William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Wisdom Which Is From God (1 Corinthians 2:6-9)

2:6-9 True, we speak wisdom among those who are mature--but it is a wisdom which does not belong to this world, nor to the rulers of this world whose extinction is inevitable. But we speak the wisdom of God in a way that only he who is initiated into Christianity can understand, a wisdom which up to now has been kept hidden, a wisdom which God fore-ordained before time for our eternal glory, a wisdom which none of the leaders of this world knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but as it stands written, "Things which eye has not seen, which ear has not heard and which have not entered into the heart of man, all these God has prepared for them that love him."

This passage introduces us to a distinction between different kinds of Christian instruction and different stages of the Christian life. In the early Church there was a quite clear distinction between two kinds of instruction. (i) There was what was called Kerygma ( Greek #2782 ). Kerygma means a herald's announcement from a king; and this was the plain announcement of the basic facts of Christianity, the announcement of the facts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and his coming again. (ii) There was what was called Didache ( Greek #1322 ). Didache means teaching; and this was the explanation of the meaning of the facts which had already been announced. Obviously it is a second stage for those who have already received kerygma ( Greek #2782 ).

That is what Paul is getting at here. So far he has been talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified; that was the basic announcement of Christianity; but, he goes on to say, we do not stop there; Christian instruction goes on to teach not only the facts but the meaning of the facts. Paul says that this is done amongst those who are teleioi ( Greek #5046 ). The King James Version translates that word as perfect. That is certainly one of its meanings; but it is not appropriate here. Teleios ( Greek #5046 ) has a physical sense; it describes an animal or a person who has reached the height of his physical development. It has a mental sense. Pythagoras divided his disciples into those who were babes and those who were teleioi ( Greek #5046 ). That is to say it describes a person who is a mature student. That is the translation given in the Revised Standard version, and that is the sense in which Paul uses it here. He says, "Out in the streets, and to those who have just newly come into the Church, we talk about the basic elements of Christianity; but when people are a little more mature we give them deeper teaching about what these basic facts mean." It is not that Paul is hinting at a kind of caste distinction between Christians; it is a difference of the stages at which they are. The tragedy so often is that people are content to remain at the elementary stage when they should be going on strenuously to think things out for themselves.

Paul uses a word here which has a technical sense. The King James Version has it, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." The Greek word musterion ( Greek #3466 ) means something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but crystal clear to those who have. It would describe a ceremony carried out in some society whose meaning was quite clear to the members of the society, but unintelligible to the outsider. What Paul is saying is, "We go on to explain things which only the man who has already given his heart to Christ can understand."

He insists that this special teaching is not the product of the intellectual activity of men; it is the gift of God and it came into the world with Jesus Christ. All our discoveries are not so much what our minds have found out as what God has told us. This by no means frees us from the responsibility of human effort. Only the student who works can make himself fit to receive the real riches of the mind of a great teacher. It is so with us and God. The more we strive to understand, the more God can tell us; and there is no limit to this process, because the riches of God are unsearchable.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible