For who hath known ... - This passage is quoted from Isaiah 40:13. The interrogative form is a strong mode of denying that anyone has ever known the mind of the Lord. The argument of Paul is this, "No one can understand God. No one can fully comprehend his plans, his feelings, his views, his designs. No one by nature, under the influence of sense and passion, is either disposed to investigate his truths, or loves them when they are revealed. But the Christian is influenced by God. He has his Spirit. He has the mind of Christ; who had the mind of God. He sympathizes with Christ; he has his feelings, desires, purposes, and plans. And as no one can fully understand God by nature, so neither can he understand him who is influenced by God, and is like him; and it is not to be wondered at that he regards the Christian religion as folly, and the Christian as a fool.
The mind of Christ - The views, feelings, and temper of Christ. We are influenced by his Spirit.
Remarks On I Corinthians 2
1. Ministers of the gospel should not be too anxious to be distinguished for excellency of speech or language, I Corinthians 2:1. Their aim should be to speak the simple truth, in language pure and intelligible to all. Let it be remembered, that if there ever was any place where it would be proper to seek such graces of eloquence, it was Corinth. If in any city now, or in any refined and genteel society it would be proper, it would have been proper in Corinth. Let this thought rebuke those, who, when they preach to a frivilous and fashionable auditory, seek to fill their sermons with ornament rather than with solid thought; with the tinsel of rhetoric, rather than with pure language. Paul was right in his course; and was wise. True taste abhors meretricious ornaments, as much as the gospel does. And the man who is called to preach in a rich and fashionable congregation, should remember, that he is stationed there not to please the ear, but to save the soul; that his object is not to display his talent or his eloquence, but to rescue his hearers from ruin. This purpose will make the mere ornaments of rhetoric appear small. It will give: seriousness to his discourse; gravity to his diction; unction to his eloquence; heart to his arguments; and success to his ministry.
2. The purpose of every minister should be like that of Paul, to preach Christ and only him crucified. See the note on I Corinthians 2:2.
3. If Paul trembled at Corinth in view of dangers and difficulties; if he was conscious of his own weakness and feebleness, then we should learn also to be humble. He is not much in danger of erring who imitates the example of this great apostle. And if he who had received a direct commission from the great Head of the church, and who was endowed with such mighty powers, was modest, unassuming, and diffident, then it becomes ministers of the gospel now, and all others to be humble also. We should not, indeed, be afraid of people; but we should be modest, humble, and lowly; much impressed, as if conscious of our mighty charge; and anxious to deliver just such a message as God will approve and bless.
Would I describe a preacher, such an Paul,
Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own,
Paul should himself direct me. I would trace.
His master-strokes, and draw from his design.
I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain;
And plain in manner, decent, solemn, chaste,
And natural in gesture: much impress' d.
Himself, an conscious of his awful charge;
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds.
May feel it too. Affectionate in look,
And tender in address, as well becomes.
A messenger of grace to guilty men.
Our aim should be to commend our message to every man' s conscience; and to do it with humility toward God, and deep solicitude; with boldness toward our fellow man - respectfully toward them - but still resolved to tell the truth, I Corinthians 2:3.
4. The faith of Christians does not stand in the wisdom of man. Every Christian has evidence in his own heart, in his experience, and in the transformation of his character, that none but God could have made the change on his soul. His hopes, his joys, his peace, his sanctification, his love of prayer, of the Bible, of Christians, of God, and of Christ, are all such as nothing could have produced but the mighty power of God. All these bear marks of their high origin. They are the work of God on the soul. And as the Christian is fully conscious that these are not the native feelings, of his heart - that if left to himself he would never have had them; so he has the fullest demonstration that they are to be traced to a divine source. And can he be mistaken about their existence? Can a man doubt whether he has joy, and peace, and happiness? Is the infidel to tell him coolly that he must be mistaken in regard to the existence of these emotions, and that it is all delusion?
Can a child doubt whether it loves a parent? Can a husband doubt whether he loves his wife? Can a friend question whether he loves a friend? Or a man whether he loves his country? And can he doubt whether this emotion produces joy? And can a person doubt whether he loves God? Whether he has different views from what he once had? Whether he has peace and joy in view of the character of God, and the hope of heaven? And by what right shall the infidel tell him that he is mistaken, and that all this is delusion? How can he enter into the soul, and pronounce the man who professes to have these feelings mistaken? What should we think of the man who would tell a wife that she did not love her husband; or a father that he did not love his children? How can he know this? And, in like manner, how can an infidel and a scoffer say to a Christian, that all his hopes and joys, his love and peace are delusion and fanaticism? The truth is, that the great mass of Christians are just as well satisfied of the truth of religion, as they are of their own existence; and that a Christian will die for his love to the Saviour, just as he will die for his wife, and children, and country. Martyrdom in the one case is on the same principle as martyrdom in the other. Martyrdom in either is noble and honorable, and evinces the highest qualities and principles of the human mind.
5. Christians are influenced by true wisdom, I Corinthians 2:6. They are not fools; though they appear to be to their fellow man. They see a real beauty and wisdom in the plan of redemption which the world does not discern. It is not the wisdom of this world; but it is the wisdom which looks to eternity. Is a man a fool who acts with reference to the future? Is he a fool who believes that he shall live to all eternity, and who regards it as proper to make preparation for that eternity? Is he a fool who acts as if he were to die - to be judged - to enter on an unchanging destiny? Folly is manifested in closing the eyes on the reality of the condition; not in looking at it as it is. The man who is sick, and who strives to convince himself that he is well; the man whose affairs are in a state of bankruptcy, and who is unwilling to know it, is a fool. The man who is willing to know all about his situation, and to act accordingly, is a wise man. The one represents the conduct of a sinner, the other that of a Christian. A man who should see his child drowning, or his house on fire, or the pestilence breathing around him, and be unconcerned, or dance amidst such scenes, would be a fool or a madman. And is not the sinner who is frivilous and thoughtless over the grave and over hell equally foolish and mad? And if there is a God, a heaven, a Saviour, and a hell; if people are to die, and to be judged, is he not wise who acts as if it were so, and who lives accordingly? While Christians, therefore, may not be distinguished for the wisdom of this world - while many are destitute of learning, science, and eloquence, they have a wisdom which will survive when all other is vanished away.
6. All the wisdom of this world shall come to nothing, I Corinthians 2:6. What will be the value of political sagacity, when all governments shall come to an end but the divine government? What will be the value of eloquence, and graceful diction, when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ? What will be the value of science in this world, when all shall be revealed with the clearness of noonday? How low will all human attainments appear in that world, when the light of eternal day shall be shed over all the works of God? How little can human science do to advance the eternal interests of man? And how shall all fade away in the future world of glory - just as the feeble glimmering of the stars fades away before the light of the morning sun! How little, therefore, should we pride ourselves on the highest attainments of science, and the most elevated distinctions of learning and eloquence.
7. God has a purpose in regard to the salvation of people, I Corinthians 2:7. This scheme was ordained before the world. It was not a new device. It was not the offspring of chance, an accident, or an "after thought." It was because God purposed it from eternity. God has a plan; and this plan contemplates the salvation of his people. And it greatly enhances the value of this benevolent plan in the eyes of his people, that it has been the object of "the eternal earnest desire and purpose of God." How much a gift is enhanced in value from the fact that it has been long the purpose of a parent to bestow it; that he has toiled for it; that he has made arrangements for it; and that this has been the chief object of his efforts and his plan for years. So the favors of eternal redemption are bestowed on Christians as the fruit of the eternal purpose and desire of God. And how should our hearts rise in gratitude to him for his unspeakable gift!
8. One great and prominent cause of sin is the fact that people are blind to the reality and beauty of spiritual objects. So it was with those who crucified the Lord, I Corinthians 2:8. Had they seen his glory as it was, they would not have crucified him. And so it is now. When people blaspheme God, they see not his excellency; when they revile religion, they know not its real value; when they break the laws of God, they do not fully discern their purity and their importance. It is true they are willfully ignorant, and their crime is often enhanced by this fact; but it is equally true that "they know not what they do." For such poor, blinded, deluded mortals, the Saviour prayed; and for such we should all pray. The man that curses God, has no just sense of what he is doing. The man who is profane, and a scoffer, and a liar, and an adulterer, has no just sense of the awful nature of his crime; and is an object of commiseration while his Sin should be HAted - and is a proper subject of prayer.
9. People are often committing the most awful crimes when they are unconscious of it I Corinthians 2:8. What crime could compare with that of crucifying the only Son of God? And what crime could be attended with more dreadful consequences to its perpetrators? So of sinners now. They little know what they do; and they little know the consequences of their sins. A man may curse his Maker, and say it is in sport! But how will it be regarded on the Day of Judgment? A person may revile the Saviour! But how will it appear when he dies? It is a solemn thing to trifle with God and with His laws. A man is safer when he plays on top of a volcano, or when he makes a jest of the pestilence or the forked lightnings of heaven, than when he makes fun of religion and God! In a world like this, people should be serious and revere God. A single deed, like that of the crucifixion of Christ, may be remembered, when all the circumstances of sport and mockery shall have passed away - remembered when the world shall be destroyed, and stars and suns shall rush to ruin.
10. Christians have views of the beauties of religion, and have consolations arising from these views, which the world does not have, I Corinthians 2:9. They have different views of God, of Christ, of heaven, of eternity. They see a beauty in all these things, and a wisdom in the plan of salvation, which the people of the world do not see. The contemplations of this beauty and wisdom, and the evidence which they have that they are interested in all this, gives them a joy which the world does not possess. They see what the eye has not elsewhere seen; they enjoy what people elsewhere have not enjoyed; and they are elevated to privileges which people elsewhere do not possess. On earth, they partake of happiness which the world never can give, and in heaven they shall partake of the fulness of that joy - of pleasures there which the eye had not before seen, nor the ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived. Who would not want to be a Christian?
11. The Holy Spirit is in some sense distinct from the Father. This is implied in his action as an agent - in searching, knowing, etc. I Corinthians 2:10-11. An attribute; a quality, does not search and know.
12. The Holy Spirit is divine. None can know God but one equal to himself. If the Spirit intimately knows the wisdom, the goodness, the omniscience, the eternity, the power of God, he must be divine. No created being can have this intelligence, I Corinthians 2:10-11.
13. Christians are actuated by a different Spirit from the people of this world, I Corinthians 2:12. They are influenced by a regard to God and His glory. The people of the world are under the influence of pride, avarice, sensuality, ambition, and vain glory.
14. The sinner does not perceive the beauty of the things of religion. To all this beauty, he is blind. This is a sober and a most melancholy fact. Whatever may be the cause of it, the fact is undeniable and sad. It is so with the sensualist; with the people of avarice, pride, ambition, and licentiousness. The gospel is regarded as folly, and is despised and scorned by the people of this world. This is true in all places, among all people, and at all times. To this there are no exceptions in human nature; and over this we should sit down and weep.
15. The reason of this is, that people love darkness. It is not that they are destitute of the natural faculties for loving God, for they have as strong native powers as those who become Christians. It is because they love sin - and this simple fact, carried out into all its bearings, will account for all the difficulties in the way of the sinner' s conversion. There is nothing else; and,
16. We see here the value of the influences of the Spirit. It is by this Spirit alone that the mind of the Christian is enlightened, sanctified, and comforted. It is by Him alone that he sees the beauty of the religion which he loves; it is by His influence alone that he differs from his fellow man. And no less important is it for the sinner. Without the influences of that Spirit his mind will always be in darkness, and his heart will always hate the gospel. How anxiously, therefore, should he cherish His influences! How careful should he be not to grieve Him away!
17. There is a difference between Christians and other people. One is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the other not; one sees a beauty in religion, to the other it is folly; the one has the mind of Christ, the other has the spirit of the world; the one discerns the excellency of the plan of salvation, to the other all is darkness and folly. How could beings differ more in their moral feelings and views than do Christians and the people of this world?
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing 1 Corinthians 2:16:
1 Corinthians 1:10
1 Corinthians 3:1
1 Corinthians 6:2
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