1 Corinthians 2
1 Corinthians 2:1-5… And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
Verses 1-5 reflect back to what Paul said about himself in 1:17. Keep in mind that Paul was the first pastor of that church, and he taught there for 18 months (Acts 18:11). By his own testimony Paul did not speak with eloquent language so as to persuade people to come to Christ. Verse one says that Paul did not come with “superiority of speech.” “Superiority” here is the same word Paul uses to describe the position of those in authority in 1 Tim. 2:2, but the general meaning above has to do with high-sounding words or pompous speech. Paul’s words were not chosen to be impressive to his audience. The form of Paul’s message was simple, and the point he preached was the wisdom of God, Christ crucified. This “testimony of God” is true wisdom. His form of speech was simple, but the content of his speech, God’s wisdom, was anything but.
Verse two speaks of Paul’s resolve to do one thing: teach about Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. Now this is not to the exclusion of the ramifications of such. Paul says in Acts 20:27, “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” Paul did not teach exclusively about the historical event of Christ’s death on the cross, for teaching about the cross of Christ also involves teaching its ramifications – the “whole will of God.” The effects include trusting and believing in Christ who died for the world and how one serves such a Savior.
Whereas verse two speaks of the form and content of Paul’s message, verse three speaks of Paul’s demeanor as the pastor of the church in Corinth. He was with them in “weakness and in fear and much trembling.” This phrase should not lead one to believe that Paul was some sort of a wimpy preacher. On the contrary, Paul was a bold preacher who was severely beaten on numerous occasions for his stance on the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also counseled others to be bold in sharing the gospel (cf. Acts 13:46; Eph. 3:12). Paul’s “fear and trembling” refer to how seriously he took his task of preaching Christ crucified – the wisdom of God.
Verses 4-5 reiterate that Paul was not speaking with the eloquence of a Greek orator, but his speeches were with God’s power – a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. If he were somehow able to convince others of anything with his great oration then they could also be convinced otherwise with someone else’s greater oration. Verse five reveals that Paul’s goal was for their faith to rest not on powerfully educated men but solely in God’s power.
Food for Thought
Church goers today tend to compliment the preacher’s sermons, but most can’t even remember it a day later. This reflects the preaching style of “gifted communicators” as opposed to expository preachers who rely less on their ability to speak and more fully on God’s words to do all the work. Eighteenth century preacher and theologian Jonathon Edwards used to manuscript his sermons and read them sitting down in monotone speech so as to keep from overshadowing the powerful wisdom of God. How sad it is today when churches are viewed as unique when they preach sin, salvation in Christ alone, and eternal damnation. That message, however, is the wisdom of God, and though God uses preachers and teachers to promote that message, the message itself needs no help from “great preachers.” It only needs to be preached.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9… Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
So as not to leave the church believing that he has no wisdom from his previous words, Paul does explain that he and his comrades do speak wise words. But the wisdom he espouses is understood only by those who are “mature” – used of moral and physical perfection, adulthood completeness, and those who come to know Christ as Lord. In 2:6 the “mature” are simply those who know Christ as Lord/Savior – those who have placed their faith and in him as such. The words of God spoken from the scriptures are wise only in the eyes of those who actually know and love God. To the rest, the unsaved, the Bible is at best taken with the proverbial “grain of salt” and at worst taken as pure foolishness. Either way, the unsaved don’t listen to God’s words, and Paul refers to them in his day as “the rulers of this age.” This phrase is in reference to the leading men of the society, both the political and the philosophical leaders. They are said to be “passing away” – they are in the process of being abolished because of unbelief.
In verse seven Paul indicates that he and his comrades speak God’s wisdom. He calls this wisdom a “mystery” because it refers to the hidden wisdom of God revealed only to His children. It is God’s full intention to keep His wisdom hidden from those who are not His – those to whom Jesus refers to when he speaks in parables in Matthew 13:10-17. This hidden wisdom of God was “predestined before the ages to our glory.” Before Genesis 1:1 – before the foundations of the earth were laid – God predetermined that He would reveal Himself to those He called unto salvation “for their glory,” for their veneration and exaltation. Verse eight continues the teaching that this wisdom of God is a wisdom that none of the “rulers of this age” – the wise men, political rulers, and the philosophers – had understood. If they had any understanding of God’s wisdom “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The very fact that Jesus Christ, God Himself, was convicted of a crime by the leaders of the Jewish nation and executed by the Romans – an intellectually powerful and militarily crushing empire, proves that the wisest of men through the ages have no wisdom if they don’t recognize Jesus Christ as God.
Verse nine is a quotation from Isaiah 64:4 and 65:17. Though known to many, it is often misunderstood. God’s wisdom cannot be attained through one’s eyes or ears (“no eye has seen, no ear has heard”). It doesn’t matter how sophisticated or intellectual one is. God’s wisdom equally cannot be understood by one’s mind (heart) through rational thought (“no mind has conceived”). Man’s thoughts turn against God’s divine wisdom. In fact, none of man’s faculties can comprehend “what God has prepared for those who love Him.” God turns the light on.
Food for Thought
If you accept the words of scripture you are counted as “mature,” those who are spiritual, who have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. You can rejoice over the fact that God has enlightened you to true wisdom as opposed to man’s philosophies. Not much has changed from Paul’s day to the present because his leaders rejected true wisdom much the same way ours do today. It is impossible for their eyes, ears, and minds to understand what God has prepared for those who love Him. Pray for all those who are blind to God’s wisdom and that it will be manifested in you.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11… For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
In 2:9 Paul says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” That passage refers not to the eternal state of heaven that awaits believers but to the wisdom God has prepared for His children. Only they can grasp what God has prepared for them. Now in verse 10 Paul states that God has indeed revealed what He has prepared for those who love Him. The one without God cannot find God with his eyes, his ears cannot hear it, and his mind cannot conceive of what God has revealed to His children. When Paul says, “God revealed them to us,” the “us” is in reference to Christians in general, but specifically “to us” refers to the recipients of God’s special revelation – the prophets and apostles who walked with Jesus and wrote the Bible under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). The means through which God revealed Himself to His children was (and is) through the Holy Spirit. Verse 10b explains that “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” Since the Holy Spirit is a member of the Holy Trinity, God Himself, then it makes perfect sense that the Spirit knows fully the mind of God. Only God can know God, and since the Spirit is sent for humanity by God, then the Holy Spirit is the link between God and mankind. As such “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.”
What is the Spirit searching? Romans 8:26-27 speaks of the Holy Spirit searching us, our hearts, and our minds. He prays for us when we don’t know what to pray for, and He prays for us according to God’s will because He is in fact God. The third member of the Trinity examines us, then speaks to the first member of the Trinity on our behalf. Because the Holy Spirit is God, He knows God – even the “depths of God.” What a wonderful word of encouragement in verse 10.
Verse 11 gives more explanation. Paul makes an analogy to explain how the Spirit knows what he knows. The “spirit of man” in verse 11 represents the inmost thoughts and beliefs of a human being. As individuals only we know our own thoughts, and only we can understand why we behave as we do. When we tell someone, “You don’t understand me or what I do,” this is a reflection of the fact that only we truly know ourselves as individuals. Equally, the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God because He is God. This same God has revealed Himself and His wisdom to His children. Because of this, those who know Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity – God in the flesh – know God. And knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ means that Christians – the true saints of God – have God’s wisdom. They are the ones whose eyes have seen, whose ears have heard, and whose minds have conceived what God has prepared for them because He loves them. All three members of the Godhead are essential in the Christian faith.
Food for Thought
Without God man has no wisdom. It simply doesn’t matter how educated one is. Without God there is nothing to boast about. God has revealed His wisdom through the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit prays for saints today. If you’re one of them as a result of placing your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, just know that your God is Triune. We pray to the Father (cf. Matt. 6:9), and while we pray the Holy Spirit prays for us (cf. Rom. 8:26-27). Furthermore, as if this weren’t enough, Romans 8:34 also says that Jesus too prays (intercedes) for us to the Father. The Spirit God gave us is wonderful indeed. He gives us God’s wisdom.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13… Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
What the Apostle Paul has been saying all along has to do with the wisdom he speaks in contrast to the wisdom of the world. The wisdom he speaks of is for “the mature” – those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord. This wisdom is not some obscure or cryptic knowledge that only Christians can understand, rather, it is the knowledge of eternal salvation found not in worldly philosophies but only through the Holy Spirit which itself is given by God. In speaking of what the Holy Spirit has given to believers in Jesus Christ, what they have not received, according to v. 12, is the “spirit of the world” – a spirit of selfish ambition and worldly knowledge. What they have received is the Holy Spirit “who is from God.” The Spirit is not of the world, and since these saints have received God’s Spirit the implication is that they must not act like the world – a trap that these Corinthians had clearly fallen into prompting Paul’s writing to them in the first place. Now since all Christians fall into this trap at some point, Paul’s writing here speaks loud and clear to all Christians in the present day too.
