Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:5

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:5

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

C. As Illustrated by the Apostle’s Example


1And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s [om. man’s] wisdom, but in demonstration of theSpirit and of power: 5That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.


The connection.—Paul here affirms his own conduct to have been in strict accordance with the nature of the Divine calling. [His views were sustained by his practice and at the same time justified that practice.] “As the Lord chose no one among you on account of his wisdom, so I did not come to you with wisdom.”—Burger.

1Co_2:1. And I. êᾀãù : “I also.” So God has dealt with you, and I have conformed to his method. [Or: “I also, like all true Christian preachers.”—De Wette. Or: “I accordingly,” consistently with the revealed purpose of God just mentioned.”—Hodge.] The connection with the preceding paragraph is close and direct, though a remoter reference to 1:17, 23 is not thereby excluded.—on coming to you, brethren, came not.—He has in view here his first long residence at Corinth, although a second shorter visit had been paid them just before writing this Epistle. The repetition “coming,” “I came,” as not foreign to classic usage, nor is it mere tautology. The former expresses the fact of his appearing among them [or the occasion of which he was about to speak,] while the second with its qualifying adjuncts states the way and mode of his appearance.—with excellency of speech and of wisdom.—[“As speech and wisdom ( ëüãïò and óïößá ) are here distinguished, the former probably refers to the manner or form, and the latter to the matter of his preaching. It was neither as a rhetorician nor as a philosopher that he appeared before them.”—Hodge. In 1:17 what he disavowed was wisdom of speech ( óïößᾳ ëüãïõ ), the emphasis being on “wisdom.” Here, the two are distinguished as separate elements, and the idea of rhetoric is added to that of philosophy.] This clause some make the sole adjunct to “I came,” leaving the rest of the sentence distinct, as adducing the proof of his appearing as he did, q. d., ‘I came to you thus and so, inasmuch as I proclaimed,’ etc. [“This mode is generally preferred not only because of the position of the words, but also because of the sense.”—Hodge; and so Alford, Stanley and others.] But the whole clause is to be taken together, and the adjunct before us to be connected with—proclaiming to you the testimony of God.—The sense is ‘I did not come preaching with highly wrought eloquence and philosophic subtilities.’ To take the present participle here in a future sense is neither necessary nor suitable, since he is here speaking not of intention but simply of his mode of conduct. The matter of his preaching is “the testimony of God.” This is essentially the same as “the testimony of Christ,” 1:6, and what was there said holds good also here. It is the testimony which God bears concerning Christ (1Jn_5:9), or the revelation of his plan of salvation which He makes out of His own consciousness, originally through Christ, and then through the Apostles. This is what it is incumbent on the servant of God simply to proclaim. In this work there is no need of rhetorical ornament and philosophic art. The very object of the proclamation itself precludes the applicability of eloquence and wisdom. (Comp. Osi.) [“The Gospel is in its essence not a theory, or an abstraction, or a comment, or an image of the fancy, but it is history, and indeed, Divine history. The preaching of the Gospel is therefore a proclamation of the doings of God, and especially of that one great act of love, viz., the sending of His own Son to die for the sins of the world. This may become a matter for theory and science in the bosom of the Church after faith in it has become established, but even then it is only as a development from faith. Science can never beget faith. Faith comes only through the regenerating power of God’s Spirit, who reveals Himself efficiently and in the most direct manner through the proclamation of the Gospel story.” Olshausen.]

1Co_2:2. His conduct in the particular above-mentioned shown to be deliberate—the result of a settled purpose. For—confirmatory—I did not determine.—[The negative particle, by its position here, is more naturally connected with the main verb. So Alf., who interprets: “the only thing that I made it definitely my business to know, was;” and Meyer says that the common connection of the “not” with “any thing” ( ôé ), as in our E. V., is contrary to the phraseology. But Stanley translates: “I determined to know nothing,” making ïὐê ἕêñéíá like ïὓ öçìé . The difference of import is somewhat. In the one case, Paul tells us how far his mind was made up, that his determination did not go beyond one point; in the other case, his determination was a positive one, covering the whole ground and excluding from that all but one thing.] êñßíåéí with the inf.=to conclude upon, resolved, decide, as in 2Co_2:1; 2 Corinthians 1 Rom_14:13.—to know any thing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucifiedi.e. to mingle any other sort of knowledge with the preaching of Christ. His one sole aim was to portray before their eyes this one person, and that too in His deepest humiliation, as He had suffered for them the shameful death of the cross. [So far from seeking to conceal his ignominy, so offensive to the worldly spirit, he would make it prominent and glory in it.] Hence it was that he would not indulge in any rhetorical or dialectic arts, in any high-flown discourse or philosophic argumentation. In this way certainly he might fail to attract the educated classes, so called, but he would be the better able to bring to light men’s actual religious needs and satisfaction. And this, with him, was the great point, for which he was willing to renounce every attainment in which he excelled, for he knew that those who wilfully neglected the revelation he brought could be gained by no reasonings from the light of nature. (See Bengel in loco.) [Furthermore, it must be observed, that it would be to mistake entirely the drift of the Apostle’s discourse, were we to take the name of Christ here, according to the fashion of many divines, as put by metonymy for the whole system of divinity, or for the doctrine of the Atonement. The purpose of Paul here is to avoid theorizing of all kinds, and to adhere rigidly to Christianity in its most concrete form as seen in the person and work of its founder. In his view, preaching was to act the part of a herald, to proclaim, not opinions, but the facts and messages as intrusted to him, and to let them speak for themselves. Hence we are here to take his language most literally. What he resolved on proclaiming to the Corinthians was Christ in His person and work, as the living revelation of the Father, as the Truth and the Life, as the One in whom were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, as the source of all salvation and blessing, whom to believe in, love and serve was life eternal. His Gospel was not theory or science, but history, and the glory of this history is, to use the words of Olshausen, that “it lives and repeats itself in the Church as a whole and in every member of the Church. It therefore never grows old any more than God himself can become antiquated; and it maintains itself to this day in all that fulness of power which it manifested in the first establishment of the Church.”—“To know any thing.” There is a force in the use of the word “know,” instead of “preach,” or “teach,” which is not to be overlooked. It shows that his determination covered not only the range of his words and acts, but also of his thoughts. He meant that Christ should fill his consciousness.].

1Co_2:3. “Describes the preacher, as the former verse did his theme.” Bengel.—And I was with you, ἐãåíüìçíðñὸòὑìᾶò . This might be rendered: I came to you, as 2Jn_1:12. (according to the better reading). But Paul is here speaking not of his coming, but of his residence among them (1Co_2:4). In like manner ãåíÝóèáé ðñüò occurs also in 16:10. ( ðñüò : before, in presence of, 16:6, 7; Gal_1:18; Joh_1:1.) How he was with them he proceeds to state in three substantives. a. in weakness. Since he is here speaking of his personal bearing, we are not to understand by this any physical infirmity, such as weak organs, or feeble chest, or ungainliness of form [as Stanley]; nor yet any sickness, or feebleness, bringing with it depression of spirits [as Rückert and Stier], though this would be more plausible; and, least of all, any thing happening from without, like persecutions, and sufferings inflicted by others [as Chrysostom], which would be inconsistent with the use of the singular number. In view of the expressions of Paul himself (2Co_10:1; 2Co_10:10; 2Co_12:10; 2Co_4:7-12) it were better to refer this to inward weakness, but not so much to any sense of defect in science and education (so de Wette, Osi.), as to a feeling of utter inadequacy for the greatness of the work and for the resistance he would have to encounter (see Act_18:9, ff.). [Bengel says: “opposed to power (1Co_2:4). We must not suppose that the Apostles were always in an agreeable frame of mind or quite free from perturbations.] b. in fear and c. in great trembling.—Terms expressive of great timidity as contrasted with a bold and confident demeanor maintained by the overweening consciousness of his own abilities, “such as appeared in the eyes of ancient Paganism to be the highest morality.” Neander. It has been justly observed that such anxiety, arising from a sense of insufficiency for the work on hand, is a marked characteristic of the most distinguished servants of God (see Osiander). The interpretation of Olshausen and others is less consistent with the idea expressed in the foregoing term (“in weakness.”) They understand Paul as intimating a modest fear lest he should corrupt the Divine truth with a mixture of human elements, and fail in the proper discharge of his duty. The sense of the phrase, “in fear and trembling,” which is a proverbial one (Gen_9:2; Exo_15:16; Isa_19:16) is determined by the connection. Elsewhere, as in Eph_6:5; 2Co_7:15, it denotes: sollicita reverentia; or, as Bengel: “A fear which abounds so as to effect even the body in its gestures and movements.”

