Articles

First Corinthians - Part 7

Introduction

Last time we looked at 1 Cor.2:1-9. The passages have many applications and we can learn so much about ideas related to the wisdom of this world and its limitations. However, we need now to look at the more precise context of these passages if we are to understand the intent of the author and gain from them (the passages) what doctrine God intended to pass on to the believers lest we confound those things that differ. What "mystery" is Paul referring to? Those who deny the truth of the great divide of Acts 28 and its impact on the understanding of Paul's Acts books will also confound the mysteries. In this lesson we shall look at what the mystery of 1 Cor 2:7 is and obtain from the context a more precise understanding of Paul's intent and meaning.

 

 1Cor. 2:7 -- Wisdom of God in a Mystery

The vetse I wish you to look at in some detail goes as follows, I will include the greek text as well in order to make a few comments on the words used.

 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (1Co 2:7 KJV)
 7  ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν σοφίαν Θεοῦ ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ Θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· (1Co 2:7 TBT)

The word for mystery is "musterion", here it is used in the dative case as the object of the preposition "en",  ἐν μυστηρίῳ, showing the location of where the wisdom of God is found in this particular context.

Notice that in the structure given in the Leedy diagram 1 Cor.2: 6-8, to the left a comparison is clearly marked out. Laloumen -- "we speak" -- directly, openly to the perfect BUT (alla) we speak the wisdom of God (the hidden wisdom) in "a" mystery to those who are not so. What we need to clarify is the content of this wisdom and the nature of how it was hidden τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην.

The word for "mystery" is found 27 times in the new testament.  Below is a list of verses where the word appears. 

Mystery
Matt. 13:11
Mk. 4:11
Lk. 8:10
Rom. 11:25
Rom. 16:25
1 Co. 2:7
1 Co. 4:1
1 Co. 13:2
1 Co. 14:2
1 Co. 15:51
Eph. 1:9
Eph. 3:3-4, 9
Eph. 5:32
Eph. 6:19
Col. 1:26-27
Col. 2:2
Col. 4:3
2 Thess. 2:7
1 Tim. 3:9, 16
Rev. 1:20
Rev. 10:7
Rev. 17:5, 7

 Notice that it appears in Matt. 13:11 first in a context of parables and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven where some are not given to understand (the multitude) and others are (the disciples). Isaiah 6:9,10 is quoted in Matt. 13:14 after which the Lord says 

  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (Mat 13:16 KJV)

Clearly a remnant had their eyes open. The parables then were delivered and later expounded "in the house". Is this Ephesian truth? Is this the truth of the revelation of THE mystery hid in God or is it wisdom of God that prophets and righteouss new only dimly and needed more enlightenment to see all. 

 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Mat 13:17 KJV)

The concordance of the word for "mystery" teaches us at least one thing -- to hold to "mystery" truth is at least biblical.  That is the idea that God has secrets in his word is a biblical truth -- surely we need to understand what they are and how they might effect us and our understanding of God's purposes. 

Wisdom Hid

The wisdom spoken was put in a mystery, God used it to accomplish His purposes in having the Lord crucified. The wisdom of God was exhibited in the cross.  Look at 1:27 God hath chosen the weak things of this world -- connects well with the cross:

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (2Co 13:4 KJV)

The whole context of the first two chapters is about the wisdom that is missed by both Jew and Greek, the hidden wisdom. But where do we go to interpret and contextualize the wisdom of the cross? Paul takes us to Isaiah.

Isaiah 

In 1:18 it is the preaching of the cross that is foolishness to the perishing ones BUT to us who are saved it is the power of God -- what does Paul do then? He quotes Isaiah 29:14

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isa 29:14 KJV)

Which people? "this people" -- Israel!! They were asleep by the spirit of sleep which the Lord poured out 

For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. (Isa 29:10 KJV)

This is what Paul quotes in Rom.11:8 it is instructive to note what he says just prior and after this quote

 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Rom 11:7 KJV)

Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
 (Rom 11:10-11 KJV)

While judgment was coming on Israel they were still counted as the people of God and the Gentiles were used to provoke the tree to fruitfulness. 

The point at issue here is that Isaiah's prophecy works well with the state of the corinthians and the acts believers. Israel had stumbled at the stumblingstone yet God was still working with them and showing the hidden wisdom of Christ and him crucified. 

Look at the language of Isaiah 29:17

Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? (Isa 29:17 KJV)

Despite the negatives and failings recounted in Isaiah 29 -- yet a very little while. This reminds us the time in the Acts as Paul recounts to the Corinthians

 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. (1Co 7:26 KJV)
 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; (1Co 7:29 KJV)

God kept the deeper meaning and wisdom behind the cross a secret in order to use His enemies to accomplish His greater purpose of redemption in relation to Israel and the world, but now with the witness of the prophets and the evident miracles and events surrounding the cross it was possible that inspired apostles could reveal these deeper truths ordained before the ages (not foundation of the world).

After 2Cor.2:7 Paul says

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Here is the explanation for the keeping the wisdom hid. A good military tactic, keep your enemy in the dark! Paul then quotes Isaiah again,

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

This is a quote from Isaiah 64:4, the context is Israel and her coming blessings and the world in relation to these. These deep things are they still hid -- well they were to the Corinthians but not to the apostles and not to many who now read their words!

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1Co 2:8-10 KJV)

Of course the apostles and specifically Paul knew things that we still do not have the opportunity to know but some things have been revealed.

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2Co 12:4 KJV)

The Romans were recipients of much wisdom as it pertained to Justification as accomplished by Christ on the cross.

The Potter and The Clay

Notice that in both Isaiah 29 and Isaiah 64 God is seen as the potter and Israel as the clay, (see Isaiah 29:16, 64:8) -- the clay may at times be unaware of the purpose and design of the potter -- this is necessary as the potter is also a man of war,

 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Exo 15:3 KJV)

We are fortunate because we have His word and we have the opportunity to see and understand.

Conclusion

The mystery here in 1 Cor. 2:7 is not the Mystery of Eph 3:9. Why?

  1. The context is Acts -- Jew first and promises made to Israel
  2. The context of 1 Corinthians -- wisdom and understanding associated with the preaching (message) of the cross is seen as foolishness. Yet the wisdom of God was to have Christ crucified to bring about many of His purposes in relation to Israel. This deeper wisdom was added to prophetical revelations. 
  3. Isaiah -- the context is Israel -- Israel in decline but not discarded completely
  4. Acts 28 shows Gods Judgment on Israel as the conclusion of many opportunities extended to Israel to repent.
  5. The mystery came to PAul the prisoner.

What is the mystery of 1 Cor.2:7? It is the wisdom of God hid. It is the deeper truths of Christ's crucufixion, how God would justify and redeem Israel and fulfil His purpose on earth through the new covenant. Remember that the new covenant was given tp Israel. It is NOT the mystery revealed to PAul the prisoner for that mystery was revealed consequent to the failure of the favoured nation and assumes peace between Israel and the Gentiles -- no advantage is now given to Israel.