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The Apostle enters upon the Relation of his Ministry, which he had exercised among the Corinthians. He reminds them, that he passed by all human Eloquence in his Discourses before them, and had preached only Christ. He spews them how God the Spirit had confirmed his preaching, in their Hearts.
(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. (2) For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (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: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
If any man might have been supposed qualified to have used the powers of human oratory in preaching; who so proper as Paul, who had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; and who had studied, if we might venture to conclude as much from the elegant speech he made before Agrippa, (see Acts 26:0 ) the art of rhetoric, which at that time was much in use in the schools? But what a lovely view is here exhibited, of the plan of Paul's preaching, in that, he simply preached Christ. Reader! how much to be wished were it, that all whom God hath called to the ministry, would adopt the Apostle's plan. And indeed, it is matter of astonishment, that men, ravingly called themselves to the knowledge of Christ, in their own souls, and spiritually ordained, by the Holy Ghost, to preach to others; (and of all others it is of little consequence what men uncommissioned preach,) should preach ought beside. When angels came from heaven, at the birth of Christ, to announce his arrival, they preached him as a Savior, Luke 2:11 . When the Son of God came preaching himself, it was the same glad tidings of salvation, Matthew 18:11 . And when, after redemption-work was finished, and Christ was returned to glory, and the Holy Ghost came down, the whole burden of the Apostles preaching was to the same amount: God (said they) having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities. Hence daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach, and to preach Jesus Christ! Acts 5:42; Acts 5:42 .
There is a peculiar beauty in the Apostle's expression, not only to preach Christ, but Christ crucified. There were a thousand excellencies in Christ Paul had learnt, and on which he had often dwelt, with holy rapture. But the cross included all. There Paul fixed his eye, his heart, his whole soul. And, what he felt so truly blessed, to himself, he longed to communicate to all the Lord's people. Christ crucified, was peculiarly suited, to poor sinful men. It was worthy of all acceptation! Reader! how little do those men know of the plague of their own heart, who preach aught beside! Might not a poor sinner say, in every congregation of such men, as Job did of, those who read to him their dunghill lectures of patience: Miserable comforters are ye all: physicians of no value! Job 13:4; Job 13:4 .
What a humbling account the Apostle gives of himself, when standing up to minister among the people! And such must it ever be, among all those who have an awful sense of the solemn charge, in holding forth the word of life among dying sinners. Who shall calculate and note down the tears, and prayers, and anxieties, and tremblings of faithful ministers, who watch for the souls of the people, as they who must give account. Men who rush into the service uncalled, unsent, like the sons of Eli, to be put into the priest's office, can have no apprehension what these things mean. 1 Samuel 2:36 . But Paul's conscious weakness, and fear, and much trembling, will be easily understood by those awakened minds, who never stand up to minister in the Lord's name, but with an holy jealousy over their own hearts; and never end their labors, but with a prayer, that their most holy things may be washed from their uncleanness, in Christ's blood! Exodus 28:38
How sweet a testimony was this to the Apostle's mind, of the Lord's speaking in the word, and by the word, when Paul saw the Lord's blessing on his labors. The demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, in every congregation of the faithful, is indeed the great refreshment, both to minister and people. Paul makes this a proof, of the most decisive kind, of the Church being chosen of God. See 1 Thessalonians 1:4 to the end. And Reader! it is this, and this alone, which forms the proper foundation, for security in the divine life. What begins in human wisdom and human strength, will end in both; Which is folly and weakness, in the highest attainments. But, what begins in the Lord, will end in the Lord, and be bottomed upon an everlasting security, Isaiah 45:24-25 .
(6) 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 naught: (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (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. (10) But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (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. (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. (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. (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. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
The Apostle here enters upon the subject of the divine wisdom, in the ordination of the Church, which, while the way-faring man, when taught of the Lord, hath such an apprehension of, as is sufficient to make him wise unto salvation, and that he shall not err therein, becomes a subject of such impenetrable mystery, to the wise and prudent of this world, as they are called, that the highest human intellect, untaught of God, can never attain unto it. And this becomes a decided proof of the necessity of divine teaching, and, it was this, which the Lord Jesus thanked the Father for, in the days of his flesh, because he had hid those things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes, Matthew 11:25-26 . See also Isaiah 35:8 .
As this wisdom, which Paul professed to speak of, was known and understood by those that are perfect, though none of the princes of this world knew it; and yet Paul calls it the wisdom of God in a mystery and the hidden wisdom: it will be highly proper for the Reader to enquire, what apprehension he hath concerning it; that he may, among other marks of examination in relation to himself, try his faith by this standard also, whether it be founded in the wisdom of men, or in the power of God.
That everything relating to the Being, and Perfections of God, must necessarily be matter of mystery to his creatures; and that no apprehensions whatever can be obtained of Him, but by such revelations as He is mercifully pleased to make of himself; is too obvious to need being insisted upon. But that in those revelations, which, in his infinite condescension, the Lord hath made of Himself, the wisdom of human intellect shall not of itself be able to apprehend, while humbler capacities, enlightened by the Spirit, shall understand; makes the subject, what Paul calls hidden wisdom, yet more mysterious. The whole, of what relates to the Church, both in the choice of the Church, the being, and blessedness of the Church, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the World, and everything connected with the present time-state of the Church, as well as that glory which is to follow; all forms a subject of mystery. But, when it be considered, that what is apprehended of those sublime things, can, at the best, be only such as our present unripe faculties are capable of receiving; the only astonishment is, that we know so much as we do know, under divine teaching, and not that we know no more. In a world like the present, and in a fallen state, such as man by nature is in; we can know nothing, but what is given us of God. The mystery of the divine nature, existing in a threefold character of Persons; is the first, and deepest of all mysteries. And it is no further revealed to us, than as an article of faith. To explain in us, the mode of this existence is not done in all the Holy Scripture. Perhaps it is impossible. Neither is it necessary. It demands our faith on the authority of God. It forbids our reasoning upon. Very attempt of this sort is answered in he words of Scripture : Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? Job 11:7 . But thus far we learn, that as the word of God, reveals God, as existing in a threefold character of Persons, and in numberless parts of the sacred word, the actions of each glorious Person are given, and with a plainness and precision which abundantly prove, both their personality, and Godhead: the man which doth not acknowledge this fundamental article of all faith, that Jehovah exists in a threefold character of Persons, and thereby different from all his creatures; doth not, in fact, acknowledge the Being of God, according to Scripture at all. He virtually denies there is a God, when he acknowledgeth not the Scripture revelation of God: and whatever wisdom he professeth to have, it corresponds but to that, which Paul here speaks of: the wisdom of this world and of the princes of this world, which come to nought.
But it is not the mere lip-confession, or tacit acknowledgment of this fundamental truth, which constitutes, what Paul calls, the wisdom among them that are perfect. A man may be led to agree to a truth, and yet have no life-enjoyment of that truth. But the soul taught of God, hath a saving knowledge, and acquaintance with God; that is to say, the mind is led to apprehend, that those glorious Persons of the Godhead have revealed themselves, and do reveal themselves to the Church, in their several office-characters, and relations, different from what they do unto the World; and the child of God is brought into some acquaintance with those blessed manifestations. This is what Paul refers to, when he saith, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; that is, among them which are Christ's, and who are made perfect in Christ Jesus, Colossians 1:28 . And wisdom indeed it is, and truly called the wisdom of God in a mystery; when a child of God is savingly made acquainted with it; to discover, the whole Persons of the Godhead engaged in it, to make the Church everlastingly blessed, and happy, in Christ: that while hidden from the wise, and learned, in worldly wisdom, the humble are taught, that God ordained it before the world, unto our glory!
