Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 2:11

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For what man knoweth the things of a man - The word ανθρωπων in the first clause is omitted by the Codex Alexandrinus, and one other; and by Athanasius, Cyril, and Vigil of Tapsus. Bishop Pearce contends strongly against the authenticity of the word, and reads the passage thus: "For what is there that knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of a man that is in him?" "I leave out," says the learned bishop, "ανθρωπων, with the Alexandrian MS., and read τις γαρ οιδεν τα του ανθρωπου ; because I conceive that the common reading is wide of St. Paul's meaning; for to say, What man except the spirit of a man, is (I think) to speak improperly, and to suppose that the spirit of a man is a man; but it is very proper to say, What except the spirit of a man: τις is feminine as well as masculine, and therefore may be supplied with ουσια, or some such word, as well as with ανθρωπος ." Though the authority for omitting this word is comparatively slender, yet it must be owned that its omission renders the text much more intelligible. But even one MS. may preserve the true reading.

The spirit of a man knows the things of a man: that is, a man is conscious of all the schemes, plans, and purposes, that pass in his own mind; and no man can know these things but himself. So, the Spirit of God, He whom we call the Third Person of the glorious Trinity, knows all the counsels and determinations of the Supreme Being. As the Spirit is here represented to live in God as the soul lives in the body of a man, and as this Spirit knows all the things of God, and had revealed those to the apostles which concern the salvation of the world, therefore what they spoke and preached was true, and men may implicitly depend upon it. The miracles which they did, in the name of Christ, were the proof that they had that Spirit, and spoke the truth of God.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For what man … - The design of this is, to illustrate what he had just said by a reference to the way in which man acquires the knowledge of himself. The purpose is to show that the Spirit has an exact and thorough knowledge of the things of God; and this is done by the very striking thought that no man can know his own mind, his own plans and intentions, but himself - his own spirit. The essential idea is, that no man can know another; that his thoughts and designs can only be known by himself, or by his own spirit; and that unless he chooses to reveal them to others, they cannot ascertain them. So of God. No man can penetrate his designs; and unless he chooses to make them known by his Spirit, they must forever remain inscrutable to human view.

The things of a man - The “deep things” - the hidden counsels, thoughts, plans, intentions.

Save the spirit of man … - Except his own mind; that is, himself. No other man can fully know them. By the spirit of man here, Paul designs to denote the human soul - or the intellect of man. It is not to be supposed that he here intends to convey the idea that there is a perfect resemblance between the relation which the soul of man bears to the man, and the relation which the Holy Spirit bears to God. The illustration is to be taken in regard to the point immediately before him - which is, that no one could know and communicate the deep thoughts and plans of God except his Spirit - just as no one could penetrate into the intentions of a man, and fully know them, but himself. The passage proves, therefore, that there is a knowledge which the Spirit has of God, which no man, no angel can obtain, just as every man‘s spirit has a knowledge of his own plans which no other man can obtain; that the Spirit of God can communicate his plans and deep designs, just as a man can communicate his own intentions; and consequently, that while there is a distinction of some kind between the Spirit of God and God, as there is a distinction which makes it proper to say that a man has an intelligent soul, yet there is such a profound and intimate knowledge of God by the Spirit, that he must be equal with him; and such an intimate union, that he can be called “the Spirit of God,” and be one with God, as the human soul can be called “the spirit of the man,” and be one with him.

In all respects we are not to suppose that there is a similarity. In these points there is - It may be added that the union, the oneness of the Spirit of God with God, is no more absurd or inexplicable than the union of the spirit of man with the man; or the oneness of the complex person made up of body and soul, which we call man. When people have explained all the difficulties about themselves - in regard to their own bodies and spirits, it will be time to advance objections against the doctrines here stated in regard to God.

Even so - To the same extent; in like manner.

The things of God - His deep purposes and plans.

Knoweth no man - Man cannot search into them - any more than one man can search the intentions of another.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
God has revealed true wisdom to us by his Spirit. Here is a proof of the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, 2Pe 1:21. In proof of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, observe, that he knows all things, and he searches all things, even the deep things of God. No one can know the things of God, but his Holy Spirit, who is one with the Father and the Son, and who makes known Divine mysteries to his church. This is most clear testimony, both to the real Godhead and the distinct person of the Holy Spirit. The apostles were not guided by worldly principles. They had the revelation of these things from the Spirit of God, and the saving impression of them from the same Spirit. These things they declared in plain, simple language, taught by the Holy Spirit, totally different from the affected oratory or enticing words of man's wisdom. The natural man, the wise man of the world, receives not the things of the Spirit of God. The pride of carnal reasoning is really as much opposed to spirituality, as the basest sensuality. The sanctified mind discerns the real beauties of holiness, but the power of discerning and judging about common and natural things is not lost. But the carnal man is a stranger to the principles, and pleasures, and actings of the Divine life. The spiritual man only, is the person to whom God gives the knowledge of his will. How little have any known of the mind of God by natural power! And the apostles were enabled by his Spirit to make known his mind. In the Holy Scriptures, the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully made known to us. It is the great privilege of Christians, that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit. They experience his sanctifying power in their hearts, and bring forth good fruits in their lives.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 250-1

Though Paul had a measure of success in Corinth, yet the wickedness that he saw and heard in that corrupt city almost disheartened him. The depravity that he witnessed among the Gentiles, and the contempt and insult that he received from the Jews, caused him great anguish of spirit. He doubted the wisdom of trying to build up a church from the material that he found there. AA 250.1

As he was planning to leave the city for a more promising field, and seeking earnestly to understand his duty, the Lord appeared to him in a vision and said, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Paul understood this to be a command to remain in Corinth and a guarantee that the Lord would give increase to the seed sown. Strengthened and encouraged, he continued to labor there with zeal and perseverance. AA 250.2

The apostle's efforts were not confined to public speaking; there were many who could not have been reached in that way. He spent much time in house-to-house labor, thus availing himself of the familiar intercourse of the home circle. He visited the sick and the sorrowing, comforted the afflicted, and lifted up the oppressed. And in all that he said and did he magnified the name of Jesus. Thus he labored, “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” 1 Corinthians 2:3. He trembled lest his teaching should reveal the impress of the human rather than the divine. AA 250.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1079
Ellen G. White
Our High Calling, 154.4

The Spirit works in us by bringing to mind, vividly and often, the precious truths of the plan of redemption. We should forget these truths, and for us God's rich promises would lose their efficiency, were it not for the Spirit, who takes of the things of God, and shows them to us.... The Spirit illumines our darkness, informs our ignorance, and helps us in our manifold necessities. But the mind must be constantly going out after God. If worldliness is allowed to come in, if we have no desire to pray, no desire to commune with Him who is the source of strength and wisdom, the Spirit will not abide with us. Those who are unbelieving do not receive the rich endowment of grace that would make them wise unto salvation, patient, forbearing, quick to perceive and appreciate heavenly ministrations, quick to discern Satan's devices, and strong to resist sin. OHC 154.4

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 271-2

Paul had necessarily adapted his manner of teaching to the condition of the church. “I, brethren could not speak unto you as unto spiritual,” he afterward explained to them, “but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2. Many of the Corinthian believers had been slow to learn the lessons that he was endeavoring to teach them. Their advancement in spiritual knowledge had not been proportionate to their privileges and opportunities. When they should have been far advanced in Christian experience, and able to comprehend and to practice the deeper truths of the word, they were standing where the disciples stood when Christ said to them, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” John 16:12. Jealousy, evil surmising, and accusation had closed the hearts of many of the Corinthian believers against the full working of the Holy Spirit, which “searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:10. However wise they might be in worldly knowledge, they were but babes in the knowledge of Christ. AA 271.1

It had been Paul's work to instruct the Corinthian converts in the rudiments, the very alphabet, of the Christian faith. He had been obliged to instruct them as those who were ignorant of the operations of divine power upon the heart. At that time they were unable to comprehend the mysteries of salvation; for “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.” Verse 14. Paul had endeavored to sow the seed, which others must water. Those who followed him must carry forward the work from the point where he had left it, giving spiritual light and knowledge in due season, as the church was able to bear it. AA 271.2

When the apostle took up his work in Corinth, he realized that he must introduce most carefully the great truths he wished to teach. He knew that among his hearers would be proud believers in human theories, and exponents of false systems of worship, who were groping with blind eyes, hoping to find in the book of nature theories that would contradict the reality of the spiritual and immortal life as revealed in the Scriptures. He also knew that critics would endeavor to controvert the Christian interpretation of the revealed word, and that skeptics would treat the gospel of Christ with scoffing and derision. AA 272.1

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