The Message of 1 Corinthians 2:10
"But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10).
The purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What are the deep things of God, as described in 1 Corinthians 2:10?”
Our world is rich with “deep things.” There are “deep things” within the realm of the physical world. For example, the formation of rain is a complex and intricate phenomenon. The ebb and flow of seasons are also “deep things” of nature. The complex physical laws that govern our universe are “deep things,” which continue to captivate the curiosity of scientists.
There are deep things in the spiritual or religious realms as well. For example, in the Christian faith, the incarnation, atonement, and redemption are deep things. Even the Bible admits in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that spiritual matters are so deep that they can only be “spiritually discerned.”
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV).
Why can’t the “unspiritual” or unconverted discern spiritual things? The unconverted cannot discern “spiritual things” because God, in His wisdom, has purposefully hidden them from them. As Christ pointed out, these “things” have been hidden from the wise and prudent and instead revealed to those with a childlike openness:
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matthew 11:25 NKJV).
Another reason spiritual matters are imperceptible to unconverted people is that true Christians “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV). As a result, those not of faith cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God.
Only those endowed with the Holy Spirit can understand the deep things of God. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:12 NKJV).
To fully grasp the meaning of the phrase “the deep things of God,” one must first understand the historical context of 1 Corinthians.
The Influence of Greek Culture
At the time the words in 1 Corinthians 2:10 were inscribed, Greek philosophy and culture had flourished for nearly four centuries.
During this time, prominent philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle rose to prominence, weaving their philosophies into the very fabric of societal thought.
As a result of these philosophers’ influence, Greek society placed a high value on intellect, elevating it above all other virtues.
Corinth, like other Greek cities at the time, embraced a wide range of philosophical traditions. Greek philosophy, such as Platonism, Cynicism, and Stoicism, would have influenced the ethics and worldview of many educated Corinthian citizens. All of these philosophical schools borrowed and developed ideas from the earlier Pythagorean and Orphic movements to some degree. As a result, many Corinthians adopted the teachings and leading ideas of various philosophical schools of the time.
Some of the newly converted Christians in the Corinthian church were most likely exposed to the works and discourses of the city’s local and visiting philosophers.
The Corinthian church had many educated members. Even Paul noted that the Corinthians were “enriched in all speech and knowledge.”
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:5 KJV)
This endowment of “speech and knowledge” was not without risk, as some members had a tendency to mix prevailing philosophical thought and approaches to their newly discovered Christian faith. As a result, some members of the Corinthian church rationalized faith and revelation to the point where knowledge surpassed devotion.
This wisdom, also known as “sophia” in that era, bore the distinct mark of arrogance, as Sigurd Grindheim notes in his scholarly journal article titled “Wisdom for the Perfect: Paul’s Challenge to the Corinthian Church”:
When Paul rejected the use of superior words of wisdom (2:1), he was likely referring to the kind of rhetoric that was concerned with self-display, boasting, and abuse of others. The modifier “superior” seems to denote a form of oratory that sought impressive display, in order to be recognized as superior. (Grindheim, 2002) p.692Sigurd Grindheim
To put it another way, rather than cultivating a genuine passion and enthusiasm for deepening their understanding of Christ, the members were more concerned with engaging in intellectual contests and debates, striving to outdo one another with their philosophical arguments and displays of knowledge.
These philosophical debates posed a significant challenge to the spiritual development and advancement of the Corinthian church. The debates gave rise to uncertainty regarding wisdom and spirituality, ultimately fueling further divisions, moral lapses, and self-centered behavior, as The NIV Faithlife Study Bible puts it:
The Corinthians think they know what wisdom is, but their wisdom looks no different from their culture’s. They think they know what being spiritual means, but their spirituality leads them to be divisive, immoral and selfish.NIV Faithlife Study Bible
Hence, it is clear that the Corinthian church, for the most part, aligned its perspective on wisdom and spirituality with the prevailing cultural norms, which deviated from the genuine Christian teachings that Paul was urging the Corinthians to embrace.
