Most of us, deep down, want the same things out of life. Of course, I’m talking about ultimate things, not immediate things. On the immediate level, people have a wide variety of desires. Some people like to travel. Some people like fine dining. Some people prefer indoor plumbing and a comfortable bed. And other people like camping. There are a million different tastes, interests, and hobbies. But if we get to the level of the heart, I think people all around the world generally want the same things: We want purpose. We want to be happy. We want to know we are okay. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to be known by someone bigger than ourselves. We want to live forever.
And if you dig around in those desires, you’ll find that most people are waiting for some word from somewhere so that they can finally know this good life. They want a law or a list that will tell them steps to take to get there. They want their teacher to say, “You’ve passed,” or their parents to say, “I love you.” They want to get a call from their dream job or their dream date. They want to hear good news about their retirement fund or their health or their kids. Many of them are listening intently to hear from the most sacred voice they know: their own. And some are desperate to hear from God.
The doctrine of the necessity of Scripture reminds us of our predicament: the One we need to know most cannot be discovered on our own. And it assures us of a solution: this same ineffable One has made himself known through his word. As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains, “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.” Holy Scripture, the Confession goes on to say, is therefore “most necessary” (WCF 1.1). The Scriptures are our spectacles (to use Calvin’s phrase), the lenses through which we see God, the world, and ourselves rightly. We cannot truly know God, his will, or the way of salvation apart from the Bible.
We need Scripture to live the truly good life. We need Scripture to live forever. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). There is no other book like the Bible. It reveals a different kind of wisdom, comes from a different source, and tells of a different love.
A Different Wisdom
Wisdom is one of the main themes in the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians. Writing amid a Greek culture that lauded fine-sounding philosophers and fancy orators as the rock stars of their day, Paul takes great pains to differentiate the gospel from that kind of wisdom. If you are looking for wisdom in sophisticated speech and powerful rhetoric, Paul says, you’ll not find it in the preaching of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18–25). You’ll not find it in my sermons (2:1–5). And you’ll not find it in many of yourselves (1:26–31).
The gospel is wisdom for the mature (2:6), but it has nothing to do with the “wisdom” this world longs to see. God’s wisdom is not of this age (v. 6a). It doesn’t belong to this earthly realm or this “not yet” moment in redemptive history. God’s wisdom is not of the rulers of this age (v. 6b). It has nothing in common with scheming powerbrokers or the cunning devices of the Evil One (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; 10:4–6). God’s wisdom is unique. It is not immediately obvious to all or universally appreciated by all (1 Cor. 2:7).
We can get very frustrated when people don’t see what we see, when good arguments from Scripture don’t seem to carry the day. But we should not be surprised. God’s wisdom is a secret and hidden wisdom. This doesn’t mean we must cross the sea or climb into the heavens to find the wisdom of God. It means God must speak to us if we are to be truly wise. All truth may be God’s truth, but all saving truth is revealed truth.
The word of the world is not like the word of God. One is new and now. The other is ancient and everlasting. One is fleeting (“doomed to pass away”; 1 Cor. 2:6) while the other is fixed and firm (“decreed before the ages”; v. 7). If we want the “wisdom” of passing fashions, impressive brains, and talented people, then we can look to the world. But if we want—and if we need—a wisdom that is beyond us, that is outside of us, that will never fail us, we must look into the things that “God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (v. 10).
A Different Source
So where do we go to learn the things God has revealed? Do we look to the trees? What about the inner light? How about community standards? Maybe human reason and experience? The clear testimony of 1 Corinthians is that only God can tell us about God. Just as the spirit of a person discloses the thoughts and feelings and intentions of that person, so also no one can make known the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11). The only Being knowledgeable enough, wise enough, and skillful enough to reveal God to you is God himself.