September 1, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #2: The Problem of Divisions, 1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21



Lesson 2.5: Christians and Wisdom
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2.6-2.16

1 Cor 2.6-16 (KJV)

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.


6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

Howbeit we speak wisdom
“Howbeit” is an archaic word that we no longer use, which means “nevertheless”. Here it is used to connect this verse with the verses that precede it, so when they are joined together we read: “…That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God; nevertheless we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

There were among the Gentiles wise philosophers who considered the Gospel foolishness; and although the apostle, with tongue in cheek, had called the Gospel ministry the foolishness of preaching, and the foolishness of God, and even though he had decided for wise reasons, to mete it out in a plain and simple manner, without the trappings of human wisdom; nevertheless he absolves it from the charge of foolishness. He proved it was not foolishness, but wisdom, which he and his fellow ministers preached, and that it was the highest kind of wisdom, and that when the Holy Spirit went along with it there was power to change the hearts of men.

among or with

them that are perfect:
Who are “them that are perfect”? They are adults with good sense and maturity, as opposed to babes and children; they are men and women who have their understandings enlightened by the spirit of wisdom and revelation; who can tell the difference between divine and human wisdom; and who are perfect in a comparative sense, having more spiritual knowledge and understanding than others. However, there is no one, past, present or waiting to be born, that are absolutely perfect in the knowledge they own; and those that know the most only know part of what can be known. Now, it is to such as these that the Gospel appears to be the highest wisdom. But we should not think that the apostle and the other Gospel ministers preached the more awe-inspiring precepts of the faith to a select set of persons that had more judgment and a better understanding of things than others; because, if this was the apostle's meaning, he might be thought to allude to a custom among the Jews, to deliver the inspiring things of the law, only to persons with such and such qualifications. Therefore, they did not permit anyone under the age of thirty to read the first chapter of Genesis and the visions of Ezekiel until thirty years of age; and they took from the Pythagoreans their notion of declaring their mysteries only to the “teleioi”, which is the word used here for "perfect ones." But, that is not what the apostle means, because he preached the Gospel to the “perfect ones,” and to everyone that had the least degree of spiritual knowledge, because the Gospel itself was wisdom.

Some believe this clause refers to things, and not to persons. The Arabic version reads, "we speak wisdom concerning things that are perfect"; which the things of the Gospel are; things such as a bountiful redemption, perfect righteousness, full pardon, total satisfaction, and complete salvation and happiness:

yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
The wisdom of this world is that system of knowledge which the Jews concocted from the writings of their scribes and doctors. Paul is alluding to this present world; not to the world to come; that is, the days when the Messiah will reign as King of kings, and Lord of all. Whether we understand this to have reference to the knowledge of the Gentiles, which was expressed in the perfect elocution of its philosophers, or the knowledge of the Jews, who had made the word of God of no effect by their traditions, which contained a kind of learning they were very proud of. But one thing can be said with certainty about this Grecian and Jewish wisdom; no soul ever could have arrived at such knowledge or wisdom as that communicated by the Gospel of Christ. This was perfect wisdom; and they who were thoroughly instructed in it, and had received the grace of the Gospel, were termed, the perfect. This, says the apostle, is not the wisdom of this world, because that wisdom never has manifested the Messiah.

By “The princes of this world” is meant the rulers or leading men of the Jews, Greeks and Romans; those that are wiser, richer, or mightier than other men—the philosophers among the Greeks, or the rabbis among the Jews.  They had not devised or learned this divine wisdom, and they didn’t care for it, since they couldn’t comprehend its wisdom.

Are coming to naught ...
The subject of this clause is "the rulers of this world"; but the meaning is not restricted to the rich and powerful people such as governors and emperors. Paul had in mind all of those who set the pattern for this world, including the leaders in the fields of science and art. Naught is another archaic word, meaning “nothing.” The rulers or leading men of this world came to nothing; or today we would say “they amounted to nothing.” The proof of what Paul said here came within a few years when the Jewish state, Jerusalem and the temple were utterly destroyed in 70 A.D. This could also be said about the Roman Empire, since that mighty empire eventually sank under the ravages of the invading hordes of barbarians. The ruin of Grecian superstition and mythology soon followed. But it is also true of all history. If human wisdom had any genuine merit, the destruction of war, famine and deadly disease might be controlled; but every generation has fulfilled its destiny of proving that "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Therefore, human wisdom stands condemned in the very areas where it might be thought to be effective. And beyond that, "Man's knowledge cannot bring about the redemption of the race."

