Summary: Paul uses tremendous contrasts to show the need to distrust the world and to completely trust God and what He offers.
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
February 10, 2001
Contrasts can be a wonderful tool to use in order to make a point. We’re very familiar with contrasts that use extremes and represent opposite ends of a spectrum. Some of these include, black and white, big and small, tall and short, fat and thin, smart and dumb, healthy and unhealthy, and the like. In our language, we use these quite a lot to make points and to help in expressing ourselves.
The great NT apostle Paul used contrasts to make a powerful point about trust and distrust. We’re going to look, together, today at a passage and there’s a result that I want you to share with those Paul originally wrote this passage to. I want you to really distrust something today; on the other hand, I want you to really trust something today.
We’ll focus on the 2nd chapter of 1 Corinthians today, and look at 5 contrasts that Paul makes. This is a chapter of contrasts, and rather than plowing through verse by verse, today we’ll consider idea by idea, or contrast by contrast. And to make it easy, I’ve made an overhead, that we can have before us throughout the message. (Overhead attached at end of message).
I’ve titled the sermon: “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” but consider Bad and Ugly as one category- we’ll be looking at contrasts of 2 today, not contrasts of 3.
Let me say, too, that we live in a society where such clear contrasts may not be really appreciated. We like to waffle, and to equivocate, and I’m the worst one for that, too. We don’t like to think in terms of extremes but of various shades of colour. It’s not correct to say that if something is not black or white, then it’s grey, though; if you look in a spectroscope, you’ll recognize that what lies between black and white is simply the full spectrum of all possible colours! So, don’t let anyone ever blind-side you with the idea that things have to be black or white or else they’re just grey, which is supposed to be something bad, it seems.
In some very important areas, there are extremes- it’s either this… or that. Paul shows this to the Corinthian Christians and Paul shows this to us!
1. First of all, there are only two kinds of minds- 1 Cor. 2. 14, 15. Either someone’s mind is carnal or someone’s mind is spiritual. Carnal simply means ‘meaty’, normally human, and just like we’re born or just like we are because of what happened in Eden. There are certain great limitations because of that kind of mind. This becomes clearer as we look at all the contrasts of the chapter. There are some important areas that the carnal or natural mind can’t venture into at all because of lacking an extra component that is necessary for those areas.
The sense of the word ‘receive’ (v.14) is that of welcoming a guest and the natural man and natural mind can’t welcome spiritual things. He/she cannot know spiritual matters. (This is strong, when God uses such words as ‘cannot’!) This word also means ‘discern or scrutinize’ and is the same one in the following verse that speaks about what the spiritual mind can do in judging all things. The spiritual mind is able to scrutinize and discern in all areas. All areas are open because of being spiritual; areas that were closed, when carnal, are now open.
What does it mean to be spiritual? Oh, how that word has led to so much judgment and criticism over the years, and so many set standards that are not the standards that God sets. Spiritual refers to a person who has the Spirit within. When does that happen and how does that happen? Romans 8.9 tells us that we are no longer in the flesh but are in the Spirit if the Spirit dwells in us. We’re told, elsewhere, of how incredibly willing God is to give us the Holy Spirit (Luke 11.13). We understand that when someone comes to Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work, and when someone is baptized, the symbolism is of new life which can only occur with Christ in and Christ is in by the Holy Spirit.
It’s easy to want certain manifestations that might include tone of voice, language, body language, outward signs of piety, and the like, but that’s not how you tell whether someone is ‘spiritual’, by God’s definition.
Reality is, though, you’re either one or the other. You cannot be a carnal/spiritual person. You are either carnal or spiritual. Oh, sometimes a spiritual person ACTS carnal, but that doesn’t mean that person IS carnal anymore, because something incredibly miraculous has occurred in the act of commitment to Christ!