freaking life. In the positive, cultivate habits and thought patterns that entertain godly living. In the negative or defensive mode, shut out opportunities for sexual immorality, learn to cry out to God for help when tempted and speak to someone about dangers that you might face. Paul continues to stress why sexual immorality is particularly harmful.

“All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Paul takes his lesson to the next level. And it is quite a curious thing to say. It fits perfectly with the train of thought so far…if sex means that the two will become one flesh…that sounds quite huge. But gluttony might seem similar. Or self-harm? So, sexual sin is categorised as something that changes you. Let’s remember the two things that Paul said to begin with: not everything is beneficial and I won’t be mastered by anything. Two pair oneself with another liberally is by no means beneficial once we’ve heard Paul’s teaching of the union which that creates. Sexual immorality in deed or in thought can be quite dominating and a dangerous master. For Paul to say that it is a sin against your own body! That’s sobering to hear. Then he says:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Wow! The great promise of Christ to his disciples was that he must go and he will send the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone because the Spirit of Christ and of the Father are with us (John 14:26; 15:26). I have not the space to talk in detail about the temple and its purpose through the scriptures – except that it is where God dwells with his people. While once it was a physical structure in the centre of Jewish life, Christ declared himself to be the temple when he said, “knock that down and in three days I will rebuild it!” John 2:19-21. Paul has taught us that the Spirit of Christ is in us. This is not to say Christ’s Spirit but the Spirit sent from the Father in the name of Christ. Our bodies are the dwelling place of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse has been abused to teach against smoking cigarettes and eating healthy etc. But clearly the context is about sexual immorality! Can you extend the principal though to smoking? I don’t think you can. Paul said that all other sins are outside the body but sexual sin is different. (it is not a good idea to smoke cigarettes nor eat an unhealthy diet – not all things are beneficial).

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” This is perhaps the mic-drop moment of Paul’s talk here. We’ve come from the thought that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies to this final statement that you don’t even own your own body. Salvation has come to you at a price. It was through the death of Christ physically on the cross. Because of that, we have the Spirit within us. In what sense are we free to do whatever we want? The conclusion, though, is not then to be told what to do with our bodies but to honor God. That is surely what we would want right? If not, then why turn to Christ? We have been given a new life through Christ. Paul is not asking us to become prunes, but to honor God with our lives. Like he says in Colossians 3:17, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What did we learn?

Freedom in Christ does not mean that we begin to ruin our souls through sin. We are saved by grace and now live sanctified lives through the Spirit of God and our bodies are involved in the plans of God. He created us with bodies and the resurrection will somehow include resurrected bodies. The place of sex is also a sacred thing in the eyes of God. We now live with the Spirit of God within us and we ought to think like the sanctified people of God, thinking and acting with wisdom and self-control.

Now what?

Topic A: Where might we find the freedom we have in Christ being subverted with unwise living? See the notes for examples like TV watching. How do we spot the difference between being wise and being a prune?

Topic B: Live your spiritual life naturally and your natural life spiritually. This is a quote seen on a sign in front of a church somewhere in Australia. What do you think of this saying? Does Paul agree with this statement according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20?

Topic C: Understanding the balance between grace and discipline. Grace means that we get rewarded despite not deserving nor earning it. Christ paid the price so that we could be rewarded with his righteousness – not what we have done but what Christ has done. Not who we are but who Christ is. We stand uncondemned because of Christ and we can never repay him for what he has given us by grace. Discipline is about choosing wisely and acting with thought and self-control. Making plans and sticking to them. Deciding to do productive and beneficial things and saying no to other things which we could become enslaved to. These could appear contrary to one another. However, all the discipline in the world will not save us – we need the grace and mercy of God. Once saved, we recognise that we do not want to be married to sin any longer and so we must flee. Living a disciplined life does not make us any closer to God than a fish. Living a saved life will spur us on to love and good deeds because of the hope we have for eternity.

Study 4 – 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

Words, Spirit and the Mind of Christ

Discussion Question

What would you say are the benefits of being a Christian?

Background

Paul opened his letter to the Corinthians with praise to God because they lack no spiritual gift from Him. They were called into His kingdom by grace and are therefore holy people. The first issue raised, however, is the issue of division in the church which Paul is addressing with them. They are not behaving like the holy people of God, united in mind and thought, but like people of this world. They judge their preachers on the basis of eloquence and persuasion but Paul explains to them that the cross of Christ is all the power that they need. We do not believe the gospel because of beautiful language, but because of the extraordinary God who has revealed the truth to us. Paul is not speaking about human wisdom that they should have confidence in but the truth about God – namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.

We reflected on how the message of the cross is the wisdom of God and also the power of God. The gospel is somehow described as the Spirit’s power.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

What did you see?

Structure

  • The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)
  • God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)
  • Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)
  • Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

In this section, Paul says one simple thing in four different ways: the gospel is brought to us and taught to us by the Spirit of God and no human can claim to have discovered it by their own intelligence. It’s as if he’s saying: no person is a mind reader and if you want to know the mind of God then you need the Spirit of God. If you know the mind of God, it’s because you have been given the Spirit of God.

The Spirit’s power at work in the gospel (4-5)

“My message and my preaching…a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” Paul lands his previous section on the point that the message of God, (the message of the cross, the testimony about God), originates with God and not man. To further make this point, he shows how it is even delivered to us by God himself. So, when Paul preaches, he is not making up words of wisdom on his own but he is recounting the message of the cross of Christ. I do wonder what people mean when they say “that guy can really preach!” It’s likely that it points to a charismatic and persuasive word of intelligence rather than an exclamation that they heard the word of God through that guy.

“…the Spirit’s power…” Colossians 1:3-9 helps to understand what Paul means here. In that passage, Paul praises God because he can see the results of the gospel working out in the lives of the Colossian church. They received the message of the cross taught properly and they truly understood the grace of God and so understood the hope of eternity. What flowed from that was a life of faith and love. Paul attributes all of that to the work of the Spirit because that is the power of the gospel!

“…so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” No single church, preacher or theological movement ought to take central stage to your faith. When we grow in maturity and when we turn to God in faith, that is the work of God. A healthy church, a faithful preacher, a godly Growth Group are all means of grace but not the authority or master of it. The flip side of this coin is that you must listen for the wisdom of God in your life. This, as Paul has argued, comes from hearing the true gospel and truly understanding the cross of Christ. Flee from gurus and run to the power of the cross.

Now, it’s good to just pause and recognise that there is plenty of wisdom and value in what humans say. It’s good to have doctors and financial advisors and counselors of all sorts but none of them will lead you to salvation and the cure of sin. Self-help books can contain plenty of useful things; psychologists and psychology books are very useful for helping us move forward in our maturity but they will only give us scaffolding for the immediate. Our faith must stand on the power of God.

God has revealed his age old mystery to us by his Spirit (6-10a)

“We do, however, speak a message…” Just because the gospel is the revelation of God from God, it is also something that we hear because people speak it! Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past, God spoke to the human race in many and various ways, but now, he has spoken to us by his Son. We preach Jesus Christ and the cross of Christ and this is the message that we speak.

“…a message of wisdom among the mature…” This word, mature, is about reaching the goal we were meant or designed for. It’s like declaring that those who are not growing in Christ have a stunted growth! Check out these references for a similar use of the word mature: Eph 4:13; Php 3:15; Col 4:12; Heb 5:14; 6:1; Jas 1:4. The mature are those who are hearing the gospel of God and responding in faith.

“…but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” To not mature, it is to not pursuing Christ. The air and flavour of this world is not to pursue Christ and they will not mature in the way that the New Testament describes it. If anyone is offended by this definition of maturity, it must be remembered that Paul is talking about hearing the wisdom of God and that maturity is describing the intention for which God designed the human race! It follows, therefore, that if we seek to mature ourselves apart from the way that God has designed us then we can call it maturity but it is not! It would be like a plant trying to convince you that it would mature far better if it were taken out of the pot and placed on the sandy beach in the sun.

“…God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” God had a plan from the beginning but it was kept secret until the proper time. The word mystery does not refer to something mysterious or mystical, but to something that is a secret. Clues have been handed from God to this earth via the prophets but when Jesus Christ was revealed, God’s great plan was also made known. Ephesians 1:9-10; Romans 16:25. God is patient with his plans. His view of history and human destiny is both authoritative and complete. Our view is so micro and self absorbed. His plans are to include us in glory. This is part of the maturity that God speaks of. Our lives are not to be in pursuit of joy but in pursuit of maturity found only in Christ which is for our own glory.

“None of the rulers of this age…” 1 Cor 1:20; and 1:6 give us the context of what this age refers to. It is humanity this side of heaven. Paul can talk of the people at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and the people in his time as the same age that you and I live in right now. It is the age where many are perishing but those who God has called, who believe in the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God who are being saved.

“None… understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” It’s ironic that we needed to be blind to the plans of God (the mystery) for us to put Jesus to death. If we had seen the plan clearly, we would treat Jesus as God and not crucify him. But then, that would indicate that we could reach holiness and wisdom without the cross.

“What no eye has seen…heard…conceived…God has prepared for those who love him.” Paul alludes to Isaiah 64:4 and reuses the message there to apply it to the post-cross age. Although he doesn’t directly quote from Isaiah, the message is the same. We are not talking about human philosophy when we talk about God and his message of the cross. We are talking about the real and living God who made everything. The revelation of God has not evolved over time through the subconsciousness of the human race. Paul couldn’t get any clearer about this. No person could have made up this stuff! But God has been plotting away since the beginning of time to bring us salvation through the death of Christ and the promise of eternal glory.

