The Holy Spirit must begin a work of illumination before any unbeliever will ever understand and receive the gospel. The Spirit must continue to perform this work for all believers as they wrestle with the text of Scripture. While He does not interpret the Bible for us, He does help us to understand the significance of the text. He shows us the difference that it ought to make in our lives.
Unsaved people in their natural state do not receive or welcome the things of God (1 Cor 2:14). Divine truth seems foolish to them because it is spiritually discerned. While they can exegete texts and can grasp what the Bible says, they cannot appreciate its relevance or know its significance because they reject the Bible’s frame of reference. The truth that they grasp is useless to them since they do not know it as it ought to be known.
In the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul dwells at length on the contrast between the wisdom of the unsaved world (which is ultimately foolish) and the (ultimately wise) foolishness of God (1:18–31). He states that he explicitly repudiated displays of human wisdom in his presentation of the divine truth (2:1–5). Instead, he affirmed the wisdom of God, the rejection of which led the rulers of this world to crucify the Lord of glory (2:6–8). The divine wisdom focuses upon the crucified Christ (1:17–18; 2:2). This hidden wisdom (i.e., Christ crucified) is what God has ordained before the world to the glory of His people (2:7).
At this point in his discourse, Paul writes one of the most frequently misunderstood statements in all of Scripture: “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” (2:9). This verse is commonly understood to be talking about the glories of heaven, as if heaven were such a wonderful place that we cannot even imagine it ahead of time. While it is certainly true that we cannot imagine how blessed heaven will be, that idea is completely foreign to this context.
Rather, Paul has been talking about God’s hidden wisdom. It is wisdom that has been rejected by the wise and powerful of this world. It cannot be discerned through natural observation or invented through natural imagination. Nevertheless, God formed His plan according to this eternal wisdom, which comes to a focal point in the cross work of Christ. What God prepared for those who love Him is not merely heaven, but all of salvation and everything that God had to do to secure it.
If this wisdom cannot be known through natural observation or invented through natural imagination, then how could anyone ever receive it? Paul answers this question in only one way: God revealed it. Revelation may be defined as the disclosure by God to humans of truth that they did not know and could not otherwise have known. Paul’s point is that natural observation and imagination cannot arrive at true knowledge of the things that God has prepared for His people, but God has Himself revealed them (2:10).