1 Corinthians 2


The apostle makes an apology for his manner of preaching, 1.

And gives the reason why he adopted that manner, 2-5.

He shows that this preaching, notwithstanding it was not with

excellence of human speech or wisdom, yet was the mysterious

wisdom of God, which the princes of this world did not know,

and which the Spirit of God alone could reveal, 6-10.

It is the Spirit of God only that can reveal the things of God,


The apostles of Christ know the things of God by the Spirit of

God, and teach them, not in the words of man's wisdom, but in

the words of that Spirit, 12, 13.

The natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit, 14.

But the spiritual man can discern and teach them, because he

has the mind of Christ, 15, 16.


Verse 1. When I came to you] Acting suitably to my mission,

which was to preach the Gospel, but not with human eloquence,

1Co 1:17.

I declared to you the testimony, the Gospel, of God, not with

excellency of speech, not with arts of rhetoric, used by your own

philosophers, where the excellence of the speech recommends the

matter, and compensates for the want of solidity and truth: on the

contrary, the testimony concerning Christ and his salvation is so

supremely excellent, as to dignify any kind of language by which

it may be conveyed. See the Introduction, sect. ii.

Verse 2. I determined not to know any thing among you]

Satisfied that the Gospel of God could alone make you wise unto

salvation, I determined to cultivate no other knowledge, and to

teach nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, as the

foundation of all true wisdom, piety, and happiness. No other

doctrine shall I proclaim among you.

Verse 3. I was with you in weakness] It is very likely that

St. Paul had not only something in his speech very unfavourable to

a ready and powerful elocution, but also some infirmity of body

that was still more disadvantageous to him. A fine appearance and

a fine voice cover many weaknesses and defects, and strongly and

forcibly recommend what is spoken, though not remarkable for depth

of thought or solidity of reasoning. Many popular orators have

little besides their persons and their voice to recommend them.

Louis XIV. styled Peter du Bosc le plus beau parleur de son

royaume, the finest speaker in his kingdom; and among his own

people he was styled l'orateur parfait, the perfect orator. Look

at the works of this French protestant divine, and you find it

difficult to subscribe to the above sayings. The difficulty is

solved by the information that the person of M. du Bosc was noble

and princely, and his voice full, harmonious, and majestic. Paul

had none of these advantages, and yet idolatry and superstition

fell before him. Thus GOD was seen in the work, and the man was


In fear, and in much trembling.] This was often the state of

his mind; dreading lest he should at any time be unfaithful, and

so grieve the Spirit of God; or that, after having preached to

others, himself should be a castaway. See 1Co 9:27.

An eminent divine has said that it requires three things to

make a good preacher; study, temptation, and prayer. The latter,

no man that lives near to God can neglect; the former, no man who

endeavours rightly to divide the word of truth will neglect; and

with the second every man will be more or less exercised whose

whole aim is to save souls. Those of a different cast the devil

permits to pass quietly on in their own indolent and prayerless


Verse 4. And my speech] ολογοςμου, My doctrine; the

matter of my preaching.

And my preaching] τοκηρυγμαμου, My proclamation, my manner

of recommending the grand but simple truths of the Gospel.

