The Spirit Opens the Treasures of God

The Spirit Opens the Treasures of God

November 8th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

11-08-81     10:50 a.m.



You are listening to the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Holy Spirit Opens the Treasures of God.  It is one in a series of doctrinal sermons on pneumatology, on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  And the message today is an exposition of the second chapter of 1 Corinthians.  And if you would like to turn in your Bible to this passage, you can follow the message easily.  First Corinthians, chapter 2, beginning at verse 5: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. For we speak wisdom among you that are teleios,” mature; not babbling babes, to whom the message and revelation would mean nothing but to you, who are teleios, translated here “perfect” [1 Corinthians 2:5-6], you who are mature. 


Yet not the wisdom of this world . . . for we speak the wisdom of God in a mustērion—

a secret wisdom that is known to us only by the revelation of God—

Even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. . .

As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 

But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth and knoweth and understandeth all the deep things of God…

And He, the Spirit, has made known unto us these things that are freely given to us of God. 

Which things we speak—

we are preaching of them this morning—

not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth. 

[1 Corinthians 2:6-13]


“For the psuchikos man,” Translated here “the natural man,” the psuchikos man—the Greek word for the sentient being of man is psychē, in Greek psuchē, and the adjectival form of it is psuchikos—for the sentient man, the natural man, the material man, the five-senses man, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [1 Corinthians 2:14].  But the pneumatikos man,” translated here “he that is spiritual”—pneuma, the word for spirit, in the adjectival form pneumatikos—“the spiritual man anakrinō,” discerns, “all things” [1 Corinthians 2:15]; to him there is revealed the mustērion of God.

Now our basic text: “Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of a man, what God has prepared for us who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9].  Now I have quoted that verse endless numbers of times, as everybody else has, but always misquote it.  I always quote that verse as though it referred to the other world that is yet to come.  I quote it world without end at funeral services: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, heart has not imagined what God has prepared for us who love the Lord” [1 Corinthians 2:9].  Now there is nothing wrong with that.  It is spiritually true.  But that is in nowise even approaching the meaning of the apostle.  He is not talking about a future world, another inheritance.  He is talking about this world, here and now: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, the heart has not imagined, but God hath,” God has already, “revealed them unto us by His Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10], here and now, in this present world, at this moment.

The distinction that the apostle is drawing in this passage is the distinction between man’s wisdom, the wisdom of the world, and God’s wisdom [1 Corinthians 2:11]; the difference between truth apprehended by the five senses of the sentient man and the truth that is revealed, the mustērion that is made known to us by the Spirit of God.  The distinction he is drawing here in this passage is between a world that is apprehended by our sight and sense, our sensitivity, between a world that we can see and feel and touch and taste and smell, between that world and a world that is revealed to us only by the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 2:11].

The distinction the apostle is drawing here is the difference between the psuchikos man and the pneumatikos man.  The psuchikos man: the man of materiality, the physical man, the man of the five senses, and he is avowing that the psuchikos man, the man who is sentient, who has five senses, cannot know revelation.  He cannot, by himself, in his sentient being, discover God.  The ear cannot hear Him, the eye cannot see Him, the heart cannot conceive of Him; the visible, audible, imaginable truth of God is only in the revelation of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].  But he says the pneumatikos man, the man of the Spirit, this man taught of God is able to receive the deep mustērion, the mysteries, the secret truth of the revelation of God [1 Corinthians 2:11-13].

Now that is the meaning of the apostle in the passage.  So let’s look at it: he says here, “Eye hath not seen” [1 Corinthians 2:9].  That is, spiritual, eternal truth cannot be discovered or discerned by observation by the human eye; it cannot be seen.  What the eye sees is temporal and transitory and passing, even its form and its symmetry and its beauty brings a certain sadness to our hearts.  For it is ephemeral, it is for the moment.  It is not eternal.

