1 Corinthians 2:1-16
This book is written by Paul. In the first chapter we learned that Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth. He has learned that there is division in their church. Just like today when we see the existence of denominations – Christians arguing about everyone’s interpretations of the Word. The message that is taught (yesterday and today) should be the Word. Period. When that is done what cause is there for division?
Rather than putting Christ first these people of Corinth are associating themselves with their teachers (saying “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos”, etc). Paul explains they’re just teachers doing the work of God. It’s God who has chosen them and God who gives them the ability. To God be all glory. Not any man.
Paul says he was sent by God to preach the gospel and he does so with simple language that all can understand. He doesn’t use eloquent convincing speech. The world will see the message of the cross as foolishness (The Word tells us so repeatedly so don’t be surprised when you see that in action yourself). Not many people who are considered wise, mighty, and noble by the world’s standards will be called to do God’s work. God instead chooses to use the things the world considers foolish and small to do great things for Him. And the things that are of God are commonly called foolish by those who are of this world.
I hope you’ll pull out your Bible and join me in a verse-by-verse study of Chapter 2.
1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
Paul is reiterating what he said in Chapter 1. He teaches with simple speech. He may not be impressive by the world’s standards but he doesn’t need to be. The wisdom of the world is not the same as the wisdom of God. God will use who He chooses to do His work. As we learned in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 God doesn’t use many men considered wise, mighty, or noble by the world.
When Paul teaches he brings facts and lets them speak for themselves. After all, we know it is God who opens eyes and ears. Paul’s job (and our job today) is to plant seeds but only God can cause that flower to bloom. God brings forth the increase, not Paul and not us. You can see this in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Let’s look at the Greek from the original manuscripts to make sure we’re getting the most accurate picture here. The Companion Bible along with The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible can help you do that. The word ‘determined’ means ‘decided’. Paul is saying that one day he made the decision to focus on Jesus Christ. Prior to making that decision he was a very lost man.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
Paul was once a man working to destroy the church until he was struck down on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Jesus appeared before Paul (Saul at the time) and asked why he persecuted Him. Paul was in shock and trembling. He asked Jesus what He would have him do. Jesus instructed him to continue on to Damascus where he’d be told what he must do. The Lord then appears to Ananias and told him where to find a man called Saul. Ananias says he’d heard how much evil Paul had done against Christians. He was aware of his very bad reputation and work against the church.
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said unto him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles (nations), and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.
God had big plans for Paul. Though he was determined to destroy Christians, God called Paul. He put him to work bringing the gospel to the nations. Paul does what he does only through the power of God. Through God he is no longer living in fear, weakness, and trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
When Paul teaches he doesn’t use persuasive words of man’s wisdom. He doesn’t need to. Man’s wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom of God.
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Man (without God) is foolish. We shouldn’t be putting our faith in people. We’ll be disappointed. Our faith belongs in the One who created man.
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
This word ‘perfect’ in the original Greek here means ‘mature’. So we’re not being told to only speak God’s wisdom to those that are perfect. We will never be nor find a perfect person. Paul is saying we speak wisdom to those that are mature. Not mature in age, but mature in the faith. If a person is not ready to hear it, if their eyes and ears aren’t opened, then they will not understand. It doesn’t matter how much you say. It doesn’t matter how persuasive your words. If they aren’t ready for it they will not receive it. God tells us exactly how we are to teach His wisdom. Let’s look at Hebrews 5:12-14.
Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Hebrews 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
In the Greek ‘first principles of the oracles of God’ means ‘first rudiments or elements of the beginning of the utterances of God’. So we must first understand the foundation or the basics of the Word of God. We are as babes in Christ who require milk. We can’t handle ‘strong meat’ (which is better translated as ‘solid food’) as a babe.
So are we to continue to exist on milk alone? To only know the basics of the Word? Did God really give us this giant letter full of information for us to leave unexplored? Are we to only teach and understand the fundamentals? The creation story, God’s laws, the life and works of Jesus Christ, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and what is required of us for salvation? That’s it, right? Read on.
Hebrews 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Strong meat is for those who are capable of understanding more and have discernment. The Bible is full of information that unfortunately remains untouched by so many people and so many churches. Yes, milk (the fundamentals) is to be taught to the babes in Christ. But the strong meat is for those who are mature. Who want more. Who seek more. Who ask for more.
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
You mean there is hidden wisdom in the Word? There is more than the story of Noah’s ark and David defeating Goliath? Yes. Lots and lots. God has given us everything we need to know in the Word. If you’ve only heard bits and pieces of it as shared from behind a pulpit, swaddled in personal anecdotes, then you’ve likely only scratched the surface. The Truth in God’s Word was preordained by God before the ‘world’ (better translated from the Greek to ‘ages’).
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
So many do not know it. Here we’re told that the ‘princes of this world’ didn’t know. ‘Princes’ is better translated as ”rulers’ and ‘world’ as ‘age’. The ‘rulers of this age’ crucified our Lord, fulfilling the very first prophesy of the Bible. In Genesis 3:15 we are told that Satan will bruise the heel of Christ (fulfilled through His crucifixion) but in the end it is Christ who will have victory when He destroys death (Hebrews 2:14) by bruising Satan’s head (also Romans 16:20). That’s no surprise either since we are told throughout the Bible that this will be case.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
This is quoted from Isaiah 64:4.
Isaiah 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.
We cannot imagine as men (people) living in the flesh what God has prepared for those who love Him and wait for Him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Who reveals things to us? Our big brilliant human brains? No. The Holy Spirit does. Remember this when you’re feeling stumped by something you’re reading as you study. Ask the Holy Spirit for understanding.