1Co_2:4. Describes the mode of preaching.—And my speech and my preaching.—The “and” in 1Co_2:3 and the “and” in 1Co_2:4 are not so related as to be rendered: “As well I myself—as also my speech.” But the first of these conjunctions simply joins 1Co_2:3 to the preceding, and the second, 1Co_2:4 to 1Co_2:3, putting the matters stated in harmonious connection. On account of the repetition of “my,” we are not at liberty to take the two words here as identical, nor yet are they so related as to indicate the first the form and the second the substance of his preaching [so Stanley]. It were better to distinguish them as denoting, the first ( ëüãïò ), his private discourse, and the second ( êÞñõãìá ), his public discourse [so Olsh., Rück., and most others]; or, the first, discourse in general, and the second, discourse in particular, viz., the proclamation of the Gospel [so Hodge]. Less probable is the opinion of de Wette [adopted by Alf.], who takes the two words as designating the same thing but in distinct aspects; the former his style and course of argument, the latter his announcement of Gospel facts and conviction of their certainty.was not.—The verb here has to be supplied; either ἐãÝíåôï for 1Co_2:3, or ἧí , meaning: was not furnished with (Luk_4:32); or: did not consist in. The character of his speech and preaching is described, 1, negatively—not in the persuasive words of wisdom, ïὐê ἐí ðåéèïῖò óïößáò ëüãïéò .—[ ἀíèñùðßíçò man’s, is a gloss, inserted most probably through a failure to perceive that the word thus far has been used in a strict and single sense, and from the consequent opinion that it needed some qualification. “Wisdom” is, all through, “synonymous with philosophy.”] The adjective ðåéèïῖò has, from the earliest times, proved a stumbling block. It is found no where else in all Greek literature, though its use is warranted by analogous forms, as öåéäüò from öåßäïìáé . But the explanation, which would take ðåéèïῖò as a substantive, in the sense of: persuasions, and put óüößáò ëüãïéò in apposition, is inadmissible, if only for this reason, that the plural of ðåéèþ no where occurs. Hence have arisen manifold conjectures for changing the ordinary reading, none of which are well grounded, not even the suggestion so acutely maintained by Semler, Rincke, Fritzche, that the original read thus: ïὐê ἐí ðåéèïῖ óïößáò in fitting antithesis to ἐí ἀðïäåßîåé ðíåýìáôïò , since it is decisive against this, that this reading no where appears alone without ëüãïéò or ëüãùí . Even in the ordinary reading, “wisdom” may be regarded as expressing the main idea, inasmuch as 1Co_2:5 demands this. ðåéèüò , otherwise ðéèáíüò [and as Meyer suggests, “probably a word in common, oral use.”]=convincing, winning, enticing, comp. ðéèáíïãïãßá , Col_2:4. [Corinthia verba, pro exquisitis, et magnopere elaboratis et ad ostentationem nitidis. Wetstein ad loc.] 2, positively—but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.—“Demonstration” stands in strong contrast with “persuasive words,” since the word is often used elsewhere also to denote strong, cogent proof in opposition to winning speech. The way in which it is to be taken here, depends upon the manner in which we construe the associated genatives. These express either the object of the demonstration or its subject. In the former case the phrase would mean the practical exhibition of the spirit, as the source of spiritual life, renewing, enlightening and sanctifying, and of the power which resides in this spirit and which it imparts to man. In the latter case, the Spirit must be regarded as dwelling in the Apostle himself, and working through him, displaying His power in the facts he proclaimed, by rendering them effective to salvation. What ability he had to convince and convert would thus be ascribed to the living energy of the Spirit whose minister he was. In this way, as Neander says, “the demonstration furnished by the Spirit would be in contrast with that presented through words, and the demonstration of power with that of logical argumentation. It is the testimony of the Spirit which alone Paul admits as valid.” This interpretation is to be preferred, since in the antithetic clause “wisdom” is to be regarded as the subject or source whence the persuasive words originate, or which begets and presents them. Hardly deserving of more than mention are expositions like that which takes “Spirit and power” as equivalent to: powerful spirit, or which explains the “demonstration of the Spirit” to consist in the proof afforded by prophecies, and that “of power” in the miracles Paul wrought (Origen and Grotius). Even were prophecy and miracle to be thought of in this connection still they could not by any means have been exclusively intended. In any case, the reference must primarily have been to that moral power from above which ever accompanied the preaching of the Apostle, and which acted upon the hearts and consciences of his hearers, awakening, agitating and quickening them to a new life. In all this there was a demonstration of a higher sort, more influential for faith than the strongest arguments of philosophy.

