Sunday, May 28th, 2023
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-corinthians-2.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 2:1-5
St. Paul's own method.
1 Corinthians 2:1
And I; "I too;" I in accordance with God's method. When I came to you. The date of his first visit was in A.D. 52, and he had stayed a year and a half (Acts 18:11). He had since been (roughly speaking) "three years" (τριετίαν, Acts 20:31) at Ephesus. Of speech or of wisdom. I spoke to you neither oratorically nor philosophically. Hence the Apollos party, fond of the brilliant rhetoric of the young Alexandrian, spoke of Paul's speech as "contemptible" (2 Corinthians 10:10). The testimony of God; that is, the witness borne to Christ by the Father (1 John 5:10, 1 John 5:11).
1 Corinthians 2:2
I determined. The unadorned simplicity of my teaching was part of a fixed design. Not to know anything. Not, that is, to depend on any human knowledge. Of course, St. Paul neither means to set aside all human knowledge nor to disparage other Christian doer, toes. His words must not be pressed out of their due context and proportion. Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Christ, in the lowest depth of his abasement and self sacrifice. He would "know" nothing else; that is, he would make this the central point and essence of all his knowledge, because he knew the "excellency" of this knowledge (Philippians 3:8)—knew it as the only knowledge which rose to the height of wisdom. Christ is the only Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). In the person and the work of Christ is involved the whole gospel.
1 Corinthians 2:3
I was with you; literally, I became or proved myself, towards you, as in 1 Corinthians 16:10. In weakness. St. Paul was physically weak and liable also to nervous weakness and depression (1 Corinthians 4:7-12; Galatians 4:13; 2Co 10:1, 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7, 2 Corinthians 12:10). He shows an occasional self distrust rising from the consciousness of personal infirmities. This enhances our sense of his heroic courage and endurance. Doubtless this physical weakness and nervous depression were connected with his "stake in the flesh," which seems to have been an acute and distressing form of ophthalmia, accompanied with cerebral disturbance (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 1:215-221). In fear, and in much trembling. Probably the words are even literally true, though they are a common phrase (2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 6:5). It must be remembered that in his first visit to Corinth St. Paul had gone through stormy and troubled days (Acts 18:1-12).
1 Corinthians 2:4
My speech and my preaching; the form and matter of my discourse. He would not attempt to use the keen sword of philosophical dialectics or human eloquence, but would only use the weapon of the cross. Was not with enticing words of man's wisdom; rather, with persuasive words of wisdom (the word anthropines is a gloss). This simplicity was the more remarkable because "Corinthian words" was a proverb for choice, elaborate, and glittering phrases (Wetstein). It is not improbable that the almost total and deeply discouraging want of success of St. Paul in preaching at Athens had impressed him mere strongly with the uselessness of attempting to fight Greek philosophers with their own blunt and imperfect weapons. In demonstration of the Spirit and of power. So he says to the Thessalonians," Our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." The plain facts, so repellent to the natural intellect, were driven home with matchless force by spiritual conviction. The only heathen critic who has mentioned St. Paul's method is Longinus, the author of the treatise on 'The Sublime and Beautiful,' who calls him "a master of unproved dogma," meaning apparently that his force lay in the irresistible statement of the facts which he came to preach.
1 Corinthians 2:5
In the power of God. So in 2 Corinthians 4:7 he says that the treasure they carried was "in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us."
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
The apparent foolishness is the only wisdom.
1 Corinthians 2:6
Howbeit. In this passage he shows that in reality a crushing irony lay in his description of the gospel as being, in the world's judgment, "weak" and "foolish." It was the highest wisdom, but it could only be understood by the perfect. Its apparent folly to the Corinthians was a proof of their blindness and incapacity. Among the perfect. The word either means
(1) the mature, the full grown, as opposed to babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1); or
(2) the fully initiated into the mysteries of godliness (ἐποπται 2 Peter 1:16). A wisdom not of this world; literally, of this seen. The word kosmos means the world in its material aspect; aeon is read for the world in its moral and intellectual aspect. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3:19). Nor of the rulers of this world. Some have taken these "rulers" to be the same as "the world rulers of this darkness," i.e. the evil spirits, in Ephesians 6:12 (John 13:27; Luke 22:53). Ignatius (?) seems to have understood it thus; for he adopted the strange notion that "the prince of this aeon" (i.e. Satan) had been deceived and frustrated by the incarnation from a virgin, and the death on the cross (Ignat., 'Ad. Ephesians,' 19). It means more probably "wisdom," as understood by Roman governors and Jewish Sanhedrists, who treated the Divine wisdom of the gospel with sovereign contempt (Acts 4:27). That [who] come to nought; literally, who are being done away with. Amid all the feebleness of the infant Church, St. Paul saw empires vanishing before it.
1 Corinthians 2:7
In a mystery; that is, "in a truth, once hidden, now revealed." The word is now used for what is dark and incomprehensible, but it has no such meaning in the New Testament, where it means "what was once secret, but has now been made manifest" (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:4, Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; 1 Timothy 3:16). It implies the very reverse of any esoteric teaching. Hidden. It was "hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed to babes" (Matthew 11:25). Before the worlds; literally, before the ages; before time began. Unto our glory. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews clearly states that "the future age" is in God's counsels subjected, not to the angels, but to man. But "our glory" is that we are "called to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus" (1 Peter 5:10).
1 Corinthians 2:8
Had they known it; literally, had they recognized; had they got to know it. The apostles often dwell on this ignorance as being in part a palliation for the sin of rejecting Christ (see especially Acts 3:17; Acts 13:27; comp. Isaiah 2:1). Jews and Romans, emperors, procurators: high priests, Pharisees, had in their ignorance conspired in vain to prevent what God had foreordained. The Lord of glory. This is not a mere equivalent of "the glorious Lord," in Psalms 24:10. It is "the Lord of the glory," i.e. "the Lord of the Shechinah" (comp. Ephesians 1:17, "the Father of the glory "). The Shechinah was the name given by the Jews to the cloud of light which symbolized God's presence. The cherubim are called, in Hebrews 9:5, "cherubim of glory," because the Shechinah was borne on their outspread wings (see, however, Acts 7:2; Ephesians 1:17). There would have been to ancient ears a startling and awful paradox in the words "crucified the Lord of glory." The words brought into juxtaposition the lowest ignominy and the most splendid exaltation.
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written. The whole sentence in the Greek is unfinished. The thought seems to be, "But God has revealed to us things which eye hath not seen, etc., though the princes of this world were ignorant of them." Scriptural quotations are often thus introduced, apart from the general grammar of the sentence, as in the Greek of 1 Corinthians 1:31. Eye hath not seen, etc. The Revised Version is here more literal and accurate. The quotation as it stands is not found in the Old Testament. It most resembles Isaiah 64:4, but also vaguely resembles Isa 53:1-12 :15; Isaiah 65:17. It may be another instance of a loose general reminiscence. "Non verbum e verbo expressit," says St. Jerome, "sed παραφραστικῶς eundem sensum aliis sermonibus indicavit." St. Chrysostom regards the words as part of a lost prophecy. Origen, Zacharias of Chrysopolis, and others say that the words occurred in an apocryphal book, the 'Apocalypse of Elias,' but if so the apocryphal writer must have had the passage of Isaiah in his mind. Some regard the words as a fragment of some ancient liturgy. Origen thought that they came from the 'Revelation of Elijah.' They were also to be found in the 'Ascension of Isaiah' (Jeremiah on Isaiah 64:4). and they occur in the Talmud. In a curious fragment of Hegesippus preserved in Photius, that old writer indignantly repudiates this passage, saying that it is futile and "utterly belies (καταψεύδεσθαι) the Holy Scriptures and the Lord, who says, 'Blessed are your eyes which see, and your ears which hear.'" Photius cannot understand why (ὅτι καὶ παθὼν) Hegesippus should speak thus. Routh hardly knows how to excuse him; but perhaps if we had the context of the fragment we should see that he is attacking, not the words themselves, but some perversion of them by heretics, like the Docetae. The phrase, "As it is written," decisively marks an intention to refer to Scripture. Neither have entered into the heart of man; literally, things which have not set foot upon the heart. The general thought is that God's revelations (for the immediate reference is to these, and not to future bliss) pass all understanding. The quotation of these words as referring to heaven is one of the numberless instances of texts inaccurately applied.
1 Corinthians 2:10
But God hath revealed them unto us. They are secret no longer, but are "mysteries which now it is given us to know" (Matthew 13:11). By his Spirit. The Spirit guides into all truth (John 13:16). In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 St. Paul attributes every gift of wisdom directly to him. Searcheth. "How unsearchable are his judgments!" (Romans 11:33). Yea, the deep things of God. This expression, "The depths of God," passed into the cant expression of the Gnostics, and it may be with reference to their misuse of it that St. John uses the phrase, "The depths of Satan" (Revelation 2:24). "Oh, the depth," etc.! (Romans 11:33).
1 Corinthians 2:11
The things of God none knoweth. Some manuscripts have not the same word (οῖδεν) as that rendered "knoweth" in the earlier clause, but "hath learnt" (ἔγνωκεν); comp. Joh 21:17; 2 Corinthians 5:16. All that is meant is that our knowledge of God must always be relative, not absolute. It is not possible to measure the arm of God with the finger of man.
1 Corinthians 2:12
The spirit of the world. The heathen world in its heathen aspect is regarded as under the power of the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:12). Freely given to us by God. The word "freely" is here involved in the verb (χαρισθέντα) "graciously bestowed." It is different from the phrase used in "Freely ye have received," which is gratuitously (δωρεὰν, Matthew 10:8). All God's gifts are "without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1), and not "to be bought with money" (Acts 18:20).
1 Corinthians 2:13
Comparing spiritual things with spiritual. The meaning of this clause is very uncertain. It has been rendered, "Blending spiritual things with spiritual" (Kling, Wordsworth), i.e. not adulterating them with carnal admixtures (2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Peter 2:22). "Interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men". "Explaining spiritual things in spiritual words." This meaning the Greek will not bear, but Calvin and Beza get the same meaning by rendering it, "Adapting spiritual things to spiritual words." It is doubtful whether the Greek verb (sunkrinontes) can be rendered "comparing,'' which comes from the Vulgate, comparantes. Wickliffe has the version, "Maken a liknesse of spyritual things to goostli men, for a besteli man persuyved not through thingis." The commonest sense of the word in the LXX. is "interpreting'' (Genesis 40:8, etc.), and the best rendering is, "Explaining spirituals to spiritual men." If it be supposed that the verb συγκρίνω acquired the sense of "comparing" in Hellenistic Greek (2 Corinthians 10:12; Wis. 7:29; 15:18), then the rendering of our Authorized Version may stand.
1 Corinthians 2:14
The natural man. The Greek word is ψυχικὸς (psychical); literally, soulish, i.e. the man who lives the mere life of his lower understanding, the unspiritual, sensuous, and egoistic man. He may be superior to the fleshly, sensual, or carnal man, who lives only the life of the body (σωματικὸς); but is far below the spiritual man (πνευματικός). St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:23) recognizes the tripartite nature of man—body, soul, spirit. Receiveth not; i.e. "does not choose to accept." He judges them by the foregone conclusions of his own prejudice. Because they are spiritually judged. The organ for the recognition of such truths—namely, the spirit—has become paralyzed or fallen into atrophy, from neglect; therefore the egoist and the sensualist have lost the faculty whereby alone spiritual truth is discernible. It becomes to them what painting is to the blind, or music to the deaf. This elementary truth is again and again insisted on in Scripture, and ignored by sceptics (Romans 8:6, Romans 8:7; John 3:3; John 6:44, John 6:45; John 14:17; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6). This verse is sometimes used to depreciate knowledge, reason, and intellect. On that abuse of the passage, see Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 3.Ecclesiastes 8:4-11, an admirable passage, which Bishop Wordsworth quotes at length. It is, perhaps, sufficient to say that if God has no need of human knowledge, he has still less need of human ignorance.
1 Corinthians 2:15
Judgeth all things. If he can judge the higher, lie can of course judge the lower. Being spiritual, he becomes intellectual also, as well as more than intellectual. He can see into the difference between the dream and the reality; he can no longer take the shadow for the substance. He can not only decide about ordinary matters, but can also "discriminate the transcendent,'' i.e. see that which is best even in different alternatives of good. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him" (Psalms 25:14). He himself is judged of no man. He may be judged, condemned, depreciated, slandered every day of his life, but the arrow flights of human judgment fall far short of him. These Corinthians were judging and comparing Paul and Apollos and Cephas; but their judgments were false and worthless, and Paul told them that it was less than nothing to him to be judged by them or by man's feeble transitory day (1 Corinthians 4:3). "Evil men," as Solomon said, "understand not judgment" (Proverbs 28:5).
1 Corinthians 2:16
Who hath known the mind of the Lord? "The Lord" is Jehovah (see Isaiah 40:13, LXX.; Romans 11:34). This is the reason why no one can judge the spiritual man in his spiritual life. To do so is like judging God. We have the mind of Christ. So Christ himself had told the apostles (John 15:15); and St. Paul always claimed to have been taught by direct revelation from Christ (Galatians 1:11, Galatians 1:12). They had the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), and therefore the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
A faithful picture of a true gospel preacher.
"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech," etc. These words may be regarded as a faithful picture of a true gospel preacher.
I. The grand subject of his ministry is the CRUCIFIED CHRIST.
1. Christ crucified, because he is the highest revelation of God's love for man.
2. Christ crucified, because he is the most thrilling demonstration of the wickedness of humanity.
3. Christ crucified, because he is the grandest display of loyalty to moral rectitude. This is the theme—a personal "Christ crucified;" not a creed or creeds written in books. He himself; not the theories of theologians about him.
II. The grand subject of his ministry is TO HIM SOUL ABSORBING. "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The man who has some paramount sentiment looks at the universe through it, ay, and values the universe so far as it reflects and honours that sentiment. Hence to Paul Christ was "all in all." All other subjects—political and philosophical—dwindled into insignificance in its presence; it swallowed up his great soul.
III. The grand subject of his ministry makes him INDIFFERENT TO ALL RHETORICAL CONSIDERATIONS. "I… came not with excellency of speech." In order to exhibit this theme to men, he never thought of brilliant sentences and polished periods and studied composition; not he. The theme was independent of it, infinitely too great for it. Does the splendid apple tree in full blossom require to be decorated with gaudy ribbons? Christ crucified is eloquence, mighty eloquence. Tell the story of his life in plain vernacular, with the notes of nature, however rough, and in vital sympathy with its spirit; and your discourse will be a thousand times mightier than the orations with which Demosthenes shook the proud democracy of Greece.
IV. The grand subject of his ministry SUBDUES IN HIM ALL SELF CONSCIOUSNESS. "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." This Paul was naturally a strong, intrepid soul, but in the presence of this grand theme he felt weak and trembling. "Who is sufficient for these things?" he exclaims. Vanity in any man is a vile and disgusting incongruity, but in a preacher it is a thousand times worse. A vain preacher is an anomaly, an impostor. He has failed to realize the grand theme about which he prates.
V. The grand subject of his ministry INVESTS HIM WITH DIVINE POWER OVER MAN. "My preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, hut in the rower of God." There is as truly Divine power in the ministry of a true preacher as there is in the heaving of ocean or the rolling of planets; but a higher power withal, power over mind, it is "the power of God unto salvation."
"Would I describe a preacher such as Paul," etc.
1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 2:7
The gospel: its description, preachers, and hearers.
"Howbeit we speak wisdom," etc. In these words we have three things concerning the gospel.
I. A DESCRIPTION OF ITS NATURE. Paul calls it the" wisdom of God." The wisdom of a system may be determined by two things.
1. By the character of the end it contemplates. A system which aims at an insignificant or unworthy end would scarcely be considered wise. What is the end the gospel aims at? The restoration in human souls of supreme sympathy with God. The absence of this sympathy is the cause of all the crimes, evils, and sorrows that curse humanity.
2. By the fitness of the means it employs. Though a system contemplate a grand end, yet if the means it employs are unadapted, it could scarcely be called wise. What are the means Christianity employs to generate this love for God in unloving souls? Ask what the souls destitute of this love must have in order to get it, and our answer will be three things:
(1) a personal manifestation of God;
(2) a human manifestation of God;
(3) a loving manifestation of God.
These things we think essential in the nature of the case, and these three things the gospel gives. It is, therefore, emphatically the "wisdom of God."
II. A RULE FOR ITS PREACHERS. "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." The apostle clearly means by the word "perfect" those in the Christian community who were more advanced in the knowledge of Christ, who stood most in contrast with those who are but" babes in Christ." One of these ideas may be attached to the language of the apostle. Either that he had an exoteric and esoteric doctrine for men, or that the most advanced Christian alone could discern the wisdom of his doctrine, or that he adapted his teaching to the capacity of his hearers. The last is the idea which I think we are to accept as the meaning. In another place he tells the Christians at Corinth that he had hitherto "fed them with milk, and not with meat, because they were not able to bear it" His conduct is, I take it, a rule for all true preaching.
III. AN OBLIGATION UPON ITS HEARERS. If the higher aspects of gospel religion can only be appreciated by these who are "perfect," those who have attained to a high stage of Christian knowledge, it is manifestly their duty to advance beyond the "first principles of the oracles of God." This duty hearers owe
(1) to themselves;
(2) to their minister;
(3) to the system of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 2:9
Spiritual ignorance the cause of immense evil and the occasion, of immense good.
"Which none of the princes of this world," etc. The words lead us to look on spiritual ignorance—i.e., ignorance of God and our obligations to him—in two very opposite aspects.
I. AS THE CAUSE OF IMMENSE EVIL. These "princes of the world," through ignorance, "crucified the Lord of glory." A greater crime was never perpetrated. It involved:
(1) The grossest injustice. He was innocent.
(2) The basest ingratitude. He did. good, and good only.
(3) The most heartless cruelty. They crucified him—the most excruciating death that infernal malignity could desire.
(4) The most daring impiety. Whom did they treat thus? "The Lord of glory." How this spiritual ignorance was the cause of immense evil is evident from two considerations.
1. Because it is in itself an evil, and like will produce like. There is an ignorance that is a calamity. When mind and means are absent, ignorance is a calamity; but when they are present, it is always a crime. These "princes" had both. Their ignorance was a sin, and sin, like virtue, is propagated. That this spiritual ignorance was the cause of evil is clear from the fact that:
2. Had it not existed, such an evil could never have been perpetrated. The words lead us to look at spiritual ignorance
II. AS THE OCCASION OF IMMENSE GOOD. Paul tells us that this Crucifixion introduced things that "eye had never seen nor ear heard." Divine pardon, spiritual purity, immortal hopes, are all things that come through the Crucifixion. From the subject learn:
1. That the sinner is always engaged in accomplishing that which he never intended. These "princes" did two things they never intended.
(1) They ruined themselves;
(2) they served God.
2. That whatever good a man may accomplish contrary to his intention, is destitute of all praiseworthiness. What oceans of blessings come to the world through the Crucifixion! Yet who can ever praise the crucifiers?
3. That no man should act without an intelligent conception of what he is doing. How many act from prejudice and blind impulse! how few trove a right conception of what they are doing!
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
The gospel school.
"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit," etc. Because man naturally craves for knowledge and deeply needs it, schools abound everywhere throughout the civilized world, especially here in England—schools of science, schools of philosophy, schools of art, etc.. But there is one school that transcends all—the gospel school. Three facts are suggested concerning this school.
I. That here the student is INSTRUCTED IN THE SUBLIMEST REALITIES. "Deep things of God." Things, not words, not theories. "Deep things;" deep because undiscoverable by human reason; deep because they come from the fathomless ocean of Divine love. What are these deep things? The primary elements of the gospel, and the necessary condition of soul restoration. These "deep things" we are here told are:
1. The free gifts of Heaven. "Freely given to us of God."
2. Freely given to be communicated. "Which things also we speak," etc. He who gets these things into his mind and heart, not only can communicate, but is bound to tell them to others, and that in plain natural language, free from the affectations of rhetoric, the language which the "Holy Ghost teacheth," language which is suggested by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Men think in words; thoughts come dressed in their own language; the intellectual thoughts have their own language, and spiritual thoughts have a language all their own.
II. That here the student is TAUGHT BY THE GREATEST TEACHER. Who is the Teacher? The Divine Spirit himself, here called the "Spirit of God" and the" Holy Ghost."
1. This Teacher has infinite knowledge. "The Spirit searcheth all things." The word "searcheth" must not be taken, I presume, in the sense of investigation, but rather in the sense of complete knowledge. In the last clause of the next verse it is said, "The things of God knoweth no matt, but the Spirit of God." He knoweth those things of God; he knows them in their essence, number, issues, hearings, relations, etc.
2. This Teacher is no other than God himself. "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." The implication is that this Spirit is as truly God as man's mind is man. No one knows the things in man's mind but man himself; no one knows the "deep things of God" but God himself. "Who teacheth like God?" He knows thoroughly the nature of the student, and how best to indoctrinate that nature with his own "deep things."
III. That here the student MUST DEVELOP HIS HIGHER NATURE. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Man has a threefold nature, designated by St. Paul as soma, psyche, and pneuma—body, soul, and spirit. The first is the animal, the second is the mental, and the third the moral or spiritual. This is the conscience, with its intuitions and sympathies, and this is the chief part of man, nay, the man himself, the core of his being, that which Paul calls" the inner man," the man of the man. Now, this part of the man alone can receive the "things of the Spirit of God." Set these things before the "natural man," his mere body; they are no more to him than Euclid to a brute. Set them before the mere psychical or intellectual man, and what are they? Puzzles over which he will speculate; nay, they are "foolishness unto him." Mere intellect cannot understand love, cannot appreciate right. It concerns itself with the truth or falsehood of propositions, and the advantages and disadvantages of conduct—nothing more. Moral love only can interpret and feel the things of moral love, the "deep things of God." Hence this moral pneuma, this spiritual nature, this conscience must be roused from its dormancy, and become the ascendant nature before the "things of the Spirit" can be "discerned," and then the man shall judge all things, all spiritual things, whilst he himself will not be judged rightly by any "natural man." "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" Who, thus uninstructed, can "know the mind of the Lord"?
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
How St. Paul preached the gospel.
A great truth is capable of manifold presentations. To be seen fully it must be viewed in various aspects, each of which is relative to the wholeness of the idea, while supplying to the student an increased sensibility to its excellence. Sir Joshua Reynolds speaks of his disappointment when he first saw the painting of the Transfiguration, but it grew upon him and educated his eye, the mind in the eye, to appreciate its sublimity. Hazlitt mentions a similar experience in his own case. Such impressions are not due to simple recipiency; the active intellect is aroused, and the thinker himself becomes a voluntary party to the object affecting him. Evidently, now, St. Paul's idea of preaching, as given in the first chapter, returned upon him and solicited further consideration. Accordingly, we find him in the second chapter detailing his personal history as a preacher while at Corinth, and, as usual in his Epistles, the autobiographical clement discloses its presence in his logic. Whenever there was an important issue in his ministry, we see the man in the fulness of his proportions and look into his very heart, so that we are at no loss to understand the reason of his impassioned energy. In this instance he declares that he did not come to the Corinthians "with excellency of speech or of wisdom," as the world regarded speech and wisdom. But he was with them "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." It was not the "weakness" of cowardice, nor the "fear" that brings a snare, nor the "trembling" that conies from an apprehension of criticism and hostility. Agitation and solicitude were the product of his fine sensibility, not rising from below, but descending from the highest realm of his being, the ideal of duty and responsibility so vast within him as to oppress the capacity of performance. A most blessed "weakness" this, the best possible assurance of truthful power, the most reliable token our latent nature offers as a promise of success. The throb of the engine in a huge Atlantic steamship sends its own quiver into every plank and bolt of the vessel. There is a "trembling" in all its compartments, but it is the trembling of power. St. Paul had no gift more remarkable than the gift of feeling to the utmost the doctrines of the gospel. Christ in him, Christ as the self of self, was the Christ he preached; and hence no discourse he ever delivered, no letter he ever wrote, affected others as much as they affected him. Effective speakers and writers are never on a level with their hearers and readers. They see more, feel more, than those whom they impress, and their personality is no small constituent in the effect produced. Rightly enough, St. Paul specializes "my speech and my preaching." The "my" means a man "determined not to know anything… save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Self exaltation he had none; for self exaltation is always a parody on the truthfulness of one's nature, and Christ was so real to St. Paul that he could not be other than real to himself in his ministerial work. And, in accordance with this fact, his manner of preaching the gospel is itself evidential of the divineness of the gospel. It was a "demonstration of the Spirit and. of power." Of what avail that the "Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom"? Give them the "sign" and the "wisdom:" what then? The belief, or "faith," if you so call it, is the man's own product, standing in his own strength, the pride of his own intellect, the joy of his own vanity. Not so the doctrine of "Christ crucified." The way it comes to the soul proves its infinite truth. It does not approach a man on the sense side of his nature, but on the spiritual side. Unlike education and culture, which begin with the intellect of the senses and develop upward, Christianity arises from the instant of its initial contact with the human soul at the highest moral capacity, and recognizes this soul as it stands related to God its Father, to Christ its Redeemer, to the Holy Ghost its Convincer and Sanctifier. Man as the image of the natural universe is regarded subsequently. Therefore the emphasis of St. Paul on the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power," and therefore the strength and glory of faith, which stands, not "in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."—L.
1 Corinthians 2:6-13
Contents of the revelation.
But the apostle claims "wisdom" for the gospel. The counterfeit has been exposed, and the genuine coin is now presented. And how does he proceed to verify his right to use a term that, in the estimation of all thinkers, commanded respect and admiration? He will honour the Word; he will restore its meaning and clear it of obscurity, nay, expand its significance and invest it with a charm not known before. Solomon had used his splendid intellect to give the word "wisdom" a wide currency among his people, and Socrates had laboured for the Greeks in a similar way, each of them an agent of Providence, to teach intellect its legitimate uses and rescue it from bondage to the senses. And there was that old world in which these men, under very different circumstances and sharing very unlike illumination, had taught their countrymen what they knew of wisdom, and this remnant of its former state—the mere effigy of earlier grandeur—stood confronting St. Paul at Corinth, with its conceits, prejudices, and animosities, arrayed most of all against him, because he resisted, so bravely its earthly arts and methods. From a far loftier standpoint than Greeks and Jews acknowledged, an infinite distance, indeed, between the disputants of either side, he preached wisdom that came from God—a wisdom long hidden and hence called "a mystery," but now revealed in the fulness of the times. Yet, during the ages when this wisdom had been concealed, when eye and ear and the subtlest imagination had been unable to probe the secret, when human thought had exhausted itself in vain research, and had sunk at last into unnatural content with its own imbecility,—through all this probation of intellect in the school of the senses, God had reserved "the hidden wisdom" for "our glory." The demonstration of man's utter weakness had to be made, and Judaea and Greece had been chosen to make it. Rome's task was to gather up the results and exhibit them in a solidified form; nor could there have been such a Rome as that of the Caesars unless the experiment with the "wisdom of this world," and of the "princes of this world," had proved a failure disastrous in the extreme. That time had passed. And now this "hidden wisdom" had been made known as a spiritual certainty, which was nothing less than a "demonstration of the Spirit and of power." "There is a spirit in man," and it "knoweth the things of a man." Who can gainsay its consciousness? Who can appeal from its testimony to anything higher in himself? So too the Spirit of God "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," and, furthermore, the Holy Spirit is given to our spirit so that we "might know the things that are freely given to us of God." Just before St. Paul had stated that the mystery, the hidden wisdom, had been held back for "our glory." And is not the truth of that statement now attested? Understand wherein "our glory" lies. It is in this—man has a spirit, and God communicates his own secret intelligence unto it in the shape of a "demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Not wisdom alone, not only perception and reflection, but realization and assimilation in the attending form of power, the act of the recipient of grace not being the functional act of a faculty, but of the whole mind; "comparing spiritual things with spiritual"—the spirit of the renewed man most fully conscious of itself, because of the presence of God's Spirit and the expansion thereby of its own consciousness, What a comparing power suddenly wakens! What an outreaching process begins! This capacity of comparing, beginning our development in childhood and continuing till old age, is one of the mind's foremost activities. It is susceptible of more culture than any mental property. The inventive genius of poets and artists, the skill of the great novelist, the discriminating power of the sagacious statesman, are alike dependent on the diversified energy of comparison. Accuracy of judgment, depth of insight, breadth of sympathy so essential to largeness of view, are mainly due to this quality. Give it fair treatment, and three score and ten years witness its beautiful efflorescence. But its spiritual uses are its noblest uses. "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual" is its grandest office. When the human spirit receives the Divine Spirit, what a glorious enlargement, by reason of the superaddition of "the things of God," to the domain of thought, emotion, impulse! Calmly the mind works on; its laws never disturbed, its strength invigorated, its ideal of greatness opened in fuller radiance, its range and compass widened by a new horizon, a motive power brought to bear it never knew, and the repose of strength deepening evermore in the peace of Christ.—L.
1 Corinthians 2:14-16
Natural man and spiritual man.
The natural man, who had not been forgotten by St. Paul in the first chapter, now comes under closer inspection. We can see him from the point of view occupied in the second chapter What is said of him? He "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Nature is represented here as very different from grace, and the difference has the breadth of contrast. Low and vulgar forms of nature are not enumerated, nor would it have been like the apostle to select his illustrations from exceptional cases of human depravity. Corinth could have easily supplied such instances. But the noticeable fact is that he avoids this sort of specification, and chooses his typical examples from "the wise," "the scribe," "the disputer of this world," yea, the very "princes of this world;" and these are they who lack all spiritual discernment, and in their blindness look upon the glorious gospel of Christ as "foolishness." And the portraiture is not finished till these "princes of this world" are sketched against the darkest of possible backgrounds, even the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. It is not the brutal mob that he pictures on his canvas, but the best specimens, according to current opinion, of the mind and culture of the age. Against these—the guides of public sentiment and the accepted leaders of society, men of character and position—he directs his condemnation. And the grief of his heart is that these are the very men whose evil spirit has infected the Corinthian Church, and introduced vitiating elements long ago abandoned by believers as utterly inconsistent with morality and religion. The natural man of that day was not the creature of the day, not an accident of those volcanic times when the foundations of civil order were shaking, and. even the majestic hills of Rome were threatened with upheaval, life; time and opportunity and ample means for development had been allowed; the fairest portions of the world had been given him for home and commerce; a thousand miles around the Mediterranean yielded everything that material civilization demanded; art and philosophy and government had afforded whatever the intellect of the senses craved; and Judaism had diffused itself far and wide, till even Stoicism had felt its influence. After all, however, the natural man has wound up the history of ancient culture by crucifying the Lord of glory; and now, the stain of holy blood upon him, he has learned nothing from his own experience, but persists in treating the gospel as "foolishness", Nor can it be otherwise so long as the man remains under the thraldom of nature. Anomalous it may seem, but it is none the less true, that nature is morally known to us as the opposite of spirituality; and, though a human spirit is in the man, it is wholly incapable of itself to see, to feel, to will, to act, as a spirit in anything that concerns the truly Divine functions of spirit. Hence the need of the Holy Spirit to create spiritual discernment, and hence the supreme distinction of the Christian is that he has a spiritual judgment. "The things of God" are not discovered by him, but are revealed unto his spirit by the Holy Ghost. The discovering intellect of man is a splendid endowment, and yet it is altogether limited to the senses and their connections, nor can it pass under any urgency beyond the sphere of the visible universe, and penetrate the secrets of the Almighty. If, indeed, he could discover them, he would not be a Christian believer; for the traits of the natural man would adhere to him and be merely enhanced by power thus exerted, and there would be less room than before in his capacious soul for intellectual docility, for childlike trustfulness, for the obedience of self abnegation. And, therefore, the work of the Holy Ghost consists in teaching us to understand, to appreciate, to assimilate, the Divine truths disclosed by him; and, accordingly, what he reveals is not content to remain as ideas and dogmas, but seeks the inmost heart, allies itself with the instincts, and communicates to man a sense of himself and of the possibilities of character hitherto unimagined. Finally, St. Paul argues, "We have the mind of Christ" within us; and what better compendium of all embraced in spiritual discernment than this expression, "mind of Christ"? Far more than the truths he taught, and the practical lessons he enforced, is meant here; for it includes the entire method, the spirit, the aim, of his teachings, as imparting his own life to those believing in him. No moral principle, no doctrinal fact, no phenomenon of spiritual experience, now occupies ground and sustains relations to thought and volition and action that are independently its own. Not one of them is competent to self existence. There is not, there cannot be, a single abstraction in Christianity. "The mind of Christ" is in every ethical truth, in every miracle, in everything that involves taste, sensibility, reason, conscience, affection; and the life in one is the life in all. To dislocate is to destroy. And this "mind of Christ," the apostle urges, is in us, and, by virtue of its abiding presence and infinite "wisdom" and "power," the breadth of contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man is fully brought out. After eighteen centuries, the distinction is as luminous as ever. The very words remain to us—"wisdom," "power," "foolishness"—and "the princes of this world" attest their ancient lineage. The "natural man" of our day has grown to large dimensions. Never had the sense man, the intellectual man, the man of physical civilization, so much to boast of; for he has well nigh made good the claim of his sceptre to universal dominion. "Wisdom" was never so conspicuous. "Power" has been developed in a greater degree than its uses. And yet in this very hour, when destructive strength is the daily terror of mankind, and when liberty is ever threatening to riot in licentiousness, we see just what St. Paul saw in old Corinth; and the commentary on God's Word which the nineteenth century, like all centuries since Christ's advent, has written for our eyes, only enforces the truth that "the natural man" knows not God, and "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." In science and art, in government, in all sorts of internal sovereignty, "the natural man" has made a vast advance upon himself. But all this has brought him and his institutions and his well being no nearer to "the mind of Christ."—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 2:2
None but Christ crucified.
What is personal is here, as throughout these Epistles to the Corinthians, remarkably combined with what is doctrinal. These are the utterances of a noble minded and tender hearted man, writing to fellow men in whom he takes the deepest personal interest. Hence he writes of himself, and he writes of his correspondents; and to his mind both have the highest interest through their common relation to the Word of life. These Epistles are a window into the heart of the writer, and they are a mirror of the thoughts and conduct of the readers. How naturally, when thinking of present successes and discouragements, Paul reverts in memory to his first visit to Corinth! He has the comfort of a good conscience as he calls to mind the purpose and the method of that ministry. Human philosophy and eloquence may have been wanting; but he rejoices to remember that from his lips the Corinthians had received the testimony of God and the doctrine of Christ crucified.
I. THE ONE GREAT THEME OF THE APOSTOLIC AND OF ALL CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
1. A Divine Person is exhibited. Christian preaching sets forth, not rabbinical learning, not Hellenic wisdom, not a code of morals, not a system of doctrine, not a ritual of ceremony, but a Person, even Jesus Christ.
2. An historical fact is related, even the crucifixion of him who is proclaimed. Everything relating to Christ's ministry was worthy of remembrance, of repetition, of meditation; but one aspect of that ministry was regarded, and still is regarded, as of supreme interest—the Cross, as preceded by the Incarnation, and as followed by the Resurrection. In his earliest Epistle Paul had written, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross;" in one of his latest he taught that the incarnate Redeemer became obedient unto "the death of the cross."
3. Religious teaching of highest moment was based upon this fact regarding this Person. Thus sin was condemned, redemption was secured, a new motive to holiness was provided; for the cross of Christ was the power of God and the wisdom of God.
II. REASONS FOR EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION IN THE MINISTRY OF RELIGION TO THIS ONE GREAT THEME.
1. A personal and experimental reason on the part of the preacher. Paul had a personal experience of the excellence and power of the doctrine of the cross. The knowledge which he prized he communicated, the blessings he had received and enjoyed he could offer to others. So must it be with every true preacher.
2. A more general reason—the adaptation of the gospel to the wants of all mankind. For Christ crucified is
(1) the highest revelation of the Divine attributes of righteousness and mercy;
(2) the most convincing testimony and condemnation of the world's sinfulness and guilt;
(3) the Divine provision for the pardon of the transgressors; and
(4) the most effectual motive to Christian obedience and service. The same doctrine is also
(5) the mighty bond of Christian societies; and therefore
(6) the one hope of the regeneration of humanity.
1. Here is a model and an inspiration for those who teach and preach Jesus Christ.
2. Here is a representation of the one only hope of sinful men; what they may seek in vain elsewhere they will find here reconciliation with God, and the power of a new and endless life.—T.
1 Corinthians 2:4
Language like this sometimes refers to those special, supernatural gifts which were bestowed upon the members and officers of the Church in the apostolic days. But, as the apostle is speaking of the gospel of the cross of Christ and of its moral and spiritual effects, it seems reasonable to take the very strong expressions here employed as referring to the Divine vigour and energy accompanying the Word of salvation.
I. CHRISTIANITY IS THE DISPENSATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. The Jews would have received it had it been a dispensation of miracle and prodigy; the Greeks, had it been a dispensation of rhetoric and philosophy. But God's Spirit has his own mode of operation, withheld from the apprehension of carnal natures. The same Spirit who abode upon the Saviour at his baptism, rested as the Spirit of truth and illumination upon the inspired apostles, and as the Spirit of power accompanied their word to the hearts of men. He is from above, as the Breath, the Wind, the Fire, the Dew, the Rain, the Dove of God.
II. HUMAN SOULS ARE THE FIELD OF THE OPERATIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. Christianity is no mechanical religion; its ends are not to be secured by any external conformity; it does not consist in buildings, ceremonies, priesthoods, etc. He only understands the nature of Christ's purposes who can join in the consecration and confession—
"I give my heart to thee,
O Jesus most desired;
And heart for heart the gift shall be,
For thou my soul hast fired.
Thou hearts alone wouldst move;
Thou only hearts dost love;
I would love thee as thou lov'st me,
O Jesus most desired!"
III. THE GOSPEL IS THE IMPLEMENT AND WEAPON OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. God's Spirit approaches man's spirit in every true, pure, and lofty thought, in every revelation of pity, love, and sacrifice. But God's mind is made known with special reference to man's position and needs in "the truth as it is in Jesus." It is because the Spirit is in the Word that the Word is living and powerful, and sharper than the two-edged sword.
IV. FAITH AND REPENTANCE, OBEDIENCE AND HOLINESS, ARE THE POWER AND DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. Here we have "the witness of the Spirit," telling us that the source of such streams is above. Here we have "the fruits of the Spirit," telling us whence is the life which embodies itself in such results. Doubtless under the conviction of the Spirit there present themselves displays of feeling, deep and signal. But the great and reliable proofs of the presence and action of the Divine Spirit are to be sought in those moral effects which can be traced to no inferior cause. The weeds sow themselves; but an abundant and precious crop is witness to the skill and the energy of the husbandman.
V. RESPONSIBILITY IS INVOLVED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
1. The preacher of the gospel is reminded that his reliance should be, not upon his own gifts, but upon the Word and Spirit of God.
2. The Church of Christ is admonished neither to "quench" nor to "grieve" the Holy Spirit.
3. The hearer of the gospel is warned that to refuse the gospel is to reject the Spirit; and deliberately, persistently, and finally to do so is to sin against the Holy Ghost.—T.
1 Corinthians 2:7
The Divine mystery.
The Apostle Paul was accustomed to press into his service, as a Christian teacher, all the institutions and usages of the societies with which he was in any way and at any time associated. Thus in this passage he makes use of the Eleusinian mysteries, with which his readers were doubtless familiar, to set forth the profundity of the Divine wisdom, and the distinction and happiness of those who were initiated into the glorious secrets of Christianity. "We speak God's wisdom in a mystery."
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MYSTERY. There is little reason to believe that the ancient Grecian mysteries had any substantial and valuable truth to conserve and communicate. Observe the contrast: the New Testament tells us of the purpose of God to save mankind; not Jews only, but Gentiles also, in the exercise of his wisdom and compassion.
II. THE HIDING OF THE MYSTERY. It is not for us to explain why a purpose so gracious should have been so long concealed. So it was. And for generations and ages the human race was unacquainted with the purpose which the Supreme had conceived in the counsels of eternity. We can see that the Law had been a "pedagogue" to bring the Jews, and philosophy to bring the Gentiles, to Christ. But the fulness of the time was known only to God.
III. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY. This took place when Christ came and, in his ministry and sacrifice, made known the gracious designs of the Father, that all men should be drawn unto himself, and that the world might not be condemned but saved with an everlasting salvation.
IV. THE COMMUNICATION OF THE MYSTERY. This took place in the gospel. The fervour which Paul and his fellow labourers displayed in the preaching of the glad tidings shows how deeply those tidings had sunk into their nature, and how precious the reception of them appeared to their enlightened minds. They unfolded what had been wrapped up; they brought to light what had been buried beneath the soil, even "the hid treasure;" they brought out from the deep sea that "pearl of great price" which is for the enrichment of every possessor and for the delight of every beholder.—T.
1 Corinthians 2:8
"The Lord of glory."
When the Jews and the Roman governor united in effecting the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, neither party to the proceeding can be said to have understood and realized what was being done. The enemies and murderers of the Prophet of Nazareth saw neither the glory of his character and person more than very dimly, nor the glory of his redemption in any measure at all. Jesus himself had declared, "They know not what they do;" and Paul here says that, had they known the counsels of God, they would not have crucified Christ. This does not justify or excuse their act; for they certainly knew that they were putting to a cruel death One who was innocent and just. Christ is the Lord of glory—
I. IN RIGHT OF HIS OWN NATURE AND PERSON. This he himself asserted, when he spoke of the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. And such was the teaching of the apostles concerning him who was "the Emanation, the Effulgence, of the Father's glory, and the very Image of his substance."
II. IN VIRTUE OF THE CHARACTER OF HIS MINISTRY AND SACRIFICE. It is true that the life of Jesus upon earth was accompanied by lowly circumstances, and was not likely to dazzle the carnally minded. In his incarnation he emptied himself of his glory and took the form of a slave. Yet those who had eyes to see could look through the humiliation to the glory behind and within. And they have left their witness on record: "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Spiritual discernment recognized Divine glory even amidst the ignominy of the awful death of the Redeemer.
III. BY HIS EXALTATION AND THE EVENTS THAT FOLLOWED IT. The Resurrection and Ascension were the completion of the work which was begun by the Incarnation and the Sacrifice. If in the earlier of these movements constituting the redemptive work the glory was hidden, in the later it was conspicuously revealed. Jesus arose "in the glory of the Father;" he ascended, "carrying captivity captive; "he shed forth the gifts of the Spirit in royal profusion; he occupies his immortal throne. To his people he is the eternal "King of glory."
IV. BECAUSE HE SECURES THE GLORIFICATION OF ALL HIS PEOPLE. Christ is described as "bringing many sons unto glory." The context refers especially to "our glory," i.e. to the heavenly happiness, dignity, and reign of those who have a part in Christ's redemption, who share his conflict here, and to whom it is assured that they shall be partakers of his majesty and of his dominion hereafter. The honour of Christ is bound up with that of his people. It is not intended that they shall behold his majesty and splendour from afar, as something to admire and to adore, but not to share. On the contrary, his glory shall be reflected upon them; as the Lord of glory, he will admit them to participate in it, and this very participation shall be the means of its enhancement.—T.
1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 2:10
The revelation of things unseen and unheard.
It may perhaps have been complained, though unreasonably enough, that Paul's compositions were lacking in logic, and his language in eloquence. There was in the substance of his teaching enough to compensate any deficiencies of such kinds. No sage communicated such wisdom, no poet such wonders, as he. Deep things, drawn by the Spirit from the ocean of God's unfathomable nature, were brought up, and were by him presented to the Church of Christ—to all who possess the spiritual capacity to recognize their meaning and to appreciate their worth.
I. CONSIDER WHAT THESE REVELATIONS WERE. In the original prophecy the reference was to marvellous and Divine deliverances wrought for Israel; the apostle "accommodates'' the prophet's language to his own purpose, to express the display of Divine wisdom and power evinced in the gospel, in which Christ is made unto his people wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. The privileges of the Christian calling enjoyed in the present are an earnest of the higher joys of the eternal future. The gospel manifests the favour and fellowship of God, assures of sonship and of heirship. It reveals Divine truth, and it imparts Divine grace.
II. OBSERVE HOW INACCESSIBLE THESE BLESSINGS WERE TO THE ORDINARY POWERS OF MEN. The eye can range over the surface of this beautiful earth, and can explore the glories of the majestic firmament. The ear has receptivity for the manifold sounds of nature and for the intricacies and the charms of music. The heart speaks often and profoundly: "A man's mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit in a tower." But the revelations here alluded to are not like the features of nature, which are recognizable by sense, or like the inspirations of practical sagacity. The eye can see the works of God, but not the Artificer; the ear can hear the voice of God, but knows not the Speaker; the heart can echo the appeals of God, but these appeals must reach it from above.
III. REMARK THAT THESE REVELATIONS ARE MADE BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF, We possess a spiritual nature susceptible of Divine impression and appeal, and with this nature, created after his own likeness, the Father of spirits is in direct communication. Not that truth is miraculously conveyed; the Spirit takes the revealed facts and applies them to the mind, quickening and illumining the powers so that they receive and rejoice in the truth of God.
IV. PONDER THE CONDITION OF RECEIVING THIS KNOWLEDGE. The revelations are for those who love God. Not the great, or the wise, or the outwardly righteous are the recipients of Heaven's best blessing; but those who possess this moral and spiritual qualification. They who "wait for God," as Isaiah puts it; they who "love God," as it is phrased by Paul,—are the enlightened and the enriched. The spirit that is filled with gratitude and with love is thereby prepared to understand and appreciate the mysteries of Divine grace. The true love, which puts on the form of obedience, is the path to spiritual perfection. Love grows, and with it knowledge; and heaven is attractive because it is at once the abode of perfect love and the sphere of perfect knowledge.—T.
1 Corinthians 2:16
"The mind of Christ."
Some professed Christians have the name, and only the name, of Christ. Some are satisfied to have in sacramental bread what represents the body of Christ. "We," says the apostle, and all true Christians will in a lowly grateful spirit unite in the same profession—"we have the mind of Christ."