This pronouncement of the apostle is prophetic.


 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

But we speak the wisdom of God
The apostle says that his preaching contains the Wisdom of God, because the Gospel didn’t begin in the mind of any man; it began in the mind of God, before He created the world. Man doesn’t have the capacity to design such an amazing plan, and when it was first revealed by the Holy Spirit only a small group of men were informed. Furthermore, the wise politicians didn’t vote on it or form a committee to study and oversee it; the learned philosophers and Rabbis didn’t teach it; and there is no evidence that human wisdom was involved with any part of it; not with designing it, or publicizing it. But in a way, these types of men did have a hand in bringing the Gospel to the people, since they were the “bad example” that Jesus constantly used to symbolize what religion is not. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection; it is Christ crucified and all of this is The Wisdom of God, because it is the sole product of divine wisdom. There is a glorious display of God’s wisdom in those doctrines that the world calls foolishness; such as, salvation by a crucified Christ, justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and satisfaction by his sacrifice.

in a mystery;
In the sphere of Christianity, a mystery is any truth that is divinely revealed, that would otherwise be unknowable. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim 3:16; KJV). The divine scheme to grant us entrance into the kingdom of God is embodied in CHRIST—“ To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27; KJV)— once hidden from us, but now revealed to us who believe.
The Gospel is full of mysteries; there is the mystery of God, of a trinity of persons in the divine essence; the mystery of Christ, of his person, as God manifest in the flesh, of his divine sonship, and incarnation in the womb of a virgin; the mystery of the Spirit's grace in regeneration, of the saints' union with Christ, and communion with him, the resurrection of the same body, the change of living saints at Christ's coming, and many others.

even the hidden wisdom;
The Gospel lay hidden in God from eternity past, and men didn’t even know there was such a thing; it was hid in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; it was hid beneath the types and shadows of the ceremonial law; and today it is hid in the Scriptures, where it must be diligently searched for, as if it was some pirates’ hidden treasure. It was hid from angels, and from Adam, until it was revealed; it was to some extent hid from the Jews under the former dispensation, to whom it was eventually made known; and it is hid from believers, under the present dispensation, in the sense that now we know it but in part; and it is entirely hid from natural men, even from the wisest and most prudent among them. This depiction expresses the brilliance and grandeur, secrecy, and also security of the Gospel. Hidden things are commonly thought to be valuable, and if kept secret, are also safe; hidden and secret wisdom has always been admired, by both Greeks and Jews. The apostle ads,

which God ordained before the world
The Egyptians and Grecians were proud of the wisdom they amassed and they would boast about how early they came to know it. The great cities of these nations had constructed magnificent libraries to display all the books of learning. They developed astronomy mathematics, astrology, science and art, and made a profession of learning. The foremost men in their field were revered as national treasures. But none of them mentioned the Gospel, though it was more ancient than anything they knew. It was birthed by God’s oldest councils, and was the product of His purposes which He committed to Christ before the world was created; a scheme of things he drew-up in his eternal mind; it is a transcript of the covenant of grace, which existed from the beginning. What the Jews say of the law, is much more true of the Gospel, “that it was treasured up with God (they say two thousand years, and sometimes nine hundred and seventy four ages), before the world was created.”

unto our glory:
We say “Glory to God,” when we want to praise Him, or express our adoration; but what is meant by “our glory?” We are living during the Dispensation of Grace, which, thanks to the Gospel, has a glory in it that surpasses that of the former dispensation. It is a glory that belongs both to the ministers of the Gospel, whose honor it is both to be employed in preaching it, and in being the instruments of converting the souls of men by applying it, and to believers who are called by it to obtain the glory of Christ Jesus.


8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Which none of the princes of this world knew:
The following conclusions can be made from this clause:
1. The devil, which walks the earth as a roaring lion, and the legions of evil demons that serve him, had no idea what God planned to do through the death of Christ, because if they had known they would never have worked to bring it about.
2. The political governors of the Roman Empire, particularly Pontius Pilate and Herod in Judea were entirely ignorant of God’s intentions; because, if they knew what we know, they would never have ordered His crucifixion.
3.  The religious rulers of the Jewish church state—the priests, Scribes, Pharisees, Rabbis and learned doctors—did not know anything about the wisdom of the Gospel, or the wise revelations of God concerning salvation by Christ; because, if they knew they would not have yelled, “Crucify Him.” They didn’t recognize the Messiah when he came or the prophecies concerning him; the Jews and their rulers did what they did through ignorance, and fulfilled those things they knew nothing about.
a. “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers…But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled” (Acts 3:17, 18; KJV).
b. “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him” (Acts 13.27; KJV).

