1 CORINTHIANS 2
The Cross at Corinth
The death and resurrection of Christ constitute the foundation of the whole scheme of salvation.
But the form and frequency with which the doctrine may be presented is a question of circumstances. Paul had a good reason for giving the cross a prominent place among the Corinthians. They were surrounded by a system of philosophy which made a future life an affair of "virtue."
The Platonists taught the immortality of the soul, and a happy disembodiment to those who lived righteously, according to philosophic conceptions. Paul taught the mortality of man under the divine law, and Christ, crucified and raised, as the only possible means of future immortality.
Paul and "the wisdom of this world," as exemplified in the doctrine of the Grecians, were at direct issue on the point that brought the death of Christ into prominence.
In the circumstances of the Corinthians, it was the most natural declaration of his attitude to say that among them he would know nothing; but (1) "Jesus Christ and (2) him crucified;" that is, he would know nothing but "the things concerning the kingdom of God (symbolised by the name Jesus Christ), and the things concerning his name," as a means of salvation.
He refused to recognise "philosophy and vain deceit," that imported "virtue" into the question, as determining a man's future destiny.
He adhered rigidly to the truth of God, which had for its centre and foundation, the fact that Christ had died and risen again. But he did not exclude the fact that Christ, who had thus died, was the king of Israel, and future ruler of the world. Orthodox religion does this.
It excludes the kingdom of God, and sets the Bible against itself. It makes Paul in his letters, teach that what he preached in his evangelistic journeyings, was unnecessary (Acts xx: 25; xxviii: 32).
When the truth is understood in its entirety, all its elements have a Scriptural place-the kingdom not eclipsing the cross, and the cross not overshadowing the kingdom.
The Christadelphian, March 1898
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
Enticing words of man's wisdom
"The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God,"-
..."If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."
Many will be prepared to admit the force of all this as applicable to the false science and philosophy of 1,800 years ago, who may have a reservation in favour of the world's wisdom in the nineteenth century.
They may suppose that Paul would not have written of modern science as he wrote of Greek speculation. They may have a feeling to the effect that, in our day at all events, it has ceased to be true that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.
In this there is greater mistake than may at first sight appear. There is doubtless an accurate knowledge of the constitution of nature in all her aspects which did not exist in Paul's day. Science is more truly knowledge in our day than then, notwithstanding a wonderful amount of speculation in its higher applications.
Still "wisdom" is no more a characteristic of the experimental schools of modern times than of the speculative schools of Athens. Wisdom is more than knowledge. It comprehends knowledge but it is the right use of knowledge rather than knowledge itself.
A man might understand the chemistry of farming, and be the vagabond of the village. Another man, with less knowledge, who industriously tilled the soil, would be the wiser man of the two.
The question is, what is scientific knowledge capable of doing for us, and how is the scientific knowledge used? The answer to this will bring modern learning as much under Paul's disparagements as the wisdom of the Greeks.
In the first place, it has no power to deliver us from the evil state in which we live. A man might understand all the mysteries of the universe without being a whit nearer salvation than the ignorant. His knowledge would merely be a knowledge of what exists, and a knowledge of this may be of service as regards present convenience and health; but it cannot be turned to any account in changing a man's own constitution and averting the law of death, which overshadows all life, as at present manifested in the world.
...we want a fixed standard. We have it in Christ. He exemplifies to us, and instructs us by his apostles as to the best possible. He shows in himself, and offers to us the perfection of being, intrinsically, and in all its relations. He shows to us that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested in the Son to the apostles, and by them reflected to us, through their teaching.
...The simplicity of belief, the dependence of faith, the humility of obedience, are all repugnant to their intellectual modes and instincts which lead them to prefer ways and thoughts that involve human headship, and provide scope for human importance and gratification. Such men are unfit for the final goodness of God, which requires that God may be glorified, and God's way hides it from them.
We are here this morning rather as "the babes," to whom Jesus says the Father hath revealed His precious intentions. It is ours to humble ourselves as little children, accepting in gratitude and rejoicing in the proffered goodness of God. But though children, Paul says,
"in understanding, be men".
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
Science tells us, with a quiet grimness,...that the best thing we can do is to do the very best we can for ourselves, of which we are to be the sole judges as to what that is.
It practically assures us that this life is the only life we shall ever have, and that in the end, it is a matter of very small moment how we may choose to live, act, speak, feel, or think.
'What is the effect of such a doctrine? You see it in the slow freezing that is going on through all society. It cannot be otherwise. Let a man once embrace such a doctrine, and he is powerless in the presence of the forces that originally characterize all men at the bottom. Those forces will work up from the bottom of the constitution, and establish themselves in a brutal if refined indifference to all interests but his own.
Men become selfish under such an influence. Their selfishness is only tempered by the need for conciliating their fellow-men, upon whose good graces they may depend for the accomplishment and achievement of personal interests.
This need for conciliation may give politeness and consideration, but it is only skin deep, and will disappear when it is no longer needed, as when a man makes a fortune and retires.
The original animalism will certainly assert itself in the long run, when the sense of responsibility and futurity is withdrawn. Under such a wisdom, all nobility of character must disappear, and man become a prey to the powerful instincts of self-interest...
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
How am I to convince others that this knowledge is only through the Gospel?
By showing them what the knowledge revealed in the testimony is; in other words, "declare the testimony of God;" and reason out its propositions.
The Gospel is emphatically styled "the glad tidings of the Kingdom;" strike out "the kingdom," and all that remains is "the glad tidings of," or "gospel of." A rational man will readily see, that the glad tidings concentre in the kingdom; and as they are yet future, they are matter of hope, and therefore of promise,
"exceeding great and precious promises."
No kingdom, no promises, and no promised kingdom; no glad tidings, or gospel: hence, the knowledge can only be through
"the Gospel of God, which he has promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures."
It is the function of reason to demonstrate this from the testimony; and when the demonstration sounds upon the ears of honest and good hearts, they will be aroused to a collateral examination of the word, and they will not be difficult to enlighten.
There are some, however, that cannot be convinced; either because they have no natural capacity, or are slaves to their lusts, or are in bondage to their worldly interests, or are not rational. Christ's sheep hear his voice; sound out the truth, and leave the rest to God.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, May 1858
9 But as it is written [Isa 64: 1-4], Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Paul quotes this in 1 Cor. 2:9, in such a way as to show that the "Elohim" apostrophised by Isaiah, as the many in one who alone hath given ear to the things that shall be prepared, are the saints in Christ; for he saith to this class of persons,
"God hath revealed them to us by His Spirit . . . that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. For all things are ours and for our sakes" (chap. 3:21; 2 Cor. 4:15).
The Elohim only have heard and given ear to, and seen by the eye of faith, the all things to be inherited. Thus saith Isaiah. But Paul also saith, that he and his brethren discerned them; therefore, admitting Paul to be a competent witness in the premisses, "the saints in Christ Jesus" who are finally approved, and the Elohim of Isaiah in the text before us are the same.
Phanerosis - His Face As the Appearance of Lighting
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
The drift of scriptural teaching is not likely to be penetrated by the natural mind at the first view. The plan is to receive in simplicity one idea at a time, and gradually this will lead to a perception of the "drift of the matter."
The Christadelphian, Sept 1869
It is of importance that Paul's authority and reliability be realised. God bare him witness-it is upon this that our assurance concerning the infallibility of his teaching may rest. To question Paul is to insult God. This is involved in the apostle's claims:-
"We speak not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth (1 Cor. ii.13.)-"I command, yet not I, but the Lord" (1 Cor. vii.10.)-
"If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. xiv. 37.)-
"As God is true, our word was not yea and nay" (2 Cor. i. 18)
-"We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor. ii. 17)-"For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed" (2 Cor. x. 8)-"If I come again, I will not spare since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me" (2 Cor. xiii. 3)
-"Now the things which I write unto you, behold before God, I lie not" (Gal. i. 20)-"Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thes. ii. 15.)
What unspeakable comfort springs from the fact that we have such a guide! How assuring for poor, hesitating, fallible man! Paul's writings may be received with the simplicity of a child-without reservation and question.
What a contrast between these writings and the productions of ordinary men!
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Feb 1887. p66
Not by our own power
Inspiration (H. L. B.)-Your letter well reflects the character of the situation at its initial stage. The situation has not altered in essence during the period your communication has stood over for the possibility of a moment's attention. Anything short of a complete surrender to the all-part inspiration of the Scriptures, is a practical disestablishment of their reliability, as a ground of faith and confidence.
It was the fact of the Apostolic testimony, that their speech and preaching was
"not, with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; so that the faith of those who heard might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
God was at great pains to secure this result-a result upon which the very truth itself depends. This included divine qualification, as well as divine authority; without which it would have been just what Paul says it was not, viz., a thing expressed in the "words" of man's wisdom.
"Divine authority" is one of the latest designs in the interests of compromise. But what avails it to attribute divine authority to a book that is conceived to have been written or expressed in the mere words of man's wisdom. To say that "David penned" this or "that Psalm as the outflow of his own heart, rather than it being words taught him by the Spirit," is simply to ascribe what the Spirit did to David's own power, much after the way, that some in Christ's time ascribed the works of the Spirit to the power of Beelzebub.
This is the unwitting blasphemy by which some in our days are said to have been "particularly comforted." Both Christ and the Apostles were particular to guard men against such a view of the case-"It is not ye that speak," said Christ,
"but the Spirit of your father that speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:20);
and so Peter,
"Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power, or holiness, we had made this man to walk?"
The culminating device in the interests of such a Bible, is surely reached in the phraseology by which it has now come to be described as "divinely human, and humanly divine." As a mere matter of words this sounds pretty, almost charming, but as a description applicable to the Scriptures, the Edenic serpent could scarcely have improved upon it.
Interpreted, it means that the Bible is a book equally to be ascribed to God and man-a thing of joint authorship, and joint editorship, and therefore a thing in which what one party to the work is not responsible for, the other is. In such a case the question to be settled every time it was quoted, would be "Who is responsible for this?"
This throws wide open the door for human criticism, alias human glorying,-a door that God has arranged shall be closed, so
"that no flesh should glory in his presence,"
world without end.
Bro. F. R. Shuttleworth
The Christadelphian, June 1888
14 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.
A Scriptural comprehension of the relation of the Mosaic law
To those who would in any thing put themselves under the law, do ye not hear the law which thunders in your ears from Sinai:
"Cursed be every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them?"
It is of no avail to keep the law in one or more points, and to violate it in a thousand others, or even in one other. It must be kept "in all things," not merely in some things, by one who would commend himself to God by its observances. But it cannot be kept; first, because of the weakness of the flesh; and secondly, because of political impediments—so that it is written,
"by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified."
The righteousness of the law, however, may be kept, and must be fulfilled by all, both Jews and Gentiles, who would be saved.
"The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh," says Paul, "but after the spirit."
Israel under the law walked after the flesh; that is, in its ordinances pertaining to the flesh; but the Israel in Christ in walking worthy of God, "walk after the spirit." These alone keep the righteousness of the law. Thus, they keep Sabbath, not in abstaining from all manner of work on the seventh day, or Saturday; but in ceasing or resting from their own works, the works of the old Adam, or the flesh of sin, as God rested from His.
They eat also the unleavened bread of the presence, in eating leavened bread "with the unleavened (principles) of sincerity and truth;" the bread of the passover, and the show bread of the Holy Place, being typical, not of unleavened bread upon the Lord's table, but of the Mystical Body of Christ unleavened "with the leaven of malice and wickedness."
The things of the law are not typical of themselves, but of the things of the spirit. The oil in the golden lightstand did not typify oil, but spirit; nor the burning incense, literal incense, but the prayers of the saints; nor the paschal lamb, a literal lamb, but Christ personal and mystical; and so forth.
How "barren," then, "and unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" must those minds be, that can rise no higher than the conception of a type terminating in a type, or in itself—oil ending in oil, unleavened bread in unleavened bread, incense in incense, meat in meat, drink in drink, day in day, and so forth, to the end of all crotchets without end.
Such, however, is, "the mind of the flesh," which can rise no higher than that which elaborates it. The mind of the flesh can only generate fleshly notions. The signification of the Holy Spirit in the types it cannot penetrate, because they are "spiritually discerned," or perceived by the testimony of the spirit exhibited in the word.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jun 1860
They are entirely out of the realm of the natural. The two cannot be reconciled, any more than two people can carry on a conversation who do not
know each other's language. They have nothing in common. Between them there is a great gulf fixed.
The world, man in his natural state, all his wisdom, all his knowledge, all his science, all his learning, all his accomplishment-are NOTHING. That is Paul's basis. There is no arguing
the point. There is no debate over the merits and claims of such things as evolution, or any other elaborate theory of man's invention.
The whole thing is dismissed with one word-FOLLY.
"the world by wisdom KNEW NOT GOD" (1 Cor. 1:21).
And this is equally true today.
"The FEAR OF THE LORD is the BEGINNING of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Prov. 9:10).
The wisdom of the world is in many respects profound, but to all practical purposes it is useless, because it knows not God. It does not come to grips with the basic realities of life. The one important fact in the universe-the existence and revelation of God-it either denies or ignores.
On every other subject it has assembled vast multitudes of facts and even vaster multitudes of fancies. But to what end? What if one man could gather within his own mind all the world's wisdom, what good would it be to him when the time came to yield his breath?
But if he faithfully lays hold of the simple elements of GOD'S wisdom, eternity is his.
"The Jews," Paul says (1 Cor. 1:22), "require a sign; the Greeks seek after wisdom." They lay down their own conditions. They are the authorities. Their questions must be answered. And any revelation, to be considered by them, must conform to their conceptions. "Science"-that magic word!-"Science" says so and so. Nothing that contradicts it dare even be given serious attention.
This is why the teaching of these first two chapters is so important. With one sweep it strips "Science" of all its bluster and pretensions, and reveals it standing in naked shame at the pitiful little "mind of the flesh," blind to all eternal realities.
A discussion of science on its own merits is fatal, because it is endless. There is so much truth and so much error interwoven, so much factt and so much speculation inseparably entwined. But it all belongs to a passing order.
"The fashion of this world passeth away (1 Cor. 7:31). Where the mind of man and the mind of God conflict, we do not argue, we simply choose. Saving truth, the knowledge that brings life, is in a different category altogether. Worldly knowledge is of no assistance in acquiring this, but rather the reverse. This is spiritually discerned-it is learned through the medium of a meek and humble and Godly lowliness of mind, and NO OTHER WAY.
Bro Growcott - Ye are Full
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
God's ways are not man's ways. They are usually the very OPPOSITE of man's ways. To the eyes of man's wisdom they are incomprehensible foolishness. The mind of the flesh cannot understand them.
Do we have the mind of the flesh, or the mind of the Spirit?
Do we think naturally and animally according to "common sense," as all the world does, or do we perceive the utter falseness of all natural thoughts?
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours more Abundant'.