For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

2:1.  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.”

As the Lord, at the bidding of the Father, came down to earth to redeem men, so did Paul go at the Father’s bidding to Corinth to bring them the good news of that redemption.  We are to follow the same pattern, for the Lord Himself has commanded us, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  We too are to be willing to go where and when the Lord sends us.

Paul was well educated, and it might have been expected that his education would have been exactly what was needed to reach the citizens of that cultured Greek city, but it wasn’t, nor is it needed to reach men today.  It is the Gospel, not education or human wisdom, that is the power of God unto salvation (Ro 1:16).

“... declaring unto you the testimony of God,” or, alternatively “the attested truth of God.”  That attestation wasn’t limited to the miracles that had accompanied the Lord’s ministry, and that of the Apostles: the Corinthian believers themselves were the attestation of that truth, for the power of the Gospel was evident in their midst.  Our lives too are to be the witness to the power of the Gospel.  The change it works ought to be evident in our lives, and where there is no evident change, there is little reason to believe the profession of the lips.  This is emphasized throughout the Epistle of James.

There is however another perspective from which to view the testimony of God.  That witness in the Gospel begins with the declaration of man’s utter ruin, and desperate need of a Savior; but the other side of that testimony is to God’s love in giving His only Son to be that Savior.

2:2.  “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

The word determined implies a conscious effort on Paul’s part, and the reason for that effort is apparent.  Corinth being what it was - a city of culture and learning - the temptation for him to use his own human learning and wisdom, must have been very real.  The lesson for us is of the need to be equally careful not to attempt to win men to Christ by any other means than the simple presentation of the Gospel.  (It is to be noted incidentally, that in spite of its culture and learning, Corinth was a moral cesspool, and so, it seems, does moral depravity always walk hand in hand with the world’s “wisdom,” today’s western society being a glaring example).

We should note also how he describes the Lord.  It is Jesus first, and then Christ, for Jesus is the name especially connected with His humanity, and with His being the sinner’s Savior, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”  Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, and means savior.  Christ is literally Messiah, meaning anointed, and is His title as King/Priest (Ruler) of His people. He is to be our Lord as well as our Savior.  An obedient life is the mark of a genuine conversion.

“... and him crucified.”  Paul puts special emphasis on the crucifixion, and for good reason.  First, the Lord’s death is the dramatic confirmation that all men are under sentence of death because of sin, and when the Lord condescended to identify Himself with the condemned human race, it was that He might die as their Substitute, that death being effective to save every believing sinner, since God is willing to impute His Son’s death to every believer.  For the believer, Christ’s death closes the account, pays the debt, meets all the claims of God’s holy throne.  Man’s life was forfeit because of Adam’s rebellion.  Christ, the last Adam, yielded up that life at Calvary, so that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1).

Second, his death by crucifixion fulfilled prophecy, for Ps 22 is the OT description of what the promised Deliverer, the Seed of the woman, would endure at Calvary.  That Psalm can be understood properly only in the context of Calvary; and to read it in that context is to have incontrovertible proof that the Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of prophecy.  His death was no accident, but the fulfillment of what God had foretold.  No reasonable man, Jew or Gentile, can fail to see the parallel between what is recorded in that Psalm written a thousand years before Christ, and what transpired at Calvary. 

2:3.  “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

As was his Master, so also was the servant Paul, though we must remember that in the Lord’s case there was no fear.  Christ had come to the men of earth in weakness, being born of lowly parents, as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, occupying the place of a servant, as He Himself declared, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (serve), and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).  So had Paul, the once proud, rich, well-educated Pharisee, come to the men of Corinth to bring them the Gospel.  As the Lord had set aside His Divine glory, so did Paul set aside his earthly glory.  All who would be effective witnesses in the Gospel must be willing also to lay aside everything in which man might glory.

His having come to the Corinthians “in fear, and in much trembling” should encourage us.  We tend to think of Paul and all the early disciples as being completely fearless.  They weren’t.  But their fear didn’t prevent them from preaching the Gospel, nor should our fear stop us.  The secret of their success was that they feared God more than they did man, for they remembered that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pr 9:10); but “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Pr 29:25).

With the early disciples those words were no mere shibboleth.  They believed them and lived by them: hence the power that was manifest in their proclamation of the Gospel.  It is not the grandiose schemes of men, but reverential fear of God that is needed today.

2:4.  “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:”

His words and his message were plain.  There was no embellishment of either, no display of eloquence or human wisdom.  He recognized what many today have lost sight of: if the Holy Spirit hasn’t sent the man, and given him his message, all the persuasive oratory in the world won’t lead souls to Christ.  That he had been the Spirit’s messenger, bearing the Spirit’s message, was validated by the fact that many of the Corinthians had been converted as a result of his preaching.