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "THE MIND OF CHRIST"? His earthly ministry, his counsels and promises to his disciples, his willing sacrifice, revealed that mind; and that so fully and so clearly that we may justly say, that mind has become and. is the richest heritage and possession of humanity.
1. His was the mind that saw the truth. He did not reason it out or accept it from authority; he looked it in the face; he was naturally and perfectly and always acquainted with it.
2. His was the mind that loved the good. It was through no fierce struggle that Jesus came to admire and to appreciate moral beauty; for goodness was natural to him and perfectly congenial and delightful to his being.
3. His was the mind that chose the right. The will of man is often vacillating and varying, and in some cases it persistently chooses evil. But throughout Christ's ministry, righteousness was not the law to which he submitted, but the very life he lived. There is no instance of his preferring the wrong; he was without sin.
4. His was the mind that thought and planned and suffered for all men. It is not a just view of the mind of the Lord Christ to regard it as personal character. For he was the Son of man, and took all humanity into the embrace of his great and comprehensive mind. He thought and spake of all men as most closely related to himself. To know his mind is to know alike the mind of man and the mind of God.
II. How can WE PARTAKE "THE MIND OF CHRIST"? When we consider what that mind was, we may well be all but hopeless of possessing and of sharing it. Yet it is his will that his mind should be ours, and he has made provision for our participation in, our appropriation of, his mind.
1. We acquire knowledge of that mind through the record of the gospel. His words, his miracles, his conduct, his sufferings, were all a revelation of his mind; pondering them, we come near to the thought, to the heart, of our Saviour.
2. We receive with faith the all sufficient redemption he has effected. He is not only a Teacher, he is not only a Revelation of the Father; he is the Saviour. And it is in accepting the salvation which is through him that we are re-created in the likeness of his holy mind and nature.
3. We do his will, and learn that obedience is the method by which we attain to a more thorough sympathy with him. Thus a growing revelation on his part brings about a growing appropriation on ours.
III. HOW CAN WE PROVE OURSELVES TO HAVE "THE MIND OF CHRIST"?
1. By our judgment concerning spiritual things; for these are spiritually discerned by the disciplined, the sympathetic, mind.
2. By our life of loving service; for "if a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I. WHAT IT WAS NOT.
1. It was not "with excellency of speech." Paul did not come as a rhetorician; his utterances were not orations of highly wrought eloquence. He did not seek to make the gospel palatable by presenting it with "enticing words." His manner was simple and unaffected; his diction plain and easily understood. He did not aim to carry everything before him with a flood of words, neither did he, a preacher, seek fame as an orator. He had a message to deliver, and would not obscure it by many words; he dreaded lest anything should divert attention from its all important terms. It is recorded of James II. that he once sat for his portrait to a great flower painter, but so completely was the canvas filled with beautiful garlands of flowers, that the king himself was lost sight of. So many paint Christ in their sermons; when they preach Christ they preach everything except Christ.
2. It was not the impartation of human wisdom. Paul did not come as a philosopher; he came as a herald. He had certain facts and truths to proclaim, and he would not philosophize about them, at all events until they were accepted, for, until accepted, their true philosophy could not be understood. Human wisdom had failed; Paul brought something which would not fail. Paul was no enemy to human wisdom; he despised it only as a means of human redemption; it was very contemptible to him when it attempted to transcend its sphere.
II. WHAT IT WAS. It was the proclamation of "Christ and him crucified." This was pre-eminent, excluding philosophies and subordinating all other things. The apostle would not know aught besides; this should fill his consciousness. If the Corinthians would not receive this, he had nothing more for them; he must turn to others more willing. A myriad other things had been presented to them by philosophers and various teachers; all had failed. He would present Christ, and this Christ crucified, and stake everything upon the issue. That which was the sum and substance of Paul's preaching is, in much preaching, like the proverbial needle in the haystack—exceedingly difficult to discover at all.
1. His theme was:
(1) The person of Christ. The subject of prophecy, of history, of the apostle's own knowledge. Christ the Sent of God. Christ the Son of God and the Son of man.
(2) The office of Christ. Christ the Saviour of men. Exhibited as the Saviour especially in that tragedy of the cross, when "he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities."
2. This was "the testimony of God" (verse 1). The revelation of Divine wisdom. God had nothing greater or better to disclose to men than this. Well might the apostle pass by the wisdom of man, since he was entrusted with the wisdom of God. The "mystery" of God. Thought of in past eternal ages, long hidden from men, transcending the poor flights of boastful human intellect, but now plainly declared. Paul spoke not his own words or thoughts, but God's.
3. Note a special feature of his preaching: it was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." It was the utterance of certain truths with reliance upon the Divine Spirit to carry them to the heart. The apostle, in proclaiming the gospel, whilst using evidence and employing argument, relied upon the conviction of the Spirit. Words and human wisdom could not effect what he desired—conviction of sin, of the need of a Saviour, conviction that Christ was the Saviour, the only Saviour, the "Mighty to save." Paul preached 'waiting for the witness of the Spirit—and that witness was given. It is sometimes not given because it is not sought. All preaching without it is useless, and yet it is often the last thing thought of.
III. ITS ACCOMPANIMENTS ON THE OCCASION IN QUESTION.
1. Weakness. Possibly the "thorn in the flesh" was at that time specially harassing, or the apostle may have been in special bodily weakness. But perhaps he was deeply conscious of weakness and insufficiency when he viewed the magnitude and importance of his work. Corinth was a strong Satanic citadel to storm.
2. Fear. Under a sense of responsibility, and the issues at stake. Apprehension lest mistakes should be made, and evil done instead of good. It might be well if there was more of this "fear" in some modern preachers.
3. Much trembling. There was much commotion in the apostle's spirit—he was deeply agitated. With no "light heart" did he set about his work. A very pathetic picture! But probably the best condition for the apostle under the circumstances. This apostolic condition has not a little to do with apostolic success. The all confident may succeed in the world, but they will fail sooner or later in the Church. Such a state as that of Paul's makes us feel that we are nothing, and that we can do nothing; and then God works. When we are weak, then are we strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). The despondencies, humiliations, emptyings, of Christian workers have frequently been the preludes of marked spiritual successes. We are often too strong and too confident for God to make any use of us.
IV. ITS AIM.
1. The awakening of faith. This preaching was not a performance for applause, but earnest work for an all important, spiritual result. Nothing less than personal saving faith in Christ as the issue of his preaching could satisfy the apostle—a faith which should indissolubly bind to Christ, and blossom into the excellences and beauties of the Christian life.
2. Faith well founded. Not standing in the wisdom of men (verse 5). Not built upon beautiful words or fine spun theories, but having the work of God in the heart as a sure foundation. The apostle desired divinely wrought conviction and conversion. So in his preaching he sought to make all room for God. He did not desire to be personally prominent; he swept away philosophies and the cunning arts of rhetoric, fixed the attention upon the God sent Saviour and his victorious work upon the cross, and relied upon God to make this break down the opposition of the natural heart and to build up in the soul a steadfast, abiding faith in Christ. An important inquiry—What is our faith based upon? Do we know anything of the "power of God," the "demonstration of the Spirit "? The faith of not a few—such as it is—is based upon the imagination, eloquence, learning, or eccentricities of their ministers; upon the authority of their Church; or upon their own unsanctioned fancies.—H.
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
I. IS FOUND IN CHRISTIANITY. Paul has been speaking slightingly of" wisdom." Might lead some to suppose that Christianity was unwise, or at all events a one-sided system; that it was a religion for the heart only, and unfriendly to the intellect. The apostle guards against this damaging supposition by claiming true wisdom for Christianity. What he has been decrying is the ineffective wisdom of the world. Christianity is for the whole man. When a man is in a right condition, Christianity satisfies both his head and heart. Christianity is the sublimest philosophy. Its creed contains the profoundest truths, and under its influence we are placed on the high road to the solution of all that is mysterious in the universe. We are in alliance with, and under the teaching of, the Eternal Mind, which will at last lead us into all truth. An intricate piece of mechanism may baffle the intelligence of careful students, but those on terms of intimacy with the inventor may obtain from him a lucid and all satisfactory explanation. God is the great Inventor of the universe, and all its puzzles are very plain things to him. Those who are on terms of sacred intimacy with him—not those who are estranged—are likely to enter into the higher knowledge of things. Christianity places us in this all advantageous position. We are on the road of knowledge. One day we shall know even as we are known. Perhaps to the lost the disheartening puzzles and mysteries will continue evermore.
II. ITS CONTENT. The knowledge of God's redemptive work in its widest significance (1 Corinthians 2:7). Showing how man is restored to the Divine favour; his relation to God upon his recovery; the plan of his new life; shedding much light upon the Divine character and upon the Divine working in nature and in providence, since these are allied to and influenced by his working in grace; leading to the knowledge of many deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10), profound doctrines, etc. Man learns whence he came; the meaning of his present life; whither he goes; the cause of the disorders which he beholds in the world and realizes in himself; how this cause may be dealt with so far as he and others are concerned; how he and they may escape from its control and rise from it to God. Christianity solves now the mysteries attaching to practical moral and spiritual life. It shows man how to live. The Christ of Christianity could say, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Life wisdom was the wisdom the world needed; it was found in Christianity. The wisdom of the world was powerless to answer the great question of life—in this province it was mere folly. Christianity answered every question that really required an answer; and, in its marvellous plan of salvation, exhibited the sublimest wisdom, seeing that the Deity is hereby glorified and man's rescue from sin, ennoblement, purification, and present and future well being are secured. When Paul expounded the doctrines of Christianity, he was not speaking folly, hut setting forth the truest and highest wisdom the world had ever listened to; and those who truly embraced Christianity became "wise," seeing that they then possessed true views of God and of human life, and moreover yielded themselves to the control of an influence which would make them practically wise in every day conduct. Let us realize that Christianity contains the profoundest wisdom. Men laugh at Christianity,—not because it is foolish, but because they are. Let us guard against being laughed out of Christianity; for if we are, we shall be laughed out of wisdom and laughed into folly,
III. ITS ORIGIN.
1. Not of this world. The true wisdom is heaven born, not earthborn. The world is at enmity with God, and omits him from its schemes of wisdom; no wonder that these develop into utter folly.
2. Not of the rulers of this world. The world's great men did not produce Christianity; it sprang not from philosophers, rhetoricians, politicians, or conquerors. World powers tend to come to nought and their wisdom with them (1 Corinthians 2:6). The true wisdom revealed in Christianity never entered the heads of the wise men of the world (1 Corinthians 2:9); it was alien to their natures and notions. They were natural; it was supernatural.
3. God. It is true wisdom because it is Divine wisdom; its origin proves its quality. It springs from the Supreme Mind; it conveys his thoughts; it reveals his purposes and acts. In Christianity the finite mind runs upon the lines of the infinite. The human occupies the standpoint of the Divine. We see with God's eyes.
4. Ancient. We speak of the wisdom of the ancients: this is the wisdom of the Ancient of days. Older than the worlds. Thought out by God in a past eternity. Conceived then for our well being. Wondrous thought! Here Divine love takes its place by the side of Divine wisdom. For us; and shall we miss it after all? Because fools call it folly, shall we? It is the eternal wisdom, prepared for us before time was. It comes to us down through the ages unshattered, unshaken, by the assaults of the centuries.
IV. BY WHOM UNDERSTOOD. By the spiritual. It is spoken amongst "the perfect" (1 Corinthians 2:6), the spiritually minded, the matured. Every believer has some comprehension of it; but the more spiritual a man is the keener is his perception of its beauty and force, the greater his delight in it. The carnal understand it not. Once they were tested in its close and striking approach to them in the person of the Lord Jesus, but him they sought to destroy (1 Corinthians 2:8); and, could they have done so, they would have robbed the world of light and left it to interminable darkness. To the "natural man" the true wisdom is folly (1 Corinthians 2:14); as the ordinary wisdom of men might seem to creatures of lower grade. The spiritual man is exalted, and sees clearly what to the man beneath appears blurred, unsightly, puzzling, and undesirable. The carnal man has a valley view, and gazes through thick and distorting mists; the spiritual man has a mountaintop view, and the more spiritual he is the clearer is the atmosphere through which he looks. Many men who quarrel with Christianity should rather quarrel with themselves; the fault is not in it, but in them. We need alteration, not God's revelation. We must not think lightly of Christianity because many reject it; an imbecile throws away bank notes. Honesty is good, but a thief will have none of it. A blind man has a poor opinion of pictures. When the mouth is out of condition, the sweetest meats are unsavoury. When God revealed the true wisdom in Christianity, he announced that it would be unappreciated by many, and explained why this would be so (Romans 8:7).
V. ITS POSSESSION AND EXERCISE BY THE SPIRITUAL. 1. Possession.
(1) The spiritual possess the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 2:16). This is the cause of their being spiritual. By nature we are all carnal—the children of darkness and of wrath. Our carnality is dissipated by the coming of the Divine Spirit into our hearts. He is light, we are darkness; the light chases away the darkness. The Divine Spirit commences the work of grace in our hearts and carries it on to the end. How eagerly should we open our hearts to this Divine Guest! How heedful should we be to the command, "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19)! To quench the Spirit would be to involve ourselves again in the darkness from which we had escaped.
(2) The Splint reveals the true wisdom to the spiritual. We are taught of the Spirit. Here we tread the road of the highest and truest knowledge. "Who teacheth like him?" Here is the school for all Christians; only as they learn here do they learn truly. Men have boasted of their teachers. How many sat at the feet of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle! and one very familiar to us sat at the feet of Gamaliel. But what an honour is reserved for the children of God to have as their Teacher the Holy Spirit! A Teacher, too, always with us, for he dwells within us; and ever ready to instruct. How diligent should we be in learning the lesson set for us by this Teacher!
(3) The Spirit is qualified for this office. What a striking testimony to the divinity of the Holy Ghost we have in 1 Corinthians 2:11! God is represented under the figure of a man; the Holy Ghost under the figure of the spirit of that man. How full the knowledge! how intimate the association! how indissoluble the connection!—the two are one! We are taught by God, and who can teach God's wisdom, the true wisdom, like God himself?
2. Exercise. The Spirit not only reveals wisdom to the spiritual, but makes them practically wise. As led by him, all their actions are wise; their foolish deeds are the fruits of refusing to be so led.
(1) They compare spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13). This expression is obscure. Some have thought the meaning to be, comparing passages of Scripture together, all being recognized as inspired by the Spirit, and one being expected to shed light upon the other. And surely such "comparing" is wise. Single text men have a profound impression of their own wisdom, but no one else has. It has been well said that the best commentary on Scripture is Scripture. The Spirit has certainly made us wise when we have a special fondness for his own teaching. Men are apt to search everything before they search the Scriptures. We want more Bible students. Many know a good deal about the Bible, and very little of the Bible. The passage has been thought to mean, joining spiritual truths to spiritual (not worldly wise) words, thus causing it to continue the thought of the preceding clause—upon which, by the way, adherents of the verbal inspiration theory lay much stress as supporting their views. As for ourselves, if we are wise, we shall certainly desire to be led by the Spirit, not only in thought, but in utterance. Preachers and teachers need to attend the Divine school of language. Words are a great power; they hinder or help according to their suitability. How many sermons of noble and useful thought have been thrown away because of unsuitable diction! How much truth has been suffocated under masses of verbiage! How much reproof, exhortation, incitement, has been made pointless by being expressed in carefully rounded periods! The edge has been taken off; the sword has been blunted. How often "eloquence" has hidden Christ! And further, how often false doctrine has been fostered by carelessness of expression! We need a "wisdom of words;" though not that false wisdom of words which Paul so vigorously condemned. The modern Church requires a "gift of tongues," and must look for it whence the ancient gift came. The ministers of Christ should speak "as the Spirit gives them utterance."
(2) They form true judgments. In the degree in which they possess the true wisdom, according to the measure in which they are taught and led by the Divine Spirit. The reference is, no doubt, to matters moral and spiritual; but it must be remembered that all things in this life have a moral or spiritual bearing, and it is in this respect that the spiritual have true discernment. The truly spiritual man cannot be judged by the carnal The carnal cannot form a true estimate of spiritual matters, because these are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). So that the world's judgment of the Christian, per se, need not distress him; it is the judgment of ignorance (see 1 Corinthians 4:3). This true wisdom, so priceless, is within the reach of all. By believing in Christ we may become "wise unto salvation," and, under the Spirit's teaching, wise for all time and for all eternity.—H.
HOMILIES BY E. BREMNER
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul the model preacher.
The apostle has shown that God does not save men by human wisdom, but by the preaching of Christ. He now declares that his own practice at Corinth was in accordance with this great principle. His example is a pattern for all preachers of the gospel.
I. THE MATTER. AND METHOD OF PREACHING. Paul's business was to "proclaim the mystery of God," "even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations; but now hath it been manifested to his saints" (Colossians 1:26) The substance of that mystery is set forth in "Jesus Christ, and him crucified. The person and the work of Christ, what he was and what he did, constitute the great theme of the preacher. These two great heads cover all that is distinctively called the gospel. How is this to be preached? "Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom;" "not in persuasive words of wisdom." Not as a new philosophy to supplant the old; not as a well reasoned argument, compelling the assent of the mind; not as a rhetorical display, taking captive the imagination. The temptation to seek to win men in this way is frequently great, as Paul felt it to be at Corinth, but it must not be yielded to. The preacher is the bearer of a Divine message to men which needs no adventitious helps (compare what is said above on 1 Corinthians 1:17-25).
II. THE SOURCE OF POWER IN PREACHING.
1. Self distrust. "And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Paul magnified his office and humbled himself. In presence of the forces arrayed against him and the great trust committed to him, he felt his own weakness. And if the great apostle trembled in view of his work, does it become any preacher of the gospel to be self confident? Human power at its best can produce no spiritual result. The most highly gifted are impotent to convert a single sinner. To be confident in our own strength is to be weak; for this confidence prevents the exercise of Divine power. To be self emptied, self distrustful, consciously weak, is to be really strong; for then God can work by us. Whilst we preach the Word, we are to stand still in impotence and see the salvation of God. This is a negative source of power to the preacher, a keeping of the field clear to let the Divine force have full play. Here also the law holds, "He that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
2. The presence of the Holy Spirit. The apostle's preaching was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." The truth he uttered was carried home to men's minds and hearts by the Spirit of Christ, and consequently with a power of conviction which no force of reasoning could produce. Here lies the preacher's strength. Great results may be wrought by human power on a lower level: logic may convince the intellect, rhetoric may dazzle the imagination, pathos may touch the heart; but the Holy Spirit alone can convert, and nothing short of conversion should satisfy us. As the powder to the ball, as the strong arm to the sword (Hebrews 4:12), so is the Spirit to the Word. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). This was the secret of the apostle's power, and all workers for Christ must depend on the same source of strength if they would "be strong and do exploits."
III. THE CHIEF END OF PREACHING. Paul aimed at producing faith in Christ, and he was careful that this "faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." Belief in Jesus Christ may rest upon evidence addressed to the understanding, or upon the authority of a teacher or Church; and this is important in its own place. But such belief implies no more than a mental assent to certain facts or truths, and requires for its production nothing beyond the natural force of proof. The faith which saves is the product of the Holy Spirit working effectually in the hearers of the Word, and is based upon his "demonstration" of the truth. It is, therefore, a stable and abiding thing, upheld by him who produced it; and it is an operative thing, affecting the heart and life of the believer. The end of gospel preaching is to bring men to exercise this living faith. Let the preacher pray and work for this; let the hearer ask himself if he has obtained it.—B.
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
While disclaiming a gospel based on the wisdom of men, Paul is careful to show that he does not disparage true wisdom. The facts of Christianity are the embodiments of great principles; the story of the cross has behind it the sublimest philosophy. Hence the gospel is at once milk for babes and meat for men (1 Corinthians 3:2); and a wise teacher knows how to adapt his teaching to the capacities of his pupils. Among the newly converted, the apostle confined himself to a simple presentation of truth; but among the "perfect," or more advanced, he exhibited that truth in its higher relations. The Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians are examples of the wisdom which he communicated to the full grown in the Christian Churches. The child and the philosopher find a common point of interest in Christ crucified.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUAL WISDOM. These are set forth negatively and positively.
1. It is "not of this world." It is not a natural product springing out of earthly soil. It is not the invention of this world's princes, the leaders of thought and the wielders of power, who control the ongoings of the age. They and their works belong to a state of things that is coming to nought. They have no place as such within the kingdom of God, and their wisdom shall perish with them. Christianity derived nothing from this source, and all attempts to improve upon it by human wisdom have been futile.
2. This wisdom is of God. The plan of salvation is a product of the Divine mind. At every step in it we mark his impress. Its conception as a whole, and all its details, speak of him. The characteristics here enumerated are in keeping with its Divine origin.
(1) It is "a mystery." This is a favourite word with Paul in describing the way of redemption (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 6:19, etc.). Some ancient religions had their so called mysteries, into which their votaries required to be initiated; and the wisdom of God so far resembles these that it needs a Divine preparation in order to understand it. Mere natural reason cannot receive it; it must be revealed to us by God himself.
(2) It "hath been hidden"—"kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested (Romans 16:25, Romans 16:26). God's secret purpose of mercy has, been revealed, in the gospel. God has broken the silence and has spoken.
(3) It was "foreordained before the worlds [ages]." Redemption is a forethought, not an afterthought. Before the world was, before man was made, before all time, the thought of God was upon sinners, and he purposed to save them. Follow the broad river of salvation back to the cross of Christ, back through all the stages of its development, and you come at last to the spring of infinite love in the heart of God. This great tree, which in the course of the ages has grown into strength and sent out many branches, has its roots in the timeless past, and its fully ripened fruits in the eternal future. Who shall overturn it (Romans 8:29, et seq.)?
(4) It was foreordained "unto our glory." Here are the first and last links of the golden chain of redemption. Glory is the final completion of salvation, the full blown flower of grace. God gives all his sons a "crown of glory," and for this his wisdom and power in Christ are working. The Divine origin of evangelical wisdom is confirmed by the treatment it received at the hands of men. When the hidden mystery was revealed in Jesus Christ, they knew it not. Even the Lord of glory had no charm in their eyes—"no beauty that they should desire him." The rulers of this world, the representatives of its wisdom and power, counted him worthy of a cross. And this has been the case whenever the gospel has encountered human wisdom. Acting on its principles, men have rejected Christianity and sought to crush it by force. Every day the same blindness is seen in those who do not embrace the Saviour, leading now to indifference and now to active hostility.
II. HOW SPIRITUAL WISDOM IS REVEALED. To give point to the contrast he has been drawing out, Paul quotes freely from Isaiah 64:4, to show whence our knowledge of heavenly wisdom is derived. "Whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him" is a beautiful description of the blessings of salvation—pardon, peace, renewal, life eternal. All these have been made ready in the working out of the scheme of redemption. During the Old Testament period they were in course of preparation, the great plan step by step unfolding itself, till in the fulness of the time the Christ appeared, to turn shadow into substance, prophecy into history. And these prepared blessings are for them that love him; for they alone can receive them. Love has an eye to see, an ear to hear, a heart to embrace, the things of salvation; and to love they are revealed.
1. The knowledge of these things is not attained by the exercise of natural faculties.
(1) Not by sight: "Eye saw not." What wealth of beauty has God prepared for the eye! Sky and earth and sea teem with fair forms from the Creator's hand. Much knowledge comes to us through this noblest of our senses; but spiritual things lie in a region where it cannot enter. They belong to the invisible (2 Corinthians 4:18).
(2) Not by hearing: "Ear heard not." Many sweet sounds in nature has God prepared for the ear. We learn much through the medium of words, spoken or written; but spiritual knowledge does not come thus. "Faith cometh by hearing," but hearing alone does not produce faith. The Pharisees heard Jesus, but they did not believe on him. The men of Athens and Corinth heard Paul, but how few under stood his message! Thousands listen to the gospel again and again without entering into its real meaning.
(3) Not by thought: "And which entered not into the heart of man." Wonderful things have been conceived by man. Think of the progress he has made in wresting from Nature her secrets (the sciences), and of the triumphs of inventive genius (telegraph, telephone, electric light, spectroscope, etc.). Think of the speculations of philosophers in their efforts to understand all mysteries, the dreams of poets in creating new worlds of imagination. But here is something which science could not discover, nor genius invent, nor imagination create.
2. They are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. It is his office, as the Spirit of truth, to guide us into all the truth (John 16:13). Spirit can be touched only by spirit. Our inner being lies open to the access of God, who can put his finger on its secret springs and move it as he pleases. The influence of one human mind upon another is similar to this. The process by which the things of God are made known to us is here called revelation. A twofold unveiling is requisite. The Holy Spirit presents the truth to our spirits, holds up before us Jesus Christ and his salvation; whilst at the same time he with draws the veil from the mind, touching the closed eye and opening the deaf ear. Of Lydia it is said, "Whose heart the Lord opened, to give heed unto the things which were spoken" (Acts 16:14); and Paul says, "It was the good pleasure of God to reveal his Son in me" (Galatians 1:15, Galatians 1:16). By this spiritual unveiling, and not by natural sense or reason, do the things of God become to us realities.—B.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
The Holy Spirit as the Revealer.
In this section the apostle develops more fully the subject of revelation through the Spirit of God. The things prepared by God for them that love him have not been discovered by human wisdom, nor can they be apprehended by natural reason. As they come from God, they are made known to us by God through the operation of the revealing Spirit.
I. THE COMPETENCE OF THE REVEALING SPIRIT. "For the Spirit searcheth all things," etc. He is competent to reveal to us the things of God, because he has a thorough knowledge of them. There is nothing in God that is hid from him, not even the "deep things." The nature, perfections, purposes of the Almighty are patent to his eye. This is explained by an analogy between the spirit of a man and the Spirit of God. "For who among men knoweth the things of a man," etc.? The depths of my being do not lie open to the eyes of others. They cannot observe the hidden motive, the secret desire, and all the movements that precede the formation of a purpose. They see only what is without, and from that infer what is within. But to my own spirit all that inner region is unveiled. I am immediately conscious of all that is going on within me. "Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God." We can see a little of God's working in tile universe, and from that we can gather something of his mind; but we cannot by searching find him out. We can only make dark guesses at a few truths regarding him, whilst the matters of his grace are completely hidden from us. But the Spirit of God knows the things of God, as the spirit of a man knows the things of the man. He does not know them by inference. As dwelling in God and himself God, he knows them immediately, infallibly, and perfectly. The analogy is not to be pressed beyond this particular point. The apostle is not speaking of the relation between the Spirit and the Godhead, except in regard to the Spirit's perfect knowledge. From all this the fitness of the Spirit to be our Instructor in the things of God is manifest. The argument is not that he is superior to every other teacher, but that in the nature of things he is the only Teacher. He alone fully knows; he alone can fully reveal.
II. THE WORK OF THE REVEALING SPIRIT. The all knowing Spirit, proceeding from God, is imparted to believers. As "the spirit of the world" works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), the Spirit of God dwells and works in the children of faith. tits work appears in two ways.
1. In teaching us to know the things of God. "That we might know," etc. (1 Corinthians 2:12). The things prepared for them that love God arc the free gifts of his grace. They have been provided at infinite cost, but to us they are given "without money and without price." These things are taught us by the Spirit, who, as "the Anointing from the Holy One," gives us to know all things (1 John 2:20). How great a privilege to have such a Teacher! How far does it raise the Christian above the wise of this world! How accurate and assured should be our knowledge! And this knowledge is more than the apprehension of certain doctrines as true, or the persuasion that the gospel is God's way of salvation. We know his gracious gifts only in so far as we receive them. Justification and sanctification are verities only to the justified and sanctified. The way to spiritual knowledge is through faith and personal experience.
2. In teaching us to speak the things of God. Paul has in view, first of all, his own case. It was his work as a preacher to declare the glad tidings to men, and this he did, "not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth." He was not left to his own unaided skill in choosing the forms under which he presented the truth. The Spirit gave him utterance as well as knowledge, taught him the very words he was to employ. This statement covers both his oral and his written teaching. Apart from theories on the subject, inspiration must be held to extend to the verbal framework of apostolic teaching, as well as to the teaching itself; yet so as to give free play to the writer's own form of thought and style of expression. He fitted spiritual truth to words suggested by the Spirit (this is one probable meaning of πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες, 1 Corinthians 2:13), and so interpreted spiritual things to spiritual men (according to another probable meaning). Does not this apply in measure to all speakers for Christ? The apostles had a special inspiration for their special work, but many in the Church at Corinth had a gift of utterance (1 Corinthians 1:5). May not preachers, teachers, writers, and all who tell the story of Christ crucified, expect similar help?
III. THE NECESSITY FOR THE REVEALING SPIRIT. This appears in the contrast drawn between the natural man and the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). The natural man (ψυχικός) is he who is in the fallen condition into which sin has brought mankind, and in whom the faculty of' knowing Divine things (the spirit, πνεῦμα) is dormant. Such a man is not necessarily sensual or brutish, but he is earthly—all his movements being governed by the lower part of his incoporeal nature (ψυχῄ), and directed to selfish ends. The spiritual man (πνευματικός) is he in whom the spiritual faculty (πνεῦμα), by which we discern the things of God, has been wakened into life and activity by the Spirit of God. This quickened spirit, dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, becomes the ruling part of his nature, to which thought, desire, purpose, passion, are in subjection. Hence:
1. "The natural man
(1) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him." He fails to understand them, and, not thinking that the fault is in himself, he rejects them as absurd. They cross his prejudices and overturn his cherished principles. The doctrine of the new birth seemed foolish to Nicodemus. Every unconverted hearer of the gospel confirms the truth of this statement.
(2) This rejection arises from spiritual inability. "And he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged." The natural man is destitute of the faculty by which spiritual things are discerned, as a blind man cannot judge of colour. The tints of the rainbow, the gorgeous hues of sunset, awaken no sensation in him; and for a like reason the glorious things of God's grace call forth no appreciative response from the natural man. How humbling to human pride and human wisdom] How great the need for spiritual illumination!
2. The spiritual man
(1) "judgeth all things." This may be taken broadly as covering all the matters on which the spiritual man is called to decide. He alone is in the position where all things are seen in their proper relations, for he alone gives the spiritual element its place of paramount importance. But the apostle has specially in view the things of salvation, which are perceived and appreciated only by the renewed man. His inner eye has been opened, and he now lives and moves in the region of spiritual things, where the natural man stumbles and falls. Many an unlettered, Spirit taught Christian has a clearer insight into God's ways of grace than the man of mere learning. Hence every believer is called to exercise his own judgment as to Divine truth, and not to rest supinely on the judgment of another. The spiritual eye, like the natural, is given us to be used; and in the use comes greater clearness of discernment and accuracy of judgment. But:
(2) "He himself is judged of no man." A man with eyesight can judge of the matters of a blind man, but the blind man cannot judge of him. The spiritual man understands the language in which other men speak, but they do not understand his language. Paul understood Greek philosophy, but the philosophers did not understand him. "Thou art mad," said Festus (Acts 26:24); "This babbler," said the Athenians (Acts 17:15); "Fool," said the Corinthians. None but a poet can criticize a poet; none but a painter can judge a painter; none but a believer can appreciate a believer. The spiritual man has the mind of Christ, of which the natural man is destitute; and for the latter to sit in judgment on the former would imply that he is capable of instructing the Lord.—B.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 2:7
The wisdom of God in a mystery.