for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
If the rulers of this age would have known who Jesus was they would have received him, believed in him, and not put him to death. But why did the rulers of this age fail to recognize God's wisdom? It was because he was kept a mystery; a "sacred secret" that could only be known by revelation. When they saw the miracles and heard what he taught, many believed in him, but most rejected him because he didn’t fit their concept of a Messiah. And they rejected Paul because he preached the hidden wisdom that is now revealed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Jesus is called the Lord of glory, or the glorious Jehovah, which is a tribute and recognition of his true identity. The Lord of glory” reference seems to have been taken from Psalms 24:7, where he is called, "the King of glory"; “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” This is an acknowledgment of his deity: he is given this title because he possessed all the glorious attributes of God, and is the brightness of his Father's glory. The same honor and glory are due to him that is due to the Father; and the same glory is attributed to him by angels and men.

Some scholars consider the Lord of glory the loftiest title Paul ever gave to Jesus. It is certain proof that Paul regarded Jesus as God, the Second Person of the Trinity. It is inconceivable that Paul would give this title to any lesser being.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

But as it is written
Some have mistakenly thought that these things were written in a mythical book, called the Apocalypse of Elijah the prophet, but Paul probably had these words from Isaiah 64:4 in mind, with some variation: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Now, by examining this verse, we may come to understand our text, since one verse can often shed light on another verse.

perceived by the ear—Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2.9, "nor have entered into the heart of man"; the implicit sense of his words, sanctioned by his inspired authority is this; men might hear with the outward ear, but if they are to understand the spiritual significance of God's acts, both those impacting Israel, and those relating to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit must reveal it to their heart. 

O God . . . what he . . . prepared—that is, "nor hath eye seen a god beside thee who doeth such things." The prophet refers to God’s marvelous acts in the past on behalf of Israel; but Paul, by the inspiration of the Spirit, uses his words to show that the Gospel contains mysterious and hidden wisdom, unknown to the princes of this world, and ordained before the world was created, for the glory of the saints. These are things that had never before been heard by the carnal ear; things not to be understood by mere human wisdom; things God has prepared from all eternity, for all those on whom he bestows his grace; and when they were foretold by the prophets, they were not fully understood or attributed to God; and even after the manifestation of Christ, they could only be understood through the inward teaching of the Holy Ghost. These are things that belong partly to the past and to the present, and partly to the future.

eye hath not seen, nor ear heard:
The things of God have never been seen for what they really are or read with understanding by the eye of man, and the sound of them has never been heard with appreciation by the ear of man, unless the Holy Spirit first causes their eyes to see, their ears to hear, and their minds to understand. Despite the fact that they are to be seen and read in the Holy Bible, and to be heard either read or spoken in a sermon, with the outward hearing of the ear, they cannot be seen or heard intellectually, spiritually, and savingly, unless, God gives eyes to see, and ears to hear; the exterior senses of seeing and hearing are not sufficient to comprehend them; flesh and blood, and human nature, cannot receive them or reveal them, since man lacks the intellectual capacity to do so.

entered into the heart of man;
This clause is not in the original text; but is a phrase often used by the Jews, for “that which never came into a man's mind, was never thought of by him, or he never had the least notion, idea or concept of it.”  Man cannot so much as think of them, much less conceive them with his senses. The heart was thought to be the place of understanding, but the things of God cannot enter the heart unless the Holy Spirit is already there, and He has prepared the heart to receive God’s word and shines the light of understanding on it. Once again, man lacks the intellectual and spiritual capacity to understand it on his own.

The things which God hath prepared for them that love him;
In the original text it is, "for him that waiteth for him"; the meaning is the same, since all those who hope in the Lord and wait for him, are in love with him; and the gist of the clause is, that God has prepared and laid up in his own breast, in his counsels and covenant, in the types, shadows, and sacrifices of the old law, in the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, such doctrines and mysteries of grace that were never seen, heard, known, and understood by the Old Testament prophets and saints; and He has reserved for his people under the Gospel dispensation, a way to discover and understand them. Now, the Jews themselves will agree that these words belong to the “world to come”, which with them commonly signifies the “days of the Messiah”, which to them is still in the future; though here they interpret the phrase, "eye hath not seen", as the eye of the prophets: their words are these; “all prophesied not, but of the days of the Messiah; but as to the world to come, eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee.'' The interpretation is, “the eye of the prophets hath not been able to see it.”

