1 - 7 Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden [wisdom] which God predestined before the ages to our glory;
V1. It would not have been difficult for a man like Paul to win the Corinthians for the gospel through the means of an impressive speech. He was an experienced speaker, who also knew how people in his time were thinking. He easily could have adapted himself to that way of thinking. With his talent he could have presented the gospel in an attractive and pleasant way. He then would have, however, not preached the testimony of God, but something they would have loved to hear. In that way he himself would have been honored. Paul refused that. The important thing for him was the testimony of God and not something of himself or of any other man.
V2. Paul knew very well whom he was dealing with when he went to the Corinthians. He knew that there was only one way to win them for Christ and that was by presenting Him as the crucified One. Do you see that he did not preach redemption so much, but the cross? Christ was the content of his preaching, but he preached Christ in His most humiliated condition. He presented Him as the crucified One. There is not much credit to be gained by that, is there? Why not just say: there is completely no credit to be gained by that. The cross is the most disgraceful death you could ever think of. In such a way Paul is telling them they became believers at that time. That was not due to his excellence in argumentation, but because he preached Christ as the crucified One to them.
They had somewhat forgotten that and that’s why they got impressed again by different things that honor people. You came across those things in chapter 1, things like wisdom, honor and power. Paul didn’t want to have anything to do with those things because for him those things were already judged in the cross of Christ.
V3. He didn’t come to them as a hero, as somebody in whom they could glory or be proud of. Weakness, fear and much trembling were the feelings he had when he was with them. Those are not feelings that make you to be admired in this world. In the world you have to be tough and make yourself important and above all, not to allow anyone to walk over you.
V4. Because Paul did not seek his own interests or stand up for his own rights, he could be used by the Holy Spirit, Who could empower his words. For that reason their faith was not in human power, but in God’s power. If your faith is supported by any human source, it will definitely fail some time.
V5. Nobody, no matter how well-educated or wise he may be and how excellent his speech may be, could ever put the necessary strength to his words so that you can live. Only God’s power can keep you going and keep you on the right way and bring you safely to the final goal of your life. You can and should hold on to that.
V6. Now the Corinthians should not think that Paul couldn’t speak with wisdom. Not half he could! But Paul also knew where he could do that. That was not with them, but among the mature or perfect. You might now say: ‘Oh, then he can’t speak to me either, for neither am I perfect.’ That is yet the question. Actually in the Bible the word ‘perfect’ is used in different ways.
Like in Hebrews 10 for example, “for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb 10:14). There it is about your position before God. Through the offering of the Lord Jesus (His reconciling death) God sees you as perfect, because He imputes the perfect work of the Lord Jesus to you. Nobody can detract the value of that offering for God. Therefore nobody can detract something from your position before God. You are and remain perfect because God sees you in the perfect offering of Christ.
In Philippians 3 you read about a perfectness you do not have yet, but that lies in the future (Phil 3:12). That has to do with your life on earth, where you may suffer and have pain. In heaven it will not be like that. There everything is perfect.
In Philippians 3 you also read about perfectness in a third way (Phil 3:15) and this is also the way it is meant here. The perfect or mature that are meant here, are Christians who want to give Christ the first and only place in their lives. They don’t want to give room in their lives anymore to things concerning the world, such as wisdom, honor and power. Because the Corinthians still gave room to those things, they couldn’t be considered “mature” or “perfect”.
Does this mean that you will not be interested in anything of the world anymore? That is not what it means, for your old nature, the flesh, will continually try to draw your attention to wisdom, honor and power. Should you notice this in yourself – or if maybe somebody else points that out to you – just confess that immediately to the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus loves to offer you far more than the fact that He has finished everything for you as the crucified One. He loves you to enjoy what He is now in heaven as the glorified Man at God’s right hand. You can read about that in the letter to the Colossians and in the letter to the Ephesians. There you read about ‘Christ’, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) and about “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10). Do you think that you would understand anything of that when you were still occupied with the wisdom of the world, or when you were still impressed by the rulers of this world? All of that will be totally put away; nothing will be left of that.
V7. Although Paul cannot go further into this, he yet mentions some significant aspects related to the wisdom of God.
Firstly this wisdom is “in a mystery”. That means that this wisdom is not visible. You cannot observe it in the world around you. But this wisdom is not only a mystery to the unbelievers; it is also a mystery to the believers who think and live worldly, or who still value the wisdom of the world in a way. The wisdom of God is a “hidden [wisdom]” for the intellect of man. He cannot understand that.
Secondly, this wisdom of God is an eternal matter. You cannot refer to a certain time in the past that God has received wisdom. It is a wisdom that is equally eternal as He Himself is.
Thirdly, God has predestined this wisdom for us. Therefore He intentionally thought of you as somebody to whom He wanted to give this wisdom. Could you imagine that without being mind-boggled and praising Him in your heart?
Fourthly, it is a wisdom that serves to your glory. Of your own you did not have and have not any glory, nothing pleasant or attractive. That has changed through the wisdom of God. In God’s eye you now have glory. This glory is nothing else than God’s own glory with which He clothed you in the Lord Jesus. Therein His wisdom is being exposed.
How God has given you glory is to be read in John 17. There the Lord Jesus says to His Father: “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them” (Jn 17:22). The more you are occupied with the Lord Jesus, the more the glory of God’s wisdom will radiate from your life. And that is what God would love to see.
Now read 1 Corinthians 2:1-7 again.
Reflection: What attracts you more: the wisdom of the world or God’s wisdom in a mystery? Why?
8 - 16 What God Has Prepared
8 [the wisdom] which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And [which] have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 For to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 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. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual [thoughts] with spiritual [words]. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
V8. The rulers of this world, mainly the religious leaders of Israel, were completely blind. Because their eyes and mind were set on their own concern, their own honor and fame among the people, they were blind for the wisdom of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Who stood there before them and Who could be seen and touched. Therefore it is inconceivable that they would have crucified “the Lord of glory” if they would have had the slightest notion of Who He was and why He had come, would they? You may have such a good knowledge of everything and know the Bible very well, just as the pharisees and scribes did, but if you are filled with your own personal importance, you become blind for the glory of the Lord Jesus!
V9. Then you will also lose the perception of “what God has prepared for those who love Him”. The things that God has prepared for those who love Him, are not things you are able to observe with the natural eyes or to be heard with your ears. Neither are they things that have come out of man’s heart. Every input of the natural man, that is the man without God, is excluded here. It is about things that God had prepared.
V10. If you read verse 9 superficially, you might think: ‘This is too lofty and too incomprehensible for us. It’s better not to be occupied with “what God has prepared”, it is after all, a hopeless task.’ But that is the result of reading superficially. Verse 10 actually says that “to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit”. Therefore there is no excuse for not immersing yourself in the things that God had prepared. The Spirit is totally willing to tell you about them. The point is that your heart is focused on God, whether you love Him, for He has prepared them “for those who love Him”. It is a fact that if you really love somebody, you want to know him or her better. That is also the case with our love for God.
You wouldn’t know anything of the things that God has prepared for you if God did not reveal them. God could have kept them all to Himself and show them only to you when you would be with Him in heaven. But God did not do that. He revealed or made them known now already. He did that through the Spirit.
V11. Here the Spirit is called “the Spirit of God”. To clarify what he means, Paul makes a comparison with the spirit of man. The truth is that nobody knows the inner of a man than his own spirit. Only you know by your own spirit what is happening inwardly. You are the only one who is aware of the questions and problems you are pondering on or why you are joyful and happy. All other people have no idea of that and are not able to know that. The only way that they could know is when you tell them.
In this same way God is operating to tell you what He has given to you. Only the Spirit of God knows what is going on in the depth of God’s heart, regarding His thoughts about and feelings for you personally.
V12. That Spirit you have received! Therefore you are able to discover what the things are that God has given to you. You have received the precise ability to search those things. The spirit of the world – which you did not receive – you find back in what men have invented or what the devil has whispered in their ear. With that spirit you will absolutely not understand one bit of the things of God. The spirit of the world doesn’t know anything about it and is in no way related to the things of God. In fact the spirit of the world is in flat contradiction with the things of God.
V13. From verse 13 you read about the means God used to reveal to you what He had in His heart. To do that God did not use human wisdom, for no man should receive glory for that. So no man could say: ‘How clever those people are, who can pass on such lofty things.’ What again is the issue here? It is about spiritual things. Who is the One Who could tell about them? Only the Spirit.
To tell us what is given to us by God, the Spirit uses spiritual words. What words are they? Were they unintelligible sounds? No, they were normal, ordinary words, but to which the Spirit gives a spiritual meaning.
V14. Those are words that are foolishness to the natural man. He cannot understand it at all. Just examine that. Does an unbeliever understand what you’re talking about when you tell him about your relationship with God and how your life has been changed since you’ve known the Lord Jesus? No, he does not, does he? Why not? You speak your mother’s tongue, the same language as the other one and yet you’re not being understood. That’s because the things of God’s Spirit are foolishness to him. He cannot understand them, for they are spiritually discerned and to discern something spiritually you need to have the Spirit of God.
It’s about two totally different worlds. In the one world, the spiritual world, the Lord Jesus is centered and the language of the Spirit is being spoken. In the other world, the natural world, where man and his own concern are centered, the language of the flesh is being spoken. These two worlds have nothing in common.
V15. Now you have become a believer, you can understand the way of living and thinking of people from the natural world, for you used to belong there. Now you are able to appraise things, but he who does not have the Spirit, can neither appraise nor understand you. It is only possible through the Spirit to appraise all kinds of things.
To summarize this important teaching of the apostle about the revelation of the wisdom of God, we can say this:
1. First there is the revelation by the Spirit (verse 10).
2. Then it is followed by the message, the way it reaches us: that happens through spiritual words (verse 13).
3. Finally it is being accepted by spiritual people (verse 14).
V16. The previous seems to sound rather proud. You would almost think that you have become equal to God. The last verse of this chapter brings clarity. There is nobody who has ever known the thinking of the Lord so that he would be able to teach the Lord about something. That would sound very impertinent. There are people who think that God did it all wrong. Once I heard somebody say: ‘If I were God, then everything would have looked different.’ Such a person thinks that he could teach God something, but in fact he, of course, does not have the slightest notion of God.
But you as a believer have received the new life, a new nature. Christ is your life and therefore you have the mind of Christ. You are able now to see and appraise things as Jesus Christ always did and still does. It is important to know that therefore you are able to appraise everything, because you have now received Christ as your life. You surely understand that you are to live close to the Lord Jesus in the practice of your faith life, in order to also give room for ‘His mind’. That was what the Corinthians failed to do, as you will see in chapter 3.
Now read 1 Corinthians 2:8-16 again.
Reflection: Which things do you read here about the Spirit?