1 Corinthians 2:6-10
However, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world…
While disclaiming a gospel based on the wisdom of men, Paul is careful to show that he does not disparage true wisdom. The facts of Christianity are the embodiments of great principles; the story of the cross has behind it the sublimest philosophy. Hence the gospel is at once milk for babes and meat for men (1 Corinthians 3:2); and a wise teacher knows how to adapt his teaching to the capacities of his pupils. Among the newly converted, the apostle confined himself to a simple presentation of truth; but among the "perfect," or more advanced, he exhibited that truth in its higher relations. The Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians are examples of the wisdom which he communicated to the full grown in the Christian Churches. The child and the philosopher find a common point of interest in Christ crucified.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUAL WISDOM. These are set forth negatively and positively.
1. It is "not of this world." It is not a natural product springing out of earthly soil. It is not the invention of this world's princes, the leaders of thought and the wielders of power, who control the ongoings of the age. They and their works belong to a state of things that is coming to nought. They have no place as such within the kingdom of God, and their wisdom shall perish with them. Christianity derived nothing from this source, and all attempts to improve upon it by human wisdom have been futile.
2. This wisdom is of God. The plan of salvation is a product of the Divine mind. At every step in it we mark his impress. Its conception as a whole, and all its details, speak of him. The characteristics here enumerated are in keeping with its Divine origin.
(1) It is "a mystery." This is a favourite word with Paul in describing the way of redemption (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 6:19, etc.). Some ancient religions had their so called mysteries, into which their votaries required to be initiated; and the wisdom of God so far resembles these that it needs a Divine preparation in order to understand it. Mere natural reason cannot receive it; it must be revealed to us by God himself.
(2) It "hath been hidden" - "kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested (Romans 16:25, 26). God's secret purpose of mercy has, been revealed, in the gospel. God has broken the silence and has spoken.
(3) It was "foreordained before the worlds [ages]." Redemption is a forethought, not an afterthought. Before the world was, before man was made, before all time, the thought of God was upon sinners, and he purposed to save them. Follow the broad river of salvation back to the cross of Christ, back through all the stages of its development, and you come at last to the spring of infinite love in the heart of God. This great tree, which in the course of the ages has grown into strength and sent out many branches, has its roots in the timeless past, and its fully ripened fruits in the eternal future. Who shall overturn it (Romans 8:29, et seq.)?
(4) It was foreordained "unto our glory." Here are the first and last links of the golden chain of redemption. Glory is the final completion of salvation, the full blown flower of grace. God gives all his sons a "crown of glory," and for this his wisdom and power in Christ are working. The Divine origin of evangelical wisdom is confirmed by the treatment it received at the hands of men. When the hidden mystery was revealed in Jesus Christ, they knew it not. Even the Lord of glory had no charm in their eyes - "no beauty that they should desire him." The rulers of this world, the representatives of its wisdom and power, counted him worthy of a cross. And this has been the case whenever the gospel has encountered human wisdom. Acting on its principles, men have rejected Christianity and sought to crush it by force. Every day the same blindness is seen in those who do not embrace the Saviour, leading now to indifference and now to active hostility.
II. HOW SPIRITUAL WISDOM IS REVEALED. To give point to the contrast he has been drawing out, Paul quotes freely from Isaiah 64:4, to show whence our knowledge of heavenly wisdom is derived. "Whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him" is a beautiful description of the blessings of salvation - pardon, peace, renewal, life eternal. All these have been made ready in the working out of the scheme of redemption. During the Old Testament period they were in course of preparation, the great plan step by step unfolding itself, till in the fulness of the time the Christ appeared, to turn shadow into substance, prophecy into history. And these prepared blessings are for them that love him; for they alone can receive them. Love has an eye to see, an ear to hear, a heart to embrace, the things of salvation; and to love they are revealed.
1. The knowledge of these things is not attained by the exercise of natural faculties.
(1) Not by sight: "Eye saw not." What wealth of beauty has God prepared for the eye! Sky and earth and sea teem with fair forms from the Creator's hand. Much knowledge comes to us through this noblest of our senses; but spiritual things lie in a region where it cannot enter. They belong to the invisible (2 Corinthians 4:18).
(2) Not by hearing: "Ear heard not." Many sweet sounds in nature has God prepared for the ear. We learn much through the medium of words, spoken or written; but spiritual knowledge does not come thus. "Faith cometh by hearing," but hearing alone does not produce faith. The Pharisees heard Jesus, but they did not believe on him. The men of Athens and Corinth heard Paul, but how few under stood his message! Thousands listen to the gospel again and again without entering into its real meaning.
(3) Not by thought: "And which entered not into the heart of man." Wonderful things have been conceived by man. Think of the progress he has made in wresting from Nature her secrets (the sciences), and of the triumphs of inventive genius (telegraph, telephone, electric light, spectroscope, etc.). Think of the speculations of philosophers in their efforts to understand all mysteries, the dreams of poets in creating new worlds of imagination. But here is something which science could not discover, nor genius invent, nor imagination create.
2. They are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. It is his office, as the Spirit of truth, to guide us into all the truth (John 16:13). Spirit can be touched only by spirit. Our inner being lies open to the access of God, who can put his finger on its secret springs and move it as he pleases. The influence of one human mind upon another is similar to this. The process by which the things of God are made known to us is here called revelation. A twofold unveiling is requisite. The Holy Spirit presents the truth to our spirits, holds up before us Jesus Christ and his salvation; whilst at the same time he with draws the veil from the mind, touching the closed eye and opening the deaf ear. Of Lydia it is said, "Whose heart the Lord opened, to give heed unto the things which were spoken" (Acts 16:14); and Paul says, "It was the good pleasure of God to reveal his Son in me" (Galatians 1:15, 16). By this spiritual unveiling, and not by natural sense or reason, do the things of God become to us realities. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: