1CORINTHIANS 2:6 – 16 – WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST
© Rosemary Bardsley 2015
Paul has been stressing the powerlessness of human 'wisdom', and the wrongness of exalting preachers because of their eloquence and 'wisdom', and the inadequacy of any 'faith' generated by human 'wisdom'. He has made it quite clear that the world in its 'wisdom' considers the message of a crucified Christ both foolish and offensive.
But now Paul makes a powerful statement about true 'wisdom', wisdom that has its source in God and is the possession of everyone who has genuine, God-given faith in Jesus Christ. Although the world calls the Gospel 'foolish', Paul has already pointed out that this 'foolishness' of God is wiser than human 'wisdom'.
A. A WISDOM ONCE HIDDEN BUT NOW REVEALED
Read 2:6-9. List everything Paul states about this true 'wisdom'.
A.1 'We do … speak a message of wisdom among the mature' verse 6
Although the world deems the Gospel 'foolish' this message of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified' is actually a message of wisdom. The 'mature' Christian knows this. The fact that the Corinthian Christians were quarrelling among themselves on the basis of their alignment with various teachers [1:11,12] is evidence of their immaturity and their lack of spirituality. [Paul will address this immaturity directly in 3:1ff.] Because they were still thinking with the mindset of the world which valued and exalted human wisdom and eloquence they could not recognise the deep wisdom of the Gospel. Those who do recognise and appreciate the depth of the divine wisdom in the message of the cross Paul classifies as 'mature'.
The word he uses is teleios. This does not mean 'perfect' in the sense of being without fault. It means rather to have reached, or arrived at, the expected goal. In spiritual terms, it is to be where God wants us to be in our values and understanding – to be no longer thinking how the world thinks, conditioned by its values, but aligned with God's values and God's perspectives and the operating principles by which God rules his kingdom. It is being in touch with the mind of God, it is seeing and knowing the wisdom of God.
In other letters Paul gives direct instruction about this kind of maturity in our thinking and mindset.
The 'mature' Christian has come to understand the folly of the wisdom of the world and embraced the wisdom of God, living his life and setting his values by that wisdom.
'… but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing' verse 6
Paul again hammers home the contrast between human wisdom and God's wisdom revealed in the Gospel. What he teaches and what the 'mature' Christian understands has no connection to human wisdom. Not even the 'rulers' of this age have this understanding, this knowledge, that is accessible to those who believe in Jesus Christ, and by which God provides free salvation.
By adding 'who are coming to nothing' Paul highlights the weakness and fallibility of human wisdom: those who embrace it, even though they are 'rulers of this age', come to nothing. They do not last and nor does their so called wisdom. Even while they are physically alive their fame and their wisdom is supplanted by the fame and wisdom of another. Transient. Temporary. Finite. A thing of a moment, and without substance.
Not so God's wisdom.
A.2 'No, we speak of God's secret wisdom …' verse 7
Verse 3 teaches us that God's wisdom, the message of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified', is:
'secret' – the Greek word is musterion.
Check the use of this word in these scriptures:
'hidden' – apokrupto – there is an intentionality in this word. It is not about something being hidden because it was lost or misplaced, but about a deliberate hiddenness. God deliberately kept it hidden away.
'and that God destined for our glory ...'
God had a purpose in this secret, hidden wisdom: it was destined [fore-ordained, predetermined, predestined – proorizo] for our glory. The wisdom of God has human glory in mind, a glory that far exceeds the human glory sought and claimed by the wise, the rich and the powerful of the world. This is the deep purpose of the message of the crucified Christ. By this message [by the truth it communicates] true human glory results.
Check these scriptures:
That real human glory, which is intimately connected to our relationship with God, and which we forfeited in Genesis 3, is in the process of being restored in those who 'in Christ' are in a restored relationship with God.
'… before time began'
In contrast to the transience of human wisdom God's wisdom, the message of Christ crucified, was planned and determined by God before the beginning of time. It was not planned after the entry of sin in Genesis 3. It was not planned after the failure of the Jews to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. It was in God's mind, it was predetermined [remember the verb is proorizo] before time began, before the universe existed.
Re-visit these scriptures for this concept:
It is 'the eternal gospel' [Revelation 14:6]. It has always been there, in God's plan, in God's mind, in God's will. Its eternal existence is evident right through the Scripture – in word, in symbol, in ritual. Jesus Christ has always been 'the Lamb slain from the creation of the world' [Revelation 13:8], 'chosen before the creation of the world' [1Peter 1:19,20]. His death has always been a reality in God's mind. This grace of God in Christ crucified has always been at the back of every Sabbath [Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Colossians 2:16,17; Hebrews 3:7-4:11].
In contrast with this eternal and absolute wisdom, human wisdom consists of man-made traditions, commands, fables and philosophies, which vary from generation to generation and from place to place.
Check these scriptures which highlight the inadequacy of human wisdom:
A.3 'None of the rulers of this age understood it …' verse 8
This is obvious to Paul, because, he says, if they had understood it 'they would not have crucified the Lord of glory'.
Make a list of facts about who Jesus Christ really is that would have prevented his crucifixion had the rulers of the age understood those facts:
Jesus was, as Paul here points out, 'the Lord of glory': God, the Creator of all things, the Almighty Lord, the One who lives for ever and ever, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who holds the whole universe in his hand and sustains the whole universe, in all of its majesty, its intricacy, its design, its function, by his powerful word.
Had the rulers of this age understood who he was, here disguised in human flesh, they would not have dared to kill him. They would have feared to kill him.
But they did not understand. They could not understand.
A.4 '… as it is written …' verse 9
Paul here quotes rather loosely from Isaiah 64:4, most likely from the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the Old Testament]. It is not surprising to him that the rulers of this age did not understand God's wisdom in 'Christ crucified', because nobody does understand it. No eye has ever seen it. No ear has ever heard it. What God planned, and accomplished, through 'Christ crucified' never entered the human mind.
Paul is not, as popularly believed and taught, speaking of 'heaven'. He is speaking of the same truth that he has been focused on to this point: the Gospel of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified'. This Gospel, and all that is accomplished by it, is what 'God has prepared for those who love him'. Everything that the New Testament states that the believer has in Christ and because of Christ is here in focus.
This message of the Gospel is foreign to human wisdom and human expectation.
'… what God has prepared for those who love him'
Not only did God destine or foreordain or predetermine what he would do in and through Jesus Christ and his sin-bearing death, he also 'prepared' it. It was already 'prepared' [Aorist Tense – a once for all action] before time began.
Consider statement: 'This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time' – 'not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace' [2Timothy 1:9].
The slain Lamb, the hope of eternal life, this grace – all were prepared by God for those who love him before he created, before we sinned.
A.6 '… but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit' verse 10a
This statement outlaws any thought that verse 9 is (a) currently true for believers, and (b) is speaking of our ignorance of what 'heaven' is like.
Whatever it is that verse 9 says has never been seen, heard or conceived by humans, is here in verse 10 stated to have been already revealed. The 'secret wisdom' mentioned by verse 7 is no longer a secret, a mystery, to those who believe in Jesus Christ. It is no longer 'hidden'. God has revealed it to us by his Spirit'.
Note it has been revealed 'to us'. Not to everybody. In the Greek the 'to us' is at the beginning of the sentence, emphasising and drawing attention to this 'to us'. In stark contrast ['but'] with the 'no eye', 'no ear' and 'no mind' of verse 9, there are some, 'us', not who have found out for themselves, but to whom God has revealed what is hidden from all others – what he has prepared for those who love him.
God's secret wisdom was:
'hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known …' [Romans 16:25,26].
'not made known to men in other generations' but 'has now been revealed by the Spirit' [Ephesians 3:5].
About this the New Testament states:
It is Paul's commission 'to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God' [Ephesians 3:10], and 'to present … the word of God in its fullness, the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints' [Colossians 1:25,26].
'God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery' [Colossians 1:27].
Paul's purpose in preaching the Gospel is 'that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ …' [Colossians 2:2].
'… it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel' [2Timothy 1:10].
Through the proclamation of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified' God, by his Spirit, has made known his deep, eternal wisdom that is otherwise a mystery, a secret, hidden – inaccessible to human wisdom, indiscernible by human power.
B. THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
Read 2:10b to 2:14. Make a list of the actions and abilities of the Spirit in these verses.
'The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God' verse 10b
In contrast to human inability to understand God's hidden wisdom God's own Spirit understands it fully. What is 'unsearchable' to humans – it is accessible and knowable to him.
