“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” –1 Corinthians 1:23, 24, King James Version (KJV)
“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.” –1 Corinthians 2:14, King James Version (KJV)
receiveth G1209. δέχομαι dexómai, dekh’-om-ahee; Middle voice of a primary verb; to receive (in various applications, literally or figuratively). :–accept, receive, take. Compare G2983. λαμβάνω lambanō, lam-ban’-o; A prolonged form of a primary verb, which is used only as an alternate in certain tenses; to take (in very many applications, literally and figuratively [probably objective or active, to get hold of]Strong, James Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, public domain
The Message of the Cross
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 2:18-25 (Net)
THE GOSPEL AS A CONTRADICTION TO HUMAN WISDOM 1:18—2:5
Paul set up a contrast between cleverness of speech (impressive oratory) and the Cross in verse 17. Next he developed this contrast with a series of arguments. Boasting in men impacts the nature of the gospel. He pointed out that the gospel is not a form of sophia (human wisdom). Its message of a crucified Messiah does not appeal to human wisdom (1:18-25). Second, its recipients are not especially wise in the eyes of humanity (1:26-31). Third, Paul’s preaching was not impressive in its human wisdom, but it bore powerful results (2:1-5). –Dr. Thomas L. Constable
Wisdom from God
Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Net)
THE SPIRIT’S MINISTRY OF REVEALING GOD’S WISDOM 2:6-16
Paul’s reference to the Holy Spirit’s power (vv. 4-5) led him to elaborate on the Spirit’s ministry in enlightening the minds of believers and unbelievers alike. The Corinthians needed to view ministry differently. The key to this change would be the Holy Spirit’s illumination of their thinking. People who are pursuing true wisdom (sophia) can not perceive it except as the Holy Spirit enlightens them.
Paul constructed his argument in this section with three contrasts that overlap slightly. The first contrast is between those who receive God’s wisdom and those who do not (vv. 6-10a), and the second one is the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world (vv. 10b-13). The third contrast is the “natural” person and the “spiritual” person (vv. 14-16).
(v. 14) The “natural man” is any person who does not possess the Holy Spirit, namely: unbelievers. Every human being is a natural man until he or she trusts in Christ and receives the Spirit. Paul called this type of person a “natural (Gr. psychikos) man” because he or she is only “natural” and is spiritually dead, without God. He has no supernatural Person indwelling him, and his viewpoints and ideas are exclusively the natural, human kind. He “cannot” accept (“understand”) all that God has revealed, because he does not possess the indwelling Spirit of God, who enables believers to understand spiritual matters, “that are spiritually appraised (evaluated, discerned).”
The natural person can, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only when the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding. Paul did not mean that an unbeliever is mentally or intellectually incapable of understanding the words of Scripture. However, an unbeliever rejects, and does not accept, everything that God wants him or her to have. One of these things is eternal life through faith in His Son. It is as though God is speaking in a language that the unbeliever does not understand (“it is foolishness to him”); he or she fails to respond properly. He or she needs an interpreter. That is a ministry that only the Holy Spirit can perform. –Dr. Thomas L. Constable
Paul said the Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation; Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God; and that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. As faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, I believe, reading and studying as well as hearing the Word can lead to both faith and edification. Human intellect can understand what is written or heard and one will either come to faith or regard it as foolishness.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
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Dave the Bible Student