1 Corinthians 2




Paul’s Preaching (2:1-5)

1 The Greeks placed great value on eloquence and superior wisdom—that is, many philosophers among the Greeks, who spoke words of human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17), and who tried to persuade men to believe in their teaching.

But Paul’s preaching was not with eloquence or superior wisdom. Paul didn’t teach his own philosophy, his own ideas. Instead, in plain language he proclaimed the testimony about God;5 that is, he revealed the truth about Christ. God’s testimony is about His Son Jesus. For those who do not believe, Christ’s Gospel is something hidden, something hard to understand. It is a mystery that needs to be revealed (see Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:4-6,8-9; Colossians 1:25-27). And Paul revealed this “mystery” of Christ in clear and simple language.

2 In all of Paul’s preaching there was just one theme, and that theme was Jesus Christ. In this, Paul’s desire was that men and women might be drawn to Christ and put their faith in Him.

Paul didn’t preach only that Christ was God, but also that He was a man like we are, a man who died on a cross for our sins (see General Article: Jesus Christ). This was Paul’s Gospel, and it was all he preached. Indeed, in his preaching, Paul resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ; that is, he resolved to preach the Gospel of Christ as if he knew nothing else.

If Paul had wanted to speak with eloquence or superior wisdom (verse 1), he would never have mentioned the cross of Christ in his preaching, because to the Greeks the cross was foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18,23).

3 Corinth was a great city, and many rich and famous people lived there. Paul was an unknown foreigner, an ordinary man who went around preaching and making tents. He spoke in plain language (2 Corinthians 10:10). When Paul first went to Corinth, there was not a single Christian in the city. He was alone. Many opposed him (Acts 18:12). This is why Paul says here that he came to Corinth in weakness and fear, with much trembling.

4 But from Paul’s plain preaching came a demonstration of the (HOLY) SPIRIT’s power. When we are weak, then God’s power is more clearly demonstrated in our lives (see 2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9-10 and comments).

The Spirit’s power was demonstrated in Paul’s ministry in two ways. First, it was demonstrated in the many people who were moved to repent and to believe; that is, it was demonstrated in the building up of the church. Second, it was further demonstrated by the signs and miracles Paul performed as an apostle (see Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

5 When we Christians witness and preach, many who hear us say that our words are pleasing and comforting. They like to hear the Gospel. But those who listen only to be pleased have not really understood the Gospel. They do not understand that the Gospel is, in fact, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 4:20).

Therefore, let our preaching and speaking not be with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (verse 4), so that the FAITH of those who hear us might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can men and women be brought to true faith in Christ. When our preaching is focused solely on Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), then we can know that our listener’s faith will rest on the power of God.

Wisdom From the Spirit (2:6-16)

6 For those who are mature, that is, spiritual, Paul’s words are a message of wisdom. Paul does not speak the wisdom of this age or of its rulers. The rulers of this age are not only those rulers who exercise authority in this world, but also the authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

7 In one sense God’s wisdom is secret and hidden. It is like a mystery. Natural or unspiritual men cannot understand God’s wisdom. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we understand God’s wisdom, the Gospel (verse 14). The Gospel is fully revealed only to those who believe in Christ.

The Gospel is God’s wisdom, which He destined for our glory. Christ embodies God’s wisdom; Christ Himself can be called the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Through Christ we will be glorified (see Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 and comments). God made the decision to glorify us before time began—that is, before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

8 When Christ came into the world, God’s wisdom became fully manifest. The “mystery” was revealed; God’s wisdom was no longer hidden. But even though God’s wisdom was made manifest, most people still didn’t understand it. They rejected Christ. Their spiritual eyes were blind. Especially the rulers of this age were blind; otherwise, they would not have crucified Christ, the Lord of glory. The rulers of this age were the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor who actually put Christ to death; but the rulers also included the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12), the forces of Satan. For those who crucified Christ were surely under the control of Satan; they did not do their evil work alone.

9 Paul quotes here from Isaiah 64:4. What is it that God has prepared for those who love him—but which has been hidden from those who do not? It is salvation, eternal life, and glory; this is what God has prepared for those who love Him. And what God has prepared for us who love Him is greater and more wonderful than we can even imagine (see Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:20-21 and comments).

10 God has revealed it (His wisdom, the Gospel) to us through his (Holy) Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows the deep things of God, because the Holy Spirit is God’s own Spirit. Nothing is hid from the Holy Spirit.

11 We men cannot know what is in another man’s mind and heart; only that other man—that other man’s spirit—can know what is in his mind and heart. But if that other man reveals to us what is in his mind and heart, then we also can know it.

In the same way, we do not know what is in God’s “mind and heart.” Only the Holy Spirit knows. But just as another man might tell us what is in his mind and heart, so the Spirit of God reveals to us what is in God’s “mind and heart.” This is how believers know the thoughts of God; they know them by his Spirit.

12 We have received the Spirit who is from God, that is, the Holy Spirit; and through the Spirit we can understand what God has freely given us: His own Son, and together with Him, salvation, eternal life.

13 Paul here repeats the thoughts of verses 1,4-5. We believers do not speak in words taught by human wisdom; rather, we speak in words taught by the (Holy) Spirit. Thus our words are spiritual words. And when we speak in spiritual words, we shall express spiritual truths. Spiritual truths can only be expressed in spiritual words. If our words are truly spiritual, taught by the Spirit, then we shall always express spiritual truths. A man who is not taught by the Spirit cannot express spiritual truths; he cannot even comprehend them.

14 The unspiritual or natural man does not have the Holy Spirit; therefore, he cannot understand the things that come from the Spirit of God. Only through the Holy Spirit can we understand God’s thoughts (see John 8:47; 14:16-17; Romans 8:5,9 and comments).

15 The spiritual man is a true Christian. He has received the Holy Spirit. The “spiritual man” can understand and make judgments about both worldly things and spiritual things.

But the natural man, the man without the Spirit (verse 14), cannot understand the spiritual man nor make judgments about him. The spiritual man possesses the qualities of the Holy Spirit in his life, especially the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23). These things the natural man cannot fully understand; he cannot understand the source of these qualities. He cannot understand the concerns and priorities of the spiritual man. For this reason, the spiritual man is not subject to any (natural) man’s judgment.

16 Here Paul quotes from Isaiah 40:13 (see Romans 11:34). Just as the natural or unspiritual man cannot know the mind of God, so he cannot know the mind of us who are Christians—because true Christians themselves have the mind of God. That is, we have the mind of Christ. What an amazing truth! And so, since we have Christ’s mind, let us be diligent to use it!