In the opening chapters of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he deals with an attack against his apostolic qualifications. It seems that a section of the church was very critical of his weak oratory and limited subject matter. In response, Paul states that he and the other apostles do teach 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.
v6-10a. 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.
v10b-13. The Spirit sheds the light of Divine knowledge. Just as a person knows and treasures their intimate thoughts, so the Spirit, who is in an intimate relationship with the Father, knows well 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.
v14-16. Paul states 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, the spiritual person really cannot be critically assessed by the 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.
There are two major issues raised by our passage today:
It is interesting how Paul claims for himself, along with the other apostles, the authoritative right to reveal the mind of Christ. This apostolic understanding of the mind of Christ is now preserved for all Christians in the Scriptures. Yet, not all Christians are equally equipped to exercise an apostolic ministry of the Word. There is always a danger, in Bible-based Christianity, for the ministry of the Word to be claimed as a right and privilege for all, rather than a special gift of ministry for the church. Paul is intent on preserving the special place of the apostolic ministry of the Word. For Paul, these specially gifted believers are the only proper source of the wisdom of God.
In the church today, this same special ministry of the Word is the province of Spirit-gifted people. The word ministries are given to the church by Christ, and they serve as his shepherds, specially endowed for ministry with the spiritual gifts of wisdom and knowledge. It is for this reason that each congregation must work to uplift these ministries and give heed to them.
It is natural for a secular world to regard theology as an ancient myth, but a real danger emerges when the church starts devaluing the Word of God. Naturally, we put great weight on the scriptures for our salvation and our growth in the Christian life. Yet, so often the management of our lives and that of the congregation, is determined by secular criteria rather than Biblical principles. The wisdom of this world can often reign over the wisdom of God.
Paul places gospel truth in a position far above human knowledge. Human knowledge is bankrupt in that it was responsible for the extermination of Jesus. The danger we face is that we give too much weight to secular science and not enough weight to theology. Our congregational and individual Christian lives can be dominated by management techniques, sociology, and the like. These we must understand and apply, yet our lives must be controlled by Biblical truth, not by the theories of corrupt humanity.
1. What is the "secret wisdom.... that has been hidden"?
2. What is it that enables a person to understand and proclaim this secret wisdom?
3. By what method should a congregation determine who is a "spiritual person" capable of giving "words taught by the Spirit"?
4. What weight do you think your church gives the ministry of the Word? Support your assertion.