Summary: The work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life.
Do you have the Holy Spirit? Have you been baptized with the Spirit? How would you know? Our text this morning introduces us to the Holy Spirit and his work.
The topic Paul has been discussing is wisdom. The message of the cross seems foolish to the world’s wisdom. The people who believe that message are not considered wise. Paul, as a messenger of the cross, is considered foolish. Nevertheless, he claims to impart real wisdom to the mature, i.e. to those who hear the message and believe. The wisdom of the gospel is the real wisdom, and believers are the ones who are truly wise.
So then, how did the Corinth believers, and how do any of us Christians, catch on to the wisdom of the gospel. How is it that we are so wise? We can’t go by education since there are believers and unbelievers of all educated levels. We can’t go by culture, considering that many raised in nonwestern and nonChristian cultures have accepted the gospel, and contrariwise, many raised in Christian homes have rejected it.
Is there a gospel gene, something in our make-up that makes us more amenable to the gospel? Is it environment? Could a good psychologist predict who is more likely to accept the gospel and who reject it? Paul does not seem baffled by the issue. Let’s look at the answer he gives.
10 [T]hese things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who makes the difference. We know the “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (v. 7) because the Spirit has revealed these things.
He goes on to explain his reasoning. 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.
First, he notes the activity of the Spirit in relation to God. The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. We have this image of active exploration, or better yet, of complete intimate communion within the trinity. Can we know God? Of course not. But can God know God? Of course. The Spirit of God knows God thoroughly.
Paul then reasons that only the inner self knows what is going on inside a person. Only I know what is really going on inside of me right now. Only my spirit knows me. Likewise, only God’s Spirit really knows him.
Does Paul then mean that God’s Spirit is not another person of the Trinity, but rather another term for his inner being as this analogy suggests? When I speak of my spirit, I don’t mean another being separate from me. If this text is all we had to go, this would have to be a possible interpretation. Other scripture forces us to regard the Holy Spirit as another person altogether.
Listen to what Jesus has to say. The context is his final conversation with his disciples before his death. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17)…These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (14:25-26)… But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (15:26-27)… I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (16:13-15).
It is obvious that Jesus is treating the Holy Spirit as a person and not merely a spiritual force or a representation of himself. The Spirit has a title, Paraclete, translated here as Helper, and in other translations as Counselor, Advocate, and Comforter. God the Father gives him; Christ the Son sends him. And the Spirit is spoken of as “he,” not “it.” The Spirit will teach, and note that he will not speak on his own authority but on Jesus’. If the Spirit is not a distinct person, why would Jesus bother making such a comment? I don’t speak of giving my spirit permission to act on my authority.