William Kelly Major Works Commentary - 1 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:16

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William Kelly Major Works Commentary - 1 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:16

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1 Corinthians Chapter 2

The apostle now touches on that which had been made a matter of reproach against his preaching at Corinth. He had not sought to avoid the scandal of the cross here any more than elsewhere. On the contrary it was this precisely to which he had given undisguised prominence in that city of intellectual culture and of moral corruption. Even here however there was a guard against narrow one-sidedness, as well as care to bring forward Christ personally, not a point of doctrine only, were it even that deepest and most justly absorbing point of the cross. It was Jesus Christ he preached, and Him crucified. He eschewed the pompous phrases and the subtle speculations which Corinth then affected.

Thus the brethren there might see the consistency, first and last, of that which unbelief stumbled at in Paul, and which the flesh in saints would rather shroud in silence. Is the cross God's power to those that are saved? Is Christ crucified foolishness to the Gentiles and an offence to the Jew? Does wisdom of word make the cross vain? The apostle was led of God to present the truth in a way not palatable but truly wholesome and withal most for God's glory when he went to Corinth. It was not Jesus and the resurrection (as at Athens), nor was it His return to reign (as at Thessalonica), though no doubt none of these elements was wanting; but at Corinth the Spirit directed to that which was in due season. And as he says to the. law-affecting Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world;" so here he could look back with satisfaction on the pre-eminence given to Jesus Christ and Him crucified in his first visit to Corinth; and this too with decision and conviction on his own part. It is not merely that so it was, but he judged it best. Nor does it mean, as some have thought, that with all the abasement of the cross he nevertheless preached Christ. No such uncertain sound came from the apostle as from his commentators. It was not Christ, crucified though He was, but emphatically Christ and Him crucified. Well he knew and deeply felt that there is nothing like that cross which stands alone apart from all before and after: yea, nothing in time, nothing in eternity, similar or second to it. For there sin in man rose up to slay the Son of God, yet was in slaying Him itself slain as well as judged, that grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life for every believer.

"And I, when I came unto you, brethren, came not in excellency of word or wisdom announcing to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified: And I in weakness and in fear and in much trembling was with you; and my word and my preaching, not in persuasive words of* wisdom but in demonstration of [the] Spirit and of power; that your faith might not be in man's wisdom but in God's power." (Ver. 1-5.)

* The common insertion of ἀνθρωπίνης is supported by corr. A C L P, most cursives, and a few versions, with many Fathers Greek and Latin; but the great weight of authority rejects it; and in my opinion the unqualified phrase is right.

There can be no doubt in my judgment that the various reading in the first verse μυστήριον though given in the Sinaitic (first hand), Alexandrian and Palimpsest of Paris (C), with some good cursives and very ancient versions (Pesch. and Cop.), etc., is not correct, but the common text. It is not only erroneous but an error which destroys the beauty and indeed the sense of the passage. For the apostle is contrasting his use of revealed truth in dealing with such souls as those in Corinth when he first carried them the gospel, and that which he would do with those who simply and thoroughly submitted to Christ. The mystery in all its hidden depths and all its heavenly glory he sets before those he calls "the perfect," that is, the full-grown who were established in Christianity; but not so with babes unformed in the truth of the gospel.

Hence the introductory words. The apostle came not in excellency of word or wisdom when announcing at Corinth the testimony of God, who was calling them as all men to repent, and to this end testifying of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. To this Paul judged it right to confine himself at the beginning of the gospel in that voluptuous city. Maturer souls need Christ every way, risen, at God's right hand, and coming again in glory. Here he presented His person, and especially Him crucified. It is not a philosophy but a divine person and work. "The perfect" need much more, and have no stint; and there it is that God's hidden wisdom in the mystery hidden from ages and generations becomes so important: not that there is reserve on God's part, but that the state of souls is such that some want milk as being babes, others solid food as being settled in Christ; and they are welcomed into all the truth of God, as indeed they need it all.

But further there was in the apostle's tone and way a suitability to the message he brought. He repudiated all artificial method whether in thought or in the language which clothed it, that the truth of God should address itself directly to man's heart. So also he was with the Corinthians in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. This is not the ideal that men in their imagination frame of the great apostle! But such a deep sense of weakness was by grace his strength, as the Corinthians' straining after power was their weakness. His one desire was to exalt God, owning the nothingness as well as the guilt of man; with an anxious dread lest any word on his part should obscure His true glory, that it might be God's testimony to and in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Hence his word and his preaching (the thing preached, not merely his manner in it) was not after the rhetoric of the schools, but such as gave scope to God's Spirit.

Did the saints then loathe the bread of heaven? Did they pine after the leeks and onions and flesh-pots of Egypt? The apostle was not the one to gratify their natural tastes. He at least was true to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He sought not to win by the display of his own extraordinary ability; nor would he exhibit the wonders of the divine word which he could easily have presented so as to dazzle the Corinthian mind; nor did he condescend to set out these precious truths in a diction attractive to refined ears. The matter and the manner he judged most for God's glory was that which poured contempt on man and looked only to the Spirit's demonstration and power, that their faith might not be in man's wisdom but in God's power. For just so far as preachers fill men with admiration for their peculiar style of thought or language, is it evident that they are weak in the Spirit, and attract to themselves instead of clearing and establishing souls in the truth whereby the Spirit works in power. Another indication of unwholesome teaching (too abundant at Corinth) is that which produces a distaste for all but the favourite or his line. It is not that the heart does not bless God for the instrument; but the effect of such a course as Paul's is to maintain the Lord's glory and His truth unimpaired, to avoid the natural tendency to a school or clique with its leader, and to keep the saints in full liberty and holy confidence before God by faith. May our decision be like his whose words (and they are God's) have occupied us here!

The apostle next explains his attitude towards those established in Christian truth, "the perfect" as they are designated here and elsewhere. To these he brought out far more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. There is no limit or reserve. Had there been truth undisclosed in the Old Testament, secret things which belonged to Jehovah, in contrast with those revealed which had to do with Israel and their children? They are, none of them, hidden now, but shared by the Father with His children to the glory of Christ His Son. They are our proper and needed portion.

Hence says he "But we speak wisdom among the perfect, but wisdom not of this age nor of the rulers of this age that come to nought. But we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden [wisdom] which God predetermined before the ages for our glory; which none of the rulers of the age knew (for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, but according as it is written, Things which eye hath not seen and ear not heard, and into man's heart have not come, all that* God prepared for those that love him, butt God revealed to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God." (Ver. 6-10.)

It is not then that "wisdom" is wanting to the christian scheme; nor could this be, for Christ who is all therein is God's wisdom which has a character, height, depth, and extent proper to God. For this reason it suits His children, at least such as are weaned from the first man and the world in which he seeks activity and exaltation; it suits in a word "the perfect" or full-grown, not the babes that are absorbed in their personal wants and care at best for milk, not for the meat which a riper condition needs for its due nourishment. Wholly apart from such wisdom as Paul spoke of is "this age," the course of the world that now is, and this not in the lower strata only but in its "rulers" "that come to nought," little as they themselves expect it, or those who covet their place. Blessed be the grace that has revealed the mind of heaven to man on earth! It is "God's wisdom" the apostle spoke habitually and characteristically, where it was proper to be spoken, and this "in a mystery;" not meaning by this aught that was unintelligible or vague or obscure, but truth which could not be discovered by the wit of man, and was never before made known in the living oracles of God. The faithful who were settled on the great foundations of Christianity the apostle would initiate into it. All that ignore or oppose Christ come to nought: He is God's power no less than His wisdom.

* The most ancient witnesses give ὅσα the rest ἅ

† The Vatican MS., and some cursives, the Cop. Sah., etc., read γάρ "for," which seems to me not to suit the context like δέ which the other authorities support.

But if Christ be God's wisdom, as He surely is, it is not His personal glory simply, but this "in a mystery." It is not Christ as He was here presented to the responsibility of man, especially of the Jews; nor is it Christ when He returns again as the Son of man in His universal kingdom which shall not pass away. It is Christ exalted on high and invested with a new glory, outside all the old revelations, and founded on the cross where the world, led on by its prince, rejected Him, but thereon glorified in God, and given as head over all things to the church which is His body. This therefore the apostle adds was "the hidden" wisdom, "which God predetermined before the ages for our glory." It formed no part of His ways either in creation or in providence. The law never touched it, nor did the chosen people under law look for it Nay, not only did the prophets ignore it altogether, but the Spirit did not speak of it in His ancient communications, though, when it was revealed, it could be seen, from hints here and there from the beginning and all through, that He of course knew all and said enough to justify its principles even where most differing from all that kind been meanwhile carried on.

