Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

And I - So I, I also, as one of the 'foolish, weak, and despised' instruments employed by God: 'glorying in the Lord,' not in man's wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:27-31). My mode of speaking and acting accords with God's plan.

When I came (Acts 18:1, etc.) Paul might, had he pleased, have used an ornate style, having studied at Tarsus of Cilicia, famed for learning: here he read the Cilician Aratus' poems (which he quotes, Acts 17:28), and Epimenides (Titus 1:12), and Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33). Grecian intellect prepared the way for the Gospel, but failed to regenerate the world; for this a superhuman power is needed. Hellenistic (Grecizing) Judaism at Tarsus and Alexandria was the connecting link between the schools of Athens and those of the Rabbis. No more fitting birthplace could there have been for the apostle of the Gentiles than Tarsus. He had the Roman citizenship, which protected him from sudden violence. He was reared in the Hebrew divine law at Jerusalem. Thus, as the three elements, Greek cultivation, Roman polity (Luke 2:1), and the Jewish divine law, combined at Christ's time to prepare the world for the Gospel, so the same three met in the apostle to the Gentiles.

Testimony of God - "the testimony of Christ' (1 Corinthians 1:6): therefore Christ is God. So B D G f g, Vulgate. But 'Aleph (') A C read 'the mystery of Christ' (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7). The one thing that I determined to know among you was Jesus Christ (His person) and Him crucified (His office). Christ's crucifixion was not to be kept in the background, to avoid offending learned pagans and Jews. Nay, Paul judged it to be the central truth to know savingly, so as to speak effectively, everywhere (Philippians 3:10). Christ's person and Christ's office are the sum of the Gospel.

Verse 2

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

I - the preacher: as 1 Corinthians 2:2 describes the subject, and 1 Corinthians 2:4 the mode of preaching.

Weakness - personal and bodily (2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 4:13).

Trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12.) Not cowardly fear, but trembling anxiety to perform duty; anxious conscientiousness in contrast to "eye service" (Ephesians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12). His very weakness, as that of Christ crucified, his theme, was made the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Verse 4

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: My speech - in private.

Preaching - in public (Matthew 10:27). Or, discourse on doctrines; preaching, literally, heralding, of facts.

Enticing - Greek, persuasive.

Man's wisdom - "man's" is omitted in B Delta G f g: retained in 'Aleph (') A C.

Demonstration of the Spirit ... Persuasion is man's means of moving his fellow-man. Ministers should rather seek God's, which is demonstration, inspiring implicit faith by the power of the Spirit (then exhibited outwardly by miracles, and inwardly by working on the heart, now in the latter only, the more important way) (Matthew 7:29; Acts 6:10; Romans 15:19).

Verse 5

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Stand in the wisdom of men - rest on, owe its origin and continuance to, it.

Verses 6-7

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

Yet the Gospel, so far from being at variance with "wisdom," is a wisdom infinitely higher than that of the world.

We speak - resuming "we" (preachers, I, Apollos, etc.) from 1 Corinthians 1:23, only that here, "we speak," refers to something less public (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7) than 'we preach.' For "wisdom" here denotes, not the whole Christian doctrine, but its deeper principles.

Perfect - among the matured in Christian experience, who alone can appreciate the Christian wisdom: distinguished not only from worldly men, but also from babes (1 John 2:12-14) who, though "in Christ," retain much that is "carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:1-2), and cannot therefore understand the deeper truths (1 Corinthians 14:20: margin, Hebrews 5:14); or, "those sincere in the faith" (Philippians 1:5) (Theodoret). "Mystery," or "hidden wisdom" (1 Corinthians 2:7), is not some hidden tradition besides the Gospel (like the Church of Rome's 'disciplina arcani' and doctrine of reserve), but the unfolding of the treasures of knowledge once hidden in God's counsels, but now announced to all, and intelligently comprehended in proportion as the hearers' inner life became perfectly renewed. (Compare instances of such 'mysteries,' 1 Corinthians 15:51; Romans 11:25; Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5-6.) "God" (1 Corinthians 2:7) is opposed to "this world," the apostles to "the princes" (philosophers, rhetoricians, and rulers) (1 Corinthians 2:8: cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20).

Come to nought (1 Corinthians 1:28). They are transient; therefore their wisdom is not real. Translate, 'are being brought to nought'-namely, by God's choosing the "things which are not (the weak and desposed things of the Gospel), to bring to nought [the same verb, katargeesee (G2673)] things that are" (1 Corinthians 1:28).

Verse 7. Wisdom of God - contrasted with the wisdom of men and of this world (1 Corinthians 2:5-6).

In a mystery. We speak God's wisdom, dealing with a mystery - i:e., not to be kept hidden, but heretofore so, and now revealed (Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:5-6; Romans 16:25-26). The Pagan mysteries were revealed only to a few; the Gospel mysteries to all who would obey the truth (2 Corinthians 4:3). Ordinarily "mystery" refers to those from whom the knowledge is withheld. In the letters it refers to those to whom it is revealed. It is hidden in God until brought forward; and when brought forward, it still remains hidden to the carnal.

