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God’s Wisdom and the Spirit Who Reveals It

February 5, 2023

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:6–16

God’s Wisdom and the Spirit Who Reveals It

1 Cor 2:6–16 – 1 Corinthians: Being God’s People – Daniel Baker – Feb 5, 2023


Please stand...Reading 1 Corinthians 2:6–16...“Thanks be to God.”

We live in a world of gurus. A world of experts. A world of people offering advice on everything from the ridiculously simple (changing a light bulb) to how to satisfy the deepest longings of the heart. Of course, not all the advice is bad. When those two random people made those 5-minute videos showing me how to caulk my bathtub, it turns out they were right!

With the internet and social media as platforms, these gurus are instantly available and never closed. If it’s 3am and I’m having trouble sleeping, I can look at my phone and search on “how to sleep when you have trouble sleeping.”

They promise happiness, true love, a sleeping baby, a better marriage, and money. But our world of gurus also speaks to larger issues—what is wrong with us and how to fix it. What children today really need.

I heard about a book that intrigued me, called The Good Life with the sub-title, “Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.” I started reading it a couple weeks ago.

It’s about a very long-term Harvard study that’s been following a group of people since 1941, adding in their spouses and children as they were willing.

With an MD (Robert Waldinger) and a PhD (Marc Schulz) behind the book they represent modern gurus. Since the study is based at Harvard University, that adds to the sense of it being modern gurus.

And like so much of the world’s wisdom, there’s a mix of the helpful and really unprofound. Their conclusion is that the happy life is one built on good relationships. If you want a predictor of the person who ages well and has a happy life, look at their relationships. Now that’s a great insight, and I’m glad it’s in a book like this.

But completely missing from the book is “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It is wisdom built on people seeking the insights of people. Some good insights. But really, really incomplete.

They are offering their book as a doorway to happiness, almost a pathway to salvation. But it completely ignores “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Doesn’t argue him away or refute his claims. Just completely ignores him.

They might say I’m being unfair. That no one mentioned Jesus in the thousands of interviews. Fine.

But the result is the same. It’s packaged as a “Scientific Study of Happiness” from Harvard University and offers us The Good Life. It is meant to be true human wisdom.

And yet it leaves out “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” And that’s a big deal.

All this means our day is a lot like Paul’s. Paul was writing to a city filled with people obsessed with human wisdom and personal success. But most of them were ignoring or rejecting the centerpiece of true wisdom: Jesus Christ and him crucified. And the church was tempted to do the same.

Paul is writing to Christians in the city of Corinth, a city that is still there. For us, it’s an hour west of Athens in Greece. Paul had planted the church there a few years earlier, had heard about how the church was going, and was now writing another letter to help them.

This series, “Being God’s People.” If we’re going to be God’s people we need to live by “God’s Wisdom.”

God’s Wisdom and the Spirit Who Reveals It: God’s Wisdom is not Human Wisdom; How to Receive God’s Wisdom; Who Can Understand God’s Wisdom


I. God’s Wisdom is Not Human Wisdom (2:6–9)

He’s already told us a lot about wisdom:

  • Where it isn’t—It isn’t to be found among the so-called wise men of our age...the debater, the scribe.
  • They can only give “the wisdom of the world” (1:20).
  • A vivid picture of this from Athens, the city where Paul ministered right before he came to Corinth. At Mars Hill, a center of learning and teaching, he evangelized.
  • This is how Luke described that audience:

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (Acts 17:21)

  • That’s why he “did not come...with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1).
  • God’s plan is bring the proud wise men and strong men of the world to shame.
  • What they consider foolish is the key to everything.

What God’s Wisdom is: “Christ crucified” (1:23) is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:24).

  • That’s the secret! That’s true wisdom!
  • The result? When we boast, we boast ONLY in the Lord (1:31).

Paul has more to say about God’s Wisdom.

  • Drills down into who has it and how to receive it.
  • That’s what 1 Corinthians 2:6–16 is about.

Now, “among the mature we do impart wisdom” (1 Cor 2:6)—God’s wisdom.

God’s wisdom is NOT a wisdom of “this age or the rulers of this age” (1 Cor 2:6).

  • These “rulers” are basically human rulers but there is some sense of a demonic element behind their collective activity. When “rulers” are attached to “this age” there is always some aspect of the unseen realm implied (Thiselton, 236–238).[1]
  • Proof of how much they lack true wisdom: In their ignorance of it they even “crucified the Lord of glory” (v. 8).
  • But this is “divine irony,” because their ignorant act accomplished God’s divine plan (Fee, 114).

God’s wisdom is hidden until God himself reveals it:

  • “secret” (Grk mystērion) – Mystery. In the NT “mystery” is the idea of something hidden but now revealed.
  • The plan of God was hidden until it was revealed—Christ and him crucified.
  • But even when it happened, these events were a mystery to people until God revealed what they meant.
  • God’s wisdom is a “hidden” wisdom.
  • So hidden that no person could figure it out –1 Corinthians 2:9.

And then we see the FULL SCOPE of God’s wisdom.

  • It was “decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7).
  • This wisdom of God reaches back before time—“decreed before the ages.”
  • And then it looks ahead to the end of all things: “for our glory.”
  • For our glory = “eschatological language,” points to “the final goal of salvation” where “God’s people should share in God’s own glory” (Fee, 113).

C.S. Lewis spoke to this issue in a sermon he gave at Church of St Mary the Virgin, an Anglican Church in Oxford, England, in June 1941

  • Of his sermons, probably his most famous.
  • The sermon is called “The Weight of Glory”:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”[2]

Application: God’s wisdom is not human wisdom.

II. How We Receive God’s Wisdom (2:10–13)

Read 1 Corinthians 2:10–13.

Remember, God’s Wisdom is “Christ crucified” (1:23, 24). But the historical facts about Jesus and the message of the gospel will stay “foolishness” to us unless God opens our eyes.

Like sitting in a pitch-black room...

  • You’ve been in this room for days, and you’re starving.
  • A shelf in this room is filled with food.
  • But you don’t know it’s there and you can’t see anything.
  • And then someone turns on the lights.
  • You see the food and eat voraciously.
  • That’s what the Spirit does—he turns on the lights so we can see.

1 Cor 2:10 – These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

  • Reveal = apokaluptō. Unless there’s an “apocalypse” in our souls, we’ll never believe the mystery of the gospel.
  • This is a work God does “through the Spirit.”

1 Cor 2:10b–11 – Why can the Spirit reveal God to us?

  • The Spirit is God and “searches out...the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:10b).
  • And just like our thoughts are unknown to anyone UNTIL WE REVEAL THEM, so are God’s thoughts unknown to us until “the Spirit of God” reveals them (1 Cor 2:11).
  • You know your thoughts, but they’re mystery to everyone else UNTIL you communicate them.
  • Sometimes your body language reveals it, but often it takes words.
  • I say this a lot, “Just ‘cause you think doesn’t mean you said it.”
  • In marriage, among the elders: “Did I not tell you that? Eesh.”
  • The Holy Spirit is God and so can reveal the thoughts of God—God’s Wisdom.
  • Because the Spirit is God; the Spirit is “from God” (1 Cor 2:12).[3]
  • Deity of the Spirit and what is called “the procession” of the Spirit—the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
  • Both are powerfully presented in The Athanasian Creed from ca 500:

...We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.
But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.
Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.
The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.
Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.
Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty....
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. 
Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.
And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons....
The Athanasian Creed (ca. 500)

And then we see how this works itself out.

This truth is given TO US first:

  • “We...received...the Spirit who is from God” (1 Cor 2:12).
  • This is prior to conversion. The Spirit changes our hearts. Then...
  • “That we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor 2:12).
  • Verse 12 is a word of assurance. We’re given “the Spirit who is from God, that we might KNOW the things freely given us by God.”
  • “Know” is used by NASB, NLT, KJV, Tyndale.
  • “Understand in the ESV has a different connotation.
  • Christ is offered to us freely, but the Spirit is the one who enables us to KNOW what it means and how to respond.

The Spirit isn’t done, though! Then we speak it to others:

  • Paul’s own ministry—1 Cor 2:13a.
  • “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:13a).
  • “Interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13b).

Gordon Fee is right!

The Spirit is thus the key to everything—Paul’s preaching (vv. 4–5, 13), their conversion (vv. 4–5, 12), and especially their understanding of the content of his preaching as the true wisdom of God (vv. 6–13).
Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians[4]

What is the result? “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31).

Application: How we receive God’s Wisdom

  • Prayer and dependence

III. Who Can Understand God’s Wisdom (2:14–16)

Read 1 Corinthians 2:14–16.

Now Paul covers the same ground, but he does it by setting up a contrast: “the natural person” vs. “the spiritual person.”

“The natural person” (1 Cor 2:14)

  • “Natural person” = “the person who lives at an entirely human level” (Thiselton, 224) and not at all influenced by the Holy Spirit.
  • “The animal man” (Calvin).
  • This one doesn’t “accept the things of the Spirit of God.”
  • They’re even “folly”—foolishness, ridiculous.
  • BUT HEAR THIS, TOO: “He is NOT ABLE to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
  • He’s “NOT ABLE.”
  • Sin ruins us, and one of the ways it ruins us is by making us “UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND” spiritual truths.
  • “Noetic effects of the fall.”

Only “the spiritual person” can discern “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:14).

You can hear this same message in the teaching of Jesus:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt 11:25–27)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

The spiritual person can discern and judge and see—because we have the mind of Christ.

Application: Who Can Understand God’s Wisdom

  • This passage isn’t talking about a two-tiered Christianity.[5]
  • The carnal Christian and the really spiritual Christian, the really spiritual Christian understands things the normal Christian can’t.
  • In that kind of two-tiered Christianity, maybe the people who think they’re spiritual also feel like the normal Christian can’t judge them.
  • This passage isn’t building a spiritual elitism.
  • The special status is described is simply what it means to be a Christian.
  • A Christian has the Spirit, and a non-Christian does not.
  • Having the Spirit means we’re able to understand God’s Wisdom: Christ and him crucified.


God’s Wisdom and the Spirit Who Reveals It:

  • God’s Wisdom is not Human Wisdom
  • How to Receive God’s Wisdom
  • Who Can Understand God’s Wisdom

Application: Evangelism.

  • This passage can give the impression that we do nothing in evangelism and God does it all.
  • But we’re not hyper-Calvinists: Like Paul, “we preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 1:23).
  • And remember, Paul “reasoned in the synagogues” (Acts 17:17; 18:4, 19).
  • So, we work to develop good answers for questions by unbelievers.

But we do this knowing that “the natural not able to understand” “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:14).

  • We don’t evangelize and defend the faith as if our efforts can open blind eyes.
  • It will never be our reason or logic that wins a heart for Christ.
  • This passage doesn’t take away the need to evangelize, but it does remind us that our evangelism must be bathed in prayer and dependent on God’s Spirit.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Prayer and Song

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), 45-46.

[3] τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ

[4] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 122.

[5] See Fee, 128–129.

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