But when the patient and full trial of man's responsibility closed in the cross which showed alike his own sin and ruin, Satan's guile and folly, and God's perfect goodness and wisdom, then was the suited moment to bring out those counsels of God in Christ for our glory, which were predetermined before all the sorrowful history of man, before even the world was created as the sphere in which his responsibility was tested. Of this man is still as then wholly ignorant, and none more than, if so much as, "the rulers of this age." None of them knew it when Jesus was here; and just as those that dwelt in Jerusalem and their rulers, not having known Him, fulfilled the voices of the prophets which were and are read on every sabbath by judging and slaying Him, so "none of the rulers of this age knew; for, had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;" yet thus it was that they too instrumentally laid a basis for it. For the cross of Christ on earth answers to and is answered by the glory of God in heaven Wondrous fact - a man exalted over all the universe, risen and glorified with all things set under His feet at God's right hand! Not only a matter of faith, but the revelation of it is also made known, as indeed only now since the cross and the ascension is it a fact. But it is a fact, and a fact revealed to the Christian, totally distinct from all Old Testament hopes, or that which shall be realised when the kingdom comes in the displayed power and glory of the millennial days.

Strikingly does the apostle proceed to set out the newness of this work and word of God in terms too often perverted through misapprehension to a mere confession of such ignorance as could not but be in the times before Christ rose and the Spirit was given. It is an application of Isa_64:4, yet for the purpose not of direct illustration but of full contrast. The Jewish prophet most consistently was inspired to stop with the acknowledged inability of man to pierce the veil that hides the future blessedness that God has prepared for him that waits for Him. Not so the christian apostle; for the veil is rent, and we are invited to draw near now emboldened by the blood of Jesus. Thus all things are ours, coming no less than present. We look at the things that are not seen and eternal; we seek and have our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. It is in vain to say that they are hidden from man. They were so, but assuredly are now revealed to the children of God. They are revealed that we may not doubt or remain in the dark but believe. This is the emphatic statement of the apostle. What God has prepared for those that love Him He has revealed to us by the Spirit.

Do you limit His competency or question His willingness to show us all the truth, yea, things to come, in divine love? Expressly is it added, as if to meet our hesitation, "for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God." Such a declaration may well silence every argument of unbelief, as disposed alas! to trust in the ability of man as to distrust the gracious power of God on our behalf. The Spirit who searches all, and knows all, is now in the believer to whom all is revealed in the written word of God. He who sounds the depths of God is able to instruct His children; and He is as ready as able, being here for this as for other loving purposes worthy of God and in virtue of Christ's redemption.

It is the Holy Spirit then by whom God has revealed to us what of old was hidden; and He is thoroughly able to do so, seeing that He searches the very depths of God, as indeed He is God. This the apostle illustrates by an analogy drawn from human nature. "For who of men* knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man that [is] in him? So also the things of God knoweth† no one save the Spirit of God. But we received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that [is] from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God." (Vers. 11, 12.)

* A few witnesses, including the Alexandrian uncial and a Paris cursive (17), omit ἀνθρώπων but it is surely right.

† The received text, with one uncial and very many cursives, etc., reads oi[den instead of the true word ἔγνωκεν (ἔγνω F G 23, etc.) as in A B C D E P ten cursives, etc. With οὐδείς it was proper to say "cometh to know," rather than "consciously knoweth." The Spirit οἴδεν of course, and so do we when we have the Spirit of God in us.

No man knows what is in another's mind. He may conjecture more or less accurately, but none of men can know inwardly what is in another's mind and has not been communicated to him. The spirit of the man himself knows, and no one else. It is shut out not only from animals inferior to man in the scale of creation, but from his fellows. So, but with incomparably greater force, no one can come to know the things of God, unless they be revealed: only the Spirit of God knows them. But here is the inestimable privilege of the Christian. It was not the spirit of the world we received, but the Spirit that is from God, and this expressly that we might know, inwardly know, the things freely given to us by God.

We are in the conscious relationship of children, and have not merely an acquired objective knowledge, but realize what God has vouchsafed in our own minds. Were any courting the spirit of the world? What a descent for a Christian! What a forgetfulness of our new and divine and eternal associations through our Lord Jesus! Here then it is a question of knowing through the Holy Ghost the things freely given us by God, and to this end is the Spirit given to the believer now that Christ was come and had wrought redemption. Where the blood has been put, the oil can follow, that unction from the Holy One whereby the very babe in Christ knows all things. For the grace that has freely given him all with God's own Son would put him in the conscious knowledge of all and in the joy of communion; and this can only be by the Holy Spirit of God, who accordingly anoints us when established in Christ, that is, when firmly attached to Him.

But the apostle tells us of more than this supernatural Spirit-given knowledge. In order that they may be enjoyed, the things of God had to be communicated divinely; and here the chosen instruments had to be made, not infallible of course, which is the quality of God alone, but perfectly guided in giving out the truth and guarded from all error for their task. This is inspiration, its permanent fruit being the scriptures we possess in the goodness of God. The principle is stated in verse 13, "which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in [those] taught by [the] Spirit,* communicating spiritual things by spiritual† [words]."