To be sure, the mysteries of the Gospel are more clearly understood now, than by the prophets of the past.


10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

But God hath revealed them unto us
How can anyone come to know the doctrines of the Gospel, since this wisdom is hidden, mysterious, and unknown to the understanding of men? The answer is this: God has revealed them in his word (which is available to men, at least those who live in a free society) to private Christians and believers. Then it becomes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to give understanding to his people.

by his Spirit;
All three persons in the Godhead worked to design the revelations found within the Scriptures, and the internal revelation and application of the truths of the Gospel to the souls of men is also ascribes to Them. They are sometimes attributed to the Father of Christ—“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17; KJV); sometimes to Christ himself—“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11-12; KJV); and sometimes to the Spirit of Christ—“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17; KJV); and here revelation is attributed to the Father by the Spirit; it is the Spirit that gives the understanding.

for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God; 
This is the Spirit of God, which spoke to the nation Israel through the prophets, who announced to the people the coming of the Messiah and revealed a vague outline of God’s plans; and now He has given to the apostles an abundance of heavenly truth. The Spirit searcheth all things does not presume that the Spirit is ignorant of any of these things, before he searches them, because the Spirit of God has complete and perfect knowledge of them. The "all things" the Spirit searches into, and has a perfect knowledge of, do not constitute everything which comes within the scope of his infinite understanding. The Holy Spirit has complete knowledge of everything pertaining to the Gospel of Christ, even the more mysterious and awe-inspiring issues, as well as the plain and easy doctrines. Only the Spirit of God can reveal the deep things of God: these are the purposes which have existed in His infinite wisdom and goodness from eternity past; and for the most part it is what refers to creation, providence, redemption, and eternal glory—“O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep” (Psalms 92:5; KJV). The apostles were so completely convinced that the scheme of redemption proclaimed by the Gospel was Divine, that they boldly declared that these things substantially surpassed the wisdom and comprehension of man. God had now, in a certain way, become manifest; His many attributes, which to the heathen world would have lain in obscurity forever, (for the world by wisdom knew not God), were now brought into the light by Jesus Christ, and emphasized by the gracious displays which He had made of himself. It was the Spirit of God and no-one else that could reveal these things; and it was the energy of that Spirit acting alone that could bring them all into effect—stamp and seal them as attributes and works of God. The apostles were as conscious of the source of their own inspiration as they were that they had consciousness at all; and what they spoke, they spoke under the inspiration and motivation of the Holy Ghost, who is fully competent to reveal that wisdom which had for ages been hidden in God—he knows all that God knows.


11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

This verses aims to illustrate two points: First, since no one knows the thoughts of a man except the man himself; likewise, no one knows the thoughts of God, except God himself. Therefore, no one but a divine person is competent to discern and announce a revelation of the thoughts and purposes of God. Second, just as every man does know his own thoughts, so the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. His knowledge of what is in God is equivalent to that which we know about the contents of our own consciousness. The comparisons that can be made to Scripture, however, are not to be pushed beyond the point which they are intended to illustrate. The point to be illustrated here is the knowledge of the Spirit. He knows what is in God, like we know what is in ourselves. It is not to be inferred from this that the Spirit of God has the same relation to God in other points that our spirits has to us.

For what man knoweth the things of a man,
The thoughts of a man's heart; the ideas of his mind, the schemes he draws up there, his plans, purposes, and intentions, can never be known by another man, or angels or devils or any other creature.

save the spirit of a man which is in him?
The things of a man mentioned above are the "deep things"—the hidden counsels, thoughts, plans, intentions—no other man can fully know them. By the spirit of a man cited here, Paul is referring to the human soul—or the intellect of man. The purpose of this clause is to illustrate the way in which man acquires knowledge of himself; and this is done by the very fascinating thought that no man can know his own mind, his own plans and intentions, but himself—his own spirit. The essential idea is, that no man can know another; that his thoughts and plans can only be known by himself, or by his own spirit; and that unless he chooses to reveal them to others, they cannot ascertain them. But it is not to be thought that here he intends to convey the idea that there is a perfect resemblance between the relation which the soul of man bears to the man, and the relation which the Holy Spirit bears to God.