Was not with enticing words of man's wisdom] ενπειθοις

ανθρωπινηςσοφιαςλογοις, With persuasive doctrines of human

wisdom: in every case I left man out, that God might become the

more evident. I used none of the means of which great orators

avail themselves in order to become popular, and thereby to gain


But in demonstration of the Spirit] αποδειξει, In the

manifestation; or, as two ancient MSS. have it, αποκαλυψει, in the

revelation of the Spirit. The doctrine that he preached was

revealed by the Spirit: that it was a revelation of the Spirit,

the holiness, purity, and usefulness of the doctrine rendered

manifest: and the overthrow of idolatry, and the conversion of

souls, by the power and energy of the preaching, were the

demonstration that all was Divine. The greater part of the best

MSS., versions, and fathers, leave out the adjective ανθρωπινης,

man's, before σοφιας, wisdom: it is possible that the word may

be a gloss, but it is necessarily implied in the clause. Not with

the persuasive discourses, or doctrines of wisdom; i.e. of human


Verse 5. That your faith should not stand] That the

illumination of your souls and your conversion to God might appear

to have nothing human in it: your belief, therefore, of the truths

which have been proposed to you is founded, not in human wisdom,

but in Divine power: human wisdom was not employed; and human

power, if it had been employed, could not have produced the


Verse 6. We speak wisdom among them that are perfect] By the

εντοιςτελειοις, among those that are perfect, we are to

understand Christians of the highest knowledge and attainments-

those who were fully instructed in the knowledge of God through

Christ Jesus. Nothing, in the judgment of St. Paul, deserved the

name of wisdom but this. And though he apologizes for his not

coming to them with excellency of speech or wisdom, yet he means

what was reputed wisdom among the Greeks, and which, in the sight

of God, was mere folly when compared with that wisdom that came

from above. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the apostle mentions a

fourfold wisdom. 1. Heathen wisdom, or that of the Gentile

philosophers, 1Co 1:22, which was termed by the Jews

chokmah yevanith, Grecian wisdom; and which was so undervalued by

them, that they joined these two under the same curse: Cursed is

he that breeds hogs; and cursed is he who teaches his son Grecian

wisdom. Bava Kama, fol. 82.

2. Jewish wisdom; that of the scribes and Pharisees, who

crucified our Lord, 1Co 2:8.

3. The Gospel, which is called the wisdom of God in a mystery,

1Co 2:7.

4. The wisdom, τουαιωνοςτουτου, of this world; that system of

knowledge which the Jews made up out of the writings of their

scribes and doctors. This state is called haolam

hazzeh, this or the present world; to distinguish it from

haolam habba the world to come; i.e. the days of the

Messiah. Whether we understand the term, this world, as relating

to the state of the Gentiles, cultivated to the uttermost in

philosophical learning, or the then state of the Jews, who had

made the word of God of no effect by their traditions, which

contained a sort of learning of which they were very fond and very

proud, yet, by this Grecian and Jewish wisdom, no soul ever could

have arrived at any such knowledge or wisdom as that communicated

by the revelation of Christ. This was perfect wisdom; and they

who were thoroughly instructed in it, and had received the grace

of the Gospel, were termed τελειοι, the perfect. This, says the

apostle, is not the wisdom of this world, for that has not the

manifested Messiah in it; nor the wisdom of the rulers of this

world-the chief men, whether philosophers among the Greeks,

or rabbins among the Jews (for those we are to understand as

implied in the term rulers, used here by the apostle) these rulers

came to nought; for they, their wisdom, and their government, were

shortly afterwards overturned in the destruction of Jerusalem.

This declaration of the apostle is prophetic. The ruin of the

Grecian superstition soon followed.

Verse 7. The wisdom of God in a mystery] The GOSPEL of Jesus

Christ, which had been comparatively hidden from the foundation of

the world, (the settling of the Jewish economy, as this phrase

often means,) though appointed from the beginning to be revealed

in the fulness of time. For, though this Gospel was, in a certain

sense, announced by the prophets, and prefigured by the law, yet

it is certain that even the most intelligent of the Jewish rulers,

their doctors, scribes, and Pharisees, had no adequate knowledge

of it; therefore it was still a mystery to them and others, till

it was so gloriously revealed by the preaching of the apostles.

Verse 8. Which none of the princes of this world knew] Here

it is evident that this world refers to the Jewish state, and to

the degree of knowledge in that state: and the rulers, the

priests, rabbins, &c., who were principally concerned in the

crucifixion of our Lord.

The Lord of glory.] Or the glorious Lord, infinitely

transcending all the rulers of the universe; whose is eternal

glory; who gave that glorious Gospel in which his followers may

glory, as it affords them such cause of triumph as the heathens

had not, who gloried in their philosophers. Here is a teacher who

is come from God; who has taught the most glorious truths which it

is possible for the soul of man to conceive; and has promised to

lead all the followers of his crucified Master to that state of

glory which is ineffable and eternal.

