1 CORINTHIANS - CHAPTER 2
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or
of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.”
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.
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
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.
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.
“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him
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
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).
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
“I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
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.
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).
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.
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s
wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:”
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.
“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of
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.
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.
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:”
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
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).
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.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which
God ordained before the world unto our glory;”
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.
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
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.
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
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they
would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
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.
“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
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
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth
all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
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
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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).
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).
Spirit indwells us “so that we might know the things that are freely given to us of
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.
“Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but
which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no
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
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
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?
But we have the mind of Christ.”
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