1 Corinthians


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

ii] Secularism and the gospel, 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 1:18-25. Having exposed the gulf between human wisdom and its cleverness and the wisdom of God and it's foolishness, 1:18-2:5, Paul goes on to explain that the wisdom of God / Christ crucified / the gospel / the mystery, cannot be understood by unspiritual persons, but only by believers with the assistance of the Spirit.


ii] Background: See 1:11-17.


iii] Structure: The hidden wisdom of Gods:

Proposition, v6:

We impart a wisdom which is 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 explained, v10-13:

It is encapsulated in the gospel,

It was revealed by Jesus through the Spirit to the apostles;

This wisdom is only understood by the inspired, v14-16.


iv] Interpretation:

In a shift from the first person singular to the first person plural, "we" (Paul and his team members??; see laloumen, v6), Paul draws aside to explain why there is such a gulf between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom from above. The wisdom of the world is useless when it comes to knowing God; human cleverness led to the crucifixion of Jesus. The wisdom from above is divine in origin and serves as a pathway to knowing God, to a salvation based on Jesus' crucifixion. It is important for the Corinthians to realize that this divine knowledge, wisdom, mystery, can only be understood by those possessed by the Spirit, and that only those who accept the apostolic gospel proclaimed by Paul and his colleagues, are possessed by the Spirit. The argument flows as follows:

Paul fist 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 Paul 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, v6-9.

So then, what no mind can conceive, this is the wisdom revealed to Paul. 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. Paul, and the members of his missionary team, 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 they do not speak powerless drivel, but rather the wisdom of God given by the Spirit. This they speak, explaining spiritual truths to spiritual people, v10-13.

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. The spiritual person, on the other hand (those in whom the Holy Spirit has his rightful place), are able to discern divine wisdom. Because of this, a spiritual person really cannot be critically assessed by an unspiritual person. "Who then has known the mind of God?" Obviously, only the spiritual person who has received the Spirt through an acceptance of the apostolic gospel, v14-16.


What is the musthrion, "mystery", v7? The "mystery" is not a mysterious truth, or a truth difficult to understand, but a secret once hidden, now revealed. God's "mystery" is revealed so that we may "understand the gifts bestowed on us by God", v12, and by understanding, obtain eternal glory, v9. This eternal glory is the majesty and splendor of the living God which is ours in Christ, a splendor which we even now share through the indwelling Spirit, 2Cor.1:22, 5:5, Eph.1:14.

The mystery concerns Christ crucified. 1:18, 24, 30. It is the revealed wisdom of God, the gospel concerning the "unsearchable riches of Christ" realized 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; it is the good news of God's free grace.

Some have argued that this "mystery" is "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 oneness of Jew and Gentile is not the mystery, but a product of the mystery at work. The "mystery" is the gospel.


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 the gospel, Paul makes the point that there is wisdom in the gospel, divine wisdom, but it is incomprehensible to the secular world.

de "however" - but/and. Transitional, 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.

laloumen (lalew) pres. "we .... speak" - we speak. At this point Paul moves from the first person singular to the first person plural. Paul will often move from the singular to the plural and back again. It is possibly stylistic, an inclusive "we", a kind of royal / editorial plural referring to himself, so Fee, Godet. Possibly he is including all those who stand with him (his colleagues, mission team members) in the truth of the gospel, or as he sometimes calls it, "my gospel", so Garland. Sometimes the "we" becomes more specific, depending on the context, eg., "we" = "we Jews", "we apostles", "we believers, Jews + Gentiles"; here possibly "we apostles", so Collins.

sofian (a) " 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" - the 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 is 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. Transitional. The NIV opts for an adversative sense, although more likely epexegetic, introducing an explanation; "that is, a wisdom not of this age."

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

twn arcontwn (wn onoV) gen. "of the rulers" - [nor] of the rulers [of this age]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; a wisdom possessed by the rulers of (= over) this age. Who are these rulers? See below.

twn katargoumenwn (katargew) gen. pres. pas. part. "who are coming to nothing" - the ones 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", as NIV. These rulers who are brought to nothing are probably satanic forces / demonic powers, so Barrett, Fee, Conzelmann, Moffatt, Garland. Proposed options are as follows: a) Demonic powers; b) Earthly political rulers, "political and social authorities", Fitzmyer, so Naylor; c) Angelic custodians of the nations; d) 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.

alla "no" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction. "Not a 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" - the one having been hidden. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mystery".

prowrisen (proorizw) aor. "destined" - [which god] 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] no 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" - if, as is not the case [they knew] then would [not the lord of glory they crucified] Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd class, contrary to fact / unfulfilled condition.

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. Contrastive; "The truth of the matter however, is expressed in these words from scripture", Cassirer.

epi + acc. "-" - [things which eye did not see and ear did not hear and] upon. Spacial, here indicating direction. "Entered not into the heart of man" = "what no human mind has conceived of."

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

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]" - [the things prepared] 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. Transitional, 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" - [these things god] 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 [the spirit]. 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" - [the spirit] searches, examines [all things]. 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. 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. The article serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "to know." 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" - of man. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic. Note the improved non-sexest language of NIV11. "A human being is identified by that basic nature that 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 limiting "man"; "the spirit of that person 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. Drawing a conclusion from what precedes; "so also, no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God", ESV.

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

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the Spirit] of God" - [no one has known the things of god except 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, 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" - [we received not 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 standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but ......".

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

ek "from [God]". 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" - that [we may know the thins]. 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" - 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 "-" - [which things] and = also [we speak]. Here probably adjunctive, "also", expressing an additional thought, although R&P suggest that it is epexegetic.

a} "this" - which 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.

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

en + dat. "[not] in [words]" - [not] 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 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 standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but .....".

en "in" - As above, instrumental.

pnermatoV (a atoV) gen. "words taught by the Spirit" - [in words taught] of 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" - [spiritual things] with spiritual things. 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, he 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 adj. "[the person] without the Spirit" - [the] soul = unspiritual [man] - 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 the 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" - [does not receive the things] 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 / but" - because. 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" - [and he is not able] to know them. 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; "because".

anakrinetai (anakrinw) "they are discerned" - 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. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrast; "the spiritual man, on the other hand, has the power to scrutinize everything and anything", Cassirer.

men. "-" - This variant is accepted by some, the men replacing the variant ta, so producing an adversative comparative construction, men .... de ...; "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 spiritual man [discerns]. 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" - 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. 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.

gar "for" - for. Here transitional, introducing a quote in support of Paul's argument.

egnw (ginwskw) - "[who] has known" - [who] 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. Transitional, indicating a step to the answer to the question posed by the quote. "No one", other than Paul and his team who possess the Spirit.

hJmeiV "we" - we [have]. 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]