“Rather than use clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
I decided to take a lesson from Paul for this article; though I wanted to rattle the saber for God’s “Warrior Spirit,” I stumbled across 1 Corinthians chapter two and opted for a simpler approach. Lofty speeches profit nothing if the focus is on me and my own clever words. That lesson stung a bit.
But the truth is that Paul was right about this, worldly philosophers and the self-righteous can throw out just as many words as the rest of us. When we rely on our own wisdom in the face of opposition we often lose sight of the true message.
“When we tell you these things,” Paul told the Corinthians, “we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Holy Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.”
As a writer I love to strategize my words. I like trying to structure sentences and paragraphs to have the best impact, to deliver the emotions most effectively, to make people reach the exact conclusions I want them to reach. With almost ten years of practice, I like to think I’ve gotten quite good at this.
This is a great skill and it shouldn’t be underestimated. But sometimes God has a better idea. And when we let his Spirit speak through us we generally end up having a more profound effect than any of our own clever words could ever accomplish.
When human wisdom butts up against human wisdom the result is an endless circle of clever arguments that ultimately cancel each other out. The victor becomes he or she who has the patience to hold out the longest, regardless of what the actual truth in that situation might be. But all our clever words are nothing compared to what the Holy Spirit can say through us. Another verse from this chapter can be useful here: “No one can know a person’s thoughts save that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts save God’s own spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) Many may claim to know God’s thoughts concerning you, but only the Holy Spirit can know for certain. Just as none can know your own thoughts unless you tell them, so none can know God’s thoughts unless his Spirit shares them.
No amount of clever wording on our part can faithfully substitute the words of God through the Holy Spirit. Many who would mock or condemn us from their own human understanding have far less authority than they or we might imagine. It is important to remember that God, not us, has the final say and anything God has to say He will tell us through his Spirit, which lives in us.
“People who aren’t spiritual,” Paul reminds us in Corinthians, “can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it.” To put it another way, those who do not listen to the voice of God’s Spirit within them cannot understand anything He has to say. They may claim to know what God thinks of you, but if they have not heard the voice of his Spirit, their foundation is as solid as sand in the wind.
“For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” (1 Corinthians 2:16) If we have accepted a relationship with Christ, then we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, it lives in us always. It is this voice we should listen to when we wish to know the heart of God for us or for others, for who can tell us more than God’s own Spirit? Should we compare our own wisdom to God’s? Should we compare our lofty human speeches the the simple whispers of the Holy Spirit?
Our enemies will always hate us. We can count on that, but God’s Spirit loves us. Only the Holy Spirit can tell us our value to God, his are the only words we need to hear.