a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Proclaiming Christ Crucified


When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

The True Wisdom of God

6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.


“For who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

6. We speak wisdom Lest he should appear to despise wisdom, as unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13) condemn learning with a sort of barbarian ferocity, he adds, that he is not devoid of that wisdom, which was worthy of the name, but was esteemed as such by none but competent judges. By those that were perfect, he means not those that had attained a wisdom that was full and complete, but those who possess a sound and unbiased judgment. For תם, which is always rendered in the Septuagint by τελειος means complete 112112     “Thus we read, (Genesis 25:27,) that Jacob was איש תם, “a perfect man,” i.e. without any manifest blemish. See also Job 1:1, 8. The corresponding word תמים, is frequently applied to the sacrificial victims, to denote their being without blemish Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3. — Ed He twits, however, in passing, those that had no relish for his preaching, and gives them to understand that it was owing to their own fault: “If my doctrine is disrelished by any of you, those persons give sufficient evidence from that very token, that they possess a depraved and vitiated understanding, inasmuch as it will invariably be acknowledged to be the highest wisdom among men of sound intellect and correct judgment.” While Paul’s preaching was open to the view of all, it was, nevertheless, not always estimated according to its value, and this is the reason why he appeals to sound and unbiased judges, 113113     “Il ne s’en rapporte pas a vn chacvn, mais requiert des luges entiers;” — “He does not submit the case to every one, but appeals to competent judges.” who would declare that doctrine, which the world accounted insipid, to be true wisdom. Meanwhile, by the words we speak, he intimates that he set before them an elegant specimen of admirable wisdom, lest any one should allege that he boasted of a thing unknown.

Yet not the wisdom of this world He again repeats by way of anticipation what he had already conceded — that the gospel was not human wisdom, lest any one should object that there were few supporters of that doctrine; nay more, that it was contemned by all that were most distinguished for intellect. Hence he acknowledges of his own accord what might be brought forward by way of objection, but in such a way as not at all to give up his point.

The princes of this world By the princes of this world he means those that have distinction in the world through means of any endowment, for sometimes there are persons, who, though they are by no means distinguished by acuteness of intellect, are nevertheless held in admiration from the dignity of the station which they hold. That, however, we may not be alarmed by these imposing appearances, the Apostle adds, that they come to nought, or perish. For it were unbefitting, that a thing that is eternal should depend upon the authority of those who are frail, and fading, and cannot give perpetuity even to themselves: “When the kingdom of God is revealed, let the wisdom of this world retire, and what is transient give place to what is eternal; for the princes of this world have their distinction, but it is of such a nature as is in one moment extinguished. What is this in comparison with the heavenly and incorruptible kingdom of God?”

7. The wisdom of God in a mystery He assigns the reason why the doctrine of the gospel is not held in high esteem by the princes of this world — because it is involved in mysteries, and is consequently hidden For the gospel so far transcends the perspicacity of human intellect, that to whatever height those who are accounted men of superior intellect may raise their view, they never can reach its elevated height, while in the meantime they despise its meanness, as if it were prostrate at their feet. The consequence is, that the more proudly they contemn it, they are the farther from acquaintance with it — nay more, they are removed to so great a distance as to be prevented from even seeing it.

Which God hath ordained. Paul having said that the gospel was a hidden thing, there was a danger lest believers should, on hearing this, be appalled by the difficulty, and retire in despair. Accordingly he meets this danger, and declares that it had notwithstanding been appointed to us, that we might enjoy it. Lest any one, I say, should reckon that he has nothing to do with the hidden wisdom, or should imagine it to be unlawful to direct his eyes towards it, as not being within the reach of human capacity, he teaches that it has been communicated to us in accordance with the eternal counsel of God. At the same time he has something still farther in view, for by an implied comparison he extols that grace which has been opened up by Christ’s advent, and distinguishes us above our fathers, who lived under the law. On this point I have spoken more at large in the end of the last chapter of the Romans. First of all then he argues from what God had ordained, for if God has appointed nothing in vain, it follows, that we will be no losers by listening to the gospel which he has appointed for us, for he accommodates himself to our capacity in addressing us. In accordance with this Isaiah (Isaiah 45:19) says —

“I have not spoken in a lurking place, or in a dark corner. 114114     “In allusion, it is generally thought, to the deep and dark caverns from which the heathen oracles gave forth their responses. Such was the cave (antrum) of the Cumean Sibyl, described by Virgil, AEn. 6:42-44, and also the cavern in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, described by Strabo (lib. 9.) “φασι δ ᾿ ειναι το μαντειον αντρον κοιλον μετα βαθους, ου μαλα ευροστομον;” — “They say that the oracle is a hollow cavern of considerable depth, but not at all wide in the opening.” — Ed
I have not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me.”

Secondly, with the view of rendering the gospel attractive, and alluring us to a desire of acquaintance with it, he draws an argument still farther from the design that God had in view in giving it to us — “for our glory.” In this expression, too, he seems to draw a comparison between us and the fathers, our heavenly Father not having vouchsafed to them that honor which he reserved for the advent of his Son. 115115     Locke, in accordance with Calvin’s view, understands Paul as if he had said: “Why do you make divisions, by glorying, as you do, in your distinct teachers? The glory that God has ordained us (Christian teachers and professors) to, is to be expounders, preachers, and believers of those revealed truths and purposes of God, which, though contained in the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament, were not understood in former ages.” — Ed.

8. None of the princes of this world knew If you supply the words by their own discernment, the statement would not be more applicable to them than to the generality of mankind, and the very lowest of the people; for what are the attainments of all of us as to this matter, from the greatest to the least? Only we may perhaps say, that princes, rather than others, are charged with blindness and ignorance — for this reason, that they alone appear in the view of the word clear-sighted and wise. At the same time I should prefer to understand the expression in a more simple way, agreeably to the common usage of Scripture, which is wont to speak in terms of universality of those things that, happen επι το πολυ, that is commonly, and also to make a negative statement in terms of universality, as to those things that happen only ἐπι ἔλαττον, that is very seldom In this sense there were nothing inconsistent with this statement, though there were found a few men of distinction, and elevated above others in point of dignity, who were at the same time endowed with the pure knowledge of God.

For had they known The wisdom of God shone forth clearly in Christ, and yet there the princes did not perceive it; for those who took the lead in the crucifixion of Christ were on the one hand the chief men of the Jews, high in credit for holiness and wisdom; and on the other hand Pilate and the Roman empire. In this we have a most distinct proof of the utter blindness of all that are wise only according to the flesh. This argument of the Apostle, however, might appear to be weak. “What! do we not every day see persons who, with deliberate malice, fight against the truth of God, as to which they are not ignorant; nay, even if a rebellion so manifest were not to be seen by us with our eyes, what else is the sin against the Holy Ghost than a willful obstinacy against God, when a man knowingly and willingly does not merely oppose his word, but even fights against it. It is on this account, too, that Christ declares that the Pharisees, and others of that description, knew him, (John 7:28,) while he deprives them of all pretext of ignorance, and accuses them of impious cruelty in persecuting him, the faithful servant of the Father, for no other reason but that they hated the truth.”

I answer that there are two kinds of ignorance. The one arises from inconsiderate zeal, not expressly rejecting what is good, but from having an impression that it is evil. No one, it is true, sins in ignorance in such a way as not to be chargeable meanwhile in the sight of God with an evil conscience, there being always a mixture of hypocrisy, or pride, or contempt; but at the same time judgment, and all intelligence in the mind of man, are sometimes so effectually choked, that nothing but bare ignorance is to be seen by others, or even by the individual himself. Such was Paul before he was enlightened; for the reason why he hated Christ and was hostile to his doctrine was, that he was through ignorance hurried away with a preposterous zeal for the law. 116116     “Vne zele de la loy desordonne et real regle;” — “An inordinate and ill regulated zeal for the law.” Yet he was not devoid of hypocrisy, nor exempt from pride, so as to be free from blame in the sight of God, but those vices were so completely covered over with ignorance and blindness as not to be perceived or felt even by himself.

The other kind of ignorance has more of the appearance of insanity and derangement, than of mere ignorance; for those that of their own accord rise up against God, are like persons in a frenzy, who, seeing, see not. (Matthew 13:13.) It must be looked upon, indeed, as a settled point, that infidelity is always blind; but the difference lies here, that in some cases malice is covered over with blindness to such a degree that the individual, through a kind of stupidity, is without any perception of his own wickedness. This is the case with those who, with a good intention, as they speak, or in other words, a foolish imagination, impose upon themselves. In some cases malice has the ascendancy in such a manner, that in spite of the checks of conscience, the individual rushes forward into wickedness of this sort with a kind of madness. 117117     The distinction drawn by Calvin is illustrated by a statement of Solomon in Proverbs 21:27. “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind.” בזמה — “with a wicked design.” — Ed Hence it is not to be wondered, if Paul declares that the princes of this world would not have crucified Christ, had they known the wisdom of God. For the Pharisees and Scribes did not know Christ’s doctrine to be true, so as not to be bewildered in their mind, and wander on in their own darkness.

9. As it is written, “What eye hath not seen.” All are agreed that this passage is taken from Isaiah 64:4, and as the meaning is at first view plain and easy, interpreters do not give themselves much trouble in expounding it. On looking, however, more narrowly into it, two very great difficulties present themselves. The first is, that the words that are here quoted by Paul do not correspond with the words of the Prophet. The second is, that it seems as though Paul had perverted the Prophet’s declaration to a purpose quite foreign to his design.

First then as to the words; and as they may be taken in different senses, they are explained variously by interpreters. Some render the passage thus: “From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived with their ears, and eye hath not seen any god beside Thee, who doth act in such a manner towards him that waiteth for him.” Others understand the discourse as addressed to God, in this manner: “Eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, O God, besides thee, the things which thou dost for those that wait for thee.” Literally, however, the Prophet’s meaning is: “From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor have they perceived with the ears, hath not seen a god, (or O God,) besides thee, will do (or will prepare) for him that waiteth for him.” If we understand אלהים (God) to be in the accusative, the relative who must be supplied. This exposition, too, appears, at first view, to suit better with the Prophet’s context in respect of the verb that follows being used in the third person; 118118     “Assauoir, Fera, or Preparera;” — “Namely — He will do, or He will prepare.” but it is farther removed from Paul’s meaning, on which we ought to place more dependence than on any other consideration. For where shall we find a surer or more faithful interpreter than the Spirit of God of this authoritative declaration, which He himself dictated to Isaiah — in the exposition which He has furnished by the mouth of Paul. With the view of obviating, however, the calumnies of the wicked, I observe that the Hebrew idiom admits of our understanding the Prophets true meaning to be this: “O God, neither hath eye seen, nor hath ear heard: but thou alone knowest the things which thou art wont to do to those that wait for thee.” The sudden change of person forms no objection, as we know that it is so common in the writings of the Prophets, that it needs not be any hindrance in our way. If any one, however, prefers the former interpretation, he will have no occasion for charging either us or the Apostle with departing from the simple meaning of the words, for we supply less than they do, as they are under the necessity of adding a mark of comparison to the verb, rendering it thus: “who doth act in such a manner.”

As to what follows respecting the entering of these things into the heart of man, though the expression is not made use of by the Prophet, it does not differ materially from the clause besides thee For in ascribing this knowledge to God alone, he excludes from it not merely the bodily senses of men, but also the entire faculty of the understanding. While, therefore, the Prophet makes mention only of sight and hearing, he includes at the same time by implication all the faculties of the soul. And without doubt these are the two instruments by which we attain the knowledge of those things that find their way into the understanding. In using the expression them that love him, he has followed the Greek interpreters, who have translated it in this way from having been misled by the resemblance between one letter and another; 119119     The word made use of by Isaiah is מחכה, which is a part of the verb חכה, to wait for, and Calvin’s meaning most probably is, that the “Greek interpreters had (from the resemblance between ב and כ) been led into the mistake of supposing it to be a part of the verb חבב, to love, while the corresponding part of the latter verbמחובב, manifestly differs very widely from the word made use of by the Prophet. There appears, how ever, to have been an oversight, in this instance, on the part of Calvin, as the word in the Septuagint version is not the word made use of by the Apostleἀγαπῶσιν, “them that love” (him,) but (corresponding to the word made use of bythe Prophet ὑπομένουσιν, “them that wait for” (him.) It is not a little singular, that Clemens Romanus (Ep. ad Cor. Sect. 34.) quotes the words of Isaiah precisely as Paul quotes them, with the exception of the last clause, which he gives as follows: ὅσα ἡτοιμασε τοις ὑπομένουσιν αὐτὸν — “which he hath prepared for them that wait for him.” Some have supposed the citation to have been taken from one or other of the two Apocryphal books, entitled, “The Ascension of Esaiah,” and “The Apocalyps of Elias,” in both of which this passage was found, but, as is justly observed by Horne in his Introduction (volume 2,) “it is so near to the Hebrew here both in sense and words, that we cannot suppose it to be taken from any other source, nor in this case would the Apostle have introduced it with the formula of quotation — as it is written.” In accordance with Calvln’s remark, that “though the words are not the same, there is no real difference of meaning,” it is well observed by Poole in his Annotations, that “waiting for” God is “the certain product and effect of love to him.” — Ed but as that did not affect the point in hand, he did not choose to depart from the common reading, as we frequently have occasion to observe how closely he follows the received version. Though the words, therefore, are not the same, there is no real difference of meaning.

I come now to the subject-matter. The Prophet in that passage, when mentioning how signally God had on all occasions befriended his people in their emergencies, exclaims, that his acts of kindness to the pious surpass the comprehension of human intellect. “But what has this to do,” some one will say, “with spiritual doctrine, and the promises of eternal life, as to which Paul is here arguing?” There are three ways in which this question may be answered. There were no inconsistency in affirming that the Prophet, having made mention of earthly blessings, was in consequence of this led on to make a general statement, and even to extol that spiritual blessedness which is laid up in heaven for believers. I prefer, however, to understand him simply as referring to those gifts of God’s grace that are daily conferred upon believers. In these it becomes us always to observe their source, and not to confine our views to their present aspect. Now their source is that unmerited goodness of God, by which he has adopted us into the number of his sons. He, therefore, who would estimate these things aright, will not contemplate them in their naked aspect, but will clothe them with God’s fatherly love, as with a robe, and will thus be led forward from temporal favors to eternal life. It might also be maintained that the argument is from the less to the greater; for if man’s intellect is not competent to measure God’s earthly gifts, how much less will it reach the height of heaven? (John 3:12.) I have, however, already intimated which interpretation I prefer.

10. But God hath revealed them to us. Having shut up all mankind in blindness, and having taken away from the human intellect the power of attaining to a knowledge of God by its own resources, he now shows in what way believers are exempted from this blindness, — by the Lord’s honoring them with a special illumination of the Spirit. Hence the greater the bluntness of the human intellect for understanding the mysteries of God, and the greater the uncertainty under which it labors, so much the surer is our faith, which rests for its support on the revelation of God’s Spirit. In this, too, we recognize the unbounded goodness of God, who makes our defect contribute to our advantage.

For the Spirit searcheth all things This is added for the consolation of the pious, that they may rest more securely in the revelation which they have from the Spirit of God, as though he had said. “Let it suffice us to have the Spirit of God as a witness, for there is nothing in God that is too profound for him to reach.” For such is the import here of the word searcheth By the deep things you must understand — not secret judgments, which we are forbidden to search into, but the entire doctrine of salvation, which would have been to no purpose set before us in the Scriptures, were it not that God elevates our minds to it by his Spirit.

VIEWNAME is study