Verse 9. But, as it is written] The quotation is taken from

Isa 64:4. The sense is continued here from verse seven, and

λαλουμεν, we speak, is understood-We do not speak or preach the

wisdom of this world; but that mysterious wisdom of God, of which

the prophet said: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have

entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared

for them that love him. These words have been applied to the

state of glory in a future world; but they certainly belong to the

present state, and express merely the wondrous light, life, and

liberty which the Gospel communicates to them that believe in the

Lord Jesus Christ in that way which the Gospel itself requires.

To this the prophet himself refers; and it is evident, from the

following verse, that the apostle also refers to the same thing.

Such a scheme of salvation, in which God's glory and man's

felicity should be equally secured, had never been seen, never

heard of, nor could any mind but that of God have conceived the

idea of so vast a project; nor could any power but his own have

brought it to effect.

Verse 10. But God hath revealed them unto us] A manifest

proof that the apostle speaks here of the glories of the Gospel,

and not of the glories of the future world.

For the Spirit searcheth all things] This is the Spirit of

God, which spoke by the prophets, and has now given to the

apostles the fulness of that heavenly truth, of which He gave to

the former only the outlines.

Yea, the deep things of God.] It is only the Spirit of God

which can reveal the counsels of God: these are the purposes which

have existed in His infinite wisdom and goodness from eternity;

and particularly what refers to creation, providence, redemption,

and eternal glory, as far as men and angels are concerned in these

purposes. The apostles were so fully convinced that the scheme of

redemption proclaimed by the Gospel was Divine, that they boldly

asserted that these things infinitely surpassed the wisdom and

comprehension of man. God was now in a certain way become

manifest; many attributes of his, which to the heathen world would

have for ever lain in obscurity, (for the world by wisdom knew not

God,) were now not only brought to light as existing in him, but

illustrated by the gracious displays which He had made of himself.

It was the Spirit of God alone that could reveal these things; and

it was the energy of that Spirit alone that could bring them all

into effect-stamp and seal them as attributes and works of God for

ever. The apostles were as truly conscious of their own

inspiration as they were that they had consciousness at all; and

what they spoke, they spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 11. For what man knoweth the things of a man] The word

ανθρωπων in the first clause is omitted by the Codex

Alexandrinus, and one other; and by Athanasius, Cyril, and Vigil

of Tapsus. Bishop Pearce contends strongly against the

authenticity of the word, and reads the passage thus: "For what is

there that knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of a man

that is in him?" "I leave out," says the learned bishop,

"ανθρωπων, with the Alexandrian MS., and read τιςγαροιδεντα

τουανθρωπου; because I conceive that the common reading is wide

of St. Paul's meaning; for to say, What man except the spirit of a

man, is (I think) to speak improperly, and to suppose that the

spirit of a man is a man; but it is very proper to say, What

except the spirit of a man: τις is feminine as well as masculine,

and therefore may be supplied with ουσια, or some such word, as

well as with ανθρωπος." Though the authority for omitting this

word is comparatively slender, yet it must be owned that its

omission renders the text much more intelligible. But even one

MS. may preserve the true reading.

The spirit of a man knows the things of a man: that is, a man

is conscious of all the schemes, plans, and purposes, that pass in

his own mind; and no man can know these things but himself. So,

the Spirit of God, He whom we call the Third Person of the

glorious TRINITY, knows all the counsels and determinations of the

Supreme Being. As the Spirit is here represented to live in God

as the soul lives in the body of a man, and as this Spirit knows

all the things of God, and had revealed those to the apostles

which concern the salvation of the world, therefore what they

spoke and preached was true, and men may implicitly depend upon

it. The miracles which they did, in the name of Christ, were the

proof that they had that Spirit, and spoke the truth of God.

Verse 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world]

We, who are the genuine apostles of Christ, have received this

Spirit of God, by which we know the deep things of God; and,

through the teaching of that Spirit, we preach Christ crucified.

We have not therefore received the spirit of the world-of the

Jewish teachers, who are all looking for a worldly kingdom and a

worldly Messiah, and interpret all the scriptures of the Old

Testament which relate to Him in a carnal and worldly sense.

That we might know the things] We receive this teaching that

we may know what those supereminently excellent things are which

God has purposed freely to give to mankind. It is evident that,

as the apostle means by princes of the world the rulers of the

Jews, 1Co 2:6-8,

so by spirit of the world he here means Jewish wisdom, or their

carnal mode of interpreting the sacred oracles, and their carnal

expectation of a worldly kingdom under the Messiah.

Verse 13. Which things also we speak] We dare no more use the

language of the Jews and the Gentiles in speaking of those

glorious things, than we can indulge their spirit. The Greek

orators affected a high and florid language, full of tropes and

figures, which dazzled more than it enlightened. The rabbins

affected obscurity, and were studious to find out cabalistical

meanings, which had no tendency to make the people wise unto

salvation. The apostles could not follow any of these; they spoke

the things of God in the words of God; every thing was plain and

intelligible; every word well placed, clear, and nervous. He who

has a spiritual mind will easily comprehend an apostle's preaching.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual.] This is commonly

understood to mean, comparing the spiritual things under the Old

Testament with the spiritual things under the New: but this does

not appear to be the apostle's meaning. The word συγκρινοντες,

which we translate comparing, rather signifies conferring,

discussing, or explaining; and the word πνευματικοις should be

rendered to spiritual men, and not be referred to spiritual

things. The passage therefore should be thus translated:

Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons. And this sense

the following verse absolutely requires.

Verse 14. But the natural man] ψυχικος, The animal man-the

man who is in a mere state of nature, and lives under the

influence of his animal passions; for the word ψυχη, which we

often translate soul, means the lower and sensitive part of man,

in opposition to νους, the understanding or rational part. The

Latins use anima to signify these lower passions; and animus to

signify the higher. The person in question is not only one who

either has had no spiritual teaching, or has not profited by it;

but one who lives for the present world, having no respect to

spiritual or eternal things. This ψυχικος, or animal man, is

opposed to the πνευματικος, or spiritual man: and, as this latter

is one who is under the influence of the Spirit of God, so the

former is one who is without that influence.

The apostle did speak of those high and sublime spiritual

things to these animal men; but he explained them to those which

were spiritual. He uses this word in this sense, 1Co 3:1; 9:11;

and particularly in verse 15 of the present chapter: He that is

spiritual judgeth all things. 1Co 2:15

But the natural man-The apostle appears to give this-as a

reason why he explained those deep spiritual things to spiritual

men; because the animal man-the man who is in a state of nature,

without the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God, receiveth not

the things of the Spirit-neither apprehends nor comprehends them:

he has no relish for them; he considers it the highest wisdom to

live for this world. Therefore these spiritual things are

foolishness to him; for while he is in his animal state he cannot

see their excellency, because they are spiritually discerned, and

he has no spiritual mind.

Verse 15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things] He who

has the mind of Christ discerns and judges of all things

spiritual: yet he himself is not discerned by the mere animal man.

Some suppose that the word ανακρινεται should be understood thus:

He examines, scrutinizes, convinces, reproves, which it appears to

mean in 1Co 14:24; and they read the verse thus:

The spiritual man-the well-taught Christian, convinces, i.e. can

easily convict, all men, (παντα, accusing,) every animal man, of

error and vice; yet he himself is convicted of no man; his mind is

enlightened, and his life is holy; and therefore the animal man

cannot convict him of sin. This is a good sense, but the first

appears the most natural. See Pearce and Rosenmuller.

Verse 16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord] Who that

is still an animal man can know the mind of God? so as to instruct

him, viz. the spiritual man, the same that is spoken of,

1Co 2:15. But the words may be better understood thus: How can

the animal man know the mind of the Lord? and how can any man

communicate that knowledge which he has never acquired, and which

is foolishness to him, because it is spiritual, and he is animal?

