For an introduction to this series, click here.
This is kind of a short chapter, which is really good because I kind of overslept this morning.
The first section of the chapter continues the thought of the previous chapter about God choosing the foolish things of the world to overcome the wisdom of the world: "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory." (2:1-7)
Even Paul had his weaknesses. There is another passage, I think it is II Corinthians, where Paul says that his reputation is that he is powerful when he writes and he is weak when he speaks. I guess in that very isolated and simple way I am somewhat like Paul, although don't quote me on that (I hear that a lot). But Paul is not so much concerned about that. He is more concerned about the Gospel of Christ being proclaimed. I think too often we are not like Paul. We are attracted to preachers who have great charisma, an amazing vocabulary, and who seem to have a lot on the ball. These human gifts are fine, but if the preacher is not using them to proclaim the Gospel, he is wasting his time and our time.
Now I want to point out something that Paul says about the "hidden wisdom of God." John has a lot more to say about this in his epistles, but Paul also goes on to explain what he means by that phrase: "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' — these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God." (2:9-10) God does not keep secrets from those He loves. The mystery of God is not a mystery to those of us who are His children. It may be and is a mystery to the world, but that is as far as it goes. Don't trust anyone who claims to have found some deep dark secret of God or who twists Scripture to say something you have never thought it meant before. There are all kinds of teachers who go around holding seminars and they sell people on some nonsense they concocted based on a few Scriptures twisted out of context, and lots of good people fall for them. Don't be one of those.
Finally, we have some of the most important teaching on the depravity of mankind: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 'For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (2:14-16, ESV)
Man in his natural, lost state cannot correctly understand the Bible. He will get bogged down in useless details, he will go off on tangents, he will miss the big picture. Most of the doctrinal error down through the centuries has been originated not by saved people who were misguided, but by lost people, no matter how sincere they may have been, who tried on their own to interpret the Scripture. That does not mean they may not have led believers astray, but I think if you look back, in many cases the error was first introduced by professed believers, not by well-grounded pastors or teachers. Unless the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind of a lost person, they will never be saved and they will never correctly understand the Scriptures.
Of course no one knows everything immediately: it takes a lifetime, and even then we don't understand everything. That fact is why it is important that leaders in the church be spiritually mature. Lots of churches I have been a part of see some young guy who is really zealous for the Lord, and they let him take a leadership position in the church. They are just trying to encourage him, but I have seen lots of cases in which that young person gets in over his head and is soon no longer even in church or is off in serious doctrinal error. It would be better to keep the zealous person out of the spotlight and teach him the whole counsel of God. How many great preachers would we have today if some wise and seasoned believers had been mentors to a young flash in the pan and taught them like Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos? Only God knows, but I hate to think about it. The church is meant to take the long-term approach, to prepare all of its people for a lifetime of service to God. Too many churches are content to exploit someone willing to work for a little bit, and both the person and the church are worse off in the long run.