1 Corinthians 2:12 Verse of the Day 6.28.17
What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us1
One can read the verse in context below:
Author(s) and Audience
1 Corinthians was written by Paul and Sosthenes (1 Cor 1:1) — perhaps the synagogue leader who was beaten in Acts 18:172— to the church Paul founded during his eighteen month stay in the city of Corinth from March 50 A.D. to about September 51 A.D. According to scholars, the letter was written in late 53 or early 54 A.D.,3 and was actually, at least, the second of Paul’s letters to church at Corinth.(1 Cor 5:9)4.
In Paul’s day, after Rome and Alexandria, Corinth was the third most prominent city in the Roman Empire. Corinth was a port city replete with commerce, worldly “wisdom” (1 Cor 1:20-25), mystery cults, pagan idol worship, sexual immorality, and “a fiercely independent spirit”5
This historical-cultural context is important to note since Gentiles (non-Jews) comprised the large majority of the church in Corinth — a group of about 50 members that met privately in various houses.6 This is the culture from whence they came, and to which, apparently, they were prone to backslide.
Just a couple of years after Paul’s departure, divisions and quarrels were plaguing the Corinth church. So much so, that “some members of Chloe’s household” (1 Cor 1:11) report the problems to Paul in Ephesus.7. Then, Paul writes 1 Corinthians, at least in part, in response to the report of these problems.
Among these problems was the fact that “Many winds of doctrine blew into the harbours and along the streets of Corinth, and it must have been very difficult for young Christians to keep on a straight course…”8. The worldly philosophies of Corinth, plausibly precursors to Gnosticism, that often concerned special kinds of knowledge (gnosis) and wisdom (sophia) was creeping into the church.9.
Earlier in the letter Paul rhetorically asks, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1:20) Later, he explains to the Corinthians that may think they are wise by worldly standards that the “wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Cor 3:18-19).
True, godly wisdom, which comes from the very thoughts of God (1 Cor 2:11), is given to God’s people through the Spirit of God.
What we — all followers of Christ who have received the Holy Spirit — have been given is not the “spirit of the world.” Some may take this phrase to refer to Satan (Jn 12:31, 2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:2 Eph 6:11), however it seems that Paul is writing against the aforementioned worldly philosophies that were so prevalent in the Corinthian context. The phrase could be reasonably rendered, “the spirit of human wisdom,”10 which opposes God (1 Cor 1:20, 21, 27, 28).11
What we have been given is the Spirit of God — the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2)12
Why have we been given the Spirit of God? To know/understand what God has freely given us (1 Cor 2:12) — that is, the righteousness, holiness, and redemption we receive through Christ Jesus, our “wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:30). As Ciampa and Rosner explain,”What God has freely given us is salvation, a new state and status before God.”13.
The preaching concerning our crucified Savior is foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23), but the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). And, truly understanding this power and wisdom is made possible by the Holy Spirit. As Prior writes, without the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, “we could never understand the thoughts of God (1 Cor 2:11)… [The Holy Spirit] enables all believers (i.e. all who have received the Spirit…) to come to know, to impart, and to interpret all that God has given us in Jesus.”
Hopefully some of the information presented above was of some help in contextualizing and understanding our verse of the day. Now, how about trying the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse In Less Than Five Minutes method presented in an earlier post to commit this verse to memory (Pro 7:13, Psa 119:11, etc.)? See the video recorded this morning below:
So, since true, godly wisdom comes not from the world but from God by way of the Holy Spirit, how might we apply this verse?
For me, it automatically raises an important question: is it possible to know God and understand the Scriptures without the Holy Spirit? This question probably deserves its own post, but a few points from a lecture from one of my professors, Dr. Stephen Kim, come to mind.
According to renowned Christian philosopher and theologian, Dr. Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame, as cited by my professor, “The most important cognitive consequence of sin, therefore, is failure to know God.”14. Because of sin, we may lack the mental and/or spiritual faculties necessary to truly understand the wisdom of God.
As Dr. Kim pointed out, just a couple verses after today’s verse of the day, Paul writes, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:14).15 Dr. Kim also pointed out that Jesus says no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them (Jn 6:44).
Given such scriptural data, it seems that unbelievers, without the power of the Spirit of God — the Spirit of truth who will guide the disciples of Jesus in all truth (Jn 16:13), teaching and reminding us of all things (Jn 14:26) — are unable to truly know God or discern godly wisdom.
Why, then, should we attempt to reason unbelievers using apologetics? If Holy Spirit is necessary for true understanding, why should we try to reasonably present arguments to defend and help others understand the Christian worldview? You can’t ‘argue someone into the kingdom,’ right?
These are understandable questions that also deserve their own post(s). However, simply put, we are called to make a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Pet 3:15), and to strive to make disciples of and teach all nations (Mat 28:19-20) through our imperfect, human efforts — via the power of the Spirit. As God can use our imperfect evangelistic efforts, He can certainly use our imperfect apologetic efforts for His purpose.
Considering all of this, and tabling, for the moment, discussion concerning predestination, I believe it is imperative that we pray and ask for understanding and guidance from the Holy Spirit in whatever we do. Whether we are studying, defending, teaching, or preaching the Word, we should ask that the Holy Spirit will work in and through us — to open eyes and minds that may have cultural, emotional, and spiritual blinders regarding the wisdom of God.
How can you apply this verse to your life, personally? How do you think the church can apply this verse corporately? Leave a comment below and/or contact @CatchForChrist on social media. Thank you for studying today’s verse of the day at C4C!
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Co 2:12.
- Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 7, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 41.
- David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 14.
- Ibid, 17
- Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 173.
- Ibid, 173
- Prior, 18
- C.K. Barrett quoted in Prior, 17
- Ibid, 17
- Morris, 62.
- Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 132.
- Morris, 62.
- Ciampa and Rosner, 132
- Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 217
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Co 2:14.