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1 Corinthians 2:12–13

“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.”

Pneumatology, or the doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, is one of the major categories of systematic theology. Like other categories of systematic theology, pneumatology seeks to use the entire Bible in formulating doctrine. Nevertheless, certain biblical texts stand out as particularly important for our understanding of the Spirit.

First Corinthians 2 plays a key role in our understanding of the Holy Spirit. Thus far, our study of this chapter has focused primarily on the work of the Spirit, particularly in His task of revealing the truth of the gospel of Christ crucified and persuading us of its truth (vv. 6–10). Yet, we dare not miss the fact that 1 Corinthians 2 has vital things to tell us about the person of the Holy Spirit as well. For instance, verses 10–11 offer confirmation of the deity of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in these verses that the Holy Spirit “comprehends the thoughts of God.” Scripture reveals a strong distinction between the Creator and His creatures, manifest in the Creator’s possession of certain attributes that we do not have, including omniscience, or the knowledge of all things. As a consequence of omniscience and the infinity of the divine nature, the thoughts of God are higher than our thoughts and can be known fully only by Him (Isa. 55:8–9). Since the Holy Spirit can comprehend the thoughts of God, and since only God can do that, the Spirit must therefore be God.

We cannot know God and His thoughts fully, but we can know Him and His thoughts truly—if the Spirit reveals God to us (1 Cor. 2:6–10). The first-century Corinthian Christians had received the Spirit’s revelation, for they had come to trust in Jesus (Acts 18:1–11). They were, however, neglecting the Spirit in their pursuit of worldly wisdom that sought to use personal associations for self-advancement and to exalt themselves as more spiritual than others. Paul calls them away from this in 1 Corinthians 1–2, reminding the Corinthians of the wisdom of the cross, which stands against all sinful self-advancement. And in 2:12–13, the Apostle directs them away from the world and back to the Spirit of God, who speaks through the Apostle not in words of human wisdom but with spiritual truths to the spiritual. Effectively, the Apostle calls the entire audience spiritual and thus able to receive the truths of God’s Spirit, provided they are listening and not following the ways of the world. All who trust in Christ are spiritual and have access to the Spirit’s wisdom.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The first-century Corinthians sought primacy over one another based on their gifts and associations, thinking of some as spiritual and others as not spiritual. Paul eliminates this distinction in today’s passage. All Christians are people of the Holy Spirit, so we cannot draw a distinction between spiritual and nonspiritual Christians. All who are in Christ are spiritual and have the same standing before God in Christ.


For Further Study
  • Numbers 11:29
  • John 3:8
  • Colossians 1:9–14
  • Jude 20

More Significant than Ourselves

Possessing the Mind of Christ

Keep Reading The State of Theology

From the January 2021 Issue
Jan 2021 Issue