And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
And I, brethren - Keeping up the tender and affectionate style of address.
When I came unto you - When I came at first to preach the gospel at Corinth. Act 18:1ff.
Came not with excellency of speech - Came not with graceful and attractive eloquence. The apostle here evidently alludes to that nice ant studied choice of language; to those gracefully formed sentences, and to that skill of arrangement in discourse and argument which was so much an object of regard with the Greek rhetoricians. It is probable that Paul was never much distinguished for these (compare 2 Corinthians 10:10), and it is certain he never made them an object of intense study and solicitude. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 2:13.
Or of wisdom - Of the wisdom of this world; of that kind of wisdom which was sought and cultivated in Greece.
The testimony of God - The testimony or the witnessing which God has borne to the gospel of Christ by miracles, and by attending it everywhere with his presence and blessing. In 1 Corinthians 2:6, the gospel is called "the testimony of Christ;" and here it may either mean the witness which the gospel bears to the true character and plans of God; or the witnessing which God had borne to the gospel by miracles, etc. The gospel contains the testimony of God in regard to his own character and plans; especially in regard to the great plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Several mss. instead of "testimony of God," here read "the mystery of God." This would accord well with the scope of the argument; but the present reading is probably the correct one. See Mill. The Syriac version has also "mystery."
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
For I determined - I made a resolution. This was my fixed, deliberate purpose when I came there. It was not a matter of accident, or chance, that I made Christ my great and constant theme, but it was my deliberate purpose. It is to be recollected that Paul made this resolution, knowing the special fondness of the Greeks for subtle disquisitions, and for graceful and finished elocution; that he formed it when his own mind, as we may judge from his writings, was strongly inclined by nature to an abstruse and metaphysical kind of discussion, which could not have failed to attract the attention of the acute and subtle reasoners of Greece; and that he made it when he must have been fully aware that the theme which he had chosen to dwell upon would be certain to excite derision and contempt. Yet he formed, and adhered to this resolution, though it might expose him to contempt; and though they might reject and despise his message.
Not to know - The word "know" here εἰδέναι eidenai is used probably in the sense of "attend to, be engaged in, or regard." I resolved not to give my time and attention while among you to the laws and traditions of the Jews; to your orators, philosophers, and poets; to the beauty of your architecture or statuary; to a contemplation of your customs and laws, but to attend to this only - making known the cross of Christ. The word εἰδω eidō to know, is sometimes thus used. Paul says that he designed that this should be the only thing on which his mind should be fixed; the only object of his attention; the only object there upon which he sought that knowledge should be diffused. Doddridge renders it "appear to know."
Anything among you - Anything while I was with you. Or, anything that may exist; among you, and that may be objects of interest to you. I resolved to know nothing of it, whatever it might be. The former is probably the correct interpretation.
Save Jesus Christ - Except Jesus Christ. This is the only thing of which I purposed to have any knowledge among you.
And him crucified - Or, "even καί kai him that was crucified." He resolved not only to make the "Messiah" the grand object of his knowledge and attention there, but even a "crucified" Messiah; to maintain the doctrine that the Messiah was to be crucified for the sins of the world; and that he who had been crucified was in fact the Messiah. See the note at 1 Corinthians 1:23. We may remark here:
(1) That this should be the resolution of every minister of the gospel. This is his business. It is not to be a politician; not to engage in the strifes and controversies of people; it is not to be a good farmer, or scholar merely; not to mingle with his people in festive circles and enjoyments; not to be a man of taste and philosophy, and distinguished mainly for refinement of manners; not to be a profound philosopher or metaphysician, but to make Christ crucified the grand object of his attention, and seek always and everywhere to make him known.
(2) he is not to be ashamed anywhere of the humbling doctrine that Christ was crucified. In this he is to glory. Though the world may ridicule; though philosophers may sneer; though the rich and the frivilous may deride it, yet this is to be the grand object of interest to him, and at no time, and "in no society" is he to be ashamed of it!
(3) it matters not what are the amusements of society around him; that fields of science, of gain, or ambition, are open before him, the minister of Christ is to know Christ and him crucified alone. If he cultivates science, it is to be that he may the more successfully explain and vindicate the gospel. If he becomes in any manner familiar with the works of art, and of taste, it is that he may more successfully show to those who cultivate them, the superior beauty and excellency of the cross. If he studies the plans and the employments of people, it is that he may more successfully meet them in those plans, and more successfully speak to them of the great plan of redemption.
(4) the preaching of the cross is the only kind of preaching that will be attended with success. That which has in it much respecting the divine mission, the dignity, the works, the doctrines, the person, and the atonement of Christ, will be successful. So it was in the time of the apostles; so it was in the Reformation; so it was in the Moravian missions; so it has been in all revivals of religion. There is a power about that kind of preaching which philosophy and human reason have not. "Christ is God's great ordinance" for the salvation of the world; and we meet the crimes and alleviate the woes of the world, just in proportion as we hold the cross up as appointed to overcome the one, and to pour the balm of consolation into the other.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And I was with you - Paul continued there at least a year and six months. Acts 18:11.
In weakness - In conscious feebleness; diffident of my own powers, and not trusting to my own strength.
And in fear, and in much trembling - Paul was sensible that he had many enemies to encounter Acts 18:6.; and he was sensible of his own natural disadvantages as a public speaker, 2 Corinthians 10:10. He knew too, how much the Greeks valued a manly and elegant species of oratory; and he, therefore, delivered his message with deep and anxious solicitude as to the success. It was at this time, and in view of these circumstances, that the Lord spoke to him by night in a vision, and said, "be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city," Acts 18:9-10. If Paul was conscious of weakness, well may other ministers be; and if Paul sometimes trembled in deep solicitude about the result of his message, well may other ministers tremble also. It was in such circumstances, and with such feelings, that the Lord met him to encourage him - And it is when other ministers feel thus, that the promises of the gospel are inestimably precious. We may add, that it is then, and then only, that they are successful. Notwithstanding all Paul's fears, he was successful there. And it is commonly, perhaps always, when ministers go to their work conscious of their own weakness; burdened with the weight of their message; diffident of their own powers; and deeply solicitous about the result of their labors, that God sends down His Spirit, and converts sinners to God. The most successful ministers have been men who have evinced most of this feeling; and most of the revivals of religion have commenced, and continued, just as ministers have preached, conscious of their own feebleness, distrusting their own powers, and looking to God for aid and strength.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
And my speech - The word "speech" here - if it is to be distinguished from "preaching" - refers, perhaps, to his more private reasonings; his preaching to his public discourses.
Not with enticing words - Not with the persuasive reasonings (πειθοῖς λόγοις peithois logois) of the wisdom of men. Not with that kind of oratory that was adapted to captivate and charm; and which the Greeks so much esteemed.
But in demonstration - In the showing ἀποδείξει apodeixei; or in the testimony or evidence which the Spirit produced. The meaning is, that the Spirit furnished the evidence of the divine origin of the religion which he preached, and that it did not depend for its proof on his own reasonings or eloquence. The proof, the demonstration which the Spirit furnished was, undoubtedly, the miracles which were performed; the gift of tongues; and the remarkable conversions which attended the gospel - The word "Spirit" here refers, doubtless, to the Holy Spirit; and Paul says that this Spirit had furnished demonstration of the divine origin and nature of the gospel. This had been by the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 1:5-7. Compare 1 Corinthians 14), and by the effects of his agency in renewing and sanctifying the heart.
And of power - That is, of the power of God 1 Corinthians 2:5; the divine power and efficacy which attended the preaching of the gospel there. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5 - The effect of the gospel is the evidence to which the apostle appeals for its truth. That effect was seen:
(1) In the conversion of sinners to God of all classes, ages, and conditions, when all human means of reforming them was vain.
(2) in its giving them peace, joy, and happiness; and in its transforming their lives.
(3) in making them different people - in making the drunkard sober; the thief honest; the licentious pure; the profane reverent; the indolent industrious; the harsh and unkind, gentle and kind; and the wretched happy.
(4) in its diffusing a mild and pure influence over the laws and customs of society; and in promoting human happiness everywhere - And in regard to this evidence to which the apostle appeals, we may observe:
(1) That is a kind of evidence which anyone may examine, and which no one can deny. It does not need labored, abstruse argumentation, but it is everywhere in society. Every man has witnessed the effects of the gospel in reforming the vicious, and no one can deny that it has this power.
(2) it is a mighty display of the power of God. There is no more striking exhibition of his power over mind than in a revival of religion. There is no where more manifest demonstration of his presence than when, in such a revival, the proud are humbled, the profane are awed, the blasphemer is silenced, and the profligate, the abandoned, and the moral are converted unto God, and are led as lost sinners to the same cross, and find the same peace.
(3) the gospel has thus evidenced from age to age that it is from God. Every converted sinner furnishes such a demonstration; and every instance where it produces peace, hope, joy, shows that it is from heaven.
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
That your faith - That is, that your belief of the divine origin of the Christian religion.
Should not stand - Greek, "should not be;" that is, should not rest upon this; or be sustained by this. God intended to furnish you a firm and solid demonstration that the religion which you embraced was from Him; and this could not be if its preaching had been attended with the graces of eloquence, or the abstractions of refined metaphysical reasoning. It would then appear to rest upon human wisdom.
In the power of God - In the evidence of divine power accompanying the preaching of the gospel. The power of God would attend the exhibition of truth everywhere; and would be a demonstration that would be irresistible that the religion was not originated by man, but was from heaven. That power was seen in changing the heart; in overcoming the strong propensities of our nature to sin; in subduing the soul; and making the sinner a new creature in Christ Jesus. Every Christian has thus, in his own experience, furnished demonstration that the religion which he loves is from God, and not from man. man could not subdue these sins; and man could not so entirely transform the soul. And although the unlearned Christian may not be able to investigate all the evidences of religion; although he cannot meet all the objections of cunning and subtle infidels, although he may be greatly perplexed and embarrassed by them, yet he may have the fullest proof that he loves God, that he is different from what he once was; and that all this has been accomplished by the religion of the cross.
The blind man that was made to see by the Saviour John 10, might have been wholly unable to tell how his eyes were opened, and unable to meet all the cavils of those who might doubt it, or all the subtle and cunning objections of physiologists, but of one thing he certainly could not doubt, that "whereas he was blind, he then saw;" John 10:25. A man may have no doubt that the sun shines, that the wind blows, that the tides rise, that the blood flows in his veins, that the flowers bloom, and that this could not be except it was from God, while he may have no power to explain these facts; and no power to meet the objections and cavils of those who might choose to embarrass him. So people may know that their hearts are changed; and it is on this ground that no small part of the Christian world, as in everything else, depend for the most satisfactory evidence of their religion. On this ground humble and unlearned Christians have been often willing to go to the stake as martyrs - just as a humble and unlearned patriot is willing to die for his country. He loves it; and he is willing to die for it. A Christian loves his God and Saviour; and is willing to die for his sake.
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 nought:
How be it - But δε de. This commences the "second" head or argument in this chapter, in which Paul shows that if human wisdom is missing in his preaching, it is not devoid of true, and solid, and even divine wisdom - Bloomfield.
We speak wisdom - We do not admit that we utter foolishness. We have spoken of the foolishness of preaching 1 Corinthians 1:21; and of the estimate in which it was held by the world 1 Corinthians 1:22-28; and of our own manner among you as not laying claim to human learning or eloquence; but we do not design to admit that we have been really speaking folly. We have been uttering that which is truly wise, but which is seen and understood to be such only by those who are qualified to judge - by those who may be denominated "perfect," that is, those who are suited by God to understand it. By "wisdom" here, the apostle means that system of truth which he had explained and defended - the plan of salvation by the cross of Christ.
Among them that are perfect - (ἐν τοῖς τελείοις en tois teleios). This word "perfect" is here evidently applied to Christians, as it is in Philippians 3:15, "Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded." And it is clearly used to denote those who were advanced in Christian knowledge; who were qualified to understand the subject; who had made progress in the knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel; and who thus saw its excellence. It does not mean here that they were sinless, for the argument of the apostle does not bear on that inquiry, but that they were qualified to understand the gospel in contradistinction from the gross, the sensual, and the carnally minded, who rejected it as foolishness. There is, perhaps, here an allusion to the pagan mysteries, where those who had been fully initiated were said to be perfect - fully instructed in those rites and doctrines. And if so, then this passage means, that those only who have been fully instructed in the knowledge of the Christian religion, will be qualified to see its beauty and its wisdom. The gross and sensual do not see it, and those only who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit are qualified to appreciate its beauty and its excellency.
Not the wisdom of the world - Not that which this world has originated or loved.
That come to naught - That is, whose plans fail; whose wisdom vanishes; and who themselves, with all their pomp and splendor, come to nothing in the grave; compare Isaiah 14. All the plans of human wisdom shall fail; and this which is originated by God only shall stand,
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
But we speak - We who have preached the gospel.
The wisdom of God - We teach or proclaim the wise plan of God for the salvation of people; we make known the divine wisdom in regard to the scheme of human redemption. This plan was of God, in opposition to other plans which were of human beings.
In a mystery, even the hidden wisdom - ἐν μυστηρίῳ τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην en mustēriō tēn apokekrummenēn. The words "even" and "wisdom" in this translation have been supplied by our translators; and the sense would be more perspicuous if they were omitted, and the translation should be literally made, "We proclaim the divine wisdom hidden in a mystery." The apostle does not say that their preaching was mysterious, nor that their doctrine was unintelligible, but he refers to the fact that this wisdom had been "hidden in a mystery" from people until that time, but was then revealed by the gospel. In other words, he does not say that what they then declared was hidden in a mystery, but that they made known the divine wisdom which had been concealed from the minds of people. The word "mystery" with us is commonly used in the sense of that which is beyond comprehension; and it is often applied to such doctrines as exhibit difficulties which we are not able to explain.
But this is not the sense in which it is commonly used in the Scriptures; see the note at Matthew 13:11; compare Campbell on the Gospels, Dissertation 9; part 1. The word properly denotes that which is "concealed" or "hidden;" that which has not yet been made known; and is applied to those truths which until the revelation of Jesus Christ were concealed from people, which were either hidden under obscure types and shadows or prophecies, or which had been altogether unrevealed, and unknown to the world. The word stands opposed to that which is revealed, not to that which is in itself plain. The doctrines to which the word relates may be in themselves clear and simple, but they are hidden in mystery until they are revealed. From this radical idea in the word "mystery," however, it came also to be applied not only to those doctrines which had not been made known, but to those also which were in themselves deep and difficult to that which is enigmatical and obscure; 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Timothy 3:16.
It is applied also to the secret designs and purposes of God; Revelation 10:7. The word is most commonly applied by Paul to the secret and long concealed design of God to make known his gospel to the Gentiles; to break down the wall between them and the Jews; and to spread the blessings of the true religion everywhere; Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 6:19. Here, it evidently means the beauty and excellency of the person and plans of Jesus Christ, but which were in fact unknown to the princes of this world. It does not imply, of necessity, that they could not have understood them, nor that they were unintelligible, but that, in fact, whatever was the cause, they were concealed from them. Paul says 1 Corinthians 2:8, that had they known his wisdom, they would not have crucified him - which implies at least that it was not in itself unintelligible; and he further says, that this mystery had been revealed to Christians by the Spirit of God, which proves that he does not here refer to that which is in itself unintelligible; 1 Corinthians 2:10. "The apostle has here especially in view the all-wise counsel of God for the salvation of people by Jesus Christ, in the writings of the Old Testament only obscurely signified, and to the generality of people utterly unknown" - Bloomfield.
Which God ordained - Which plan, so full of wisdom, God appointed in his own purpose before the foundation of the world; that is, it was a plan which from eternity he determined to execute. It was not a new device; it had not been got up to serve an occasion; but it was a plan laid deep in the eternal counsel of God, and on which he had his eye forever fixed. This passage proves, that God had a plan, and that this plan was eternal. This is all that is involved in the doctrine of eternal decrees or purposes. And if God had a plan about this, there is the same reason to think that he had a plan in regard to all things.
Unto our glory - In order that we might be honored or glorified. This may refer either to the honor which was put upon Christians in this life, in being admitted to the privileges of the sons of God; or more probably to that "eternal weight of glory" which remains for them in heaven; 2 Corinthians 4:17. One design of that plan was to raise the redeemed to "glory, and honor, and immortality." It should greatly increase our gratitude to God, that it was a subject of eternal design; that he always has cherished this purpose; and that he has loved us with such love, and sought our happiness and salvation with such intensity, that in order to accomplish it, he was willing to give his own Son to die on a cross.
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Which none of the princes - None of those rulers who were engaged in the crucifixion of the Messiah, referring both to the Jewish rulers, and the Roman governor.
Knew - They did not perceive or appreciate the excellency of his character, the wisdom of his plan, the glory of his scheme of salvation. Their ignorance arose from not understanding the prophecies, and from an unwillingness to be convinced that Jesus of Nazareth had been truly sent by God. In Acts 3:17, Peter says that it was through ignorance that the Jews had put him to death; see the note on this place.
For had they known it - Had they fully understood his character, and seen the wisdom of his plan, and his work, they would not have put him to death; see the note on Acts 3:17. Had they seen the hidden wisdom in that plan - had they understood the glory of his real character, the truth respecting his incarnation, and the fact that he was the long expected Messiah of their nation, they would not have put him to death. It is incredible that they would have crucified their Messiah, knowing and believing him to be such. They might have known it but they were unwilling to examine the evidence. They expected a different Messiah, and were unwilling to admit the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. For This ignorance, however, there was no excuse. If they did not have a full knowledge, it was their own fault. Jesus had performed miracles which were a complete attestation to his divine mission John 5:36; John 10:25; but they closed their eyes on those works, and were unwilling to be convinced - God always gives to people sufficient demonstration of the truth, but they close their eyes, and are unwilling to believe. This is the sole reason why they are not converted to God and saved.
They would not have crucified - It is perfectly manifest that the Jews would not have crucified their own Messiah, "knowing him to be such." He was the hope and expectation of their nation. All their desires were centered in him. And to him they looked for deliverance from all their foes.
The Lord of glory - This expression is a Hebraism, and means "the glorious Lord;" or the "Messiah." Expressions like this, where a noun performs the office of an adjective, are common in the Hebrew language - Grotius supposes that the expression is taken from that of "the King of glory," in Psalm 24:7-9 -
Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors,
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
Jehovah, strong and mighty.
Jehovah, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in.
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.
But as it is written - This passage is quoted from Isaiah 64:4. It is not quoted literally; but the sense only is given. The words are found in the apocryphal books of Elijah; and Origen and Jerome supposed that Paul quoted from those books. But it is evident that Paul had in his eye the passage in Isaiah; and intended to apply it to his present purpose. These words are often applied by commentators and others to the future life, and are supposed by them to be descriptive of the state of the blessed there. But against the supposition that they refer directly to the future state, there are insuperable objections:
(1) The first is, that the passage in Isaiah has no such reference. In that place it is designed clearly to describe the blessedness of those who were admitted to the divine favor; who had communion with God; and to whom God manifested himself as their friend. That blessedness is said to be superior to all that people elsewhere enjoy; to be such as could be found no where else but in God. See Isaiah 64:1, Isaiah 64:4-5, Isaiah 64:8. It is used there, as Paul uses it, to denote the happiness which results from the communication of the divine favor to the soul.
(2) the object of the apostle is not to describe the future state of the redeemed. It is to prove that those who are Christians have true wisdom 1 Corinthians 2:6-7; or that they have views of truth, and of the excellence of the plan of salvation which the world has not, and which those who crucified the Lord Jesus did not possess. The thing which he is describing here, is not merely the happiness of Christians, but their views of the wisdom of the plan of salvation. They have views of that which the eyes of other people have not seen; a view of wisdom, and fitness, and beauty which can be found in no other plan. It is true that this view is attended with a high degree of comfort; but the comfort is not the immediate thing in the eye of the apostle.
(3) the declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:10, is conclusive proof that Paul does not refer to the happiness of heaven. He there says that God has revealed these things to Christians by his Spirit. But if already revealed, assuredly it does not refer to that which is yet to come. But although this does not refer directly to heaven, there may be an application of the passage to a future state in an indirect manner, which is not improper. If there are such manifestations of wisdom in the plan here; if Christians see so much of its beauty here on earth; and if their views so far surpass all that the world sees and enjoys, how much greater and purer will be the manifestations of wisdom and goodness in the world of glory.
Eye hath not seen - This is the same as saying, that no one had ever fully perceived and understood the value and beauty of those things which God has prepared for his people. All the world had been strangers to this until God made a revelation to his people by his Spirit. The blessedness which the apostle referred to had been unknown alike to the Jews and the Gentiles.
Nor ear heard - We learn the existence and quality of objects by the external senses; and those senses are used to denote any acquisition of knowledge. To say that the eye had not seen, nor the ear heard, was, therefore, the same as saying that it was not known at all. All people had been ignorant of it.
Neither have entered into the heart of man - No man has conceived it; or understood it. It is new; and is above all that man has seen, and felt, and known.
The things which God hath prepared - The things which God "has held in reserve" (Bloomfield); that is, what God has appointed in the gospel for his people. The thing to which the apostle here refers particularly, is the wisdom which was revealed in the gospel; but he also intends, doubtless, to include all the provisions of mercy and happiness which the gospel makes known to the people of God. Those things relate to the pardon of sin; to the atonement, and to justification by faith; to the peace and joy which religion imparts; to the complete and final redemption from sin and death which the gospel is suited to produce, and which it will ultimately effect. In all these respects, the blessings which the gospel confers, surpass the full comprehension of people; and are infinitely beyond all that man could know or experience without the religion of Christ. And if on earth the gospel confers such blessings on its friends, how much higher and purer shall be the joys which it shalt bestow in heaven!
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
But God hath revealed them - That is, those elevated views and enjoyments to which people everywhere else had been strangers, and which have been under all other forms of religion unknown, have been communicated to us by the revelation of God - This verse commences the "third" part of this chapter, in which the apostle shows how these truths, so full of wisdom had been communicated to Christians. It had not been by any native endowments of theirs; not by any strength of faculties, or powers. but solely by revelation from God.Unto us - That is, first to the apostles; secondly, to all Christians - to the church and the world through their inspired instructors; and third, to all Christians by the illuminating agency of the Spirit on their hearts. The connection shows that he did not mean to confine this declaration to the apostles merely, for his design was to show that all Christians had this knowledge of the true wisdom. It was true that this was revealed in an eminent manner to the apostles, and through their inspired preaching and writings; but it is also true, that the same truths are communicated by the agency of the same Spirit to all Christians; John 16:12-14. No truth is now communicated to Christians which was not revealed to and by the inspired writers; but the same truths are imparted by means of their writings, and by the illumination of the Spirit to all the true friends of God.
