1 Corinthians


3. Maintaining unity in the church, 1:11-4:21

ii] Secular reasoning and the gospel are mutually exclusive, 1:18-2:16

d) The hidden wisdom of God


In this passage Paul continues to expose the difference between divine and human wisdom. With respect to the gospel proclaimed by Paul and the other apostles, this "foolish" message is indeed wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this world. Paul teaches a divine wisdom which was revealed to the apostles by the Holy Spirit, a wisdom that cannot be understood by a secular person. Paul begins by identifying the supernatural origin of the wisdom he proclaims (the gospel). He then explains that the Spirit is the means by which this wisdom is revealed, noting that only a spiritual person can understand this wisdom, a wisdom which entails the mind of Christ.


i] Context: See 1:11-17.


ii] Background: See 1:11-17.


iii] Structure: Paul further progresses his argument to reinstate the wisdom of God (the gospel - the cross of Christ) in the church at Corinth, as against the wisdom of the world. He does this in four steps:

Proposition, v6:

"we impart a wisdom;

although not a wisdom of this age."


Divine wisdom is beyond the reasoning of mere mortals, v6-8;

This fact is supported by a scriptural allusion, v9;

Divine wisdom, v10-13:

is encapsulated in the gospel,

was revealed by Jesus through the Spirit to the apostles and then to all believers;

This wisdom can only be understood by those who are inspired by God, v14-16.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul explains that the wisdom he teaches is not the prevailing secular wisdom of the age. It is a wisdom once hidden from mankind, but now revealed through the apostles and prophets. The secular wisdom of the age was responsible for the execution of Jesus, which only demonstrates its corruption and sure end. The wisdom proclaimed by the apostles is a wisdom which finds its source in God. Yet, it is a wisdom only revealed to "those who possess the Spirit" (2:13, RSV), to those who have been transformed by the Spirit. It is certainly not a wisdom revealed to those who rely on secular reasoning. So then, what no mind can conceive, this is the wisdom revealed to the apostles of Christ, v6-10a.

This wisdom, this light of Divine knowledge, is revealed by the Spirit. Just as a person knows and treasures their intimate thoughts, so the Spirit, who is in an intimate relationship with the Father, knows the mind of God. The apostles are not infused with the wisdom of a world alienated from God, rather they are infused with the power of the Spirit to know and utter the deep things of God. This is why the apostles do not speak powerless drivel, but rather the wisdom of God given by the Spirit. This they speak, explaining spiritual truths to spiritual people, v10b-13.

Paul goes on to make the point that unspiritual people cannot discern spiritual truth because it is beyond them; it requires characteristics that they do not possess. Whereas, the spiritual person (those in whom the Holy Spirit has his rightful place) can discern truth. Because of this, a spiritual person really cannot be critically assessed by an unspiritual person. Who then has known the mind of God? cf. Isaiah.40:13. The apostles certainly understand the wisdom of God, because the thoughts of Christ have been revealed to them by the Spirit, v14-16.


"God's wisdom in a mystery": We can note two things about this wisdom in a mystery (note, the "mystery" is not a mysterious truth or a truth difficult to understand, but a secret once hidden which is now revealed): i] It is revealed that we may obtain an eternal glory. This eternal glory is the majesty and splendor of the living God which is ours in Christ. It is the character of God which we now share through the indwelling Spirit, 2Cor.1:22, 5:5, Eph.1:14, but in particular it is the likeness we will share at the resurrection; ii] It concerns Christ crucified. 1:18, 24, 30. The mystery is the revealed wisdom of God, namely the gospel concerning the "unsearchable riches of Christ" found in Christ's death and resurrection. It is the important news concerning God's gracious kindness in accepting us as his eternal friends through faith in Christ. In simple terms it is the grace of God. The "mystery" is not, as some have argued, "the fact that the Gentiles as well as the Jews are included in the scope of God's redemptive purpose in Christ Jesus", Caudill; the mystery is the gospel. The oneness of Jew and Gentile is a consequence of the mystery / gospel now revealed in Christ.


For divine wisdom, as opposed to human wisdom, see "Interpretation" 1:26-31.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:6

The wisdom of God, v6-16: i] Divine wisdom is beyond the reasoning of mere mortals, v6-8. Despite down-playing the wisdom of gospel preaching, Paul makes the point that there is wisdom in the gospel, but it is incomprehensible to the secular world.

de "however" - but, and. Somewhat contrastive, but also indicating the next step in Paul's argument. In v1-5 Paul spoke of his own weak preaching, which was foolishness in the eyes of the wise, "however", the message itself is anything but foolish.

sofian (a) "[we speak] a message of wisdom" - a wisdom. Accusative direct object of the verb "to speak." For Paul, there is the "wisdom" of this age, secular musings about life, not evil in itself, but certainly evil when it replaces the gospel. Then there is the "wisdom of God", the gospel, "God's wise plan of redeeming the world through a crucified messiah", Bruce - both the message and the actuality / the plan and the substance.

en + dat. "among" - in, on. Possibly "to the mature", ie. standing as a simple dative, MM III, but better local, expressing space, as NIV, or "before", "in the presence of", B&L. "We do discuss wisdom with those who are mature", Moffatt.

toiV teleioiV (oV) "the mature" - fully grown, mature. adult. Paul is not promoting a two-stage Christianity, a spiritual and secular Christianity, the type of Christianity promoted by the Gnostics in the first century and radical pentecostals today. Paul's aim was not to promote a caste Christianity, but to move babies through growth into full maturity. "Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ." Col.1:28.

de "but" - but, and. The NIV opts for an adversative sense, although more likely introducing an explanation, here a counterpoint; "although it is not a wisdom of this age", ESV.

tou aiwnoV toutou gen. "[not the wisdom] of this age" - The genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin; "from this age."

twn arcontwn (wn onoV) gen. "of the rulers" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive; a wisdom possessed by the rulers of this age. Who are these rulers? See below.

twn katargoumenwn (katargew) gen. pres. pas. part. "who are coming to nothing" - being brought to nothing, removed from power, put out of commission, dethroned, abolished. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "rulers of this age", genitive in agreement with "rulers". These rulers who are brought to nothing are possibly satanic forces / demonic powers, so Barrett, Fee, Conzelmann, Moffatt, Garland, ... See Thiselton for a full survey of options: i] Demonic powers; ii] Earthly political rulers, "political and social authorities", Fitzmyer, so Naylor; iii] Angelic custodians of the nations; iv] Sociopolitical powers in a structural collectivity that transcends given human individuals, so Thiselton.


God's wisdom is found in a mystery, a wisdom God has graciously allowed Paul to proclaim; See note above.

alla "no" - but. Adversative. "We do not speak the wisdom of this age ....... but rather the secret wisdom of God."

en musthriw (on) "secret [wisdom] / [wisdom], a mystery" - [we speak / impart a wisdom of God] in a mystery. The genitive qeou, "of God", may be taken as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source / origin; "a wisdom from God." The preposition en, "in", is probably adverbial, expressing manner / method, "as a mystery"; "we proclaim God's mystery in the form of a secret now revealed." Local ,or means, could also be considered.

thn apokekrummenhn (apokruptw) perf. pas. part. "that has been hidden" - having been hidden. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mystery".

prowrisen (proorizw) aor. "destined" - predetermined. "Which God set his mind to do", TH, "which God decreed", RSV, NRSV.

eiV "for" - to, into. Probably expressing purpose / end view, "with a view to", as NIV; "for the purpose of sharing in God's glory."

doxan (a) "[our] glory" - glory [of us]. "The wonder and power of God's own life", TH.

pro + gen. "before [time began]" - before [the age]. Temporal use of the preposition; "long ago before time began", Barclay.


The rulers of this world "showed themselves miserably ignorant of God's plans and ways in dealing with the world they ruled", Findlay.

oudeiV adj. "none" - [which] not one. Emphatic by position.

twn arcontwn (wn ontoV) gen. "of the rulers" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.

tou aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "of [this] age" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination; "over this age."

egnwken (ginwskw) perf. "understood" - has known. The perfect tense expressing past action with ongoing consequences. "None of the men who bear rule in this present age knew of that wisdom", Cassirer.

gar "for" - More reason than cause / explanatory and so not translated; "If they had known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory", Barclay.

ei + ind. .... ouk a]n + aor. ind. "if [..... would] not" - Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd class, contrary to fact / unfulfilled condition; "if, as is not the case ...., they would not ....."