Read these scriptures which indicate that God's truth is beyond human knowing:
Now read these scriptures about the Holy Spirit's knowledge:
What humans cannot know – the deep things of God – the Holy Spirit knows. He penetrates the deepest things of God, and understands them.
A human analogy – verse 11
Paul points out that the only person who knows his own inner thoughts is that person's own spirit, that person himself. In the same way, only the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. [Note the clear affirmation of the deity of the Holy Spirit.]
'We have not received the spirit of the world …' verse 12
Paul has already made it clear that 'the world' does not know God; not even its philosophers or its rulers know God or his Christ. This is where every believer previously stood – in this ignorance, with this attitude of unbelief and ridicule. But, for the believer, this spirit of unbelief has been replaced.
'… but the Spirit who is from God ...'
Paul reminds his readers that, at the point of their conversion, they received the Holy Spirit. This is stated in strong contrast to receiving 'the spirit of the world'. Paul's emphatic point is that 'we' [like the 'to us' in verse 10 it is first in the sentence] have not received that spirit of the world that cannot understand and that values human understanding, human eloquence and human power, but never knows the truth about God and about salvation. BUT (Paul uses the stronger of the two Greek 'buts') we have received the Spirit of God – who alone penetrates and understands the things of God.
'...that we may understand what God has freely given us'
With the all-knowing, teaching, revealing Spirit of God indwelling us we may understand. This is stated as the purpose/result of the Spirit coming to live within those who believe in Jesus Christ: so that we may know. God has given us his Spirit so that we may have sure and certain knowledge, true knowledge. We may not know and understand everything, but we do know and understand.
Specifically, Paul states, this is so that we may know 'what God has freely given us'. This knowledge was stated as 'what God has prepared for those who love him' in verse 9. This is the knowledge of 'what God destined for our glory before time began' in verse 7. This is that 'secret wisdom' of verse 7. This is 'Jesus Christ and him crucified' of 2:2 [see also 1:18,23].
Study these scriptures:
Ephesians 1:15-22 [where Paul prays that his readers will know and understand the mighty power of God that saved them]
Ephesians 3:14-19 [where Paul continues this same prayer, acknowledging that it is through the Spirit that this understanding of the deep love of Christ will come].
The Gospel, the eternal plan of God for our salvation, and the deep love of God out of which this salvation comes, cannot be known by human wisdom. It is understood only by the Spirit, and by those to whom the Spirit makes it known – those in whom the Spirit dwells.
C. IMPLICATIONS 2:13-16
C.1 Implications for the apostles and their message – verse 13
Because of all he has said (1) about human ignorance and inability to understand the things of God and the message of salvation, and (2) about the fact that such things are known only by revelation by the Holy Spirit, Paul now gives four important descriptions of his, and the other apostles', message:
 'this is what we speak' – the things that he has been affirming have been revealed by the Spirit.
 'not in words taught us by human wisdom' – no human is the source. They did not learn these truths from human wisdom, philosophy or religion.
 'but in words taught by the Spirit' – the Spirit is the source of their message. [Not in random, existential, subjective, personal messages supposedly from God, but in the once-given message of Christ crucified planned before time began.]
 'expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words' – unembellished with human wisdom or human eloquence.
Paul stresses all of this because of the divisions in the Corinthian church that were based on human persons. The nature of the message outlaws such divisions, such exaltation of one apostle or preacher/teacher over another, and it particularly outlaws such exaltation of and allegiance to human preachers where it is based not on a preacher's conformity to the eternal truth but on his perceived human wisdom and his human eloquence.
The message, and therefore the messengers, has nothing to do with human wisdom and human eloquence. It does not take its shape from human norms or human expectations.
C.2 Implications for the 'natural' hearers of the messages – verse 14
The NIV translates the Greek psuchikos as 'without the Spirit', which is a valid interpretation; it means 'natural' – people as they are, unimpacted by the Spirit of God, still in their ignorance of God, left to themselves, with only their own human soul [psuche] to direct their thoughts. Such people, Paul says, do 'not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness' to them. Paul is repeating what he has already stressed in 1:18-23.
Now he adds two further difficulties for the person without the Spirit:
'He cannot understand them ...' – it simply is not possible for him to know these truths.
'… because they are spiritually discerned' – they are not 'natural' truths; they are accessible only by the human spirit regenerated and taught by the Holy Spirit.
