Thursday, March 10, 2005

This week's Bible study

At yesterday's lunchtime Bible study at my work we discussed 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. It was interesting for me to see how alien God's wisdom is from human wisdom. As Paul pointed out previously, in his day Jews looked for miracles, and Greeks for wisdom, but God provided something entirely different. In the birth of the Messiah, the Jews expected a spectacular miracle and Herod prudently saw a rival, but God provided a baby who would grow up to be a suffering savior.

God gives what the world can only recognize as foolishness, but is in fact wisdom, a wisdom that can be discerned only with the aid of His Spirit. Paul speaks somewhat cautiously about these things, limiting himself to those who are "mature" (NIV) because talk about the wisdom of God is a dangerous thing, prone to misunderstanding. It is too easy for the ignorant and immature to think of themselves as special in some way because they have access to God's wisdom. But it is only because God graciously gives us His Spirit that we have any way to receive His wisdom. Without God's Spirit, we are like young children attempting differential equasions when we encounter the things of God; not only are they incomprehensible to us but no amount of teaching can enable us to comprehend them. With God's Spirit, not only do we have a little access to God's thoughts, but we have His abilities to think these thoughts with Him, so they can make sense to us.

Being able to think about things in some sense as God does, we are in the position to see and evaluate these things according to His plans and purposes. We are then truly able to evaluate things as they truly are. Without the Spirit, people have no way of making such an evaluation, so they will judge things wrongly, while we have the potential to pass true judgment on those things we see with the Spirit's insight.

The question arises, "what then did Jesus mean when he said 'judge not, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1)?'" The context here helps us, for Jesus is talking about the person who is searching out specks in the eyes of others while failing to notice the plank in his own. This is not the Spirit's judgment, for the Spirit will show us our failings rather than leave us blind to them. The person Jesus is referring to is judging humanly for the primary purpose of gaining power and prestige by finding fault. The judgment of the Spirit seeks out God's perspective in humility, being equally open to finding our own faults as well as the faults of others and using the insight to heal rather than harm. Jesus frequently urged the Pharisees to correctly discern what he was doing when he healed on the Sabbath, taught in parables and performed miracles, and in all these cases he was calling them to the judgment that comes through the Spirit. When they called themselves wise and discerning and yet accused Jesus of doing evil they showed that they were using human judgment rather than the Spirit's and could therefore expect to find themselves judged by God.

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