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. 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. 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. 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. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:11-16
Paul continues his discussion of the wisdom of God with a compelling comparison: No one knows the thoughts of another person, except that person’s own spirit within them, and no one knows God’s thoughts except His own Spirit. In the 21st century we might be inclined to substitute the word “mind” for the word “spirit”, but I would think Paul’s statement is clear enough; so how can we know the Spirit or mind of God?
You might suspect that Paul is building an argument here, and if you were thinking along those lines, you would be quite correct, for that is exactly what he is doing. We’ve seen point one, and now he moves to the second step: We have, in fact, received the Spirit of God within us in the Person of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Consequently, we actually can understand His gift to us, which appears to the world around us to be nothing more than foolishness. When Paul speaks to the mature, to those who can comprehend the mystery of God, he does so not in human reasoning or with merely human understanding, but under the direction of the Spirit.
Even the most brilliant of people cannot understand the mystery of God, for it takes a great deal more than human understanding to see it; it takes the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we might add, so does saying what we’re saying right now. Yet for someone who has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these truths are discernable because… (you might want to sit down)… we have the mind of Christ.
During the entire period of my training in Seminary, I was taught that we have the mind of Christ in the Scriptures, for they contain the entire written record of God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. To this day, I believe that what I learned was true. Yet over the decades since then, I have also come to believe that what I was taught, though true, was incomplete – certainly, it is a bit at odds with Paul’s statement in our text. To make this a little more interesting, I was also taught that there are at least 2 types of divine revelation: general revelation (the Scriptures) and special revelation which comes directly from God. Some of the old school professors always added “through the Scriptures” at the end of that statement.
I have enough experience, as do many of you dear readers, to know that God frequently reveals things to us through the Scriptures− no one would argue that point. Yet there are other times when the Scriptures aren’t involved that understanding might come to us, perhaps in times of prayer or meditation for instance; there are many possibilities here. Having said this, I’ve also known people who claimed that God had revealed something to them that sounded an awful lot like the sort of things that came from a source other than God. I recall one young lady who told me that God revealed to her that the perfect expression of His love was found in participating in orgies, and somehow that just didn’t quite ring true to me. One time I spoke to a man who said that God revealed to him that his Spirit was present whenever the man was under the influence of a certain illegal intoxicating substance, and that also didn’t quite ring true.
There is a lesson here: Yes, we have the mind of Christ in the Person of the Holy Spirit, but we must be careful that His leading is not in contradiction to His Word, for should that be the case, it is much more likely that the spirit we are listening to is a great deal less than Holy.
Paul still has more to say on this subject− will he tell us what the mystery is?
We’ll find that out next time…