The Deep Things of God
Archibald brown, December 17, 1899, Chatsworth Road Chapel,
"For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." 1 Corinthians 2:10
This text is vitally united, you will see, to the verse which precedes it, because this verse begins with 'but,' and that rivets it to the prior verse — it is the outcome of it — and that prior verse has, I suppose, suffered more from misquotation and misapplication than any other verse in inspired writ. You know it well: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.' That text is always handed over to Heaven, and it is read as if it taught that Heaven is such a beautiful, such a glorious place, that really we know nothing whatever about it; that no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and no heart can imagine, all the beautiful things that are stored up in an at present unseen Heaven.
I need hardly say that Heaven was not in the apostle's mind when he penned the words. You will see that so far from teaching that these things are not to be seen or cannot be known, the apostle goes on to say, in the language of our text, which is never quoted, 'But God has revealed them.' What a pity it is to cry halt and pull up at the end of the ninth verse, and say, 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him,' and not to go on to the next verse, 'But God has revealed them.'
The simple teaching of the passage is this: that mere worldly wisdom can never understand spiritual teaching; that there must be a revelation made by God, and that the work of the Holy Spirit is to make clear to men what they never could learn, either through the eye, through the ear, or by the imagination.
God has revealed these glories to us, because there is no other way in which we could acquire a knowledge of them but by revelation.
Mental perception, however keen, is not enough; you cannot fathom eternal realities. God has to draw the veil over these beauties, and reveal the facts in Scripture — and then the Holy Spirit reveals the Scripture again to us. There is thus a double revelation — God revealing his truth in the Word, and then the Holy Spirit revealing the Word unto us. Is it not true that the eye does not see these things? Millions of eyes can see God's work — but they never see the Artificer; millions of ears can hear the voice of God — but they never recognize that which is spoken. God must be revealed to be known.
That brings us right up to this declaration, that the Spirit searches all things; those things which the eye cannot see or the ear hear or the heart imagine — God has revealed unto us by his Spirit, 'for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.' What do you understand by 'the deep things of God'?
Everything that has to do with God is deep; God has no shallows — but God himself is the greatest depth. In the 11th chapter of Job at the 7-8th verses you have this remarkable utterance: 'Can you by searching find out God? Can you find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as Heaven; what can you do? deeper than Sheol; what can you know?' I know that we also speak of God's attributes. That is a very easy way of trying to get out of a greater difficulty — but when we have uttered the word 'attribute,' what do we mean by it? We speak of God's omnipotence, his omniscience, his omnipresence; but the dear orphan children can utter all these words, and perhaps know them better than some others here. When you have uttered them, what have you done? You have only, after all, uttered that which you yourself cannot comprehend. Every word in the list of Divine Attributes is an ocean which has neither a bottom nor shore! These are the depths of Godhead — but that is not what is intended in the text; it is not the depths of Godhead, but the deep things of God that are told to us.
From the 9th verse to the close of the chapter you have the word 'things' over and over again — I think eleven times — and if you have your Bibles with you, will you just for a moment cast your eyes down this portion; it has been called 'the chapter of things.'
Look at the 9th verse: 'The things which God has prepared.'
10th verse: 'The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.'
11th verse: 'For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man — but the Spirit of God.'
12th verse: 'Now we have received not the spirit of the world — but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.'
13th verse: 'Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches — but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.'
14th verse: 'But the natural man receives not the things of God.'
15th verse: 'But he who is spiritual discerns all things — yet he himself is discerned of no man.'
So that when you come to this portion you are not dealing with an isolated passage; the deep things are referred to all the way through these verses, and things are a short way of saying 'thinkings.' People say things — but when they say things, they are really saying thinkings, because everything was first a thought. This world before it became a thing was a thought in the Creator's mind. Every cathedral that has ever been built was a thought in the mind of the architect before it became a thing in the hands of the builder. Every book of poems was first of all a thought in the poet's mind — it is etherealized thought.
The things here spoken of are God's thinkings, God's thoughts — but God's thoughts are realities; they are no mere myths, they are things! God's children are not a number of poor deluded fools that dream of unsubstantial ideas. There are in the gospel wondrous realities, and the work of the Holy Spirit is to search, bring out, and teach us these things that are freely given to us — these things that are mentioned in our text as deep things. Let me mention these things that the Holy Spirit wants you to have and wishes you to enjoy.
At the head of the list we put God's deep LOVE. 'God so loved.' No plummet has ever yet been found capable of sounding the depths of that 'so' — 'God so loved.'