This quotation is made from Isa 40:13.

But we have the mind of Christ.] He has endowed us with the

same disposition, being born again by his Spirit; therefore we are

capable of knowing his mind and receiving the teachings of his

Spirit. These teachings we do receive, and therefore are well

qualified to convey them to others.

The words, that he may instruct him, οςσυμβιβασειαυτον,

should be translated that he may teach IT: that is, the mind of

God; not instruct God, but teach his mind to others. And this

interpretation the Hebrew will also bear.

Bishop Pearce observes: "The principal questions here are,,

what συμβιβασει signifies, and what αυτον is relative to. The

Hebrew word which the Septuagint translate by these two is

yodiennu: now, since yodia signifies as well to make known

as to know, (and indeed this is the most frequent sense of it in

the Old Testament,) the suffix (postfix) nu, may relate to a

thing, as well as to a person; and therefore it may be rendered

not by him, but by it, i.e. the mind of the Lord. And in this

sense the apostle seems to have used the words of the Seventy;

for, if we understand αυτον here to be the relative to κυριου,

Lord, this verse contains no reason for what went before; whereas,

if it be a relative to νουν, mind, it affords a reason for what

had been said before, 1Co 2:14." The true translation of the

passage, as used by the apostle, appears to be this: For who hath

known the mind of the Lord, that he should TEACH IT? And this

translation agrees with every part of the context, and

particularly with what follows.

1. THIS chapter might be considered a good model for a Christian

minister to regulate his conduct by, or his public ministry;

because it points out the mode of preaching used by St. Paul and

the apostles in general. This great apostle came not to the

people with excellency of speech and of wisdom, when he declared

unto them the counsel of God. They know little, either of the

spirit of St. Paul or the design of the Gospel, who make the chief

excellence of their preaching to consist in the eloquence of

language, or depth of human reasoning. That may be their

testimony, but it is not God's. The enticing words of man's

wisdom are seldom accompanied by the demonstration and power of

the Holy Spirit.

2. One justly remarks, that "the foolishness of preaching has

its wisdom, loftiness, and eloquence; but this consists in the

sublimity of its truths, the depth of its mysteries, and the

ardour of the Spirit of God." In this respect Paul may be said

to have preached wisdom among those which were perfect. The

wisest and most learned men in the world, who have seriously read

the Bible, have acknowledged that there is a depth and height of

wisdom and knowledge in that book of God which are sought in vain

any where else: and indeed it would not be a revelation from God

were it not so. The men who can despise and ridicule this sacred

book are those who are too blind to discover the objects presented

to them by this brilliant light, and are too sensual to feel and

relish spiritual things. They, above all others, are incapable of

judging, and should be no more regarded when employed in talking

against the sacred writings than an ignorant peasant should be,

who, not knowing his alphabet, pretends to decry mathematical


3. A new mode of preaching has been diligently recommended,-

"Scriptural phraseology should be generally avoided where it is

antiquated, or conveys ideas inconsistent with modern delicacy."

St. Paul did not preach in the words which man's wisdom teacheth-

such words are too mean and too low for a religion so Divine.

That which the Holy Spirit alone can discover, he alone can

explain. Let no man dare to speak of God in any other way than he

speaks of himself in his word. Let us take care not to profane

his truths and mysteries, either by such low and abject ideas as

are merely human, or by new and worldly expressions altogether

unworthy of the Spirit of God.

4. It is the glory of God, and ought to be ours, not to be

acceptable to carnal men. The natural man always finds some

pretence to excuse himself from believing, by looking on the

mysteries of religion as being either too much above man or too

much below God; the spiritual man judges them to be so much the

more credible, the less credible they are to the natural man.

The opposition, contempt, and blindness of the world, with

regard to the things of God, render all its judgments concerning

them liable to exception: this blindness in spiritual things is

the just punishment of a carnal life. The principal part of the

above is extracted from the reflections of the pious Quesnel.

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