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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:1. When I came to you — Acting suitably to my mission, which was to preach the Gospel, but not with human eloquence, 1 Corinthians 1:17. I declared to you the testimony, the Gospel, of God, not with excellency of speech, not with arts of rhetoric, used by your own philosophers, where the excellence of the speech recommends the matter, and compensates for the want of solidity and truth: on the contrary, the testimony concerning Christ and his salvation is so supremely excellent, as to dignify any kind of language by which it may be conveyed. See the Introduction, sect. ii.

Verse 2

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:2. I determined not to know any thing among you — Satisfied that the Gospel of God could alone make you wise unto salvation, I determined to cultivate no other knowledge, and to teach nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, as the foundation of all true wisdom, piety, and happiness. No other doctrine shall I proclaim among you.

Verse 3

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:3. I was with you in weakness — It is very likely that St. Paul had not only something in his speech very unfavourable to a ready and powerful elocution, but also some infirmity of body that was still more disadvantageous to him. A fine appearance and a fine voice cover many weaknesses and defects, and strongly and forcibly recommend what is spoken, though not remarkable for depth of thought or solidity of reasoning. Many popular orators have little besides their persons and their voice to recommend them. Louis XIV. styled Peter du Bosc le plus beau parleur de son royaume, the finest speaker in his kingdom; and among his own people he was styled l'orateur parfait, the perfect orator. Look at the works of this French protestant divine, and you find it difficult to subscribe to the above sayings. The difficulty is solved by the information that the person of M. du Bosc was noble and princely, and his voice full, harmonious, and majestic. Paul had none of these advantages, and yet idolatry and superstition fell before him. Thus GOD was seen in the work, and the man was forgotten.

In fear, and in much trembling. — This was often the state of his mind; dreading lest he should at any time be unfaithful, and so grieve the Spirit of God; or that, after having preached to others, himself should be a castaway. See 1 Corinthians 9:27.

An eminent divine has said that it requires three things to make a good preacher; study, temptation, and prayer. The latter, no man that lives near to God can neglect; the former, no man who endeavours rightly to divide the word of truth will neglect; and with the second every man will be more or less exercised whose whole aim is to save souls. Those of a different cast the devil permits to pass quietly on in their own indolent and prayerless way.

Verse 4

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:4. And my speech — ο λογος μου, My doctrine; the matter of my preaching.

And my preaching — το κηρυγμα μου, My proclamation, my manner of recommending the grand but simple truths of the Gospel.

Was not with enticing words of man's wisdom — ενπειθοις ανθρωπινης σοφιας λογοις, With persuasive doctrines of human wisdom: in every case I left man out, that God might become the more evident. I used none of the means of which great orators avail themselves in order to become popular, and thereby to gain fame.

But in demonstration of the Spirit — αποδειξει, In the manifestation; or, as two ancient MSS. have it, αποκαλυψει, in the revelation of the Spirit. The doctrine that he preached was revealed by the Spirit: that it was a revelation of the Spirit, the holiness, purity, and usefulness of the doctrine rendered manifest: and the overthrow of idolatry, and the conversion of souls, by the power and energy of the preaching, were the demonstration that all was Divine. The greater part of the best MSS., versions, and fathers, leave out the adjective ανθρωπινης, man's, before σοφιας, wisdom: it is possible that the word may be a gloss, but it is necessarily implied in the clause. Not with the persuasive discourses, or doctrines of wisdom; i.e. of human philosophy.

Verse 5

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:5. That your faith should not stand — That the illumination of your souls and your conversion to God might appear to have nothing human in it: your belief, therefore, of the truths which have been proposed to you is founded, not in human wisdom, but in Divine power: human wisdom was not employed; and human power, if it had been employed, could not have produced the change.

Verse 6

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:6. We speak wisdom among them that are perfect — By the εν τοις τελειοις, among those that are perfect, we are to understand Christians of the highest knowledge and attainments- those who were fully instructed in the knowledge of God through Christ Jesus. Nothing, in the judgment of St. Paul, deserved the name of wisdom but this. And though he apologizes for his not coming to them with excellency of speech or wisdom, yet he means what was reputed wisdom among the Greeks, and which, in the sight of God, was mere folly when compared with that wisdom that came from above. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the apostle mentions a fourfold wisdom.

1. Heathen wisdom, or that of the Gentile philosophers, 1 Corinthians 1:22, which was termed by the Jews חכמה יונית chokmah yevanith, Grecian wisdom; and which was so undervalued by them, that they joined these two under the same curse: Cursed is he that breeds hogs; and cursed is he who teaches his son Grecian wisdom. Bava Kama, fol. 82.

2. Jewish wisdom; that of the scribes and Pharisees, who crucified our Lord, 1 Corinthians 2:8.

3. The Gospel, which is called the wisdom of God in a mystery, 1 Corinthians 2:7.

4. The wisdom, του αιωνος τουτου, of this world; that system of knowledge which the Jews made up out of the writings of their scribes and doctors. This state is called העולם הזה haolam hazzeh, this or the present world; to distinguish it from העולם הבא haolam habba the world to come; i.e. the days of the Messiah. Whether we understand the term, this world, as relating to the state of the Gentiles, cultivated to the uttermost in philosophical learning, or the then state of the Jews, who had made the word of God of no effect by their traditions, which contained a sort of learning of which they were very fond and very proud, yet, by this Grecian and Jewish wisdom, no soul ever could have arrived at any such knowledge or wisdom as that communicated by the revelation of Christ. This was perfect wisdom; and they who were thoroughly instructed in it, and had received the grace of the Gospel, were termed τελειοι, the perfect. This, says the apostle, is not the wisdom of this world, for that has not the manifested Messiah in it; nor the wisdom of the rulers of this world-the chief men, whether philosophers among the Greeks, or rabbins among the Jews (for those we are to understand as implied in the term rulers, used here by the apostle) these rulers came to nought; for they, their wisdom, and their government, were shortly afterwards overturned in the destruction of Jerusalem. This declaration of the apostle is prophetic. The ruin of the Grecian superstition soon followed.

Verse 7

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:7. The wisdom of God in a mystery — The GOSPEL of Jesus Christ, which had been comparatively hidden from the foundation of the world, (the settling of the Jewish economy, as this phrase often means,) though appointed from the beginning to be revealed in the fulness of time. For, though this Gospel was, in a certain sense, announced by the prophets, and prefigured by the law, yet it is certain that even the most intelligent of the Jewish rulers, their doctors, scribes, and Pharisees, had no adequate knowledge of it; therefore it was still a mystery to them and others, till it was so gloriously revealed by the preaching of the apostles.

Verse 8

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:8. Which none of the princes of this world knew — Here it is evident that this world refers to the Jewish state, and to the degree of knowledge in that state: and the rulers, the priests, rabbins, c., who were principally concerned in the crucifixion of our Lord.

The Lord of glory. — Or the glorious Lord, infinitely transcending all the rulers of the universe whose is eternal glory; who gave that glorious Gospel in which his followers may glory, as it affords them such cause of triumph as the heathens had not, who gloried in their philosophers. Here is a teacher who is come from God; who has taught the most glorious truths which it is possible for the soul of man to conceive; and has promised to lead all the followers of his crucified Master to that state of glory which is ineffable and eternal.

Verse 9

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:9. But, as it is written — The quotation is taken from Isaiah 64:4. The sense is continued here from verse seven, and λαλουμεν, we speak, is understood-We do not speak or preach the wisdom of this world; but that mysterious wisdom of God, of which the prophet said: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love him. These words have been applied to the state of glory in a future world; but they certainly belong to the present state, and express merely the wondrous light, life, and liberty which the Gospel communicates to them that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in that way which the Gospel itself requires. To this the prophet himself refers; and it is evident, from the following verse, that the apostle also refers to the same thing. Such a scheme of salvation, in which God's glory and man's felicity should be equally secured, had never been seen, never heard of, nor could any mind but that of God have conceived the idea of so vast a project; nor could any power but his own have brought it to effect.

Verse 10

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:10. But God hath revealed them unto us — A manifest proof that the apostle speaks here of the glories of the Gospel, and not of the glories of the future world.

For the Spirit searcheth all things — This is the Spirit of God, which spoke by the prophets, and has now given to the apostles the fulness of that heavenly truth, of which He gave to the former only the outlines.

Yea, the deep things of God. — It is only the Spirit of God which can reveal the counsels of God: these are the purposes which have existed in His infinite wisdom and goodness from eternity; and particularly what refers to creation, providence, redemption, and eternal glory, as far as men and angels are concerned in these purposes. The apostles were so fully convinced that the scheme of redemption proclaimed by the Gospel was Divine, that they boldly asserted that these things infinitely surpassed the wisdom and comprehension of man. God was now in a certain way become manifest; many attributes of his, which to the heathen world would have for ever lain in obscurity, (for the world by wisdom knew not God,) were now not only brought to light as existing in him, but illustrated by the gracious displays which He had made of himself. It was the Spirit of God alone that could reveal these things; and it was the energy of that Spirit alone that could bring them all into effect-stamp and seal them as attributes and works of God for ever. The apostles were as truly conscious of their own inspiration as they were that they had consciousness at all; and what they spoke, they spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 11