The people to whom Paul is writing this letter lived in Corinth, one of the great beautiful cities of the ancient world.  It was a city of form and beauty and culture.  The Corinthian column, the Corinthian column is the most ornate and beautiful of all of the architectural columns ever imagined. When Mummius, the Roman general destroyed, plundered Corinth in 146 BC after which Julius Caesar rebuilt it; but when Mummius plundered it, when he was given a Roman triumph through the cities of the city of Rome, there were wagonloads and wagonloads and wagonloads of art and sculpture, and beautiful masterpieces created by those pagan Greeks.  But what the eye can see is bounded; it is measured in inches or feet or yards, and even though it is made out of marble, it is perishing.  And as I say, there is a sadness about looking upon it.  There is a melancholy that accompanies it.  The sunset, or the rainbow, or the very stars themselves fade away and certainly human and natural beauty.  That is why once in a while, we read of a Hollywood actress who commits suicide.  She cannot bear the hurt of seeing her lovely form vanish through the years.  It is only the eternal loveliness that endures, only the King in His beauty.  It is the land that we scan from afar, it is the beautiful and wonderful city of God that endures [Hebrews 11:10]

What the eye can see, what the man, the psuchikos man can observe, is just outward, it is never inward.  It is peripheral; it is never central or dynamic.  The five senses, the eye can never bring a revelation, never.  By searching, a man can never find God.  What the eye can see and what the man is capable of observing is just the outward, ephemeral, transitory aspect of reality, of things, of being.  For example, the eye can use a telescope or a microscope or a test tube, or use compounds and comprehensions to look at all the world of creation around us, but its meaning and its purpose is hid, you could never know it by just looking, by just observation.  For example, an anatomist can look at the anatomical organization of the body.  He can probe into the cerebral spheres, and he can even measure the nerve impulses, but he can’t find thought or discover it.  Or look again, the anatomist can examine the brain, the cerebellum, and the nerve endings and all of the dendrites and fibers of our sentient system, but he can never discover the mind.  Where is it?  What is it?  Look again, the anatomist can handle, and weigh, and measure, and probe, and observe the organs of the body—the lungs, the viscera—but he can never discover conscience!  Or again, the anatomist can examine and measure the skeleton and the muscles and the tendons and the fibers, but he could never discover the soul and the spirit; they are hidden from observation from the eye!  You can probe and study the human anatomy forever and never discover duty, or dedication, or love, or hope, or faith, or immortality, or resurrection.  That’s why the student of anatomy will turn away, an infidel!  And the physician will turn away, an unbeliever!  Observation: the probing of the eye cannot see into the great mustērion, the secret mystery of God.  It has to be revealed to the pneumatikos man, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . .” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. Great spiritual, eternal truth is not discerned, it is not discovered by the hearing of the—and just name it: the philosophies, the lectures, the metaphysics, the speculations, all of the discussions of men, never!  Not by the ear do we hear the deep things, the mustērion of God [1 Corinthians 2:9]

What you hear in the ear is just the sound of a cymbal of something else, and it is meaningless unless you have the idea already.  There is no relationship between, say, a dollar bill and the loaf of bread that it will buy.  Nor is there any relationship between the sound of a word and the idea that it conveys.  If a man doesn’t have the idea, if it is not revealed to him already, the word is meaningless.  You could stand in the heart of hot, tropical, jungle, Congo Africa and talk to one of those black natives about ice, and about snow—he’d have no idea what you meant.  You could talk to a blind man about color; blue and gold and orange—he’d have no idea what you meant.  You can talk to a man who all his life had been in a cell, about infinitude—he’d have no conception of an idea what you meant.  The idea has to be revealed to the man before the word, the hearing of the ear means anything at all.  Thus it is in the revelation of the musterion of God: except the man is taught, his heart is opened by the Spirit of God, the words are meaningless.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees heard Jesus, but they hated Him! [Matthew 12:14; Luke 22:2].  And they encompassed His death, they crucified Him [Acts 7:52]

