The Secret of Wisdom - 1 Corinthians chapter 2 - J Stewart Gillespie 

As we open up the chapter we are presented with an overview of Pauls missionary endeavour at Corinth, a mission so successful that in modern times it would be referred to, perhaps inaccurately as revival. 

The whole chapter is in essence a reflection of “when I came to you” (2:1) 

Paul reflects on the success of his mission amongst them 

This was no 'boast in the post' 

In fact when he reflects on his own contribution to the success of this missionary endeavour; he first focuses on all of the attributes he does not have: 

Excellency of speech (2:1) 
Wisdom (2:1) 
Weakness (2:3) 
Fear (2:3) 
Much trembling (2:3) 

That may sound like a really bad job application! 

Sounds like he has just talked himself out of a job! 

Don't call us we'll call you! 

Yet these attributes were not uncommon in the Lords servants: 

Excellency of speech (2:1) – Moses could have identified with that (Exodus 4:10) 
Wisdom (2:1) – Peter and John could have identified with that (Acts 4:13) 
Weakness (2:3)  - Samson could have identified with that (Judges 16:20) 
Fear (2:3) – Gideon, 3 times could identify with this (Judges 6:27) 
Much trembling (2:3) – Ezekiel (12:18) and Daniel (10:11) could identify with this. 

Despite coming in his weakness there was no shortage of power. 

That power came from God 

Character of the Preacher 
Consequences of the Preaching 

Demonstration of the Spirit (2:4) 

Drawing, revealing, convicting, converting to Christ 

Demonstration of Power (2:4) 

Signs of the apostles (2 Co12:12) 
Exposition of scripture (Acts 18) 
Experience of the presence of Christ (1Co14) 

Content of the Message (2:6ff) 

No mere rhetoric 

Deep content 

Paul had as his content: “we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery” (2:7) 

2 possible translations (after Gordon D Fee): 

“we mysteriously preach the wisdom of God” 
“we preach the mysterious wisdom of God” 

“the mysterious wisdom of God” seems to fit well with the 2nd half of verse 7 

They had an interest in that 

They were not satisfies with what others were satisfied with: 

Beyond Paganism - “eye could see” 
Beyond Philosophy - “ear could ear” 
Beyond Asceticism - “neither has it entered into the heart of man” 

These people were looking for more 

Only God could provide it: “mystery wisdom of God” 

There are about 14 such mysteries running through the NT, all perhaps best viewed as aspects of one supreme mystery of all things gathered together in Christ and for His Glory (Eph 1) 

These mysteries are the biblical answer to the question: 

Why? - Why am I here? 
What? - What is the meaning of life? 

The mystery of the wisdom of God: 

“Gods predestined and foreordained eternal purpose for His creation in Christ, hidden until the time of fulfilment and revelation, for the Glory of His Son and consequently the blessing of His people.” 

This is Gods plan – He is in charge 
There is purpose in life and the creation 
The purpose given by God results in actions, attitudes and activities with eternal meaning and value – one of the first metaphysical thoughts I ever recall having – looking forward to Christmas and as it rapidly approached realising that it would equally as rapidly recede, leaving actions and experiences as past, done and gone, as transient and potentially as meaningless as the melting snow. God gives eternal and abiding meaning to His creation and His creature. 

The mystery wisdom of God gathers together the 14 bible mysteries found in the New Testament: 

Not 1 but at least 14 mysteries are spoken of in the Bible as listed below:

  • The Mystery of Israel in Unbelief (Rom 11:25) 
  • The Mystery of Gods grace in Christ (Rom 16:25) 
  • The Mystery of the Rapture (1 Co 15:51) 
  • The Mystery of Gods Will (Eph 1:9) 
  • The Mystery of the Jew and Gentile in 1 Body (Eph 3:4-11) 
  • The Mystery of the Union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32) 
  • The Mystery of Christ in you the Hope of Glory (Col 1:26-29) 
  • The Mystery of Christ (Col 4:3) 
  • The Mystery of the 7 Stars (Rev 1:20) 
  • The Mystery of God (Rev 10:7) 
  • The Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thess 2:7) 
  • The Mystery of the Faith (1 Tim 3:9) 
  • The Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:4) 
  • The Mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:17) 

As a consequence of this appreciation that the meaning and purpose of life and the universe are hidden in the secret counsels of God, Paul will drop a bomb shell, leaving a mushroom cloud so large that the entire Corinthians religious system collapses in the shock wave, namely that attached to knowing God and understanding the purpose and meaning of life there is a condition. 

Conditions to Knowing God 

These 8 verses (2:9-14) destroy the whole of: 


Religious thinking 

That if we look for more than: 

Eye can see 
Ear can hear 
Entered into the heart of man 

We are cast completely and utterly on the Grace of God alone! 

