But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
I. THE COMPETENCE OF THE REVEALING SPIRIT. "For the Spirit searcheth all things," etc. He is competent to reveal to us the things of God, because he has a thorough knowledge of them. There is nothing in God that is hid from him, not even the "deep things." The nature, perfections, purposes of the Almighty are patent to his eye. This is explained by an analogy between the spirit of a man and the Spirit of God. "For who among men knoweth the things of a man," etc.? The depths of my being do not lie open to the eyes of others. They cannot observe the hidden motive, the secret desire, and all the movements that precede the formation of a purpose. They see only what is without, and from that infer what is within. But to my own spirit all that inner region is unveiled. I am immediately conscious of all that is going on within me. "Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God." We can see a little of God's working in tile universe, and from that we can gather something of his mind; but we cannot by searching find him out. We can only make dark guesses at a few truths regarding him, whilst the matters of his grace are completely hidden from us. But the Spirit of God knows the things of God, as the spirit of a man knows the things of the man. He does not know them by inference. As dwelling in God and himself God, he knows them immediately, infallibly, and perfectly. The analogy is not to be pressed beyond this particular point. The apostle is not speaking of the relation between the Spirit and the Godhead, except in regard to the Spirit's perfect knowledge. From all this the fitness of the Spirit to be our Instructor in the things of God is manifest. The argument is not that he is superior to every other teacher, but that in the nature of things he is the only Teacher. He alone fully knows; he alone can fully reveal.
II. THE WORK OF THE REVEALING SPIRIT. The all knowing Spirit, proceeding from God, is imparted to believers. As "the spirit of the world" works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), the Spirit of God dwells and works in the children of faith. tits work appears in two ways.
1. In teaching us to know the things of God. "That we might know," etc. (ver. 12). The things prepared for them that love God arc the free gifts of his grace. They have been provided at infinite cost, but to us they are given "without money and without price." These things are taught us by the Spirit, who, as "the Anointing from the Holy One," gives us to know all things (1 John 2:20). How great a privilege to have such a Teacher! How far does it raise the Christian above the wise of this world! How accurate and assured should be our knowledge! And this knowledge is more than the apprehension of certain doctrines as true, or the persuasion that the gospel is God's way of salvation. We know his gracious gifts only in so far as we receive them. Justification and sanctification are verities only to the justified and sanctified. The way to spiritual knowledge is through faith and personal experience.
2. In teaching us to speak the things of God. Paul has in view, first of all, his own case. It was his work as a preacher to declare the glad tidings to men, and this he did, "not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth." He was not left to his own unaided skill in choosing the forms under which he presented the truth. The Spirit gave him utterance as well as knowledge, taught him the very words he was to employ. This statement covers both his oral and his written teaching. Apart from theories on the subject, inspiration must be held to extend to the verbal framework of apostolic teaching, as well as to the teaching itself; yet so as to give free play to the writer's own form of thought and style of expression. He fitted spiritual truth to words suggested by the Spirit (this is one probable meaning of πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες, ver. 13), and so interpreted spiritual things to spiritual men (according to another probable meaning). Does not this apply in measure to all speakers for Christ? The apostles had a special inspiration for their special work, but many in the Church at Corinth had a gift of utterance (1 Corinthians 1:5). May not preachers, teachers, writers, and all who tell the story of Christ crucified, expect similar help?
III. THE NECESSITY FOR THE REVEALING SPIRIT. This appears in the contrast drawn between the natural man and the spiritual man (vers. 14-16). The natural man (ψυχικός) is he who is in the fallen condition into which sin has brought mankind, and in whom the faculty of' knowing Divine things (the spirit, πνεῦμα) is dormant. Such a man is not necessarily sensual or brutish, but he is earthly - all his movements being governed by the lower part of his incoporeal nature (ψυχή), and directed to selfish ends. The spiritual man (πνευματικός) is he in whom the spiritual faculty (πνεῦμα), by which we discern the things of God, has been wakened into life and activity by the Spirit of God. This quickened spirit, dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, becomes the ruling part of his nature, to which thought, desire, purpose, passion, are in subjection (compare the threefold division of human nature in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which may be illustrated by the threefold division of the tabernacle - the holy of holies, the holy place, and the outer court). Hence:
1. "The natural man
(1) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him." He fails to understand them, and, not thinking that the fault is in himself, he rejects them as absurd. They cross his prejudices and overturn his cherished principles. The doctrine of the new birth seemed foolish to Nicodemus. Every unconverted hearer of the gospel confirms the truth of this statement.
(2) This rejection arises from spiritual inability. "And he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged." The natural man is destitute of the faculty by which spiritual things are discerned, as a blind man cannot judge of colour. The tints of the rainbow, the gorgeous hues of sunset, awaken no sensation in him; and for a like reason the glorious things of God's grace call forth no appreciative response from the natural man. How humbling to human pride and human wisdom] How great the need for spiritual illumination!
2. The spiritual man
(1) "judgeth all things." This may be taken broadly as covering all the matters on which the spiritual man is called to decide. He alone is in the position where all things are seen in their proper relations, for he alone gives the spiritual element its place of paramount importance. But the apostle has specially in view the things of salvation, which are perceived and appreciated only by the renewed man. His inner eye has been opened, and he now lives and moves in the region of spiritual things, where the natural man stumbles and falls. Many an unlettered, Spirit taught Christian has a clearer insight into God's ways of grace than the man of mere learning. Hence every believer is called to exercise his own judgment as to Divine truth, and not to rest supinely on the judgment of another. The spiritual eye, like the natural, is given us to be used; and in the use comes greater clearness of discernment and accuracy of judgment. But:
(2) "He himself is judged of no man. A man with eyesight can judge of the matters of a blind man, but the blind man cannot judge of him. The spiritual man understands the language in which other men speak, but they do not understand his language. Paul understood Greek philosophy, but the philosophers did not understand him. Thou art mad," said Festus (Acts 26:24); "This babbler," said the Athenians (Acts 17:15); "Fool," said the Corinthians. None but a poet can criticize a poet; none but a painter can judge a painter; none but a believer can appreciate a believer. The spiritual man has the mind of Christ, of which the natural man is destitute; and for the latter to sit in judgment on the former would imply that he is capable of instructing the Lord. - B.
But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)I. TRANSCENDENT IN CHARACTER.
1. The deep things of God. Reason suffices in other matters; these can only be revealed by the Spirit, who teaches us to cry "Abba, Father."
II. AN ABSOLUTE AROUND OF CERTAINTY AND CONFIDENCE.
1. He knows all things.
2. Reveals that God is love.
3. This truth is as unchangeable as God Himself and becomes the immovable ground of our happiness.
III. SUFFICIENT FOR ALL OUR SPIRITUAL NECESSITIES, We want nothing more when this love is revealed in us because —
1. His gracious purpose is disclosed.
2. All the miseries of our nature are met in Christ.
3. Christ is revealed as a new source of life and happiness.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)I. THE RELATION OF INTELLECTUAL KNOWLEDGE TO THE WISDOM OF GOD. In the apostle's presentation of this question there are two things very manifest, viz., that the true Wisdom involves a very large and important element of intellectual conception, and yet that, on the other hand, it must be radically distinguished from merely intellectual operations and discoveries. The former of these two positions is clearly seen in the way in which He presents the wisdom of a perfect Christianity as competing with, and transcending, the philosophic wisdom of the Greek. This side of the apostle's position is condemnatory of the modern craze to recklessly ignore important differences in the intellectual conceptions of truth held by Christian people, and to talk at random about oneness of spirit. In the mature Christian life the spirit largely determines, and is largely determined by, the central conceptions of truth. Essential differences in the "wisdom" we hold must be a sign of serious spiritual divergence, though it may be difficult to detect it in the moral life. To take an extreme case, there is a vast difference between the spiritual state of an atheist and a Christian man, even though the moral life of the former may be unimpeachable. But, as we have said, the apostle also maintains that the wisdom of God is far more than a system of thought, so much so that it
is impossible to attain it by the mere force of intellectual power, however great its sweep and however large its results. The senses cannot discover this wisdom, nor can thought evolve it. The seat of the highest wisdom is not intellect, but spirit. But the spiritual consciousness of which we speak must not be confounded with the more superficial element of emotion. The latter sweeps over the surface of the life, the former is fixed deep in the centre of it. The latter is transient and uncertain, the former is set in the heart of eternal relations. The latter is fickle and untrustworthy, the former affords the most trustworthy testimony concerning the truths to which it testifies. Clearly enough, then, Paul excludes from participation in the true wisdom all that have not entered into a spiritual relation of life and love with God; and, more explicitly still, all that fail to apprehend God in Christ. A love of scientific investigation and an apprehension of spiritual realities do not necessarily go together; and without the latter even the elements of true wisdom are absent.