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:11. For what man knoweth the things of a man — The word ανθρωπων in the first clause is omitted by the Codex Alexandrinus, and one other; and by Athanasius, Cyril, and Vigil of Tapsus. Bishop Pearce contends strongly against the authenticity of the word, and reads the passage thus: "For what is there that knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of a man that is in him?" "I leave out," says the learned bishop, "ανθρωπων, with the Alexandrian MS., and read τις γαρ οιδεν τα του ανθρωπου; because I conceive that the common reading is wide of St. Paul's meaning; for to say, What man except the spirit of a man, is (I think) to speak improperly, and to suppose that the spirit of a man is a man; but it is very proper to say, What except the spirit of a man: τις is feminine as well as masculine, and therefore may be supplied with ουσια, or some such word, as well as with ανθρωπος." Though the authority for omitting this word is comparatively slender, yet it must be owned that its omission renders the text much more intelligible. But even one MS. may preserve the true reading.

The spirit of a man knows the things of a man: that is, a man is conscious of all the schemes, plans, and purposes, that pass in his own mind; and no man can know these things but himself. So, the Spirit of God, He whom we call the Third Person of the glorious TRINITY, knows all the counsels and determinations of the Supreme Being. As the Spirit is here represented to live in God as the soul lives in the body of a man, and as this Spirit knows all the things of God, and had revealed those to the apostles which concern the salvation of the world, therefore what they spoke and preached was true, and men may implicitly depend upon it. The miracles which they did, in the name of Christ, were the proof that they had that Spirit, and spoke the truth of God.

Verse 12

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world — We, who are the genuine apostles of Christ, have received this Spirit of God, by which we know the deep things of God; and, through the teaching of that Spirit, we preach Christ crucified. We have not therefore received the spirit of the world-of the Jewish teachers, who are all looking for a worldly kingdom and a worldly Messiah, and interpret all the scriptures of the Old Testament which relate to Him in a carnal and worldly sense.

That we might know the things — We receive this teaching that we may know what those supereminently excellent things are which God has purposed freely to give to mankind. It is evident that, as the apostle means by princes of the world the rulers of the Jews, 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, so by spirit of the world he here means Jewish wisdom, or their carnal mode of interpreting the sacred oracles, and their carnal expectation of a worldly kingdom under the Messiah.

Verse 13

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:13. Which things also we speak — We dare no more use the language of the Jews and the Gentiles in speaking of those glorious things, than we can indulge their spirit. The Greek orators affected a high and florid language, full of tropes and figures, which dazzled more than it enlightened. The rabbins affected obscurity, and were studious to find out cabalistical meanings, which had no tendency to make the people wise unto salvation. The apostles could not follow any of these; they spoke the things of God in the words of God; every thing was plain and intelligible; every word well placed, clear, and nervous. He who has a spiritual mind will easily comprehend an apostle's preaching.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual. — This is commonly understood to mean, comparing the spiritual things under the Old Testament with the spiritual things under the New: but this does not appear to be the apostle's meaning. The word συγκρινοντες, which we translate comparing, rather signifies conferring, discussing, or explaining; and the word πνευματικοις should be rendered to spiritual men, and not be referred to spiritual things. The passage therefore should be thus translated: Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons. And this sense the following verse absolutely requires.

Verse 14

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:14. But the natural man — ψυχικος, The animal man-the man who is in a mere state of nature, and lives under the influence of his animal passions; for the word ψυχη, which we often translate soul, means the lower and sensitive part of man, in opposition to νους, the understanding or rational part. The Latins use anima to signify these lower passions; and animus to signify the higher. The person in question is not only one who either has had no spiritual teaching, or has not profited by it; but one who lives for the present world, having no respect to spiritual or eternal things. This ψυχικος, or animal man, is opposed to the πνευματικος, or spiritual man: and, as this latter is one who is under the influence of the Spirit of God, so the former is one who is without that influence.

The apostle did speak of those high and sublime spiritual things to these animal men; but he explained them to those which were spiritual. He uses this word in this sense, 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 9:11; and particularly in verse 1 Corinthians 2:15 of the present chapter: He that is spiritual judgeth all things. 1 Corinthians 2:15

But the natural man-The apostle appears to give this-as a reason why he explained those deep spiritual things to spiritual men; because the animal man-the man who is in a state of nature, without the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God, receiveth not the things of the Spirit-neither apprehends nor comprehends them: he has no relish for them; he considers it the highest wisdom to live for this world. Therefore these spiritual things are foolishness to him; for while he is in his animal state he cannot see their excellency, because they are spiritually discerned, and he has no spiritual mind.

Verse 15

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things — He who has the mind of Christ discerns and judges of all things spiritual: yet he himself is not discerned by the mere animal man. Some suppose that the word ανακρινεται should be understood thus: He examines, scrutinizes, convinces, reproves, which it appears to mean in 1 Corinthians 14:24; and they read the verse thus: The spiritual man-the well-taught Christian, convinces, i.e. can easily convict, all men, (παντα, accusing,) every animal man, of error and vice; yet he himself is convicted of no man; his mind is enlightened, and his life is holy; and therefore the animal man cannot convict him of sin. This is a good sense, but the first appears the most natural. See Pearce and Rosenmuller.

Verse 16

Verse 1 Corinthians 2:16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord — Who that is still an animal man can know the mind of God? so as to instruct him, viz. the spiritual man, the same that is spoken of, 1 Corinthians 2:15. But the words may be better understood thus: How can the animal man know the mind of the Lord? and how can any man communicate that knowledge which he has never acquired, and which is foolishness to him, because it is spiritual, and he is animal? This quotation is made from Isaiah 40:13.

But we have the mind of Christ. — He has endowed us with the same disposition, being born again by his Spirit; therefore we are capable of knowing his mind and receiving the teachings of his Spirit. These teachings we do receive, and therefore are well qualified to convey them to others.

The words, that he may instruct him, ος συμβιβασει αυτον, should be translated that he may teach IT: that is, the mind of God; not instruct God, but teach his mind to others. And this interpretation the Hebrew will also bear.

Bishop Pearce observes: "The principal questions here are,, what συμβιβασει signifies, and what αυτον is relative to. The Hebrew word which the Septuagint translate by these two is יודיענו yodiennu: now, since ידיע yodia signifies as well to make known as to know, (and indeed this is the most frequent sense of it in the Old Testament,) the suffix (postfix) נו nu, may relate to a thing, as well as to a person; and therefore it may be rendered not by him, but by it, i.e. the mind of the Lord. And in this sense the apostle seems to have used the words of the Seventy; for, if we understand αυτον here to be the relative to κυριου, Lord, this verse contains no reason for what went before; whereas, if it be a relative to νουν, mind, it affords a reason for what had been said before, 1 Corinthians 2:14." The true translation of the passage, as used by the apostle, appears to be this: For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should TEACH IT? And this translation agrees with every part of the context, and particularly with what follows.

1. THIS chapter might be considered a good model for a Christian minister to regulate his conduct by, or his public ministry; because it points out the mode of preaching used by St. Paul and the apostles in general. This great apostle came not to the people with excellency of speech and of wisdom, when he declared unto them the counsel of God. They know little, either of the spirit of St. Paul or the design of the Gospel, who make the chief excellence of their preaching to consist in the eloquence of language, or depth of human reasoning. That may be their testimony, but it is not God's. The enticing words of man's wisdom are seldom accompanied by the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit.

2. One justly remarks, that "the foolishness of preaching has its wisdom, loftiness, and eloquence; but this consists in the sublimity of its truths, the depth of its mysteries, and the ardour of the Spirit of God." In this respect Paul may be said to have preached wisdom among those which were perfect. The wisest and most learned men in the world, who have seriously read the Bible, have acknowledged that there is a depth and height of wisdom and knowledge in that book of God which are sought in vain any where else: and indeed it would not be a revelation from God were it not so. The men who can despise and ridicule this sacred book are those who are too blind to discover the objects presented to them by this brilliant light, and are too sensual to feel and relish spiritual things. They, above all others, are incapable of judging, and should be no more regarded when employed in talking against the sacred writings than an ignorant peasant should be, who, not knowing his alphabet, pretends to decry mathematical learning.

3. A new mode of preaching has been diligently recommended,- "Scriptural phraseology should be generally avoided where it is antiquated, or conveys ideas inconsistent with modern delicacy." St. Paul did not preach in the words which man's wisdom teacheth- such words are too mean and too low for a religion so Divine. That which the Holy Spirit alone can discover, he alone can explain. Let no man dare to speak of God in any other way than he speaks of himself in his word. Let us take care not to profane his truths and mysteries, either by such low and abject ideas as are merely human, or by new and worldly expressions altogether unworthy of the Spirit of God.

4. It is the glory of God, and ought to be ours, not to be acceptable to carnal men. The natural man always finds some pretence to excuse himself from believing, by looking on the mysteries of religion as being either too much above man or too much below God; the spiritual man judges them to be so much the more credible, the less credible they are to the natural man.

The opposition, contempt, and blindness of the world, with regard to the things of God, render all its judgments concerning them liable to exception: this blindness in spiritual things is the just punishment of a carnal life. The principal part of the above is extracted from the reflections of the pious Quesnel.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/1-corinthians-2.html. 1832.
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