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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5 . The Cross, Folly to the World, is the Power and Wisdom of God.— Paul now explains and justifies 1 Corinthians 1:17 b, which to Greek readers must have sounded strange, almost a defiant paradox. The story of the Cross is folly to those who are in the way of ruin, but it attests itself in our experience to us, who are in the way of salvation, as the power of God. And this is in harmony with Scripture. For God’ s wise purpose ordained that the world’ s wisdom should be unable to know Him. There is an effective contrast between Divine and human wisdom. The world seeks through its wisdom to know God, but God’ s wisdom checkmates the world’ s wisdom and thwarts its aspirations, since He has planned that man shall know Him through the Gospel, which seems arrant folly to human wisdom. It is here precisely as with the quest for righteousness. God shut up all unto disobedience that through the Cross He might have mercy on all ( Romans 11:32). He shut up all to ignorance that through the Cross He might illuminate all. “ The intellectual was as signal as the moral defeat,” “ God’ s sovereign grace rescues man’ s bankrupt wisdom” (Findlay). For it is a characteristic of Jews to seek after signs, of Greeks to seek after wisdom. Our preaching of Christ crucified, Paul says, is to Jews a stumbling-block for the Law pronounces a curse on him who is hanged ( Deuteronomy 21:23), and thus the mode of death negatives for the Jew the claim of Jesus to Messiahship, while to Greeks it is just mad. But we know them to be wrong, we who are called of God; for our experience proves that this message embodies both the power and the wisdom of God. Folly and weakness, yes; but that folly of God which is wiser, that weakness of His which is stronger than men. Among the called are his readers, who form an excellent illustration, an illustration all the more welcome to Paul that it serves to abate their unwholesome conceit. They number very few wise according to the world’ s estimate, or people with civic standing, or high birth. The folly of the Gospel is clear from this that God proclaimed it to fools, people of no account, belonging to the lower orders, such as most of themselves. He deliberately chose the foolish, the weak, the base, the contemptible, the things that count for nothing, to bring to nought the world’ s substantial realities, so that no flesh should boast before Him. But from Him they derive their being in Christ, who became in His Incarnation Divine Wisdom for us, manifesting itself as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that He alone deserves the glory. And when he came to Corinth Paul acted on the same principle. It was with no eloquence or philosophy that he unfolded the mystery of redemption. He had decided not to know anything beyond Jesus Christ, and Him as crucified. And corresponding to the folly of the matter was the weakness of the manner, ineffective, timid, anxious, without persuasive power or philosophical presentation. Yet his preaching was endowed with convincing force, because God imparted His Divine Spirit and energy to it, with the intent that their faith should repose not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:19 . The quotation is from Isaiah 29:14, where the politicians who are planning an Egyptian alliance are denounced; “ reject” is substituted for “ conceal” under the influence of Psalms 32:10.

1 Corinthians 1:20 . From Isaiah 33:18 and perhaps Isaiah 19:12.

1 Corinthians 1:23 . Probably no doctrine of a suffering Messiah had been developed in Judaism so early as Paul’ s day; the doctrine of a crucified Messiah could not possibly have been. That such a doctrine was formulated, and such a fact as the crucifixion asserted, is a decisive proof of the historical existence and crucifixion of Jesus (p. 814 .).

1 Corinthians 1:30 . Read mg.

1 Corinthians 2:1 . mystery: i.e. God’ s eternal counsel of redemption, long concealed but now revealed. Many prefer mg. “ testimony,” which is better attested, especially as “ mystery” may have been suggested by 1 Corinthians 2:7. It is, however, neither clear nor very satisfactory in sense, and may have been suggested by 1 Corinthians 1:6.

