1 Corinthians: Chapter 2 (verses 9-16)

By Peter Amsterdam

May 28, 2024

As we continue with our study of 1 Corinthians 2, we read in verse 9:

As it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”1 Paul had said earlier in chapter 2 that those of “this age” do not understand the “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (v. 6–7) but that what was once a mystery has now been revealed. Christ, God’s Son, came to earth and was crucified. He is the Lord of Glory and has been revealed to all those who are His through the preaching of the gospel.

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.2

Paul expresses that the deep things of God include what he has been writing about, and that these are revealed through the Spirit. The Spirit alone can tell the depths of God’s purpose and His sacrifice in Christ crucified, which the rulers of this age can’t comprehend. In his use of the word “us,” Paul includes all the Corinthian Christians, but he especially emphasizes those who love God.

Having introduced the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to God’s purposes in verse 4, the work of the Spirit is the focus of his letter until the end of chapter 2. Some of the Corinthian Christians were making a big deal of being spiritual. Paul addresses this by helping them to see the role of the Holy Spirit in revelation.

In the second part of this verse, Paul describes the ongoing work of the Spirit. He describes the Spirit as actively “searching,” which is what the Spirit does and continues to do. The Spirit bridges the distance between human beings and the depths of God. The Holy Spirit fully knows God and understands the deep things of God. There are things which are shared with those who have the Spirit (v. 12), those who love God, which is referring to all Christians. The Spirit “searches all things” in that He seeks out and knows the plan and purpose of God, and communicates this wisdom with “those who love him” (v. 9).

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.3

This verse expands on what Paul said in verse 10. Only God’s Spirit can truly know God Himself—His ideas, plans, purposes, and desires. This being the case, the deep things of God could only have been revealed by the Spirit of God, since He alone knows them.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.4

Paul continues to make his argument that there are two groups of people who must be distinguished: those who follow the “spirit of the world” and those who have received the Spirit of God. Paul assumes that all who have believed in the crucified Christ have received the Spirit, who is from God. The Spirit has been given to us so that we might understand. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every believer has the same spiritual wisdom or understands all spiritual mysteries.

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.5

The contrast between human wisdom and that given by the Spirit continues, as Paul goes on to describe the manner of his own teaching. The means by which the gospel is delivered doesn’t have anything to do with “human wisdom,” rather it is proclaimed by the enabling of the Spirit. Paul speaks of what is or is not of the Spirit and who is or is not of the Spirit. There are some who understand and some who don’t. It is important for Christians to understand that they, as “spiritual people,” have the Spirit to help them evaluate whether things are or aren’t “spiritual,” meaning of or from the Spirit of God.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.6

This verse harkens back to chapter 1 (verses 18, 21, 23), where Paul writes that the unspiritual person is one who thinks that the things of the Spirit are “foolishness.” Such a person might have been called “a person of this age,” where belonging to “this age” is seen as not belonging to Christ, and therefore coming under judgment. Paul’s use of does not accept indicates that the natural person is not able to understand the things of the Spirit of God. The things of the Spirit of God are the “spiritual truths” mentioned in verse 13, and these are the things the natural person will not entertain. What comes from the Spirit and points to Christ will be seen as “foolishness” (1:23). The unspiritual person is unable to understand that the crucified Christ could be “wisdom.” In Paul’s view, the reason that spiritual truths are not received by the “natural person” is that this requires the presence of the Holy Spirit, who enables understanding. The unspiritual person does not accept the things of the Spirit, and therefore cannot understand them.

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.7

By contrast with the “unspiritual person,” the “spiritual person” can “judge,” and so can make right judgments and know “all things” (v. 10) that the Spirit has revealed “to us.” Such people understand that Christ is the center of all truth and wisdom and will avoid making false judgments based on the values of the age. The spiritual person will rightly judge all things, by grace.

In this passage, Paul also says that this spiritual person is himself to be judged by no one. There were problems among the Corinthian believers, with some judging others and considering some members to be more spiritual than others. This was often due to believers following different church leaders. Paul is affirming that Christians, who are spiritual people because they are filled with the Spirit, shouldn’t be judged by others. He makes the same point in Romans: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.8

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.9

Here Paul quotes from Isaiah 40:13, though he doesn’t include the full verse. In the Old Testament, the answer to this question, Who has understood the mind of the Lord, could only be “God.” But Paul takes the reader further. He has said that the Spirit of the Lord knows the mind of God, and therefore those who possess the Spirit can know all that the Spirit reveals. Thus, “we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul has shown that this “mind,” this understanding or knowledge, is something that all Christians should have because they have the Spirit. It contrasts with the mind of the world, which judges people by their abilities, their status in the community, their prowess in communication, etc. The mind of Christ is one that understands that Christ crucified is what life is all about. The Christian life is one of humility and accepting that all that believers have is by grace and from God. The mind of Christ is one that is in tune with the “wisdom of God” to the extent that it follows the Lord’s will rather than human will.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 1 Corinthians 2:9.

2 1 Corinthians 2:10.

3 1 Corinthians 2:11.

4 1 Corinthians 2:12.

5 1 Corinthians 2:13.

6 1 Corinthians 2:14.

7 1 Corinthians 2:15.

8 Romans 8:33.

9 1 Corinthians 2:16.


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