Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
WORLDLY, BUT IN
WISDOM AMONG THE
1. And I--"So I" [CONYBEARE] as one of the
"foolish, weak, and despised" instruments employed by God
(1Co 1:27, 28);
"glorying in the Lord," not in man's wisdom
when I came--
&c.). Paul might, had he pleased, have used an ornate style, having
studied secular learning at Tarsus of Cilicia, which STRABO preferred as a school of learning to Athens or
Alexandria; here, doubtless, he read the Cilician Aratus' poems
(which he quotes,
Grecian intellectual development was an important element in preparing
the way for the Gospel, but it failed to regenerate the world, showing
that for this a superhuman power is needed. Hellenistic (Grecizing)
Judaism at Tarsus and Alexandria was the connecting link between the
schools of Athens and those of the Rabbis. No more fitting birthplace
could there have been for the apostle of the Gentiles than Tarsus, free
as it was from the warping influences of Rome, Alexandria, and Athens.
He had at the same time Roman citizenship, which protected him
from sudden violence. Again, he was reared in the Hebrew divine
law at Jerusalem. Thus, as the three elements, Greek cultivation,
and the divine law given to the Jews, combined just at Christ's time,
to prepare the world for the Gospel, so the same three, by God's
marvellous providence, met together in the apostle to the Gentiles
[CONYBEARE and HOWSON].
testimony of God--"the testimony of Christ"
therefore Christ is God.
2. The Greek implies, "The only definite thing that I
made it my business to know among you, was to know Jesus Christ (His
person) and Him crucified (His office)" [ALFORD],
not exalted on the earthly throne of David, but executed as the vilest
malefactor. The historical fact of Christ's crucifixion had probably
been put less prominently forward by the seekers after human wisdom in
the Corinthian church, to avoid offending learned heathens and Jews.
Christ's person and Christ's office constitute the sum of
3. I--the preacher: as
describes the subject, "Christ crucified," and
the mode of preaching: "my speech . . . not with
enticing words," "but in demonstration of the Spirit."
weakness--personal and bodily
(2Co 10:10; 12:7, 9;
Not personal fear, but a trembling anxiety to perform a
duty; anxious conscientiousness, as proved by the contrast to "eye
4. my speech--in private.
preaching--in public [BENGEL].
ALFORD explains it,
My discourse on doctrines, and my preaching or
announcement of facts.
man's wisdom--man's is omitted in the oldest authorities. Still
"wisdom" does refer to "man's" wisdom.
in demonstration of . . . Spirit, &c.--Persuasion is man's means
of moving his fellow man. God's means is demonstration, leaving no
doubt, and inspiring implicit faith, by the powerful working of the
Spirit (then exhibited both outwardly by miracles, and inwardly by
working on the heart, now in the latter and the more important way only,
The same simple power accompanies divine truth now, producing certain
persuasion and conversion, when the Spirit demonstrates by it.
5. stand in . . . wisdom of men--rest on it, owe its origin and
continuance to it.
6, 7. Yet the Gospel preaching, so far from being at variance with
true "wisdom," is a wisdom infinitely higher than that of the wise of
we speak--resuming "we" (preachers, I, Apollos, &c.) from "we
only that here, "we speak" refers to something less public (compare
1Co 2:7, 13,
"mystery . . . hidden") than "we preach," which is public.
For "wisdom" here denotes not the whole of Christian doctrine, but its
sublimer and deeper principles.
perfect--Those matured in Christian experience and knowledge alone
can understand the true superiority of the Christian wisdom which Paul
preached. Distinguished not only from worldly and natural men,
but also from babes, who though "in Christ" retain much that is
(1Co 3:1, 2),
and cannot therefore understand the deeper truths of Christianity
Paul does not mean by the "mystery" or "hidden wisdom"
some hidden tradition distinct from the Gospel (like the Church
of Rome's disciplina arcani and doctrine of reserve), but the
unfolding of the treasures of knowledge, once hidden in God's
counsels, but now announced to all, which would be intelligently
comprehended in proportion as the hearer's inner life became perfectly
transformed into the image of Christ. Compare instances of such
"mysteries," that is, deeper Christian truths, not preached at Paul's
first coming to Corinth, when he confined himself to the fundamental
but now spoken to the "perfect"
Eph 3:5, 6).