(1) That people by nature are not able to discover the deep things of God - the truths which are needful to salvation.
(2) that the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit; and if so, then the Scriptures are inspired.
(3) that all Christians are the subjects of the teaching of the Holy Spirit; that these truths are made known to them by his illumination; and that but for this, they would remain in the same darkness as other men.
For the Spirit - The Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God; see 1 Corinthians 2:11.
Searcheth - This word does not fully express the force of the original ἐρευνᾷ ereuna. It means to search accurately, diligently, so as fully to understand; such profound research as to have thorough knowledge. So David uses the Hebrew word חקר chaaqar in Psalm 139:1. So the word is used to denote a careful and accurate investigation of secret and obscure things, in 1 Peter 1:11. Compare John 7:52; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23, where it is used to denote that profound and accurate search by which the desires and feelings of the heart are known - implying the most profound knowledge of which we can have any conception; see Proverbs 20:27. Here it means, that the Holy Spirit has an intimate knowledge of all things. It is not to be supposed that he searches, or inquires as people do who are ignorant; but that he has an intimate and profound knowledge, such as is usually the result of a close and accurate search. The result is what the apostle means to state - the accurate, profound, and thorough knowledge, such as usually attends research. He does not state the mode in which it is obtained; but the fact. And he uses a word more emphatic than simple knowledge, because he designs to indicate that his knowledge is profound, entire, and thorough.
All things - All subjects; all laws; all events; all beings.
The deep things of God - He has a thorough knowledge of the hidden counsels or purposes of God; of all his plans and purposes. He sees all his designs. He sees all his councils; all his purposes in regard to the government of the universe, and the scheme of salvation. He knows all whom God designs to save; he sees all that they need; and he sees how the plan of God is suited to their salvation - This passage proves:
(1) That the Spirit is, in some respects, distinct from the Father, or from him who is here called God. Else how could he be said to search all things, even the deep purposes of God? To "search" implies "action, thought, personality." An attribute of God cannot be said to search. How could it be said of the justice, the goodness, the power, or the wisdom of God that it "searches," or "acts?" To search, is the action of an intelligent agent, and cannot be performed by an attribute.
(2) the Spirit is omniscient. He searches or clearly understands "all things" - the very definition of omniscience. He understands all the profound plans and counsels of God. And how can there be a higher demonstration of omniscience than to "know God?" - But if omniscient, the Holy Spirit is divine - for this is one of the incommunicable attributes of God; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 139:1; Jeremiah 17:10.
(3) he is not a distinct being from God. There is a union between him and God, such as may be compared to the union between a man and his soul, 1 Corinthians 2:11. God is one; and though he subsists as Father, Son, and Spirit, yet he is one God, Deuteronomy 6:4 - This passage is, therefore, a very important, and a decisive one in regard to the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit.
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.
For what man ... - The design of this is, to illustrate what he had just said by a reference to the way in which man acquires the knowledge of himself. The purpose is to show that the Spirit has an exact and thorough knowledge of the things of God; and this is done by the very striking thought that no man can know his own mind, his own plans and intentions, but himself - his own spirit. The essential idea is, that no man can know another; that his thoughts and designs can only be known by himself, or by his own spirit; and that unless he chooses to reveal them to others, they cannot ascertain them. So of God. No man can penetrate his designs; and unless he chooses to make them known by his Spirit, they must forever remain inscrutable to human view.
The things of a man - The "deep things" - the hidden counsels, thoughts, plans, intentions.
Save the spirit of man ... - Except his own mind; that is, himself. No other man can fully know them. By the spirit of man here, Paul designs to denote the human soul - or the intellect of man. It is not to be supposed that he here intends to convey the idea that there is a perfect resemblance between the relation which the soul of man bears to the man, and the relation which the Holy Spirit bears to God. The illustration is to be taken in regard to the point immediately before him - which is, that no one could know and communicate the deep thoughts and plans of God except his Spirit - just as no one could penetrate into the intentions of a man, and fully know them, but himself. The passage proves, therefore, that there is a knowledge which the Spirit has of God, which no man, no angel can obtain, just as every man's spirit has a knowledge of his own plans which no other man can obtain; that the Spirit of God can communicate his plans and deep designs, just as a man can communicate his own intentions; and consequently, that while there is a distinction of some kind between the Spirit of God and God, as there is a distinction which makes it proper to say that a man has an intelligent soul, yet there is such a profound and intimate knowledge of God by the Spirit, that he must be equal with him; and such an intimate union, that he can be called "the Spirit of God," and be one with God, as the human soul can be called "the spirit of the man," and be one with him.
In all respects we are not to suppose that there is a similarity. In these points there is - It may be added that the union, the oneness of the Spirit of God with God, is no more absurd or inexplicable than the union of the spirit of man with the man; or the oneness of the complex person made up of body and soul, which we call man. When people have explained all the difficulties about themselves - in regard to their own bodies and spirits, it will be time to advance objections against the doctrines here stated in regard to God.
Even so - To the same extent; in like manner.
The things of God - His deep purposes and plans.
Knoweth no man - Man cannot search into them - any more than one man can search the intentions of another.
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.
Now we have received - We who are Christians; and especially we, the apostles. The following verse shows that he had himself and the other apostles chiefly in view; though it is true of all Christians that they have received, not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God.
Not the spirit of this world - Not the wisdom and knowledge which this world can give - not the learning and philosophy which were so much valued in Greece. The views of truth which we have, are not such as this world gives, but are such as are communicated by the Spirit of God.
But the Spirit which is of God - We are under the teaching's and influence of the Holy Spirit.
