3. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Paul’s methods—God’s wisdom—the Holy Spirit’s work
Paul laid aside all his learning, including the power of rhetoric—the worldly art of making persuasive speeches, his natural wisdom and intelligence, and the power of both his flesh and his soul. He relied instead entirely on the wisdom, words and power of the Holy Spirit.
This life only works because we have received the Spirit of God, which is essential for discernment, understanding, and the power to live the life and reach the lost. Finally he compares the spiritual man with the natural man.
1 Corinthians 2
1 And when I came to you brethren, I didn’t come with fine speech or learning in proclaiming to you the testimony of God,
Translation note: I have used “learning” in preference to the more obvious “wisdom” because Paul means he wasn’t using worldly or fleshly wisdom or learning, not that he wasn’t using the wisdom of God—he clearly was.
2 for I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,
He means that his only subject and concern was to be the crucified Christ, but remember that Paul’s ‘knowing Jesus’ was a very deep reality to him.
3 and to you I proved myself weak, quaking with fear.
Most translations incorrectly put “came” as their version of γίνομαι (gínomai). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon however, among many alternatives (not including ‘came’), has “to show oneself, prove oneself; to be found, shown” as it is used in Luke 10:36: “Which of these three do you think proved himself neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Paul’s weakness was only in his flesh, so he never fell back on it: all his power came from the indwelling Christ, so his preaching was effective and fruitful.
4 My speaking and preaching were not with compelling words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit—of power,
His work was marked by healings and miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit; his words striking to the hearts of the hearers, deeper than human speaking could reach,
5 so your faith would not rest on human wisdom but in the power of God.
so the crowds could put their faith in Christ, not in the speaker or the worldly or fleshly wisdom, like so many do today. Perhaps these evangelists have not read this.
6 Yet to spiritual adults we are speaking wisdom; but not the wisdom of this world or its rulers, which is of no value;
Translation note: I have put “spiritual adults” rather than ‘the perfect’ or ‘the mature’ since the meaning is clearer: ‘mature’ hints at physical growth or aging, while ‘perfect’ in modern English implies a condition we cannot reach while yet we live in our bodies in a fallen society—being ‘free from sin’ and being ‘perfect’ not being equivalent to most people.
On a minor point, the word καταργέω (katargéō) which gives us “which is of no value” applies to the wisdom, not the rulers, as all other translations insist, as it means ‘to bring to nought, to make void, to cause to cease, to annul, to abolish,’ etc: all referring to things rather than people. Where it refers to the body (being done away with as an instrument of sin, in Romans 6:6) it means the body as a thing, not as a person.
7 but we speak God’s wisdom, of the mystery which was hidden, which God appointed for our glory from eternity;
Paul is not speaking in a mystery, as most of the older translations put it, he is revealing that mystery by speaking God’s wisdom.
The mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
8 which none of the powers of this world understood, for had they known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.
All the translations assume that those who didn’t understand God’s hidden mystery were simply those in worldly authority, like the priests and Pharisees, but I feel sure that those who were primarily and most importantly fooled, were “the powers of this world” in the spiritual realms who were operating behind them.
If they had realised they were ensuring that God’s plan would work perfectly, achieving exactly what He had ordained and prophesied, they (and Satan behind them) would have gone to great lengths to make sure nobody killed Jesus—particularly not by crucifixion!
9 As it is written, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,”
This quote is from Isaiah 64:4 which, in the NIV, reads, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him,” which makes this a very loose quote. At first glance this seems to be saying something different, but don’t get distracted by the ‘no other God’ section: the incarnation and work of Christ is God “acting on behalf of those who wait for him,” and Christ is “what God has prepared for those who love him.” Many ‘quotes’ from the Old Testament in the New have a similarly loose relationship to the original, see verse 13. This is a good example of a rhema, or living word spoken by the Holy Spirit for the moment, thus ‘unpacking’ or adapting the verse from Isaiah.
Special note: contrary to the teachings of some current denominations, a “rhema” word from the Holy Spirit will never change or contradict what God is already saying in His word; He will never use the process to change His revealed truth or commands—His word is eternal, and it actually tells us so itself in 1 Peter 1:24-25.
10 but God shows us these things by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Just imagine, how deep are the depths of God? And the Holy Spirit brings just the right things from those depths to us as revelations, to give us understanding.
11 For who knows what’s in a man apart from the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows what lies within God apart from the Spirit of God.
This is interesting, as it doesn’t say that God knows, or the Father knows, just the Spirit; which neatly confirms that God is One.
12 So, we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, so that we may understand all that God willingly gives us,
If we also have the Spirit of God within, that makes us one as well with God.
13 of which we speak, not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—divinely inspired words to interpret spiritual thoughts.
There is a lot of variety on this verse among the other translations, but I am confident this is nearest to the actual meaning.
Here Paul confirms that his loose quote from Isaiah in verse 9 was a “divinely inspired word,” or rhema word, taught him by the Spirit; but also that his regular speaking, and writing, were also directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul and the other New Testament writers had to be directly inspired in this way, as they were charged with writing scripture, but anyone who is preaching or writing for God (including this website!) has a responsibility as God’s servant to be delivering only the thoughts of God…
14 For the natural man cannot receive from the Spirit of God: to him it is nonsense and he is unable to see what must be discerned spiritually.
The point is that Paul needs words of power from the Holy Spirit so that what he says will have a spiritual impact on his listeners, leading them to conviction and repentance, because otherwise the thoughts of God make no sense to the natural man. This is why repreaching old sermons which had a huge impression on the listeners the first time, rarely works, because the preacher needs to be preaching ‘in the Spirit’ to get through to people. This is also why we must read the Bible ‘in the Spirit.’
15 But the spiritual man truly examines all, yet is examined by no one,
16 for who has understood the mind of the Lord to assess him? And we have the mind of Christ.
Most translations get lost on this verse because they break the sentence at the end of verse 15 and then try to make verse 16 work on its own. In the process they also suggest that someone is trying to ‘teach’ or ‘instruct’ the Lord, which doesn’t fit with the flow of Paul’s argument. The word actually means ‘to compare (in the mind)’ or ‘to consider,’ so it’s simply following on from the previous verse.
The spiritual man is qualified, by having the mind of Christ, to examine or judge all spiritual things, but no one who is not spiritual can possibly judge him in turn because his thought processes now operate in another reality altogether.
Bless you folks, Geoff >ᴥ<