No man - by scholarship, human reason, or intelligence - can comprehend the whole truth of God apart from the Holy Spirit. Only by the intervention of the Spirit are we called to understand it. God, by divine revelation through the help of the Spirit, opens our minds to the "mysteries" of the truth, allowing us to discern what is truly vital to our salvation.
Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit
How plain! What we have in the gospel is a revelation. We must tie this concept of God's revelation to the word "mystery" (verse 7).
In English it does not mean exactly the same thing as in Greek. In English, mystery means "a puzzle that is difficult to solve," but in Greek, it means "a secret that is impossible to penetrate." So, the Word of God, His purpose and plan, is a mystery, a secret that is impossible to penetrate. Paul is implying that man would never find out what God intends, except that God gives it to us by revelation.
We have in no way earned this revelation. We have it because it pleased God to give it to us. He withholds it from others, but He has given it to us. He is in no way beholden to us, as if He owed us something. We could dig in His Word over our entire lifetimes and never come to what He freely gives to us for His purposes, for His own reasons.
Brilliant men like Adam Clarke have dug into God's Word through the centuries. It took him forty years to produce his famous commentary. Considering that the man was unconverted, it really is a magnificent work, done with all sincerity and dedication. Yet, at the end of his efforts, he did not fully penetrate the mystery of what God is doing among men. A brilliant man and a brilliant work, yet he emerged from his studies not understanding the divine purpose that God gives to us without our earning it. On the other hand, it is very likely that many of us never cracked the pages of a Bible before God began to open our minds. Some have, some have not. But God called many of us in that situation, and though we did not deserve it, He revealed His way to us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
If mankind had seen Christ, if they had clearly identified with Him, the history of the world would be exceedingly different. They did not see because, as Paul writes here, they were not mature. Mature, in this context, means "converted." He contrasts those who are able to see and those who are not able to see. Those who are able to see are those who are spiritually mature.
Even though Christ quoted—and lived—the scriptures with which most of His audience were familiar, the people did not see God working through Him. So it has always been with God's servants. Christ was not the only one. Jesus Himself testifies that these people also "kill[ed] the prophets" (Matthew 23:34-37). It is unlikely that they would have killed the prophets if they clearly saw them as God's messengers. If they believed in God and were fearful of His authority and sovereignty over His creation, they would not have dared to do it! Nevertheless, it has always been this way: Some see and some do not see.
Paul says in I Corinthians 2:7 that God's ministers "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." This mystery is not a puzzle that is difficult to solve but "a secret impossible to penetrate." As the apostle goes on to say in succeeding verses, the world is not "all there" upstairs because they do not have God's Spirit to help them penetrate the secret. Without this vital ingredient, it is no wonder that it accepts its own and rejects the truths of God.
Paul writes in verse 9, "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'" Many in the world believe that the things of God are "too great" for mere humans to comprehend. We really cannot "get it" or see it. Yet, the truth is so simple to those whose eyes are open that a child can understand. The carnal mind, however, is so blinded by traditions and habits of thinking that even Christians tend to reject the things of God—even though God has converted us.
The effect of this is something like the story about the three blind Indians who were led up to an elephant. Each man touched a different part of the great beast. One held the elephant's trunk, and when asked what it was, he said, "This is a snake." The second man, holding the elephant's tail, said, "This is a rope." The third man, feeling the elephant's leg, said, "This is a tree."
This is analogous to what happens in the world. The world can perceive bits and pieces of the truth, but they cannot put it all together and see the glory of God in its whole. They cannot see God as an intrinsic—absolutely necessary—part of a person's life. They cannot see how necessary the spiritual is!
If it is seen and if it is understood, then life begins to make sense. We begin to be able to see ourselves—a single, unique individual—as a part of the whole, the awesome plan and purpose that God is working out! Then, being able to see God gives direction to our life. So our eyes have seen and our ears have heard, and "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" has entered into our hearts.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)
By using those who killed Christ as an illustration, Paul shows that everyone has been held captive to ignorance of God and His way. God's wisdom was hidden from "the rulers of this age." Had they had it, their minds would have had the material to reach a far different conclusion about what to do about Christ. They would have produced a different result.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit
The word "mystery" is not the same as our English usage of the word. "Mystery" to the Greek meant not a puzzle that was difficult to solve, but a secret impossible to penetrate. It was something that was hidden and unintelligible to those who were not initiated, as into a secret society or as into a religion.
Most of you have heard of the mystery religions. What they did was unintelligible to those who were on the outside, but to those who were on the inside, what was being said or enacted in their ritual made clear sense.
This is the idea here: a secret impossible to penetrate, not a puzzle that is difficult to solve. What is crystal clear to those on the inside is unintelligible to those who are on the outside.
In like manner, to those who have received the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit has joined with the spirit in man, adding a dimension to their lives that they previously did not have (I Corinthians 2:11-12). So then, things that are crystal clear to them are unintelligible to those who do not have this added dimension. Thus, Paul says, the things of the Spirit have been revealed by God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 2:7:
1 Thessalonians 5:21