That we might know - That we might fully understand and appreciate. The Spirit is given to us in order that we might fully understand the favors which God has conferred on us in the gospel. It was not only necessary that God should grant the blessings of redemption by the gift of His Son, but, such was the hardness and blindness of the human heart, it was needful that he should grant His Holy Spirit also, so that people might be brought fully to see and appreciate the value of those favors. For people do not see them by nature; neither does anyone see them who is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God.
The things that are freely given us - That are conferred on us as a matter of grace or favor. He here refers to the blessings of redemption - the pardon of sin, justification, sanctification, the divine favor and protection, and the hope of eternal life - These things we Know; they are not matters of conjecture; but are surely and certainly confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit. It is possible for all Christians to know and be fully assured of the truth of those things, and of their interest in them.
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.
Which things we speak - Which great, and glorious, and certain truths, we, the apostles, preach and explain.
Not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth - Not such as human philosophy or eloquence would dictate. They do not have their origin in the devices of human wisdom, and they are not expressed in such words of dazzling and attractive rhetoric as would be employed by those who pride themselves on the wisdom of this world.
But which the Holy Ghost teacheth - That is, in the words which the Holy Spirit imparts to us. Locke understands this as referring to the fact that the apostles used "the language and expressions" which the Holy Spirit had taught in the revelations of the Scriptures. But this is evidently giving a narrow view of the subject. The apostle is speaking of the whole course of instruction by which the deep things of God were made known to the Christian church; and all this was not made known in the very words which were already contained in the Old Testament. He evidently refers to the fact that the apostles were themselves under the direction of the Holy Spirit, in the words and doctrines which they imparted; and this passage is a full proof that they laid claim to divine inspiration. It is further observable that he says, that this was done in such "words" as the Holy Spirit taught, referring not to the doctrines or subjects merely, but to the manner of expressing them. It is evident here that he lays claim to an inspiration in regard to the words which he used, or to the manner of his stating the doctrines of revelation. Words are the signs of thoughts; and if God designed that his truth should be accurately expressed in human language, there must have been a supervision over the words used, that such should be employed, and such only, as should accurately express the sense which he intended to convey.
Comparing spiritual things with spiritual - πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες pneumatikois pneumatika sugkrinontes. This expression has been very variously interpreted; and is very difficult of explanation. LeClerc renders it "speaking spiritual things to spiritual men." Most of the fathers rendered it: "comparing the things which were written by the Spirit of the Old Testament with what is now revealed to us by the same Spirit, and confirming our doctrine by them." Calvin renders the word "comparing" by "fitting," or adapting ("aptare"), and says that it means "that he adapted spiritual things to spiritual people, while he accommodated words to the thing; that is he tempered that celestial wisdom of the Spirit with simple language, and which conveyed by itself the native energy of the Spirit." Thus, says he, he reproved the vanity of those who attempted to secure human applause by a turgid and subtle mode of argument.
Grotius accords with the fathers, and renders it, "explaining those things which the prophets spake by the Spirit of God, by those things which Christ has made known to us by his Spirit." Macknight renders it: "explaining spiritual things in words taught by the Spirit." So Doddridge - The word rendered "comparing" συγκρίνοντες sugkrinontes, means properly "to collect, join, mingle, unite together"; then "to separate or distinguish parts of things and unite them into one"; then "to judge of the qualities of objects by carefully separating or distinguishing"; then "to compare for the purpose of judging," etc. Since it means to compare one thing with another for the purpose of explaining its nature, it comes to signify to "interpret," to "explain;" and in this sense it is often used by the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew word פתר phathar, "to open, unfold, explain." (See Genesis 40:8, Genesis 40:16, Genesis 40:22; Genesis 41:12, Genesis 41:15); also of פרשׁ paarash, "to explain"; and of the Chaldee peshar, Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:17. See also Daniel 2:4-7, Daniel 2:9,Daniel 2:16, Daniel 2:24, Daniel 2:26, Daniel 2:30, Daniel 2:36, Daniel 2:45; Daniel 4:3-4, Daniel 4:6,Daniel 4:16-17; Daniel 5:7-8, Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:18, Daniel 5:20; Daniel 7:16, in all which places the noun σύγκρισις sugkrisis, is used in the same sense. In this sense the word is, doubtless, used here, and is to be interpreted in the sense of "explaining, unfolding." There is no reason, either in the word used here, or in the argument of the apostle, why the sense of comparing should be retained.
Spiritual things - πνευματικὰ pneumatika. Things, doctrines, subjects that pertain to the teaching of the Spirit. It does not mean things "spiritual" in opposition to "fleshly;" or "intellectual" in opposition to things pertaining to "matter;" but spiritual as the things referred to were such as were performed, and revealed by the Holy Spirit - his doctrines on the subject of religion under the new dispensation, and his influence on the heart.
With spiritual - πνευματικοῖς pneumatikois. This is an adjective; and may be either masculine or neuter. It is evident, that some noun is understood. That may be either:
(1) ανθρωποις anthrōpois, "men" - and then it will mean "to spiritual men" - that is, to people who are enlightened or taught by the Spirit and thus many commentators understand it; or,
(2) It may be λόγοις logois, "words" - and then it may mean, either that the "spiritual things" were explained by "words" and illustrations drawn from the writings of the Old Testament, inspired by the Spirit - as most of the fathers, and many moderns understand it; or that the "things spiritual" were explained by-words which the Holy Spirit then communicated, and which were adapted to the subject - simple, pure, elevated; not gross, not turgid, not distinguished for rhetoric, and not such as the Greeks sought, but such as became the Spirit of God communicating great, sublime, yet simple truths to people.
It will then mean "explaining doctrines that pertain to the Spirit's teaching and influence in words that are taught; by the same Spirit, and that are suited to convey in the most intelligible manner those doctrines to men." Here the idea of the Holy Spirit's present agency is kept up throughout; the idea that he communicates the doctrine, and the mode of stating it to man - The supposition that λόγοις logois, words, is the word understood here, is favored by the fact that it occurs in the previous part of this verse. And if this be the sense, it means that the words which were used by the apostles were pure, simple, unostentatious, and undistinguished by display - such as became doctrines taught by the Holy Spirit, when communicated in words suggested by the same Spirit.
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.
But the natural man - ψυχικὸς, δὲ ἄνθρωπος psuchikos de anthrōpos. The word "natural" here stands opposed evidently to "spiritual." It denotes those who are governed and influenced by the natural instincts; the animal passions and desires, in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit of God. It refers to unregenerate people; but it has also not merely the idea of their being unregenerate, but that of their being influenced by the animal passions or desires. See the note on 1 Corinthians 15:44. The word "sensual" would correctly express the idea. The word is used by the Greek writers to denote that which man has in common with the brutes - to denote that they are under the influence of the senses, or the mere animal nature, in opposition to reason and conscience - Bretschneider. See 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Here it denotes that they are under the influence of the senses, or the animal nature, in opposition to being influenced by the Spirit of God. Macknight and Doddridge render it: "the animal man."
Whitby understands by it the man who rejects revelation, the man who is under the influence of carnal wisdom. The word occurs but six times in the New Testament; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46; James 3:15; Jde 1:19. In 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46, it is rendered "natural," and is applied to the body as it exists before death, in contradistinction from what shall exist after the resurrection - called a spiritual body. In James 3:15, it is applied to wisdom: "This wisdom - is earthly, sensual, devilish." In Jde 1:19, it is applied to sensual persons, or those who are governed by the senses in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit: "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." The word here evidently denotes those who are under the influence of the senses; who are governed by the passions and the animal appetites, and natural desires; and who are uninfluenced by the Spirit of God. And it may be observed that this was the case with the great mass of the pagan world, even including the philosophers.
Receiveth not - οὐ δέχεται ou dechetai, does not "embrace" or "comprehend" them. That is, he rejects them as folly; he does not perceive their beauty, or their wisdom; he despises them. He loves other things better. A man of intemperance does not receive or love the arguments for temperance; a man of licentiousness, the arguments for chastity; a liar, the arguments for truth. So a sensual or worldly man does not receive or love the arguments for religion.
The things of the Spirit of God - The doctrines which are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the things which pertain to his influence on the heart and life. The things of the Spirit of God here denote all the things which the Holy Spirit produces.
Neither can he know them - Neither can he understand or comprehend them. Perhaps, also, the word "know" here implies also the idea of "loving," or "approving" of them, as it often does in the Scripture. Thus, to know the Lord often means to love him, to have a full, practical acquaintance with him. When the apostle says that the animal or sensual man cannot know those things, he may have reference to one of two things. Either:
(1) That those doctrines were not discoverable by human wisdom, or by any skill which the natural man may have, but were to be learned only by revelation. This is the main drift of his argument, and this sense is given by Locke and Whitby. Or,
(2) He may mean that the sensual the unrenewed man cannot perceive their beauty and their force, even after they are revealed to man, unless the mind is enlightened and inclined by the Spirit of God. This is probably the sense of the passage.
This is the simple affirmation of a fact - that while the man remains sensual and carnal, he cannot perceive the beauty of those doctrines. And this is a simple and well known fact. It is a truth - universal and lamentable - that the sensual man, the worldly man, the proud, haughty, and self-confident man; the man under the influence of his animal appetites - licentious, false, ambitious, and vain - does not perceive any beauty in Christianity. So the intemperate man perceives no beauty in the arguments for temperance; the adulterer, no beauty in the arguments for chastity; the liar, no beauty in the arguments for truth. It is a simple fact, that while he is intemperate, or licentious, or false, he can perceive no beauty in these doctrines.
But this does not prove that he has no natural faculties for perceiving the force and beauty of these arguments; or that he might not apply his mind to their investigation, and be brought to embrace them; or that he might not abandon the love of intoxicating drinks, and sensuality, and falsehood, and be a man of temperance, purity, and truth. He has all the natural faculties which are requisite in the case; and all the inability is his "strong love" of intoxicating drinks, or impurity, or falsehood. So of the sensual sinner. While he thus remains in love with sin, he cannot perceive the beauty of the plan of salvation, or the excellency of the doctrines of religion. He needs just the love of these things, and the hatred of sin. He needs to cherish the influences of the Spirit; to receive what He has taught, and not to reject it through the love of sin; he needs to yield himself to their influences, and then their beauty will be seen.
The passage here proves that while a man is thus sensual, the things of the Spirit will appear to him to be folly; it proves nothing about his ability, or his natural faculty, to see the excellency of these things, and to turn from his sin. It is the affirmation of a simple fact everywhere discernible, that the natural man does not perceive the beauty of these things; that while he remains in that state he cannot; and that if he is ever brought to perceive their beauty, it will be by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such is his love of sin, that he never will be brought to see their beauty except by the agency of the Holy Spirit. "For wickedness perverts the judgment, and makes people err with respect to practical principles; so that no one can be wise and judicious who is not good." Aristotle, as quoted by Bloomfield.
They are spiritually discerned - That is, they are perceived by the aid of the Holy Spirit enlightening the mind and influencing the heart.
(The expression ψυχικὸς ἄνθρωπος psuchikos anthrōpos; has given rise to much controversy. Frequent attempts have been made to explain it, merely of the animal or sensual man. If this be the true sense, the doctrine of human depravity, in as far at least as this text may be supposed to bear upon it, is greatly invalidated. The apostle would seem to affirm only, that individuals, addicted to the gross indulgences of sense, are incapable of discerning and appreciating spiritual things. Thus, a large exception would be made in favor of all those who might be styled intellectual and moral persons, living above the inferior appetites, and directing their faculties to the candid investigation of truth. That the phrase, however, is to be explained of the natural or "unregenerate" man, whether distinguished for intellectual refinement, and external regard to morals, or degraded by animal indulgence, will appear evident from an examination of the passage.
The word in dispute comes from ψυχή psuchē, which though it primarily signify the breath or animal life, is by no means confined to that sense, but sometimes embraces the mind or soul "as distinguished both from man's body and from his πνεῦμα pneuma, or spirit, breathed into him immediately by God" - See Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon. The etymology of the word does not necessarily require us, then, to translate it "sensual." The context therefore alone must determine the matter. Now the "natural man" is there opposed to the spiritual man, the ψυχικὸς psuchikos to the πνευματικὸς pneumatikos, and if the latter be explained of "him who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit" - who is regenerate - the former must be explained of him who is not enlightened by that Spirit, who is still in a state of nature; and will thus embrace a class far more numerous than the merely sensual part of mankind.
Farther; the general scope of the passage demands this view. The Corinthians entertained an excessive fondness for human learning and wisdom. They loved philosophical disquisition and oratorical display, and may therefore have been impatient of the "enticing words" of Paul. To correct their mistaken taste, the apostle asserts and proves the utter insufficiency of human wisdom, either to discover spiritual things, or to appreciate them when discovered. He exclaims "where is the 'wise'? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 1:31. Now it would be strange indeed, if in bringing his argument to a conclusion, he should simply assert, that "sensual" people were incapable of spiritual discernment. So lame and impotent a conclusion is not to be attributed to the apostle. The disputed phrase, therefore, must be understood of all unregenerate persons, however free from gross sin, or eminent in intellectual attainment. Indeed it is the "proud wisdom" of the world, and not its sensuality, that the apostle? throughout has chiefly in view. Add to all this; that the simplicity of the gospel has "in reality" met with more bitter opposition and pointed scorn, from people of worldly wisdom, than from people of the sensual class. Of the former, is it especially true that they have counted the gospel "foolishness" and contemptuously rejected its message.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
But he that is spiritual - The man who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit in contradistinction from him who is under the influence of the senses only.
Judgeth - Greek: "Discerns." (margin); the same word as in the previous verse. It means that the spiritual man has a discernment of these truths in regard to which the sensual man was blind and ignorant.
All things - Not absolutely all things; or not that he is omniscient; but that he has a view of those things to which the apostle had reference - that is, to the things which are revealed to man by the Holy Spirit.
Yet he himself is judged - Greek, as in the margin, "is discerned;" that is, his feelings, principles, views, hopes, fears, joys, cannot be fully understood and appreciated by any natural or sensual man. He does not comprehend the principles which actuate him; he does not enter into his joys; he does not sympathize with him in his feelings. This is a matter of simple truth and universal observation. The reason is added in the following verse, that as the Christian is influenced by the Lord and as the natural man does not know him, so he cannot know him who is influenced by him; that is the Christian.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
For who hath known ... - This passage is quoted from Isaiah 40:13. The interrogative form is a strong mode of denying that anyone has ever known the mind of the Lord. The argument of Paul is this, "No one can understand God. No one can fully comprehend his plans, his feelings, his views, his designs. No one by nature, under the influence of sense and passion, is either disposed to investigate his truths, or loves them when they are revealed. But the Christian is influenced by God. He has his Spirit. He has the mind of Christ; who had the mind of God. He sympathizes with Christ; he has his feelings, desires, purposes, and plans. And as no one can fully understand God by nature, so neither can he understand him who is influenced by God, and is like him; and it is not to be wondered at that he regards the Christian religion as folly, and the Christian as a fool.
The mind of Christ - The views, feelings, and temper of Christ. We are influenced by his Spirit.
Remarks On 1 Corinthians 2
1. Ministers of the gospel should not be too anxious to be distinguished for excellency of speech or language, 1 Corinthians 2:1. Their aim should be to speak the simple truth, in language pure and intelligible to all. Let it be remembered, that if there ever was any place where it would be proper to seek such graces of eloquence, it was Corinth. If in any city now, or in any refined and genteel society it would be proper, it would have been proper in Corinth. Let this thought rebuke those, who, when they preach to a frivilous and fashionable auditory, seek to fill their sermons with ornament rather than with solid thought; with the tinsel of rhetoric, rather than with pure language. Paul was right in his course; and was wise. True taste abhors meretricious ornaments, as much as the gospel does. And the man who is called to preach in a rich and fashionable congregation, should remember, that he is stationed there not to please the ear, but to save the soul; that his object is not to display his talent or his eloquence, but to rescue his hearers from ruin. This purpose will make the mere ornaments of rhetoric appear small. It will give: seriousness to his discourse; gravity to his diction; unction to his eloquence; heart to his arguments; and success to his ministry.
2. The purpose of every minister should be like that of Paul, to preach Christ and only him crucified. See the note on 1 Corinthians 2:2.
3. If Paul trembled at Corinth in view of dangers and difficulties; if he was conscious of his own weakness and feebleness, then we should learn also to be humble. He is not much in danger of erring who imitates the example of this great apostle. And if he who had received a direct commission from the great Head of the church, and who was endowed with such mighty powers, was modest, unassuming, and diffident, then it becomes ministers of the gospel now, and all others to be humble also. We should not, indeed, be afraid of people; but we should be modest, humble, and lowly; much impressed, as if conscious of our mighty charge; and anxious to deliver just such a message as God will approve and bless.
Would I describe a preacher, such an Paul,
Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own,
Paul should himself direct me. I would trace.
His master-strokes, and draw from his design.
I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain;
And plain in manner, decent, solemn, chaste,
And natural in gesture: much impress'd.