II. WHAT IS THE RELATION OF PHILOSOPHIC MORAL AND RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS TO THE BIBLICAL SYSTEM? Can we claim for the Christian Scriptures an inspiration which cannot be claimed, say, for the moral systems of Greek philosophy? The principle laid down in our text seems to me to state clearly the truth of the matter. It is not my intention to deny that the Greek received a revelation from God, for I believe he did receive e. Divine revelation, and that a revelation of considerable range and grandeur. Further than this, I affirm that, wherever there has existed any degree of moral and spiritual consciousness, God has necessarily manifested Himself through it. "The Word is the light that lighteth every man." But there was this essential difference between the Jewish prophet and the Greek philosopher, a difference that revealed itself more fully as their several histories developed: the apprehension of truth by the former was predominatingly spiritual, by the latter intellectual. The Greek reached his conclusions by elaborate processes of thought; the Hebrew received his revelations in the Spirit, and spoke as he was moved by the Holy Ghost. It is to this unique experience that we give the name of "inspiration." The unique revelation which this experience involved is asserted clearly enough in the principle laid down in the text; for it asserts this, that the revelation received through the Spirit of God transcends every other, and covers a sphere into which no other can enter.
III. THE RELATION OF SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT TO THE WISDOM OF GOD. The apostle clearly lays down the principle that the development of spiritual apprehension accompanies the development of spiritual life. It is to the man of mature spiritual life that the apostle reveals the higher wisdom of the gospel. Spiritual things are revealed by the Spirit of God, and are therefore apprehended in the proportion that we possess this Spirit. But, if this be so, if a clearer vision of truth must be ever coming to developing spiritual life, does it not follow that the New Testament Scriptures may be superseded, and that we must look for the latest revelation of truth to the spiritual man of to-day? When Christ came, and when, in the full light of His teaching, the central facts of His life and death, and the central significance of these facts, had been recorded, the book of God's revelation closed. The glorious opportunities for the conveyance of final and complete truth to men were such as could not recur. If we cannot find the certainty of truth here, then there is no rest for the sole of our foot for ever. But we must distinguish between the finality of the revelation and finality in the comprehension of it. I see no difficulty at all in admitting that even the apostles were wiser than they knew, that their teaching contained vast possibilities of unfolding and latent grandeurs which they but dimly apprehended. The truest theology is that which, like a growing child, maintains its identity, not through stagnation, but through development. God help us to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! But the most deep-lying development in the Christian life, deeper than thought-articulation of truth, is spirit-apprehension of it. Underneath the grandest thought-apprehension of truth there is a still grander spiritual consciousness of it. Truth in its deepest origin is life. In the full life which holds in its bosom the full truth consists man's highest heaven. This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.
(John Thomas, M. A.)I. RELIGION IS THE FRUIT OF A REVELATION FROM GOD. There are those who tell us that there is no such thing as a supernatural light to guide man through the maze of his soul's life. The little sparrow has that within itself that, like a luminous flame, guides it in all that pertains to its existence. In seeking its food it is able to distinguish between that which will nourish and that which will poison; it can also choose its own home: "Yea the sparrow hath found a house and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young." The sun in the heavens guides man in all this lower life. Is it possible that he has been left without a light to illumine his mind and spirit? There was need of a revelation; for those who had seen the greatness and glory of nature had failed to see, hear, or to conceive the things God had prepared for the soul. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged." But why be content with merely carnal senses? Why not receive the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, that you may by spiritual discernment understand the things of God prepared for you?
II. RELIGION IS A REVELATION TO LOVE. We must not forget in our study of these words that they speak of a revelation which has been made; it is not something we are to look forward to. "God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." The state of mind to which God makes known the things which He has prepared is love. God is love, and love can only make itself known to love. The subject must be in sympathy with the object. The strange conduct of the Jews towards Christ can only be explained on this principle. The Saviour's life was in the truest sense really beautiful, as it is admitted by the most pronounced unbelievers in these days. And yet the people of His age esteemed Him as a "root out of a dry ground: He had no form nor comeliness"; when they saw Him, "there was no beauty that they should desire Him." God reveals His love to love. "We love Him because He first loved us." The infinite kindness of God is to be seen in the method of His dealings with the world. If His method of saving men were mainly intellectual, few comparatively would be redeemed; for the plan would ,of necessity be so cold and formal, that only the few gifted minds would be interested by it. The many can only be reached by a direct appeal to their feelings, and hence the religion of Christ addresses the minds of men through their hearts; and the apostles laid emphasis, not on the great thoughts of God, but upon His infinite love in the gift of His Son. It is clear, then, that the religion of heaven is a revelation of love to love. God cannot reveal Himself to any other temper. We have sometimes gone into gardens, and observed plants that should be in full bloom still unopened. The green bud appeared full, almost to bursting; it was least the time for it to send forth its fragrant blossom, and still it was completely inclosed in its natural shield and entirely hidden from view. The reason of the delay was the state of the air; it was cold and frosty, and they could only reveal "themselves to a bright sun and in a genial atmosphere; were they to open in the frosty air they would endanger their lives. A cold critical spirit is fatal to the revelations of love, it freezes the channels to the heart; and makes it impossible even for the love of God to find its way into it. But where a loving disposition exists, the love of God is sure to reveal itself.
III. RELIGION IS THE FRUIT OF A COMPLETE REVELATION.
1. The Holy Spirit has revealed the great truth that "God is light." God is the light of the soul, it is from Him we obtain the light that enables us to solve spiritual problems.
2. Another important truth has been revealed by the Spirit, that "God is love." This is done in a most effectual manner. "Because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which was given unto us."
3. The Spirit has revealed the truth that ,God is life: "For with Thee is the fountain of life." He in the first instance breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of man.
(D. Rhys Jenkins.)I. ITS INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Because —
1. God stands alone, and is known only to Himself.
2. He is infinitely less comprehensible than men who cannot, though of the same nation, comprehend each other.
II. ITS POSSIBILITY AND SUFFICIENCY. The Spirit —
1. Is as intimately one with God as the spirit of man is one with Himself.
2. Knows all things perfectly.
3. What He knows He can reveal.
III. ITS CONTENTS AND OPERATION.
1. It contains a revelation of the Divine purpose, of Christ, of the things prepared for us in eternity.
2. He who teaches these things awakens desire, produces faith, confirms and comforts the heart in the knowledge of them.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.I. HE SEARCHETH THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD.
1. His purposes of grace.
2. His particular dealings with individuals.
3. The glorious issue of His dispensations.
II. HE REVEALS THEM to MAN.
1. To us and in us.
2. With saving power.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. CONSIDER SOME OF THESE MYSTERIES.
1. To begin with the lowest, what do we know about the nature of matter? You can tell me as easily what the angels' wings are as tell me the ultimate constitution of a single particle of matter. Common oxygen and- hydrogen, and all elemental principles, belong by nature to the deep things of God. The very dust of the earth upon which we tread is in its real principle as unknown to us as the nature of God Himself.
2. But if the common earth is thus the wonder of science, much more is that dust a mystery when, by unknown forces, it is taken up and woven dexterously after a predetermined pattern and organised into. a thing of life. Sometimes investigators, pressing hard after the molecules of matter, have thought they had almost won the secret of life; but, just as our science seems about to put its finger upon that fugitive thing, life, it flies from its hand and we are no wiser than before. Life is one of the deep things of God, whose, origin no man can discover, and of whose future what we call death is only our ignorance. Perhaps to see the spring of life would be to see the living God Himself.
3. But if the life which colours the petal of the flower, and finds wings in the bird, and culminates in the form of man, is a mystery, what shall we say of that life when it has become conscious and is a thinking, willing mind? The human soul is one of the deepest of the deep things of God.
4. What then shall we say of all those further problems of life of which these things are, as it were, but the terms or elements? Our thoughts flutter over these deep things of God as the seabirds dip their wings in the ocean's waves. They only shake from their feathers the spray of the surface. Yet we cannot help thinking of the deep things of our soul's past, of the deeper things of its future. Whence came the evil that gives the good a bitter taste? How did death ever gain dominion over us? How did this hard, poisonous core of sin ever grow in the midst of this fair life? And who thus shall lift the veil for us from the future? We can see signs all around us of a great system of retribution. There is no doubt but that what a man sows that shall he also reap. The present retributive tendencies of things no sane man can deny. And they extend into the future; they work on and on. We can follow them out until they disappear in the unknown depths of futurity.
