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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Corinthians 2

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 2:1. And I, brethren, &c. — As if he had said, I have been showing that God is wont to call and convert persons to himself by unlikely and contemptible means; and that his design in the gospel is of a very humbling nature, and admirably calculated to stain human pride, and bring men to glory in him alone; therefore, in perfect harmony with this wise and excellent scheme, when I came to you — To preach the gospel; I came not with excellency of speech, &c. — I did not affect either deep wisdom, or commanding eloquence; declaring the testimony of God — What God gave me to testify concerning his Son, namely, concerning his incarnation, his doctrine, his miracles, his life, his death, his resurrection and exaltation to be a Prince and a Saviour. This is called the testimony of God, 1 John 5:9, because God bore witness to the truth of these things by signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Ghost, Hebrews 2:4. The expression implies that the evidence of the great facts of Christianity, and of the truth and importance of the doctrines of the gospel, is not founded on proofs drawn from human reason, but on the authority of God, who hath revealed them by his Spirit, and confirmed them by miracles, and by the extraordinary influence which they had on the hearts and lives of multitudes.


Verses 2-5

1 Corinthians 2:2-5. For I determined not to know any thing, &c. — To act as one who knew nothing, or to waive all my other knowledge, and not to preach any thing save Jesus Christ and him crucified — That is, what he taught, did, and suffered. Or, not only to preach the gospel sincerely, without any mixture of human wisdom, but chiefly to insist upon that part of it which seems most contemptible, and which human wisdom does most abhor, namely, concerning the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ. And I was with you — At my first entrance; in weakness — Of body, 2 Corinthians 12:7; and in fear — Lest I should offend any; and in much trembling — The emotion of my mind affected my very body. For I knew that I had enemies about me on every side, Acts 18:6; Acts 18:9, and laboured under natural disadvantages, 2 Corinthians 10:10; and the force of the prejudice which I had to encounter was strong. And my speech — In private; and my preaching — In public; was not with enticing words — Or persuasive discourses; of man’s wisdom — With eloquence or philosophy, or with that pomp and sophistry of argument, which the learned men of the world are so ready to affect; but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power — With that powerful kind of demonstration which flows from the Holy Spirit; which works on the conscience with the most convincing light, and the most persuasive evidence. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, &c. — That your belief of the gospel, and the various important truths of it, might not be grounded on, or appear to be gained by, human wisdom or eloquence; but in the wisdom and power of God — Teaching men’s ignorance, guiding their foolishness, and giving efficacy to such weak means as he has seen fit to use.