C.3 Implications for the believer – verses 15,16
The believer, the person indwelt and informed by the Spirit, ought never to be intimidated into changing the message, or camouflaging the message with a veneer of human wisdom or eloquence. He ought not to allow people without the Spirit, who by definition do not and cannot know God because they do not have the Spirit, to stand in judgment over the message. Neither the believer, nor his message, is subject to such judgment. It is not the 'natural man' who defines the message, it is God. The unbeliever simply has no basis on which to 'judge' the believer.
On the other hand, the 'spiritual man' [the man with the Holy Spirit] 'makes judgments about all things'. The verb means to critically examine. The 'spiritual man', the believer, is able to discern the difference between truth and error, able to discern the truth of God, because the Spirit of God has enlightened him.
The 'judgment' is, in fact, the other way round: the message stands in judgment of, and exposes God's judgment of, 'all things'. The message of 'Jesus Christ and him crucified', which believers have believed and embraced, stands in judgment over all human ideologies, philosophies and religions, exposing their weakness and wrongness.
Paul asks a question, quoting from Isaiah: 'Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' The obvious answer is 'No one!' No one knows the mind of the Lord. No one can instruct the omniscient God, the God who knows everything, the God who himself is 'the truth'.
Then he makes a startling statement: 'But we have the mind of Christ.' What no one can do – know the mind of the Lord – the believer actually can and does do.
What this does not mean:
It does not mean that we have Christ's brain.
It does not mean that we are omniscient [know everything] like God.
It does not mean that we understand every detail of all things.
It does not mean that what we determine in our minds will come to pass.
What this does mean:
The word is nous. Vine states that it 'denotes, speaking generally, the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining.' He suggests that in 1Corinthians 2:16, where it is used of the mind of God and of the mind of Christ, it refers to 'the thoughts and counsels of God' and 'of Christ'. [An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words'].
This 'mind of Christ' parallels the 'mind of the Lord', both in 2:16. They are both the same.
In what way does the Christian believer 'have the mind of Christ'? If we look at Paul's entire statement from 1:10 to 2:16 the answer to this question becomes clear.
Read 1:10 to 2:16. Make a list of  the various ways humanwisdom is described, and  the way the wisdom of God is described or referred to. This will help you to understand what having the mind of Christ means.
The 'man without the Spirit [2:14]', ('those who are perishing' [1:18]), does not know God [1:21; 2:9], does not and cannot [2:14] understand or 'accept' [2:14] the message of the cross [1:18,23; 2:14], even if they are 'wise', 'influential' or of 'noble birth' [1:26], or 'the rulers of this age' [2:6.8] To them it is both offensive and foolish [1:23; 2:14].
Briefly: the unbeliever does not and cannot know God or God's ways.
But the 'spiritual man' [2:15], (those who 'are being saved' [1:18]), knows that the message of Christ crucified:
'… is the power of God' [1:18,24l 2:5] 'and the wisdom of God' [1:24; 2:5].
Renders human boasting invalid [1:29].
Is the secret wisdom of God, determined by God before the world began [2:7].
Was planned and prepared by God for the glory of those who love him [2:7,9].
The believer knows this because:
'God has revealed it to us by his Spirit' [2:9] who understands 'all things' including 'the deep things of God' [2:10] and 'the thoughts of God' [2:11].
Every believer 'has received … the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand …' [2:12] and assess 'what God has freely given us' and 'all things' [2:12,15].
(More broadly from the New Testament:)
By knowing Christ the Son the believer knows God the Father [John 1:18; 8:19; 14:7].
By seeing Christ the Son the believer sees God the Father [John 12:45; 14:9].
By receiving the word of Christ the believer believes in God the Father [John 5:24].
By seeing Christ the Son the believer has seen the glory of God the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:14].
By knowing Christ the Son the believer understands both God and salvation [1John 5:20].
Because believers know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who thus makes the Father known, and because believers are indwelt by the Spirit of God who both knows and teaches the mind of God and the deep things of God, believers have the mind of Christ, they know the mind of the Lord: they both know God and know his deep, eternal purpose, previously hidden, but now revealed in and through Jesus Christ.
Never again need the believer seek for God: he knows God.
Never again need the believer wonder how to be right with God: he knows the grace of God embedded deep in the Lamb and his death, prepared, chosen, determined before the beginning of time.
Because they have Jesus Christ, they have the light.
Because they have Jesus Christ, they have the truth.
Because they have Jesus Christ, they have the way.
Believers thus have the mind of Christ.