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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentBeet on the NT

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Verses 1-5

1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul has now proved his statement in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the Gospel does not commend itself to human wisdom but is nevertheless a vehicle of God’s power, a statement explaining and justifying Christ’s motive in committing to him a Gospel not clothed in such language as human wisdom would have chosen. He then goes on to show that his own conduct among his readers was in exact agreement with Christ’s commission.

Not according to etc.] He was not moved to preach, nor was his mode of preaching determined, by any supposed superiority of speech, or superior acquaintance with the unseen causes of things around.

Mystery of God: a forerunner of the important teaching of 1 Corinthians 2:6 ff. Cp. Romans 6:14 with Rom. vii., and 1 Corinthians 5:5 with Rom. viii. The reading is quite uncertain. See Appendix B. 1 Corinthians 2:2 accounts for 1 Corinthians 2:1.

Not … to know among you: not to be influenced in my intercourse with you by knowledge of anything else. For only in this sense could he resolve to know or not to know among men.

Judge-fit: or judge: same word in 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 2:1; see Romans 14:13. Paul presented himself to the Corinthians as a man who knew something but what he professed to know was only that Jesus was the Messiah, and that the Messiah had been crucified. And this was his deliberate purpose when coming to them. Consequently, his preaching to them was not prompted or directed by supposed superiority of word or wisdom. For, to human wisdom, a crucified saviour (1 Corinthians 1:23) was ridiculous.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5. And I; again directs attention to the writer.

Fear and trembling: Psalms 2:11; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12; Ephesians 6:5 : strong eastern hyperbole, for anxious care to do right in something difficult and serious.

Weakness: any kind of inability, including bodily weakness caused by sickness. This latter sense is very common, and is suggested in Galatians 4:13. But there is no hint of it here. Notice the slowly rising climax. In his intercourse with the Corinthians Paul was conscious of his own utter powerlessness to do the work he had in hand: this moved him to fear lest he should fail: and his fear became so great that he trembled while he preached. 1 Corinthians 2:4 gives further particulars about his preaching.

Word: any kind of verbal intercourse: proclamation, the formal announcement of the Gospel. Persuasive words of wisdom.

In men’s wisdom: that you may believe the good news not because of the preacher’s skill but because of the manifested power of God proving the message to be from God. This proof made persuasion needless.

What was the proof afforded by the Spirit and power of God? Not the effect of the Gospel in the heart and life. For this can be appreciated only by those who experience it, i.e. by those who have already accepted the Gospel. It therefore cannot be the ground of their first acceptance of it. The effect of the Gospel in earlier converts may influence us: cp. 1 Corinthians 9:2. But this would not affect the founding of a church like that at Corinth. In Romans 15:19 Paul speaks of the “power of signs and wonders, power of the Spirit of God,” with which Christ wrought among the Corinthians as signs of his apostleship. And the proof appealed to here can be no other than the miracles wrought by the power of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit in proof that Paul’s proclamation is true. Such proof would, as his words imply, supersede all persuasion.

Our ignorance of details prevents us from distinguishing exactly between the signs which Paul actually wrought and those which the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:22) vainly asked for. But this difficulty is, by its close coincidence with Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; John 4:48, a mark of genuineness. And these passages remove any objection, based on 1 Corinthians 1:22, to my exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:4. For Christ, while refusing the signs asked for by the Jews, wrought miracles in proof of His words: John 5:36; John 10:25.

Notice that 1 Corinthians 2:4 and 2 Corinthians 12:12 confirm Romans 15:19. For Paul appeals in these passages to miracles wrought among those to whom he writes, and from whose midst he writes to the Romans, in proof of his teaching. His appeal is confirmed by the independent authority of Acts 14:3; Acts 14:10; Acts 19:11; Acts 3:7; Acts 4:16, etc; and by the Gospels which attribute to Christ similar miracles with the same purpose.

We do not wonder now that Paul abstained carefully from all appearance of rhetorical art. The visible proofs of the power and presence of God made persuasion needless. An attempt to persuade would rather obscure the sufficiency of the divine credentials.

Although the underlying principles of this section are valid for all ages, the absence of miracles now warns us to be careful in applying to our own day Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

Paul’s appeal to God’s power in proof of his teaching, and his description of it (certainly in 1 Corinthians 1:6) as a testimony, agree remarkably with his assumption, without any proof, of the five great foundation doctrines of the Epistle to the Romans. See my Romans, Dissertation i. 3. In 1 Corinthians 1:21 b we have Doctrine 1: and the prominence given to the cross of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:17 f, 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2 as the matter of Paul’s preaching, finds its only explanation in Doctrine 2. And, that the success of the Gospel chiefly among the humbler ranks was by God’s deliberate choice, accords exactly with the doctrine of election taught in Romans 9:12. Thus on the threshold of this Epistle we recognize the voice of the author of the Epistle to the Romans.

SECTION 3 is throughout a proof that mere human wisdom is powerless to save. The good news was not clothed in such forms as human wisdom would select, lest the clothing should obscure and thus impede the divine power which operates through the death of Christ and through its announcement to men. This agrees with an ancient prophecy touching the statesmen of Judah at the time of Sennacherib’s invasion and the deliverance then wrought by God. And it is confirmed by the facts of Paul’s own day. For it is evident that all the wisdom of the world has not revealed to men a saving knowledge of God; while, by an announcement which the wisdom of the world condemned as foolish and which actually led many Jews to reject Christ, God’s people have experienced the power, and have looked into the mind, of God. This is also confirmed, not only by the different effect of the Gospel on different men, but also by the kind of men whom by the Gospel God has drawn to Himself: for these are such as seem least likely to do His great work. These unlikely agents He has joined to Christ, who has become to them all they need.

With this method of God’s procedure Paul’s conduct at Corinth was in exact agreement. The human wisdom which God refused to employ, Paul also refused. As a preacher he was a monument of weakness: but his word was accompanied by the manifestations of divine power, in order that on the manifest power of God the faith of his converts might rest securely.

The word WISDOM denotes sometimes an artist’s skill: e.g. Exodus 28:3, “All that are wise of heart, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom: and they shall make Aaron’s garments;” Exodus 35:25-35; Exodus 36:1-8. Such skill was looked upon (Exodus 36:3; Exodus 36:6) as a result of intelligence and knowledge; just as we say “He knows how to do it.” In this sense the wise man is one who knows what others do not know, and who can therefore do special work. Similarly, men who have had a special training are called wise, Genesis 41:8; Exodus 7:11. For it was supposed that they knew what others did not, and that their knowledge was of practical use. Men able to direct well matters of practical life were called wise, Genesis 41:33; Genesis 41:39; 2 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 20:22; Ezekiel 28:3-5. In 2 Samuel 13:3 the word wise (A.V. “subtle”) denotes mere cleverness in selecting means without thought of the quality of the aim. But it was early seen that right choice of an aim is even more important than choice of the means to attain it, and needs a still deeper knowledge. Consequently, the word wisdom denotes also that knowledge which enables men to choose rightly both objects of pursuit and the path to reach them. And, since all sin injures the sinner, all pursuit of sinful objects is folly, arising from ignorance of the objects pursued. Consequently, the highest wisdom includes a moral element. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:29; Proverbs 1:2, Proverbs 1:20 ff; Proverbs 2:2; Proverbs 2:6-7.

King Solomon was an embodiment of human wisdom, in its unity and in its variety: 1 Kings 3:9-28; 1 Kings 4:29-34. His wisdom included a wide acquaintance with natural objects, the practical counsel embodied in his 3000 proverbs, the poetry of his 5000 songs, and a discernment of men’s characters which fitted him to be a king and judge. The noblest element of the wisdom of Solomon and his followers is permanently embodied in the Book of Proverbs and in the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon and Wisdom of the son of Sirach. It is a knowledge of that which is most worth knowing, a knowledge which fits men to choose the best aims and means in life.

The wisdom of God is the attribute manifested in His eternal choice of His purposes and of the means to attain them. It is specially seen in the various works of Creation: Psalms 104:24; Proverbs 3:19; Proverbs 8:22 ff; Job 9:4; Job 12:13; Job 12:16; Job 28:20, Wisdom of Solomon 9:9 f.

The common Greek conception of wisdom was similar to that of the Jews. In Plato’s Apology, pp. 21-23, Socrates speaks of the wisdom of statesmen, poets, and artisans; and considers himself wiser than they because they knew not the limits of their own wisdom. He says truly (Apology p. 23a) that “Human wisdom is worth little or nothing;” and (Phaedrus 278d) that “God only is fitly called wise.” See quotation under 2 Corinthians 4:2. Aristotle speaks (Ethics bk. vi. 7) of wise stonecutters and sculptors; and of some men as wise, not in some specialty, but generally. He denies, however, that the statesman’s prudence is wisdom; and defines the word to mean an acquaintance with first principles, a kind of knowledge which he declares to be profitless for matters of common life. In this he is supported by the Definitions which go under Plato’s name, which define wisdom to be “An understanding of the things which exist always; a contemplative understanding of the causes of existing things.” Cicero (De Officiis bk. ii. 2) says: “Wisdom, as it has been defined by old philosophers, is a knowledge of things divine and human and of the causes by which these things are held together.” Cp. 4 Maccabees 1:16, “Wisdom then is a knowledge of divine and human matters and of the causes of these.” But the common Greek use of the word differs little from the lower use of its Hebrew equivalent. Jews and Greeks alike conceived of wisdom as a knowledge of something worth knowing, and especially of that which is most worth knowing. But the Greeks valued most a knowledge of the underlying and eternal realities, as being the most worthy matter of human knowledge and as most fully satisfying the intelligence whereas the Jews ever remembered that knowledge is of real worth only so far as it enables a man to choose the best steps in life. And these collateral ideas were more or less embodied in the Greek and in the Hebrew conceptions of wisdom. Thus, their use of this one word reflected in no small measure the distinctive genius of the two nations.

The New Testament conception of wisdom agrees exactly with, and develops, that of the Old Testament. We have “a wise builder,” 1 Corinthians 3:10. The “wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22) was whatever knowledge the nation had of things not generally known. So Romans 1:14. “The wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20) is a knowledge embracing only things around, whether it be looked upon as satisfying the intelligence or as guiding the life. A life thus guided has necessarily to do (James 3:15) only with things of this world; and is closely associated (1 Corinthians 3:19) with craftiness. “The wisdom of God” is the attribute by which He selects purposes suited to His Nature, and the best means of attaining them. It is manifested (1 Corinthians 1:21) in creation; and more wonderfully (1 Corinthians 1:24) in redemption. Since the means chosen are various, it is “the manifold wisdom of God,” Ephesians 3:10. Since the purpose, and the means, of salvation were matters of divine forethought, we are told (1 Corinthians 2:7) that this “wisdom of God was foreordained before” time began. These divine purposes and the means for their accomplishment are made known to us (Ephesians 1:17) by the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” that thus they may become in ever increasing degree objects of human intelligence and the guide of human life. Cp. James 3:17.

In this divinely-given wisdom are realized whatever conceptions of wisdom were formed by Jews or Greeks. The believer possesses, by God’s gift, a knowledge of that which is most worth knowing, even of God Himself and His purposes, a knowledge which satisfies the highest human intelligence, reveals the eternal realities, and explains to some extent the mysteries of life. But this knowledge, instead of being, like that of Anaxagoras and Thales, (Aristotle, Ethics vi. 7,) merely speculative and of no practical use, enables its possessor to choose the best aim in life and the best means of attaining it. Thus is Christ “to us wisdom from God.”

On The wisdom of the Hebrews, see excellent papers in the Expositor vol. xi. p. 321, vol. xii. pp. 381, 436 by Dr. A. B. Davidson.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 2:6. The change from “my word” (1 Corinthians 2:4) to we speak, is frequent in these epistles to mark a transition from Paul’s personal matters to the Gospel and its preachers generally. Cp. 2 Corinthians 2:13-14.

Wisdom: higher knowledge, satisfying the intelligence and directing purpose and action. See note above.

Full grown, or mature: that which has reached its full development or goal: common in classic Greek for a full grown man in contrast to a child. Cp. 1 Corinthians 3:1. Same word in 1 Corinthians 13:10; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14; Philippians 3:15; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 4:12; Romans 12:2. The rendering “perfect” is less accurate; and is very liable to be misunderstood. That Paul speaks of himself in Philippians 3:15 as one of the mature ones, after saying (Philippians 3:12) that he is not yet “matured,” implies that the word was not a technical term for a definite stage of spiritual growth. As in bodily, so in spiritual, life we cannot mark exactly the moment of maturity. But the use of the word implies a stage of growth higher than justification and sufficiently definite to be an object of thought. They who enjoy the full salvation proclaimed in Romans 6:11 have a maturity compared with which their earlier state was childhood. Once their spiritual life was dependent on human helpers. Now they find that God is Himself sufficient to maintain them in full vigor by His own presence under all circumstances with or without human helpers. And, than this, there is no surer mark of Christian maturity. Full grown, refers, not to knowledge merely, but to the entire Christian life. For Paul, while admitting (1 Corinthians 1:5) the knowledge of the Corinthian Christians, appeals (1 Corinthians 3:1) to their contentions in proof that they were still “babes in Christ,” and therefore incapable of higher teaching. And to this he evidently refers here.

Only mature Christians can understand the higher knowledge: and therefore, only when surrounded by such, does Paul teach it.

Not of this age: not such wisdom as is possessed by men “of this age;” not “the wisdom of the world,” 1 Corinthians 1:20.

Rulers of this age; whose policy pertains only to the present world-period. They are a conspicuous example of the wisdom of this age.

Who are coming to nought: their power is passing away. See under 1 Corinthians 1:28. Their power belongs to, and will cease with, the present age. Therefore, as this age is each moment passing away, so is their power.

Verses 7-8

1 Corinthians 2:7-8. God’s wisdom: the eternal purpose of salvation, embracing the noblest ends and means, satisfying the intelligence of God and of those to whom it is revealed, the guide of God’s own action and the only worthy guide of human action. This purpose, announced in the Gospel, Paul and his colleagues speak in the form of a mystery, (see note below,) i.e. in words which contain (under a guise which the world calls foolishness) a secret of infinite worth known only to those to whom God reveals it, viz.

to mature Christians.

Hidden wisdom; keeps before us the chief thought of mystery, thus preparing the way for 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 2:14. Cp. Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:26. The wisdom of God assumed concrete form in His purpose of salvation, which He marked-out-before-hand (or foreordained: see Romans 8:29) in His own mind before the ages of time began, with a view to our glory, i.e. to cover us with eternal splendor. Cp. Romans 8:30. That this purpose was earlier than the ages, proves it to be superior to the wisdom of this age.”

Which not one etc.: stately contrast to which God etc.

For if etc.: proof that they did not know it.

The Lord of the glory: James 2:1; cp. Ephesians 1:17; Acts 7:2: the Master, of whom the well-known splendor is a marked characteristic. Before this glory, all the glitter of earthly rulers pales. And it is a pledge of our glory. That the rulers crucified Jesus, proves that they saw not the splendor of His rank, and knew not the purpose of eternal wisdom which He came to accomplish. Since the murderers of Christ acted on principles common to all who belong only to the present life, their action is given in proof that not one of the rulers of this age knows the wisdom of God.

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 2:9. But we speak according as it is written etc.: parallel with “but we speak” in 1 Corinthians 2:7, and marking a contrast to 1 Corinthians 2:8. This verse has no exact counterpart in the Old Testament. But Paul’s favorite phrase, as it is written, is found elsewhere only with Old Testament quotations. Origen thought that Paul was quoting some apocryphal work. Jerome found here a reference to Isaiah 64:4. And this is confirmed by the Epistle of Clement of Rome, in Isaiah 34, where we read: “For He says, Eye has not seen and ear has not heard and into man’s heart it has not gone up, how many things God has prepared for those who wait for Him.” This quotation is so similar that either it must have been taken from the Epistle or both from the same source. And its last words, “wait for Him,” point still more clearly than does the passage before us to Isaiah 64:4. In 1 Corinthians 1:31 we found Paul quoting in his own words the true sense of the Old Testament: and probably he does so here.

In prophetic view of a trodden down sanctuary, Isaiah cries to God for an unexpected and tremendous deliverance. “O that Thou hadst rent heavens, hadst come down, that from Thy face mountains had trembled; like fire kindling bushes, fire makes water to boil, to make known Thy name to Thy enemies: from Thy face nations shall be thrown into confusion; when Thou dost terrible things we expect not.” The prophet grounds his hope and prayer upon the fact that “From of old men have not heard, have not listened to, eye has not seen, a God besides thee; He will act for him that waits for Him.” He teaches plainly that in saving His people God surpasses their expectation, and does for them things unheard before. And this is concisely expressed by Paul in the words before us.

For those that love Him, (Romans 8:28,) rather than “that wait for Him,” was prompted, perhaps, by loving gratitude for benefits so inconceivable. This verse refers probably to the final “glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7) of God’s people, the ultimate aim of the eternal purpose hidden from the world, revealed to Paul and others, and spoken by him among mature Christians. It is already revealed (Ephesians 1:17 f) as an object of hope; and will soon (Romans 8:18) be revealed as our actual possession. These words find also a fulfillment on earth. For our present spiritual blessedness is a foretaste of our eternal joy.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 2:10. To us: (like “we speak,” 1 Corinthians 2:6 :) in contrast to “the rulers of this age.” Revealed. see Romans 1:17 : always actual and supernatural impartation of knowledge. Only through the agency of the Spirit of God are the truths of the Gospel made known. This agrees with Romans 5:5 : cp. Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:5.

For the Spirit etc.: reason of this, viz. because only the Spirit knows the secrets of God.

Searches: vivid picture of the active intelligence of the Spirit.

The deep things, or depths: the underlying Purposes and Nature of God.

Cp. Romans 11:33 : contrast Revelation 2:24.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 2:11. Proves the assertion of 1 Corinthians 2:10 b, by the analogy of man’s spirit. This implies, as indeed the name Spirit does, that the Holy Spirit bears to the Father a relation in some points similar to that of our spirits to ourselves. In so mysterious a matter we must be careful not to press the analogy beyond the point for which Paul uses it. We may conceive of a man as distinct from his own spirit, as abstract personality, as a point without dimensions; and as looking out from this abstract point upon his own spirit, the animating principle which gives him life and consciousness. See note, Romans 8:17. Now the spirit of the man, the principle of life which is in him, and of created spirits it only, looks from within upon all the man’s thoughts and purposes. In this way also the Spirit of God is within the essence of God, and from within looks through and investigates the entire contents of the mind of God. And, of intelligent spirits, He alone does this. Notice carefully that exclusive assertions about the Spirit never exclude the Son: and conversely. For the Son and the Spirit move in different planes, so to say, the one as God before our eyes, the other as God within our hearts; and are alike divine, and therefore unlimited.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 2:12. From a general principle Paul now turns to himself and colleagues.

The spirit of the world: the one animating principle of the men of the world. It is “the spirit which now works in the sons of disobedience,”

Ephesians 2:2; “the spirit of error,” 1 John 4:6 : an intelligent spiritual power acting in obedience to (Ephesians 2:2) its ruler, “the ruler of this world,” John 12:31. Thus they who disobey God are acting under the direction of His enemy. Cp. Romans 6:16. The Spirit of God is also from God: for, the Spirit which breathes in the breast of God and permeates His entire consciousness, He sends forth to be the animating principle of His people’s life. Cp. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:6.

Graciously-given: cognate to “gift-of-grace,” 1 Corinthians 1:7; Romans 1:11. It refers probably to the future glory, (1 Corinthians 2:7,) passing human thought, (1 Corinthians 2:9,) which, in the purpose and by the undeserved favor of God, is already (to our faith and hope) our inheritance and possession. But these words are true also of present spiritual gifts. Just as God breathed into Adam’s body a human spirit, that he might become conscious of the material good which God had given to him, so God has breathed into us the breath of His own life that we may become conscious of His richer and eternal and altogether undeserved gifts to us in Christ.

That we may know etc.; completes the explanation of 1 Corinthians 2:10 a.

That the Spirit who “searches all the deep things of God” is an actively intelligent Person distinct from the Father, (cp. 1 Corinthians 12:11, “according as He pleases,”) is implied in John 16:13, “He will not speak of His own accord, but as many things as He hears He will speak,” where Christ teaches that the Spirit is so distinct personally from the Father as to listen to, and repeat, the Father’s words. And that the Spirit knows everything in the mind of the Father, as a man’s spirit knows all the man knows, proves Him to be divine. Since, sent by the Father, He dwells in us, He is “given” and “received.” Just as the Son, a Divine Person, is given for us, that He may be our Lord so the Spirit is given to us, to be in us as the animating principle of our new life. The names of the Three Divine Persons of the One Trinity are found side by side in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Matthew 28:19; Revelation 1:4-5.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 2:13. Which things we also speak; takes up “we speak,” 1 Corinthians 2:6-7, after the explanation in 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 of the statement of 1 Corinthians 2:10 a. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 we learn the source of the matter of Paul’s preaching: we now learn that his manner has the same source. This completes the discussion, begun in 1 Corinthians 1:17, of the relation of the Gospel to wisdom.

Taught words of human wisdom: such words as human knowledge and skill would choose. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:17 b; 1 Corinthians 2:4. Just as scholastic training, without dictating words and without destroying the individuality of the speaker, nevertheless enables him to clothe his thoughts in words better than he could otherwise have chosen, so the Holy Spirit enabled Paul to give appropriate utterance to the truths already revealed to him by the Spirit. But the analogy of human wisdom forbids us to infer that he received words by mechanical dictation. And this is disproved by the literary variety of the Bible. Many strings touched by one Divine Harpist give forth notes answering to the nature and tension of each. And thus the sacred chorus is harmony, not unison.

Spiritual things: “the things of the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:14,) i.e. truths taught by the Spirit. So Romans 1:11; Romans 7:14; Romans 15:27.

Joining spiritual things: a mode of speech prompted by the Spirit. These words suggest the incongruity of trusting to human learning or skill in setting forth divine truth.

Verses 14-16

1 Corinthians 2:14-16. Paul will now show, paving the way to an application of the foregoing teaching to the church-parties at Corinth, that this teaching places the wisdom revealed in the Gospel beyond the reach of men not animated by the Spirit.

Soul-governed man: one whose inward and outward life is directed by the soul, the lower side of his immaterial being, by the side nearest to the body and the outer world, i.e. by his appetites and emotions; but not necessarily sensual appetites and emotions, for others besides these are evoked by things around us. Of this character, selfishness is a constant mark. For all unselfish instincts are from above, and appeal to that in us which is noblest. To these influences from the world around, the Spirit is ever opposed. Same word in 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46; James 3:15, “this wisdom is earthly, soul-governed demon-like;” Judges 1:19, “soul-governed, not having the Spirit.” See note 1 Corinthians 15:54. In such men, the animal element, which is controlled by the body and by the material world, controls the actions, purposes, and even in part the intelligence. They are therefore “men of flesh,” 1 Corinthians 3:1; Romans 7:14; and their wisdom is “fleshly,” 2 Corinthians 1:12. But Paul prefers to give them here the highest title they can claim, viz. “men governed by the lower side of their immaterial nature.” He thinks probably of men altogether without the Spirit, which (Romans 8:9) all the justified possess. And of them only these words are true in their full compass. But this verse is also true, in its measure, of all who, like the Corinthian Christians, yield themselves to emotions awakened by the world around. It thus prepares the way for 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

Things of the Spirit of God: “spiritual things,” 1 Corinthians 2:13 : those with which the Spirit has to do.

Does not accept: a simple matter of fact.

For they are etc.: reason of it. The excellence of the aims, and the suitability of the means, chosen by the Spirit are not seen by the man taught only by the lower side of human nature: and therefore, to him, these aims and means seem to be an embodiment (cp. 1 Corinthians 1:18) of foolishness, i.e. worthless from an intellectual point of view. And he not only does not accept, but cannot know, them, i.e. so understand their nature as to wish to have them.

Because etc.: reason why they are foolishness to him, and why he has not ability to know them.

Discern: to examine, and by examination detect the real nature of a thing. Same word in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:27; 1 Corinthians 14:24; Luke 23:14; Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19; Acts 17:11; Acts 24:8; Acts 28:18. The process of discovering the divine wisdom revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and spoken by them in words suggested by the Spirit goes on only under the influence of the Spirit. Consequently, those destitute of the Spirit cannot know the truth taught by Him: for they have not the spiritual life essential to spiritual vision.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 2:15. The spiritual man: 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1 : whose inner and outer life is ruled by the Spirit of God, in contrast to one ruled by his animal nature.

All things: men and things; see 1 Corinthians 1:27. So far as we are under the influence of the Spirit of God do we sift the men and things around us and discover their real moral worth. Thus the Spirit within us casts a light on objects around us. So 1 John 2:20.

By no one; i.e. destitute of the Spirit. While the spiritual man, from his higher point of view, looks through and understands the purposes and motives of worldly men, his own purposes and motives are to them an insoluble mystery. And this in proportion as he is guided by the Spirit.

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 2:16. Reason for this; a quotation from Isaiah 40:13, quoted also in Romans 11:34.

Of the Lord: see Romans 9:29; Romans 10:13. The contrast of Christ suggests that Paul retains Isaiah’s reference to the Father.

Mind of the Lord: word for word from the LXX., instead of “Spirit of Jehovah.” It is the seat of the intelligence and the wisdom of God. Since the Spirit carries out into accomplishment the purposes of God, the change is unimportant. And, as it suits Paul’s argument, he adopts it.

Who will instruct Him: one who, understanding fully the circumstances and purposes of another, can give him advice. But the thought of giving instruction to God reveals how infinitely far is the wisest man from comprehending the mind of God.

We have; includes all “spiritual” men.

Mind of Christ: personally distinct from, but practically the same as, the “mind of the Lord.” For the Son is one with the Father. And whatever knowledge, purposes, and methods, lie in the mind of the Father, are fully understood and approved and appropriated by the intelligence of the Son. Moreover, by actual contact with Christ through the agency of His Spirit, the contents of the mind of Christ, i.e. His knowledge and purposes, are in part given to us and appropriated by us; so that so far as we “are led by the Spirit of God” the wisdom of Christ is the directing principle of our life. The name Christ reminds us of His specific work. Hence the change of expression. And the context in Isaiah reminds us that the mind of Christ contains the infinite wisdom revealed in Creation. All this explains 1 Corinthians 2:15. The spiritual man understands all men and is understood by none: for in him dwells, and he is guided by, the wisdom of the Creator, who understands all things and whose purposes and methods none can understand.

Notice the tone of triumph here. In Romans 11:33 we heard a similar triumph as Paul contemplated the wisdom of God using national prejudices and obstinacy to work out His universal purpose of mercy. And we now learn, with still greater wonder, that the same infinite wisdom which directs the affairs of nations to the attainment of His own purposes also directs the steps of even the least of those who yield themselves to the guidance of His Spirit. And, if so, his steps, though they tread the lowliest path, are guided by a wisdom which the wisest worldly man can never understand.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul applies to himself and the Corinthian Christians the general principles of 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 : as in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the principles of 1 Corinthians 1:17-31. The Gospel does not commend itself to human wisdom: therefore his preaching to them laid no claim to such wisdom. Yet the Gospel proclaims wisdom, a wisdom revealed by the Spirit and understood only by the spiritual: it was therefore useless to preach it to them.

Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jbc/1-corinthians-2.html. 1877-90.
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