1 Corinthians 2Our apostle had, in the foregoing chapter, declared how Christ had sent him to preach the gospel in the plainness and simplicity of it, not with the wisdom of words, ver. 17, that is, not in a pompous and flourishing way and manner of preaching, mingling the simplicity of the gospel with human wisdom: accordingly in this verse he tells them, that when, pursuant to his commission, he came and preached to them at Corinth, he came not with excellency of speech; that is, he studied not to gratify their curiosity with rhetorical strains or philosophical niceties, to please their wanton wits, but solidly to inform their judgments with the great and necessary duties of the gospel, and to furnish them with the strongest arguments and motives for a good life.
This is preaching: but had he come with human wisdom, this would have detracted,
1. From the excellency of the gospel, which, like the sun, shines best with its own beams, scripture eloquence is most piercing and demonstrative, and convinceth a man by its own evidence; human wisdom charms the ear, but this strikes the conscience.
2. It would have detracted from the glory of God, which is more honoured by the plainness and simplicity of the gospel, than by the luxuriance of wit, or the most admired oratory in the world; all human wisdom must be denied when it comes in competition with, or stands in opposition to, the doctrine of the gospel.
Observe farther, The title given to the gospel, which he preached amongst them in so much plainness and simplicity; he styles it the testimony of God.
Where note, That the testimony of the apostles concerning Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension, is called the testimony of God, because God testified and bare witness to the truth of these doctrines by signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
That is, "I determined not to discover to you, or display before you, the eloquence and wisdom of the Greeks, or to give you any other knowledge but that of a crucified Saviour, which, alas! is to them foolishness." Yet must not these words be understood absolutely, but comparatively; not as if the apostles did absolutely despise or contemn all other study and knowledge, much less vilify true philosophy, logic, or oratory; for all knowledge is useful to him that knows how to refer it to right ends, and God has made nothing knowable in vain; but that all other knowledge, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, is insignificant and ineffectual.
Note here, 1. The subject-matter of St. Paul's study and preaching, it was Jesus Christ: not Jewish traditions, not the Gentiles' philosophy, but him in whom are hid all the treasures of knowledge.
Note, 2. The special relation in which our apostle chose to study and preach Jesus Christ: and that was as crucified; Christ above all other subjects, and Christ crucified above all other considerations, because Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness: human wisdom despised the sufferings of Jesus Christ, but the apostle made them the subject of hes study, and the scope of his study, and the scope if his preaching.
Learn hence, 1. That as all of Christ, so more especially his death in all the mysteries of it, ought to be the principal subject of a Christian's study and knowledge.
Learn, 2. That as there is no doctrine more excellent in itself, so none more necessary to be preached, than the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Oh! let ministers then preach, and by preaching prepare their people to receive the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And let both ministers and people count all things but dross in comparison of that excellency which is in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Observe here, 1. How the apostle declares that his person was suitable to his preaching, both plain, neither pompous. 2Cor 10:10 He tells us, That his bodily presence was weak and mean, and his speech contemptible. Tradition tells us, that Paul (according as his name signifies) was a man of a very little stature, his voice small, and wanting that presence which some others had.
Observe, 2. Some pain that the apostle was in, fearing lest the infirmity of his flesh should render him as a minister despicible in the eyes of any, or the course of the gospel be hindered and obstructed by his bodily infirmities; for this was he with them in fear and much trembling. Nothing doth so much affect and afflict the ministers of Christ, as an apprehension and fear lest any thing in or from themselves should obstruct or hinder the success of the gospel which they teach. It is sad when our poverty or mean appearance, to despise our message, or from any natural imperfections found with us; but much sadder, when such moral blemishes are found with us, as to render us the occasion of our own contempt, and the cause of our ministry's unsuccessfulness.
Here our apostle goes on, declaring after what manner he did, and did not, preach the gospel of Christ to the Corinthians.
Note, 1. How he did not preach unto them: he tells us, that his preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom; that is, his preaching was not garnished with human eloquence, did not consist in rhetorical tropes, was not accompanied with the witty insinuations of artificial learning, which pleases the ear, but affects not the heart: therefore the apostles did not, like rhetoricians and orators, polish their discourses with an affected curiosity and exactness of language: but although they came in plainness, yet not in rudeness of speech; our apostle's preaching at Corinth was great and serious, pious and ardent, plain and profitable. With what brevity, without darkness; with what gravity, without affectation; with what natural eloquence, without meretricious ornament, were St. Paul's discourses! A minister's words ought not to be instantia, but inflammantia; not high-swelling, but heart-in-flaming words.
Note, 2. How the apostle did preach unto the Corinthians; namely, in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; that is, the doctrine he preached was accompanied with, and confirmed by, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, to convince them that Jesus was risen from the dead, and was made Lord of all, whom therefore they ought to believe and obey; he did not go about to bewitch men with eloquence, nor to entangle their minds by subtle reasonings, but he offered to men a sensible proof and demonstration of the truth of what he delivered, in those strange and miraculous operations to which he was enabled by the Holy Ghost.
This demonstration of the Spirit accompanying the preaching of the word, we are not now to expect; but the ministry of the word is still attended with a divine power of the Spirit, enlightening the understanding, and persuading the conscience; which may be called a demonstration of the Spirit, because the evidence of truth is no longer disputed or contradicted, but the ministry of the word is still attended with a divine power of the Spirit, enlightening the understanding, and persuading the conscience; which may be called a demonstration of the Spirit, because the evidence of truth is no longer desputed or contradicted, but the understanding assents to the word as true, and the will embraces it as good.
Note, 3. The reason assigned by the apostle why he preached the gospel in and after this plain and in artificial manner, namely, That their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God; that is, that your faith or belief of the gospel should not seem to be obtained by human wisdom and eloquence, but be ascribed to a divine power, influencing such weak means as my plain preaching was amongst you; it is the praise of omnipotency to work by improbabilities: God delights to do great things by weak and unlikely means, knowing that the weakness of the instrument redounds to the greater honour of himself, the principal agent.
Human faith is an assent to any thing credible, as credible upon the infallible testimony of God, and is grounded on, and resolved into, the evidence of divine revelation. Upon this foot stood the Corinthians' faith, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Our apostle here proceeds in discoursing to the Corinthins of the excellency of his ministry amongst them, to obviate the contempt which some might cast upon it for want of human eloquence, sublimity of learning, and accurateness of speech; as if the apostle had said, "Though the wise men of the world account me a fool, and my preaching foolishness, yet I speak the highest wisdom among them that are perfect, or fully instructed in the principles of the Christian faith." Although the discourses of the ablest ministers of the gospel seem jujune and dry to carnal hearts, yet they have an excellency of wisdom and depth of judgment in them, which spiritual and judicious Christians do own and acknowledge.
Here observe, 1. The title which the apostle gives to the gospel of Christ, which he preached: he styles it the wisdom of God, the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world was;--the wisdom of God, because it makes men truly wise, wise to salvation, directing us to use the best means in order to the best and highest end; and the hidden mysterious wisdom of God, because it lay hid in the secret counsels of God from all eternity, and afterwards lay hid under the Jewish types, but is now revealed by the ministry of Christ and his holy apostles; revealed in due time to our glory, that is, to be the means of our happiness and glory. The gracious purpose and design of God in the recovery of a lost world to happiness and glory, by the death and sufferings of his dear and only Son, was so mysterious and surprising, that it could never have entered the thoughts of men or angels, had not God himself discovered it by the revelation of the gospel.
Observe, 2. The comparison which the apostle makes betwixt the wisdom of the gospel and the wisdom of this world: The wisdom of this world, and of the princes of this world, comes to nought.
By the wisdom of the world, understand the wisdom of the heathen Gentile world, the learning of their admired philosphers, all which comes to nought: that is, it is of no signficancy at all in order to the best and highest end, the salvation of the soul.
Christianity or the knowledge of the gospel, is the best knowledge of the truest and highest wisdom; 'tis the best knowledge, because it contains the knowledge of God and our duty, which is the most excellent, the most useful knowledge; and it is the truest wisdom, because it is to be wise for ourselves, and to be wise as to our chief interest; it propounds to us the noblest end, to wit, the glory of God, and our soul's salvation; and it directs us to use the best, the surest, and wisest means, for the certain obtaining of that end.
That is, which divine neither Caiphas, nor Herod, nor Pontius Pilate, nor any of the Jewish or Gentile rulers, did understand.