thV doxhV (a) gen. "[the Lord] of glory" - The genitive is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting "Lord", "glorious Lord; "the Lord who shares God's glory", TH, "the Lord to whom glory belongs", Thiselton, cf. 1 Enoch. Probably not an objective genitive, "the Lord who dispenses glory", Augustine


ii] Texts used to support the argument of v6-8. The text makes better sense if the central, but concluding statement, is placed at the beginning of the sentence; "God has prepared for those who love him what no eye has ever seen .....", Barclay. The quote is possibly an allusion to wording commonly found in "traditional Judaism", Davies, but note Isa.64:4, 65:17. The quote serves to identify the origin of the wisdom proclaimed by Paul, while at the same time affirming its profound nature.

alla "however" - but. Adversative.

anqrwou (oV) gen. "human mind" - [heart] of man. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "a person's heart", or attributive, "a human heart / mind."

epi + acc. "[what no human mind]" - into [the heart]. Spacial, here indicating direction. "Entered not into the heart of man" = "what no human mind has conceived of."

anebh (anabainw) aor. "has conceived" - did not come up, enter. The Gk. expresses the idea of the mind coming to grips with an idea. "What no human mind has ever thought of", Barclay.

toiV agapwsin (agapaw) dat. pres. part. "for those who love [him]" - to/for the ones loving. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage.


iii] The divine wisdom, encapsulated in the gospel, was revealed to Jesus' apostles and thence to all believers through the Spirit, v10-13.

de "-" - but, and. Probably serving here as a connective, but it could be identifying a new development in the argument, namely that when it comes to the divine revelation of the mystery "man cannot find out the truth about God and his purposes; only the Spirit of God can make these things known", Barrett. If this next step in the argument doesn't begin here it certainly begins in v10b.

apekaluyen (apokaluptw) aor. "[these are the things God] has revealed" - "Divine revelation of certain supernatural secrets", BAGD.

hJmin dat. "to us" - Dative of indirect object. The position in the Gk. is emphatic, linking "us" with "those who love him", v9. God has revealed his once hidden secrets to those who love him.

dia + gen. "by" - through, by means of. Expressing agency. The mystery is revealed by God "through" the Spirit.

gar "for" - for. Here explanatory rather than causal, or possibly just a logical connective serving to introduce the next point in the argument, namely, "the key to understanding God's wisdom lies with the Spirit", Fee.

erauna/ (eraunaw) pres. "searches" - searches, examines. The Spirit "brings out the meaning of what is given (by God) in the gospel", Barrett.

kai "even" - Ascensive, as NIV.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the deep things] of God" - [the depth] of God. The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, in that "the profound things", Fitzmyer, are most likely the qualities of his person, his attributes, his intentions and providence with regard his children.


Our means of perception of the mystery is the Spirit, he "is the organ of mutual understanding between man and God", Findlay.

gar "for" - More reason / explanatory than causal. Paul uses an analogy to make the point that God's innermost thoughts are beyond human comprehension.

anqrwpwn (oV) "[who] among men" - [who] of men, of human persons [knows the things of a man]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "It is only our own spirit within us that knows all about us", TEV.

oiden (oida) perf. "knows / [who] knows [a person's thoughts]" - has come to know. "Who can really understand ....?"

ta "the thoughts" - the things. Probably referring to the cognitive process; "what human being knows a man's mind", Barclay, but possibly "who knows what a man is", NEB.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "of a man" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic. Note the improved non-sexest language of the TNIV above. "A human being is identified by that basic nature than identifies him", Junkins.

ei mh "except" - except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

to pneuma (a atov) "[the man's] spirit / [their own] spirit" - the spirit [of the man]. The "spirit" referred to here is the divine breath of life given to humanity by God, it is the being of a person, their personality, the inner self and only the self understands the self.

to "-" - The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase en autw/ into a relative clause; "which is in him", ESV.

en + dat. "within [him]" - in [him]. Local, expressing space, metaphorically. Only the self-conscious self knows the self, and so it is with God, which is why only those who possess the Spirit of God have the capacity to understand the secret things of God.

ou{twV "in the same way" - thus, so [also no one has known the things of God except the Spirit of God]. Drawing a conclusion from what precedes; "so also, no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God", ESV.

kai "-" - and. Adjunctive; "also".