even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
There are two arguments drawn from these words that are proof of the divinity of the Holy Ghost:
1. Omniscience is attributed to him: He searches all things, even the deep things of God. He has exact knowledge of all things, and He enters into the very depths of God, and penetrates into his most secret revelations. Now who can have such a thorough knowledge of God but God?
2. This verse seems to imply that the Holy Spirit is as much in God as a man’s mind is in himself. Now the mind of the man is obviously essential to him. He cannot be without his mind. But, can God be without his Spirit? He is as intimately one with God as the man’s mind is with the man. The man knows his own mind because his mind is one with himself. The Spirit of God knows the things of God because he is one with God. And since no man can find out what is in another man’s mind until he communicates and reveals it, so neither can we know the hidden plans and purposes of God until they are made known to us by his Holy Spirit. We cannot know them at all unless he divulges them to us; we cannot know or believe them for our salvation until he opens and enlightens the eye of the mind, and gives us saving faith in Christ.

This proves how secret, hidden, and unknown, the mysteries of grace are, until revealed by the Spirit; which is proof of the deity of the Holy Ghost, and clearly shows he must be God, and he must be in God; He knows the thoughts of his heart, the revelations of his mind, his purposes and pronouncements, and what is contained in them. So God's Spirit knows the Divine secrets, and imparts these to the hearts of believers, where he dwells. Now, it cannot be said that people know nothing about God, because that would deny Divine revelation and the testimony of nature—“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20; KJV) God can be known by His works: Nature speaks of nature's God. No one can ever say to God, “I didn’t know there is a God, because we are without excuse.” However," our knowledge of God must always be relative, not absolute, because it is not possible to measure the arm of God with the finger of man."

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world,
Meaning either Satan, the god of the world, the spirit that is in it, and rules over it; or the dominating spirit that operates in unregenerate men who are alienated from God. This is a spirit of covetousness, uncleanness, pride, hatred, and confusion; or it can be the carnal wisdom of the world, which is common to worldly men, lies in the knowledge of worldly things, and is pursued and employed for worldly advantages. We, who are the genuine apostles of Christ, have received the Spirit of God, by which we know the deep things of God; and, through the teaching of that Spirit, we preach Christ crucified. We have not therefore received the spirit of the world—of the Jewish teachers, who are all looking for a worldly kingdom and a worldly Messiah, and interpret all the scriptures of the Old Testament which relate to Him in a carnal and worldly sense.

We have received is literally “we received,” signifying that we received the Spirit when we became Christians. Salvation does not come to us at one time, and then at a later time the Spirit takes up his abode in us. When an unbeliever accepts Jesus ,the Holy Spirit immediately comes into the heart of that unbeliever.

but the Spirit which is of God;
Meaning the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us as a gift, and who makes his abode in us the moment we believe. “…if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9; KJV). “…Except a man be born…of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; KJV). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6; KJV). The Holy Ghost, which proceeds from the Father and the Son to the newly saved, is the gift of God to his people. He is received into their hearts through faith in Jesus Christ, and there He is a spirit of illumination, faith, comfort, adoption, truth, and a guarantee of future glory. The apostle has set forth two sources of knowledge in this verse: the human and the divine. One is the informing principle that is in man; the other is the informing principle that is in God.
that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
The things that are freely given refers to the same time referred to in verse 12 when “we received” the Holy Spirit. The word could have been translated “graciously given,” signifying that we have received redemption, righteousness, and the Holy Spirit, because of the grace of God, by the undeserved favor of God.

The things that are freely given to us of God is of course enjoyed in this life; but they are also eternal things and we will be able to fully understand what they mean when we come face to face with the Savior. However, we are going to miss out on spiritual blessings in this life if we don’t try to understand all we possibly can about these things that are freely given to us of God while we are here on this earth, in flesh and blood bodies, even though we will not entirely understand until we see him and are like him.

The Spirit of God draws us to God, convicts us of our sin, “borns” us into the family of heaven, indwells us, leads us—and when we allow him he fills us: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18; KJV). Thank God for the third person of the Trinity!

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Which things also we speak,
Meaning the things which have not been seen by the eye, heard by the ear, or understood by the heart of man; the things God has prepared for his people from before the creation of all things; the deep things of God; the things of God which are only known to the Spirit; the things that are freely given to them by God, and made known to them by the Spirit of God: these things are spoken out, preached, and declared to the sons of men. Paul is speaking here to the believers in Corinth. God has given to them and also to believers today the ministry of witnessing to those who have lost the truth about the things which are not taught by man’s wisdom and cannot be found by searching. They are ours only because the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and makes them known to us as we yield to Him!

We don’t dare use the language of the Jews and the Gentiles when speaking of those deep things of God, even though they can pander to man’s spirit. The Greek orators adopted a high and flowery language, full of analogies and details, which dazzled more than it enlightened. The rabbis preferred obscurity; they studied the scriptures in the hopes of finding something new, but they didn’t find anything to make the people wise unto salvation. The apostles could not follow any of these; instead, they chose a better way; they spoke the things of God in the words of God; everything was plain and intelligible. Anyone who has a spiritual mind will easily comprehend an apostle's preaching.

Paul says, “…we speak,” pointing to all preachers who are called and anointed by God to preach the Gospel—and there is only one Gospel: everything else is just wrong.

not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth,
Paul was no ordinary man, even before he was converted on the road to Damascus. He learned human wisdom in the schools of the philosophers, where he studied under Gamaliel: “Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today” (Acts 22:3; NLT), and he called himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees—but he wanted it clearly understood that in spite of his natural ability and extensive training, he was teaching—not by man’s wisdom, not in the garb of philosophy, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit of God. In 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13 of our study Paul clearly declares the divine fact that all of man’s ability is futile and vain apart from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26; KJV); and guide us into understanding the truth, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard…” (John 16:13; NLT). But we must notice the sequence here: the Spirit taught Paul from the Word, and then Paul taught the believers. The truth of God is found in the Word of God. And it is very important to note that these spiritual truths are spoken in specific words. In the Bible we have much more than inspired thoughts; we have inspired words. “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them…” (John 17:8; KJV).

The successful Christian learns the vocabulary of the Holy Spirit and makes use of it. He knows the meaning of justification, sanctification, adoption, propitiation, election, inspiration and so forth. In understanding God’s vocabulary, we come to understand God’s Word and God’s will for our lives.

comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, and each of its 66 books is important if we are to understand the program of God from beginning to end. The best way to understand the Bible is to compare scripture to scripture. We should never take scripture out of its environment to use to prove a denominational or religious point. We should never add to it what we think and we should never take away from it to make it say what we want it to say. We should rightly divide the word of Truth according to how the Holy Spirit teaches us.

How does the Holy Spirit teach us? It is worth repeating. He compares “spiritual things with spiritual.”  He reminds us of what He has taught us, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26 (KJV), relates that truth to something new, and then leads us into new truth and new applications of old truth. What a joy it is to hold the Bible and let the Spirit reveal God’s truth. The problem is, many Christians are too busy for this quiet meditation. They are missing out on being enriched.

Now this verse confuses some people, but personally, I don’t see the problem, because I believe they are saying basically the same thing:
• Canon Cook explains it: “Matching spiritual things with spiritual words.”
• Conybeare and Howson say: “Explaining spiritual things to spiritual men.”
• Adam Clark has this explanation, “This is commonly understood to mean, comparing the spiritual things under the Old Testament with the spiritual things under the New: but this does not appear to be the apostle's meaning. The word συγκρινοντες, which we translate comparing, rather signifies conferring, discussing, or explaining; and the word πνευματικοις should be rendered to spiritual men, and not be referred to spiritual things. The passage therefore should be thus translated: Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons. And this is the sense the following verse absolutely requires.”

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

But the natural man
The natural (unregenerate) man rejects anything that has to do with the Spirit of God—first, because he doesn’t have the capacity to understand it; and in the second place, the things of God are distasteful and unattractive to the natural man because his nature craves the things of the world.

It is utterly impossible for any man to understand anything about the spiritual things of God until he has been born again. To be born again all the person has to know is that Christ died for sinners, and then he must believe from the heart that God raised him from the dead: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9; KJV). To openly confess Christ in those days of persecution was a trial of faith of the severest kind. Note particularly that there is no promise made here to a person who conceals his faith.

receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:
Paul is making a comparison between the saved person (called “spiritual” because he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit) and the unsaved person (called “natural” because he does not have the Spirit within). In 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Paul will introduce a third kind of person called, the “carnal man.” He is the immature Christian, the one who lives on the childhood level because he will not feed on the Word and grow.

