1 Corinthians 2:1. And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech (as a rhetorician), or of wisdom (as a philosopher), proclaiming to you the testimony of God(1)—that concerns His Son.
1 Corinthians 2:2. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. He would not only know but one theme, but would hold that forth in precisely the light which he knew would prove the most repulsive to their fastidious ears and corrupt taste. For this being that in which every fact of His life has its explanations, and from which the whole principle of His work takes its character, he felt he could neither keep it back, nor soften it down. Yet this was no bravado. He was tremblingly alive to the possible effect of making this the pivot of His ministry.
1 Corinthians 2:3. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. It is remarkable that nowhere else does the apostle so speak, nor does he seem to have anywhere else felt such an oppressive consciousness of his insufficiency (see 2 Corinthians 2:15-17); and it is worthy of notice that the historian of the Acts (Acts 18:5) refers to these very feelings at Corinth in the following unusual terms: ‘But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia (to Corinth), Paul was constrained by the word (as the true text is), testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.’
1 Corinthians 2:4. And my speech and my preaching,—the ‘message’ itself as well as its clothing,—were not in persuasive words of wisdom,(1) but in the power of God. It was not that he could not have wielded the weapon of ‘man’s wisdom’ to excellent effect, as may be seen in various passages of these very Epistles to the Corinthians, whose eloquence is confessedly surpassing; but that for the reason given, he studiously avoided it. Of course, however, there is nothing here disparaging to the right use of human culture in the Christian ministry.
1 Corinthians 2:6. Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect. This is a favourite Pauline word, having one well-defined sense, with only varying shades according to the subject treated of. With reference to Christ’s work, it denotes its ‘completion’ by His death (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:10); with regard to the believer’s standing before God in virtue of that completed work, it expresses his ‘perfect’ acceptance (Hebrews 10:14, compared with 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:1); and in relation to his stage of advancement in the Christian life, it means his ‘full’ apprehension of gospel truth—that of full-grown ‘men’ as contrasted with the immaturity of the ‘babes in Christ’ (chap. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12-14). This last is clearly the sense here. For only when this stage is reached—when the gospel scheme can be grasped as a whole, and be surveyed all round—can the ‘wisdom’ there is in it be fully discovered.
Yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world,—the rulers of its thought even more than of its power, Greek and Jew alike,—that are coming to nought,—through the silently but surely undermining power of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 2:7. but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery—i.e. (in the apostolic sense of the word ‘mystery’) a wisdom long hidden from view, but now disclosed (see Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:16). In the same sense our Lord uses the word (Matthew 13:11; Matthew 13:17).—even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory (see 2 Timothy 2:10).
1 Corinthians 2:8. which (wisdom) none of the princes of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (as He is also called in James 2:1)—inflicting hereby (exclaims Bengel) on the Lord of glory the punishment of slaves!
1 Corinthians 2:9. but as it is written (Isaiah 64:4, or 1 Corinthians 2:3 in Heb., which is here recalled in fragmentary form), Things which eye saw not, etc. The truth here expressed by the prophet and the apostle is, that what God has in store for His people transcends not only all past experience, but all human conception.
This leads the apostle into a new line of thought, an episode which extends to the close of the chapter. The ‘wisdom’ of the Gospel, being in its nature purely spiritual, can be apprehended only by the spiritual, as even to the apostles themselves it is disclosed through the teaching of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:10. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit.(1) Though this is true of believers generally, the reference here, as appears from 1 Corinthians 2:3, is to the apostles.
For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God—not the depths of His Being, but of His purposes, though in themselves these are inseparable.
Note here the relation and interaction of ‘God’ and ‘the Spirit.’ Why, it may be asked, does God employ the Spirit’s agency to reveal to believers what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived? Because (says this verse) those depths of the Godhead lie open to the Spirit’s penetrating gaze;—a unique statement to which there is no actual parallel, save Romans 8:26-27, which throws much light on the statement here. But the following verse contains an equally unique and noteworthy statement.
1 Corinthians 2:11. For who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God. The relation of ‘the Spirit’ to ‘God’ is here compared to that of a man to his own spirit. As each man’s own spirit is known to no man but himself (Romans 14:10), so the mind of God (says the apostle) is known only by the Spirit of God. But like every other comparison, this one must not be pressed beyond its immediate purpose: for in the case of ourselves, we and our own spirit are numerically one; whereas in this very passage—and in every other place where the Holy Spirit is spoken of—there is observed a distinction of conscious personality between ‘God’ on the one hand and the ‘Spirit of God’ on the other. And not only so, but while the Personal identity of these two is certainly never taught, the Personal Divinity of the Spirit is here so clearly taught, that on any other supposition the statement in the latter part of this verse would be inept.
1 Corinthians 2:12. Now we 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. Not only are the things themselves ‘freely given us,’ but we only ‘know’ them, so as to make them our own, through the Spirit which is given to us of God for that very end.
Note.—That the style as well as the matter of spiritual things should have been divinely provided for, is most noteworthy. What then, we naturally ask, is its character and mould? We see it in the apostle’s own style, and in that generally of the New Testament; and this we find to be just that of the ancient oracles, only purified, enriched, and informed with a new and higher life. Thus the things of the Spirit are married indissolubly to a phraseology suited to the things themselves; and what God hath joined together let no man put asunder. There are those who think they can now couch “the things of the Spirit of God” to far better effect by stripping off the husk of the biblical phraseology, as that of a past age, and using those modern forms of speech to which we are accustomed in secular affairs. But those who listen to them find that the things themselves, in their life and efficacy, have to a large extent evaporated in the process, while the biblical language is as music to their ears. Nor should the interesting fact be overlooked, that the first translators of the New Testament into Latin, to whom the style of it seemed as sacred as the thoughts, instead of employing the polished Latinity of the classics, invented a Latinity of their own, which, though to the classic ear barbarous enough, conveyed almost literally the biblical style as well as its thought; and to this peculiar phraseology of theirs our own Authorised Version owes some of its best turns of expression, which English-speaking Christians will do well never to part with.
1 Corinthians 2:14. But the natural man—a phrase on the sense of which it would be vain to expect light from the classical writers, who had no conception of the spiritual things intended here. In Greek writings, the noun, from which the adjective here used is formed, means ‘the animal soul,’ or that life which man has in common with all animals. Hence it came to signify the appetite or passion of man’s lower nature, as distinguished from his higher reason or ‘spirit.’ So understood, ‘the natural man’ of our passage would mean no more than the man governed by sensual appetite, or the inferior impulses of his nature. And this is the sense in which it is taken by all interpreters of a shallow school of theology. But it is far beneath the apostle’s meaning. With him “the natural man” is he who in spiritual things has only his natural human faculties to guide him, without spiritual perception or apprehension, but not necessarily the slave of grovelling impulses. True it is, that all unrenewed, unspiritual men, even the best and most refined, being dominated by sensible things, may thus far be said to be under the dominion of the lower part of their nature; for the true capacities of their higher nature can only be drawn forth when they become “new creatures.” But it is simply the absence of this life which is denoted by the phrase “the natural man.”—receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness onto him—since he wants the capacity to apprehend them: and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged—they are to him as light to the blind-born. But it is an utter perversion of such statements to maintain, as fanatics do, that there is in the natural man any organic constitutional incapacity of spiritual perception, requiring to be created in them by the Holy Ghost. For maintaining this an eminent Lutheran professor of divinity, soon after Luther’s death, had to be deposed. The uniform teaching of Scripture is, that the change effected in regeneration is a purely moral and spiritual one.
1 Corinthians 2:15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things—not only those spiritual things which the natural man cannot judge, but also those which belong to the natural man’s own domain, and which he only views in their true light.
Yet he himself is judged of no man (who is not spiritual).
1 Corinthians 2:16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? The question is quoted from Isaiah 40:13 (as in LXX,).
But we have the mind of Christ. The meaning is, that though none can penetrate Jehovah’s mind, yet since in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 3:3), if we have the mind of Christ, we know all of “the things of God” which a creature is permitted to know.
Note.—The contrast here so sharply drawn between Divine and human wisdom is far-reaching, involving the great question of the rival claims of Reason and Revelation to be the supreme guide to the discovery of what man needs for the regulation of his life and the attainment of his highest bliss. The one light is from beneath, the other from above. In a profound sense, indeed, “the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly” (Proverbs 20:27); but it has never of itself, in any age or any land, led man to the true knowledge of God and eternal life. Whereas, so soon as “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” we enter the region and breathe the air, become alive to the interests, kindle with the sympathies, and taste the joys, of all that is spiritual, seeing everything in its true light. Is it so? Then the deep diversities of Christendom cease to be stumbling. For the family of the spiritual dwell alone in the world. “Therefore the world knoweth them not, because it knew Him not” They know and recognise each other, yet they themselves are known of no men.
They are at home with each other at once, though meeting for the first time from the ends of the earth. The rude and the refined, the savage and the civilised, meet together as one; “the Lord is the maker of them all” in the highest sense. Their diversities are lost in their higher unity, and they can pour out their common hymn with one heart as with one voice, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us unto our God kings and priests, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
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