II. WE ARE READY NOW TO DRAW FROM SUCH REFLECTIONS SOME USEFUL AND PERTINENT CONCLUSIONS.
1. We may infer that —(1) There are some people who know more than their Creator ever intended that they should know. There are some, e.g., who know that the Bible is false, and religion a superstition, because, in this cast-iron world, a miracle seems impossible, prayer folly. Before they can be sure of that, however, they should know vastly more of the structure of this material universe than any mortal eye has as yet ever seen. Possibly this may not be a "cast-iron" universe; possibly it may be something more than a mere museum-world of biological specimens; and yet, for all we know to the contrary, this material system may be as permeable to Divine influences as this earth, which seems a globe so solid, is supposed to be open as wicker-work to all movements of the ethereal waves. "There," said Lacordaire, as he overheard in a Paris restaurant St. Beuve saying, "I cannot believe in God, because I believe only in what I understand— "there is St. Beuve, who does not believe in God because he does not understand Him; nor does he understand why the same fire melts butter and hardens eggs, and yet he eats an omelet."(2) There are people who know there can be no such place as hell, because God is good. I could trust better their assurance if only they could prove that there never could be such a place as Sodom, because God is good. Surely it is the part of a wise man not to dogmatise, but so to live as not to pitch his tent toward any Sodom, either in this world or in the world to come.(3) There are persons so wondrous wise as to know that God cannot exist as a Trinity, because three are not one. We, too, ever since we learned to count our fingers, have known that three are more than one; but there is a puzzle of arithmetic which we have not solved yet, and that is, how I can be at one and the same time the subject and the object of my own thinking — these three in one. When I cannot as yet hardly comprehend my own imperfection, I will, at least, allow God to exist in a perfection which passes my knowledge; and if revelation leads me to worship Him as a unity, complete in Himself, and not as a mere lonely, loveless unit, that needs something else to make it blessed, surely it is; a better wisdom to believe in, though we can but dimly comprehend, the unity of three eternal distinctions in the ineffable society of one blessed God.
2. But my main object is to remind you, by these questionings, of what our errand in this life really is.(1) It is very evident that the deep things of God are intended for finite minds to search. God has given us great problems for our mental exercise, and we have found out a vast deal. Truth opens new vistas to us at every turn.(2) But it is just as clear that to gain knowledge is not our chief errand here. This mortal stage is arranged for scenes of probation; it is fitted out for the formation of character. Our object is salvation. And so God follows through all man's history this supreme moral purpose, and to this end everything else in His providence seems to have been subordinated. This appears clearly enough from the reflections which we have just been pursuing; for God gratifies our love for knowledge only in so far as it seems to be for our moral good. How easy it would have been for Him to have granted us revelations of some of these mysteries! Let us remember. however, that while the shadows lie over many a field of knowledge, the light does fall directly over the narrow path of duty; and though we may not see far into the shadows of the forest on either side, yet, if we will, we can keep with resolute feet the narrow path of duty, and that is the path which leads up into the open day. Conclusion: Let us remember, then, that the great duties of life are the illuminated texts of Scripture: "Repent," "Believe," "Be converted," "Strive," "Pray," "Have the Spirit of Christ," "Set your affections on things above." These commandments of the Lord are "plain, enlightening the eyes" of whosoever wishes to see. There are many things which, as Jesus said, we shall know hereafter.
(Newman Smyth, D. D.)1. Unfathomable in their nature.
2. Comprehended only by the Spirit of God.
3. Partially revealed to us.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. INSTRUCTED IN THE SUBLIMEST REALITIES. "Deep things of God." Things, not words, not theories, "deep things," deep because undiscoverable by human reason, and deep because they come from the fathomless ocean of Divine love. They are the primary elements of the gospel, and the necessary condition of soul restoration, and are —
1. The free gifts of heaven. "Freely given to us of God."
2. Freely given to be communicated. "Which things also we speak," &c. He who gets these things into his mind and heart is bound to tell them to others.
II. TAUGHT BY THE GREATEST TEACHER. "The Spirit of God." This teacher —
1. Has infinite knowledge. "The Spirit searcheth all things." "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." He knows them in their essence, number, issues, bearings, relations, &c.
2. Is no other than God Himself (ver. 11). The implication is that this Spirit is
as truly God as man's mind is mind.
III. MUST DEVELOP HIS HIGHER NATURE (ver. 14). Man has a threefold nature — body, soul and spirit. The first is the animal, the second is the mental, and the third, the moral or spiritual. This is the conscience with its intuitions and sympathies, and this is the chief part of man, nay, the man himself. Now this part of the man alone can receive the "things of the Spirit of God." Set these things before the "natural man," his mere body, they are no more to him than Euclid to a brute. Set them before the mere psychical or intellectual man, and they are "foolishness unto him." Sheer intellect cannot understand love nor appreciate right. It concerns itself with the truth or falsehood of propositions, and the advantages and disadvantages of conduct, nothing more. Moral love only can interpret and feel the things of moral love, the "deep things of God." Hence this spiritual nature must be roused from its dormancy, and become the ascendant nature before the "things of the Spiritcan be "discerned," and then the man shall judge all spiritual things, whilst he himself will not be judged rightly by any "natural man(ver. 16). Who thus uninstructed can "know the mind of the Lord"?
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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