What does the Holy Spirit reveal to us? The subject of the prior verse is all the things God has prepared for those who love Him. So God (through the Holy Spirit) reveals to us what is in store for those who love Him. It’s the Holy Spirit who can help us understand the deep things in the Word.
But let’s remember that God expects us to seek Him. Don’t be the kid just asking for answers to his homework. Especially consider that the kid has received all the answers already (in a giant book full of literally every single thing he needs to know). Rather than read the book he just pesters his classmates for the answers. Spoiler alert: nobody wants to do a group project with that kid. I’m not saying to not ask questions. Of course we should ask. God tells us to ask. But we have to TRY. We have to put in EFFORT. We are to READ what He has written to us. He didn’t write it because He had a free afternoon and thought it sounded like a fun way to kill some time. His Word is for us to read and understand. There are many many many times we are instructed to know his Word throughout the Word. Consider how often Jesus answers a question first with the question “have you not read?”. We are expected to absorb the Word.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and LEARN OF ME; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
Proverbs 8:17 I (wisdom) love them that love me; And THOSE THAT SEEK ME EARLY shall find me.
2 Timothy 2:15 STUDY (in the Greek it’s better translated to BE DILIGENT) to shew (present) thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
You cannot know what another man is thinking. Only that person knows their own thoughts. Likewise, man cannot know the things of God without the Holy Spirit. You can read the Bible all day long but without the Holy Spirit your eyes and ears will be closed. Consider all the “scholars” who work so hard to disprove God. Some of them may be more familiar with scripture than many Christians. But do they have understanding? No. Not without the help of the Holy Spirit.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we are the Temple of God and that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We, with the Holy Spirit, can understand the things of God. He alone can give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
We speak this knowledge (God’s Truth) that God (through the Holy Spirit) has given us not in the words that the world considers wise but instead in the way the Holy Spirit teaches. Man’s wisdom is nothing when compared to God’s. It’s not enough. It’s inadequate. God (through His Word) tells us what and how we are to teach. Let God instruct us on how to teach the spiritual. Man is not qualified.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
To help understand this let’s talk about the spiritual body versus the flesh body. In 1 Corinthians 15:44 we learn that we have both. The flesh body is corruptible. It is temporary. It will die and return to the earth. The spirit body is incorruptible. It will return to our Father. The flesh body and the spirit body are two distinct things. Jesus says in Luke 24:39 that a spirit has not flesh and bones.
The flesh man is no different than beasts. When we die our flesh body returns to the earth while our spirit body will go to God (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21). Matthew 26:41 and Mark 14:38 tell us the spirit is willing (to do what God asks of us) but the flesh is weak. Without knowing and loving God we allow our flesh bodies to rule. We will not know peace and we cannot please God so long as we allow the flesh to be in charge. The carnal mind (mind of the flesh) is against God and does not want to submit itself to God (Romans 8:5-9). Romans 7:14-25 gives a beautiful explanation of how easy it is for the flesh to sin. We do what we wish we wouldn’t do. We have good intentions to do what is right but end up doing what is wrong.
So in verse 14 of this chapter of Corinthians Paul is saying that the flesh man will not understand the things of the Holy Spirit. He cannot if he is carnally minded (meaning his flesh rules his spirit). This does not mean that we cannot understand the Truth while we are physically in our flesh bodies. No. We can with the Holy Spirit’s help. But a person who puts his flesh first will consider the Word of God foolishness. He cannot receive or understand things of the Spirit which are only received and understood by spiritual discernment.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
Mmm, what does this mean if we know from the Word that man is not equipped to judge another? Let’s look at the Greek. This is one of many examples in the Bible where a word wasn’t translated as well as it could have been. Yes, in some instances the word judge really means judge. But in this particular spot the word judge isn’t a perfect fit. The Greek here is anakrino which would be better translated as scrutinize or discern.
Ah-ha. So let’s look at this again. But he that is spiritual [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is [discerned] of no man. God gives us the ability to discern. He grants us understanding. Can you have spiritual discernment without the Holy Spirit guiding you? Without allowing your spirit body to rule over your flesh body? No. Only he that is spiritual will have that spiritual discernment.
Yet he (that is spiritual) cannot be discerned by any man. Flesh man isn’t capable of understanding spiritual things. We can only understand with the help of the Holy Spirit.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This verse quotes Isaiah 40:14. Let’s look deeper at it and some surrounding verses.
Isaiah 40:13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counselor hath taught Him?
Isaiah 40:14 With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding?
Can we teach God something? No, of course not.
Isaiah 40:15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
The nations are nothing when compared to Him. They are tiny. He is mighty. Knowing this, what have we to fear? What challenge can we face that He cannot overcome?
Isaiah 40:16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
God doesn’t want our burnt offerings. He wants our love. (Hosea 6:6)
In Hebrews 10:5-10 we see that Christ was the only sufficient sacrifice. The old covenant is done away and the new is established which allows for the forgiveness of sins and repentance. His blood was shed for once and for all.
Isaiah 40:17 All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity.
Compared to God the nations are less than nothing. ‘Vanity’ in this instance is translated from the Greek as ‘desolation’ or ‘without form’. That definitely signifies that it’s less than nothing. His entire Word tells us how much He loves us. That salvation is available for all who will come to Him. What is being said in this verse is to illustrate His might. It tells us that He is bigger than all. He is greater than all. He can do anything and how amazing is that when you consider that He is in your corner? We need Him.
18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
There is no comparison. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 1:8, 1:11, 21:6, & 22:13) Do you need more than Him?