Can a deep sea dweller understand the sky?
If so, then a natural man can comprehend the spiritual things of God.
Paul talked about God’s “secret code” briefly in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. He expounds the idea more fully in chapter 2, and this isn’t the last he has to say about the subject. I find this endlessly fascinating and mystifying though it makes perfect sense. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Paul explains that as we become more mature, we are gradually able to understand more of God’s mysteries and he also explains why nonbelievers can’t understand these mysteries at all, though they are clearly explained in the Word.
What does Paul mean by the term “mature”? Technically, it refers to those who are of full age, at the peak of physical and mental development–of course, this is a metaphor for spiritual maturity, but how can any of us suppose that we are perfectly mature? Christ followers will continue to be changed to be more and more like Jesus as long as we live this life, so in one sense, maturity can only come at death or at the rapture of the church. Maturity, in the physical sense, is a gradual change, not something that can be pinpointed–it is a continuum. Spiritual maturity is also a growing process.
Paul says he speaks a wisdom to those who are mature. What wisdom is he talking about? It isn’t the plan of redemption–the newest believer would know that. Or is it? The simple plan of redemption (that is, God, in Christ, buying us back from sin’s kingdom) is deeper than space once you truly begin to explore it.
It is not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age. What does he mean by the “rulers of this age”? Which ones? Is he talking about spiritual forces or men? Maybe both? Either way, Paul doesn’t seem to have a high regard for human wisdom and philosophy as did (and do) some later church fathers.
Here’s the part I think is so cool . . . God’s hidden mystery has been spread out in plain view throughout the ages, but no one, not even the devil, could see it or put it together. The word used here, “mystery” is from the Hebrew “mysterion”. It refers to hidden knowledge revealed only to the initiated. Generation after generation of priests, kings, students read the prophecies of the Christ and to this day, many of them still can’t see the significance of what they have been studying their whole lives.
God planned this mystery before the world began, for our glory. Glory is one of those words not many people understand. The primary meaning of this word, doxa, is an opinion, judgment, or the reputation of something. In New Testament useage, the judgment is always favorable. It also refers to splendor, brightness, and something belonging to God. God’s mystery causes us to be seen as God intended–His image bearers and therefore splendid, luminous, and fully His.
Since we are His image bearers, we reveal His glory to the world. God, please don’t let us fail you or show the world a false image of You!
None of the rulers of this world understood the mystery, and so they crucified the Lord of glory. Certainly the Romans didn’t know who Jesus was, though Pilate received fair warning through his own misgivings and his wife’s warnings. The Jewish priests didn’t know, though they should have. Jesus fulfilled every prophecy. Why didn’t they see? Or did they see, and turn away because the Christ was not what they had expected Him to be? Satan surely knew that Jesus was the Lord of glory. Did he really believe he could defeat Him through the cross? Did he understand God’s plan? Apparently not, or he wouldn’t have cooperated as he did.
God prepared His way of salvation, but did no one understand? Not even the prophets who wrote so specifically of the details and reasons for Jesus’ life? Maybe they understood bits, like an actor acting out various, disconnected scenes from a movie and not understanding how the story fits together until opening night?
The prophecies have been fulfilled to date, but there’s more to come. Surely “what God has prepared for those who love Him” must include the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.
The Holy Spirit is the key to understanding the prophecies. Until the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers at Jesus resurrection, only a select few of God’s people had any experience of the Spirit’s presence. Prophets, priests, judges and kings had the Holy Spirit upon them. After the resurrection, every believer would receive the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence. The Holy Spirit, being God’s Spirit, understands the deep things of God, and the Holy Spirit is in us!
Paul uses an example we can all relate to. No one truly understands what is in a man’s heart save the spirit of the man himself. Even so, only God’s spirit knows the deep things of God. It’s the perfect “secret code”. It’s the mystery no one can betray to an outsider, because the outsider can’t understand it unless he chooses to become an insider.
We can’t truly understand what has been freely given to us by God unless we have the Spirit of God. What have we to do with the world? We haven’t received the spirit of the world. Words of human wisdom are at best, inadequate and at worst, foolishness when it comes to explaining the things of God. Only spiritual people can understand spiritual things.
The natural man can’t understand spiritual things anymore than a clam can understand the sky. He doesn’t have the equipment. The knowledge is right there in front of him, but as we can’t read an encrypted file without a decoder, so we can’t understand spiritual things of God without the Spirit of God living inside us. They would seem to be incoherent babbling if we were able to sense them at all. This is why natural men don’t welcome Christian concepts. The whole thing sounds like a crock without the decoder–the Spirit.
The spiritual man can’t be evaluated by anyone. Our speech, actions, motivations, also become otherworldly as we leave the things of the world to follow God. We become less and less understandable to the world. Worldly people can’t understand us anymore than they can understand God. Since we have the mind of christ, we can understand the world and we can understand God. The world, however, cannot understand us because we are no longer of the world. We have the mind of Christ–a thing incomprehensible to them.
This is why no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him/her. Unregenerated people don’t even have the ability to sense their own need–as we, also, did not. When we come to God, it is because He called us. And he calls everyone . . . “Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.” (Revelation 22:17)