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the Spirit] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, although given the dynamic relationship between the members of the trinity a tight classification is somewhat absurd. When referring to the Spirit Paul will tend to use the term "Spirit of God"; "Spirit" here obviously meaning Holy Spirit. It is somewhat strange to compare the Holy Spirit with our spirit. As already noted, the point is that we know ourselves better than anyone else, and similarly only the Holy Spirit can fathom the divine mind (except for those who are indwelt by the Spirit; "God's interpreter", Pfitzner, v12). The point is clear enough, although pneuma here may be "a spirit of perception" rather than "the Holy Spirit"; see below.


"God expects us to understand the things that are freely given us by God", R&P.

de "-" - but, and [we received not]. Transitional connective indicating the next step in the argument, here drawing an inference from the previous verse; "no one knows a person's thoughts ...... but in our case ...... we have the Spirit from God and so we do understand ..."

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "[the spirit] of the world" - The genitive is adjectival, possibly attributive, "worldly spirit" = "the spirit of human wisdom", of ideology, reasoning and speculation, or idiomatic, "we have not received the spirit / ethos which infests the world", etc. "Christians are not shaped (should not be shaped) and molded into the values, behaviors, and motives of the secular society around us", Junkins.

alla "but" - Strong adversative.

to "[the Spirit] who is" - The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "from God" into an attributive relative clause limiting "Spirit", as NIV.

ek "from [God]". Expressing source / origin. It is difficult to distinguish in the scriptures between a person and their power. We receive the Spirit as an intimate friend; he is the Spirit of Christ who is present with us, Rom.8:11. We also receive the gifts of the Spirit - his life giving work within ( regeneration, sanctification ), his empowering for ministry, etc. It is probably this last aspect of the Spirit's reception that concerns Paul here, ie. the gift is not the person of the Spirit, but the divine capacity to understand divine revelation, a spirit of perception. So "the spirit coming from God" rather than "the Spirit who comes from God."

iJna + subj. "that [we may understand]" - that. Introducing a purpose clause, "in order that we may comprehend", or hypothetical result, "so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God", Fitzmyer".

ta ..... carisqenta (carizomai) aor. pas. pat. "what [God] has freely give" - the things ... having been freely given, favored. The participle serves as a substantive.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - to us. Dative of indirect object.

uJpo "-" - by [God]. Expressing agency; "by God"


"The psuchikos man is the unregenerate man while the pneumatikos man is the renewed man, born again of the Spirit of God", R&P.

kai "-" - and. Here probably adjunctive, "also", expressing an additional thought, although R&P suggest that it is epexegetic.

a} "this" - these things. Accusative direct object of the verb "to speak." Referring to the secret things of God now revealed to the apostles through God's Spirit, v12b.

ouk ..... all "not ..... but ..." Adversative comparative construction.

laloumen (lalew) pres. "we speak" - we speak. The "we" is presumably still Paul and his apostolic team, although some argue that we is now "spiritual man". "This spiritual mystery is what we communicate."

en + dat. "[not] in [words]" - in, by, with, words. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal, or instrumental, expressing means, "not using the expressions of human intellect", Phillips, in the sense of "using language", Moffatt, although "precepts / ideas / truths" might be closer to what Paul intends rather than just "words / language." The concepts communicated to the Corinthian believers by Paul and his apostolic team are not derived by rational thought, but have been revealed by God; "interpreting (explaining) spiritual realities in spiritual terms", Fitzmyer.

anqrwpinhV gen. adj. "by human [wisdom]" - of human [wisdom]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but it can also be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting "words", human wisdom type rationalizing; "expressions of human intellect", Phillips. "It is not from the point of view of secular society", Junkins.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative.

en "in" - As above, instrumental.

pnermatoV (a atoV) gen. "words taught by the Spirit" - [taught] of S/spirit. The NIV has opted for an adverbial genitive of agency, but it could be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "words"; "using expressions .... which the Holy Spirit teaches us", Phillips.

sugkrinonteV (sugkrinw) pres. part. "explaining" - interpreting, matching, comparing, separating, combining. Attendant circumstance participle, or adverbial, modal, expressing manner / method.

pneumatikoiV dat. adj. "in spiritual words / with Spirit-taught words" - The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object, association / accompaniment. Possibly "those who are spiritual", ESV, but more likely as RV, "combining spiritual words with spiritual things." Paul's point is that as a person who communicates the revealed will of God does not resort to using the techniques employed by secular orators - Paul balances spiritual truths with appropriate words.


