1Co 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- 1Co 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
One of the many profitable things about studying the Bible verse by verse in its context is that we sometimes realize that verses we have heard preached all our lives and have quoted ourselves, have been done so out of context which many times results in a misunderstanding. Verse 9 above is a good example. It is generally taken to mean that Heaven is so wonderful that we can’t even imagine its glories.
To be sure this is a truism. There is no way we can fathom what it will be like to stand before the triune, eternal, omnipotent, holy God. Paul hints at this in Rom. 8:18 when he tells us that this life cannot compare to the next and in 2 Cor. 12:4 when he is not permitted to relate what he saw while in Heaven. It is a “no brainer” that we have no real idea what lies ahead, but this verse in 1 Cor. 2 is not referring to that.
The context of chapter 2 is pitting the natural wisdom of man against the wisdom of God that can only be known by special revelation. Vs. 7 says that while saints have this wisdom, the lost do not; it is hidden from them. Vs. 8 is a case in point. Had Herod, Pilot and the Jewish leaders had this wisdom, this revelation and believed it they would have never have crucified Jesus.
In this context Paul quotes Isa. 64:4, not verbatim but in spirit. If you study out Isa. 4 you see that this is used to relate the idea of how wonderful it is for God to reveal himself and have a relationship with man. Vs. 4 suggests that as a rule no one really understood the glory of God until he comes down and reveals himself to them in some way and this is why Paul uses it in 1 Cor. The natural man has no interest in the plan of God in saving sinners and bringing them to glory. The Jews didn’t even see themselves as sinners so they had no interest in a savior who was going to hang on a tree, become cursed by God all for the forgiveness of their sins.
Vs. 10 proves that vs. 9 is speaking of those lost who are in darkness because it says that whatever is hid in vs. 9 from them has been (present tense) revealed to us. That is why I highlighted it. Whatever vs. 9 is speaking of we already know it!
So what is the meaning and why make it a point to explain what this verse really means? First of all, because it is never good to misquote a verse if we change its meaning. God put it here for a reason which is more important than any point we might want to make by misapplying it.
Secondly, this is showing that the natural man is unable to believe the gospel until God reveals it to him by changing his heart and mind. To me, this is a decidedly Calvinistic verse in a decidedly Calvinistic couple of chapters. All of us are born into this life in the darkness of sin in which we love ourselves and hate God and we care nothing for why he made this earth and the salvation he has provided and what is more we are quite happy to remain in the dark. This is the worldly wisdom of this age that is taught in the universities and promoted in the media. And if it is held to it will lead us merrily to God’s Judgment.
What this passage is saying is that unless God comes and reveals himself to us and changes our hearts to believe on him there is no way we can come to the knowledge of salvation on our own. In other words, this passage is teaching the effects of total depravity and the necessity of the sovereign intervention of God to save without which we are all lost because our darkness won’t allow us to see and love and believe who God is and what he is doing. If you read through these first two chapters with this in mind I think it will be clear.