2:5.  “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Here Paul explains why he had refrained from using any of the methods commonly employed by the orators of the day: human wisdom can never be the basis of salvation.  There is genuine conversion only when the Holy Spirit has done His work of using the Gospel to convict men of their sins, and then revealing the Lord Jesus Christ as the only One able to remit those sins, that remission being possible only because of His death as man’s Representative, on the cross.

There are two perspectives from which to view “the power of God”: first, we see that power displayed in His having raised the Lord Jesus Christ up out of death; and second, there is the working of that same power to bring conviction through the Gospel.  Conversion apart from that conviction is just as impossible as it would be had Christ not been raised.  For Paul’s emphasis on the necessity of Christ’s resurrection (which is, of course, the display of God’s power) see 15:12-24.

2:6.  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:”

Having emphasized the fact that human wisdom has no part in the salvation of sinners, Paul is careful to remind his readers that this is not to say that the Gospel is mere foolishness.  The very opposite is true.  It is only to the unconvicted natural mind that the Gospel is foolishness.  The renewed mind sees it very differently, for the believer, with his understanding enlightened, quickly learns that it is man’s vaunted wisdom that is folly, Scripture itself presenting him with incontrovertible proof that the Bible isn’t just another book, but rather the revelation of God Himself.  As the believer begins to study Scripture he sees in its numerical structure, its fulfilled prophecies, its consistent typology, the indivisible harmony of all its parts, etc., that while human hands may have held the pen, the Author could only have been God.

It is in the light of Scripture that human wisdom is revealed for the senseless thing it is, and the world’s sages shown to be but fools, the earthy man and his worldly “wisdom” both doomed to pass away, the Word of God, on the contrary, enduring for ever (Mk 13:31; 1 Pe 1:25).

The reference to those who are “perfect” is literally those who are spiritually mature.  Salvation comes through a simple childlike faith that believes without proof; but it is not God’s will that that immature state should continue indefinitely.  The spiritual child is to mature just as does the normal physical child.  It is the spiritually mature believer who finds that what he had been willing to accept at first by faith, is then confirmed also as being the epitome of wisdom.

2:7.  “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory;”

The plural “we” reminds us that what Paul says applies to all who proclaim the good tidings.  What he describes as “a mystery” and as “hidden wisdom” is mysterious (incomprehensible), and hidden, only to the natural mind, but to the mature believer it is neither mysterious nor hidden, for by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, he understands what the natural mind can’t, and so far from its being hidden, it is God’s delight to reveal to faith what He hides from the eye of unbelief.

This is not to suggest that God doesn’t wish all men to understand this mystery, this hidden wisdom.  The contrary is true.  He very much desires to reveal these things to all men; but, as noted already, salvation is available only on the principle of faith, but were these things revealed to the unbeliever there would then be no basis for faith, for faith would have given place to sight, as it were: what can be comprehended by the natural mind is not of faith but of sight.  This explains why disclosure of the revelation is given only to those who have already exercised faith by trusting in Christ.  It confirms their faith.

This raises the question, Why must salvation be on the basis of faith?  The answer is amazingly simple.  It was by lack of faith that man made himself the heir of death.  He didn’t believe God.  But that is exactly what faith is: belief of God’s word.  As it was therefore lack of faith that brought death, so is it the exercise of faith (belief of God) that brings life.

Some scholars take “the glory” to be the equivalent of heaven; others, of the glory which will be given us when we are in heaven.  Both are true.

2:8.  “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

It continues to be emphasized that the wisdom revealed to obedient believers through the Holy Spirit, is beyond the grasp of even the loftiest natural intelligence, for the height of wisdom is to know God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Lack of that knowledge keeps man in a state of enmity with God, an enmity of such intensity that he dared to crucify Christ.  The renewed man, on the other hand, would lay down his life rather than deny Christ.  The proof of what Paul writes is furnished in that when He Who is Wisdom personified stood in the midst of the world’s rulers they failed to recognize Him.  (The Scribes, and Pharisees, and Pilate, and Herod are representative of “the princes of this world,” i.e., rulers in general).

“... the Lord of glory” is somewhat ambiguous, and may be taken to indicate that He is worthy of all glory, or that He alone can bestow glory.  Both are true.

2:9.  “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.”

This presents us with another aspect of that knowledge kept hidden during past ages, but now in this present age revealed to faith.  It involves not only that which is beyond the comprehension of the natural mind, but which is discernible by the renewed mind: it includes things which are beyond the grasp of even the renewed human mind, even though some of those things have to do with our own eternal glory.  This declares the transcendent nature of the wisdom possessed by God.  Even the renewed mind, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, can grasp only the smallest part of it.  How paltry then is that knowledge possessed by even the most brilliant men unenlightened by the Holy Spirit!

2:10.  “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

It is self-evident that there has not been disclosed to even the most spiritual believer all that could be revealed, so that this verse has to be understood in the context of what even a spiritually enlightened, but finite mind is capable of under-standing.

