Paul's Subject of Preaching, Christ Crucified, Not
in Worldly, but in Heavenly, Wisdom
among the Perfect.
1. And I—"So I" [Conybeare] as one of the "foolish, weak, and
despised" instruments employed by God (1Co 1:27, 28); "glorying in the Lord," not in man's
1:31). Compare 1Co 1:23, "We."
when I came—(Ac 18:1, &c.). Paul might, had he pleased,
have used an ornate style, having studied secular learning at Tarsus of
Cilicia, which Strabo preferred as a
school of learning to Athens or Alexandria; here, doubtless, he read
the Cilician Aratus' poems (which he quotes, Ac 17:28), and Epimenides (Tit 1:12), and Menander (1Co 15:33). Grecian intellectual development was
an important element in preparing the way for the Gospel, but it failed
to regenerate the world, showing that 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, free as it was from the warping
influences of Rome, Alexandria, and Athens. He had at the same time
Roman citizenship, which protected him from sudden violence.
Again, he was reared in the Hebrew divine law at Jerusalem.
Thus, as the three elements, Greek cultivation, Roman polity (Lu 2:1), and the divine law given to the Jews,
combined just at Christ's time, to prepare the world for the Gospel, so
the same three, by God's marvellous providence, met together in the
apostle to the Gentiles [Conybeare and
testimony of God—"the testimony of
Christ" (1Co 1:6);
therefore Christ is God.
2. The Greek implies, "The only
definite thing that I made it my business to know among you, was to
know Jesus Christ (His person) and Him crucified (His office)" [Alford], not exalted on the earthly throne of
David, but executed as the vilest malefactor. The historical fact of
Christ's crucifixion had probably been put less prominently forward by
the seekers after human wisdom in the Corinthian church, to avoid
offending learned heathens and Jews. Christ's person and
Christ's office constitute the sum of the Gospel.
3. I—the preacher: as 1Co 2:2 describes the subject,
"Christ crucified," and 1Co 2:4 the
mode of preaching: "my speech … not with enticing words,"
"but in demonstration of the Spirit."
weakness—personal and bodily (2Co 10:10; 12:7, 9; Ga 4:13).
trembling—(compare Php 2:12). Not personal fear, but a
trembling anxiety to perform a duty; anxious conscientiousness,
as proved by the contrast to "eye service" (Eph 6:5) [Conybeare and Howson].
4. my speech—in private.
preaching—in public [Bengel]. Alford
explains it, My discourse on doctrines, and my preaching
or announcement of facts.
man's wisdom—man's is omitted
in the oldest authorities. Still "wisdom" does refer to "man's"
in demonstration of … Spirit,
&c.—Persuasion is man's means of moving his fellow
man. God's means is demonstration, leaving no doubt, and
inspiring implicit faith, by the powerful working of the Spirit (then
exhibited both outwardly by miracles, and inwardly by working on the
heart, now in the latter and the more important way only, Mt
7:29; Ac 6:10; Heb 4:12;
compare also Ro 15:19).
The same simple power accompanies divine truth now, producing certain
persuasion and conversion, when the Spirit demonstrates by it.
5. stand in … wisdom of men—rest
on it, owe its origin and continuance to it.
6, 7. Yet the Gospel preaching, so far from
being at variance with true "wisdom," is a wisdom infinitely higher
than that of the wise of the world.
we speak—resuming "we" (preachers, I,
Apollos, &c.) from "we preach" (1Co 1:28), only that here, "we speak" refers to
something less public (compare 1Co 2:7, 13, "mystery … hidden") than "we
preach," which is public. For "wisdom" here denotes not the whole of
Christian doctrine, but its sublimer and deeper principles.
perfect—Those matured in Christian
experience and knowledge alone can understand the true superiority
of the Christian wisdom which Paul preached. Distinguished not only
from worldly and natural men, but also from babes,
who though "in Christ" retain much that is "carnal" (1Co 3:1, 2), and cannot therefore understand the
deeper truths of Christianity (1Co 14:20; Php 3:15;
Heb 5:14). Paul does not mean
by the "mystery" or "hidden wisdom" (1Co 2:7) some hidden tradition distinct from
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, which would be intelligently comprehended in proportion as the
hearer's inner life became perfectly transformed into the image of
Christ. Compare instances of such "mysteries," that is, deeper
Christian truths, not preached at Paul's first coming to Corinth, when
he confined himself to the fundamental elements (1Co 2:2), but now spoken to the "perfect" (1Co 15:51; Ro 11:25; Eph 3:5, 6). "Perfect" is used not of absolute
perfection, but relatively to "babes," or those less ripe in
Christian growth (compare Php 3:12, 15, with 1Jo 2:12-14). "God" (1Co 2:7) is opposed to the world, the apostles
to "the princes [great and learned men] of this world" (1Co 2:8; compare 1Co 1:20) [Bengel].
come to naught—nothingness (1Co 1:28). They are transient, not
immortal. Therefore, their wisdom is not real [Bengel]. Rather, translate with Alford, "Which are being brought to naught,"
namely, by God's choosing the "things which are not (the weak and
despised things of the Gospel), to bring to naught (the same verb
as here) things that are" (1Co 1:28).
7. wisdom of God—emphatically contrasted
with the wisdom of men and of this world (1Co 2:5, 6).
in a mystery—connected in construction
with "we speak": We speak as dealing with a mystery; that is not
something to be kept hidden, but what heretofore was so, but is
now revealed. Whereas the pagan mysteries were revealed only to
a chosen few, the Gospel mysteries were made known to all who would
obey the truth. "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that
are lost" (2Co 4:3),
"whom the God of this world hath blinded." Ordinarily we use
"mystery" in reference to those from whom the knowledge is
withheld; the apostles, in reference to those to whom it is
revealed [Whately]. It is hidden
before it is brought forward, and when it is brought forward it still
remains hidden to those that are imperfect [Bengel].
2:9), "prepared for them that
before the world—rather, "before
the ages" (of time), that is, from eternity. This infinitely
antedates worldly wisdom in antiquity. It was before not only the
wisdom of the world, but eternally before the world itself and its
to our glory—ours both now and
hereafter, from "the Lord of glory" (1Co 2:8), who brings to naught "the
princes of this world."
8. Which—wisdom. The strongest proof of
the natural man's destitution of heavenly wisdom.
crucified … 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, Joh 17:4, 24) was crucified.
9. But—(it has happened) as it is
Eye hath not seen, &c.—Alford translates, "The things which eye saw
not … the things which God prepared … to us God revealed
through His Spirit." Thus, however, the "but" of 1Co 2:10 is ignored. Rather construe, as Estius, "('We speak,' supplied from 1Co 2:8), things which eye saw not
(heretofore), … things which God prepared … But God
revealed them to us," &c. The quotation is not a verbatim one, but
an inspired exposition of the "wisdom" (1Co 2:6, from Isa 64:4). The exceptive words, "O God,
beside (that is, except) Thee," are not quoted directly, but are
virtually expressed in the exposition of them (1Co 2:10), "None but thou, O God, seest
these mysteries, and God hath revealed them to us by His
entered—literally, "come up into the
heart." A Hebraism (compare, Jer 3:16, Margin). In Isa 64:4 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's
appearance as future; Paul, to them who love Him as having
actually appeared (1Jo 4:19);
2:12, "the things that are
freely given to us of God"
10. revealed … by …
Spirit—The inspiration of thoughts (so far as truth essential
to salvation is concerned) makes the Christian (1Co 3:16; 12:3; Mt 16:17; Joh 16:13; 1Jo 2:20,
27); that of words,
the PROPHET (2Sa 23:1,
2; 1Ki 13:1, 5), "by the
word of the Lord" (1Co 2:13; Joh 20:30, 31; 2Pe
1:21). The secrets of
revelation are secret to some, not because those who know them will not
reveal them (for indeed, the very notion of revelation implies
an unveiling of what had been veiled), but because those to whom they
are announced have not the will or power to comprehend them. Hence the
Spirit-taught alone know these secrets (Ps 25:14; Pr 3:32;
Joh 7:17; 15:15).
unto us—the "perfect" or fully matured
in Christian experience (1Co 2:6).
Intelligent men may understand the outline of doctrines; but without
the Holy Spirit's revelation to the heart, these will be to them a mere
outline—a skeleton, correct perhaps, but wanting life [Whatley, Cautions for the Times, 14],
the Spirit searcheth—working in us and
with our spirits (compare Ro 8:16, 26, 27). The Old Testament shows us God (the
Father) for us. The Gospels, God (the Son) with us. The Acts and
Epistles, God (the Holy Ghost) in us [Monod], (Ga 3:14).
deep things of God—(Ps 92:5). His divine nature, attributes, and
counsels. The Spirit delights to explore the infinite depths of His own
divine mind, and then reveal them to us, according as we are capable of
understanding them (De 29:29).
This proves the personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost. Godhead
cannot be separated from the Spirit of God, as manhood cannot be
separated from the Spirit of man [Bengel].
11. what man, &c.—literally, "who of
men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of that
things of God knoweth no man—rather,
"none knoweth," not angel or man. This proves the impossibility
of any knowing the things of God, save by the Spirit of God (who alone
knows them, since even in the case of man, so infinitely inferior in
mind to God, none of his fellow men, but his own spirit alone knows the
things hidden within him).
12. we … received, not … spirit of
… world—the personal evil "spirit that now worketh in
the children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2). This spirit is natural in the
unregenerate, and needs not to be received.
Spirit which is of God—that is, which
comes from God. We have received it only by the gift of God,
whose Spirit it is, whereas our own spirit is the spirit that is in us
that we might know … things … freely
given … of God—present experimental knowledge, to our
unspeakable comfort, of His deep mysteries of wisdom, and of our future
possession of the good "things which God hath prepared for them that
love Him" (1Co 2:9).
13. also—We not only know by the
Holy Ghost, but we also speak the "things freely given to us of
which the Holy Ghost teacheth—The old
manuscripts read "the Spirit" simply, without "Holy."
comparing spiritual things with
spiritual—expounding the Spirit-inspired Old Testament
Scripture, by comparison with the Gospel which Jesus by the same Spirit
revealed [Grotius]; and conversely
illustrating the Gospel mysteries by comparing them with the Old
Testament types [Chrysostom]. So the
Greek word is translated, "comparing" (2Co 10:12). Wahl
(Key of the New Testament) translates, "explaining (as
the Greek is translated, Ge 40:8, the Septuagint) to spiritual
(that is, Spirit-taught) men, spiritual things (the things which we
ourselves are taught by the Spirit)." Spirit-taught men alone can
comprehend spiritual truths. This accords with 1Co
2:6, 9, 10, 14, 15; 1Co 3:1.
Alford translates, "Putting together
(combining) spirituals with spirituals"; that is, attaching spiritual
words to spiritual things, which we should not do, if we
were to use words of worldly wisdom to expound spiritual things (so
1Co 2:1, 4; 1Pe 4:11). Perhaps the generality of the neuters
is designed to comprehend these several notions by implication.
Comparing, or combining, spirituals with spirituals; implying both that
spiritual things are only suited to spiritual persons (so "things"
comprehended persons, 1Co 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 or combination, not by combination with worldly
"wisdom," or natural perceptions (1Co 1:21, 22; 2:1, 4-9; compare Ps 119:18).
14. natural man—literally, "a man of
animal soul." As contrasted with the spiritual man, he is
governed by the animal soul, which overbears his spirit, which
latter is without the Spirit of God (Jude 19). So the animal (English
Version, "natural") body, or body led by the lower animal nature
(including both the mere human fallen reason and heart),
is contrasted with the Spirit-quickened body (1Co 15:44-46). The carnal man (the man
led by bodily appetites, and also by a self-exalting spirit, estranged
from the divine life) is closely akin; so too the "earthly."
"Devilish," or "demon-like"; "led by an evil spirit," is the awful
character of such a one, in its worst type (Jas 3:15).
receiveth not—though they are offered
to him, and are "worthy of being received by all men" (1Ti 1:15).
they are foolishness unto him—whereas
he seeks "wisdom" (1Co 1:22).
neither can he—Not only does he
not, but he cannot know them, and therefore has no wish to
"receive" them (Ro 8:7).
15. He that is spiritual—literally,
"the spiritual (man)." In 1Co 2:14, it is "A [not 'the,' as
English Version] natural man." The spiritual is
the man distinguished above his fellow men, as he in whom the
Spirit rules. In the unregenerate, the spirit which ought to be the
organ of the Holy Spirit (and which is so in the regenerate), is
overridden by the animal soul, and is in abeyance, so that such a one
is never called "spiritual."
judgeth all things—and persons, by
their true standard (compare 1Co 6:2-4; 1Jo 4:1), in so far as he is spiritual.
"Discerneth … is discerned," would better accord with the
translation of the same Greek (1Co 2:14). Otherwise for "discerned," in 1Co 2:14, translate, "judged of," to accord
with the translation, "judgeth … is judged" in this fifteenth
verse. He has a practical insight into the verities of the Gospel,
though he is not infallible on all theoretical points. If an individual
may have the Spirit without being infallible, why may not the Church
have the Spirit, and yet not be infallible (a refutation of the plea of
Rome for the Church's infallibility, from Mt 28:20; Joh
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. He and the Church are both infallible and impeccable, only
in proportion to the degree in which they are led by the Spirit.
The Spirit leads into all truth and holiness; but His influence on
believers and on the Church is as yet partial. Jesus alone, who had the
Spirit without measure (Joh 3:34), is
both infallible and impeccable. Scripture, because it was written by
men, who while writing were infallibly inspired, is unmixed truth
28:5; 1Jo 2:27).
16. For—proof of 1Co 2:15, that the spiritual man "is judged of no
man." In order to judge the spiritual man, the ordinary man must "know
the mind of the Lord." But "who of ordinary men knows" that?
that he may instruct him—that is, so
as to be able to set Him right as His counsellor (quoted from Isa 40:13,
14). So the Septuagint
translates the Greek verb, which means to "prove," in Ac 9:22. Natural men who judge spiritual
men, living according to the mind of God ("We have the mind of
Christ"), are virtually wishing to instruct God, and bring Him to
another mind, as counsellors setting to right their king.
we have the mind of Christ—in our
degree of capability to apprehend it. Isa 40:13, 14 refers to Jehovah: therefore, as it is applied here to
Christ, He is Jehovah.