Exposition of I Corinthians 1-4 (13)

We now come to the very beautiful and instructive passage in I Corinthians 2:10-16, which teaches us the underlying and secret reason why, we, the church, understand the mystery of God in Christ, and why it is that the world does not understand these same mysteries of faith.

The reason: God has revealed it unto us by His Spirit and He hath hid these same things from the wise and prudent.

Thus we read in the verses 10-11 as follows: "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all 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."

Why does Paul stop to give this instruction to the church at Corinth? Is it that the church may begin to boast of a certain superior knowledge; must she begin to glory in her knowledge? Of course, such can never be the case. Had Paul not clearly made this understood when he calls our attention to the manner of our calling in I Cor. 1:26-31? Is not the sole reason of all salvation such that we boast in the Lord, saying, O the depths both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His ways and His paths past finding out! Out of Him, through Him and unto Him are all things. To Him be the glory both now and forever more?

Such is the clear design of God in all things in creation and in recreation. And, therefore, surely Paul does not give this instruction concerning the reason why we understand and the princes of this world do not, that the Christian should boast in the flesh.

Rather this instruction is given in order that we may truly learn to say: For what maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we have not received? And, if we have received it, why should we glory as if we had not received it? (See I Cor. 4:7)

And surely such instruction was necessary for the church at Corinth where the consciousness of having received all by grace was so very sadly lacking. And, lest we exalt ourselves and be deceived by our own lusts, we hasten to add that we too need this instruction! Also in this respect we too often learn from painful experience how we have not yet profoundly learned this lesson: that, by nature, we are thoroughly Pelagian and Arminian, so that, even though it is our earnest confession that all salvation is of the Lord, we nevertheless find that according to the flesh we boast in our own superiority and accomplishment above others.

Paul learns to say: I labored more abundantly that they all, yet, not I, but the grace of God which was with me! I Cor. 15:10

Practically Paul says in these verses: What are you that you are not by God's grace in Christ? And what have you that you have not received?

Principally-theologically he "makes" this practical point clear by showing how all our understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven is given us to understand. It is all gift from God. However, it is such a gift of God that it is His sovereignly free gift. He gives it to whom He wills. It is not of him that willeth, not of him that runneth, but of God that giveth mercy!

That God has made a distinction between men and men, between the church and the world is stated by Paul in the very first sentence in verse 10. This is particularly noticeable in the original Greek. The "untous" (eemin) is emphatic. It is placed in the emphatic position in the sentence. Literally we read "Unto usfor revealed God through the Spirit." It is true that Paul certainly emphatically teaches that God has revealed this "hidden wisdom in mystery." He alone could reveal it and He could reveal it only through His Holy Spirit. However, that is not the emphasis here. Paul is waging a polemic against party-strife and schism in the congregation, and the congregation must learn to see the implication of the gift of knowledge so that she may cease boasting in the flesh. And, therefore, we must see that God made a distinction between us and the world in that He revealed it unto us and not to the world!

Here is a marvelous matter to note. The very instruction which takes away all our boasting in the flesh and causing us to glory alone in the Lord is interpreted by unbelievers and all moralists as causing men to be careless and profane. But that is not because such are the facts, but simply because this mystery of lowliness of mind and godliness has not been revealed unto them.

That one, to whom this mystery of God, all that is in Christ, has been "revealed," cannot possibly boast in man, is not only clear from the content and manner of the grace of God itself, (forgiveness of sins, hungering for righteousness, etc.) but also follows from the truth of God's revelation through the Holy Spirit.

This will become clear from just a cursory study of the term "reveal" in Scripture.

The term employed by Paul in verse 10 is "apokaluptein," a word which is commonly translated by the English term, "to reveal" and not by the term "to make manifest." The latter is generally the translation of the Greek verb "Phaneroin."

It is of interest to read that Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon (dictionary) has to say about the term "apokaluptein," to reveal. He writes the following about this verb: "It is a disclosure of truth, instruction, concerning divine things before unknown—especially those relating to Christian salvation—given to the soul by God Himself, or by the ascended Christ, especially by the operation of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:10) and so to be distinguished from other methods of instruction."

In this term of revelation we do not simply deal with the outward manifestation and confrontation with God's revelation in creation and in the written Word, but we here also come face to face with inward illumination of the mind and heart of man, that is, of the Christian! It is an impartation, of the knowledge of God's wisdom in the cross, imparting this knowledge to the "soul" of man, so that he is not merely a psychical creature but so that he is constituted a "spiritual man."

That such is the notion of "revelation" in Scripture is certainly convincingly and clearly taught in the well-known Scripture passage of Matthew 11:25, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou has hid these things from: the wise and prudent, and hastrevealed them unto babes." 

In this text in Matthew 11 the "hiding spoken of certainly is not to be understood in the sense that the Gospel was not made manifest to them. They had clearly understood the Gospel with their natural understanding. However, it was not with an understanding of faith and hope in God. The latter was not given to them. And so, while they clearly understood, they did not understand, and, while they emphatically heard the Word proclaimed, yet did they not see it as the Word of life. It was a hard doctrine! Hence, the "hiding" here must be understood in the sense that it was hid from them spiritually. They only heard it as "natural," as psychical men! 

However, as soon as the eyes of the heart are enlightened by the Holy Spirit and knowledge is given to the eyes of the mind, then the mind of Christ is given. And that is "revelation," the uncovering of the mysteries of the kingdom as they are "revealed out of faith unto faith." 

Such is also clearly taught in Ephesians 1:17, 18, where Paul informs the congregation of his prayer for her that she may have and enjoy a richer, fuller and more mature understanding of all that is of God in Christ for the church. We read there "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened . . . . ."

It is quite evident that the Spirit of revelation (apokalupsis) is a Spirit which is "revelational" in that it "enlightens" the eyes of the heart. Thus also Paul has a great knowledge in the mysteries of God, as it has not been made known to other generations, by virtue of and according to revelation! God has revealed His Son in Paul. And thus the scales of unbelief and misunderstanding no longer blind his eyes. He can see because it has been revealed unto him in such a way that the seeing eye and the hearing ear has been given unto him. 

Such is the implication of the term also in Rom. 16:25 and other passages of holy writ. 

The above interpretation is corroborated by a study of the use of the term which in the New Testament is translated "to make manifest." 

It is rather important to notice that the noun "manifestation," in Greek; phaneroosis, is only employed twice in the entire New Testament. Both times it is used by Paul. 

A very interesting usage of the term we find in I Corinthians 12:7 where we read, "But unto each has been given the manifestation (ee phaneroosis) of the Spirit unto which it is profitable for the members." 

In this entire passage Paul is not speaking of God's revelation of the mysteries to us, enlightening our eyes, but is speaking of the manifestation of the Spiritin and through us; in each member of the body the Holy Spirit is manifested in the body. Here we see the multiformity of the gifts of the Spirit in the one body of Christ, the living members of the church. 

Here Paul would scarcely have employed the term "revealed." 

Surely, surely, what is "revealed" (apokaluptien) is here implied and presupposed, but what is revealed unto us by the Spirit of God is manifested through the self-same Spirit. 

Bishop Trench writes about the term "apokalupsis" (to reveal) the following noteworthy observation, "Joined with (optasia) appearance it is by Theophylact; distinguished from it in this, that the optasia (appearance) is not more than the thing shown or seen, the sight or vision, which might quite possibly be seen without being understood; while the (apokalupsis) revelation includes not merely the thing shown and seen, but also the interpretation or unveiling of the same;" Paragraph XCIV, page 331, Syn. of N.T. 

While of the term phaneroosis) manifestation, Trench writes in the same paragraph that the honor of revealing either the second or the first coming of Christ has not been accorded to this term. 

From all this it is very evident that Paul in our passage in I Corinthians 2:10, 11 certainly has more in mind with the term "revealed" than simply the objective manifestation, and that he wills the congregation to understand and confess that their very knowledge and believing acceptance of the truth is also from God in Christ. 

It would lead us too far afield to demonstrate how this very evident truth is transgressed by the "first point" of 1924. However, the following syllogism will demonstrate why the categorical question "what grace do the reprobate receive in the preaching?" was indeed to the point and rooted in sound exegesis, and not in rationalistic preconceptions: 

1. Grace and "revelation" (apokalupsis) are essentially one and the same. 

2. Nothing is "revealed" to the world. It is only revealed to us by God's Spirit. 

3. No grace is given in the preaching to the "unbelieving" reprobate world in the preaching. 

Does this make a Reformed Christian proud and boastful? Such has always been the contention of the world of unbelievers and Arminians! 

But Paul says: Thus it is, indeed, that no flesh might glory before God, but that he, who glorieth, may glory in the Lord. 

(to be continued) 

G.L.