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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

1 Corinthians 2

Verses 1-16

1 Corinthians 2 .

In the first chapter the apostle has shown that Christ crucified, the preaching of the Cross, and the calling of God, entirely set aside the flesh, leaving no room for man to glory in himself. In this chapter the apostle applies the teaching of 1 Corinthians 1 to himself and his manner of presenting the testimony of God. In accord with his own teaching he refused the flesh in himself in order to be true to the Cross, and that there might be no hindrance to the work of the Spirit. In the first five verses the apostle tells us how he preached the gospel to sinners. The latter part of the chapter tells us how he ministered the deep things of God to the saints. In either case it was in the power of the Spirit. This leads the apostle to present the Holy Spirit Who, in His gracious work, entirely sets aside the flesh and instructs us in the mind of Christ.

(Vv. 1, 2). When Paul came to Corinth he made no appeal to the natural man by attempting to use excellency of speech or by a display of human wisdom. He came to announce the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The great subject of his preaching was a Person - Jesus Christ - but that Person on a Cross, the lowest and most degraded position in which a man can be found. Paul tells these intellectual Corinthians that, in order that sinners be saved, Christ must go to the Cross. To give believers His place before God, He had to take their place before God. The Cross sets forth our true place before God as sinners. There is nothing dignified, or heroic, or noble about a cross. It is a place of shame and reproach, of judgment and death. To tell a man that this is his true place before God makes nothing of all his wisdom and greatness and grandeur. However wise, however rich, however well-born a man may be, the Cross tells him that, in spite of all that he may be before his fellow-men, in the sight of God he is a guilty sinner under the sentence of death and judgment. The preaching of the Cross thus makes nothing of all man's pride.

(V. 3). Moreover, the preacher himself was among them in a condition that was humiliating to the pride of man. He did not come as a self-confident orator. Conscious of his own weakness, realising the deep need of those to whom he preached, and the gravity of his message, he was amongst them in fear and much trembling.

(Vv. 4, 5). Furthermore, in the manner of his preaching he refused every fleshly method in order to leave room for God to work. He did not seek to win his audience by a display of his own wisdom or natural ability. He did not set forth the testimony of God in eloquent language, which might have appealed to their refined ears and attracted to himself.

In the subject preached, in the condition of the preacher, and in the manner of preaching, there was no allowance of flesh with the apostle, and no appeal to the flesh in his hearers.

This entire refusal to use fleshly means, or appeal to the flesh, left room for the Spirit to work in mighty power. If under such preaching there is faith - if any believe in that which is so humiliating to man, which ends man in judgment - then obviously it is not the wisdom of man that leads them to believe, but the power of the Spirit of God working with them. Under such preaching the Spirit is able to demonstrate to sinners their deep need, and to work in unhindered power, leading them to faith which rests not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. It is not only a question of the truth they believed, but of the way in which they received it. It was received not from a man, even though that man was an apostle, but from God.

(V. 6). From this verse the apostle begins to speak of the attitude he took towards those who were the subjects of the power of God, and thus had accepted the gospel. He speaks of them as the “perfect”. By this term he does not mean that which some speak of as “sinless perfection”, or that they were already conformed to the image of Christ; this will only be in glory. The term “perfect” implies that such had accepted the new position before God that belongs to the believer in Christ, and thus were full-grown Christians. The term does not simply designate a believer in contrast to a sinner; it is used rather to describe a full-grown believer in contrast to some believers of whom the apostle speaks as “babes” ( 1Co_3:1 ).

(V. 7). Amongst such Paul did indeed speak wisdom. The apostle then proceeds to give us some very definite instruction as to this wisdom, in order that we may not confuse it with the wisdom of man.

First, he tells us that it is not the wisdom of this age, nor even the wisdom of the few intellectual giants who mould the thoughts of the world. These intellectual princes, in spite of all their wisdom, “come to nought”, in contrast to the believer who comes to “glory” (verse 7), in company with “the Lord of glory” (verse 8). Those who shine in the glory of this world come to nought, while those who are nought in this world come to glory.

Secondly, this wisdom is “the wisdom of God”. If it were the wisdom of man, it could be acquired in the schools of men. Being God's wisdom it is outside the programme of the schools, and beyond the attainment of the human mind.

Thirdly, it is God's wisdom “in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom”, words that by no means imply that it is obscure or mysterious, but that it is a wisdom that cannot be discovered by the wit of man. Moreover, throughout the ages it has been “hidden”, and therefore is not to be found in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Fourthly, this wisdom, which throughout the ages has been hidden, was predetermined before the ages for our glory in the ages yet to come. This wisdom embraced the secret counsel of God, settled before the ages, for the glory of His people. We might have thought that the apostle would have said for the glory of God and of Christ. We know indeed it will be for the glory of Christ. Here, however, the apostle is pressing upon us the fact that, if our calling makes manifest that believers are the weak and despised of the world, nonetheless they are predestined to glory. We may not be wise, or mighty, or noble in this world, but we are called to glory.