Verses 6-8

1 Corinthians 2:6-8. Howbeit, we speak wisdom — Yea, the truest and most excellent wisdom: for the subject matter of our preaching is the most wise contrivance and counsel of God concerning the salvation of mankind by Christ crucified, which will be acknowledged to be the highest wisdom, though not by learned philosophers, yet by humble, sincere, and well- instructed Christians. Such are here meant by them that are perfect — That is, perfectly enlightened by the Word and Spirit of God, and renewed by his grace, so as to have attained to a maturity of Christian knowledge and experience: being no longer children, but men in understanding, (1 Corinthians 14:20,) having arrived at spiritual manhood, called, Ephesians 4:13, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. See also Hebrews 5:14; Hebrews 6:1, where τελειοι, perfect, is taken in the same sense, and is rendered, of full age, and signifies those who no longer need to be fed with milk, being able to digest strong meat, having, by reason of use, or habit, their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. What the apostle here calls wisdom, includes, as Macknight justly observes, “the doctrine concerning the person and offices of Christ, treated of in his epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians; the justification of sinners by faith counted to them for righteousness, explained in his epistle to the Romans; the rejection and resumption of the Jews, foretold in the same epistle; the coming and destruction of the man of sin, foretold 2 Thessalonians 2.; the priesthood, sacrifice, and intercession of Christ, explained in his epistle to the Hebrews; and the resurrection of the dead, foretold in this epistle: in short, the whole doctrine of the gospel, taken complexly.” Yet not the wisdom of this world — The wisdom admired and taught by the men of this world, such as that which teaches men how to manage their temporal affairs properly, in order to their living comfortable lives upon earth, and the various branches of human learning. Nor of the princes — Or rulers; of this world — The wisdom admired and sought by the great politicians of the age, whether Jews or Gentiles; that come to naught — Both they, and their wisdom, and the world itself. But — Being taught of God to despise the transient vanities which delude the generality of mankind; we speak the wisdom of God — Infinitely more worthy, surely, of the attentive consideration and regard of all rational and immortal beings, than the short-lived wisdom of this world: in a mystery — Such as no creature could discover without supernatural revelation, Ephesians 3:9-10, and which was especially kept secret from the wise and learned of the world, 1 Corinthians 2:8 : even the hidden wisdom — Hidden formerly under holy mysteries and Jewish types, and but darkly revealed to and by the prophets; and altogether unknown to the heathen: which God ordained before the world — Purposed from everlasting to reveal in the gospel; unto our glory — To bring us to glory by the saving knowledge of it: glory arising from the glory of our Lord, and then to be revealed when all worldly glory vanishes. So far is this wisdom from coming to naught, like worldly wisdom! Which none of the princes of this world knew — Whether Jewish or heathen; for had they known it — Had they understood this wisdom, and known that the only way to attain happiness was to receive in faith, love, and new obedience, Jesus of Nazareth, as the true Messiah and only Saviour, and the great truths of his everlasting gospel; surely they would not have crucified — Punished as a slave; the Lord of glory — The glorious Head of his church and of the world, the final Judge of men and angels, and the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him, Hebrews 5:9. The giving Christ this august title, peculiar to Deity, plainly shows him to be, in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the true God. Thus the Father is styled, the Father of glory, Ephesians 1:17, and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of glory, 1 Peter 4:14. The application of this title to all the three, shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the God of glory, as the only true God is called, Psalms 29:3, Acts 7:2.


Verses 9-11

1 Corinthians 2:9-11. But — This ignorance fulfils what is written concerning the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom; eye hath not seen, &c. — No merely natural or unenlightened man hath either seen, heard, or known; the things which God hath prepared, saith the prophet, for them that love him — “These words do not immediately respect the blessings of another world, but are spoken by the prophet of the gospel state, and the blessings then to be enjoyed by them that should love God, Romans 8:28. For all the prophets, say the Jews, prophesied only of the days of the Messiah.” — Whitby. Indeed, as he adds, both the context and the opposition of these words to the revelation of these things by the Spirit, show the primary intent of the apostle to be, that no human wisdom, by any thing that may be seen, heard of, or conceived by us, can acquaint us with the things taught by the Holy Spirit, without a supernatural illumination. But God hath revealed — Yea, and freely given, 1 Corinthians 2:12, them to us by his Spirit — Who intimately and fully knows them; for the Spirit searcheth — Knows and enables us to search and find out; all things — Which it concerns us, and would be for our profit, to be acquainted with; even the deep things of God — Be they ever so hidden and mysterious; the depths both of his nature and attributes, and of his kingdom of providence and grace. Or, these deep things of God “are the various parts of that grand plan which the wisdom of God hath formed for the salvation of mankind, their relation to and dependance on each other, and operation and effect upon the system of the universe, the dignity of the person by whom that plan had been executed, and the final issue thereof in the salvation of believers; with many other particulars, which we shall not know till the light of the other world break in upon us.” — Macknight. For what man knoweth the things of a man — What individual of the human race could know the things belonging to human nature; save the spirit of man which is in him — Unless he were possessed of a human spirit? Surely the spirit of a creature inferior to man, can neither discern nor comprehend the things peculiar to the human nature. Even so the things of God — Things that belong to the divine nature; knoweth no man — No mere man; no man devoid of divine teaching; the teaching of the Spirit of God. In other words, as soon might brute creatures, by the help of the faculties peculiar to them, understand human things, as a man, only possessed of human faculties, could, merely by the aid of them, understand divine things; and indeed much sooner; for God is infinitely more elevated above man, than man is above the brutes.


Verse 12-13

1 Corinthians 2:12-13. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world — Which suggests worldly wisdom; the spirit that is in worldly, carnal people, and which guides and governs them; a spirit which is earthly, sensual, and devilish. This spirit is not, properly speaking, received, for the carnal and unregenerate always had it; but true believers properly receive the Spirit of God, which before they had not. That we might know — Might discern, understand, form just ideas of, and be experimentally acquainted with; the things freely given to us of God — Which, without that Spirit, it is as impossible we should know, as it is that the inferior creatures should know the things belonging to man. Which things also we speak — Make it our business to communicate to others; not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth — To excite men’s curiosity, amuse their imaginations, or gain their applause; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth — And consequently must be best adapted to convey such ideas as he would impart; and to impress the hearts and consciences of men with a reverent and deep sense of those holy mysteries: comparing spiritual things with spiritual — Or rather, as the apostle seems to mean, explaining spiritual things by spiritual words; or, adapting spiritual words to spiritual things; being taught by the Spirit to express the things of the Spirit. The original word, συγκρινοντες, is rightly translated interpreting, or explaining, being used by the LXX. to denote the interpretation of dreams, Genesis 40:16; Genesis 40:22; Genesis 41:12-13; Genesis 41:15; Daniel 2:4; Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:12. Pearce translates the clause, explaining spiritual things to spiritual men; a sense which the original will doubtless bear; but it does not agree so well with the first part of the verse, where words taught by the Holy Spirit are mentioned. This language of the apostle, as Doddridge justly observes, “may certainly convince us of the great regard which we ought always to maintain to the words of Scripture; and may especially teach ministers how attentively they should study its beauties, and how careful they should be to make it the support of their discourses.” Indeed, “this language, in which the doctrines of the gospel were revealed to the apostles, and in which they delivered these doctrines to the world, is what Paul calls the form of sound words, which Timothy had heard from him, and was to hold fast, 2 Timothy 1:13. Every one, therefore, ought to beware of altering or wresting the inspired language of Scripture, in their expositions of the articles of the Christian faith. Taylor, in the sixth chapter of his Key, explains the verse under consideration thus: Which things we speak, not in philosophical terms of human invention, but which the Spirit teacheth in the writings of the Old Testament; and contends that the apostle’s meaning is, that he expressed the Christian privileges in the very same words and phrases by which the Spirit expressed the privileges of the Jewish Church, in the writings of the Old Testament. But if the Spirit suggested these words and phrases to the Jewish prophets, why might not he suggest to the apostles the words and phrases in which they communicated the gospel revelation to the world? especially as there are many discoveries in the gospel, which could not be expressed clearly, if at all, in the words by which the prophets expressed the privileges of the Jewish Church. Besides, it is evident, that when the apostles introduce into their writings the words and phrases of the Jewish prophets, they explain them in other words and phrases, which no doubt were suggested to them by the Spirit.” — See Macknight, and 2 Timothy 3:16.


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 2:14. But the natural man — The man who has only the powers of nature, the faculties derived from Adam, but not a supernatural principle of saving grace; who has a soul in his body, (as the word ψυχικος, derived from ψυχη, a soul, implies,) but no divine inspiration in that soul; or who is not truly enlightened and renewed by the Word and Spirit of God, and therefore has no other way of obtaining knowledge but by his senses and natural understanding; receiveth not — Does not understand or apprehend; the things of the Spirit of God — Whether relating to his nature or kingdom. For they are foolishness to him — He is so far from understanding, that he utterly despises them. Neither can he know them — As he has not the will, so neither has he the power; because they are spiritually discerned — They can only be discerned by the aid of that Spirit, and by those spiritual senses which he has not. Some commentators consider these declarations of the apostle as being only applicable to mere animal or sensual persons, who are under the guidance and government of their natural senses, appetites, and passions; and it must be acknowledged that the word above mentioned, rendered natural in the beginning of this verse, is translated sensual James 3:15; 1:19. And yet it is certain that the word ψυχη, from which it is derived, frequently signifies the rational and immortal soul; even that soul which they that kill the body, cannot kill, Matthew 10:28; Matthew 10:39; and therefore the epithet formed from it may justly be considered as referring to the powers of the mind, as well as to the inferior faculties. Besides, though the word is rendered sensual, in the before-mentioned passages, yet in the latter of them (Judges 19) it is explained as signifying those who have not the Spirit. And it is evident that in this verse St. Paul is not opposing a man that is governed by his appetites and passions, or by his mere animal nature, and his prejudices arising therefrom, to one that is governed by his reason; or one destitute of consideration and judgment, and of amiable, moral qualities, to one possessed of them; but a carnal to a spiritual man; or a mere natural and unrenewed, to a truly enlightened and regenerated man. Indeed, “the apostle’s argument,” as Mr. Scott justly observes, “absolutely requires that by the natural man, we should understand the unregenerate man, however sagacious, learned, or abstracted from sensual indulgences, for he opposes him to the spiritual man: and the pride of carnal reasoning is at least as opposite to spirituality, as the most grovelling sensuality can be. No man, as naturally born into the world, and not supernaturally born again of the Spirit, can see the kingdom of God, or receive, in faith and love, the spiritual mysteries of redemption by the cross of Christ. To all unregenerate men, these things will, in one way or other, appear foolishness, uninteresting, unnecessary, inconsistent, absurd: and doubtless proud reasoners have scoffed at them, more than ever mere sensualists did. No ingenuity, address, or reasoning of the preacher can prevent this effect: no application of a man’s own mind, except in humble dependance on the teaching of the Holy Spirit, can enable him to perceive the real nature and glory of them. For they are spiritually discerned — That is, by the illuminating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of God upon the mind, by which a spiritual capacity is produced, which discerns, loves, admires, and delights in, the divine excellence of heavenly things. When this change has taken place, and a man’s spiritual senses have been matured by growth and exercise, he may be called a spiritual man: and he perceives the spiritual glory and excellence of every truth and precept in the Word of God; he distinguishes one object from another by a spiritual taste, or a kind of extempore judgment, and so he becomes a competent judge in these matters.”


Verse 15-16

1 Corinthians 2:15-16. But he that is spiritual — Whose mind is enlightened, and his heart renewed by the Spirit of God; judgeth — Or rather discerneth; all things — Namely, all the things of God whereof we have been speaking; yet he himself is judged — Is discerned; by no man, by no natural men; they neither understand what he is, nor what he says, while, perhaps, they are very forward and confident in their censures of him: he remains, says Doddridge, like a man endowed with sight among those born blind, who are incapable of apprehending what is clear to him, and amidst their own darkness cannot participate of, nor understand, those beautiful ideas and pleasing sensations, which light pours upon him. And surely if matters be considered aright, this cannot be any cause of wonder. For who — That is not supernaturally enlightened, but is a mere natural man; hath known the mind of the Lord — Those counsels of his respecting the salvation of mankind, which exist in his eternal mind, or his deep designs concerning us; that he may instruct him? — So as to take upon him to judge of his schemes, and arraign his conduct. “There must undoubtedly be in the divine counsels many secret and hidden things, and a man must have a mind capacious as that of the blessed God himself, to take upon him to judge of his schemes. See note on Isaiah 40:13-14, the passage here referred to. But many approved commentators suppose, although the words of the prophet evidently refer to God, yet that, as they are here varied, they were intended by the apostle of the spiritual man, intending thereby chiefly a divinely-inspired teacher, and that the question means, What unenlightened, carnal man, hath known the mind of the Lord, his deep counsels, (1 Corinthians 2:10,) so that he can instruct the spiritual man? that is, as the expression, συμβιβασει αυτον, seems to imply, prove to him that the principles on which he judges of spiritual things are false, inform him of things he is ignorant of, and show him, that in believing the gospel he hath fallen into error. “The truth implied in this questions” says Macknight, “must afford great satisfaction to all the faithful. No man, no infidel, hath been, or ever will be, able to confute the gospel; or to show a better method of instructing, reforming, and saving mankind, than that which God hath chosen, and made known by revelation.” But we — Spiritual men, apostles in particular; have — Know, understand; the mind of Christ — Concerning the whole plan of gospel salvation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-2.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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