When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Simple and Straightforward. Paul came not with excellence of speech or wisdom, but with the testimony of God. Wisdom refers to man’s wisdom. Paul preached one message: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
It is worth noting that Paul had come to Corinth from Athens. It was at Athens that, for the only time in his life, as far as we know, he had attempted to reduce Christianity to philosophic terms. There, on Mars’ Hill, he had met the philosophers and had tried to speak in their own language (Ac 17:22-31); and it was there that he had one of his very few failures.
Some suggest that Paul seemed to say to himself, “Never again! From henceforth I will tell the story of Jesus in utter simplicity. I will never again try to wrap it up in human categories. I will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him upon his Cross.”
I disagree! It is not unusual to find out ‘where people are’ in their understandings and then seek to ‘teach them’ to a different place.
Not With Superiority of Speech. Paul preached the simple gospel in simple terms. The gospel is: the salvation God has provided for man through the death of Christ on the cross. The death of Christ is in the past, but the effect is ongoing even to today.
The Source of Paul’s Message. Paul explains that the message came not from him, but from God. Paul admits that he came with fear and trembling, so they had no reason to glory in him. The message was a demonstration of what the Spirit of God had taught him.
Here we have to be careful to understand. It was not fear for his own safety; still less was it that he was ashamed of the gospel that he was preaching. It was what has been called “the trembling anxiety to perform a duty.”
The very phrase which he uses here of himself Paul also uses of the way in which conscientious slaves should serve and obey their masters. (Eph 6:5). It is not the man who approaches a great task without a tremor who does it really well.
The really effective preacher is he whose heart beats faster while he waits to speak. The man who has no nervousness, no tension, in any task, may give an efficient performance; but it is the man who has this trembling anxiety who can produce an effect which artistry alone can never achieve.
The message was not a demonstration of the wisdom of man, but of the power of God. Paul did not rely on any type of trick with regard to the gospel, but simply let the facts speak for themselves.
Paul’s approach in Corinth.
- His method (v. 1) – Did not use human rhetoric (eloquence).
- His message (v. 2) – Simple, clear and frank presentation of both the person of Christ and His redemptive work.
- His manner (v. 3) – In weakness, in fear, in trembling.
- His means (v. 4) – Not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit of power.
- His motive (v. 5) – So that your faith may be not in the wisdom of man but in the power of God.
No one can argue against the proof of a changed life. It is our weakness that too often we have tried to talk men into Christianity instead of, in our own lives, showing them Christ.
Paul’s actions in Corinth were purposeful, not accidental or haphazard. It was not that Paul was ignorant or uneducated, nor was it that Paul only knew about Christ and Christ crucified (verse 2). Paul determined that this was all he would know while ministering in Corinth (or anywhere else). He chose to limit his knowledge to those truths which would save men from their sins and transfer them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
God’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of This Age (2:6-9)
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–
The wisdom which Paul proclaimed was not of this world; for it was worldly wisdom which caused Christ to be crucified.
- Mature – Those who have reached a certain goal in their lives; for they have honestly accepted and obeyed the message of Christ.
- The immature reject the message of Christ; preferring the wisdom of man.
The Nature of God’s Wisdom. “We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery.”
Salvation was purchased by the Son, but it was planned by the Father. Those who talk about “the simple Gospel” are both right and wrong. Yes, the message of the Gospel is simple enough for an illiterate pagan to understand, believe, and be saved. But it is also so profound that the most brilliant theologian cannot fathom its depths.
“Mystery” – That which would not have been known if it had not been revealed. Before God created anything, He thought about and planned our eternal destiny through His Son (Ephesians 3:3-5).
The Rejection of God’s Wisdom. Rulers of this age were motivated by worldly wisdom. Paul refers back to the Jewish leaders. If they had based their wisdom solely on God’s word, they would have accepted Christ as the Messiah.
The idea did not originate with man, but with God. The idea originated with God before the foundation of the world. God reveal them through the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God.
Let’s notice the characteristics of this wisdom.
This wisdom comes from God, not man (v. 7). This wisdom tells the mature saint about the vast eternal plan that God has for His people and His creation. The wisest of the “princes of this world [age]” could not invent or discover this marvelous wisdom that Paul shared from God.
This wisdom is hidden from the unsaved world (v. 8).
Who are “the princes of this world [age]” that Paul mentions? Certainly the men who were in charge of government when Jesus was on earth did not know who He was (Acts 3:17; 4:25-28). When Jesus on the cross prayed “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He was echoing this truth. Their ignorance did not excuse their sin, of course, because every evidence had been given by the Lord and they should have believed But there is another possibility.