1Co_2:5. Expressive of ultimate intent both of God in sending Him to preach as He did, and of Himself acting in compliance with it,—that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.—The end of preaching is faith in Christ. But if this faith was grounded upon human wisdom and its arguments and persuasions, which were only a superficial assent, then would the foundation be loose. It could remain only until assailed by strong arguments of a contrary sort. But if, on the other hand, faith rested upon a Divine demonstration, which while it convinced, converted also, and so took possession of the whole man, it was then fixed and immovable, and could victoriously withstand all the assaults of human power and art.

[“Longinus alludes to the abrupt and unsystematic style on which the Apostle prides himself. ‘Paul of Tarsus was the first who maintained positive assertion without elaborate proof.’ ”—Stanley].


1. The nature of faith in Christ.—It is a trustful surrender of soul to Him; a conviction concerning Him, which involves at the same time a union with His person, even as He is offered unto us for our salvation—hence, with Him as “the crucified.” It is a reception of Him in such a way that He dwells in us and we in Him. But this pre-supposes a renunciation of all self-confidence, and of all trust in any thing creaturely and human, whether it be in the line of action, or permission, or of suffering, as available before God for working out or earning salvation, or for establishing and restoring our fellowship with God. It is an act which can proceed only from a mind renewed and strengthened by the might of Divine love, since God’s Spirit and power are operative in it, showing and convincing the sinner on the one hand of his own guilt and insufficiency for himself, and on the other hand of the holy and compassionate love of God, His saving righteousness and His almighty grace in Christ; and this, too, in a way to take down all boasting, and beget an implicit reliance upon God alone.

2. The sole means to produce faith.—This is a style of preaching which presents the great facts of redemption directly to the heart in their simple Divine energy, without the accessories of human science and art. In such preaching, God’s Spirit and power can bear testimony, and glorify Christ, and bring to man’s consciousness the greatness, and holiness, and wisdom, and glory of His redeeming love in such a manner as to qualify the heart for an exercise of faith. Wheresoever, on the contrary, human rhetoric with its artifices, and human philosophy with its speculations, are mingled up with Gospel truth, there offered some obstruction is to the operation of the Divine power; there some purely human influence, such as the charm of style or of fine reasoning, it may be, supersedes the Divine influence, and we fail of being drawn into the sphere of the truth itself, “as it is in Jesus;” there human selfishness and pride still have free scope. As the result, we have instead of a firm and lasting faith, only a feeble, sickly opinion, which is ever ready to yield to counter-influences, or to changed humors, or to new systems of thought; which does not carry in itself the life of man in Christ, or of Christ in man; which is not heavenly, but earthly, not deeply rooted, but superficial, and ever ready to vanish away.

3. The mood and attitude of the Christian preacher. He who clearly perceives what faith is, and what is requisite for it, and what depends on it; who sees what barriers of every kind, especially of false culture and foolish pride, oppose themselves to it; who understands how the pure and artless preaching of Christ alone has power to awaken faith, and yet what prejudices there are against such preaching, and how little it is acceptable to men, especially to the highly educated classes, and to those who either practise or tolerate the grosser or more refined forms of wickedness, and how the whole life and being of a man strives against the truth which seeks to slay their selfishness and their sensuality,—a person who comprehends all this as he ought, will recognize and feel it to be a task transcending all human ability, and too difficult for him in the imperfection of his spiritual life, to go abroad into the world, especially into the circle of the refined and learned, as a simple preacher of Christ crucified, and there maintain his stand. The persons he there meets, seek their satisfaction in art, and science, and learning; they take delight in luxury and sensual enjoyment; and the knowledge of this fact abates confidence, takes away boasting, begets timidity, awakens anxiety, yea bows a man to the very dust with a sense of his own weakness. But for this very reason does he become all the more suitable an instrument for Christ. The more emptied he is of self, the more can God impart to him of His spirit and power, and work in him and through him, the more will he be disposed to cherish a holy courage and confidence in God. With “the foolishness of preaching” he will be ready to encounter a world full of obstacles, and find himself strong enough to overthrow all its bulwarks, while he will feel ashamed to resort to secular arts for gaining an entrance for himself. And the earnest endeavor of every one, through whom God achieves exploits, is to become just such a simple instrument of the Spirit in subduing the hearts of men through the word of truth, and winning them to Christ.


[1. Paul the pattern of an Evangelical preacher. On entering Corinth Paul was confronting his severest task. He had just left Athens, where, notwithstanding his brilliant audience and great speech on Mars Hill, he had met with comparatively small success. We read of no Church having been found there. And now he is to offer the Gospel in a city that presented in many respects far greater obstacles than Athens did. In addition to the pride of philosophy there was to be encountered here a degree of luxury and vice no where else to be found. And if there was failure at Athens, how much more the likelihood of failure at Corinth? It is in view of these discouragements, that the picture which the Apostle has given us of himself obtains its peculiar interest. The main features of it are 1. His inward feelings. He is not bold, defiant, self-assured, as an earthly warrior pushing up to an assault. On the contrary, he is much cast down, conscious of weakness, full of fear. To the outward sight, there is every thing against him. But while the flesh trembles, the spirit has courage to go on, being trustful in God. 2. His determination as to the course to be pursued. a. He will not cater to the tastes of the Corinthians, and think to win them by gratifying these. Fine oratory and subtle philosophy, however capable of these, he lays aside. They are not the means for winning faith, for saving souls. b. He will simply proclaim the testimony of God, holding up Christ in all His glory, and in all His shame, as the only means which God hath appointed to make man wise and holy, believing that however much this might scandalize the natural heart, it was the demonstration of God’s spirit and power which would alone prove mighty for the overthrow of Satan, and the setting up of God’s kingdom. 3. His aim. The faith he might awaken should rest in nothing he might say or do of himself, but solely in the exhibition which God should make of Himself through the Son whom He had set forth, and whom Paul was intent on holding up before the minds of men even to the utter hiding of himself from view].

2. Heubner:—The Christian must first unlearn in order to learn. To preach Christ the Crucified is to put Him and His atoning work at the top, to set all truth in connection with these, and to derive all good from these (1Co_2:2). Self-diffidence in a preacher helps more than self-confidence. It is a great thing to stand in place of God and proclaim His word in presence of angels and men (1Co_2:3). Christianity is sufficient for itself and needs no adventitious aids. No preacher should so far humble himself as to seek these, nor should the people expect them. What is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power? (1Co_2:4). It is the conviction of sin and of the need of a Saviour, which the Spirit works in the heart through the Gospel. This is something which no man can effect of himself. Hence what the preacher has preëminently to strive for, is that the Spirit may operate through his word; and the hearers, that they may experience this heavenly power. In order that the preacher may make “demonstration of the Spirit,” he must have the Spirit. A faith which rests upon regard for a philosopher Isaiah 1, impure—a man’s name is put for Christ’s; 2, unsafe and fickle—human systems crowd each other out; 3, inoperative—the Spirit of God is not its source; 4, not genuine—science has no faith-begetting power. Therefore a Christian’s faith should not rest upon scholastic wisdom, but on the power of God renewing the heart. What a person has experienced within cannot be argued out.

Hedinger:—Christ Crucified the preacher’s Alpha and Omega. Away with finery and feathers! Let the Spirit of God speak in thee. He knows how to hit the heart (1Co_2:2). Those conductors to salvation who have been proved in the furnace of affliction are the best approved. To the mariner on a wild sea, experience is every thing. To have only studied maps at school will prove of little account (1Co_2:3).

Gossner:—The death of Christ must be recognized and credited. This is what captivates the heart, and kindles the fire that burns. Faith in the Son of God is the greatest miracle of grace. It is a great consolation that here and there one soul that hears us is made to experience the power of Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of sins. He who preaches Christ crucified must himself be ready for a crucifixion. Paul trembled while preaching that which blessed the world. Many false teachers, who betray the world and lull it into a death sleep, speak with bold front and without sense of danger.

Rieger:—It is a question whether ministers do not try too much to conceal their weakness and fear, and are not too assiduous in filling up the gaps and pauses with artificial efforts; whether they do not shrink too much from the criticism of the world, when it insists so strenuously upon calmness, fluency and ease in a speaker. But where there is life, there will be fluctuations. Living growth has to break through obstructions.

[Chalmers:—A minister has no ground to hope for fruit from his exertions until in himself he has no hope; until he has learned to put no faith in the point and energy of his sentences—until he feel that a man may be mighty to compel the attention, and mighty to regale the imagination, and mighty to silence the gainsayers, and yet not mighty to the pulling down of strong holds].

[Tholuck. 1Co_2:1-5. Paul a type of the true preacher. 1. Contents of his sermon, 1Co_2:2. II. Tone of the preacher. Theremin, 1Co_2:2. The knowledge of Christ the crucified. It includes a threefold knowledge. I. What man is. II. What God is. III. What man should be. Chalmers. 1Co_2:4-5. The necessity of the Spirit to give effect to the preaching of the Gospel. I. Success of the teacher dependent on God in the ordinary branches of learning. II. The specialty in the work of the Christian teacher.]


1Co_2:1.—Instead of ìáñôí ́ ñéïí . others, according to good and ancient authorities [A. C. Cod. Sin. Syr.], read ìíóôÞñéïí . But it is more probable that this arose from a gloss suited to 1Co_2:7, than that ìáñôí ́ ñéïí could have crept in here from 1:6; at the same time only a few authorities read ìáñôí ́ ñéïí ôïí ͂ ÷ñéóôïí ͂.

1Co_2:2.—The received ôïí ͂ åßäåíáé ôé is not well authenticated, and the order ôß åἰäÝíáé is confirmed by B. C. D. E. Ä .and many other decisive authorities. [Wordsworth says: “ ôὶ , which is emphatic, is rightly placed before åßäÝíáé by B. C. D. E. and by Griesbach, Scholz., Lach., Alf., Meyer. Indeed åßäÝíáé ôὶ ἐí í ̔ ìῖí would have been liable to an inconvenient interpretation: to know what is in you.”]

1Co_2:4.—The received áíèñùðßíçò has the balance of authorities against it [and is omitted by Griesb., Scholz. Lach., Tisch., Meyer.] Other variations in this ver. (e. g.) ðéèáíïῖò for ðåéèïῖò etc., can hardly be regarded as any thing more than conjectures of an older or a later date, (See below.)

[Why de Wette’s view should be termed “less probable,” when it is in perfect consistency with the use of the terms thus far, it is difficult to see.]