Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”
— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. – 1 Corinthians 2:6-13 ESV
Earlier in this same chapter, when Paul had written, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV), he was stating that the knowledge of and belief in Christ and His death was all he needed to know. It was the very wisdom of God revealed to men and was sufficient to make men right with Him. It was a secret and hidden wisdom that had been unknowable up until the point that God had revealed it to men through His Spirit. Paul claimed that if the rulers in power when Jesus was alive had understood this wisdom, they would not have crucified Him. But in their human wisdom, they had been ignorant of the reality that Jesus really was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. From Pontus Pilate and Herod the king to the high priest of Israel, none of them were able to recognize who Jesus was and what God was doing through Him. Their human wisdom proved insufficient. And while they believed they were doing the right thing by eliminating Jesus as a threat to their way of life, they were only accomplishing the divine will of God. Peter made this point clear in his prayer after having been released from arrest by the high priest for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” – Acts 4:27-28 ESV
Only those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as the Son of God who died on the cross in their place, can recognize the wisdom of God in this seemingly hopeless event. And only the Spirit of God can make the wisdom of Jesus’ death make sense. It was not until the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost that they were able to recognize the wisdom behind God’s plan of redemption. Jesus had to die. Without His death, there would have been no means by which men might be restored to a right relationship with God. As the writer of Hebrews states, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). Jesus’ death had made no sense to the disciples in the days immediately following His crucifixion. In their minds, the whole cause for which they had signed up, had been an abysmal failure. Their Messiah had been murdered and all hopes tied to His kingdom died with Him. His death had meant a death of their dreams. But they had been wrong. God’s ways are not our ways. His wisdom is greater than ours. His Son’s death, viewed as a tragedy from the perspective of the disciples, was actually a victory over sin and death. Jesus had not been a helpless victim, but a conquering King. As Paul states later on in this letter:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV
Quoting from the prophet, Isaiah, Paul states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV). The death of Jesus had been a part of God’s divine redemptive plan long before the creation of the world. Even before sin entered into the world, God had ordained that His Son would die for the sins of mankind. And our ability to see and understand this reality is made possible by the Spirit of God. It is only with the help of the Spirit of God that man can understand the wisdom of God. Otherwise, it all sounds like foolishness. As Paul said earlier, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 ESV). The only way we can comprehend the wisdom of God in the cross of Christ is through the insight provided by the Spirit of God. He is the one who helps us “understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV). As the Spirit of God, He alone can understand the thoughts and ways of God, and He makes known to us the wisdom of God – “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13 ESV).
Paul’s use of the phrase, “those who are spiritual” is not a reference to those who happen to be somehow more mature or further along in their faith. He is simply referring to all those who have placed their faith in Christ and in whom God has placed His Spirit. It is the presence of the Spirit of God within us that makes us spiritual. He provides us with the capacity to understand the mind of God – “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10b ESV). It is the Spirit of God who helps us comprehend the wisdom behind the cross of Christ. With His assistance, we can understand how death brought about life, how seeming tragedy resulted in victory, how our condemnation has turned into a guarantee of our future glorification, and how we can enjoy the unfailing love of God rather than the inescapable wrath of God.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV