The Work of the Spirit
The Gospel Preached in the Power of the Spirit
2:1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.
Paul's preaching demonstrated the apparently foolish message of the cross was the power of God for salvation, for when he came to Corinth he had not made fine speeches in order to gain the admiration of his hearers. He did not have the type of erudite wisdom which typically appealed to his Greek hearers. Instead Paul saw himself as a herald, proclaiming what God had done for man's salvation through Christ; and so he preached the gospel simply and plainly, without style or sophistication. Yet it was by so doing that he gained many converts for Christ.
Leon Morris says "(it was) precisely because his preaching was so simple and unpretentious (that) its results convincingly demonstrated the power of God."
2:2 For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Paul had no need to show off his knowledge, or try to persuade men of the facts about God’s kingdom by means of intellectual argument; for he knew that the only power adequate to save men was contained in the message of the cross. Paul would much rather win a soul for Christ that win an argument and so he concentrated all his thoughts on Jesus Christ. As a result of this, his only message was of the anointed Saviour who was crucified, but who lives again, and is able to save men and women utterly from their sins. The word crucified is the perfect participle, and so does not denote the historical Christ, but the ever-living Christ in His character as the crucified one (see notes for 1:23). Whenever a man is taken up with such a glorious theme, he becomes too full of Christ to be full of self.
2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.
Paul had experienced a great deal of opposition to his gospel before he arrived in Corinth, and so he was understandably disheartened. As he entered Corinth he may have thought "who will pay any attention to my message in this rich, idolatrous, and morally corrupt city?" He could not hope to impress the Corinthians by his personal appearance, nor overwhelm them with a display of self-confidence. Yet despite his fears and feelings of inadequacy, Paul was still willing to speak for Christ, and this displayed the great courage which had been given to him by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord understood that Paul felt intimidated by the crowds of this large pagan city, so he gave Him this word of encouragement through a vision:
"Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city." (Act 18:9-10)
Some commentators have alleged that mighty apostle’s fear was not so much a fear of men, but of God. Kay says that his fear was in the light of "an anxious desire to fulfil his duty". But if this were the case then the words of Christ in Acts 18:9-10 would seem inappropriate and unnecessary. Paul’s aim in sharing this with the Corinthians is to present himself more accurately – he is not a “great and mighty” apostle, but a simple, ordinary, and weak apostle.
2:4 My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
Neither the content nor the method of Paul’s preaching was convincing or remarkable by human standards. Paul preferred to depend on the Spirit of God than employ the methods of men. The term demonstration signifies a most rigorous proof. "Some proofs indicate no more than that a conclusion follows from the premises" (Morris); but in the case of this demonstration, "the premises are known to be true and therefore the conclusion is not only logical, but certainly true" (Robertson and Plummer). There were no ifs, buts, or maybes in Paul's preaching; and so it carried a sense of sincerity and conviction produced by the Spirit of God.
2:5 So that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.
God has chosen to make His gospel known through feeble human vessels so that the hearers' faith might be in the God who gave the message rather than in the herald who delivers it. It is through the gospel that we are called to put our faith in God. We may hear this message from other people, but when we believe, we believe in God (1 Thess. 2:13).
God's Purposes Made Known through the Spirit
2:6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing.
The gospel of Christ does not correspond to this world’s sort of wisdom for it is the wisdom of God, and not of men. Yet among those who knew the Lord and were established in the faith, the apostles' preaching made plain the substance of God's all wise plan, as it has been revealed in Christ (Eph. 3:4).
Paul never burdened his young converts with too much teaching too soon. Knowing their limitations, he instructed them bit by bit. None of us can grasp all the implications of our faith when we first believe. We are like infants who must be fed a small quantity at a time so that we can grow. God has provided His Word so that we can develop and become mature in our spiritual understanding. By making here a distinction between mature and immature believers, Paul does not imply that there are two classes of Christians. He simply recognises that all Christians are at different stages of growth. Maturity is not for the privileged few, but for all. Our aim should always be to grow in the Lord (2 Pet. 3:18).
None of the rulers of this age were able to comprehend God's wisdom. It is uncertain whether Paul is referring to human rulers of the world or to the invisible satanic powers which manipulate them, but in any case the source of the wisdom which Paul preaches is so much higher than that of either men or demons (whose rule over this earth will come to a permanent end - is passing away) that it remains incomprehensible to them all.
2:7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory.
God's wisdom is totally different to the wisdom of this era. It was God's plan before the beginning of time to rescue sinful men and women from their sin and to reconcile them to Himself through the death of Jesus Christ. It was not for Himself, but for us, to bring us to eternal blessing and glory, that God sent His Only Son. Paul pronounces this to be a mystery - not a riddle needing to be solved, but a truth that can only be accepted by revelation. It was hidden up until the time that Christ came, but it has now been revealed through Jesus Christ. Even so, those who are outside of Christ are still in the dark about it, for only in Christ is the veil of ignorance taken away (2 Cor. 3:14).
2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Since God makes His wisdom known through Christ, those outside of Christ cannot understand it; which is why Jesus said of His executioners "they know not what they do" (Luke 23:24). Paul reasons that if they had understood who Jesus really was and what the consequences of rejecting Him would be, they would never have done what they did (Acts 3:17).
Some affirm that it is the demonic rulers and satanic forces which inspire and control earthly rulers which are in Paul's thoughts here; and if such were the case it may be argued that if they had known the hidden wisdom of God (that the death of Christ would disarm them and become the means of deliverance for lost souls) then they would not have inspired men to kill Christ.
2:9 But just as it is written, "Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him."
Paul quotes Isaiah to show that nothing we have seen, heard, or dreamed of could ever come near being equal with the wonderful things which God has planned for those who love him. The words “has prepared” support the theme of 1 Cor. 2:7 - that God is working out a deliberate plan. Believers do not share in eternal glory by chance, but in accordance with God's eternal purpose (Rom. 8:28).
2:10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
Whilst we cannot imagine the glory to come, God has given us a foretaste of it by the Holy Spirit, who reveals eternal things to us (John 16:13). No man can boast in his knowledge of eternal things, for no amount of study or effort can uncover what the Spirit of the Lord has chosen to reveal to us (Matt. 11:25).
When Paul says the Spirit searches the deep things of God, he does not mean that He searches in order to find out; but that the Spirit fully understands the deep things of God. The Spirit knows all that God is, has, and does. God is absolutely immeasurable (Rom 11:33); yet the Spirit comprehends all things, and knows the deepest thoughts and wishes of God's heart intimately.
2:11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man's spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
None of us know what is going on inside another man's heart for only he can know that. We can only guess what other people are going through, but they don't guess, they know. No one else can know the hidden fears, aches, or longings of another individual's heart (Prov. 14:10). In the same way, only the Spirit who is God can understand the heart and mind of God, for the Spirit knows God completely.
This passage attributes the full deity of God to the Holy Spirit. It likewise affirms the gospel to be genuine; for since the Spirit who reveals truth of the gospel is God, the gospel itself must be the truth of God.
2:12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.
Another privilege which believers have (which those outside of Christ cannot hope to attain) is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God has given His Spirit to us so that we might apprehend the things which God has freely given to us. The Spirit brings us the assurance that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16) and teaches us all things relating to God (John 16.13-15). Genuine knowledge belongs only to believers; since we have been given the source of all truth: the Holy Spirit.
2:13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
God reveals His truth to individual believers for the benefit of the whole church, and of all mankind. We must pass on to others what we have received from God. Whether we are preaching God's Word to believers or witnessing to the unconverted, we are conveying something which we have personally received from the Holy Spirit. That is why it is fresh and alive! Indeed, as Morris claims, "the Spirit's activity extends to providing actual words used, and is not confined to the supplying of general ideas."
Good preaching is a bringing together of sacred words to convey spiritual meaning. The Holy Ghost is the author of the Bible, and the Bible contains a full and accurate revelation of the whole counsel of God. Sadly, many contemporary preachers have discarded Biblical expressions and illustrations, supposing that by doing so they will appeal to a wider or younger audience. Is there any wonder that the Church and the world are left starving for want of spiritual nourishment? Only God breathed words can convey spiritual truth. Those of us who are preachers and pastors should bear in mind that the Bible is our all sufficient spiritual tool kit. Dr. Stephen F. Olford was right when he observed (in one of his superb radio broadcasts) that “99% of all spiritual problems amongst God’s people can be resolved by the systematic preaching and teaching of the Word of God.”
Spiritual Discernment the Endowment of the Spirit
2:14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Those outside of Christ are incapable of receiving revelation from the Spirit of God. They only know what they see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. They reject the things of God as foolish, for they have no capacity to comprehend them. It is quite impossible to appreciate what is spiritual unless we are born again. Jesus said "no man can see (that is, perceive or understand) the kingdom of God (spiritual things) unless he is born again." (John 3:3)
However, there is one revelation which God would have all unconverted men and women to receive. Through the message of the gospel, God the Holy Spirit reveals to an unbeliever his or her sinful state and urges him or her to trust Christ as Saviour. When he or she does so, the Spirit performs the inner work of regeneration, and the person is born of God.
2:15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one.
A spiritual man is not a person endowed with great spiritual gifts or understanding; it is a reference to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. All those who are born of the Spirit are in this sense spiritual. When the Holy Spirit works within somebody’s life to form Christ in them, everything is changed (2 Cor. 5:17). It is not that their mental faculties are enhanced or that they become more intelligent, but that they are made to share in the Divine nature, (2 Pet. 1:4 and 1 John 3:2).and so are now able to appreciate the things of God.
"He that is spiritual is judged by no one." (NKJVTM) Paul does not mean that those who are born of the spirit cannot be held accountable for their actions. In this very letter, Paul repeatedly holds Christians to account. His argument is that the spiritual man cannot be understood by the natural man, and so he has no empathy with him. We are an enigma to the unbelieving, they just can't make us out. A Christian friend once told me of a psychology student who admitted "I am unable to psycho analyse you!" The believer has the Spirit of God but since the unbeliever does not he is at a disadvantage. Because they cannot understand what motivates us, they cannot fathom us out, and may well think we are mad, or at least a bit odd!
2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This quote is taken from Isa. 40:13. How can an unsaved person understand a Christian? The unsaved person cannot understand the experience of salvation which we have had, for we can only appreciate an experience once we have had it!
Believers share the mind of Christ, and since we know God, we can easily identify with others who know God. This is the reason why barriers of race and language ought to be more easily overcome in Christian communities than outside them; for the bonds that unite us are far stronger than the differences which might otherwise divide us.
Mind of Christ does not mean that we can understand all the thoughts of Christ, but that God's indwelling Spirit reveals Christ to us and in us. We no longer see things from the world's point of view, but from Christ’s, being controlled and motivated by Christ Himself.
Recommended for You - Further Reading in 1 Corinthians
Living Word - Out Now!
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