The word "mystery" has a twofold meaning as used by the apostle. It means that which is concealed from men until the due time for its disclosure has come; and it also means that which in itself, by reason of its own inherent greatness, surpasses human comprehension. Both meanings are involved here. God's wisdom in the gospel, though foreordained before the worlds, had been "hidden" from the ages and generations of the past. As it would seem to be with many of the secrets of nature, there was the proper, the "appointed" time for it to be brought to light. The men of the earlier ages were as ignorant of it as our fathers even of the last generation were of many of the marvellous things that are now among the familiar facts of our social life, or as we are of what the triumphs of scientific discovery a hundred years hence shall be. Not that the discovery of this Divine wisdom is like a mere step in scientific development. It is a supernatural revelation. And now that it has been revealed, it is still a "mystery," too profound for any power of man to fathom. The apostle "speaks" it, handles it, deals with it, as a mystery—a mystery which even he himself cannot penetrate and solve (see also Romans 16:25, Romans 16:26; Ephesians 3:5; Colossians 1:26). Having special regard now to this inherent characteristic of the gospel, note—
I. WHEREIN THIS ELEMENT OF MYSTERY CHIEFLY LIES. It lies in matters such as these.
1. The person of Christ (1 Timothy 3:16).
2. The efficacy of his atoning sacrifice (Ephesians 3:9, Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
3. The operation of his Spirit on the souls of men (John 3:8).
4. The nature of the union between himself and his people (John 6:53-63; Ephesians 5:32).
5. The ultimate issues of his redemption (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 John 3:2; Acts 3:21).
II. CERTAIN CONSIDERATIONS THAT VINDICATE AND EXPLAIN IT.
1. That which is Divine must needs transcend the limits of human intelligence.
2. It shows Christianity to be in harmony with every other form of Divine revelation.
3. It accords with the progressive character of our present state of existence.
4. It serves to develop in us some of the noblest moral qualities.
5. It heightens our impression of the simplicity of those truths which are vital to our salvation.
6. It stimulates our longing for the brighter and better future (1 Corinthians 13:9, 1 Corinthians 13:12).—W.
1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 2:14
The revelation of the things of God.
It may be that we have here a free quotation of Isaiah 64:4. But whether a quotation or not, it expresses a principle true in every age. The great "things of God" have ever been beyond the reach of the unaided powers of man. What are these "things which God hath prepared for them that love him"? To apply this expression, as is sometimes done, merely to the glories and joys of the heaven of the future, is to narrow its meaning. Those heavenly things, indeed, are purely matters of faith, above sense, above reason, above experience, above the loftiest flights of imagination. The most suggestive teachings of Scripture, even the grand apocalyptic visions, do not enable us in the remotest degree to conceive of them.
"In vain our fancy strives to paint
The moment after death."
But the "deep things of God" here spoken of, "the things freely given to us of God" (Isaiah 64:12), are matters of present realization, facts of consciousness, and not merely anticipations of faith. They are those great moral and spiritual truths of which the Name of Christ is the symbol, and those privileges and joys which are the distinguishing marks of Christian life. Consider what is here asserted about them:
(1) Negatively—treat the eye and the ear and the hearst have not apprehended them;
(2) positively—that they are revealed to us by the Spirit of God.
I. THE NATURAL POWERS OF MAN CANNOT APPREHEND THESE THINGS. We may take the eye and the ear and the heart as equivalent to the whole sum of our natural faculties. They are those of the "natural man" as contrasted with the "spiritual" (Verse 14). Every faculty of our nature has its own proper sphere, the "things" that belong to it and with which it is conversant. Sense perceives material things, and, according to the delicacy of its organization, it appreciates the truth of these—beauty of form and colour, variety and harmony of sound, etc. Intellect moves in a region of abstract thought, entertains ideas, judges their relations, etc. Conscience deals with moral questions, determines the dictates of duty, the distinctions of right and wrong. The heart is the seat and tribunal of the affections, love and hate, desire and aversion, hope and fear. Each faculty has its particular part to play in the economy of our life. But when we come to the higher region of the "things of God," we find that which lies beyond the range of these mere natural powers. These Greeks of Corinth and Athens with whom Paul had to do were many of them men of fine native capacity and high culture, men of subtle thought and delicate sensibility. There were "princes" among them, men who had risen above their fellows in the particular departments of human interest for which nature qualified them. The ruler, the senator, the economist, could discern the exigencies of state, and judge matters of law and policy. The philosopher could weigh the evidences of science and thread the mazes of speculative thought. The poet knew what the "fine frenzy" of imagination meant, and could portray in glowing speech the changeful phases of human passion and life. The sculptor and painter had souls alive to the beauty of form and colour, and conversant with the canons of aesthetic taste. And no doubt there were among them men of tender feeling and noble character—benevolent citizens; honourable merchants; faithful, loving fathers, husbands, brothers, friends. And yet how utterly in the dark were they as to the real nature and character of the Deity, and the way of access to him; as to how their being might be redeemed from the power of evil; and how they might solve the mystery and soothe the sadness of death and of the tomb! There had been among them many
"A grey spirit yearning with desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought."
But they could not gain the most distant glimpse of this higher knowledge. It was as a star that had not risen upon them and of the beauty of whose light they could not dream. Indeed, the shadow of their ignorance had settled down so deeply upon them that they had lost the hope of ever seeing the light. They could not recognize it when it came. Paul's preaching was "foolishness" to them. He was but one of the tribe of "babblers," a "setter forth of strange gods." His voice was like that of "one that crieth in the wilderness." It awakened for the most part no responsive echo, but died away upon the empty air. The powers of the natural man are as ineffectual for any saving purpose now as ever they were; as incapable of receiving the deep things of God as they were of discovering them. To be assured of this, we have only to remember to how large an extent the intellect of the age goes darkly and wildly astray from Christ; how men of scientific genius, dealing with the phenomena and laws of the universe, fail often to find in them anything Divine; and how many there are whose very natural virtues condemn them because they refuse to exercise on the heavenward side of their being affections that give so much charm to their lower earthly life. All this tells us that men must be inspired by a Power higher than any that is latent in their own nature before they can rise to the apprehension of Divine things and to the beauty and dignity of the life of God.
II. THESE THINGS ARE REVEALED TO US BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. The Spirit is plainly spoken of here as a personal Being, entering into personal contact and converse with the human soul, imparting to it a faculty of spiritual apprehension which it would not otherwise possess, Note:
1. The Spirit who inspired the apostles to deliver their gospel message prepared men, rightly to receive and interpret it. It was the same power in both (John 15:26, John 15:27; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4-8; 1 John 2:20-27).
2. This interpretive faculty is far less a matter of mental perpetration than of spiritual sympathy. This is seen in rite contrast instituted between the "spirit of the world" and the "spirit that is of God." The spirit of the world is ever a captious, sophistical spirit, distrustful, carnal, vain, self willed. The spirit that is of God is simple, lowly, loving, trustful, submissive, childlike. Coming from God, it is in true affinity with the mind of God, and with that Word which is the reflex of the thought and of the heart of God. When, in answer to the wondering question of the Jews, "How knoweth this man letters," etc.? (John 7:15), Jesus answered, "My teaching is not mine," etc., he placed himself on a level which they also might occupy. Let them emulate his loving loyalty to the will of the Father, and they also shall "know." We must have something of the spirit of the well beloved Son in us if we would rightly apprehend "the things that are freely given to us of God."—W.
1 Corinthians 2:15
The judging faculty.
"He that is spiritual" is he in whom the Spirit of God dwells, pervading his spirit with a light and quickening it to a life above that of nature. This higher spirit life has many marks of distinction. It is one of these to which the apostle here gives prominence. Two things are affirmed of the spiritual man—
(1) His power to judge;
(2) his freedom from being judged.
I. HIS POWER TO JUDGE. The attitude of mind suggested is an inquiring, critical, testing attitude—an attitude in which it holds its faith in abeyance until perfectly convinced that that which claims it is divinely true, "proving all things" that it may "hold fast that which is good." The spiritual man brings everything thus to the secret tribunal of his own soul.
1. All forms of human teaching and influence, the various ways in which men seek to guide our opinions and our conduct. "Believe not every spirit, but prove," etc. (1 John 4:1). We may apply this to the whole action of the spirits of men upon us through the ordinary means of personal influence. The spirit of truth and the spirit of error, the spirit of good and of evil, come to us through these human channels; and our mental conditions, our daily habits of thought and life, are determined; often far more than we are aware of, in this way. The spirits of men are embodied in their works and words, and thus not merely when they are physically present with us, but when we have never seen them face to face, when oceans roll between us, when they have passed away to other worlds, we may feel their living touch upon our souls: Their sway over us is independent of the conditions of space and time. "Being dead, they yet speak." "They rule us from their urns." Their very names are instruments of persuasive spiritual power. The grand question in every such case is whether this power is on the whole favourable or otherwise to the cause of truth and righteousness. It is by some criterion of right and wrong in our own souls that this question must be determined, and what can the criterion be but the "spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind" that God gives? Books, sermons, newspapers, theories, systems of religious faith and ecclesiastical polity, the personal example and converse of others, the social sentiments and customs that prevail around us,—in short, everything that possesses a moral quality and wields a moral influence over us, must be subjected to this test. This is the Divine "right of private judgment," which in its highest aspect we cannot surrender if we would.
2. The revelation of God, coming to us as it does through human and. natural channels, must needs be amenable to the same law. According to its own teaching, the Divine in us can alone discover and recognize the Divine element in it. "He that is of God heareth the words of God" (John 8:47); "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37); "Ye have an anointing of the Holy One," etc. (1 John 2:20). Men justly argue that the Bible, like every other book, must be brought to the tribunal of the "judging faculty." But what is that faculty? If they mean by it the Spirit of God given in his measure to every lowly Christian believer, the wondrous supernatural light that shines from heaven upon every soul that humbly and prayerfully looks up for it,—this is a principle to which all apostolic voices bear witness. But if they mean some native faculty, some light of natural reason, some power of spiritual discernment inherent in the very constitution of our being,—they are trusting to that which is the source of all confusion of thought and divergence of opinion, an ignis faluus, which leads through mazes of uncertainty to the darkness of doubt and of despair. The religious sensibility in every man to which revelation appeals is one thing; the interpretive and verifying faculty, which is the special gilt of the Spirit of God, which, indeed, is the Spirit of God in man, is another. How stroll we know that we have this power? In one view of it it is a self witnessing power, which no rival authority can gainsay; in another, it is a power that proves itself by its qualities and results. It is a lowly, loving, patient, trustful, obedient spirit. And its supreme characteristic is that it testifies to Christ as at once the Centre and Circumference of our highest thought, the Source and End of our noblest life. It is the "mind of Christ," and no "persuasion" can be in harmony with it that does not lead more or less directly to him.
II. HIS FREEDOM FROM BEING JUDGED. "He himself is judged of no man" who has not the same spiritual faculty. This follows as a necessary consequence of the superiority of his own gift. Take it in different ways.
1. No such man can understand him. The workings of his inner life, his deepest thoughts, affections, aspirations, conflicts, the powers that sustain and the principles that govern his whole spiritual existence,—these form a world into which the unspiritual man cannot enter. We arc all mysteries to each other in the individuality of our being. Each lives in his own world, and the painful sense of solitude will often seize upon the thoughtful spirit. Imperfect sympathies arising from imperfect mutual acquaintance are among the saddest features of our social existence, and will often awaken strange longings for a state of being in which we "shall know even as also we are known." In no case is this separation so complete as between the spiritual and the carnal man. Here lies a gulf which no artifice, no arrangement of outward circumstances, can bridge over. When a good man's lot is cast among uncongenial society, he is driven in upon himself, on the silent satisfactions of his own soul. Like the Master, he "has meat to eat which the world knows not of." Many a tender spirit has felt thus isolated in the midst of those most fondly loved. An atmosphere of natural affection and all natural endearments of life surround them, but in the deepest reality of their being they dwell alone.
2. He is not open, on the side of his religious thought and life, to the hostile criticism of any man. How shall others "judge" that with which they have nothing in common, and the very essential meaning of which they cannot understand?
3. No false influence from man can lead him fatally astray. Who shall unsettle the faith or shake the steadfastness of one who is thus bathed in the light and rooted and grounded in the life of God? Who is he that shall bring again into bondage one whom the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" has thus made free? Here lies the grand condition alike of mental assurance and. moral strength.—W.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Corinthians 2:2
The great theme.
The apostolic preacher considered what was most needful and profitable to his audience, not what would meet their curiosity or please their taste. So he, of deliberate purpose, gave prominence to a theme which the Greeks were disposed to scorn, but which they, in common with all sinners, needed to hear—Christ crucified. A modern preacher who would be faithful must keep his soul braced to the same determination: "Not anything … save Jesus Christ." Not Christianity, but Christ; not a system, but the Saviour at the centre of it. "Whom we preach," etc. (Colossians 1:28). "And him crucified." That which appeared to men the indelible disgrace of Jesus of Nazareth has proved to be his great power over human conscience and his great attraction for the human heart. St. Paul had seen many proofs of this in his public ministry, and had felt the force of this in his own soul. And the chief theme of the apostle ought to be the chief theme still. A thousand things have changed in the world, but not the moral and spiritual exigency of man. The preaching of Christ crucified cannot grow obsolete. Take the following as reasons for determining to preach Christ and him crucified:—
I. REDEMPTION IS BY CHRIST CRUCIFIED. Whether it be redemption from "all iniquity," from "the curse of the Law," or from a "vain manner of life," it is distinctly ascribed in Scripture to the blood of Christ or to his death (see Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18; Galatians 3:13; Revelation 5:9). The dignity of his person, the purity of his disposition, and the holiness of his life gave value to his death; but it was by his death that he obtained eternal redemption for us.
II. PEACE OF CONSCIENCE COMES THROUGH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, No study of nature, no study of Scripture apart from the cross of Calvary, can relieve the distress of a conscience alive to the heinousness of sin and the imminence of judgment. Not even the contemplation of Jesus Christ in his spotless example can give any relief. How far are we from full conformity to him! We are more and more conscience stricken till we behold him suffering for our sins, and then we have "peace by the blood of his cross."
III. DEATH TO SIN IS THROUGH CHRIST CRUCIFIED. We are baptized into his death, and, being buried with him, emerge in newness of life. Through faith we have moral identification with our Lord, and, dying to sin, as crucified with him, we live to righteousness, because he lives in us.
IV. THE SUPREME ARGUMENT OF LOVE IS IN CHRIST CRUCIFIED. At the cross God commends his love to us, and Christ proves himself the good Shepherd in giving his life for the sheep. The plea for love among Christians is thus put by St. Paul: "Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up," etc. (Ephesians 5:2).
V. THE SUPREME EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE IS IN CHRIST CRUCIFIED. (See 1 Peter 2:20-24.) Thus it is that many sufferers have learned submission from considering the unmurmuring endurance of the Lamb of God, who, under all the pressure of the last sufferings, made no complaint—"opened not his mouth."
VI. ENMITY TO HIS CROSS IS REPRESENTED AS A FATAL SIN. In Hebrews 10:29 contempt of "the blood of the covenant" is referred to as deserving of the sorest punishment. In Philippians 3:18, Philippians 3:19, St. Paul writes, not without tears, of the destruction which awaits those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ." Men are such enemies when, being self righteous, they will not put their trust for salvation in Christ crucified; or when, being self willed and earthly minded, they refuse the sanctifying power of the cross, and will not have their "old man crucified with Christ." It is no light matter or venial offence to ignore or despise the "one Sacrifice for sins." For all these reasons, the modern preacher should resolve as St. Paul resolved, and let no passing fashion of the time shake his resolution. Great works of God around us have a certain freshness and immortality. The flow of rivers, the surging of the sea, the course of the seasons, the splendour of the sun, and the bright order of the stars are the same now as when man first observed them. So also it is with the great work of God in Christ for our salvation, finished on the cross. Its wisdom and righteousness and love are as worthy of adoring praise today as they were in the days when apostles, prophets, and evangelists went to and fro among wondering cities of the East, determined to know nothing among the people save Jesus Christ and him crucified.—F.
1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 2:10
The true wisdom.
Often in the Epistles there is a single word on which the whole discussion turns. In the letter to the Romans, it is "righteousness;" to the Colossians, it is "fulness;" to the Hebrews, it is "perfection." In the letter to the Corinthians, it is "wisdom." Those Greeks sought after wisdom. It was nothing to them that the gospel might relieve a troubled conscience or reform an unworthy life, if it did not correspond with their ideas of philosophy. But St. Paul had an answer to give them for which they were not at all prepared. He calmly affirmed that they were incompetent judges of a heavenly wisdom, and that in his gospel to the people there was a philosophy beyond their power of apprehension—"the manifold wisdom of God." Greek philosophy at its best sought to ascertain how man may, by knowledge and the pursuit of virtue, reach up towards the highest good. But the gospel taught that the highest Good had come down to dwell among men; and that, by union in faith to that highest Good, man becomes more than a philosopher—a saint.
I. THE INAPTITUDE OF MAN TO RECEIVE THE DIVINE WISDOM OF THE GOSPEL. This is expressed by a quotation from the Old Testament (Isaiah 64:4): "Eye hath not seen it." The reference is not, as in a well known poem, to "the better land," but to the wisdom of God. When Jesus, the incarnate Wisdom, was on earth, many eyes saw him that could not discern the glory of God in him. And many an eye today sees the position of Christianity in the world, the width of its influence, and the dignity of its institutions, yet does not "see Jesus," and the things which God has prepared in Jesus for those that love him. "Ear hath not heard it." That organ which receives so impartially all communications fails to drink in the wisdom of the gospel. It is closed by earthliness of mind, till the power of God's Spirit unstops it, so to hear that the soul may live. "Neither have entered into the heart," etc. (verse 9). The heart is hardened, as well as the eye closed and the ear stopped. The spirit of a man of itself knows only "the things of a man," conceives of wisdom and goodness after the manner and measure of man, and so fails to conceive the ways and thoughts of God, and the things which are freely given by him. So the apostle denied that a man untaught by the Spirit, even though he were a Greek, could rightly estimate the gospel. He could remind the disputers and rhetoricians of Greece that their philosophy might sound as jargon to the unlettered, who could not bring to it a sufficient intellectual appreciation. In like manner, the gospel which he preached might seem to them a jargon or a piece of "foolishness," merely because they were out of moral sympathy with it, and had not sufficient spiritual enlightenment to discern and value it. It was the same lesson which our Lord impressed on Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." He can see Churches, preachers, forms of service, but not the kingdom which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," till he is born again.
II. THE REVELATION OF THE HEAVENLY WISDOM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. It was made known to holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. By them it was communicated to the Churches. But all who heard them required the unction of the Spirit, that they might receive and know the truth. No one can say that this is unreasonable. Every kind of knowledge requires for its reception a healthy state of the human understanding; and, when it relates to morals, a healthy condition of the imagination, conscience, and affections, because of the effect which these have on the understanding. In like manner, spiritual things can be interpreted only to spiritual men. The all searching Spirit of God must act on the spirits of men to whom the gospel is proclaimed, and so enlighten and empower them to receive "the deep things of God." Thus boasting is excluded at every point. Boasting of our righteousness is excluded by the work of the Son of God, all sufficient for us; and boasting of our wisdom by the work of the Spirit of God, all sufficient in us. By the Spirit all things are made new. Eye and ear and heart are new. The eye can see, the ear hear, the heart conceive, "the things which are freely given to us of God." What a dignity is this! What a joy! "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God." We are taught of God, so as to enter with a new power of discernment into the secret of his covenant and the glory of his gospel.—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 2:2
The subject of the Pauline ministry.
The power of preachers is very various. Some depend on the rhetorical form in which they present their message. Their appeal is rather to feeling than to intellect, and they are stronger in the persuasive than in the instructive faculties. Very important spheres open to such men, though their work always needs careful and wise following up and supplementing. Others depend almost wholly upon the value of their subject matter, and even fail to win the acceptance they might in consequence of their so entirely neglecting to culture rhetorical and persuasive forms of speech. In over civilized people, such as were found at Corinth, there usually grows up a great passion for the merely rhetorical, as pleasing to the ear and to the artistic feeling. The Apostle Paul, in his zeal and intensity, despises all mere arts of rhetoric, and relies wholly on the grandeur of his theme, and the spiritual power with which its announcement is to be accompanied. His subject was—
I. A PERSON. "Jesus Christ." The first work of the apostles was to declare the Christian facts, which are the basis of the Christian system. Those facts concern the life, teaching, miracles, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of all these things the apostles had precise and accurate knowledge, and concerning them they could render personal testimony. Of all these things they took care that adequate and satisfactory records should be preserved (2 Peter 1:15, 2 Peter 1:16). But their interest did not lie in the mere facts, but in those facts as throwing light upon the person, the mission, and the Divine saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation, they declared, comes by personal trust in Christ; and that he may be trusted he must be known, fully known. Therefore the apostle went everywhere preaching Christ, setting forth Christ, glorifying Christ, bidding men bow to him, confess to him, and receive forgiveness and eternal life from him. It is still true for us that the preaching of the Christian facts must set forth before men Christ, the person, and the unfolding of the Christian doctrines must glorify the "living Christ," who has all power to save.
II. THAT PERSON'S HISTORY. In view of the tendency to form myths and legends in those days, and to explain everything by theories of myth and legend in our days, it is important that we press the historical value of the records we have concerning Christ. It may be effectively urged that, apart from the question of the miracles, which demand a separate treatment, there is no feature of our Lord's life that is in any way unnatural, or likely to offend the historical faculty. No hero of the historic page can be received as real if a like acceptance be not given to the story of Christ; for the records we have of him will stand as welt as any others the severest historical tests. In our day it is necessary to lay firmly again the old foundations of a real human life and human relations. We must begin with the "Man Christ Jesus." It may further be urged that, apart from higher considerations, the human history of the Lord Jesus Christ presents features of supreme and fascinating interest, as the records of a child, a man, a teacher, a physician, and a sufferer.
III. THAT PERSON'S WHOLE HISTORY. "And him crucified." The apostle might have been tempted to withhold portions of our Lord's story. His town intense Jewish feeling would make him revolt from having to preach salvation by One crucified. "We can scarcely realize now the stumbling block which the preaching of a crucified Christ must have been to Jews and Greeks, the enormous temptation to keep the cross in the background, which the early teachers would naturally have felt, and the sublime and confident faith which must have nerved St. Paul to make it the central fact of all his teaching." He must have had a revelation of the glory of the mystery of the Crucifixion.
He must have seen how it "behoved Christ thus to suffer." He knew that this was the necessary completion of his earthly mission, the last earthly step, to be followed by a footfall in the "heavenly places" where he should receive authority and power to save. The "history" would be incomplete without the Crucifixion. The "mission" would have been altogether a failure without the Crucifixion. The Christian doctrine would be a moral scheme, and not a Divine salvation, without the Crucifixion.
IV. THAT IN WHICH CHRIST'S WHOLE HISTORY CULMINATED. St. Paul could not stay and rest in a human Christ, however attractive the records of his life and doings, or however quickening to human sympathy the story of his suffering death. He says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [thus] no more." The earth story culminated in this, viz. that he is exalted, a Prince and a Saviour. He is endowed with a present saving power. Crucified in weakness, he liveth by the power of God. From the cross he went to the throne, and St. Paul himself saw him at the right hand of God. St. Paul's subject was—The once crucified Christ, who can save to the uttermost now.
Impress that men find shame in the Crucified until they can read the mystery of the cross; then they glory in the shame, glory even in the cross. There will always, for true Christian hearts, be darkness and sadness hanging all about the cross, and yet the darkness is dispelled with streams of holy, loving light, and the sadness of our sympathy passes, giving place to songs of joyous triumph.
"We sing the praise of him who died,
Of him who died upon the cross."
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
Personal weakness and spiritual strength.
In both the ordinary daily concerns and in the special religious service of life, a man may he just himself alone, confident in his own powers, self centred, self satisfied, reliant, on his own health of body, vigour of mind, well trained habits, quick judgment, and sound wisdom. Titan, no matter how sate and strong he may seem to be, he is really weak; and, as life advances and testing times take new and severer forms, his weakness will be proved and his pride effectively humbled. A man may even now be moved and possessed by an evil spirit. Still the solemn fact remains that man's soul' lies open to malign spiritual influences, which work through the bodily lusts and passions. Then the man himself is weak indeed, and the alien force within him shows strength only unto things that are debasing and evil. A man may be God's agent, having the Spirit of God dwelling in him and working through him. Then, no matter what may be the bodily frailties or the untoward earthly surroundings, the man will be found really strong, efficient to all spiritual work, which the indwelling Spirit may move him to undertake. This last is St. Paul's experience, Men saw in him great human weakness. tie felt within him great spiritual power, for he was the agent of the Holy Ghost.
I. THE IMPRESSION MADE BY ST. PAUL'S APPEARANCE. There can be little doubt that he was diminutive in stature, frail in health, unskilful as a rhetorician, and probably he was suffering from some disease or infirmity which made his appearance even unsightly. Of this his enemies were prepared to take undue advantage. The various descriptions of St. Paul's person should be considered, and the various theories concerning the special infirmity from which he suffered, Many of God's most devoted servants have, like Richard Baxter, Robert Hall, and many others, had to bear the heavy burden of constitutional disease, of intense physical suffering. But these things have been overruled, as in St. Paul's case, for good, so that they have become the very forces that have fitted the men for the nobler discharge of their great life works.
II. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF FRAILTY WITH WHICH ALL HIS WORK WAS DONE. There was not only the fact of suffering, but also the feeling of frailty. There was the sense of" fear," and there was much "trembling." He did not overmaster his trouble, but actually worked with it ever pressing upon him. "There was no self confidence, nothing but self mistrust, anxiety, the deepest sense of unworthiness". "There was a large element of that self distrust which so noble and sensitive a nature would feel in the fulfilment of such an exalted mission as the preaching of the cross." We may to some extent realize at how great a cost Christian ministers master bodily infirmity in order to do us service for Christ's sake; but few can know how much intenser is the struggle with inward fear and hesitation, and with the overwhelming sense of unworthiness and unfitness. Only in the strength and grace of God are these diffidences and inward fears overcome.
III. THE GLORIOUS RESULTS REACHED BY ST. PAUL'S WORK. These are implied in his appeal to the Corinthians that his work had been "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Those results were of two kinds—
Men received Christ as St. Paul unfolded his claims and his love. The Church was built up in the faith through the Pauline instructions. Subsidiary results, such as overthrow of idolatry, and change of daily moral life and relations, may be further considered. The Corinthians were themselves among the most interesting results of his divinely inspired labours.
IV. THE SECRET OF HIS SUCCESS IN HIS OPENNESS TO DIVINE LEAD. Men would have found it in his "accent of conviction," his intensity, his natural gift of leadership, the newness of his subject, the preparedness of the times, or the appeal to men's feelings; but none of these would have satisfied St. Paul. He would have said, when all had passed by, "You have not found out my secret." None of these explanations could satisfy any of us who carefully judged the phenomena. St. Paul was an endowed man. He was open to the Divine leadings. He was inspired by the Divine Spirit. God wrought with him, and these were the signs following. True spiritual work has still no other explanation. Men are mighty in the measure of their openness to the Divine lead. And the maintenance of this openness is the supreme anxiety of all earnest Christian workers. There must be, for all noble and lasting issues, the "demonstration of the Spirit."
Impress the mysterious power which some men have in conversation and in preaching; yet how often they are men or women of frail bodies, sensitive nerves, and wearying disease! They are under all kinds of disabilities; but these seem only to culture the higher spiritual power. Illustrate, e.g., McCheyne, Henry Martyn, F. Ridley Havergal, etc. This openness to the agency of the Holy Ghost is to be won. Our Lord taught us how. Such power comes through prayer and fasting: prayer, or closeness and intimacy of communion with God; fasting, or watchfulness, self denial, and mastery of bodily passion. We may win the joy of being "coworkers together with God."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 2:6
Who are the perfect?
The word is used in various senses in the New Testament. Our Lord applied it to God, saying, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." It is used to express what a Christian ought to he, and is pledged to be, and is striving to be, very much as the term "saints" is used in the Old Testament. Perfection, as presented by the apostles, is the idea, the aim, to be kept in the soul of the Christian, there to work as a perpetual inspiration to the seeking of perfection in the life. St. Paul presents the distinction between full grown men and little children. The full grown men are the perfect; they have reached the fulness, the standard of Christian manhood. St. John has a similar kind of expression; he addresses several classes—the fathers, the young men, the little children; viewing these as different stages on the way to the perfect, that "perfect" being kept as the thought and aim in the soul of each. In one passage we read, "That ye may be perfect and entire." The idea of "perfect" comes out more plainly when it is set beside another word. A man "entire:" is one who has preserved or regained a lost completeness, or one in whom no grace is wanting that ought to be found in a Christian man; but a man really "perfect" is one who has attained his moral end, the standard according to which he was made; or one in whom no grace that ought to be found in a Christian is lacking, none are imperfect or weak, but all have reached a certain ripeness and maturity. St. Paul's idea of the "perfect," to whom he could speak freely the "wisdom," the higher spiritual mysteries of the gospel, may be considered under three figures—they are the whole, the sound, and the full grown. It was not likely that the young Church at Corinth could furnish very many answering to this description; for most of them the simpler instruction in the commonplaces of gospel truth was still needful.
I. THE WHOLE; or the entire, the complete. Those having all the Christian faculties and graces, and all of them harmoniously cultured. The figure suggests the complete animal, with every limb well formed, and every organ efficiently working. Too often we find Christians who are incomplete; some sides of their natures are quite uncultivated, and some axe over cultivated; they are strong in some things, but weak in others. Just as we see in animals, there are Christian "monstrosities," one sided growths, deficiencies of some important members. Wholeness, perfectness, requires the due culture of the large as well as the small graces and powers. And such "completeness," when reached, is a most important witness to Christ's grace, and appeal to men to seek their perfection through him.
II. THE SOUND; that is, the healthy. It is not enough that the different parts are present, and fitted together in good and practically efficient proportions; all the parts must be free from disease and full of vitality. Perfection demands health as well as completeness. Christians often fail of the standard by reason of sin disease affecting various organs of their spiritual life, e.g. their prayer; their activity in Christian service; their watchfulness over personal habits, or their tendency to depression and doubt. St. John very tenderly writes to the well beloved Gains, "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
III. THE FULL GROWN; or the developed and matured, who have quite passed out of the infantile or childish stage. This is probably the precise form of the figure as it was presented to the mind of the apostle. He elsewhere speaks of adapting his teachings to the uncultured and unspiritual, making them like milk that is suited to the nourishment of babes. He means to press on the Corinthians that, while it is quite right that they should be babes, and as such be fed with the simplicities of Christian doctrine, it is not right that they should remain babes; they should reach Christian manhood, and want man's food of truth and mystery.
Impress how reasonable these views of the "perfect" are, and how contrasted with the vague and sentimental notions of an absolute freedom from sin, of which enthusiasts sometimes dream.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 2:8
What would have prevented Christ's crucifixion?
Attention is directed to the second clause of the verse: "For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." From the point of view of merely worldly policy, the crucifixion of Christ was a profound mistake. Martyrdom never effects the objects sought by the persecutors. It tends rather to glorify, in the popular sentiment, the cause for which the martyrs died. "Not a single calculation of those who compassed the Saviour's death was destined to be fulfilled. Pilate did not escape the emperor's displeasure. Caiaphas (John 11:50) did not save Jerusalem. The scribes and Pharisees did not put down the doctrine of Jesus." Christ's crucifixion may be regarded from several points of view. As we understand how it actually came about, we are prepared to consider what might conceivably have prevented it.
1. It occurred in the order of Divine providence. Every man's life is a plan of God. Each event is fitted, and its influence used or overruled. A man's incoming to life, and outgoing from life, are arranged by the Divine wisdom. The time, the place, and the mode of a man's death are Divine ordering. This is true of every man; it is recognized and made a secret of calm trustfulness for all the future by the Christian man; it is in sublime and glorious manner true of God's own Son, in the life on earth, which was a special Divine mission.
2. It occurred as a natural result of operating causes. In considering this point, we put on one side the Divine overrulings, make a fair estimate of the influence exerted by Christ's character, example, and teaching upon the various classes constituting the people among whom he lived and laboured. When national prejudices are duly weighed, and the character of the public sentiment concerning the expected Messiah, it no longer seems strange that our Lord excited an opposition which culminated in his death.
3. It occurred as a consequence of our Lord's own conduct. He did not, in any determined way, avoid those circumstances and situations which tended to bring about his death. He might, humanly speaking, have remained in Galilee, or hidden himself in Bethany, or fled from Gethsemane as the arresting party approached. Instead, we find him day by day following the Divine lead; in no way forcing his circumstances, though the issue of them was evident enough to himself. His example in this has not been sufficiently considered, though it bears so directly on his characteristic submission, and on the virtue of his sacrifice as purely a voluntary act. Enemies of Christ endeavour to set this to his disadvantage, but a glorifying light shines upon it from the consideration that he knew the cross to be then and there the consummation of his earthly life as designed by the Father. Yet the apostle suggests that the cross might conceivably have been avoided. We can see three possible ways in which this might have been.
I. BY AN EXERCISE OF GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY. It might have pleased God to save mankind in another way. While we see the wonder and the grace of the way God did choose, we are not justified in affirming that it was the only way Divine wisdom could have devised. Or, in God's sovereignty, he might have read the perfect willingness and obedience of Jesus, and spared him the actual shame and pain of the cross. If such exercise of Divine sovereignty was not made, we may be sure that concern for us and for our full redemption made God send his "Lamb to the slaughter." That which was abstractly possible was impossible to him who "so loved the world" as to make even so extreme a sacrifice that it might be saved and won.
II. BY CHRIST'S WILFULNESS. He might have failed in obedience under this last and extreme test. He might have refused the cross, and put away from him his Father's cup. tie was a free agent, and such wilfulness was possible. But the consequences would have been so serious as to be most painful for us to conceive. Man's salvation, though in part accomplished by our Lord's teaching and life, would at last have failed utterly. Christ could have won no saving power. He would have been no more titan a Moses, a Zoroaster, a Socrates, or the Buddha; he could not have been the one only and all sufficient Sin bearer and Saviour.
III. BY THE RULERS' KNOWLEDGE OF WHO HE WAS AND WHAT HIS MISSION WAS. This is St. Paul's point here in the text. The rulers could only put Christ to death while deceiving themselves or deceived as to his character and claims. They could not have put Messiah to death. The whole hope of their race centred in him. But for that very reason their feelings were the more intense against a man of despised Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah, and, they thought, dishonoured the very idea of the Messiahship by his imposture. Had they known—had they seen his glory, they too would have bowed the knee to him, and crowned him with the many crowns. Had they known, they would have sought no false witnesses, nor started the cruel shout, "Crucify him! crucify him!" Often we go over in our thought what might have been, and wish things had been other than they were; and yet God so overrules for good that we may even rejoice in that they, "crucified the Lord of glory."
From our meditations two things come impressively to view.
1. Our Lord's death was no accidental circumstance, but a Divine ordination; and this is true though the outworking of the events show what may be called the usual, or common, orderings of Providence.
2. Our Lord's death was entirely a voluntary act. His will was set on fully carrying out the Divine will, whatever of bearing, doing, or suffering that will might have in it. The virtue of the sacrifice lay partly in the sublime nature of the Victim; partly in the representative character he had taken; but partly also in the flee surrender of his will and life to God, and the unforced voluntariness of his obedience, as tested by a painful and ignominious death. "By the which will we are sanctified."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 2:9
The surprising freshness of the new dispensation.
The precise words, as quoted by the apostle, are not found in the Old Testament. They are probably Isaiah 64:4, given from memory and modified by the thought of phrases found in other parts of Isaiah. Only an unreasonable sentiment concerning verbal inspiration would make difficulty about the inexactness of quotations given from memory. The sense of a passage may be precisely indicated when the words are set in a different order and form. This text has often been used as the basis of elaborate descriptions of heaven, but such treatment is only possible when verse 9 is separated from verse 10. The apostle is plainly dealing with some glory which has been revealed and is now realized, lie conceived of the Divine dealings with men as having been arranged in "ages," or "dispensations." We may thus distinguish the Adamic, Patriarchal, Mosaic, Davidic, Exilic, and post-Exilic. In the passage before us St. Paul shows, not merely that the Christian is another and a succeeding dispensation, but also that, in important respects, it differs from others, and is superior to others. Previous dispensations have given only faint suggestions of the surpassing glory of this one, just as Solomon's magnificent temple did but hint the exceeding glory of that later and spiritual temple, Christ's Church. We may dwell on some of those points in which the Christian revelation seems so new, so surprisingly fresh, so utterly beyond what human imagination could have conceived or human experience suggested.
I. RELIGION IS NOT A CEREMONIAL, BUT A LIFE. To a Jew this was so fresh a conception as to be even bewildering. A less thoughtful Jew would be in peril of cherishing the sentiment that religion was only a ceremonial, a round of ordinances, festivals, and sacrifices. And this view of religion had become the general and prevailing notion in the time of our Lord. A more thoughtful and pious Jew would connect personal godliness with outward ceremonial, and strive to culture an inner life of trust, obedience, and communion with the outward observance of rites and ceremonies. But the new thing revealed in Christianity is, that religion is, essentially and only, the soul's life, and that all ceremonial is mere expression and agency in the work of culture. The relations are manifestly reversed. Formerly there must be ceremonial, and there ought to be life now there must be life, and there may be ceremonial. On fully maintaining these later relations, the health and vigour of Christianity must ever depend.
II. SALVATION BY A SUFFERING AND DYING SAVIOUR. This is indeed a fresh and surprising thing. Triumph is to lie in defeat. Glory is to blossom out of shame. A sublime mission is to be accomplished by a seeming failure. Life for men is to come forth out of death for Christ. It is the introduction of a new force, a moral force. Christ lifted up is to draw men. The story of the crucified One is to melt men into penitence, win their faith, and ensure such a love as shall make even self sacrifice for Christ possible. Men knew before of love that would work for those it loved, and love that would fight for those it loved, and love that would bear for those it loved; but it was new that love should die such a death, not for the loved only, but for the ungodly and enemies by wicked works. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
III. SANCTIFICATION BY THE PRESENT POWER OF HIM WHO DIED. This is altogether new. Christ, as the exalted One, by his Spirit, is now carrying out his redeeming purpose in all hearts and lives that are open to him by faith. We do not struggle for righteousness by unaided personal efforts. Unseen, indeed, still the Living Christ is ever with us. Untraced, indeed, the mighty Spirit of Christ is ever working within us, sanctifying us wholly. And so, in face of all difficulties, perplexities, frailties, or hindrances to spiritual progress, we may calmly say, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" "Greater is he who is with us than all who can be against us."
IV. MAN THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD THROUGH THE SPIRIT. This is also new; for hitherto the common sentiment had been that God dwelt in places, on the mountain's crown, at the altar, in shining pillar clouds, in tabernacle or in temple. Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the God man, shows us that God can dwell in man and make man's body his temple. He can even dwell in us; and an apostle may plead with his people, saying, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?" Surely such an honour for us is beyond all that "eye has seen, ear heard, or heart conceived."
Illustrate that aged Simeon loved God and knew something of him, but he never could have dreamed what God had in store for him—even to hold the world's Babe Saviour in his own trembling arms. What could Abraham, who saw Christ's day; or Moses, who spoke of the great prophet to come; or David, who sang of his Lord making his foes his footstool,—have really known of the Christian glories, the spiritual mysteries of the revelation in Christ? These spiritual things broke more and more clearly on the minds of Peter and John and Paul, until, in utter ravishment and wonder, they exclaimed, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"—R T.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
Speech in the power of the Spirit.
The personal references in St. Paul's Epistles are suitable to the epistolary style of correspondence, and necessary as the vindication of a man who was seriously attacked and slandered. Generally his allusions arc more or less directed to his claim as an apostle. Because this did not take precisely the same grounds as the claims of the earlier apostles, it was easy for his enemies to question and even deny his rights. St. Paul's chief argument is that the "signs of an apostle were wrought by him," and here, in our text, he urges that his teaching was manifestly inspired and sealed by the Holy Spirit, and that his apostolic claim was fully recognized by all "spiritual men." Wickliffe skilfully renders the last clause of 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Maken a liknesse of spyritual things to goostli men."
I. THE DIVINE PREPARATION FOR APOSTOLIC TEACHING.
1. The apostle must have received the Spirit of God. Personal experience of regeneration, and personal openness to the Divine incoming, are absolute essentials to all Christian service as teachers, in older days and now, in the lesser spheres as well as the greater. Judas can teach nobody; only as "converted" can St. Peter "strengthen the brethren" or "feed the lambs."
2. He must know the things of God through the Spirit's teaching. Here the adequacy of the Spirit to be the renewed man's Teacher may be shown.
(1) He knows God.
(2) He knows man.
(3) He has access to man's mind and heart, and an adaptation to each individual can be assured.
The operations of the Divine Spirit as the renewed man's Teacher also require consideration. Generally it may be said that he unfolds the redemption mystery in its practical details and applications.
Our Lord's division of his work is that he teaches
(1) of sin;
(2) of righteousness;
(3) of judgment.
The true preparation for teaching is an inner spiritual life, a Divine indwelling and endowment, and these finding expression through the natural powers and relations. There is a full sense in which the true Christian teacher has still an inspired and sanctified speech, and therefore all the authority which the Divine Spirit can give.
II. THE MINISTRY OF APOSTLESHIP IN HUMAN LANGUAGE. "Which things we speak." Speech is almost our best force for the communication of truth and for the impression of duty. It works by persuasion, not force. It has no physical, but wholly moral power. Yet history declares, in repeated instances, how human words can sway emotion and arouse to action; e.g. the Crusades. But man's words may be mere words, incapable of producing more than limited effects upon passion, sentiment, etc. They may have a Divine life in them, and so be mighty to break stubborn hearts, bow the wicked to penitence, draw men to God, and change the whole character of the life. Words which the Holy Ghost teacheth are mighty to pull down strongholds. By the "foolishness of preaching" men are saved and blessed. But the sphere of apostolic speech is clearly defined. Such a teacher speaks spiritual things; and it is indicated that he will speak in vain, save as men are receptive, spiritually toned, having the spiritual sensibility quickened. The merely natural man cannot receive God inspired teachings. So there is at once a preparation of the teacher, and a preparation of those to whom his words are addressed. The practical duty of culturing Christian life and feeling, in order to gain the best blessing from our pastors and teachers, may be made the subject of an earnest and effective conclusion.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 2:15
The natural and the spiritual man.
This is not a common division of men, or one that can be recognized from a worldly point of view. The world knows learned men and ignorant men, rich men and poor men, but not natural men and spiritual men. This distinction is wholly made from the Christian standpoint, but it becomes the all important one, in the presence of which all merely worldly classifications of men become insignificant. Modern theories of man's nature may be reviewed. Some regard man as composed of body and soul; others distinguish the rational soul from the spiritual and immortal nature, and. divide into body, mind, and soul. This mode of regarding man may give clearness to the distinction in our text between the natural and the spiritual man; but the apostle would seem rather to have in mind the principles and spirit ruling the several men, and making the difference between them, and it does not seem likely that he held any particular theory of man's nature. It is sufficient that the two kinds of men—the natural and the spiritual—have been recognized in every Christian age, and are plain to our view now.
I. COMPARE THE SPHERES OF THE TWO. Most of the spheres are common to both.
(1) The physical sphere;
(2) the relational sphere;
(3) the social, sphere;
(4) the intellectual sphere.
But to the natural man the intellectual is the highest department. He may have genius for literature, poetry, painting, sculpture; but he can never transcend the sphere of mind. "The natural man is he whose perceptions do not extend beyond the region of the intellect, the part of his being which he has in common with the animal creation." "The natural man is he in whom pure intellectual reason and the merely natural affections predominate." But though the natural man's sphere is thus limited, there is glorious fulness within the limits; the perfection of art is yet unattained; the possibilities of knowledge are far from exhausted, though the noble minds of the long ages have been occupied in study and research. We need not undervalue the natural man's sphere, so far as it goes. But the spiritual man enters a region altogether unknown to, and hopelessly closed to, the natural man. It is the sphere of the unseen, the eternal, the spiritual; in a word, of God and the things of God. Regeneration in the power of the Holy Ghost involves and includes an awakening of new sensibilities to Divine and eternal things. It is as if a man were endowed with some new senses, and found revealed to him what his fellow men might not know. In this higher and further sphere man can alone find satisfaction for his full powers. It is an encircling sphere that hallows all the lesser ones in which he shares with his fellows.
II. COMPARE THE CONDUCT OF THE TWO. As a rule, the conduct of the natural man will be ruled and toned by considerations of self pleasing. This may be tempered by goodness of the natural disposition, or by culture and self mastery; but the tendency always lies towards bodily indulgence and power of sensual passion. The sky over such a man is low, and he fails to get the elevating of the high, vast, pure heavens. Another sentiment tones the conduct of the spiritual man. For him life is God's, the world is God's, he is God's; arid there is no question with him as to what he would like; all his desire is to know what God would wish. His whole conduct must be in harmony with and must tend to work out God's purposes. For him there is no danger of deterioration. His sphere is exhilarating, his thought is inspiring, his progress is assured.
III. COMPARE THE FUTURE OF THE TWO. The natural man can have no future that is more than sentiment. His sphere is temporary. He must make what he can of the life that now is. His career has its limits here and its good things now. To the spiritual man life here is but a stage of the true life, a preparation time for a nobler life, upon which he is soon to enter. That future ceases to be strange to him, as he fully realizes life in the Divine spheres now.
Impress the disabilities of the "natural man," and show how, by God's gracious provision, the "natural" may become "spiritual."—R.T.