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1 Corinthians 2

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Proclaiming Christ Crucified Christ Crucified Christ Crucified The Message About Christ on the Cross The True Wisdom and the False
        (1:17-3:4)
2:1-5 2:1-5 2:1-5 2:1-5 2:1-5
The Revelation by God's Spirit Spiritual Wisdom Spiritual Wisdom God's Wisdom  
2:6-16 2:6-16 2:6-13 2:6-12 2:6-9
        2:10-16
      2:13-16  
    2:14-16    

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS ON I CORINTHIANS 2:1-16

A. There were some in the church at Corinth who were very intellectually oriented (i.e., first century rhetorical traditions). Into this context of overemphasized human knowledge and performance, Paul begins in chapter 1 with an emphasis on the grace of God (as he also does in Eph. 2:1-10). Yet, he admitted that wisdom and knowledge are also among the gifts of God. In chapter 2, Paul continues on this theme by emphasizing revelation versus human discovery. As the Corinthians had no claim on the knowledge they possessed, they equally had no claim on the means of attaining that knowledge.

 

B. Basically, chapter 2:1-16 is an amplification of chapter 1:18-25.

 

C. Verses 10-16 can be understood as referring to several categories of spiritual insight or revelation. God has acted so as to reveal Himself to us (i.e., revelation, vv. 10-12); He has chosen certain men to record and explain His acts (i.e., inspiration, v.13), and finally the Spirit enables Bible readers to understand the main truths of His revelation (i.e., illumination, vv. 14-16).

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: ILLUMINATION

SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT 2:1-5
   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. 2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

2:1 "brethren" This designation for believers is often used by Paul, consciously or subconsciously, to denote the next step in presentation of a truth or the presentation of a new truth (cf. 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 7:24; 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6, 20, 35; 15:1, 31, 50, 58; 16:15). The term would denote men and women of the Corinthian church.

NASB"I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom"
NKJV"did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom"
NRSV"I did not come proclaiming. . .in lofty words or wisdom"
TEV"I did not use long words and great learning"
NJB"I did not come with any brilliance of oratory or wise argument"

Paul is expressing the difference between himself (i.e., Paul at Corinth, cf. Acts 18:1-18) and the false over-emphasis on knowledge and rhetoric of some of the Corinthians who later became church leaders. Apollos, not Paul, was the polished rhetorician and they wanted Paul to emulate his public speaking style (see Bruce W. Winter, Philo and Paul Among the Sophists.  For "superiority" (huperochē) see Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S USE OF HUPER COMPOUNDS

NASB, NKJV"the testimony of God"
NRSV, NJB"mystery of God"
TEV"God's secret truth"

There is a Greek manuscript variant here. The Greek term musterion (mystery) appears in MSS P46, א*, A, and C. The word marturion (testimony) appears in the ancient manuscripts א2, B, C, D. If it is "mystery," this concept is described in 2:7; Eph. 2:11-3:13; and Col. 1:26-27, which is the union of Jews and Greeks through Christ into one family (i.e., the church). If it is "testimony," it is linking back to 1:6, which would be synonymous with "the gospel." The UBS4 gives "mystery" a B rating (i.e., almost certain).

The term "mystery" was used often in the first century Koine papyri found in Egypt in reference to the new initiate to secret knowledge available only to a special group (i.e., mystery religions). Paul takes this technical term and uses it in connection with those who have the Spirit (i.e., believers) and those who do not. There is no distinction at this point in Paul's presentation between believers (cf. 3:1). All are considered "the mature" (cf. 2:6).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MYSTERY

2:2 "I" In verses 1-5 Paul seems to be comparing himself with

1. his previous presentation of the gospel at Athens where he used Greek logic, even quoted their poets (i.e., first suggested by Origen, cf. Acts 17:16-34)

2. his presentation of the gospel versus those at Corinth who spoke with human wisdom and human rhetoric about spiritual matters

 

▣ "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" This is a perfect passive participle (cf. 1:23). There are two theological aspects revealed in this participle:

1. the perfect tense reveals that Jesus remains the crucified One. When we see Him, He will still have the scars. They have become His badge of glory (see note at 1:23).

