Nothing new under the sun
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
C3.1 Solomon’s conclusion
The Greek philosophies, though the best known among men’s systems, were not the first, and won’t be the last to consider the deep questions of life. Indeed the Bible, a few centuries before the likes of Thales, Socrates, Plato or any other Greek philosopher you can name, explored many of the issues of life, without God. The book that has these conclusions recorded is Ecclesiastes, and the writer was Solomon, the wisest man, apart from Christ, that walked this earth.
The wisdom Solomon had was directly given to him by God at the beginning of his reign. Solomon asked for an understanding heart so that he could judge the people righteously I Kgs.3:5-9. God was so pleased by such a request that He gave the king a wise and understanding heart I Kgs.3:10-14. Solomon’s wisdom became renowned the world over eg. I Kgs.10-1-9.
However Solomon allowed himself foreign wives and his heart was drawn away from God I Kgs.11:1-13. It is with this background that we can understand how Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He was seeking answers to life without God. Indeed the key verse of the book is:
Let us hear the conclusion tot eh whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man foe God will bring every work into judgement with every secret thing whether it be good or whether it be evil
The twelfth chapter begins by stirring us to remember our creator. This shows that the book is in relation to God as creator. We recall that Paul in Romans chapter one shows that rejection of the witness of the creator leads to idolatry. In Ecclesiastes we have a similar theme. Pursuing the earthly things without reference to God is vain, empty and leads to great disappointment if not despair.
The key phrase under the sun appears about twenty nine times, and some commentators call the book as the book of the natural man. In the book there is no ‘word from God’, instead it is a reasoned thesis of life apart from God, by a man who was given wisdom by God. In other words we could argue that God’s wisdom is that life without God is empty and vexation of spirit.
When one reads this book, and compares it to the worldly systems of philosophy, we see that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. The same old questions crop up and the same conclusions appear.
The only new thing is above the sun and then only in Christ.
If any man be in Christ he is a new creature (=creation) old things are passed away behold all things are become new
Without Christ we have nothing, even if we gain the whole world Mk.8:36. As Solomon repeats many times – Vanity of vanities all is vanity. Life without Christ is vain and empty.
C3.2 Solomon’s search
In Ecclesiastes we see Solomon try many things but finds that they are all vanity, empty. Another word Solomon uses is Vexation
Therefore I hated life because the work wrought under the sun is grievous to me For all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
The word vexation meaning tormented. A person’s spirit is tormented by searching out the true meaning of life without God.
Solomon tried many subjects and it vexed his spirit. Here is Robert Lee’s list in his Outline Bible as to what Solomon experimented with. Science Ecc.1:4-11; Wisdom & Philosophy for its own sake Ecc.1:12-18; Pleasure Ecc.2:1-11; Materialism Ecc.2:12-26; Fatalism Ecc. 3:1-15; Deism Ecc.3:16-4: 16; Religion without God. Ecc. 5:1-8; Wealth Ecc.5:9-6:12; Morality Ecc.7:1-12:12.
Solomon’s conclusion that it was all vanity and vexation of spirit. Without God all is empty and meaningless. We cannot possibly find the meaning to life by self-effort or human inquiry, we need the revelation of God in Christ.
All the Greek and other Philosophic systems tried, past or present, or future are all doomed to failure for they leave God out. By rejecting God’s revelation men and women end up in frustration, emptiness and eventually idolatry far from God and without hope see I Cor. 15:19.
C3.3 The Wisdom of God
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. But unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom but we preach Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness but unto them which are called both Jews and Greeks Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Writing to the Corinthian church, a rival city to Athens, Paul takes head on the wisdom (Philosophy) of the Greeks. In this passage he makes It clear that the world can not know God by Wisdom. In fact it is a decree by God Himself in His wisdom that men and women will not know God by their own intellectual reasonings. In fact God has made such wisdom foolishness. God has His own way of saving people. To the world it is foolishness but it is God’s wisdom.
God will not have people, like the Greek Sophists, going round trying to entice people into salvation by persuasive words and rhetoric. Instead it is by the foolishness of preaching, and the preaching of the crucified Christ, which is God’s way. For true faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by clever speeches of men and women Rom.10:17.
C3.4 To know Christ and Him Crucified
And I brethren when I came to you came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and power that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul’s determination was to make known Christ and Him crucified. That is the message and the power of the gospel. A truth we shall return to many times in Colossians.
By his own confession Paul spent his time among the Corinthians in weakness and fear. The Apostle made it a point that he would not be preaching with enticing words. No rhetoric, no sophistry at all. For Paul it was by the foolishness of preaching and the power of the Spirit that he came to minister.
But what did he mean by the power? He already answered that question in chapter one. It was the preaching of the cross I Cor.1:18 and Christ the power of God I Cor.1:24. The gospel is not a thesis of ideas that people sign up to. It is, rather, the dynamic power of God unto salvation in translating lives from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God. No amount of philosophy, enticing words or clever rhetoric will achieve this. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change lives. Rom.1:16-17.
The question is reader do you have this salvation, have you put your trust in Christ alone?