Such a revelation is: 

No one really knows what is going on in the heart and mind of another (2:11) only their Spirit (2:11). 

If appearance and reputation and opinion is an unreliable way to assess what is really going on in anothers heart or what another person is truly like then why do we rely on it for something infinitely more important – our understanding of God Himself and His purposes? 

Yet people deal in their understanding of God in an unbelievably superficial manner: 

What I think about God 
What I feel about God 
Uncritically accepting popular culture 
Embracing angles, myths, legends and fairy stories 

verse 12 must have come as something of a bombshell: 

“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.” (2:12) 

That the Spirit of God was given to these believers with a purpose! 

Recall our studies in 1 John 4:1 - “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 

We considered a practical present day application of this in the Charismatic movement. 

Here are claims of a movement of the Spirit of God, so let's test those claims. 

When it comes to testing claims of the working of the Spirit of God we found that there were specific scriptures we could apply: 

Claims of the ability of men to perform miracles could be tested with the aid of 2 Co 12:12; only 3 specific occasions in the history of the Word of God in which men received the gift of miracles or the personal ability to perform miracles; in the days of Moses and Aaron, in the days of Elijah and Elisha and in the days of Christ and the Apostles. Between those periods God Himself continued to be God Himself and did retain to authority and did exercise the ability to work supernaturally. So if someone today claims to come with the gift of miracles, we can immediately be confident that they are false. They do not have the gift of miracles, they are not an apostle. 

Where there are claims of 'new' revelation we can again be confident on the basis of scripture (Rev 22:18-19)  that such revelation does not arise from the Spirit of God. 

But perhaps with some of the claimed manifestations or movements we don't just have to hand quite so clear a scripture to test it by, so here in 1 Co 2:12 we have an all embracive test which can be applied to claims of the Spirit working amongst men: 

“ 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” (1Co2:12) 

The end result of any genuine exercise of the Spirit of God must be to draw us deeper into an enjoyment of Christ. 

“freely given” : charizomai: 5483 : from 'charis' : grace – to show someone favour, be kind to, to give or bestow a thing willingly. 

The gift of tongues fulfilled this purpose in the Acts of the apostles! 

This was news for the Corinthians! 

This would hit at the heart of many of the Corinthian problems. 

Gods Spirit is not present to amuse them nor entertain them nor to make them 'big' (1 Co 13:4), but He is for the general profit of all (1 Co 12:7; 14:3). 

This would have resolved much of the issue over tongues at Corinth (1Co14) with their many words without profit (1Co14:19) and that we recall is spoken of the genuine gift of tongues. 

So then: 

The Spirit of God reveals the truth of God (2:10) 
The Spirit of God gives the words to communicate that truth (2:13) 
The Spirit of God is given to receive that truth (2:12) and empower our understanding 

Thus the communication of the truth of the Spirit is by means of Spirit inspired and given words – the spiritual means of communicating spiritual truth (2:13). 

The Spirit of God reveals the truth of God (2:10) - Sovereign and Spiritual revelation of God – The Source 

How can I learn this? 

How can I obtain this? 

How can I buy this? 

cf. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:18) 

I can't! 

Such an understanding of God must be received by supernatural revelation by the Spirit (2:10). 

Pauls religions destroying statement to knowing God: 

               'the knowledge of God alone comes from God' 

That's not an earth shattering revelation! 

Is it not? 

What was the motive of: 

Caiaphas for crucifying Christ? 
Catholic church for murdering Tyndale? 
Persecution of the covenanters? 

Religion is big business, full of invested interests 

Last thing anyone wanted was the loss of their monopoly on God! 

Such a statement requires and deserves some justification, so here it is (2:11) 

Who really knows what is going on in my heart and my life but my spirit. 

Likewise God. 

This is a Gracious ministry of God – dependant on the Grace of God alone – unearned 

Because this is Gods revelation of God it is by Grace. 

Who can give to God anything in exchange? 

It is “freely given” (2:12) : charizoma – from 'charis' – grace 

Received only by those who have His Spirit, Conditional – on moral and spiritual qualifications for reception 

The enjoyment then of Divine revelation depends upon our relationship with the Spirit of God 

Moral qualifications are required to maintain the enjoyment of that link with the Lord to continue to grow and feed upon Christ. 

This is the subject of chapter 3- some have grieved the Spirit and have become hindered in their spiritual growth. 

The Spirit of God gives the words to communicate that truth (2:13) 

Thus the communication of the truth of the Spirit is by means of Spirit inspired and given words – the spiritual means of communicating spiritual truth (2:13).


Notes from a sermon preached  as part of our systematic bible study series on 1 Corinthians.  

Free audio, mp3 downloads  available above, of these messages as we expound verse by verse through the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie