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How Can We Know God? (1 Cor. 2:6-16)


Paul has been emphatic that the gospel stands opposed to worldly thinking or “wisdom” (1:18-25). The cross, which demands a humble confession of our own helplessness, is at odds with and offensive to the Greek understanding of wisdom and power. As evidence of this, Paul pointed out that the church was predominantly made up of Corinth’s poor and unlearned (1:26-31), and the he himself was not an impressive preacher (2:1-5).


Only the Holy Spirit can help us to look at what Jesus did on the cross and accept it as true wisdom.


After last week’s passage, you might think that Paul has nothing good to say about wisdom. But he’s not against wisdom per se, just the wisdom of man. While the world sees the gospel as foolish, the “mature” (Christians) recognize it as true wisdom. By calling the gospel “secret and hidden wisdom from God”, Paul is saying that God’s plan of salvation is only known because he reveals it. No means of learning available to man (v. 9 – eyes, ears, mind) can convince a person of their sin and their need for Jesus to be their savior. Because of this, it’s ridiculous for Christians to boast over having great knowledge as the Corinthians were doing.

An interesting question arises here. Why do some believe and others don’t? How can two people hear the same gospel presentation, but only one puts their faith in Jesus while the other remains unimpressed? The answer is the Holy Spirit. Paul argues that even though other people may know us quite well, only our spirit within us knows our innermost thoughts. In the same way, only the Holy Spirit knows God’s thoughts, and thus only he can help us to see Jesus from his perspective and put our faith in him.

  • How many times do you think that you heard the gospel before becoming a Christian? How would you contrast your response to the gospel in those moments with when you heard it again and believed?
  • How does what Paul says in these verses push against pride?
  • How does this passage give us hope for unbelievers in our lives? How does it help us to praise God?


1 Corinthians 2:12 – “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.”

Click here to download a PDF of the study guide.