Reader! it will be your mercy, and mine, to have a clear apprehension, under divine teaching, of these precious things. And, since there is such a striking distinction, as the Apostle states there is its this Chapter, between the attainments of nature, and grace; between worldly wisdom, and that which is from above; between the natural man, and the spiritual; it must be of infinite importance, to ascertain the difference, and to know the things which (he saith) are freely given unto us of God.
In prosecuting this enquiry, I need not go over a large field, on a point already known and understood; that by the new birth, or regeneration of the soul, a total change is wrought on the renewed mind. I shall for once, consider this as granted; and that, what the Apostle saith elsewhere, my Reader is already convinced of. For if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new, 2 Corinthians 5:17 . But while this great truth is, and must be, most fully allowed, by every regenerated child of God, it is not so well understood, as the importance of the subject renders it necessary, that this new creature is wholly in the spirit, and not in the body. It is our spiritual part, which at regeneration is awakened, and brought forth into life, from the death of sin; and not our bodily part. The natural man, as Paul here calls our bodies, is not renewed, neither made capable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God, more than before. This is a grand point, to be well and thoroughly understood, by the renewed man, And there is another like it, namely, that while the gracious act, wrought by God the Holy Ghost, in regeneration, is confined wholly to the spiritual part of every child of God, and leaves the body, for the present life, in the same state as before, of an unrenewed nature; this one act of God the Spirit is a perfect and complete act, and makes the spirit of the happy receiver of this unspeakable mercy, as holy as it will ever be, in time, or eternity. When this blessed work of regeneration is wrought, it imparts all that is essential to life and holiness, in Christ. The act is but once done, and it is compleatly done. There can be no defect in it, for it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. All that are regenerated are alike regenerated: similar to the analogy in nature. Infants, when born in nature, and born perfect in all their parts, are born no more. And the child in grace hath no after addition to its Being. The spiritual life, into which it is brought, can receive no after being, or addition. Growth in grace, there will be, as there is a growth in nature; but the life itself, the spiritual being, and the well-being, deriving, as it doth its whole, from such a source as God the Holy Ghost, is but once done, and done forever.
Reader! will you allow me to call your attention, somewhat more particularly, to this subject. The very interesting nature of it, will I hope, plead for the indulgence. Perhaps you may not have been accustomed to consider it, in this light. Sure I am, it is truly scriptural. And, if you will grant me the moment's patience, and attention; I shall hope, under the Lord's teaching, to prove it so. And perhaps you will be the more inclined to grant me this favor, when I add, that I am the more earnest to state it as it appears to me in this scriptural light, because I am inclined to think, that it is to our ignorance in this matter, concerning the work of regeneration, on what part it is wrought, and from whence alone we look for the blessed effects of it, that so many errors abound in the Church; and of consequence, so many of God's children go in leanness, and mourning of soul, all their days.
Let me begin with first stating, what the Holy Scripture sets forth, of the blessed work of God the Son in regeneration. And this I venture to believe, is uniformly said to be wholly wrought upon the spirit. When our Lord described the gracious act of the new birth, in his conversation with Nicodemus the Jew, the Lord Jesus clearly defined, that it was wholly spiritual, when he said : that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit, John 3:6 . And, agreeably to the same distinction of properties, the new birth is said by the Holy Ghost, to be witnessed to the spirit, not to the body. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Romans 8:16 ; 2 Corinthians 1:22 ; Galatians 4:6 . And we are repeatedly told, that the carnal mind, and the natural man, and the body flesh, and the like; are not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be. See Romans 8:5 and chapter.
