Now we have received…the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
1 CORINTHIANS 2:12
In our Christian fellowship two opposite dangers are to be recognized and avoided: they are the cold heart and the hot head!
For downright harmful effects the hot head is often the worst of the two.
The human heart is heretical by nature. Unless well instructed in the Scriptures and fully enlightened by the indwelling Spirit, it may confuse the fervor of the Spirit with the heat of the flesh, and mistake the scintillations of the overheated imagination for the glow of the true Shekinah.
It may be said without qualification that there can never be too much fire if it is the true fire of God, and it can be said as certainly that there cannot be too much cool judgment in religious matters if that judgment is sanctified by the Spirit.
Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely any one is of greater practical usefulness in these critical times than the gift of discernment. This spiritual gift should be highly valued and frankly sought.
Human sweat can add nothing to the work of the Spirit, especially when it is nerve sweat. The hottest fire of God is cool when it touches the redeemed intellect. It makes the heart glow but leaves the judgment completely calm.
Let love burn on with increasing fervor but bring every act to the test of quiet wisdom. Keep the fire in the furnace where it belongs. An overheated chimney will create more excitement but it is likely to burn the house down. Let the rule be: a hot furnace but a cool chimney!
2:12 The we of verse 12 refers to the writers of the NT, although it is equally true of all the Bible writers. Since the apostles and prophets had received the Holy Spirit, He was able to share with them the deep truths of God. That is what the apostle means when he says in this verse: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Apart from the Spirit who is from God, the apostles could never have received the divine truths of which Paul is speaking and which are preserved for us in the NT.
12. Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may know the things freely given to us by God.
- “Now we have received.” In the previous verse, Paul spoke in generalities that involved man’s spirit. But here he specifies the Corinthians and himself by using the plural personal pronoun we. This pronoun takes the first place in the Greek sentence and so receives emphasis. With this inclusive pronoun, Paul has come to the heart of the paragraph on God’s Spirit versus man’s spirit. He offers the comforting assurance that we have received the Spirit, whom God has given us.
- “Not the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God.” The negative clause not the spirit of the world has been interpreted in various ways:
it describes the rulers of the world who crucified Jesus (v. 8);
it denotes evil that has established its own rules and objectives (see 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 4:4; 5:19);
it is equivalent to the wisdom of this world (1:20);
it is the spirit in man that is worldly.
We say that the spirit of the world is the spirit that makes the world secular. From the time Adam and Eve fell into sin, the spirit of this world has revealed itself in opposition to God’s Spirit: for example, in the lawlessness prior to the flood, in the building of the tower of Babel, and in the false teachers who sought to destroy the church in apostolic days (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1–3; Jude 4–19). It is the spirit that rules a person in whom God’s Spirit does not live. It is a power that determines “all the thinking and doing of men, which places itself over against the Spirit who is of God.”
By contrast, as Paul expresses in eloquent Greek, believers have received the Spirit that proceeds from God (see John 15:26; Gal. 4:6). God’s Spirit comes to the believers from a sphere other than this world and conveys knowledge of God, creation, redemption, and restoration. Since Pentecost, God’s Spirit dwells in the hearts of all believers (6:19).
- “That we may know the things freely given to us by God.” Why does God grant us the gift of his Spirit? The answer is that we may know innately the things that pertain to our salvation. The Spirit teaches us the treasures we have in Christ Jesus, whom God handed over to die on a cross so that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). If God delivered up his Son, he certainly will graciously give us in him all things (Rom. 8:32). Believers appropriate the gift of salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit. They realize through faith that in Christ sin and guilt have been removed from them, that God is reconciled to them, and that the way to heaven has been opened for them.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (2:12–13)
The process of the Spirit’s transmission of God’s truth is called inspiration. His truth cannot be discovered by man; it can only be received. In order to be received, something must first be offered. God’s truth can be received because is it freely given. The Spirit who is from God, not the spirit of the world (that is, human wisdom) has brought God’s Word—which comprises the things freely given to us by God. The Bible is the Spirit’s vehicle for bringing God’s revelation.
The we’s and the us of verses 12–13 (as in vv. 6–7, 10) do not refer to Christians in general but to Paul himself. God’s Word is for all believers, but was revealed only to the apostles and the other writers of Scripture. Only those men properly can be said to have been inspired. The promise of John 14:26 (“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”) is for the benefit of all believers, but was given only to the apostles. Paul and the other writers of Scripture did not record their own ideas and interpretations. They recorded what God gave them and only what He gave them. We have received … that we might know. The Spirit used words that the human writers knew and used, but He selected them and arranged them in precisely the order that He wanted. The Bible, therefore, not only is God’s Word but God’s words.
It is not simply the “Word behind the words” that is from God, as many liberal and neoorthodox interpreters maintain. “All Scripture is inspired by God [lit., ‘God–breathed’]” (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture means “writings,” and refers specifically to what God’s chosen men wrote by His revelation and inspiration, not to everything they said and wrote. It refers, as Paul explains, to the things freely given to us by God, to the “God–breathed” words they recorded.
When Jesus responded to Satan’s first temptation in the wilderness, He said (quoting from Deut. 8:3), “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). God gave His own Word in His own words. “Every word that proceeds out the mouth of God” is revealed, inspired, and authoritative. Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
12 The amazing thing is that such communication is indeed possible! For when one becomes a believer in Jesus, that person receives the Holy Spirit as a gift (see Ac 2:38; Ro 8:9b, 14–15). This is what Paul now reminds the Corinthians of—that believers have “received … the Spirit who is from God.” This reality enables us to understand the foregoing about how, through the cross and resurrection of Christ, the powers of this age are coming to nothing. Those, however, who have not received God’s Spirit—those who are still caught up in the “spirit of the world”—do not understand this “secret wisdom” (v. 7).
With this message, of course, the apostle is able to address on the deepest level possible those among the Corinthians who loved the sophisticated rhetoric and wisdom of the world. If that is the level on which they desire to operate, says Paul, they will miss out on the full meaning of Jesus Christ, the purpose of his coming into the world, the salvation he has to offer, and the many gifts he has to offer. “What God has freely given” is actually a passive participle of the verb charizomai (GK 5919), with God as the expressed agent (called a “divine passive”; cf. NASB, “the things freely given to us by God”). It denotes in the broadest way possible all communication of teachings and gifts from God to us.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1753). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 88–89). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 62–63). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 279). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.