1 Corinthians 2

These notes are based on the NASB text.

2:1 [Paul’s approach to the Corinthians…] And when I came to you [refers to Paul’s first visit to Corinth (AD 51) during his second missionary journey; Paul founded church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-18)] brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech [the way Paul used words; did not pattern himself after great orators who gained a following on the basis of their oratorical skills] or of wisdom [the words Paul used; did not pattern himself after great philosophers who gained a following on the basis of their philosophical skills], proclaiming to you [note the content of Paul’s message…] the testimony of God.

2:2 [Paul’s aim while with the Corinthians…] For I determined to know nothing among you except [note Paul’s simple message…] Jesus Christ [Christ alone is worthy of our devotion and admiration and loyalty], and Him crucified [the cross is at the heart of God’s redemptive activity; Paul wanted for people to see Jesus clearly].

2:3 [Paul’s attitude among the Corinthians (2:3-5)…] And I was with you [ Corinth was a big and wicked city] in weakness and in fear and in much trembling [Paul recognized that he was personally inadequate to evangelize a wicked city like Corinth].

2:4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [Paul wanted for his listeners to be impressed with Jesus, not with how great a preacher Paul was; his desire was that people see Christ and glory in Him], but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power [Watchman Nee stated, “Divine work can only be done in dependence upon divine power.”],

2:5 that your faith should not rest on [Paul wanted for the Corinthians to have the right foundation for their faith] the wisdom of men, but on the power of God [cf. Rom. 1:16].

Here we see…

[1] Paul’s approach to the Corinthians (2:1). When he first went to Corinth he did not pattern himself after great orators or philosophers who gained a following on the basis of their philosophical and oratorical skills.

[2] Paul’s aim while with the Corinthians (2:2). Paul determined to preach Christ alone. He did not want for “the word of the cross” to be obscured in oratorical, pedantic, or philosophical fog. He wanted for people to see Jesus clearly.

[3] Paul’s attitude among the Corinthians (2:3-5). Corinth was a big and wicked city. Paul had never preached in a city so large with such a wicked reputation. He experienced the fears that any human being would experience in going to preach the Gospel in such a setting. But he approached his assignment to preach the gospel there in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Watchman Nee stated, “Divine work can only be done in dependence upon divine power.” That certainly describes Paul’s attitude while in Corinth. Paul’s sincere hope was that the faith of the Corinthians “not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” “When the Corinthians heard Paul preach about Christ, they did not say, ‘What a great preacher Paul is.’ Instead, they declared, ‘What a great Christ Paul serves.'” ( Brian Harbour, Bible Book Study Commentary).

2:6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature [those growing in their understanding of God’s Word]; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away;

2:7 but we speak God’s wisdom [as opposed to man’s] in a mystery [a truth hidden in the past but now revealed to God’s people], the hidden wisdom, which God predestined [redemption was not an afterthought on God’s part] before the ages to our glory;

2:8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age [perhaps a reference to the spiritual and political leaders who did not recognize who Jesus was] has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

2:9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” [our minds cannot begin to conceive or understand God’s wonderful plan for our lives]

2:10 For to us God revealed them [spiritual truths] through the Spirit [see John 16:13] ; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

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 [and it is only through the aid of the Holy Spirit that a man can understand the things of God].

2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world [that is, the spirit of human wisdom and power], but the Spirit who is from God [we receive the Holy Spirit upon being born again], that we might know the things freely given to us by God,

2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit [Paul was speaking what he had been taught by the Holy Spirit], combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

2:14 But a natural man [the unbeliever] does not accept [does not have experiential knowledge of; Charles Finney said “they are deaf men judging music.”] the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [to examine and scrutinize].

2:15 But he who is spiritual [that is, a Spirit-controlled man] appraises all things [he is able to understand the word of God because of the Holy Spirit], yet he himself is appraised by no man [the world, however, does not understand the believer and why he lives as he does].

2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? [the obvious answer is “no one”] But we have the mind of Christ [which enables us to understand God better than the natural man].

The world does not understand the cross — God’s divine plus sign. Skeptics, philosophers, and others throughout history have tried to subtract from Christ’s work on the cross. Even the Koran states that Jesus was not crucified (Surah 4:157). That is no small assertion but rather one that has enormous implications. If Jesus was not crucified and subsequently raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).

When Paul arrived in Corinth, he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2). He could have easily impressed his Greek listeners with eloquent speech, his brilliant mind, and his persuasive skills as a debater. He did not. Instead, Paul preached the message of the cross in simple and clear terms in dependence on the Holy Spirit. He did not want or need for others to comment on what a great speaker he was. Paul preferred that his listeners focus on Christ and His redemptive work on the cross.

Paul told the Corinthians that those who depend on the spirit of the world, or human wisdom, cannot know what has been freely given to us by God — salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When Paul talked about Jesus he did not use words taught by human wisdom because these words are inadequate to explain God’s wisdom. Instead, he used the language of the Spirit—spiritual words—to explain spiritual truths.

Many who heard Paul’s message thought it was foolish. That is because the natural man, or those who are not Christians, cannot understand God’s truths. Before I became a Christian, a young man in one of my high school classes shared his Christian beliefs with me. I could not understand why he believed or lived as he did. Later, when I became a Christian, what that young man had shared made sense to me. God’s Holy Spirit, who lives in believers, helped my understanding. With the Spirit’s help, the message of the cross made perfect sense to me.

Paul said that those who are Christians have the mind of Christ. Christ is the basis and means of understanding and interpreting the meaning of life. His mind was plainly revealed at the cross. Having the mind of Christ affects how a person thinks and lives and enables believers to understand life from Christ’s point of view. However, if believers are to have the mind of Christ, they need to spend time consistently in His presence and in His Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to instruct them.

Believers should seek and trust God’s wisdom as revealed in the Bible. For the believer, spending time in personal and corporate Bible study is not an option. There are no shortcuts to becoming a person who has spiritual insight and discernment. The Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual insight. Only people whom God’s Spirit teaches (John 14:26; 16:13) are able to understand spiritual truths. Those whom the Spirit instructs have the mind of Christ. We must therefore do more than occasionally open our Bibles if we want to have the mind of Christ. We must diligently study and ask God to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word (Ps. 119:18).

Practical Considerations

Keep your eyes on the One who made the message possible.
The Corinthians lost sight of the One who made the message of the Gospel possible. Instead they focused on the messenger. Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christ alone is worthy of our devotion and admiration and loyalty.

Do God’s work in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
Paul did not do God’s work in dependence upon his own strength or natural abilities. He labored for God in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. His desire was that people see Christ and glory in Him.

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