I am well aware, it hath been supposed by some, yea, perhaps by far the greater part of Commentators, that; when the Holy Ghost, by the Apostle, is thus speaking of the inability of the natural man to receive the things of God, and that the carnal mind is enmity against God; the Lord is supposed to allude to his Church and people, during the time of their unregeneracy. But here is the mistake. The natural man, the body of sin and death, is, and must be unavoidably, the same in nature, after a work of grace hath passed upon the soul, as before. It is wholly nature, wholly the same mass, of flesh and blood. If the body was made holy, as the soul is, by regeneration, it would be no longer liable to corruption, whereas, the hourly tendencies of the body, by reason of sin, is to its original dust. Hence, in distinction to this, when the Apostle Peter is relating to the Church, the blessedness of their being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, he adds, which liveth and abideth forever, 2 Peter 1:21 . Had the Apostle considered the body of believers included in this new birth of the soul; the body, no more than the soul, would any longer be the subject of corruption. And Paul, in confirmation of the same, more than twenty years after his regeneration, speaking of himself, and his body of sin and death, which he carried about with him, and in which he said dwelt no good thing; declared, that he was carnal, and sold under sin, Romans 7:14 . I venture to conclude, in what I am sure every child of God in their experience, as well as Paul, cannot but join issue; that in the blessed act of regeneration, it is the spiritual part that is renewed, and not the carnal. While God the Holy Ghost quickens the soul, which was before dead in trespasses and sins; the body, still remains, in the unrenewed state of fallen nature. Grace works not upon the old man, while the new man after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. Not an atom of the body is sanctified; and not an atom of the soul, left unholy. Blessed be God! the hour is hastening, when this mass of sin and corruption; which now interrupts the soul, will interrupt her no more. To the grave it is daily going. And there, (saith the soul in her best hours,) let it go. From thence, it will arise, by the power of the Lord Jesus, to whom, notwithstanding all its unworthiness; it is united :) a glorified body, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish, Ephesians 5:27 ; Philippians 3:21 .
But, with respect to the spiritual part of a child of God, when, by the act of regeneration, God the Holy Ghost quickens it into life; here, the gracious act is perfect, complete, performed but once, and that once forever. Very blessedly the Holy Ghost hath taught the Church, by his servants the Apostles, the foundation on which this doctrine rests; namely, in that, by this quickening of the soul into spiritual life, by his sovereign power, the soul is made a partaker of the divine nature, and can die no more. And you, (saith Paul,) being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, Colossians 2:13 . Mark the expression: quickened together with him. And Peter in like terms. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life, and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory, and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption, that is in the world through lust, 2 Peter 1:3-4 . These are most unanswerable, and decided proofs; in point. The soul, by the gracious act of regeneration, is declared to be quickened together with Him, namely, Christ consequently, hath spiritual life in Christ, and can die no more: for Jesus hath said, because I live, ye shall live also, John 14:19 ; Colossians 3:3-4 . And this divine power, hath given all things that pertain to life, and godliness. Consequently spiritual life, and eternal life, with all their preliminaries; grace here, and glory forever. And, being made partakers of the divine nature, the soul can be no longer liable to any future death, being by this one act quickened, which before was dead, in trespasses and sins; and the nature which communicates this life, being divine. Hence, this blessed act of regeneration, brings, with it, eternal life, holiness, and glory. It contains the whole work of God the Holy Ghost, upon the soul. And all, the after acts, in which God the Spirit draws forth the soul into sweet fellowship, and communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, are but the blessed effects of this first cause, when bringing the soul, from death, to life; and from the power of sin and Satan, unto the living God.
And, Reader! do but add this one thought to the subject, and see, what a beautiful, harmony, and consistency, there is, in this one act of God the Holy Ghost, by regeneration, to the one act, of God the Father, in election, and the one act, of God the Son, in union and redemption. Are we not taught, to look up, with equal reverence, obedience, love, adoration, and praise, to the Holy Three In One, which bear record in heaven, as the united source, and joint cause, of all our being, well-being, and blessedness? both not this homage become suitable and proper in us, not only on account of their perfect equality, in all their nature and essence, as Jehovah; but also as Manifesting their covenant characters and offices towards us, as the Church in Christ? Say then, is it not blessed, yea, very blessed, to contemplate God our Father, manifesting his love, in electing, choosing, and naming the Church, in every individual instance of the Church; accepting, blessing, and making the whole everlastingly happy, in Christ: and this act but once done, for it is eternally done, when done by an unchangeable God, and must remain forever? Ephesians 1:4 . And in like manner, is it not equally blessed, yea, very blessed, to contemplate God the Son, manifesting his love also, in betrothing his Church to him forever; and as this union could be but one act, and when wrought, never to be undone: so in redeeming his Church from the fall, in this time-state of her existence, by that one offering of himself once offered, he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified? Hosea 2:19-20 ; Isaiah 54:5 . And, if these sovereign acts in God the Father, and God the Son, were but once wrought; wherefore should it be thought less powerful, less important, or less gracious, that God the Holy Ghost, in regeneration, should do the same? Why should he not, by one act, communicate all that pertaineth to life, and godliness, in making as holy, and as everlastingly happy, as can be, in time or in eternity, the spirits of those, whom God the Father hath once given, and God the Son hath once betrothed to himself, and redeemed once for all by his blood?
I have been the more particular in stating, according to my views of the subject, the true Scriptural sense of it, because, for the want of a right apprehension therein, I am persuaded, (as I said before,) many there are, of God's dear children, who go in leanness of soul, and mourning, all their days. And, while they are on the look out, for greater holiness in themselves, it is impossible to be otherwise. They are prompted to this expectation, partly by the remains of unhumbled pride in themselves; and partly from the mistaken views of others, who teach (what they themselves, if they knew better the plague of their own hearts, would confess they never found) a progressive holiness in the divine life. Whereas the great act of faith, and the going forth of the soul, when regenerated by the Holy Ghost, is upon the Person, and blood, and righteousness of Christ. The child of God finds his joy in Christ, not in himself, or his sweetest enjoyments. He doth not live upon his attainments, but upon Christ's complete justifying salvation: not upon what he feels, but upon what Christ is: not from a work done in him, but upon the work of Christ done for him. He doth not, like the spider, spin a web out of his own bowels to hang upon; but hangs all the glory upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He enters into a full apprehension, of that sweet, and precious Scripture, that Christ is made of God unto him, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, that all his glorying may be in the Lord. It will be a subject of much thanksgiving to the Lord, if these views be sanctified to any of the Lord's little ones, so as to endear Christ, and comfort his people; that all those blessed effects may follow, which the Apostle hath so fully opened in this Chapter, and which arise from divine: teaching, When we can say, as he did : but we have the mind of Christ.
READER! behold the great Apostle in his fervent zeal to the cross of Christ! Think, in what view that cross appeared to his mind! He knew it's value. He hath felt, and experienced, the blessedness of it, to his own soul; and as such, he could not remain silent, in holding it forth to others. And his own weakness, and feebleness, in preaching Christ, and him crucified, he considered as nothing, while he kept in remembrance that divine strength was rendered the more conspicuous in human nothingness. Nay, the Apostle rejoiced in the consciousness, that the more feeble his ministry was in itself, the more evident would appear Christ's glory : and their faith be found, not to stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.
Blessed be God the Holy Ghost, for the sweet instruction communicated to the Church, in this precious Chapter. Yes! thou Almighty Teacher! we do find cause to bless thee, for the very clear, and decisive line thou hast drawn, between natural knowledge and divine; between the wisdom which is from beneath, and that which is from above. None, indeed, of the princes of this world, knew the Lord of glory : neither will they ever, by mere human intellect, discover the hidden wisdom of God. But, while these things are hidden from the wise and prudent; oh! the graciousness of our God, to reveal them to babes! Lord! may thy people know their sonship, and adoption - character, by thy divine instruction; and may we have all grace, while thou art condescending to be our Teacher, to know the things which are freely given to us of God, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29