* The received text, with Dcorr E L P most cursives, etc., adds ἁγίος "holy," contrary to the best authorities.

† The Vatican and a good cursive (17) read πνευματικῶς "spiritually;" as the Porphyrian has the Spirit communicating (συνκρίνοντες not we. The Alexandrian omits αὐτῳ "to him."

It is well known that the last clause has been variously interpreted, through a different sense given, now to συνκρίνοντες now to πνευματικοῖς and even to πνευματικά Thus Chrysostom, Theodoret, etc., take it to mean, "explaining spiritual truths [of the New Testament] by [Old Testament] spiritual testimonies." Only less far-fetched is the counter-view of Theophylact, H. Grotius, and others, "explaining what the Spirit-led prophets said by what Christ has opened to us by His Spirit" But Theophylact proposed a way too, which as it prevailed in medieval times, so also it has been common up to our day, of taking πνευματικοῖς as masculine, which the late Dean Alford treated as "clearly wrong" in several editions of his Greek Testament, but gave as right in his New Testament revised (1870), as Wiclif had done in 1380.

Again our Authorized Translation preferred, with all the other early English versions except that of Geneva, the sense of "comparing" as in the Syriac, Vulgate, etc., rather of "explaining" for συνκρίνοντες And doubtless it is a natural impulse to use a meaning which is unquestionable in 2Co_10:12 for the same word in 1Co_2:13: so Tyndale's (1534), Cranmer's (1539), and perhaps that of Rheims (1582), though I am not quite sure what was meant by "comparing spiritual things to the spiritual," as the latter might be understood as masculine (so the Arabic) no less than as neuter. The Genera Version (1557) gave "joining spiritual things with spiritual things," I presume after Calvin, Beza, Piscator, etc.

There are two elements for gathering the mind of God in the clause which have not been in general borne in mind adequately. First, the context as elsewhere helps to the sense of a. here demanded. Now it is certain that the apostle is describing, in verse 13, neither the revelation of divine things which the Spirit of God alone knows and can give (vers. 10-12), nor the reception of what is revealed, which is due to the power of the Spirit (vers. 14, 15), but the intermediate process of conveying in words spiritual things when disclosed that they may be received by the spiritual man. Secondly, as συνκρίνοντες appears to be a carrying on the thought of speaking the things of God to others in verse 13, so is ἀνακρίνεται equally characteristic of the manner and means of reception. As the one aptly expresses the putting together (συνκρίνοντες spiritual things with spiritual words so as to furnish that concrete whole, the word of God, so the spiritual man ἀνακρίνει π the converse sifting and examining accurately - a sense common to the New Testament and the LXX. (1Sa_20:12; Act_17:11.) Ἀνακρ was a word used technically in ordinary Greek of the preliminary investigation to ascertain whether an action would lie.

Hence in my judgment the meaning of "comparing" or even of "explaining" is here shut out; and, when we examine the present passage along with that in the Second Epistle, we may readily see with certainty that the construction wholly differs, though Parkhurst is rash enough to say the contrary. For in the latter it is a question of persons only, and hence "comparing" gives the sense justly. So Wahl in his second edition rightly, though from Rose's note to Parkhurst it would seem that in his first with Schleusner he explained it as "we cannot endure to enrol or mix ourselves with" etc. - a poor sense assuredly.

Here, in one phrase, if not in both, it is a question of things, and hence the analogy disappears. In the LXX, which so constantly furnishes the true source of the Greek New Testament language, we find the verb and its derivatives used in senses more suitable to the requirement of our text, as has been often noticed. Compare Genesis 40: 8, 12, 16, 18, 22; 51?: 12 (twice), 15 (twice); Dan_2:4-45 (thirteen times); Daniel 4 (seven times); Daniel 5 (eight times), where "interpret" or "interpretation" is meant. Again we have Num_15:32, where it means "to determine;" also Num_9:3, Numbers 29 six times in the sense of "ordinance," etc.

It is certain then that the most common meaning in the Septuagint, so familiar to the writers and earlier" readers of the New Testament, is that of making known the previously hidden mind of God couched in a dream or vision; and that the word was also applied to a determination through a judge or law-giver speaking for God. By an easy transition thence the apostle was inspired to use it here in the sense of "communicating" (or, in a similar usage, of "expounding") spiritual things by spiritual words. "Communicating" however seems to me better, because less ambiguous than "expounding," as the point here is the fact and appropriate form of conveying spiritual troths rather than of "expounding" or explaining it when conveyed in words, which is the function of the teacher and not really in the passage at all. It is plain to him who weighs all that, though in some cases σύνκρισις may seem to mean pretty much the same as ἐξήγησις applied to such subjects, it goes really farther. For instance, Joseph's or Daniel's task went much beyond that of an ordinary expounder of scripture; and the word which duly described it might easily pass into the sense of communicating the previously unknown things of God in language suited to them. This I feel assured is the idea in the verse under consideration.

