I Corinthians – The Spirit of God Grants Understanding

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we’ll be looking at the second verse of Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth. In this chapter, Paul speaks of the mysteries of the Lord, the reasons why these mysteries are nonsense to the world, and the Gift that is the Holy Spirit.

Reading: I Cornithians 2

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

Paul was not an expressive or emotive preacher, using the power of emotional thrust to sway his people to follow his direction. Instead, Paul came speaking the plain truth of God to the people of Corinth.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

He did not necessarily forge tight brotherly bonds with them outside of their unity in Christ.

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

However, he did dwell with them and share in their tribulations.

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

He did all these things to avoid being “the preacher who pursuaded me to become a Christian”, but “the man who introduced me to God”. While these may seem very similar, the difference is that the man in the first instance is the one who did the pursuading, while it is God in the second instance.

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.

The wisdom of God may not make sense to those who dwell in the world (indeed, it almost certainly cannot make sense to them). While the teachings of the Bible may often parallel the wisdom literature found in the world (much of Proverbs is reflected in the literature of Taoism), the spiritual matters of God are nonsense to even the most wise in this world.

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (indeed, one of the stated purposes for sending the Spirit among us) is to give us understanding (john 14:26). Because of this Spirit, the apostles suffered all manner of torture in the name of the Lord. Many of our brethren who are already asleep were tortured and executed in the name of this Spirit. If those who did such wrongs had this same Spirit and wisdom, they would have dropped their swords and praised the Lord Most High.

However, we were warned that as they came for Christ, so they would come for us (John 15:20).

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.

We can never overestimate the work of the Lord. He is wise above all things, and mighty in power. No man (prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit) had even the faintest glimmer of the majesty of the Lord and his Goodness toward his children.

For who could have foreseen that the Lord would come to save those who despised Him, through the suffering, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son. Even Isaiah, who prophesied about these things, did not have a full understanding of the nature of the Messiah as both Mighty Lord and Humbled Sacrifice.

However, by the Spirit, all these things are made clear to us. Praise be to the Lord who has given us this wisdom previously unavailable even to kings and wise men.

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 calls back to the work of Aristotle, who discerned several spirits in existence in our world. He noticed the spirit of life, which gives life to all things that live, the spirit of the animal, which provides instincts and basic nature, and the spirit of man, which provides insights and reason.

While these spirits are all present even in fallen man, the Spirit of God is not present in those to whom the Lord has not given it. This Spirit grants us insight into God, even if only an imperfect insight hampered by our sinful flesh. Without this Spirit, it is not possible for the Word of God to become clear and understandable.

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.

That which is not physical cannot be understood in physical terms. We can attempt to describe them as such – the Papists use the physical nomenclature of Aristotle to describe the mystery of the Eucharist – but these terms are wholly inadequate.

However, when we speak of spiritual things to those who have appreciation of spiritual things (through the work of the Lord), we are able to both express and rejoice in those works of the Lord which are manifest in our lives.

Further, while much of Scripture is good and right for teaching us worldly matters, the mysteries of God are only revealed in the “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth”. To those who cannot hear the Word of God, these truths are forever out of reach.

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.

The natural man lacks the Spirit of God, and so cannot understand the teachings therein. To the believer, doctrines of the Second Birth (through the baptism of the Holy Spirit) and the mystery of the Eucharist are both receivable and wonderful things. However, to those who are not among the brethren, these things are manifest foolishness. This same is true of many of the “hard sayings” of Jesus.

(For a much more excellent study on these hard sayings, read F.F. Bruce’s work)

However, we who have the Spirit have both the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. Thus, we are able to understand both the things of this world and the things not of this world.

Let us pray

Oh, mighty and sovereign Lord, we thank you that You are chief above all things, both Physical and Spiritual. We praise your name and give you thanks for all the works you have done.

We thank you most especially for the gift of the Holy Spirit, through which we are made to understand spiritual matters which are nonsense to the world. We thank you that this same Spirit gives us discernment to separate the foolishness of the world from the wisdom, and the spirituality of fools from the truth.

Guide us ever, Lord, and direct our paths so that we may give you praise at all times and in all places, in word and deed.

We pray all this by the urging of the Spirit, who gives us words and teaches us what to say. And we pray also in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace who has become the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.



May the Spirit dwell in you richly, and give you understanding of all things.


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