Ordained - literally, foreordained (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9), foredestined [ prooorisen (G4309)].

Before the world - Greek, 'before the ages' (of time); i:e., from eternity. This infinitely antedates worldly wisdom: before not only the world's wisdom, but eternally before the world itself and its ages.

Unto our glory - ours both now and hereafter, from "the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8). Elsewhere, "to His glory," for He is glorified in our being so through Him (Ephesians 1:6; John 17:10; John 17:24).

Verse 8

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Which - wisdom: the strongest proof of the natural man's destitution of heavenly wisdom.

The princes of this world. Herod, Pilate, Annas, and Caiaphas represent the worldly great in church and state, philosophers and rhetoricians.

Crucified the Lord of glory - implying the inseparable connection of Christ's humanity and His divinity. "The Lord of glory" (which He had in His own right before the world was, John 17:4; John 17:24) was "crucified." The Son has the Father's title, comprehending all the fullness of the Godhead (Acts 7:2; Ephesians 1:17; Psalms 24:7, Melek (H4428) hakabowd. (H3519)

Verse 9

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.

But [ alla (G235)] - in strong contrast to "which none of the princes of this world knew." Paul says, "But God hath revealed them unto us." Instead of using his own words he quotes God's.

As it is written, Eye hath not seen ... The Greek is, 'We speak (supplied from 1 Corinthians 2:8) things which eye saw not (heretofore), etc., things which [A B read "as many things soever as:" hosa (G3745). Delta G f g, Vulgate, read, as the English version] God prepared, etc. But' [ de (G1161), not so strong an adversative as the former "but," which contrasts the two main opposites. This latter "but" puts a slight contrast between the two subordinate clauses, "God hath prepared" from everlasting, but now "hath revealed the things to us."] The quotation is not verbatim, but an inspired exposition of the "wisdom" (1 Corinthians 2:6) from Isaiah 64:4 (cf. Isaiah 52:15; Isaiah 65:17). The exceptive words, "O God, beside (i:e., except) thee," are not quoted directly, but virtually expressed in the exposition (1 Corinthians 2:10). "None but thou, O God, sees these mysteries: God hath revealed them to us by His spirit. God's seeing the mysteries ensures His revealing them to His people.

Entered - literally, come up into the heart: 'alah 'al leeb: the rising of an earnest desire in the heart. A Hebraism (cf. margin, Jeremiah 3:16). In Isaiah 64:1-12 it is, "Prepared (literally, 'will do') for him that waiteth for him;" here, "for them that love Him." For Isaiah spake to them who waited for Messiah as future; Paul, to them who love Him as having appeared (1 John 4:19: cf. verse 12, end). 'Love conducts to a far richer world of knowledge than earthly means could open to the conception' (Olshausen).

Verse 10

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

Revealed ... by ... Spirit. Inspiration of thoughts (so far as truth essential to salvation is concerned) makes the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Matthew 16:17; John 16:13; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27); that of words, the PROPHET (1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Samuel 23:1-2; 1 Kings 13:1; 1 Kings 13:5; 2 Peter 1:21). The secrets of revelation remain secret, not because God will not reveal them (for the very notion of revelation implies an unveiling of what was veiled), but because natural men have not the will or power to comprehend them. The Spirit-taught alone know these secrets (Psalms 25:14; John 7:17; John 15:15).

Unto us - the "perfect" believers (1 Corinthians 2:6). Intelligent men may understand the outline of doctrines; but without the Holy Spirit's revelation these will be to them a mere skeleton, correct, but wanting life (Luke 10:21).

The Spirit searcheth - working in us and with our spirits (cf. Romans 8:16; Romans 8:26-27). The Old Testament shows us God (the Father) for us; the gospels, God (the Son) with us; the Acts and letters, God (the Holy Spirit) in us (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Deep things of God (Psalms 92:5) - His divine Being, attributes, and counsels. The Spirit delights to explore the infinite depths of the divine mind, and then reveal them to us as far as is for our profit (Deuteronomy 29:29). This proves the personality and the God-head of the Holy Spirit. "Searcheth" indicates not ignorance, but accurate knowledge, and delight in the contemplation (Revelation 2:23). Contrast "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2:24). He who has Christ revealed to him, has all things revealed in Him (1 Corinthians 3:22).

Verse 11

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

What man ... - literally, who of MEN knoweth the things of a MAN, except the spirit of that man?

Things of God knoweth no man - rather, 'none knoweth,' not angel or man.

But the Spirit of God. Supply, and he to whom the Spirit of God reveals them (so Matthew 11:27, end). Even in the case of man, so infinitely inferior to God, none of his fellow-men, but his own spirit alone, knows (whether that knowledge be great or small) what is within him. Man's spirit is the organ wherewith he receives God's Spirit, through Whom alone he can know God.

Verse 12

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

We have received, not the spirit of the world - the "spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). This spirit is natural in the unregenerate, and needs not to be received (Ezekiel 13:3; 1 John 4:4).

Spirit which is of [ ek (G1537)] God - i:e., which comes FROM God. We have received it only by the gift of God, whose Spirit it is (1 Corinthians 2:11).

That we might know - experimentally.

Things that are freely given to us of God - God's gift of salvation in Christ, now preached without admixture of worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:4), and the "things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Verse 13

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Also - we not only know by the Holy Spirit, but we also speak the "things freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12).

The Holy Spirit. So 'Aleph ('): but A B C G, Vulgate, read 'the Spirit' simply, without "Holy."

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual - expounding the Spirit-inspired Old Testament, by comparison with the Gospel revealed by the same Spirit; conversely illustrating the Gospel mysteries by comparing them with the Old Testament types. So the Greek [ sungkrinein (G4793)], "comparing" (2 Corinthians 10:12). Wahl translates 'explaining (as the Greek for Hebrew potheer, Genesis 40:8, Septuagint) to spiritual (i:e., Spirit-taught) men, spiritual things (the things which we ourselves are taught by the Spirit).' Spirit-taught men alone can comprehend spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 3:1). The preacher speaks to the unspiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1), in trust that the Spirit may by the Word make them spiritual. Vorstius translates 'combining spirituals with spirituals,' - i:e., spiritual things with spiritual words, which we should not do were we to use words of worldly wisdom to expound spiritual things (so 1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Peter 4:11). Perhaps the generality of the neuters comprehends these several notions. Combining spirituals with spirituals: implying both that spiritual things are only suited to spiritual persons (so "things" comprehended persons, 1 Corinthians 1:27), and also that spiritual truths can only be combined with spiritual (not worldly-wise) words; and lastly, spirituals of the Old and New Testaments can only be understood by mutual comparison, not by combination with worldly or natural "wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4-9: cf. Psalms 119:18).

Verse 14

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Natural man, [ psuchikos (G5591)]. As contrasted with the spiritual man, he is one in whom the animal soul [psyche] overbears his spirit, which latter is without the Spirit of God (Jude 1:19). So the animal (English version, "natural") body led by the lower nature (including both man's fallen roasts and heart), is contrasted with the Spirit-quickened body (1 Corinthians 15:44-46). The carnal man is one led by unregenerate appetites, or by a self-seeking mind, not necessarily one of low sensuality, but estranged from the divine life. [ psuchikos (G5591) regards the natural man in the intellectual, sarkikos (G4559), in the ethical, point of view.] 'Carnality' is the practical manifestation of the "natural" or 'animal mind;' "devilish," or 'demon-like,' 'led by an evil spirit,' is the worst type (James 3:15).

Receiveth not - accepts not, though offered to him, and 'worthy of being received by all men' (1 Timothy 1:15).

Foolishness unto him - whereas he seeks "wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22).

Neither can he - not only does he not, but he cannot know, and therefore has no wish to 'receive' them (Rom Neither can he - not only does he not, but he cannot know, and therefore has no wish to 'receive' them (Romans 8:7).

Verse 15

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

He that is spiritual - literally, 'the spiritual (man).' In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the Greek is 'A' (not "the") natural man. The spiritual is the man distinguished as he in whom the Spirit rules. In the unregenerate the spirit, the organ of the Holy Spirit, is overridden by the animal soul, and as in abeyance, so that such a one is never called "spiritual."

Judgeth all things - and persons by their true standard (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2-4; 1 Corinthians 14:24; 1 John 4:1), in so far as he is spiritual. 'Discerneth ... is discerned,' better accord with the translation, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Otherwise, for "discerned," in 1 Corinthians 2:14, translate 'judged of,' to accord with "judgeth ... is judged," in this 15th verse. He has a practical insight into Gospel verities, though not infallible or impeccable (Matthew 28:20; John 16:13). As the believer and the Church have the Spirit, and are yet not therefore impeccable, so he and the Church have the Spirit, and yet are not infallible or impeccable. Both are infallible and impeccable only in the degree in which they are led by the Spirit. The Spirit leads into all truth and holiness; but His influence on believers and the Church is as yet partial. Jesus alone, who had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), is both infallible and impeccable. Scripture, because written by men who, while writing, were infallibly inspired, is unmixed truth (Proverbs 30:5; Psalms 12:6).

Himself is judged of no man - that is not spiritual; and even by them only partially (1 Corinthians 4:3).

Verse 16

For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

For - proof that the spiritual man "is judged of no man." In order to judge him, the natural man must 'know the mind, of the Lord.' But who of natural men 'knows' that?

That he may instruct him - i:e., so as to set Him right as His counselor (Isaiah 40:13-14, Septuagint [ sumbibasei (G4822)].) Natural men, in judging spiritual men, who 'have the mind of the Lord,' are virtually wishing, as counselors, to set to right their KING.

We have the mind of Christ. So A C 'Aleph (') f; Vulgate. But B Delta G g, 'of the Lord'-in our degree of capability to apprehend it. Isaiah 40:1-31 refers to JEHOVAH; therefore, since it is applied here to Christ, He is Yahweh.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.