This article discusses 1 Corinthians 2:12, which speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

2 pages.

1 Corinthians 2:12 – The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

We have not received the Spirit of the world but the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

1 Corinthians 2:12

Some translators have placed the heading “True wisdom” above this part of Scripture in which we find our text. In the first chapters of this letter Paul takes a passionate stand against the wisdom of the unbelieving world. He lays it upon the hearts of the congregation of Corinth that true wisdom, the wisdom of God, is revealed in the gospel of the crucified Christ. This wisdom forms a sharp contrast to all that sophisticated man commends as wisdom.

There is a reason why the apostle deals with this so extensively in the first part of his letter. Corinth was one of the chief cities of the large Roman Empire. As a prominent harbor city it had a very diversified population. Its location made it also an influential cultural city. Philosophers and wisdom teachers visited the city and knew how to captivate the citizens with their eloquent speeches.

From this letter it is evident that the Christians in this city were quite impressed by the imposing, cultural society in which they lived. They started to ask critical questions about Paul’s performance. Paul’s way of doing things was so different from that of the wisdom teachers to which they were accustomed. Paul did not speak with lofty eloquence, with fascinating arguments and brilliant word play. In fact, in his preaching Paul avoided everything the people of Corinth appreciated so highly in the itinerant philosophers. Actually they thought that the apostle’s performance did not make the grade. What could someone, who could not even stand in the shadow of those highly educated teachers of wisdom, tell them?

Paul saw the danger that threatened. If God would not prevent it, the congregation would become estranged from the gospel and would exchange the wisdom of God for the wisdom of the world. That danger makes him take up his pen.

Indeed, the apostle did not come with verbal power, with impressive speech full of beautiful, profound ideas after worldly taste. But that does not mean that he did not proclaim wisdom. Actually his preaching contained an exceptional wisdom, namely, the hidden wisdom of God. This was not the wisdom that triumphed in Corinth and by which the rulers of the world let themselves be governed. But it was the wisdom of God that by its nature is a divine mystery, that for centuries was hidden from man, until God revealed it in Jesus Christ.  God’s plan of salvation for lost sinners is a unique wisdom indeed. Never has anything like that come up in the heart of man; never has anybody seen or heard anything like this. In the light of this divine wisdom, all human wisdom is exposed as foolishness.  

The apostles and all those who accept their preaching in faith may know this unique wisdom of God. For in this preaching the Holy Spirit him self is active as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.  What has been hidden from eternity is now revealed by the Spirit: the unique wisdom of God in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the salvation of lost sinners.

Paul’s preaching was indeed totally different from the philosophers’ stirring speeches. But the Corinthians should not be mistaken. In Paul’s preaching the Spirit was speaking, the Spirit who revealed the secret thoughts of God’s heart.

No one can search the heart of God except the Holy Spirit! It is the very work of the Spirit to search all things, even the deep things of God (cf. 1 Cor 2:10). He knows God’s thoughts and plans. He also knows the inconceivable plan of the Lord to save sinners in Christ. That is the plan Paul has spoken of. In his preaching God’s secret wisdom came to light. But the revelation of the Spirit is behind Paul’s speaking. Paul can speak this way because the Spirit has come on Pentecost to proclaim and reveal to men the deep things of God’s heart.

The key word in this whole Scripture passage is our text, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

If the Spirit had not come, no one would be able to speak about God’s wonderful plan of salvation in Christ. However, Paul knows that at Pentecost we were richly blessed because we did not receive the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God. That Spirit discloses and reveals, and speaks out of God’s heart to the heart of man. This is why men can witness of the hidden wisdom of God.  

The apostle makes a sharp contrast in our text. The Spirit of Pentecost is not “the spirit of the world.” This means that he does not drive us out to the world and its wisdom. He is the Spirit from God who knows the heart of God and drives us out to God’s heart.

Paul and the believers received this Spirit of wisdom and revelation (cf. Eph 1:17) so that we would know what God in his grace has granted us. Calvin rightly calls the Holy Spirit the great Teacher of the church. It is the Spirit who opens our eyes for the work of Christ and makes us understand how great the salvation is that the Lord has given us in him.

Whoever wants to know the hidden wisdom of God and the riches of the gospel, cannot do without the Holy Spirit. In order to speak about the gospel as a “spiritual” man, one has to be taught by the Spirit.

This learning process in the life of God’s children has to continue all the time. We have a mandate to become mature (Eph 4:13) and to be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding (cf. Col 1:19). In his letters Paul repeatedly speaks of a” growing” and “increasing in” and “being filled” with knowledge.

In this learning process we need the help of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. He is the One who “enlightens the eyes of our hearts” (cf. Eph 1:18), the eyes that see what God in his grace has granted us.

As believers of the dispensation of Pentecost we may and must be on our way to “the full riches of complete understanding” (cf. Col 2:2). Whoever stops and stands still at the first knowledge, falls short of the requirement of Pentecost! For we have received the Spirit of God, so that we would know what God has granted us in his grace. Led by that Spirit we have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge....” (Eph 3:18, 19).

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