PS – I have heard verse 9 used as a kind of whisper about heaven to come. That is, no-one has seen it or can possibly imagine what heaven will be like – but God knows and it will be beautiful. What spoils this narrow interpretation is the way that Verse 10 begins…

“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” God is not talking about a secret that is still a secret. He is talking about the mystery of how he is going to make his church holy, righteous and wise. All is done in Christ.

 

Who can know the mind of God but God himself?! (10b-12)

“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Verse 11 makes it clear that this is the Spirit of God AKA the Holy Spirit. Nobody can know the deep things of God apart from God himself. The Holy Spirit is therefore God.

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” Who do you really know apart from yourself. Now you might say that you don’t know yourself very well and would love someone to figure you out and let you know! True. But, look at or think about your closest and dearest friend(s). How much do you know them? You never know their thoughts until they speak them or write them! Nobody can ever know me truly like I know me. I will continue to value other people’s insights into my psyche – but my thoughts are my thoughts. My pains are my pains. My emotions are my emotions. Don’t get me started on the things that come to our minds when we are asleep! How to begin to explain what your mind conjured up as a believable story during the night. And then when we speak our mind, is it often only a fraction of what went on inside our brain?

“In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Again, we cannot begin to guess what God is thinking. But what if he revealed to us his thoughts and plans by his Spirit?

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” We have been given access to the plans and thoughts of God. Notice how Paul explains that the message of the cross is a window into the mind of God. No person has conceived this. The Spirit has revealed that Jesus death on the cross was our substitutionary atonement.

 

Who can understand the mind of God but those who have been given the Spirit (13-16)

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” You could take this sentence out of context in order to show that God gives Spirit words that no person could have invented or understood and therefore show that speaking in tongues of angels is promoted here. But let’s not take it out of context hey? Paul has been talking about audible and understandable words which make up the message of the gospel but that reveal the secret plans of God from eternity. In other words, Paul is saying that this gospel message is not made up but has been give to us by God. The message of 2:4-2:16 is quite repetitive. What’s being challenged by Paul is human wisdom, not human language.

“The person without the Spirit does not accept…cannot understand…because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” Recall that in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the church was described as called. And in 1:26-31 we were reminded that God chose who he would reveal his will to and include in his church. Understanding the gospel with acceptance is a work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus described to Nichodemus (John 3) that the Spirit can’t be seen but His work is plain to see. And in Colossians 1:3-9, Paul can tell that the Spirit of God has been at work because they have responded to the gospel. That is why the gospel is described as the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:5).

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…” This is a verse to keep in your pocket for good theological discussion! When we come to understand the gospel, we can say that it is we who considered the words, weighed up the evidence and the options and made a judgment call on what to do next BUT only a person with the Spirit can make such a judgment call because only they can consider it as wisdom from God.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” The rhetorical answer is no one, correct? Paul has already concluded that nobody can know the mind of God except God himself. Well…

“But we have the mind of Christ.” Boom! The gift of the Holy Spirit is such an important one that gives us the knowledge of God. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would be blind and stupid fools. Unable to discern the mind of God. But with the Spirit in us, we have the mind of Christ. That is, we are able to be wise and grow in wisdom. The fruit of this is character. The Spirit brings us the gospel of grace, allows us to understand it and conclude that this is right. The Spirit of God then transforms our minds to know the mind of God more and more. And the Spirit of God enables us to discern between right and wrong. This is called maturing in Christ.

What did we learn?

The Spirit of God is like a conduit to the mind of God. He opens our eyes to behold the beauty in the cross and the wisdom in the gospel. No human can possibly conceive the things that God has known and thought for all time. But the Spirit of God is God’s gift to those who love him – indeed the means to loving him. A preacher’s words are no mere words since they uncover, discuss, persuade and exhort the people of God to know the mind of God.

Now what?

Topic A: Turn sermons and daily bible readings into an act of worship. This passage is reminding us about the great privilege we are given when we receive the Spirit of God. We ought to regard the bible and times spent listening to Spirit-filled preachers as moments of the wisdom of God being revealed to us. How often have you skipped reading the bible this week? Are you conscious that you are skipping time spent listening to God?

Topic B: Being thankful for the Holy Spirit. Proof of the Spirit dwelling in you is that you truly understand the grace of God and are growing in maturity. Those who have the Spirit of God living in them have the mind of Christ, are holy and chosen by God to be his people. You are a child of God with God’s commitment to grow you. The Spirit of God is teaching you.

Topic C: Conscious of the foreign nature of this world/age. If it is only those who have the Spirit who can know the mind of God, then everybody else does not and cannot know the mind of God. Yet the majority of people, especially the rulers of this age, do not know God’s mind and will regard the gospel, the church and the cross as foolish. It is important to be aware of this chasm we are living amongst. When interacting with the people of this world, be aware that many do not have the mind of Christ. Knowing this does not make us superior. Knowing this gives us an alert mind to the dangers of thought we live with.