You cannot learn God's love from nature. I know people often say that they do not go to church or chapel or to the Tabernacle — but they go to worship God out in the fields, in nature. Can you see God's love revealed in nature? I can see God's goodness and God's beauty and God's wisdom — but when I want to see God's love I find that is one of the deep things. Some people may say that the Holy Spirit reveals God's love by the incarnation of Christ. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.' It is true, that in the birth of the Lord Jesus I do see God's love — but I don't see its depths in the incarnation. Look at 1 John 4:9-10, and there you will see its depth: 'In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God — but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.' When the Holy Spirit wants us to know the great depth of God's love, he points us to Calvary, and standing at the foot of that tree and gazing at that Sufferer, you learn the deep love of God as it can be learned in no other spot.
Then you will have noticed in the reading of that 3rd chapter of Ephesians that there is another deep thing that the Holy Spirit has revealed, and that is this, God's deep WISDOM in the church. That is a startling idea of Paul's, the angels studying their God in a redeemed church; those angels that were in existence millions of years before man was made; those beings of purity and light that may have seen countless millenniums, are shown as gazing on redeemed sinners, studying them — WHY? That they might know the multifaceted wisdom of their God; the love that prompted such a salvation, the amazing wisdom that devised such a scheme of salvation, just to God and yet kind to man.
I often wish that our services were not so formal, and that pew and platform could talk together. If so, I would like to ask some of you what other things you would name. We have seen that the text means that there are deep things that God wishes us to know; we have deep love, deep wisdom, and I would like to add next, deep MERCY.
In Psalm 36:5, we read, 'Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens,' and yet it comes down to me. How wonderfully deep it is! Mercy came down from Heaven — and picked up a poor vile sinner lying at the gate of Hell. He who knows anything about himself can only stand amazed that the mercy that has her home up there in the heavens — should stoop down so deep to the earth.
But that same 36th Psalm suggests another deep, not only deep mercy — but deep RIGHTEOUSNESS. That is what people do not like to hear about at the present day. 'Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep.' The great deeps of Divine righteousness are revealed in the gospel. There is nothing in the Old Testament half so dreadful, as what you can find in the New.
Do you want to know the righteousness of God and his hatred of sin? You say, look at the deluge — that proved it. Look at those blazing cities in the plain! Ask the Holy Spirit, and he will say, look away from the deluge; look away from Sodom and Gomorrah. Where? At the Cross. There you will see the deep abhorrence of a holy God to sin! There you see the deeps of Divine righteousness and Divine judgment, when he who knew no sin was made sin for us and became a curse — that we might have the blessing. People seem to forget in this present semi-infidel age, that the gospel is not only the witness of the deep mercy of God — but that it is the most dreadful witness of the deep abhorrence that God has to sin to be found anywhere!
What would you put next? I would put next, deep RECONCILIATION, because that is the outcome of the deep mercy and the deep righteousness. Human reconciliation is not a very thorough thing. They say, 'Scratch a Russian, and you find a Tartar' — but when God reconciled me unto himself, it was a deep reconciliation. He took away the underlying nature, that which caused the enmity, sin. Christ has taken the sin, and has borne it in his own body on the tree, and now the reconciliation between God and the sinner is perfect. This reconciliation is one of the deep things.
If there is deep reconciliation, you will almost anticipate the next point. Is not that accompanied by deep PARDON? When God forgives sin, he buries it — and there is no future resurrection of sin. In Micah 7:19, you have God's own picture of how he forgives. He says, 'I have cast their sins into the depths of the sea!' God does not throw our sins into the shallows, or on the margin, where an ebbing tide would expose them: they are sunk into the great depths of the ocean of his forgiving love!
As a consequence you and I have deep BLESSINGS. There is a deep peace for the believer that flows like a river; a peace that the devil cannot break up, peace that abides when everything else is in turmoil. Some of you will be thinking today what a lot of motion there is on the sea; on the surface the waves are very high — but you only have to go down deep enough to find that the waters that are deep down are never moved; there is perfect stillness down there.
If God's children have deep peace they also have deep JOY, a joy unspeakable; and, to crown all they are told by the Spirit that there are for them deep purposes of FUTURE GLORY. Jesus says, 'Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me!'
So you see all these deep things of God coming in beautiful succession; and the work of the Spirit is that I might know these things which are 'freely given to me of God.' God does not sell one of them, he freely gives them all, and anyone of us may have all these deep things.
I conclude with this solemn statement of the apostle concerning these things. They are not received by the natural man; he does not understand them. Look at the 14th verse: 'But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God.' True, they are revealed in the Word — but the natural man — Calvin puts 'the animal man' — he hears the preacher talking about the deep things — but the words do not convey anything to him; he may perhaps read the chapter right through, and he does not see anything in it, because deep things are spiritually discerned.
And so what the eye of the natural man cannot see, and what his ear may not hear — we yet know and know beyond a doubt. The Spirit of God, who is our Guide, he has touched the soul within, and he says, 'Deep things of God here.' Then go and pick them up! Pick them up and make them your own.