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Paul argues that the gospel he preaches is in fact wisdom because his message is a revelation from God. The gospel is not something we would figure out on our own.
Paul wrote this letter to Corinth in response to a letter they sent him asking questions and a verbal report from some messengers about the situation in Corinth.
1Corinthians 2 the middle of a discussion that runs from chapters 1-4. Paul begin addressing the divisions in their church and encouraging them to unify around the truth of the gospel. But the divisions are a symptom of a deeper issue which is the fact the Corinthians have rejected the gospel message because 1) they want a gospel that is more appealing to their sophisticated intellectual town; and 2) they have rejected Paul’s authority as an apostle because they want a more eloquent teacher like Apollos.
A number of folks in the Corinthian church find Paul inadequate as a teacher because he lacks this quality they would call wisdom. In 1Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul turns directly to issue of how he speaks. He says in 1Corinthians 2:1-5 that he didn’t intend to impress the Corinthians with his worldly wisdom; he came to teach them wisdom from God.
To this point in the letter, Paul has been using “wisdom” the way the Corinthians used it. Now he reclaims the word, arguing that he does in fact speak wisdom, but he means something different by the word.
2:6Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” – 1 Corinthians 2:6-9
- In 1Corinthians 2:1-4 Paul used the pronoun “I”. In 1Corinthians 2:5 he addresses “you”(Corinthians). In 1Corinthians 2:6, he switches to the pronoun “we.” Who is “we?”
- Since the topic of discussion is still Paul’s authority and how he spoke to them, I think Paul means “I, Paul” by the “we” just as he did in 1Corinthians 1:22-23.
- Paul asserts that he is not interested in the kind of wisdom that interests the Corinthians. Rather he preaches the gospel (true wisdom) to those who are willing to hear it.
- The “mature” are those who have humbled themselves before God and embrace the gospel as opposed to the “rulers” (the powerful people) who reject the gospel.
- The rulers are “passing away” like a puff of smoke in the grand scheme of things. Why seek their approval when God is eternal?
- In Jesus’ day, the rulers in their wisdom (Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin) executed Jesus. If they had been truly wise, they would not have rejected and killed him.
- A “mystery” is something which was formerly hidden and has now been revealed.
- The gospel — especially the cross — was not something we would have predicted until God revealed that was His plan.
- The New American Standard Bible presents 1Corinthians 2:9 as a verbatim quote of the Old Testament, but there is no such passage. Rather I think Paul is summarizing an idea or theme taught in Scripture. Just like today, I might say the Bible says “if you want to be saved you have to trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.” While that exact language is not in Scripture, it is an idea that summarizes what Scripture teaches.
- That that which no one figured out is the cross. No one could have anticipated that the Messiah would die for his people.
2:10For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 NASB
- Here again I think Paul means himself by “we.” The topic of discussion remains whether Paul’s speech is wise or inadequate.
- Paul claims the gospel is wisdom because it is a revelation from God through His Spirit to Paul and the apostles.
- Both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” literally mean breath or wind.
- Just as breath reveals the body is alive and at work so the changes we see in the world reveal the breath or the spirit of God at work.
- If we are to know what God thinks and values, God’s spirit has to communicate to us what God is thinking. The Spirit revealed that knowledge to Paul and the apostles.
- 1Corinthians 2:13 “combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” is the idea of telling the thoughts of God to those who are prepared by the spirit of God to hear and understand.
- Paul’s job as an apostle is to proclaim the things God has made known to him and to those to whom God gives understanding.
- The natural man has not been given understanding by God’s Spirit. The spiritual man believes the gospel because God has given him understanding.
- Who knows the mind of the Lord? Those to whom God has communicated his mind and that is this apostles and prophets and that includes Paul.
- These are two different words of the Spirit: revelation versus understanding.
- Revelation is something no one has understood up till the time God chose to reveal it to a messenger. God gives revelation to his prophets and apostles.
- Understanding is the receptivity to receive God’s message as wisdom. God gives understanding to the rest of us through the teachings of his prophets and apostles.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.