1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2:1

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

(a) Superiority of speech or of wisdom. The Greeks valued philosophy and the Jews valued wisdom, but Paul preached the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Paul had spent much time talking to philosophers and rabbis. He had come to Corinth from Athens (Acts 18:1) where his brilliant speech to the intellectuals of the Areopagus had born little fruit (Acts 18:22). He understood that the truth of the gospel dawns by revelation rather than debate.

(b) The testimony of God. People may question your beliefs, but no one can question your testimony. What has God done for you? Who is Jesus to you? These questions frame your testimony and every believer has one.

1 Corinthians 2:2

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We have all been called to preach the gospel, but what is the gospel? The gospel is not the law or a set of principles to live by. The gospel reveals Jesus, who he is and what he has done.

Further reading: “How to teach the gospel of grace

1 Corinthians 2:3

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,

In weakness and in fear. Paul was a mighty man of faith, yet he came to Corinth in fear and in much trembling. Although he was a great letter writer, he was less impressive as a speaker – or so thought the Corinthians (2 Cor. 10:10). Often his preaching would lead to violent beatings and imprisonment, so Paul’s fear was perfectly understandable. In fact, Paul was so fearful during his time in Corinth that God had to tell him, “do not be afraid” (Acts 18:9).

Stepping out in faith is sometimes scary because faith is risky. How do you think Abraham felt as he was about to plunge the knife into Isaac? Or Rahab when she welcomed the spies of Israel into her home? Or Moses when he stood up to Pharaoh? For as long as we walk by faith, there will be fear. This is why we are encouraged to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (see entry for Php. 2:12). The rewards of faith far outweigh the temporary fears that may distract us.

1 Corinthians 2:4

and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

The chief disadvantage of the natural mind is that it is incapable of knowing the mind of God (see 1 Cor. 2:14). This handicap is not overcome with good teaching and preaching, but with the revelation of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who raises the dead and opens blind eyes.

1 Corinthians 2:5

so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

(a) Your faith. Faith comes from hearing about the love of God revealed in Jesus (see entry for Rom. 10:17).

(b) Not rest on the wisdom of men. We don’t get faith from hearing a good sermon; we get it from hearing the good news of Jesus (Acts 15:7, 28:24).

(c) The power of God. The gospel of grace comes prepacked with supernatural power that activates our faith and inspires us to believe. Our faith is based on the revelation that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).

1 Corinthians 2:7

but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;

God’s wisdom in a mystery. God’s rescue plan that was hidden for long ages past has been revealed in Jesus Christ (see entry for Rom. 16:25).

See entry for Mysteries of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9

but just as it is written,

(a) It is written. The prophecy comes from Isaiah 64:4. Isaiah foretold of God’s higher ways (Is. 55:9) and the new thing that God would do (Is. 43:19). These were prophetic signposts to the new covenant of grace.

(b) Have not entered the heart of man. The extreme and radical grace of God is beyond our wildest imaginings. His love reaches to the skies; his kindness cannot be measured. The kindness or goodness of God was demonstrated on the cross (Tit. 3:4). Yet God plans to continue revealing his kindness to us today, tomorrow and forever more (Eph. 2:7).

1 Corinthians 2:10

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

God revealed them through the Spirit. God is not trying to hide from us, but we cannot begin to learn anything about him without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Happily, God delights to reveal himself to us and he has given us the Spirit so that we may know him more.

1 Corinthians 2:11

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

(a) The thoughts of a man. Our natural understanding is limited. We can only understand what we see and perceive. This is why it is hard for the natural person to understand the things of God.

(b) The thoughts of God. Only the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God.

(c) Except the Spirit of God. No one can know God without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Science is a useful tool for understanding the observable world while poetry and metaphysics can help us understand the further limits of the human experience. But no manmade tool can get us anywhere near the things of God (see verse 14).

1 Corinthians 2:12

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

(a) The Spirit who is from God. There are many different spirits, but Paul is discussing the Holy Spirit a.k.a. the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) or the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29) or the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17).

(b) So that we may know. God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we may understand the things of God and his good heart toward us (1 John 5:20).

(c) Freely given. The original word (charizomai) means to show favor or kindness. It’s closely related to the word that means grace (charis). All of God’s gifts come to us freely by grace. See entry for Grace of God.

1 Corinthians 2:13

which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

(a) Those taught by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a great teacher. Indeed, he is the only One who can truly teach us the things of God (1 Cor. 2:11). His desire is to fill us with understanding so that we may know the full riches of God that are ours in Christ (Col. 2:1-3).

(b) Combining. The original word (sugkrino) means to compare and examine. We interpret spiritual truths through spiritual lenses rather than worldly lenses. We don’t interpret the Bible through worldly philosophy but we allow the Holy Spirit guide us as we interpret scripture through scripture.

1 Corinthians 2:14

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

(a) A natural man is someone who has not been born of the Spirit and who consequently lacks the Spirit of God (John 3:5, Rom. 8:9).

It is often said that the natural or unregenerate person is spiritually dead. It would be more accurate to say they are disconnected from the Spirit of God. They are unable to discern the things of God because they have not received the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us the things of God and reveals to us the mind of Christ. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11).

(b) They are foolishness to him. The things of God make no sense to the natural mind. Just as an amoeba cannot comprehend the complexities brain surgery, the natural mind cannot comprehend the things of God.

(c) He cannot understand them. A sign that someone has received the Holy Spirit is they understand what God has given us. Religion obscures and kills faith, but the Holy Spirit gives understanding and revelation.

(d) Because they are spiritually appraised. Just as an old radio is no good for receiving Wifi signals, the natural mind cannot receive spiritual signals from the Lord. We need the aid of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17). It is the Holy Spirit who turns on the lights illuminating the truth of God’s word. It is the Spirit of life who brings God’s word to life in our hearts.

1 Corinthians 2:15

But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

(a) He who is spiritual refers to someone who is mindful of spiritual things as opposed to natural things. In context, it is someone who has the Spirit of God and is led by the Spirit (John 3:5, Rom. 8:9, 14). The opposite would be someone who is walking after the flesh (Rom. 7:5, 8:4).

See entry for Spiritual

(b) Appraised. The original word (anakrino) means scrutinized or examined, usually in a negative sense. Jesus was examined by Pilate (Luke 23:14), Peter and John were examined by the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:9), and Paul was examined by Felix (Acts 24:8) and then Festus (Acts 28:18). Understandably, Paul did not care to be examined (1 Cor. 4:3–4), and he chided the Corinthians for examining him (1 Cor. 9:3).

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