The apostle then shows that not human wisdom but the Spirit taught the words to convey the truth of Christ now. How null then in divine things is that wisdom! Why did Corinthian eyes see differently?

There was another lesson in its place of no less weight - the incapacity of man without the Holy Spirit not merely to know or convey, but even to receive the truth of God. "But [the] natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned; but the spiritual [man] discerneth all things while he himself is discerned by no one. For who hath known [the] Lord's mind that he should instruct him? But we have [the] mind of Christ." (Ver. 14-16.)

This is a momentous declaration in all its parts. For the apostle by the "natural man" means man as he is born and grows up, without being born of God or the Holy Ghost given to him. He might be ever so learned, scientific, intellectual and refined; still, till quickened of the Spirit, he is ψυχικός He does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for to him they are folly; nor can he learn them, so as to appropriate them, apprehending their truth, because they are spiritually discerned, and the Spirit of God he has not as unbelieving in Christ. The spiritual man on the other hand is one who is not only renewed but in the power of the Spirit. He accordingly has a divine spring of discerning while he is beyond the ken of all who are destitute of the Spirit.

It is in virtue of the Spirit of God that the believer now stands in so astonishing a place, capable of discerning all things, yet himself outside the discernment of man. How great the folly of any saint in Corinth or elsewhere yearning after human wisdom! What makes it even more striking is the application the apostle appends from Isa_40:13. For there the prophet insists on the supremacy of Jehovah's intelligence, as before of His infinite goodness and power. Unsearchable Himself yet searching all, "who hath measured the Spirit of Jehovah, and, the man of his counsel, will teach him?" As independent of man's measuring and instruction is the Christian in divine things, and this through the Spirit of God dwelling in him. Thus the use of Isaiah 64 bears witness that, as man's heart had not conceived the purpose of God before the world for our glory (not merely the nations, as Kimchi would have it, but man generally, Israel included), so God has revealed it now that Christ is crucified and received up in glory, and this by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to be in and with us. But the use of Isaiah 40 goes farther; for the apostle ascribes to the Christian the mind (νοῦν or intelligence of Christ, in whom God's wisdom is, and thus appropriates to us now by grace, as possessing the Holy Spirit, that which, belonging characteristically to God, is wholly independent of man and undiscoverable by him.

In short, as the revelation of God's hidden wisdom is of the Holy Spirit, so is the inspiration that conveys it, and no less truly though of a more general character is the reception of it. In the gospel as Paul knew and made it known, in the mystery of the gospel, was brought positively new truth, of which not Gentiles only but Israel or men universally were ignorant; but now it was revealed, communicated, and received in the Spirit. As He only could make it known, so He gave the words which were the due medium of conveying it, and He enables us to receive it.

How infinite then is the Christian's debt not only to the Father and the Son but to the Holy Ghost! Paul's gospel was pure truth to man, and pure truth through man: may we have self judged so as to receive it in like purity. It is the flesh - man's nature - which ever opposes the Spirit of God. There are those who count what the apostle insists on as supernatural; and they labour, some in this way, some in that, to reduce the gospel to the level of common sense. But let me warn them that if they succeed in their scheme for themselves or other men, they have lost the truth for God, who will not, to please man, give up His purpose of thus glorifying Christ by the Holy Spirit.

To naturalize Christianity is simply to ruin it. Only scripture draws a deep and marked distinction between the revelation and inspiration of the truth on the one hand and the reception of it on the other, though all be of the Spirit, and of Him only to be of true spiritual profit. And indeed it is evident that, if the communication had not been perfect by those employed as instruments of His inspiration, the revelation of God had not been any more perfect ; and consequently the authority of God attached to their writings had been not only a delusion but a deception; for Christ and the apostles treat it as no less the word of God than what He uttered without human intervention. If it be not the infinite brought into the finite, we should have nothing to trust to as divine truth; we should have the finite and nothing else. Whereas the word of God, like Christ Himself, is God's entering into our circumstances, and this to give us His own grace and truth in perfection. Our use of it is another thing; and for this we are wholly dependent on the Spirit of God. But He is given to us; and we have the mind of Christ.