The last clause in verse 12 reveals God’s purpose in granting Christians the gift of the Holy Spirit, namely, that “we might know the things freely given to us by God.” Now the whole context revolves around knowledge and wisdom. The wisdom of the world is nothing in light of God’s wisdom, and now God grants His Holy Spirit so that His wisdom will be shared by those who call on Him. Gordon Fee says, “Paul, in talking about God’s wisdom in this passage, is referring to salvation through the crucified one. And God’s people ‘understand’ that precisely because they have received the Spirit.” Don’t miss the fact that all of this is a gift from God. It was freely given by God and received by His children “that they might know.”
In verse 13 the Spirit Paul speaks of is the Holy Spirit, the answer to everything Paul teaches. He is the underlying power behind Paul’s preaching, He is the key to the Christian’s salvation, and He is the explanation for their understanding anything spiritual. Paul is speaking by means of the Holy Spirit rather than the secular wisdom of rhetorical devices used by the Greek philosophers of the day. In teaching by means of the Holy Spirit Paul “combines” (better translated “explains”) spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. In other words, Paul is explaining the teachings of the Holy Spirit in language suitable to the message as opposed to using human wisdom. This is what Paul has been talking about since 2:1-5 when he told the Corinthians how he did not come to them with persuasive and philosophical words. Rather, he shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ by means of the Spirit of God. And the fact that he preached Christ crucified – the message of the cross – means one thing: Paul spoke by means of the Holy Spirit because no one can share the message of the cross apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.
Food for Thought
Those who know Jesus Christ have God’s Holy Spirit residing within them. The power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead lives within the saints. Today don’t quench the Spirit by failing to rejoice in knowing God personally (cf. 1 Thes. 5:19), and don’t grieve the Holy Spirit through unwholesome talk and course joking (cf. Eph. 4:30). Remember that the Holy Spirit is God, and He is given as a gift. He seals the saints of God so that they cannot lose the salvation He gave them, and He guarantees their ultimate redemption (Eph. 1:13-14).
1 Corinthians 2:14-16… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Verse 14 is pivotal to understanding why some people reject Christ after a cogent presentation of the cross. Paul says, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The “natural man” refers to he who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ and/or the meaning of the cross he died on. Some Bible translations simplify “natural man” with “unbelievers,” and this is both accurate and good. The term clearly refers to humanity in his natural physical existence as that of a sinful person without the Holy Spirit of God given only by God.
Verse 14 lists three traits of the “natural man.” First, he does not “accept the things of the Spirit of God.” This is in stark contrast to those in v. 12 who do accept the things of God. In failing to accept, they in turn reject, and in this case unbelievers, either willingly or indifferently, reject the things of God. The second trait of the natural man is that he sees the things of God as “foolishness.” Salvation from sin, God’s wrath, prayer, weekly corporate worship, and Bible study are viewed as moronic by those without the Spirit of God. They poke fun of those who speak of God as if they know Him personally. The third trait of the unbeliever is that “he cannot understand.” Not only does the natural man reject God and consider the worship of Him as foolishness, he/she simply cannot understand the teachings of God. Why? “Because they are spiritually appraised.” The word for “appraised” was a Corinthian word Paul used that was common there, and it simply means “unable to make appropriate judgments.” Those who are spiritually appraised are people who are unable to understand God, His workings, and His plan. Thus, this passage is a clear description of unbelievers both then and now.
Verse 15 presents another stark contrast between those who do not know God through His Son Jesus Christ, and those who do. Those who do “appraise all things” but are “appraised by no man.” Simply put, those with the Holy Spirit understand God’s ways in reference to the salvation of their souls (but it doesn’t include, as some arrogantly assume, every single thing under the sun). Those who have the Holy Spirit given to them from God have the ability to judge all matters spiritual because they have the wisdom of God, and at the same time, these folks are not to be judged by those “natural men” who do not have it. They are judged by no one.
Verse 16 is a quote from Isaiah 40:13, and the rhetorical question deserves one response: no one! For no one knows God’s mind fully, and no one can judge Him for the way He works. But, Paul continues, saints do have the “mind of Christ” who is God in the flesh. What Paul means is that saints have Christ’s thoughts as revealed by the Holy Spirit. God has revealed Himself in His Son, and His words are accurately recorded in scripture. Those with the Spirit can fully understand what God has clearly given in His Word. Thus, they have the “mind of Christ.”
Food for Thought
Christians are admonished to share Christ with all people. It is God who saves, but it is our responsibility to share the good news. Don’t get down on those who won’t convert to Christ however. The key to understanding is held by God alone. Their lack of understanding means that they don’t have the key to unlock the box, as it were. All we can do is share the good news, live out our obedience to God, and pray that He will save those we care for. It’s all about God, not us.