1 Corinthians 2:11-12
For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man…
I. THE PECULIAR SPIRIT WHICH GOD HAS GIVEN TO CHRISTIANS. He has not given it to the world, and it is directly opposite to the spirit. If the latter is selfish, then the former must be benevolent. And according to the Scriptures, the spirit which God gives is the spirit of benevolence, which is the moral image of the Deity. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And the reason is, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." And that spirit which is the fruit of the Spirit is love. "Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God."
II. THIS PECULIAR SPIRIT GIVES CHRISTIANS A PECULIAR KNOWLEDGE OF SPIRITUAL AND DIVINE THINGS. "That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
1. The spirit of love which Christians receive from God removes that ignorance of spiritual and Divine things which is peculiar to sinners. As the removal of scales from a blind man's eyes will remove all the blindness, so love must certainly remove all that blindness or ignorance which arises from selfishness (vers. 14, 15; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, 6; 2 Corinthians 3:14-18).
2. The way in which God enlightens the minds of men in the peculiar knowledge of Himself is by changing their hearts, or giving them a pure, benevolent spirit. "I will give them an heart to know Me." As their ignorance of God arose from the blindness of their hearts, so in order to remove that kind of ignorance, He determined to give them a wise and understanding heart, or a spirit of true benevolence.
3. There is no other possible way by which God can give Christians the knowledge of Himself and Divine objects, but by giving to them His own Spirit, or shedding abroad His love in their hearts. He cannot convey this peculiar spiritual knowledge by mere inspiration. He inspired Saul, Balaam, Caiaphas, but this did not remove the blindness of their hearts. And Paul supposes a man may have the gift of prophecy, &c., and yet be totally destitute of the true love and knowledge of God. Inspiration has no tendency to change the heart, but only to convey knowledge to the understanding. For the same reason, God cannot give men this knowledge of Himself by moral suasion, or the mere exhibition of Divine truth, nor by mere convictions of guilt, fears of punishment, or hopes of happiness; the only way in which He can give it is by giving them a benevolent heart. For —
(1) By exercising benevolence themselves, they know how all benevolent beings feel — God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, &c. So the apostle argues in the text and context. As one man knows what his rational faculties are, or what his own selfish feelings are, so he knows what another man's are. Just so, says the apostle, we who have received the Spirit which is God, know the things of God.
(2) The peculiar spirit which they have.
(3) This spirit necessarily gives Christians a peculiar knowledge of the distinguishing truths of the gospel. The whole scheme of the gospel was devised and adopted in, is carried on, and will be completed by benevolence. Benevolence, therefore, prepares Christians to understand it (Ephesians 3:17-19).Conclusion: If the peculiar knowledge which Christians have of God and of Divine things arises from benevolence, then —
1. There is nothing mysterious in experimental religion. Christians have experienced no other change, but from sin to holiness, or from selfishness to benevolence. There is nothing more mysterious in loving God than in hating Him. The men of the world love to hear experimental religion represented as mysterious, because they are ready to conclude that they are excusable for not understanding it. All experimental religion consists in disinterested benevolence. And is this a mystery which sinners cannot understand? By no means; they can fully understand and oppose it.
2. There is no superstition or enthusiasm in vital piety, or experimental religion, for benevolence leads those who possess it to hate and oppose all superstition and enthusiasm.
3. They who are real Christians may know that they are such. The Spirit which they have received from God, bears witness with their spirit that they are the children of God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
4. They may always be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them, though unable to exhibit all the external evidences of the Divinity of the gospel. They know the gospel is Divine, by the Divine effects it has produced in their hearts.
5. Sinners may know that they are sinners, by the spirit of the world, which reigns within them, and governs all their conduct.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.