Where note, The apostle calls the learned rabbis, the admired philosophers among the heathen, the celebrated doctors among the Jews, princes: but presently adds a diminutive term, which darkens all their glory: he styles them the princes of this world, utterly unacquainted with the wisdom of the other world.
Observe farther, What a clear and full proof the apostle gives of their ignorance of this divine wisdom which the gospel reveals: had they known it, that is, practically known it, so as to believe it, to be influenced and persuaded by it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Note here, 1. A royal title given to Christ, The Lord of glory.
There belongs to him, (1.) An essential glory as God, which is unspeakable, yea, inconceivable, He thought it no robbery to be equal with God, that is, to have a peerage or equality with his Father in glory.
(2.) A mediatorial glory as head of the church, which consists in that fullness of grace which is inherent in him, and in that dignity and authority which is put upon him.
(3.) A passive glory, (as some divines call it,) of a glory which shall to all eternity be given to him by his redeemed ones, by saints and angels, upon the account of his mediatorial work: Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory, and honour, and worship, Rev 5:12 for he hath redeemed us, &c.
Note, 2. The indignity offered to this glorious person: They crucified him, they nailed him to an ignominious cross, and put him to death, as the vilest criminal, as the greatest malefactor.
Note, 3. The cause of this indignity, and that was, ignorance; had they known, they would not have crucified, that is, had the princes of this world known, either who Christ was, or the work which he came about, they would not have crucified him, but adored him.
But was their ignorance of Christ a sufficient excuse for crucifying him. In no wise, because it was not an invincible, but a willful ignorance: they had sufficient means of instruction, by which they might have come to the knowledge of him, and of their duty to him; but they closed their eyes, and would not see.
These words, Eye hath not seen, &c. do not immediately respect the happiness of heaven and a future state, though very often they are so applied; but they are primarily spoken of the gospel state, and of the blessings to be enjoyed by them that love God here: from whence a good argument may be drawn to prove the inconceivable happiness of the saints hereafter. Though they have felt and tasted joys unspeakable and full of glory, in the actings of their faith and love upon God at present; yet all that they have seen and heard, all that they have tasted and felt, in the way to heaven, falls infinitely short of the perfection and blessedness of that place and state.
Lord! how will thy immediate presence, when we come into it, be a great surprise to those of us that have now the greatest acquaintance with it!
Observe farther, The care and kindness of God towards his servants, in revealing to them by his Spirit those great and good things prepared for them, which surpass man's understanding: though "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, yet God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit."
There is a two-fold revelation of the happiness of a future state: Revelatio fidei, et revelatio visionis, a revelation of faith, and a revelation by vision and sight; the former, believers have by the help of the Holy Spirit in this life, as viatores; the latter they shall ere long enjoy in heaven, as comprehensores, where they shall see as they are seen, and know as they are known.
Observe lastly, That the Holy Spirit, which thus revealeth hidden counsels to man, and searcheth the deep things of God, is omniscient, and really God.
Mark, 1. He searcheth deep things; he is not only acquainted with and privy to the surface and outside of things, but searcheth things to the bottom.
And, 2. He searcheth not only the deep things of man, as of kings and princes, whose hearts are a great deep, but the deep things of God: therefore the Spirit is God; for as the apostle argues, ver 11. No man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him; even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God, or he that is with God, in God, yea, God himself, as intimately with him as the soul is in the body. If the spirit that is in man were not man, it could never know the deep things of man, and if the Spirit of God were not God, he could never search and know the deep things of God.
Observe here, 1. The apostle declares what spirit they had not received, namely, the spirit they had not received, namely, the spirit of the world: We have not received the spirit of the world: that is, the spirit which suggests worldly wisdom, and savours only of worldly things: which acts and influences only worldly men. In the whole generation of worldly men there is the same worldly spirit, and this spirit of the world is an earthly spirit, it is a low, a little, and a narrow spirit: earthly things which are present and visible, such a soul gapes after, and grasps hard; but future and invisible things, which are far off and out of sight, are neither believed nor sought after.
Observe, 2. The apostle declares what spirit they had received, namely, the spirit which is of God, and of what use that Holy Spirit is unto them: it teaches them to know the things which are freely given them of God: that is, the Holy Spirit showeth us both what God is, and what the things of God are; we are enlightened with the knowledge of that grace and goodness of God which is discovered to us in the gospel, we know both divine mysteries and divine mercies, both what God hath done for us, and what he hath wrought in us, which are the things that are freely given us of God.
Observe, 3. The apostle declares how he preached these spiritual things after a spiritual manner, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: that is, not in the words and after the manner now counted by the Gentile philosophers to be learned and wise, but in the very words, and after the very manner, which the Spirit of God teacheth us.
Where learn, That the holy apostles spake and wrote by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as well as the prophets of old time, and delivered nothing as from God but what God revealed to them by his Holy Spirit: and accordingly some interpret those words, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, that is, say they, comparing the things which were written by the Spirit in and under the Old Testament, with what is now revealed to us under the New.
Observe here, 1. The subject spoken of the natural man; not sarkhikhos, the sensual, but psnkhikhos, the animal man, who acts only by the principles of human reason and worldly wisdom; who, though well furnished with intellectual and moral improvements, is yet destitute of the enlightening Spirit and renewing grace of God.
Observe, 2. What is here affirmed of the natural man, with reference to spiritual things:--That he receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; and that he cannot know them.
Where note, That it is not said, that he knoweth not the things of God, but the things of the Spirit of God; for there are some things of God, which a natural man may know, but the things of the Spirit of God; as truths purely evangelical, these he receiveth not, neither in his understanding, nor in his will.
Note further, It is not barely said that he doth not, but that he cannot know them. Natural reason alone, by what helps soever assisted and improved, is altogether insufficient, without spiritual illumination, to apprehend supernatural and evangelical truth: not but that the Spirit of God in the work of illumination and conversion makes use of our reason; that flower of the soul is not blasted, but more opened, by the blowing of the blessed Spirit. Christianity doth not command us to throw away our reason, but to subjugate it; not to deny or disown our reason, but to captivate it to the obedience of faith; but the sense of the apostle is, that a person of the most exquisite natural accomplishments, and one that has improved his reason to the highest pitch, cannot behold evangelical mysteries in their proper light, or embrace them in their verity and bearty, without the superadded aids and assistances of the Holy Spirit.
Observe, 3. The reasons declared why the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit; because they are foolishness unto him: that is, he accounts them foolishness when propounded to him, because he doth not see them proved from principles of natural reason, and by philosophical deductions, which is the only wisdom that he seeks after.
The reason also is added why he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned; that is, the natural man cannot know divine things by that wisdom which he alone will be conducted by, and spiritual things must be spiritually discerned; for, being mysteries they are not knowable by human reason, but by spiritual revelation.
And if the wisdom of the world, that is, the learned and the wisest men in the world, were thus unable by the sharpest light of reason to discover evangelical mysteries.
Lord! how endearing are our obligations for the benefit of supernatural revelation, whereby the hidden wisdom of God is made known to us.
As if the apostle had said, "Although the natural man, who acteth only by principles of human reason, receiveth not the things of the Spirit, nor can know them by any study of his own, because they are spiritually discerned; yet he that is spiritual, that is, who hath the revelation and illumination of the Spirit of God, judgeth, or discerneth and trieth all things, that is, all spiritual matters; yet he himself is judged of no man, that is discerned by none who hath no higher principle than that of nature to discern things by."
Learn hence, That such Christians as are enlightened and renewed with, guided and conducted by, the Holy Spirit of God, are the only proper judges of spiritual matters, able to understand their duty, and to discern between good and evil: He that is spiritual judgeth all things.
That is, "What man, without divine revelation and spiritual illumination, ever knew or understood the mind of God so well, as to be able to instruct, direct, and inform the spiritual man about it? But we who are spiritual have the mind of Christ, and so are able to discern and direct, to guide and instruct, others about it."
Learn hence, That none are fit and sufficient to interpret the mind of God unto others, who are not acquainted with it themselves. We have the mind of Christ, saith the apostle of himself, and his fellow-labourers in the gospel: his meaning is not only this, that they had the mind of Christ written in a book, but that they had a clear understanding of it, and so were fitted to interpret it to others.
There is no such knowledge as the knowledge of experience, no teaching like unto experimental teaching.
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