Verses 6-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 . Yet there Is a Christian Wisdom Revealed by God’ s Spirit.— Yet there is a true wisdom of which the Christian teachers speak to those who are mature; not a wisdom of this world or of the angels who are its rulers and are coming to nought, but God’ s wisdom in a mystery now disclosed, a hidden wisdom predestined before time to secure our perfection; not known to the world-rulers, who otherwise would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. By “ rulers of the world” Paul means angels, the principalities and powers, the “ elements of the world” ( Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9, Colossians 2:8). The identification with the Roman governor and the Jewish high priest, still held by some scholars, does not suit the words “ who are coming to nought,” nor the present tense “ knoweth,” nor the immediate context. Paul is speaking here of a wisdom which he proclaims only to the fully initiated, a hidden wisdom preordained before time. How should Pilate and Caiaphas be acquainted with this? Angels have superhuman knowledge, therefore their ignorance cannot be taken for granted; it is natural that Paul should explicitly affirm it, and it is implied in Ephesians 3:10, 1 Peter 1:12. It is a mistake to think of these angels as evil, nor are they necessarily hostile, they act in ignorance rather than from malice. The old order, especially the Law (Acts 7, Galatians 3, Hebrews 2, and Col. generally), was under their control; and the death which Christ bore as the Law’ s penalty was naturally inflicted by the angels who gave and administered the Law. An angel has no meaning apart from his function; the angels of the Law cannot transcend the legal point of view. The wisdom of which Paul is speaking is that set forth in 1 Corinthians 2:9, the secrets of the future, especially the glory foreordained for Christians. Had these angels known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of that glory. Paul can hardly mean the mystery of redemption, for he is speaking of teaching reserved for those who are sufficiently developed to receive it. Our knowledge of it has been communicated through the Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 2:10). Paul may have specially in mind the ecstatic conditions in which he was borne away into the third heaven ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). While he heard there unutterable things, he would also probably suppose himself to have gained an insight into heavenly mysteries such as could be revealed to those ripe enough to receive it. Ezekiel describes his trance condition by saying that he was in the spirit ( Ezekiel 37:1), and similarly John in Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2. It is true that the revelations given by the prophets in the Christian assemblies were considered to come from the Spirit. Yet Paul can hardly be thinking of these, for they were uttered indiscriminately in the congregation; whereas Paul is speaking of a wisdom communicated only to initiates. Even if the phraseology is borrowed from the mysteries, we must not suppose that there was an esoteric Christianity disclosed only to those who were actually initiated into Christian mysteries. Paul means that he fits his teaching to the capacity of his hearers. If they quarrel with the simplicity of his preaching, it is simple because they cannot assimilate anything more advanced. When they become more mature, he can impart a more advanced doctrine. Thus Paul humiliates the conceit of the church, which prided itself on its knowledge. He proceeds ( 1 Corinthians 2:10 b) to explain how it is that the Spirit can reveal. He thoroughly explores all things, fathoms even the depths of God’ s being and purpose. And He alone can reveal the mind of God, since He alone can know it. Just as the spirit of each man is alone able to know the thoughts and emotions within him, so only the Spirit of God can know God’ s innermost experiences. It is this all-searching Spirit, Paul continues, that we have received. True, the fact of inspiration does not determine its quality; an evil spirit might invade the personality, the spiritual gifts include the discrimination of spirits, and possibly such utterances as “ Jesus Anathema!” might be heard in the Christian assemblies ( 1 Corinthians 12:3 *). But such an evil spirit is not the source of our knowledge as to the glories prepared by God for us. And this Spirit-given knowledge is not merely possessed, it is uttered in Spirit-given words, the speaker combining spiritual truth with spiritual expression. But spiritual things can be imparted only to those who are fit to receive them. Man, as he is by nature, cannot accept them; he looks on them as folly, nor has he the capacity to apprehend them because they respond only to spiritual tests which he is unable to apply. But the spiritual man tests everything, for the spiritual is the highest realm and commands those beneath; whereas the natural man has no competence to estimate the spiritual, he lives on a lower plane. No one, Scripture says ( Isaiah 40:13), has apprehended the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him. And since by union with Him we have His mind, we are equally beyond human judgment.

1 Corinthians 2:9 . The source of the quotation is very uncertain. If from the OT (as the formula of citation suggests), it is from Isaiah 64:4 combined with Isaiah 65:17. The points of contact are so slight that no confidence can be felt in this derivation. If the source is not the OT, Paul has quoted another work under a misapprehension. Origen attributes it to the Secrets of Elijah the Prophet, but the relation is more probably to be reversed.

1 Corinthians 2:13. The last clause is difficult. RV gives no relevant sense. “ Interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men” ( mg.) is philologically questionable. The most probable view is that adopted above. Bousset thinks the reference is to speaking with tongues, the heavenly truth being uttered in the heavenly language. But speech in a tongue was unintelligible apart from an interpreter, whereas Paul implies that the language will be understood and the truth accepted by any who are spiritual, few of whom might have the gift of interpretation. Besides, the words would be intelligible even to the natural man, the reason why he does not welcome them is not their unintelligibility but their foolishness.

1 Corinthians 2:14 . natural ( psuchikos) ; we have no strict equivalent in English; “ natural perhaps gives the right suggestion as well as anything.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-corinthians-2.html. 1919.
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