2. the passive voice reveals that Jesus' death was

a. by the Father's agency and was His eternal plan (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29) for redemption (cf. Isa. 53:10)

b. by human sin and rebellion demanded a sacrifice (cf. Rom. 5:14-15,18-19)

The message about Christ's death on humanity's behalf is the central message of Paul's theology. The concept of a suffering and dying Messiah was foreign to traditional Jewish thought. This aspect of the gospel must have initially troubled Paul. How could YHWH's anointed One be cursed by God (cf. Deut. 21:23). Yet, this was part of the OT revelation (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Zech. 12:10). Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died in our place (cf. Rom. 5:18-19; II Cor. 5:21). He became the curse for us (cf. Gal. 3:13). Christ crucified for all is God's hidden mystery (cf. Col. 1:26-28; 2:2-4).

2:3 "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling" This may be an allusion to Exod. 15:16 in the LXX. Paul is showing us his inadequacies.

1. he was fearful because of his rough treatment at Philippi, Thessalonika, and Berea (cf. Acts 16-17)

2. he was disappointed at the results and possibly his methodology used in Athens (i.e., Origen's view from Acts 17:22-34)

3. his physical problem, probably eye trouble, caused him great difficulty (cf. II Cor. 12:7-9)

4. Paul's lack of faith and discouragement while at Corinth

Christ had to appear to Paul several times to encourage him (cf. Acts 18:9-10; 23:11; 27:23). His words and his physical condition were not what turned people to faith in Christ, but the gospel's appeal and the Spirit's power (cf. v. 4; 1:17; II Cor. 10:10).

It is helpful to me as a minister of Jesus Christ to realize

1. Jesus had His own discouraging moments (i.e., Gethsemane)

2. the Apostles often did not fully understand Jesus' teachings

3. Paul felt fearful and weak.

We must always acknowledge the weakness of the flesh yet also the tremendous power of the gospel and the presence of the Spirit! God's character and provisions are magnified through human weakness (cf. 1:26-29; II Cor. 12).

Paul's weaknesses are these very things that the false teachers in II Cor. 10-13 attacked Paul for. They magnified their strengths (i.e., education, social position, spiritual giftedness, speaking skills). Apparently Paul's writings were more rhetorically structured (i.e., II Cor. 10-13) and powerful than his oral messages. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEAKNESS at II Cor. 12:9.

2:4

NASB"not in persuasive words of wisdom"
NKJV"not with persuasive words of human wisdom"
NRSV"not with persuasive words of wisdom"
TEV"not delivered with skillful words of human wisdom"
NJB"not meant to convince by philosophical argument"

There are many variants of this phrase in the Greek manuscripts.

1. The first problem relates to the rare adjective peithois (cf. MSS P46, א, A, B, C, D), which is not found anywhere else in the Septuagint, Koine papyri, or the NT.

2. Some think the variants were caused by scribes who were unfamiliar with this adjective. They may have slightly changed its form to peithoi, which means "persuasion."

3. Some Greek manuscripts add "persuasion of men" (cf. 2:13 and MSS א2, A, C).

4. In some manuscripts the term "words" (i.e., logois or logos) is missing (cf. MSS P46, F, G and the Greek text used by Chrysostom).

It seems best from the general context to link this phrase with Paul's rejection of human rhetoric, logic, and wisdom (cf. 1:17; 2:1,13). However, the exact meaning of the word peithois remains uncertain (see NIDNTT, vol. 1, pp. 588-593).

▣ "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" This refers to the changed lives of the Corinthian converts. It also may relate to the presence of confirming signs that often attended Paul's preaching of the gospel (cf. Acts 13:11; 14:10; 16:18,28; 19:11-12; 20:10). See note on capital or lower case "s" spirit at 2:11.

2:5 For Paul, mankind's only hope was in the grace of the Father, the finished work of the Son, and the power of the Spirit. In other words, God Himself is the only true foundation for salvation. God's revelation, not human discovery; God's wisdom, not human eloquence or logic, are the only source of confidence.

For Paul, God's gospel and fallen mankind's appropriate covenantal responses (i.e., repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance) are the keys to eternal life.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:6-13
  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; 7but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the 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; 9but 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." 10For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11For 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. 12Now 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, 13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

2:6 "Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature" Paul may

1. be using sarcasm here relating to the Corinthians' overemphasis on human wisdom and their view of their own "maturity" (cf. George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 383-385)

2. this may relate to the baby believers of 3:1-4 which Paul relates to the worldly factious spirit in the church

3. In Eph. 4:13 this very term, teleios, describes mature believers as over against children (i.e., literally "infants" Eph. 4:14). Notice also 14:20; Phil. 3:15 and Heb. 5:14

See how the word is used in Hebrews from the Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: END OR FULL (TELOS)

"a wisdom, however, not of this age" This is Paul asserting the Jewish interbiblical concept of two ages: the current evil age, dominated by fallen humanity, and the age of righteousness to come, dominated by the Messiah. Human earthly wisdom is basically presuppositional and changes from culture to culture and period to period. See Special Topic on the concept of the two Jewish ages at 1:20.

▣ "nor of the rulers of this age" It is possible that this phrase refers to angelic ranks or Gnostic aeons (cf. Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15, BAGD, p. 114, #3; F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 90). It seems more in line with this context to interpret these as human leaders (cf. v. 8; Acts 3:17; Rom. 13:1-2; see Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, pp. 82-83). It is so hard to know if Paul is speaking purely of human logic or the demonic activity behind human logic; both are present. Humans are influenced because of their fallenness (cf. Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:14; Eph. 2:2), but they are also influenced by the presence of supernatural evil (i.e., angelic and demonic, cf. II Cor. 4:4; Dan. 10).

NASB"who are passing away"
NKJV"who are coming to nothing"
NRSV"who are doomed to perish"
TEV"powers that are losing their power"
NJB"who will not last long now"

This is a present passive participle of the term which means "to be made inoperative" (cf. 1:28; Rom. 6:6). Paul uses this term twenty-seven times. If this refers to human authorities, they will die. If this refers to angelic authorities, this age will pass away into the new age of righteousness. See Special Topic: Null and Void (Katargeō) at 1:28.

2:7 "but" This is a strong adversative "alla." Paul's wisdom and power were from God.

"God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom" This wisdom is from God (i.e., Theos is fronted, or placed first, in the Greek text for emphasis); this is hidden wisdom (i.e., perfect passive participle, cf. Eph. 3:9); this mystery has now been clearly manifested in Christ (cf. Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3-5; Col. 1:26). This uncovered secret (i.e., the gospel) emphasizes God's revelation versus human discovery (cf. Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 1:9-10; 3:3-5; Col. 1:26; 2:2-3). The most comprehensive definition of this mystery is that Jew and Gentile are united in one new people of God (i.e., the church, cf. Eph. 2:11:-3:13). See Special Topic: Mystery at 2:1.

NASB"which God predestined"
NKJV"which God ordained"
NRSV"which God decreed"
TEV"which he had already chosen"
NJB"which God predestined"

Even before creation God already had His plan of redemption (cf. Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; Eph. 1:4; I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8 and also Acts 2:13; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29). The term translated here "predestine" is a compound of the preposition "before" and "to set bounds" (cf. Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29,30; Eph. 1:5,11).

The definitive passages on predestination in the NT are Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 9; and Eph. 1:3-14. These texts obviously stress that God is sovereign. He is in total control of all things, including human history. There is a preset divine redemption plan being worked out in time. However, this plan is not arbitrary or selective. It is based not only on God's sovereignty and foreknowledge, but also on His unchanging character of love, mercy, and undeserved grace.

We must be careful of our western (American) individualism or our evangelical zeal coloring this wonderful truth. We must also guard against being polarized into the historical, theological conflicts between Augustine versus Pelegius or Calvinism versus Arminianism.

Predestination is not a doctrine meant to limit God's love, grace, and mercy, nor to exclude some from the gospel. It is meant to strengthen believers by molding their worldview. God's love is for all mankind (cf. I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). God is in control of all things. Who or what can separate us from Him (cf. Rom. 8:31-39)? Predestination forms one of two ways to view life. God views all history as present; humans are time-bound. Our perspective and mental abilities are limited. There is no contradiction between God's sovereignty and mankind's free will. It is a covenantal structure. This is another example of biblical truth given in paradoxical, dialectical, tension-filled pairs. Biblical doctrines are presented from different perspectives. They often appear paradoxical. The truth is a balance between the seemingly opposite pairs. We must not remove the tension by choosing one of the truths. We must not isolate any biblical truth into a compartment by itself.

It is also important to add that the goal of election is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now (cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:10)! We were chosen to be "holy and blameless." God chooses to change us so that others may see the change and respond by faith to God in Christ. Predestination is not a personal privilege, but a covenantal responsibility! We are saved to serve!

"before the ages" The phrase "before the ages" is an OT idiom referring to eternity past. It corresponds to the Hebrew term 'olam, which can mean eternity, past or future. It can also denote a limited period of time. It must be translated in context. Its translation is related to its object (i.e., God, OT covenant promises, earthly life, the wicked, etc.).

This is also true for the NT Greek translations aiōn, aiōnios, eis ton aiōna, which follow the Septuagint's translation of 'olam. God is eternal, but physical things (i.e., the heavens and earth) will pass away (cf. II Pet. 3:10). As with all words, but especially 'olam and aiōn, the context is crucial and determines the translation.

For interesting discussions of "eternality" see Robert B. Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 312-319 and F. F. Bruce's, Answers to Questions, pp. 202-203.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('OLAM)

▣ "to our glory" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA)

2:8 "if" A. T. Robertson, in Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 85, calls this a second class conditional sentence called "contrary to fact." A false statement is made to highlight a false conclusion, "If the rulers of this age had understood (i.e., perfect active indicative), which they did not, then they would not have crucified (i.e., aorist active indicative) the Lord of glory, which they did."

▣ "the Lord of glory" This phrase is used of YHWH in Acts 7:2; Eph. 1:17 and probably is an allusion to Exod. 24:16. A similar phrase is used of Jesus in James 2:1. This is another example of NT authors using a title of YHWH for Jesus and, thereby, asserting His equality with YHWH (cf. II Cor. 4:6).

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

2:9 "it is written" This is a Hebrew idiom (i.e., perfect passive indicative) for introducing an OT quote. Clement of Rome (i.e., The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians XXXIV), writing in a.d. 95, says it is a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 64:4 or possibly combined with 65:17 (cf. Isa. 52:15 and Jer. 3:16). Origen and Jerome thought Paul was quoting from a noncanonical book called Apocalypse of Elijah, which has almost completely been lost. The truth is that this quote/allusion fits no known OT text (the same is true of Matt. 2:23; John 7:38; James 4:5).

God has acted in ways that human beings could not ever have imagined (cf. Isa. 55:8-9), but now through the gospel and the Spirit they can by faith! What a wonderful promise!

▣ "heart" See Special Topic at 14:25.

2:10 "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit" The Father, through the Spirit, has unveiled (i.e., apokaluptō, aorist active indicative) this hidden mystery in Christ. All wisdom is in Christ (cf. 1:18-25,30).

Notice the Triune God in vv. 8-10: the crucified Lord of glory (i.e., Jesus), God (i.e., the Father), and the Spirit.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

▣ "for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" The emphasis here is on the full personality of the Spirit (cf. Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30). The Spirit is our only means of knowing God (cf. Rom. 8:26-27; 11:33-36). This is the continuing emphasis of the entire context that human means are unable to know God or the things (i.e., plans) of God. "Deep" is a metaphor of that which is (1) profound as opposed to shallow or (2) hidden beyond mankind's reach or discovery. The Spirit's work is crucial in conviction, salvation, and Christlike living (cf. John 16:7-14).

The phrase "the deep things of God" (NKJV) may have been a catchphrase of one the factions at Corinth. The deep things of God are available to all who exercise faith in Christ. There are no hidden secrets anymore. The gospel is revealed to all who will receive. There are no "deeper things," no elitism, no exclusivism!

This wonderful assurance of God's provision and care was exploited by later Gnostics, who claimed it as a proof-text for special knowledge (e.g., the non-canonical and Gnostic book of Ascension of Isaiah).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT

2:11-12 This is an example of the previously stated truth. Notice the first and third uses of "spirit" in this verse have a little "s," while the second use of "Spirit" has a capital "S." In the Greek text there is no way to distinguish capitals, therefore, this is the interpretation of the translators. A capital "S" would refer to the Holy Spirit and a small "s" to the human spirit (cf. 6:18; Rom. 8:16; II Cor. 2:13; 7:13; 12:18; Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23). This may be an allusion to Pro. 20:27.

2:12 "the spirit of the world" This is another connotation of the term kosmos (i.e., world, see Special Topic at 3:21b-22), human society organized and functioning without God (so common in John's writings). Today we would call it "atheistic humanism" (cf. v. 6). It is also called "spirit of slavery" in Rom. 8:15.

▣ "that we may know the things freely given to us by God" Believers can understand the gospel of Christ and their blessings in Him only through the Holy Spirit.

It is certainly true that in their fallen and temporal state even believers cannot fully, exhaustively know God, but can know and understand everything needed for salvation and godly living through the revelation of the Father, the person and work of the Son, and the illumination of the Spirit. Because we cannot know everything is no excuse not to embrace the clear truths of the Bible and walk in them.

It is also crucial that believers acknowledge that God's wisdom has been "freely given" (cf. Rom. 8:32). It is a gift of God which He desires to give to all humans made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), but now through rebellion are estranged from Him (i.e., Genesis 3). God's wisdom is not the result of human intelligence, social standing, or ingenuity, but the revelation of God's love and mercy through Christ's work and the Spirit's agency. Since Christ, ignorance is willful! The Holy Spirit brings light, truth, and salvation. The spirit of this world brings darkness, deception, and death.

2:13 "which things we also speak" It is crucial that believers share these God-given truths. They are life and light to a lost and dying world, a loved world which has been redeemed if only they will receive God's Son, God's truth! Revelation is primarily redemptive (cf. II Tim. 2:15) and then transformational (cf. II Tim. 3:16-17).

NASB"in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words"
NKJV"which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual"
NRSV"taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual"
TEV"we do not speak in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit"
NJB"in terms learnt from the Spirit, fitting spiritual language to spiritual things"

This is a very ambiguous phrase for several reasons. Before attempting to sort this out, remember the larger context is the key and not ambiguous details of Greek grammar or philology. The larger context relates to the mature believers (cf. v. 6). It contrasts human wisdom and knowledge with God's wisdom, which is Christ, and God's knowledge, which is expressed in the gospel. This is the main truth of chapters 1 and 2.

The Holy Spirit is an indispensable channel of communication (cf. John 16:8-14). He reveals spiritual truths to those who have trusted Christ and received the indwelling Spirit. In some ways Paul's discussion here is similar to Jesus' parable of the sower or soils (cf. Matthew 13). The gospel message is understood and responded to by receptive hearers, but rejected by unresponsive hearers.

The term pneumatikois can be neuter (i.e., spiritual things) or masculine (i.e., spiritual people). Another group of hearers is mentioned in the next verse, psuchikos (i.e., the natural or lost person). It is probable that the term in v. 13 refers to spiritual people. This same group is previously mentioned in v. 6 (i.e., teleiois, the mature or equipped believers) as well as v. 15 (i.e., where they are called pneumaikos). There seem to be three groups of people referred to in this context.

1. lost people

2. saved, but immature believers

3. mature believers

There is often no visible difference between # 1 and #2.

If so, then how does the Spirit communicate spiritual truths? The present active participle, sunkrinontes, is used in the Septuagint for interpreting dreams (cf. Gen. 40:8,16,22; 41:12,15; Jdgs. 7:15; Dan. 5:12; 7:15,16). However, this same Greek word in used only here and in II Cor. 10:12 in the NT having its normal sense of "comparing." Exactly how the Spirit communicates spiritual truth to spiritual people is ambiguous and because of that we should not become dogmatic or rigid on how to interpret this text. The great truth is that the Holy God seeks and accomplishes communication with fallen humanity (cf. v. 12). God is speaking, are we listening?

There is an interesting article on "Revelation and Scripture" in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 461-462. Here is but one paragraph.

"For the NT writers, revelation concerns truth. Truth is a function of language. In this way revelation and Scripture are inextricably joined in NT theology. Event and interpretation go together. The NT revelation as it concerns Jesus Christ involves not merely abstract and timeless ethical truths, or the subjective experiences of the disciples, but it has to do with events that are concrete, particular, and actual. The apostolic statement and interpretation of the events is the truth of the matter. The writers intend to convey to the reader what is actually the case-that is, to state what was going on in the things that were happening. Whatever charge may be made against the NT writers as to their religious beliefs, we much recognize that they claim to give us divine revelation expressed in human language (I Cor. 2:13)."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:14-16
  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. 15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

2:14

NASB"a natural man"
NKJV"natural man"
NRSV"those who are unspiritual"
TEV"the man who does not have the Spirit"
NJB"the natural person"

This is the opposite of a "spiritual person" referred to in 2:6,13 and 3:1. The term (i.e., psuchikos) is used several times in the NT where it refers to life on earth, life lived in relation to the five senses only (i.e., bios, life vs. zoē, life). The ikos ending means "characterized by" (cf. 3:3). It then could mean earthly vs. heavenly or unspiritual vs. spiritual (cf. I Cor. 15:44,46; James 3:15; and Jude v. 19).

NASB"does not accept"
NKJV, NRSV"does not receive"
TEV"cannot receive"
NJB"has no room for"

This Greek negated term means "rejects," "refuses to accept," "cannot comprehend," or "cannot make sense of." This term without negation is often used of welcoming a guest. This term (i.e., dechomai, cf. Luke 8:13; Acts 8:14; 11:1; 17:11; II Cor. 11:4; I Thess. 1:6; James 1:21) is synonymous with lambanō (cf. John 1:12; 12:48; 14:17). It does not relate to human ignorance, but to the incapacity of understanding spiritual truth!

This is the mystery of how/why some who hear the gospel respond and some do not. Is this rejection related to predestination or human volition? The answer is "yes," but exactly how these two relate is part of the dialectical nature of revelation itself (cf. Phil. 2:12-13, see Special Topic at II Cor. 8:16-17). I like what Frank Stagg, in New Testament Theology, says, "in the New Testament, the opposite of election is not non-election, but man's rejection of God's salvation" (p. 87).

"foolishness" See note at 1:25.

▣ "they are spiritually appraised" This is a legal term that speaks of the preliminary exhaustive examination before a trial (cf. Luke 23:14; Acts 12:19; 24:8; 25:26; 28:18) or to examine something carefully (i.e., the Scriptures, cf. Acts 17:11; food, cf. I Cor. 10:25,27). This same word occurs twice more in v. 15.

Believers endued with the Spirit are able to judge appropriately the things in both the physical and spiritual realms (cf. 1:22-25 and 2:2, also note 14:29 and I Thess. 5:20-21). However, the unspiritual of v. 14 cannot properly discern spiritual things, spiritual truths, or spiritual people.

2:15 "yet he himself is appraised by no one" This, of course, is the generic masculine form. Believers cannot be judged, yea even truly understood, by unbelievers (cf. 4:3-4). This may be a reference to some of Paul's enemies at Corinth (cf. 9:3). It is the indwelling Spirit who brings light through the gospel to reality, not this age's reality or physical reality, but God's reality!

2:16 This is an allusion to Isa. 40:13 in the Septuagint. In Isa. 40:3 the term "Lord" is the Divine name YHWH, but here Paul uses the quote to refer to Jesus (also note rom. 10:13 and Phil. 2:10-11).

This continues the contextual emphasis on the need of the Spirit for humans to "hear" the gospel and to understand spiritual truth. This context and John 14-16 are crucial in understanding the work of the Spirit of God.

Without the Spirit fallen humanity engages in speculations, myths, even demonically inspired false truths! Oh, the tragedy of world religions and human philosophy.

▣ "But we have the mind of Christ" The pronoun "we" is emphatic! This could refer to (1) Paul and his companions; (2) Christian preachers; or (3) mature Christians. This does not mean believers know everything Christ knows, but that the Spirit has opened our minds to His perspective, His priorities, His heart (cf. Rom. 12:2; Phil 2:5).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Define Paul's use of the word, "mystery" in this context.

2. What did Paul mean that he came in fear and great trembling to Corinth?

3. What was the evidence that Paul's preaching was empowered by God?

4. Why are the New Testament authors reluctant to describe heaven or hell in detail?

5. Explain the difference between "revelation," "inspiration," and "illumination."

6. List the three distinct ways Paul uses the term "spirit" in this chapter.

7. List the four distinct ways that Paul uses the term, "wisdom," in this chapter.

8. Look up v. 13 in several English translations. What do you think this verse teaches?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods