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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 2

Verses 1-99

Ch. 2. The wisdom of the Gospel discernible by the spiritual faculties alone

1 . And I, brethren, when I came to you ] The Apostle now begins to justify his preaching. It was not that of one skilled in the fashionable argumentation of the day, and that for the reasons already set forth.

the testimony of God ] St Paul’s testimony concerning God; the witness he gave to His combined love and justice, manifested to the world in the Life and Death of Jesus Christ. See note on 1:6.

2 . For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified ] He had come to deliver a testimony concerning God, and as we have seen, that testimony must needs result in the humiliation of man. Accordingly, its matter is very simple. All he knows is Jesus Christ, and even Him as having been reduced, in His humanity, to a condition which to the purely human apprehension appears one of the deepest disgrace. The words and Him crucified may be rendered thus, and even Him as having been crucified . See 1:23.

3 . And I was with you in weakness ] No personal advantages assisted his preaching: no eloquence, save that of deep conviction; no self-confidence; nothing but self-mistrust, anxiety, the deepest sense of unworthiness, combined with an infirmity of body, which was a great trial to the Apostle, and of which he makes frequent mention. See 2 Corinthians 10:10 , 2 Corinthians 10:11 :30; 2 Corinthians 12:5 , 2 Corinthians 12:7 , 2 Corinthians 12:9 , 2 Corinthians 12:10 ; Galatians 4:13 , Galatians 4:14 .

4 . in demonstration of the Spirit and of power ] Not persuasive ( πειθοῖς ) arguments, but appeals to the conscience and to the influence of a higher power. It is doubtful whether we should translate ‘the Spirit’ here, as though the Holy Spirit were meant, and more than doubtful whether we should interpret ‘power’ of miracles as generally understood. The Apostle is perhaps rather referring to that conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment (St John 16:8 ), which the Spirit of God produces in the spirit of man, and of the power to produce a change of heart and life which is the leading characteristic of the gospel. This view seems confirmed by the next verse, in which St Paul says that the ground of our faith is not the wisdom of men, but the power of God.

6 . Howbeit we speak wisdom ] Is there, then, no wisdom possible for a Christian? no sphere for the exercise of those faculties of the intellect which we received from God? the hearer may say. Certainly, says the Apostle, (for to say otherwise would be to contradict the Jewish Scriptures, especially Prov. 1 9), but it must take as its starting-point the truths revealed by Christ, and it will be proportionate, not to the secular knowledge or intellectual power of the inquirer, but to his moral and spiritual attainments, that is, to his proficiency in the doctrine of Christ.

among them that are perfect ] Perfect, i.e. full-grown, that which has reached its end . The great majority of the Corinthians were at present babes in Christ (ch. 3:1). Their notion of wisdom was earthly argument, disputation, “free inquiry.”

7 . the wisdom of God in a mystery ] The distinction between faith wisdom and knowledge in St Paul’s writings would appear to be this. Faith is the fundamental principle of Christianity, whereby the life of God in Christ is received into the heart; wisdom is the power of insight into things Divine revealed to faith; knowledge the effect of Christian experience and study upon him who possesses the life of faith. For mystery see ch. 4:1.

hidden ] Not only from men but also from angels and heavenly powers. See Romans 16:25 ; Ephesians 3:10 ; 1 Peter 1:12 .

which God ordained before the world ] Literally, before the ages . Cf. Acts 2:23 , Acts 2:4 :28; Ephesians 3:9 ; Colossians 1:26 ; Revelation 13:8 . The whole scheme of man’s redemption was in the mind of God from all eternity. The fall of man and his restoration, the wondrous fact of salvation through Christ, were decreed in the counsels of the Most High before the world was.

8 . which none of the princes of this world knew ] These words seem to be written for the instruction of the class of persons who attach importance to the opinions of those high in position and influence the princes, or rather rulers of this world, its statesmen. Such persons, the Apostle points out, are apt, in spite of, or rather in consequence of, their worldly wisdom, to make strange mistakes. The crucifixion of Christ was a memorable instance of the shortsightedness of worldly policy. Not a single calculation of those who compassed the Saviour’s death was destined to be fulfilled. Pilate did not escape the emperor’s displeasure. Caiaphas (St John 11:50 ) did not save Jerusalem. The Scribes and Pharisees did not put down the doctrine of Jesus.

the Lord of glory ] The majesty of the Lord, designedly contrasted, says St Chrysostom, with the ignominy of the Cross. Perhaps there is also an allusion to “our glory” in the last verse, of which He is the source. Cf. St James 2:1 .

9 . But as it is written, Eye hath not seen ] There has been much discussion whence these words are derived, but they are quite sufficiently near to the passage in Isaiah 64:4 to be regarded as a quotation from thence. It is unreasonable to require greater literal accuracy in the citation of words from the O. T. than is customary in a modern preacher, who is frequently content with giving the general drift of the passage he quotes. Such a practice was even more likely to exist in days when the cumbrous nature of books prevented them from being so readily at hand as at present We can hardly suppose, with some modern divines, that the passage is a quotation from the liturgy of the Apostolic Church, for Origen, Chrysostom, and Jerome, are alike ignorant of the fact.

10 . for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God ] In this and the next verse we gather (1) the personality of the Holy Ghost, (2) His distinction from the Father. He not only searches the deep things of God, which He could not be described as doing were He identical with the Father, but though on account of His perfect knowledge of the Mind of God He is likened to the spirit of man which is one of the component elements of his being, the Apostle speaks of the one as the ‘spirit of a man which is in him,’ but of the other as the Spirit which is from ( ἐκ , proceeding out of) God.

searcheth ] “The word to search is here indicative not of ignorance, but of accurate knowledge, at least if we may judge from the fact that this is the very phrase the Apostle has used even of God, saying, ‘He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.’ ” Chrysostom. The knowledge, in fact, as v . 11 shews, is of the same kind as the knowledge of the spirit of man concerning what passes within his breast, though, of course, infinitely more complete.

12 . Now we have received ] Literally, we received , i.e. when we became disciples.

that we might know ] The word here signifies to perceive, rather than to gather by the exercise of the reason. Such things as the Spirit reveals to us are discerned as clearly by our spirits as the things visible to sense are discerned by the eye.

13 . comparing spiritual things with spiritual ] These words have been interpreted in several ways. (1) Wiclif renders them “ maken a liknesse of (i.e. explaining) spyritual things to goostli men .” (2) The Vulgate and English versions render the Greek word by compare . (3) Some interpret, explaining spiritual things in spiritual ways ; (Luther so renders it). (4) Another explanation is, explaining spiritual things by spiritual , i.e. interpreting the Revelation of God by the inward promptings of the spirit. The first would seem preferable and most agreeable to the context, for St Paul is speaking of the doctrine he delivered, which he says is unintelligible to the natural man, but capable of being brought home to the understanding of him who possesses spiritual qualifications.

14 . But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ] The natural man ( animalis , Vulgate), that is, the man whose perceptions do not extend beyond the region of the intellect, the part of his being which he has in common with the animal creation, can never attain to the things of the Spirit. The term must not be understood in the same sense as our word animal now bears, i.e. as equivalent to sensual. Cf. Jude 1:19 , where the word is translated sensual in our version. See notes on 15:44.

because they are spiritually discerned ] There is but little analogy between mental and spiritual discernment, or rather processes (see next note), which the Apostle has been contrasting throughout the whole of this chapter. The one is the result of knowledge, investigation, argument: the faculties which produce the other are sharpened by self-discipline, humility, communion with God, love of Him and the brethren. To those who are thus exercised many things are clear which are mysteries to the most learned and the most acute.

15 . But he that is spiritual judgeth all things ] The word which is used in this and the preceding verse, which is translated discerned in the last verse, in the text of this verse by judgeth , and in the margin by discerneth , signifies in every other passage in the N. T. to examine , and is so rendered by the Vulgate (see Acts 4:9 , Acts 4:12 :19; St Luke 23:14 , and ch. 9:3). It must therefore be interpreted of the process rather than of the conclusion, of the exact scrutiny to which the spiritual man can subject all things, while he himself is beyond the scrutiny of others who do not possess the means of making it. “The Gospel in its essence is neither theoretic, abstract, nor reflective, nor even imaginative: it is historical, but this history is Divine. The preaching of the Gospel is a revelation of God’s doings . When belief is well established, then, and then alone, may God’s acts become subjects of theory or research among the members of the Church, and even then so far only as the whole investigation proceeds from faith. Of such an inquiry faith could never be the consequence. In God’s Spirit alone has faith its origin.” Olshausen.

16 . For who hath known the mind of the Lord ] See note on 1:10. The Hebrew of Isaiah 40:13 , here quoted, has spirit , the Septuagint mind . St Paul here follows the Septuagint, which is nearer to the original than our version, ‘Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord?’ The literal translation is, ‘Who hath measured the Spirit of the Lord?’ As none but the believer possesses the mind of the Lord, and as none can venture to assume a position of intellectual superiority to Him, the assertion in the preceding verse is established. The possession of this mind of Christ renders him who has it a mystery to him who has it not. The workings of his soul, thus enlightened by a higher power, are inscrutable to those who are destitute of spiritual vision. We must not omit to notice that in the passage which the Apostle here quotes as referring to Christ the original has Jehovah. See also Jeremiah 23:18 .

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/1-corinthians-2.html. 1896.