Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:10b-13, The Spirit enables us to know God

1 Corinthians 2:10b-13

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 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 us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

If, as Paul has asserted, human wisdom cannot know God and his wisdom, how can the gap be bridged? Paul’s clear answer is the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10b). This is explained using a Greek philosophic principle of like is only known by like, meaning here that only God can know God (1 Cor. 2:11). Therefore, God must take his knowledge of himself and make it known to us.[1] He did this by sending the Holy Spirit to live within every Christian.

Of course, God also revealed himself through the incarnation, the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, as well as through what is revealed in the Bible. But the focus here is that God has given us his Spirit to aid our understanding of all these sources of spiritual knowledge.

Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12), not least so that we can understand what God has done for us in Christ crucified (what God has freely given us). The source of this Spirit is not the world because the Spirit is from God. God wants us to understand him and intends that we do so, so he has arranged to make it possible.

For God to do this for us is another act of grace or kindness that is hidden within the language “what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 2:12). This is the Greek verb charizomai, which has the same root as the noun for grace. One Greek reference says: “The verb . . . is used primarily in connection with the decisive, gracious gift of God. Rom. 8:32 speaks of the all-embracing gift of God in giving his Son (cf. John 3:16).”[2] The verb can also mean “to forgive.”

In verse 13, Paul returns to his idea in 1 Cor. 2:4, that his preaching to the Corinthians had been a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He was explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words (1 Cor. 2:13). So, his message came from God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 110.

[2] New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Verlyn Verbrugge, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 603.

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