On Mars Hill, before the Areopagus—the supreme court, the Athenian Stoics and the Epicureans, philosophers heard the apostle Paul [Acts 17:18].  But the Epicureans, when they heard his message, laughed out loud; they scoffed at its foolishness!  And the Stoics where somewhat more gracious and gentle, they bowed out with a smile and saying, “We will hear you again on the matter,” and left [Acts 17:31-32].  It’s only when the Spirit teaches the man, and opens his heart to the meaning, that the message has any repercussion in his life [1 Corinthians 2:10-11].  The man can hear, and he hears, and he hears, and he hears, and then one day he hears, and he is wonderfully saved.  Otherwise, the message is foolishness as it was to the Epicureans, as it was to the Stoics [Acts 17:31-32], or it is bitterly opposed as by the Pharisees and the Sadducees [Acts 23:1-15].  It isn’t by hearing by the ear that we come to discern and to discover the marvelous, infinite grace and love of God [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].

 Do you notice he adds another?  It is not by the sight of the eye, it’s not by human observation.  It’s not by the hearing of the ear, neither is it by the creative, imaginative faculty of the heart, of the mind [1 Corinthians 2:9].  I think that one of the sublimest, creative realities in this world is the faculty that God has given to a man to create, to imagine, to think.  When noble thought bursts into flame; when the human genious inspired, expresses itself in moving music, or in poetry or in drama or in literature, it is an incomparable gift of God.  But in itself, it is not able to discover the musterion of the Lord. The great musician, or the tremendously gifted dramatist, or the marvelous author is as likely to be an infidel as not.  And what he writes in his play or in his novel may be as likely blasphemous as it is God-honoring. You don’t discover God in the imaginative, creative faculty of man; neither does the heart conceive of it [1 Corinthians 2:9]

Sometimes I think of Plato.  He lived among the people who rose higher in human thought and human achievement than any other nation or race of people who ever lived.  We have never begun to touch the hem of the garment of the glory of Greek poetry, philosophy, art, architecture, literature, philosophy.  In Oxford, there were four hundred different courses on the philosopher Aristotle alone.  We have never had a nation of people who ever rose to such heights of intellectual, philosophical, artistic achievement, like those ancient Greeks.  And yet, Plato said in one of the most pathetic, one of the saddest of all the passages in his beautiful writing, Plato said, “Oh, that there were some sure word, some revelation from God upon which we might cast our souls as we cross this boundless sea to some further unknown shore.”  The genius, the creative, imaginative faculty of the human man cannot discover God.  It is a mustērion, hidden in the heart of the Almighty, unknown until He reveals it [Colossians 1:26].

Our eyes cannot see it, our ears cannot hear it, our imaginative, creative faculty cannot reach it.  Then the apostle avows a marvelous avowal, “What eye cannot see and what ear does not hear,” and what the creative, imaginative faculty of man is not able to reach, “God hath revealed it unto us by His Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].  And we have been made to know the things that are freely given to us of God, the great mustērion, the hidden wisdom of God, which He ordained before the world unto our glory, our salvation, our exaltation [Colossians 1:26].

Well, that is a remarkable thing the apostle is avowing.  He is saying that we have another sense besides these five sentient senses.  We have another sense.  We have another faculty.  The apostle would avow the animals, the anthropoids, have the five senses we possess, but we possess one no animal possesses, no anthropoid, no simian, no ape, no other creature.  We have an endowment from God that no other creature has, and that is we have the sense of the presence of God [Romans 1:19].  And we have the ability to receive the mustērion, the wisdom of God—not the wisdom of the world, the sentient wisdom that we can learn ourselves—but a wisdom that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God.

And Paul describes in 1 Timothy 3:16 that mustērion, that hidden wisdom, and it goes like this: “And without controversy great is the mustērion of godliness: namely, God was manifest in the flesh.”  No human philosophy, or deduction, or speculation would ever reach a revelation like that.  This Babe—born of a virgin Jewish girl, poor, in a stable, laid in a manger [Luke 2:7-16]—this Babe is God Almighty, incarnate! [Matthew 1:23].  The Spirit of God must reveal that truth to a man; otherwise it is foolishness to him [1 Corinthians 2:14].  In Christ we have all of God.  To love Jesus is to love God; to bow before the Lord Jesus is to bow before God, to sit at the feet of Jesus is to sit at the feet of God.  To receive the Lord Jesus is to receive God.  To serve the Lord Jesus is to serve God.  The great mustērion revealed to us by the Spirit of God: He was manifest in the flesh” [1 Timothy 3:16], He was preached to the people, and believed on in the world [1 Timothy 3:16].  That is a mustērion!  Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians: “For when in the wisdom of the world the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” [1 Corinthians 1:21].  This is a miracle of God, a musterion of the Lord, that in preaching, in presenting the best that a preacher knows how, the wonderful truth of the Lord, the Spirit of God takes the message and He bears it to the heart of a believer. 

There are many people, world without end, to whom my best preaching is foolishness.  They could listen to me forever and never be moved, never be stirred, never be won, never be convicted, never come to a saving faith in Christ.  But the mustērion, the marvelous secret of God, He takes the message, however stammeringly it may be presented.  And to some He will bear it on the wings of the Spirit, and the man listens, and he’ll be convicted, and he’ll be converted, and he’ll find a new hope, and a new life, and a new vision, a new prayer, and a new golden tomorrow in Christ.  It is a marvelous thing, it is a wonderful thing, it is a work of the Spirit of God, and without that Spirit of the Lord opening the man’s heart, it is foolishness to him [1 Corinthians 1:18-24, 2:14]

I want to take liberty if I may with the Scripture here, and I pray the Lord will understand as I do this.  There are, say, two men who are seated in the Dallas Music Hall, and they are listening to a symphony, some of the finest music ever written, and the two men are seated there side by side, listening to the symphony.  And one of the men is ecstatic, he is simply lifted out of this world, and he is in heavenly places as he listens to the marvelous music of that symphony orchestra.  Right by his side is a man seated who is bored to tears, and he looks at the long, interminable program with a weary and cast-down eye.  You see?  And now may the Lord forgive me for taking liberty with His Holy Scripture.  You see?  “The ear receiveth not those things, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are musically discerned.”  And one man in his heart is ecstatic, and the other man is wearisomely tortured to sit through the hour. It is musically discerned.

I mustn’t take too much time, but grant me one other.  Two men are standing under the chalice of the blue, starry sky.  And one of them looks up, and he sees the glorious handiwork of God, and he cries, “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth His lacework, His crochet work, His knitting work, His handiwork”—the word means that—“And the firmament shows the beautiful delicate tracery of God.  Day unto day and night after night, God uttereth speech!” [Psalm 19:1-2]. That’s one of those men.  The other man across the street will look at the brightness of the sky and the brightness of the moon, and wait in longing for the moon to go down and the stars to go out in order that he might break into your house and rob you of your treasures.  For you see the eye receiveth not these things, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14].  God has to do something to the heart before the revelation of God is ever received, ever believed, before it is ever meaningful. Otherwise it is foolishness, it has no meaning.  I must close, our time is gone. 

Great is the mustērion of God.  Not only He was manifest in the flesh, and not only is He preached and some believe—the work of the Holy Spirit—but it says here analambanō, “received up”; it’s translated “caught up, picked up, carried up into glory” [1 Timothy 3:16].  And the Bible is firm to say that if we are with Him, we are caught up with Him—uses those words, “We are caught up with Him.” We are lifted up with Him.  We are raised up with Him.  We are received up with Him [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  He is the Lord of all creation, and we are His brothers and sisters, to reign with Him forever and ever [Revelation 22:3-5].  And that is the most marvelous, redemptive grace of God that mind could imagine: that God receives us, and takes us up, and picks us up, and carries us up with Him into glory.

It is like this: a hunter was standing between the forest and the field, and he saw in the distance a little fawn, a little deer, being run down by the hounds.  And as the little thing staggered to die, it turned in terror to face the dogs.  But in turning, the pitiful little thing saw the hunter standing there.  And with one last burst of energy, the little fawn ran to the hunter and fell prostrate at his feet.  The man was amazed.  He picked up the little thing in his arms, fought off the dogs, carried it home, loved it, made a pet of it, and kept it as a reminder of such sublime and infinite faith.

The hounds of hell run us down!  Look over your shoulder, look behind you—sin, and death, and the grave, and corruption, and judgment—and in our terror, as we face the inexorable and inevitable foe, we see Jesus.  And we fall at His feet, “Lord, Lord, against such foes, I have no ableness or power to do it; a sinner, a dying man, facing the grave and an eternity, for what Lord?  God, be merciful to me, a sinner.  God, be pitiful to me as I fall at Thy feet.  If I can trust the promises of the Book and if I can trust the sweet experience of mother and father, and ten thousand times ten thousand since, Jesus will pick me up and keep me and save me and present me someday faultless before the great Glory, receive us into glory” [Jude 24].  This is a revelation of God.  Eye doesn’t discover it, ear doesn’t discern it, the human creative faculty doesn’t reach it.  It is something God does for us.  Oh, bless and praise His wonderful name!  Now, may we stand together?

Our Lord Jesus, how could we ever frame the sentence to say it?  The depths of our gratitude for the gospel message that came unto us; heard when I was a boy and the message fell upon a heart, eager and open and yielded and willing.  And the Holy Spirit invited to a faith that saves, to a Savior that keeps, to a fellowship in the family of God.  O Lord, I praise Thee forever.  Now dear Jesus, may this message fall upon hearts that the Holy Spirit has opened.  May God bear it to the soul that is responsive and sensitive.  And may that other faculty that we have, the faculty that can know God, may the Lord speak to us and in a marvelous, miraculous way turn our foolish wisdom of this world into the infinite, eternal, lovely, beautiful, glorious, spiritual, soul-saving wisdom of God.

And while our people pray and wait, you, a family you, to respond: tell your wife, “Wife, let’s go.”  Tell your children, “Let’s go.”  A family you to come forward, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “This day we have decided for God, and we are coming.”  Don’t anybody leave, stay here for this precious moment of appeal.  I will give you opportunity to leave in just a little bit, after the invitation.  I will keep that promise, but stay here now.  Stay and pray, stay and wait.

And Spirit of Jesus, touch the heart, and the home, and the life, and the soul of these that all ought to come this morning, and we will love Thee and praise Thee for the response, in Thy dear name, amen. 

Down that stairway, down one of these aisles, “Here we are, pastor.  Here we stand.”  Do it now.  Come now.  Welcome now, while we wait and pray, and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

Corinthians 2:9-10


I.          The text is quoted in a sense not
meant by the apostle

A.  He
is not talking about a future world, another inheritance, but about the here
and now(1 Corinthians 2:10)

B.  Apostle
drawing a distinction…

1.  Between
man’s wisdom and God’s

2.  Between
a world apprehended by our senses and one revealed only by the Spirit of God

Between the psuchikos man and pneumatikos man(1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

II.         Spiritual, eternal truth is not
discerned by the eye

A.  All
the human eye can see is temporal, transitory, passing

1.  Corinth,
a city of art, beauty, form

All the eye can see is bounded – measured by inches, yards

B.  Truths of God not discerned by observation

1.  Five senses can
never bring revelation

2.  No human analysis
can discern God

III.        Spiritual, eternal truth not reached
by hearing speculation, philosophies of men

A.  Man’s
words cannot bring a revelation

A word is meaningless unless we already know the idea

B.  Hearing
of itself cannot bring a saving revelation of God

1.  The
Pharisees, the Athenian philosophers

IV.       Spiritual, eternal truth is not
discerned by human creativity

A.  Creative,
imaginative faculty of man is almost sublime

1.  In itself cannot
find God

2.  The cry of Plato

V.        Spiritual, eternal truth is revealed to
us by His Spirit

A.  Man
has another sense – the highest, spiritual sensitivity

The great mystery of the gospel (1 Timothy 3:16)

God Incarnate(Colossians 1:15-17)

Believed on by men(1 Corinthians 1:21)

Some can hear and not be saved; some saved no matter how stammeringly it is

3.  Carried
into glory

a. The hunter and the