"Perfect" is used not of absolute perfection, but relatively to
"babes," or those less ripe in Christian growth (compare
Php 3:12, 15,
with 1Jo 2:12-14).
is opposed to the world, the apostles to "the princes [great and
learned men] of this world"
come to naught--nothingness
They are transient, not immortal. Therefore, their wisdom is not real
[BENGEL]. Rather, translate with ALFORD, "Which are being brought to naught,"
namely, by God's choosing the "things which are not (the weak and
despised things of the Gospel), to bring to naught (the same verb
as here) things that are"
7. wisdom of God--emphatically contrasted with the wisdom
of men and
of this world
(1Co 2:5, 6).
in a mystery--connected in construction with "we speak": We speak as
dealing with a mystery; that is not something to be kept hidden, but
what heretofore was so, but is now revealed. Whereas the pagan
mysteries were revealed only to a chosen few, the Gospel mysteries were
made known to all who would obey the truth. "If our Gospel be hid,
it is hid to them that are lost"
"whom the God of this world hath blinded." Ordinarily we use
"mystery" in reference to those from whom the knowledge is
withheld; the apostles, in reference to those to whom it is
revealed [WHATELY]. It is hidden before it
is brought forward, and when it is brought forward it still remains
hidden to those that are imperfect [BENGEL].
ordained--literally, "foreordained" (compare
"prepared for them that love Him."
before the world--rather, "before the ages" (of time),
that is, from eternity. This infinitely antedates worldly wisdom in
antiquity. It was before not only the wisdom of the world, but
eternally before the world itself and its ages.
to our glory--ours both now and hereafter, from "the Lord of
who brings to naught "the princes of this world."
8. Which--wisdom. The strongest proof of the natural man's destitution
of heavenly wisdom.
crucified . . . Lord of glory--implying the
inseparable connection of Christ's humanity and His divinity. The Lord
of glory (which He had in His own right before the world was,
Joh 17:4, 24)
9. But--(it has happened) as it is written.
Eye hath not seen, &c.--ALFORD translates,
"The things which eye saw not . . . the things which God
prepared . . . to us God revealed through His Spirit." Thus,
however, the "but" of
is ignored. Rather construe, as ESTIUS, "('We
speak,' supplied from
things which eye saw not (heretofore), . . . things which God
prepared . . . But God revealed them to us," &c. The
quotation is not a verbatim one, but an inspired exposition of
The exceptive words, "O God, beside (that is, except) Thee," are
not quoted directly, but are virtually expressed in the exposition of
"None but thou, O God, seest these mysteries, and God hath
revealed them to us by His Spirit."
entered--literally, "come up into the heart." A Hebraism (compare,
it is "Prepared (literally, 'will do') for him that waiteth for
Him"; here, "for them that love Him." For Isaiah spake to them
who waited for Messiah's appearance as future; Paul, to them
who love Him as having actually appeared
"the things that are freely given to us of God"
10. revealed . . . by . . . Spirit--The inspiration of thoughts (so far
as truth essential to salvation is concerned) makes the Christian
(1Co 3:16; 12:3;
1Jo 2:20, 27);
that of words, the PROPHET
(2Sa 23:1, 2;
1Ki 13:1, 5),
"by the word of the Lord"
Joh 20:30, 31;
The secrets of revelation are secret to some, not because those who
know them will not reveal them (for indeed, the very notion of
revelation implies an unveiling of what had been veiled), but
because those to whom they are announced have not the will or power to
comprehend them. Hence the Spirit-taught alone know these secrets
Joh 7:17; 15:15).
unto us--the "perfect" or fully matured in Christian experience
Intelligent men may understand the outline of doctrines; but without
the Holy Spirit's revelation to the heart, these will be to them a mere
outline--a skeleton, correct perhaps, but wanting life [WHATLEY, Cautions for the Times, 14],
the Spirit searcheth--working in us and with our spirits (compare
Ro 8:16, 26, 27).
The Old Testament shows us God (the Father) for us. The Gospels, God
(the Son) with us. The Acts and Epistles, God (the Holy Ghost) in us
deep things of God--
His divine nature, attributes, and counsels. The Spirit delights to
explore the infinite depths of His own divine mind, and then reveal
them to us, according as we are capable of understanding them
This proves the personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost. Godhead
cannot be separated from the Spirit of God, as manhood cannot be
separated from the Spirit of man [BENGEL].
11. what man, &c.--literally, "who of men knoweth the things of a
man, save the spirit of that man?"
things of God knoweth no man--rather, "none knoweth," not angel or
man. This proves the impossibility of any knowing the things of God,
save by the Spirit of God (who alone knows them, since even in the case
of man, so infinitely inferior in mind to God, none of his fellow men,
but his own spirit alone knows the things hidden within him).