(V. 8). Fifthly, of this wisdom, settled before the ages, and of this glory, to which we are predestined for the ages yet to come, the princes of this world knew nothing. They proved their ignorance by crucifying the Lord of glory. They wholly rejected the One Who is the wisdom of God, and by Whom all the counsels of God are brought to pass. This wisdom of God in a mystery tells believers that they are predestined to glory, and the One Who has been crucified is “the Lord of glory”. This glory exceeds the glory of Christ as the Messiah, in connection with Israel, reigning over the earth. The earthly reign is no mystery. The Prophets are full of glorious predictions concerning the kingdom glories. “The Lord of glory” speaks of a wider scene than this earth; it speaks of a universal dominion embracing every created thing and being, over which the crucified One is made Lord.

(V. 9). Sixthly, this scene of glory, to which the wisdom of God has destined His people, lies outside the range of the natural man. The apostle thus quotes the prophet Isaiah to show that God has secrets, into which man as such cannot enter. His eye, aided by marvellous instruments, can see far into the depths of space and into the minute wonders of nature; his ear can be trained to hear and appreciate wonderful combinations of melodious sounds; his mind is capable of marvellous conceptions and emotions; but there are things which God has prepared for them that love Him that the natural man has neither seen nor heard, and which are beyond the range of the highest flights of his imagination.

(V. 10). Seventhly, the fact that the wisdom of God lies outside the comprehension of the natural man does not imply that the things of wisdom cannot be seen, cannot be heard, and cannot be known, for at once the apostle says, “God hath revealed them”. The things that God has prepared God has revealed. If, however, God has revealed these things, it is “by His Spirit”. The Spirit alone is competent to reveal these things, for nothing is beyond the range of the divine knowledge and power of the Spirit. He searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God. We may seek to excuse our lack of spiritual energy by saying that these things are too deep for us; but let us remember that they are not too deep for the Spirit, for He “searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God”.

(V. 11). What is in man's mind is not known to any but the spirit of the man himself who has the thoughts. No one knows the uncommunicated thought of my mind except my own spirit; so no one knows the uncommunicated thoughts and counsels of God save the Spirit of God.

(V. 12). The apostle and other vessels of revelation received the Spirit which is of God that they might know the things that are freely given to us of God. “This is the knowledge of the things themselves in the vessels of revelation.” In the primary sense the truth of these verses, 10 to 12, is limited to the apostles; it is revelation that is the subject.

(V. 13). Furthermore, the things which were made known to the apostles by the revelation of the Spirit have been passed on to us by the inspiration of the Spirit. In the communication of these things the apostle is careful to shut out any possible error of man by saying that these things are not communicated “in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth”. This is the apostolic claim for verbal inspiration. The very words used are inspired by the Holy Ghost. Spiritual things are communicated by spiritual means. The instruments were not made infallible, but were perfectly guided in their communications. This is inspiration.

(Vv. 14, 15). Thus we learn that the wisdom of God is made known by revelation and communicated to others by inspiration. Now we learn that the reception of the truth is also by the Spirit of God. The natural man cannot receive the things of God; they are foolishness to him; they can only be spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual discerneth all things. We do well to remember that it is the “spiritual”, not simply he that has the Spirit, that discerneth all things. A man must, indeed, have the Spirit to be spiritual; but being spiritual implies a condition in which a man is under the control of the Spirit. Such discern all things, yet they themselves are not discerned of any. The spiritual man can discern the motives that govern the world, though the world cannot discern the motives and principles that govern the spiritual man.

In verse 14 the apostle speaks of the natural man, in verse 15 of the spiritual man, and in 1 Corinthians 3 of the carnal, or fleshly, man. The natural man is the unconverted man, without the Spirit; the carnal man is the believer, having the Spirit, but walking like the natural man; the spiritual man is the believer walking in the Spirit.

(V. 16). In verse 15 the apostle tells us that “the spiritual discerns all things”. It is not indeed that such naturally know the mind of the Lord, or can instruct Him; but the Lord has given to believers His Spirit and instructs them; such can therefore say, “We have the mind of Christ”.

If the first chapter shuts out the flesh in its pride of birth and power and position, so that he that will glory glories in the Lord, this chapter shuts out the mind of man, so that believers may be let into the privilege of having “the mind of Christ” through the Spirit.

The Spirit is the great theme of the chapter. If Paul brings the testimony of God to sinners, it is “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (verse 4). If God has prepared great blessings for those who love Him, they are revealed unto the apostles by the Spirit (verse 10). The things that are revealed by the Spirit are fully known to the Spirit (verses 10 and 11). The things revealed and known to the apostles are, through them, communicated to others by the Spirit (verse 13). The things communicated by the apostles are received by the Spirit (verse 14), the result being that believers are, through the Spirit, instructed in the mind of Christ (verse 16).

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/1-corinthians-2.html. 1832.