Responding to some questions, I’ve received about the Digging Deep January 2019 study, I want to spend a moment today in the last few verses of I Corinthians 2. I hope it is helpful as you finish up month five and move into the February study.
First of all, let me emphasize that I surely don’t think I know all the answers about the Holy Spirit, though there is much that we can know, for sure, on this side of eternity because we have a completed revelation.
It is very important for us to always put to use the very first rule of Bible interpretation or hermeneutics. That is, that we should never violate any of the plain passages–the very clear ones–as we try to figure out the ones that are more difficult to understand. As we look at 2 Timothy 3:16, we see some words that are plain and powerful. Scripture is literally “breathed of God”. It is, in language that is never used about ideas we may have in our minds or leadings of the heart. The scriptures are actually breathed of God. Then it says they are profitable for doctrine (it’s the teaching we need), reproof (it is the evidence or convicting power), correction (it is shows us when we need to change) and instruction in righteousness (the guide to being right in His eyes, to being holy). As if that was not enough and repetitive enough, the plain passage goes on to say that it gives us everything we need for every single good work. This is a big assurance that scripture is ALL we need for everything we need to be in God’s economy and in His eyes. If the Holy Spirit gives us something extra, He is going beyond what is already the thorough furnishing of the Scriptures that were originally given by the Spirit in the first place. That is just a carte blanc statement of the full provision of knowledge by the Word given by the Spirit in Scripture and it is in very understandable terms. SO if there are other passages, and there are, that are harder to understand, we have to let this passage and other plain ones shed light on those more difficult ones rather than the other way around.
Next, about the mystery. From the passages in Ephesians and Colossians, we can clearly conclude that the mystery was completely revealed in the day of Paul the apostle. It was revealed to Paul and the apostles and prophets and they spoke it, preached it and wrote it to the New Testament Christians and we have those writings preserved for us today. So when Paul wrote, he was clearly teaching them that the mystery was no longer a mystery. He was revealing it to them at that time. We learned that the owners (or those who were keeping the mystery until the revelation Paul’s day) were God and Christ. We learned that the subject of the mystery was Christ and His grace. Then we learned that the essence, body, material of the mystery that was revealed in scripture was the gospel–the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We gave a list on slides from of every verse that mentions a mystery in these two epistles on the podcast. I’ll put those lists here. I think you’ll clearly see that the mystery that Paul was talking about was the gospel and that it’s revelation happened in the first century.
Here are those notes, just so they will be on this page, too:
1. Time revealed: Paul’s day (Col 1:25,26; Ephesians 3:2-4)
2. Its subject: Christ (Col. 1:25, 26); Grace (Eph. 3:2,3)
3. Its value: richness, glory (Col. 1:27)
4. Its purposes: comfort (Col.2:2); gathering all people together in Christ (Eph. 1:10); people could understand the mystery (Eph. 3:4)
5. Its owners: God and Christ (Col. 2:2)
6. Mode of transfer: speaking (Col. 4:3): preaching (Col. 1:26-28); writing (Eph. 3:3,4)of apostles and prophets (Eph. 3:4,5)
7. Other names for it: The Will of Christ (Eph.1:9); The gospel (Eph. 6:19)
Add to this list another plain passage which actually defines the “mystery”, having the word “mystery” and then a colon, and then the exegesis of what the “mystery” is–straight from the Holy Spirit. This is it: “mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Here again, the mystery is defined by the passage itself, as being the gospel of Christ. (I Tim. 3:16…I really love that I can remember these passages because I Tim 3:16 tells us plainly what the “mystery” is and 2 Tim. 3:16 tells us where we have the revelation and that it is ALL we need to know to be equipped to do ALL we need to do. I love that the 3:16s are there and that they are such a good commentary on how God does John 3:16–(How he gives us the gospel so we can believe and be saved.)…So 3 great 3:16s that explain each other.
So then, I Corinthians 2:9 tells us that we are not relying on eye witness…that is we do not see with our eyes the gospel…the death burial and resurrection of Jesus. So much about eye witness information is questionable. Sometimes we think we see things that are not actually reality or we mistake identities or even imagine things that we really don’t see.
Then it says we are not relying on hearsay or verbal passing down of the gospel (hearing with our ears). That would be incredibly unreliable because “word of mouth” stories and accounts change and evolve as they are retold. That’s not how I want to learn the “mystery”, so I am very glad “ear has not heard.”
Then it says “neither has entered into the heart of man” I’m very glad about this one, too. The mystery or the things God has prepared for us to know doesn’t just come through a message to my heart. If it did 1) there would be no need for the written revelation because I would know the mystery from this “heart” revelation, and 2) I think I would have a hard time discerning between what God was putting in my heart and what was being put there by the devil and his forces. I’m very glad I do not have to rely on something being laid on my heart or an internal nudging or a feeling of being led. Here it is clear that I do not have to depend on these things to enjoy what God has prepared for me.
Then it goes on to make it really clear that “words” are the vehicle by which I can know the mind of God. It says that just like no one can know what a man is thinking (or the spirit of a man) unless he tells us, that likewise we can’t know what God thinks unless His Spirit communicates that. Then it says we get this information, not in words that man speaks, but rather we have it in the words of the Holy Spirit. So, to this point, we have that it’s not something we had to see with our own eyes, or a gospel we had to hear verbally, or a mystery that just “entered our hearts”. Rather it was a mystery given in WORDS by the Spirit of God. It says “we” (Paul and the other inspired men) speak (and by implication, write)…what has been given by the Spirit of God (vs. 11 and 12).
So…who is it that can’t discern or rejects–does not understand—the revealed Will of God? The “natural man” (the Greek word) only appears one other time in the New Testament. That’s Jude, verse 19, where it is translated as “sensual”. Sensual, worldly people are not going to receive and appreciate the words of the Spirit as delivered by Paul…but rather those who choose to be governed by God and His Spirit. The rational souls (Greek meaning of “spiritual” here)… the ones who are choosing NOT to be worldly and sensual…THOSE people– are the ones who are going to more readily receive the Words of the spirit and thus have the mind of Christ. Paul said he and others have the mind of Christ. He had it in words. It was delivered in words and so we, too, can have the mind of Christ.