iv] The divine wisdom can only be understood by those who are inspired by God, v14-16.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, here introducing an expansion of the point made in v13; "Now, the unspiritual person .."

yucikoV anqrwpoV - "the man without the Spirit" - The soul man = the natural man = a rational individual; "the man who lives on an entirely human level", Thiselton. It is generally accepted that the "natural man" is a person devoid of the Spirit and as such is an unbeliever, cf. Naylor, .... If this is the case then Paul is expanding on the point he made in v8. There is the possibility that Paul is referring to believers, particularly his opponents in the Corinthian congregation, eg., those inclined to judge his ministry against the criteria of secular oratory - they put weight on the rational rather than spiritual. Yet, as Garland notes, this "is not a reference to the weak Christian, but represents natural, physical existence that is dependent on human faculties without the aid of the Holy Spirit." The Christian, making no progress in their spiritual life, is more rightly called sarkikoV, "fleshly", 3.3, so Schweizer.

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "that come from the Spirit" - of the Spirit. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source / origin, as NIV.

tou qeou gen. "of God" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

gar "for [they are foolishness] / but [considers them foolishness]" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the natural / unspiritual person does not accept spiritual truth.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [they are foolishness] to him. Dative of interest, disadvantage, or ethical / feeling.

gnwnai (ginwskw) aor. inf. "[he cannot] understand them" - [he is not able] to know. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is [not] able." "Know" in the sense of "understand", as NIV.

oJti "because" - that. Here causal, as NIV.

anakrinetai (anakrinw) "[they are spiritually] discerned / they are discerned [only through the Spirit]" - they are judged, examined, discerned [spiritually]. The "judgements" of the spiritual person probably refer to their ability to sift everything, to discern truth. Such discernment cannot be critically assessed by the unspiritual person. "He cannot understand them because a man needs the Spirit rightly to evaluate them", Barclay.


"Men of intellectual gifts who are ignorant of the things of Christ talk learnedly and patronizingly about things of which they are grossly ignorant", R&P.

de "-" - but, and. Here probably adversative / contrastive; "the spiritual man, on the other hand, has the power to scrutinize everything and anything", Cassirer.

men ..... de ... " ..... but ..." - This variant construction is accepted by some, the men replacing the variant ta, so producing an adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand, the spiritual person judges all things, but on the other hand / and at the same time, is himself judged by no one."

oJ .. pneumatikoV adj. "the spiritual man / the person with the Spirit" - The adjective serves as a substantive. This is the person "led, controlled, guided by and filled with God's Spirit", Pfitzner.

ta panta adj. "all things" - The article is a variant reading.The adjective serves as a substantive; "the sum of things", R&P.

upo + gen. "[not] subject to" - [but he] by [no one is examined / judged]. Expressing agency. Simply making the point that an unspiritual person is not qualified to make an assessment about the worth, or otherwise, of a spiritual person's teaching.


To possess the Spirit is to possess the mind of Christ, a wisdom covering both spiritual and earthly matters.

gar "for" - for. Here more reason / explanatory than cause. Introducing a quote in support of Paul's argument. The quote comes from Isa.40:13 while gar serves to introduce it; "as the scripture says ..." "'Who', says the scriptures, 'has ever known the mind of the Lord'", Cassirer.

egnw (ginwskw) - "[who] has known" - knew. "Who knows what the Lord is thinking?", TH.

kuriou (oV) gen. "[the mind] of the Lord" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Note the application of Apollonius' cannon in both nouns being anarthrous, which, at this point, reflects Semitic form.

sumbibasei (sumbibazw) fut. "he may instruct [him]" - [who] will instruct [him]? Paul arranges the two opening clauses of the quote as rhetorical questions expecting the answer "no one". "Who is able to give him advice?", TEV.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, but the contrast is with the unspiritual person; "but in contrast to those who lack the Spirit and do not know the mind of the Lord", Fee.

hJmeiV "we [have]" - we. Emphatic.

noun (ouV oV) "the mind [of Christ]" - mind [of Christ]. Barrett and others argue that "mind" and "S/spirit" are interchangeable here, but such a view is unnecessary since Paul is probably saying that "the mind of Christ" is "the thoughts of Christ as revealed by the Spirit", Fee. Paul is not suggesting he knows everything in God's mind, rather, when it comes to the gospel, Paul understands the mind of Christ on this matter and this because the Spirit has revealed it to him.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]