1Co 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
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:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
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:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, 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.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For 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.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
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.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul had come to Corinth from Athens where he had spoken to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34). There he had delivered a powerful and eloquent message, using philosophy, poetry, and history along with scriptural truth. The sermon produced little fruit, so, from then on, Paul determined to depend only on the power of the Holy Spirit and not to rely upon eloquence and logic. He actually went from one extreme to the other, as he said in 2 Cor.11:6 that his speech was "rude."
Paul set aside the great store of knowledge he had gained as a student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and in Tarsus. He determined not to enter into philosophical discussions, and simply stayed right with the preaching of the cross of Christ. He preached a crucified Saviour Who died for the sins of the world.
Paul knew that God's strength is made perfect in human weakness, for Christ was crucified through weakness (2 Cor.13:4), and we are weak in Him. Paul gloried in his physical infirmities so that the power of Christ could rest upon him (2 Cor.12:9). Paul was actually scared that he wouldn't please God, so he served Him with fear and trembling, advising others to do the same (Eph.6:5; Phil.2:12). Paul was truly wise in a way unknown to the mass of men, for "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." (Prov.9:10). "...Yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor.9:16).
In our day we have a great many words of man's wisdom. There is a great deal of preaching, but very little of it is done in demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. There is too much reliance on oratorical ability, style, and mannerisms. A study of powerful preachers shows all of these to be lacking. Jonathan Edwards read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and men held on to the columns in the building to keep from falling into hell. That's the Spirit and power of God.
Peter Cartwright was preaching, when he was informed that Andrew Jackson was in the audience. He roared, "If he don't repent he'll go to hell like any guinea-stealing ****." Later, over supper, Stonewall Jackson told Cartwright that if he had his power in battle he would never suffer defeat.
In other words, if human wisdom is used to win a man to Christ, then his faith stands on human wisdom. If a man is brought to Christ by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, then his faith rests upon that.
Paul says that he has been speaking that which is truly wise, but which is understood only by those who are counted perfect in Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit; for the natural man is not able to understand spiritual things (1 Cor.2:14). He has not been speaking that which the world has originated and loved. The "princes of this world" refers to the rulers of the Jews (v.8), who did not see the wisdom of the preaching of the cross, but thought themselves wise in their own interpretation of the scriptures; whose plans fail, whose wisdom vanishes, and who themselves with all their ritual and ceremony come to nothing in the grave (Eccles.2:14-16).
Now Paul says he is going to speak the wisdom of God by revealing something which had not been previously known, and which God had decreed in eternity concerning the glory of those who receive Christ as Saviour.
For if Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin council had known what they were going to miss out on, they would not have demanded that Pilate condemn the Son of God to the cross (Matt.27:22-25). The rulers of the Jews knew who He was (Luke 22:66-23:5; John 11:51-53), so the meaning is not that if they had known who He was, they would not have crucified Him.
The "princes of this world" is also a reference to the evil angels (principalities, Eph.3:10; 6:12; Col.2:15) who instigated the plot.
The reference in verse 9 is to Isaiah 64:4, which is Millennial, the Kingdom of heaven, but Paul is talking about the Kingdom of God. This does not speak of things to come in the afterlife, but things that are right here, now, and cannot be seen with the human eye nor heard with the human ear; nor can they be imagined by the wicked heart (Jer.17:9) of unregenerate man (1 Cor.2:14).
These things are reserved for those who love God because He first loved them (1 John 4:19) and have received His Son. These things pertain to the Kingdom of God, and are righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom.14:17).
What we cannot get through the physical senses and human mind, the Comforter can teach us (John 14:16-17,26; 16:13-15). There are many things we can learn by studying the Bible, but we can only get spiritual truths from the Spirit of God. The "deep things of God" are His judgments (Psalm 36:6), His thoughts (Psalm 92:5), and secret things (Dan.2:22). Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived couldn't find them out (Eccles.7:23-24).
Man is tri-partite: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess.5:23). The human soul and spirit are not the same, for they can be divided (Heb.4:12). According to this verse, the spirit of man is that part of him which "knows." This is the part of man which is born-again (John 3:6-8; Psalm 22:31; 1 Cor.12;13), and capable of God-consciousness, and of communion with God (Job 32:8; Prov.30:27; Psalm 20:28). God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isa.55:8-9), so if we are to understand anything about God, He will have to reveal it to us by His Spirit.
We have not received the "spirit of the world." This world is best described by Scofield, who wrote: "In the sense of the present world-system, the ethically bad sense of the word, refers to the "order," "arrangement," under which Satan has organized the world of unbelieving mankind upon his cosmic principles of force, greed, selfishness, ambition, and pleasure. This world-system is imposing and powerful with armies and fleets; is often outwardly religious, scientific, cultured, and elegant; but seething with national and commercial rivalries and ambitions, is upheld in any real crisis only by armed force, and is dominated by Satanic principles.
The spirit which is of God, we have received: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isa.11:2). We know the things that are freely given to us of God because He is our teacher, and will teach us all things (John 14:26).
The things Paul spoke were great and glorious truths, not philosophical rationalizations spoken in dazzling rhetoric, in the words the Holy Ghost gave him. He did not have the New Testament to quote, so he spoke in the manner prescribed by the Holy Ghost. Perhaps that is why he spoke them in fear and trembling, being afraid he wouldn't say exactly what he was supposed to say by Divine inspiration.
Comparing spiritual things with spiritual means he was laying the Old Testament prophecies alongside the life and death of Christ, and explaining things which even the Old Testament prophets did not understand when they wrote (1 Pet.1:9-12).
An unsaved man cannot understand spiritual things, and what a man cannot understand, he deems foolish and, what he deems foolish he will not receive as truth.
An unregenerate man cannot know spiritual things because his spirit is dead (Eph.2:1-3).
When the "dead" natural man is quickened (Eph.2:5) he understands (judgeth) all things, yet he himself is not understood (judged) by any unsaved men.
Nobody has "known" the mind of God, so it follows that nobody can pass judgment on His thoughts, plans, or ways, telling Him that He should have done things another way, or to proceed in another manner.
But saved people have the mind of Christ; the mind of a servant who humbles himself and becomes obedient, even to death.
This is the lead-in to the next chapter. Paul has lifted them up, and now he is about to slam them down.