Judaism, under the rule of the chief priests, in an uneasy relationship with Herod Antipas, ‘the king of the Jews’, played their part by keeping the local people on side with Rome’s decision.
The satanic forces, including Satan himself, did not understand God’s great eternal plan! They could understand from the Old Testament Scriptures that the Son of God would be born and die, but they could not grasp the full significance of the cross because these truths were hidden by God. In fact, it is now, through the church, that these truths are being revealed to the principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10).
Satan thought that Calvary was God’s great defeat; but it turned out to be God’s greatest victory and Satan’s defeat! (Col. 2:15) From the time of our Lord’s birth into this world, Satan had tried to kill Him, because Satan did not fully understand the vast results of Christ’s death and resurrection. Had the demonic rulers known, they would not have “engineered” the death of Christ. (Of course, all of this was part of God’s eternal plan. It was God who was in control, not Satan.)
This verse is a quotation (with adaptation) from Isaiah 64:4. The immediate context relates it to Israel in captivity, awaiting God’s deliverance. The nation had sinned and had been sent to Babylon for chastening. They cried out to God that He would come down to deliver them, and He did answer their prayer after seventy years of their exile. God had plans for His people and they did not have to be afraid (Jer. 29:11).
Paul applied this principle to the church. Our future is secure in Jesus Christ no matter what our circumstances may be. In fact, God’s plans for His own are so wonderful that our minds cannot begin to conceive of them or comprehend them! God has ordained this for our glory. It is glory all the way from earth to heaven!
For those who love God, every day is a good day…God will use it for good or cause all things to work out for good. It may not look like a good day, or feel like it; but when God is working His plan, we can be sure of the best. It is when we fail to trust Him or obey Him, when our love for Him grows cold, that life takes on a somber hue. If we walk in God’s wisdom, we will enjoy His blessings.
How God’s Wisdom Is Revealed (2:10-13)
“…but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
Paul shared deep things:
- Things that are for the “mature” (teliois).
- Things that are not “from” the pagans or the
- Things that are “of” God.
- Things that are a “mystery” and have been “hidden.”
- Things which manifest the eternal plan of God.
- Things that cannot be “discovered” by men.
- Things prepared by God only “for those who love Him.”
The Holy Spirit and Revelation. The Holy Spirit brought these things into view.
“Deep things of God” – The very core of God’s mind. Includes God’s redemptive plan. The Spirit revealed the entire plan of redemption and so we cannot expect additional revelation from God on the subject. These are just some of the ‘deep things of God.
God revealed them through the Holy Spirit. This has always been the work of the Holy Spirit.
- The Old Testament writers wrote and spoke by Him (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 1:11).
- The prophets spoke by the Spirit (cf. Micah 3:8).
- Jesus also spoke by the Spirit (Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38).
- His apostles and prophets did the same (John 16:12-14; 1 Peter 1:12).
2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Who really knows the thought of a man except the man himself; by the same token who knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit understands the mind of God. Therefore it became the Holy Spirit’s function to reveal that thought process to men such as Paul, who delivered it to man through the spoken and written word.
Promises Made By Jesus Regarding Inspiration
- Matthew 10:19 – The apostles were promised that whatever words they needed would be given to them by God.
- Luke 12:11-12 – The Holy Spirit will teach the apostles how and what they were to say.
- John 16:12-15 – The Holy Spirit will remind the apostles of all that Jesus taught and will guide them into all truth.
NECESSITY OF SPIRITUAL RECEPTION OF GOD’S WISDOM (2:14-16)
The Natural Man (v. 14). Unspiritual one who does not welcome openly and freely the things (ideas taught by the apostles in verse 13) of the Spirit.
They are foolishness to him. He cannot know them because they are spiritually examined. He views life physically.
The word accept (NIV), in verse 14 means to receive as a guest, to welcome one openly and freely.
The Spiritual Man (v. 15). “One who is governed and filled by the Spirit of God.” (Thayer p. 523)
- His identity – spiritual.
- His ability – judges all things.
- His immunity – judged by not man.
- His secret – possesses mind of Christ (cf. Philippians 2:5ff).
Spiritual Understanding Prohibits Glorying In Men.
If the church understood the spiritual message of the redemptive nature of the cross, they could not glory in the men who brought the message and thereby cause division.