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).
Our world is full of deep things.
There are deep things in the physical world. For example, the formation of rain is a complex and intricate phenomenon.
Seasonal changes are deep things.
The complex physical laws that govern our universe are deep things that scientists are still investigating.
There are deep things in the spiritual or religious realms as well.
In the Christian faith, for example, the incarnation, atonement, and redemption are deep things. Even the Bible admits 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 are spiritual things imperceptible to the unspiritual or the unconverted? Spiritual things are imperceptible to the unconverted because they have been hidden from them. According to Christ, these things have been hidden from the wise and revealed to children:
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 the uncoverted is because in the spiritual realm, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV).
As a result, only those endowed with the Holy Spirit can understand God’s wisdom. 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).
The purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What are God’s deep things?”
But first, some context.
The Influences of Greek Culture
At the time the words in 1 Corinthians 2:10 were penned, Greek philosophy and culture had flourished for nearly 400 years.
During this period, prominent philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle rose to prominence.
As a result of the influence of these philosophers, Greek society placed a high premium on intellect above all else.
Many Corinthians, as well as residents of other Greek cities at the time, were dedicated to pursuing the philosophical wisdom and knowledge of the day. Some became ardent supporters and disciples of various philosophies and philosophers 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 resident and visiting philosophers.
The Corinthian church had many educated members. Even Paul testifies that the members of the Corinthian church 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.
Some new Christian converts attempted to incorporate philosophical thinking and approaches into their beliefs.
Some Corinthian Christians rationalized faith and revelation to the point where knowledge supplanted devotion.
This wisdom or “sophia” as it was known, was characterized by arrogance as Sigurd Grindheim in his journal article Wisdom for the perfect: Paul’s Challenge to the Corinthian Church notes:
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
In other words, rather than seeking Christ, members attempted to outwit and outsmart one another through philosophical arguments and displays.
These philosophical debates posed a significant challenge to the Corinthian church.
Challenging Times for Unity
Internal and external threats posed a threat to the unity of the Corinthian Church. Certain members of the Church were prone to “quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20).
Each feuding faction pursued its own goal, “Because Jews seek signs, while Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22).
Sectarianism infiltrated the church and threatened to destroy it.
Outside forces also posed a threat to the Corinthian Church’s survival. The pernicious entanglement and influences of Diana’s fertility cult posed a threat to the Corinthian believers’ faith.
The Christians were exposed to the immoral rituals and ceremonies that were associated with the worship of Diana or Artemis.
These were trying times for Corinth’s fledgling Church.
Despite these spiritual difficulties, Paul refers to this congregation as “the Church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Human Wisdom Is Limited
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul reveals the following about human sophia (wisdom):
- Human wisdom was characterized by “lofty speech or wisdom” and “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1,4).
- Human wisdom boasted of possessing some unique or mystical knowledge, which the apostle Paul forewarned would lead some of them to “rest faith in the wisdom of men” (1 Corinthians 2:5).
- Human wisdom clouded the judgment of rulers or leaders to the point that “none of the rulers of this age understood it” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
- Human wisdom could “not accept the things of the spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Divine Wisdom Is Unlimited
Paul further reveals the following about divine wisdom:
- Divine wisdom was decreed in advance. Paul writes “God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
- Divine wisdom could not be comprehended by the rulers, “none of the rulers of this age understood this” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- Divine wisdom is now embodied in a person, that is “Christ… the wisdom of God” (Corinthians 1:24)
More on the distinctions between Divine and human wisdom can be found in Warren W. Wiersbe’s book 1 Corinthians: Discern the Difference Between Man’s Knowledge and God’s Wisdom.
The Holy Spirit Reveals the Deep Things of God
The natural man, apart from the Spirit-filled individual, has a limited understanding 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.
The Bible teaches that only those who are spiritual can discern and appreciate spiritual truth. Paul notes:
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).
Only revelation provides access to divine knowledge. Therefore, divine revelation is necessary for spiritual knowledge.
The Holy Spirit imparts and reveals spiritual truth 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 this fact when he writes: “what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God so we may understand what God has freely given us.”
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).
That is precisely what Christ promised before His ascension. He promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would take what belongs to Christ and declare it to His people.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.(John 16:14, KJV).
In his Life Principles Bible Notes, Dr. Charles F. Stanley agrees that the Holy Spirit’s work is to continually reveal the depths of God’s purpose and plan. He notes:
[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.
Albert Barnes, in his book Notes on the New Testament, explains it this way:
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 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? 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 me clarify what I mean by that statement.
In first Corinthians chapter two, “the deep things of God” are given different names. The are called:
- The testimony of God (1 Corinthians 2:1)
- The secret and hidden wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7).
If you read 1 Corinthians 2:10 carefully, you’ll notice that “the deep things of God” are not described as “hidden things of God,” but rather as “revealed things of God.”
The term “revealed” in this context refers to a completed transaction. This past tense language implies that “God’s deep things” are no longer secret or hidden but have been revealed to believers.
Furthermore, “the deep things of God” cannot be things in heaven, as the common and prevalent schools of interpretation assert. God revealed the “deep things of God” to the Church on Earth around 2000 years ago through the ministry of Christ and Paul the apostle.
What is the veracity of that claim? It’s in the Bible, and the context makes it abundantly clear. Continue reading.
The preceding chapter, 1 Corinthian 1, provides us with a foundation and context for understanding 1 Corinthians 2:10.
To understand what Paul meant by “the deep things of God” in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we must first understand 1 Corinthians 1.
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).
Gordon D. Fee, author of The First Epistle to the Corinthians, states in his commentary:
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 the redemptive work of Christ from the beginning to the end is “the deep things of God.”
The apostle Paul is, therefore, telling the Corinthians not to seek mystical knowledge but to seek Christ the power and wisdom of God, “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.”
To the Jewish believers who loved signs and wonders, Christ was the “power of God.”
To the Greeks, who valued knowledge and wisdom, Christ was the “wisdom of God.”
For the Corinthian church, this information was profound and life-changing. Their attention was drawn to Christ, who was superior to human wisdom and mystical knowledge.
Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 2:10 that God has now “revealed” His secret things “unto us.”
The phrase “unto us” denotes or implies a privileged state. This means that Christians, who have now received this revelation, are in a privileged position.
This view is supported by the notes in Thomas Nelson Publishers’ King James Study Bible, Second Edition:
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.
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)
What are the deep things of God? Based on the preceding argument, we can conclude that the message of Christ’s death and resurrection, or the gospel, is “the deep things of God.”
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). Christ’s salvific work from the beginning to the end is “the deep things of God.
Christ is the sum total of God’s counsel and revelation.
Christ was and still is the answer to everything that divides today’s Christian churches. 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
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 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 God gives us the spiritual foundation we need to make a difference at work, at home, and everywhere else.
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.