12. we . . . received, not . . . spirit of
. . . world--the personal evil "spirit that now worketh
in the children of disobedience"
This spirit is natural in the unregenerate, and needs not to be
Spirit which is of God--that is, which comes from God. We have
received it only by the gift of God, whose Spirit it is, whereas
our own spirit is the spirit that is in us men
that we might know . . . things . . . freely given
. . . of God--present experimental knowledge, to our unspeakable comfort, of His deep
mysteries of wisdom, and of our future possession of the good "things
which God hath prepared for them that love Him"
13. also--We not only know by the Holy Ghost, but
we also speak the "things freely given to us of God"
which the Holy Ghost teacheth--The old manuscripts read "the Spirit"
simply, without "Holy."
comparing spiritual things with spiritual--expounding the
Spirit-inspired Old Testament Scripture, by comparison with the Gospel
which Jesus by the same Spirit revealed [GROTIUS];
and conversely illustrating the Gospel mysteries by comparing them with
the Old Testament types [CHRYSOSTOM]. So the
Greek word is translated, "comparing"
WAHL (Key of the New Testament) translates,
"explaining (as the Greek is translated,
the Septuagint) to spiritual (that is, Spirit-taught) men,
spiritual things (the things which we ourselves are taught by the
Spirit)." Spirit-taught men alone can comprehend spiritual truths. This
1Co 2:6, 9, 10, 14, 15;
ALFORD translates, "Putting together (combining)
spirituals with spirituals"; that is, attaching spiritual words
to spiritual things, which we should not do, if we were to use
words of worldly wisdom to expound spiritual things (so
1Co 2:1, 4;
Perhaps the generality of the neuters is designed to comprehend these
several notions by implication. Comparing, or combining, spirituals
with spirituals; implying both that spiritual things are only suited to
spiritual persons (so "things" comprehended persons,
and also that spiritual truths can only be combined with spiritual (not
worldly-wise) words; and lastly, spirituals of the Old and New
Testaments can only be understood by mutual comparison or combination,
not by combination with worldly "wisdom," or natural perceptions
(1Co 1:21, 22; 2:1, 4-9;
14. natural man--literally, "a man of animal soul." As contrasted with
the spiritual man, he is governed by the animal soul, which overbears
his spirit, which latter is without the Spirit of God
So the animal (English Version, "natural") body, or body
led by the lower animal nature (including both the mere human fallen
reason and heart), is contrasted with the
The carnal man (the man led by bodily appetites, and also by a
self-exalting spirit, estranged from the divine life) is closely akin;
so too the "earthly." "Devilish," or "demon-like"; "led by an evil
spirit," is the awful character of such a one, in its worst type
receiveth not--though they are offered to him, and are "worthy of
being received by all men"
they are foolishness unto him--whereas he seeks "wisdom"
neither can he--Not only does he not, but he cannot know them,
and therefore has no wish to "receive" them
15. He that is spiritual--literally, "the spiritual (man)." In
it is "A [not 'the,' as English Version] natural
man." The spiritual is the man distinguished above his
fellow men, as he in whom the Spirit rules. In the unregenerate, the
spirit which ought to be the organ of the Holy Spirit (and which is so
in the regenerate), is overridden by the animal soul, and is in
abeyance, so that such a one is never called "spiritual."
judgeth all things--and persons, by their true standard (compare
in so far as he is spiritual. "Discerneth . . . is
discerned," would better accord with the translation of the same
Otherwise for "discerned," in
translate, "judged of," to accord with the translation, "judgeth
. . . is judged" in this fifteenth verse. He has a practical
insight into the verities of the Gospel, though he is not infallible on
all theoretical points. If an individual may have the Spirit without
being infallible, why may not the Church have the Spirit, and yet not
be infallible (a refutation of the plea of Rome for the Church's
As the believer and the Church have the Spirit, and are yet not
therefore impeccable, so he and the Church have the Spirit, and yet are
not infallible or impeccable. He and the Church are both infallible and
impeccable, only in proportion to the degree in which they are
led by the Spirit. The Spirit leads into all truth and holiness; but
His influence on believers and on the Church is as yet partial. Jesus
alone, who had the Spirit without measure
is both infallible and impeccable. Scripture, because it was written by
men, who while writing were infallibly inspired, is unmixed truth
16. For--proof of
that the spiritual man "is judged of no man." In order to judge the
spiritual man, the ordinary man must "know the mind of the Lord." But
"who of ordinary men knows" that?
that he may instruct him--that is, so as to be able to set Him right
as His counsellor (quoted from
Isa 40:13, 14).
So the Septuagint translates the Greek verb, which means
to "prove," in
Natural men who judge spiritual men, living according to the mind of
God ("We have the mind of Christ"), are virtually wishing to instruct
God, and bring Him to another mind, as counsellors setting to right
we have the mind of Christ--in our degree of capability to apprehend
Isa 40:13, 14
refers to JEHOVAH: therefore, as it is applied
here to Christ, He is Jehovah.