At one time every Christian was “natural” knowing only the things of nature. When we trusted the Savior, the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts and moved us into the plain of “spiritual”—able to live on a higher level in the realm of the Spirit. Then we had to grow! The unsaved man cannot receive the things of the Spirit because he does not believe in them and cannot understand them. But as the Christian receives the things of the Spirit day by day, he grows and matures.

for they are foolishness unto him;
The natural man looks upon the things of God as if they are absurd, and unreasonable; they do not agree with his taste, he dislikes and rejects them as being dull and distasteful; he regards them as belonging to a crazy brain, and he makes them the subject of joking and ridicule. I have recently observed with my own eyes an example of how natural men hate the things of God, and you may have seen it too, if you watched the Democratic National Convention (September, 2012).  The platform committee removed all mention of God from the party platform. When they realized that the Republicans could use this against them, they asked the members to approve an amendment to added God back to the platform. The membership voted to keep God out, but the chairman passed it anyway. The point is the majority of Democrats were angry because God was put back in and that it was done in spite of their objections. Did those who voted “no” hate God; you can be the judge!

neither can he know them:
One of the characteristics of maturity is discernment—the ability to penetrate beneath the surface of life and see things as they really are. Unsaved people walk by site, and really see nothing. They are spiritually blind, unless their sight is acted upon by a divine power that places a superior spiritual light into it. At the very best, he can only know the facts and grammatical sense of them, or only theoretically, and speculatively; not experimentally, spiritually, and savingly. The next clause tells why he can’t know them.

because they are spiritually discerned;
They are spiritually blind because the things of God are discerned through the Holy Spirit. Therefore those who don’t have the Spirit cannot discern them. The maturing Christian grows in his spiritual discernment to understand more and more (with the Spirits help) of the mind and will of God. The Corinthians lacked this discernment; they were spiritually ignorant. They were so wrapped up in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit that they were neglecting the basic ministries of the Spirit; they were also neglecting the Father and the Son.

This is a very important verse; therefore it would be wise for us to summarize what the apostle is telling the Corinthians and everyone that reads it. The unregenerate man cannot get to know the things of God from a study of the Word simply for argumentative purposes. Unregenerate man cannot discern the things of god. In spite of all the searching and studying he may do, his spirit will not allow the soul to form an opinion of God that will cause the natural man to seek God. Before the unregenerate spirit will seek God, he must hear the Word of God with an open mind and an open heart and allow the Holy Spirit to convict him of sin and draw him to God.

In John 6.44 Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44; KJV). It is impossible for the unregenerate man to form an opinion in regard to spiritual things without the divinely inspired spiritual faculties that only the Holy Ghost can give in response to faith or as a result of faith. The perception of natural man does not and cannot extend beyond the region of the intellect, and we will never come to know God through intellect. We know God through the heart, not through the mind.

15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

But he that is spiritual
Meaning not any particular individual person; but all men who have been born of the Spirit, literally, "the spiritual (man)." He possesses a divine nature, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the dominating force in his life. Consequently, because the dominating force in his life is spiritual, his spiritual faculty enables him to investigate all things in their relative proportion—that is, those things divinely revealed as a person studies the Word, and yields to the Spirit.

judgeth all things,
Here in this place “judgeth all things” means "discerneth all things"; but we should not think that it is referring to all the things in nature, or all things which fall within the scope of human knowledge; there are many things you and I may know nothing about. For example: I do not understand how an airplane that weighs a hundred thousand pounds can fly.  And I can’t explain WIFI, even though I am on my computer most of every day. But, I do know something about the things that the world calls foolish; the Spirit of God, and the Gospel. I know that there is salvation in Christ alone, pardon by his blood, and justification by his righteousness. I know these things because I have experienced them personally. The spiritual man (I am one, and I hope you are too) can distinguish truth from error, and the voice of Christ from the voice of a stranger; and he knows when the Gospel is preached, and when it is not, because he judges by the Word of God and his own experience. This does not mean that every spiritual man has the same degree of spiritual knowledge and judgment; on the contrary, everyone discerns and judges according to the measure of the gift that Christ has given him.

Every born-again believer is not above criticism—far from it! It is altogether possible for a believer to become carnal, as we will see later on in our study: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1; KJV). There are some believers who never grow. They yield no fruit and become spiritual dwarfs, when the desire of God for all believers is that they become spiritual giants, full grown and strong in the Lord—good soldiers in the Lord.

yet he himself is judged of no man.
John asked a question that is very relevant to our study: “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5; KJV). And, so we wouldn’t have to scratch our heads, he included the answer with the question; it is the person who has believed that Jesus is the Son of God. John is stating something very important for us to know. It is that we overcome by faith and when we exercise our faith in the saving grace of God, He does two things; he places the Holy Spirit within us, and He leads us in the paths of righteousness. And as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God. Therefore, those that are spiritual judge all things; receiving those things that will benefit them, and rejecting those things which could tear them down. And only spiritually minded believers can judge all things, because the carnally minded believer (because of his carnal nature) will not see anything wrong with many things. But when the Holy Spirit controls the soul as well as the members of the body, then the judgment pronounced upon the things of the world will be all together different because it will be seen in the light of the revealed truth of God as the Holy Ghost makes the things of God known to us, as well as how we should live, and walk, and act before the church and the world.

None of those who are not spiritual (the “carnal man”) are able to sit in judgment upon a man who is a born-again believer. He is on a higher level than the “carnal man”, and the “carnal man” from his lower level cannot evaluate his life and works. The believer and the Church have the Spirit, and yet, they are not infallible or faultless. Both are infallible and faultless, only in proportion to the degree in which they are led by the Spirit. The Spirit leads into all truth and holiness; but His influence on believers and on the Church is at the present time partial. Jesus alone, who had the Spirit without measure—“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34; KJV)—is both infallible and faultless. Scripture, because it was written by men, who while writing were infallibly inspired, is pure truth—“Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things” (Prov 28:5; KJV). “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ” (1 John 2:27; NLT).

16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

For who hath known the mind of the Lord,
The apostle either cites or alludes to Isaiah 40:13: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” We find part of the same verse in Romans 11.34: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Who can pretend to penetrate the mind of God, or fathom the reasons for his conduct? His plans, his dictates, and his activities are like himself, infinite; and, consequently, unfathomable. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33; KJV). The mind of the Lord contains the accumulated knowledge of mankind from Adam to the present, and much, much more. There are the deep counsels of his heart, the scheme of salvation by Jesus Christ, as conceived in his eternal mind, the sense of the Spirit of God in the writings of the Old Testament, the things of the Spirit of God, or the doctrines of grace more clearly revealed under the Gospel dispensation. It is impossible for any natural man, by the light of truth and strength of reason, to know any of these things. But, what about the spiritual man? The Lord has promised that we will know more when we leave this life and go to be with him; until then we see only part of the picture, we see as if we are looking through a piece of dark glass: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor 13:12; KJV). The believer can know the mind of God only to the extent which he is led by the Spirit. We may rest in the the conviction, that God is merciful and good in all his ways, just as he is wise and just. But since we cannot entirely comprehend him or his operations, it is our place, which are the objects of his infinite mercy and kindness, to adore him in silence, and to obey with eagerness and delight.

that he may instruct him?
The reference here is not the Lord, who needs no instruction from anyone, and besides, what would a mere man know that God doesn’t, or who would be so bold and insolent that they would attempt to teach God anything. What's more, having knowledge of the mind of the Lord would not qualify anyone for such an impossible job; because, even though a person may know a lot about the mind of the lord, he cannot know more than the Lord himself.  Likewise, the natural man, who is entirely ignorant of the mind of the Lord, cannot instruct the spiritual man; and this verse gives a very proper and sufficient reason for why the spiritual man is not discerned, judged, persuaded, and instructed by the natural man; and absolutely nobody instructs God (Paul quoted Romans 11.33, 34; see above). The next clause gives the best reason for why we don’t want to be instructed by an unbeliever—

But we have the mind of Christ;
The mind is “the seat of reflective consciousness, comprised of the faculties of perception, understanding, and judgment. The mind of the Lord Jesus Christ must be perceived if his ways are to be understood. It is utterly impossible for the natural man to understand the ways of God apart from the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit imparts to the believer the mind of Christ. The believer possesses the mind of Christ because of the indwelling Christ. “… Christ in you the hope of Glory” (C0l. 1.27). To have the mind of Christ means we are to get over on Christ’s side, and see things the same way he does. We are to see things from the Savior’s point of view and have his values and desires. It means to think God’s thoughts and not think as the world does.

The unsaved person does not understand Christians because they live in two different worlds. But the Christian does understand the unsaved person. First Corinthians 2.15 does not say that unsaved people cannot point out the flaws in a saved person’s life (they often do), but the unsaved person cannot penetrate into the full understanding of what the Christian’s life is all about: “ But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” That “no man” includes other Christians as well. We need to be very careful not to become spiritual dictators in the lives of other people. To have the mind of Christ doesn’t mean that we are infallible and can start playing God in the lives of other people.


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