The word of the day is “mystery.” Are there things that only believers understand? Is there wisdom that only those who are “mature” in Christ have? In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, Paul answers, “Yes.” He writes “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (OSB vs. 7). Today, we will consider the hidden wisdom of God and how it either confounds us or teaches us.
In today’s passage, Paul seems to be talking nonsense. How can he, a human being, claim to talk about the divine wisdom hidden in the mind of God? How can he maintain that he has insight into what God has ordained before the ages?
The term “ordain” has the root meaning of establishing boundaries. But this setting of limits is accomplished beforehand. Thus, the word means to pre-determine or to decide ahead of time (Strong’s #4309). In verse 9, Paul expresses the same thought with the term “prepare,” meaning to make ready (Strong’s #2090).
What Has God Pre-Determined?
What has God has determined before the ages and arranged ahead of time? These are the things of our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Thus, the Lord says to those who have ministered to the poor and needy– and so to Him–“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you (Matthew 25:44). And in the Gospel of John, Jesus promises, “In my Father’s House are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2).
Things Incomprehensive to Human Reason
These things of our destiny are incomprehensible to human reason and invisible to ordinary perception. Therefore, Paul writes, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (OSB vs. 9). A close reading of this verse finds that Paul speaks of what the physical human eye cannot see and the natural human ear cannot hear. Moreover, when we study this thought we find that it is the “heart of the [natural] man” that cannot imagine the glories of the Kingdom that God has made ready for those who are devoted to Him.
So why does Paul write that he speaks of the mystery hidden from the ordinary senses and the “natural” heart? How can he disclose the divine secrets hidden in the depth of the will of the Almighty?
Faith Proclaims and Understands the Mystery
Paul does not proclaim nor do his hearers understand this mystery by human powers. But it can be known. Believers grasp it by faith. Thus, in Colossians, Paul writes about “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations but now has been revealed to His saints” (OSB Colossians 1:26).
St. John Chrysostom explains, “Wisdom is the name he [Paul] gives to the Gospel, to the method of salvation, to being saved by the Cross.” He adds that the “perfect,” that is, the “spiritually mature,” are those who believe” (NfPf1:12, Homily 7). Therefore, we can say that it is faith in the Cross of Christ that understands the wisdom of the “secrets of the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 13:11).
For Reflection: The Things of the Spirit Are Known by the Spirit
Immediately after our reading, Paul goes on to explain how believers gain the knowledge of what God has prepared for them. He says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (OSB 1 Corinthians 2:12). Thus, the apostle explains why the “natural man” cannot apprehend God’s plan for our salvation with his ordinary senses and reason. They are things of the Spirit, and so they are “spiritually discerned” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, believers grasp the hidden mystery of what God has prepared for them by the Spirit given to them.