Internal and External Threats
The Corinthian Church faced problems from both within and without that threatened its unity and mission.
The Corinthian Church’s Internal Challenges:
- Certain members exhibited tendencies towards destructive behaviors such as “quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20).
- Factions emerged, each driven by distinct agendas, as evidenced by the statement “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22).
- The poison of sectarianism infiltrated the Corinthian church, putting its very existence in jeopardy.
Corinthian Church External Challenges:
- The insidious intertwining, entanglement, and influences of Diana’s fertility cult posed a significant and imminent threat to the faith held by the Corinthian believers.
- The Christians at Corinth were exposed to the immoral rituals and ceremonies that were associated with the worship of Diana or Artemis.
These internal and external challenges presented formidable challenges to the burgeoning Corinthian Church during this period. Despite these challenges, Paul refers to this congregation as “the Church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
We, like the Corinthian Church, live in a world filled with diverse beliefs and practices that often contradict the teachings of the gospel. Every day, we face the temptation to present our message and testimony in a way that impresses the secular world. We are enticed to appear as intelligent and sophisticated as others in our efforts to spread the gospel, sometimes adapting our methods to align with current societal trends. We tend to follow what’s popular in society. However, Paul, in his message within First Corinthians, serves as a reminder to exercise caution when striving to appear sophisticated and knowledgeable by the world’s standards.
The Danger of Merging Spiritual and Worldly Wisdom
Why did the Apostle Paul object so strongly to the Corinthians’ attempt to combine the prevalent wisdom and philosophy of their time with the profound spiritual wisdom inherent in the gospel? In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul lists the following specific problems with the “mystical” and “sophisticated wisdom” that some members of the Corinthian church claimed to possess:
- Paul resisted this amalgamation because the prevalent human wisdom and philosophies of that period were marked by “lofty speech or wisdom” and “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1,4), yet lacked any substance capable of nurturing the faith of the Corinthians.
- Paul opposed this merging because the dominant human wisdom and philosophies of the time boasted of possessing exclusive or mystical knowledge, which the apostle Paul cautioned would incline some of them to “place their faith in the wisdom of men” (1 Corinthians 2:5) rather than in Christ.
- Paul contested this fusion because the prevailing human wisdom and philosophies obscured the discernment of rulers or leaders to the extent that he declared “none of the rulers of this age understood it” (1 Corinthians 2:8). This means such a blend would result in confusion and misunderstanding among the leadership.
- Paul objected to this blending because the prevailing human wisdom and philosophies were incompatible with or incapable of “embracing the things of the spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The above issues, and the danger they posed to the Christian faith, shed light on Paul’s deep concern.
The Truth about the Deep Things of God
Paul further reveals the following truth about the “deep things of God” or the divine wisdom and encourages the Corinthians to embrace it:
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom was decreed in advance. Paul writes “God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom could not be comprehended by the rulers, “none of the rulers of this age understood this” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom could not be perceived through the natural learning processes of seeing, hearing, and thinking. He writes that, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom is now revealed through the Holy Spirit, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Divine wisdom is now “freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom is communicated through what Paul refers to as the “folly of our preaching.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “For since the world, in God’s wisdom, did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach.” In other words, human wisdom is incapable of revealing God to us in reality.
- “The deep things of God” or the divine wisdom is now embodied in a person, that is “Christ… the wisdom of God” (Corinthians 1:24)
Warren W. Wiersbe’s book 1 Corinthians: Discern the Difference Between Man’s Knowledge and God’s Wisdom contains more information on the distinctions between Divine and human wisdom.
The Holy Spirit Reveals the Deep Things of God
The natural man, apart from the Spirit-filled individual, has a limited understanding of “the deep things of God.” William Barclay describes the natural man in the following terms:
He is the man who lives as if there was nothing beyond physical life, and there were no needs other than material needs, whose values are all physical and material. A man like that cannot understand spiritual things.William Barclay
According to 1 Corinthians 2:13,14, only those who are spiritual can discern and appreciate spiritual truth:
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth, not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13,14, KJV).
Divine knowledge transcends conventional methods of learning and can only be imparted to humans through extraordinary means, specifically through divine revelation. This knowledge cannot be obtained through normal perception or natural learning processes. In essence, only God can reveal the “deep things of God” with us, and this highlights the necessity of divine intervention in our quest for spiritual knowledge.
The Holy Spirit imparts and reveals spiritual truth to us because He understands the mind of God and searches “all things” including the “deep things of God.”
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11 KJV).
Paul testifies to the fact that it is only through the Holy Spirit godly knowledge is imparted when when he writes:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 KJV).
Paul’s statement above is consistent with Christ’s promise to His disciples shortly before His ascension. Christ had promised them that when the Holy Spirit came, He would reveal or “show” His disciples what He had “received” from Christ.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:14, KJV). Dr. Charles F. Stanley agrees in his Life Principles Bible Notes that the Holy Spirit's work is to continually reveal the depths of God's purpose and plan. He observes:
[The] Holy Spirit, who indwells us from the moment of our salvation, reveals the depths of His purpose and plan to us through His Word when we seek Him. (Emphasis supplied).Dr. Charles F. Stanley
The Spirit Searches All Things
What does it mean that the Holy Spirit “searches all things”? It means that the Holy Spirit has complete, intimate, and insider knowledge of the mind of God. He has a comprehensive, thorough, and accurate understanding of the whole counsel and purposes of God.
In his book Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes explains how deeply and accurately the Holy Spirit searches “the deep things of God”:
It is not to be supposed that he searches, or inquires as men do who are ignorant; but that he has intimate and profound knowledge, such as is usually the result of a close and accurate search. (Notes on the New Testament, p. 36).Albert Barnes
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not need Google or some other search engines to “search all things.” His comprehension of God’s deep things is immeasurable.
The Deep Things Revealed
What then are the deep things of God? According to 1 Corinthians 1:30, Christ is the embodiment or personification of the “deep things of God.” Christ is now God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
“And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Christ Is the Personification of “the Deep Things of God”
Let us clarify what we mean by that statement.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1,7, “the deep things of God” are given different names. The are called:
“The testimony of God”
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1 NKJV)
“The Hidden Wisdom Which God Ordained”
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory (1 Corinthians 2:7 NKJV).
But you will also notice that 1 Corinthians 2:10 that “the deep things of God” are no longer hidden to the people of faith for He “has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10 NKJV)
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, the term “revealed” refers to a completed transaction. The use of the past tense suggests that God has already revealed His “deep things” to those who believe. It is no longer in the past; rather, “God’s deep things” have been revealed to believers in the here and now. This means that “the deep things of God” are no longer secret or hidden.
What “Deep Things” Are Not
Contrary to what the most common and prevalent schools of interpretation claim, “the deep things of God” cannot be things in heaven. God revealed the “deep things of Him” to His Church on Earth through the ministries of Christ and the apostle Paul.
What is the veracity of that claim? You ask. It’s in the Bible, and the context makes it abundantly clear. The preceding chapter, that is, 1 Corinthian 1, lays the groundwork and context for understanding 1 Corinthians 2:10. So, in essence, to understand what Paul meant by “the deep things of God” in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we must first understand 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
Christ As The Subject and Object of the “Deep Things of God”
When we read chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians in context, we discover that the subject of God’s deep things is “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Chapter 2 of the same epistles agrees that “Christ and Him crucified” is the object and subject matter of the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:2).
The Gospel as the Wisdom of God
Paul transformed “wisdom” from a philosophical, rhetorical term into a historical, soteriological [salvation study] one… he reassert(s) that the gospel he preaches is in fact the wisdom of God. But it cannot be perceived as such by those who are pursuing sophia; it is recognized only by those who have the Spirit. [Emphasis mine]Gordon D. Fee
It then follows that, from beginning to end, the redemptive work of Christ on behalf of sinful man, also preached as the gospel, is “the deep things of God.”
Therefore, the apostle Paul is appealing to Corinthians to seek Christ, God’s power and wisdom, rather than mystical knowledge.
"But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24).
This is precisely what the Corinthians needed: a Savior who embodied both “God’s power” and “God’s wisdom.” For the Jewish believers who loved the display of signs and wonders, Christ was the “power of God.” For the Greeks, who highly esteemed knowledge and wisdom, Christ was the “wisdom of God.”
Paul’s efforts among the Corinthians were aimed at refocusing their attention on Christ. He worked hard to elevate Christ in the minds of the Corinthians, emphasizing His superiority over human wisdom and mystical knowledge.
“Unto Us” – A Privileged Status
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, Paul emphasizes that God has now “revealed” His secret things “unto us.” The phrase “unto us” refers to or implies a privileged position. This means that Christians who have received this revelation are in a privileged position.
The following excerpt, sourced from the Thomas Nelson Publishers’ King James Study Bible, provides supporting evidence for this perspective with the following words:
“Unto us” is in the emphatic position in Greek, emphasizing the enormous privilege granted the recipients of divine revelation. The magnificent treasure of God’s revealed truth is accessible to the mature believer.Thomas Nelson Publishers’ King James Study Bible
Christ is the complete manifestation of God. James Hardy Flowers in his article A Prayer of St. Paul puts it this way:
“(We) do not need to seek the guidance of men or angels. Jesus contains the whole of God’s revelation in Himself. He is the consummation of all that went before, and the principle of all that is to follow. Through Christ alone, men enter into the knowledge of the saving purpose of God.” (Emphasis supplied)James Hardy Flowers
Christ is the embodiment of the deep things of God. He is the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (all of which are deep things of God).
What are the “Deep Things of God” then?
Based on the preceding discussion in this article, we can safely conclude that the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection—is “the deep things of God.”
Christ’s salvific work from the beginning to the end is “the deep things of God.
The NIV Student Bible notes puts it this way:
Paul declares that Christ is enough. He is God, the fullness of God, the One who made the world, the reason that everything exists. All the mystery and treasure and wisdom you could ask for are found in the person of Jesus Christ; there is no need to look elsewhere.The NIV Student Bible Notes
Christ is the sum total of God’s counsel and revelation. Christ was and still is the answer to everything that divides the church today. Indeed, Christ is enough. Seek Him.
Seek Spiritual Insight Rather Than Worldly Wisdom
The Corinthian experience is uncannily similar to what we face every day.
Our faith, like that of the Corinthian church, is constantly under attack from the world around us.
We live in a world where men’s points of view openly compete and contradict the fundamental principles of the Christian faith as revealed in God’s word.
We, too, place a high value on education, rationalization, and free thought – all of which are beneficial – over faith in God.
We present the truth philosophically and using worldly methods in order to be relevant and accepted by the world. After much effort, we discover that such approaches aren’t particularly effective at converting people to the kingdom.
It is naïve to believe that embracing worldly methods and approaches, regardless of how incompatible they are with our faith, will ensure the success of our Christian witness.
We must recognize that we cannot win the world through the “preaching of foolishness,” but rather through “foolishness of preaching” as the apostle Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 1:21.
What we need as individuals and as a church is to exalt Christ in the eyes of the world. Christ is what the world needs.
We don’t need any mystical knowledge to be Christ’s ambassadors. Knowing gives meaning to what we do at work, at home, and everywhere.
Our salvation hinges on the knowledge of Christ:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
We must be intentional in seeking divine knowledge. Christ and Him crucified must be our all-absorbing subject. We must share Christ’s love and make Him known to the rest of the world.
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