6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 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. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul has just reminded the Corinthians of the nature of his ministry among them: he had determined to know nothing in their presence except Christ Jesus and Him crucified. His proclamation, crucially, was not in persuasive words of wisdom but the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Yet these fireworks are only the beginning: they are not the substance and end of the faith. For those who are mature, Paul speaks the wisdom of the mysteries that God had hidden and prepared beforehand—for our glory. The insertion of the phrase is striking, given the intensity of Paul’s emphasis to this point in Corinthians on the scandalous foolishness of the cross. “It is sown in dishonor,” Paul will later say of the body, “but it is raised in glory.” Only the disclosure of such glory is a mystery that was hidden from the rulers of this age: had they known the end, they would not have crucified the “Lord of glory.”
The ordering of history toward this end is the content of the mystery that Paul examines with the wise. The authorities and powers are ignorant, because they have not read the Scriptures: “as it is written” is the language of Christian maturity and perfection, of the fulfillment of the wisdom founded upon God’s self-disclosure. And what is written is the mystery of God’s grace, His glorification of the creature in the person of Christ Jesus: no eye has seen, the heart of man has not gone up into the things God has prepared for those who love him.
But God has come down and revealed them to us through His Spirit. Paul has told us that the scandal and foolishness of the cross destroyed the wisdom of the wise. Having taken such wisdom away, he now gives it back—and more. The Spirit searches the deep things of God, makes known to us the gifts of God’s grace, empowering us to judge all things. Note that the Spirit makes known something more than Himself: God has given us Himself, yes, but also all things.
Only this wisdom that comes from the Spirit yet sounds like—foolishness. Paul preserves the contrasts he had developed between the world and the cross, even while he recapitulates them in an anthropological key. Paul speaks in a different register than the ‘natural man,’ the man who is simply soul. He speaks beneath and within the Spirit, and as such says what the natural man is not able to receive. Such a man is not able to receive the Spirit of God, and not able to know. Note, not able to know: their ignorance is of a different variety than the ignorance of the rulers of this age who crucified the Lord of glory.
Despite opening up the inner life of God, then, the Spirit reveals to us: the foolishness of the cross. The glory and the secret knowledge and the rollicking demonstration of the Spirit and the power all mean one thing: Christ Jesus and Him crucified. Such a reception is for the individual believer cosmological: it both empowers us to judge all things, even while we are judged by—no one.
Note what might appear like a radical individualism in Paul’s claim: the individual believer is directly before Christ, and can really claim to have the mind of Christ. But as with the opening chapter, Paul is intensely interested in the way in which this wisdom is imparted in and through the community: we “impart [this understanding of God’s gracious gifts to us] in words not taught by human wisdom but by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” We speak these things to one another, that is. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree,” Paul had written in 1:10—that is, that you all speak the same. The impartation of the wisdom of God to those who are spiritual happens through our speech, through our repeating the words of Scripture (‘as it is written’) in ways that are heard and responded to. Exegesis is a key to unity, we might say.