Nor is this searching done by the Spirit to be construed in the sense of His enquiring so that He Himself may acquire knowledge.  He is God, and therefore omniscient.   It means simply that He fathoms, and takes out of that vast store what it is His will to impart to those in whom He dwells unquenched and ungrieved, obedience being necessary on the believer’s part, for little is revealed to the disobedient believer, and for an obvious reason: knowledge acquired is to be worked out in the life.  The Lord will not waste His knowledge on those who won’t use it for His glory.

2:11.  “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.”

As it is by his own spirit that a man knows what is in his own mind, so is it impossible for another to have that perception.  And so is it with God.  Only the Holy Spirit knows what is in the mind of God, so that man, apart from the Spirit’s enlightenment, cannot know the mind of God.  We don’t grasp the magnitude of the miracle of grace that makes it possible for us to know what is in the mind of God, and yet that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does for us through the written Word, the only thing being required of us is that we be obedient.

2:12.  “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.”

What we have is inseparably linked with the new birth.  As we were born into this world having in us the spirit of the world, that is, minds governed entirely by the principles which govern all the activities in this evil world whose prince is Satan, so is it by the new birth that we have now received the Spirit of God, and as noted above, His indwelling presence enables us to understand the mind of God.  But as every privilege has a corresponding responsibility, so here also is there responsibility.  The reception of the knowledge of the mind of God is so that that same mind might be in us, as it is written, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Php 2:5).  This knowledge is given us so that we might the better display in our own lives that Christ dwells in us, as it is written again, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Ga 2:20).

What many don’t understand is that at the moment of our conversion, it is God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit Who takes up residence in our bodies, not just to seal us and to enlighten us, but so that He might have the use of our bodies so that others may see Christ in us, in our thoughts, words, and deeds, in short, that others might see Christ living His life in us.  In this connection we note what is written in Ro 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship).  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  And again, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Co 6:19-20).

The Spirit indwells us “so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”  

The enlightenment given by an ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit enables us to understand better the blessings that are ours as men in Christ who have been made heirs and joint heirs with Him.  But that enlightenment is not given simply to gratify curiosity.  God never imparts knowledge for that purpose.  It is given so that we may by comparison learn the worthlessness of earthly things, and be thereby preserved from the folly of pursuing them.

2:13.  “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

It wasn’t worldly wisdom that led Paul to speak about these things, for worldly wisdom knows nothing of them.  To the world’s wisdom, in fact, such things are utterly foolish.  No, it was the Holy Spirit Who endowed Paul with this wisdom; nor was this wisdom the exclusive possession of Paul: the Holy Spirit makes it available to every believer who diligently seeks it.

“...comparing spiritual things with spiritual” may mean “explaining spiritual things in spiritual words, or in language comprehensible to spiritual men”; but it is more often taken to mean “explaining or interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.”

2:14.  “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.”

“... receiveth not” is literally “rejects.”  Because he cannot understand it, the natural man rejects this knowledge of spiritual things as being unworthy of his attention, his inability to understand it leading him to conclude that it is worthless.

Just as animals could never comprehend the value of diamonds, and will trample them under their feet, because animals and men are of a different order, neither can the natural man understand the eternal worth of spiritual things, because the natural man and the spiritual man are also of two different orders.  The one is born of the flesh; the other is born of the Spirit.  The life in the one is physical and is governed by what can be perceived by the senses; that in the other is the very life of God Himself.  It is that new life within the regenerate man that enables him to understand the worth of spiritual things.

2:15.  “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”

The spiritual man can judge or understand the value of all things, his knowledge of the worth of spiritual things enabling him to evaluate correctly the worthlessness of earthly things.  But as the natural man doesn’t always use his earthly wisdom wisely, very often the spiritual man is guilty of the same folly.  Even though he knows the superior worth of spiritual things, he foolishly pursues the worthless things of earth.  (“Spiritual man” is being used here to describe believers without regard to whether they are carnal or spiritually mature).

While the spiritual man has the ability to evaluate the worth of all things, his own worth is not comprehended by others.  The spiritual man for instance, is very often esteemed a fool in the estimation of the natural man; and what is worse, sometimes also in the estimation of the carnal believer.

2:16.  “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.”

The thought here is not the impossibility of knowing the mind of the Lord, but rather the measureless extent of what is in His mind.  He is the source of all knowledge, and that being so it is axiomatic that no one can instruct Him, that is, teach Him something He doesn’t already know.  But the miracle of the new birth is that believers have what unbelievers don’t: the ability to understand what is in God’s mind.  And we have that ability because the life and the nature now in us are the life and nature of God Himself, so that as a man knows what is in his own mind, so can we now know what is in God’s mind.  “We have the mind of Christ” because His life and nature are ours.  As the human brain sets man far above the most intelligent animal, so does the new birth endow the believer with a capacity infinitely superior to that of the natural man: the believer can understand the thoughts of God: the natural man can’t.

[1 Corinthians 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough