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1 Corinthians 2:13

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Which things also we speak - We dare no more use the language of the Jews and the Gentiles in speaking of those glorious things, than we can indulge their spirit. The Greek orators affected a high and florid language, full of tropes and figures, which dazzled more than it enlightened. The rabbins affected obscurity, and were studious to find out cabalistical meanings, which had no tendency to make the people wise unto salvation. The apostles could not follow any of these; they spoke the things of God in the words of God; every thing was plain and intelligible; every word well placed, clear, and nervous. He who has a spiritual mind will easily comprehend an apostle's preaching.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual - This is commonly understood to mean, comparing the spiritual things under the Old Testament with the spiritual things under the New: but this does not appear to be the apostle's meaning. The word συγκρινοντες, which we translate comparing, rather signifies conferring, discussing, or explaining; and the word πνευματικοις should be rendered to spiritual men, and not be referred to spiritual things. The passage therefore should be thus translated: Explaining spiritual things to spiritual persons. And this sense the following verse absolutely requires.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Which things we speak - Which great, and glorious, and certain truths, we, the apostles, preach and explain.

Not in the words which man‘s wisdom teacheth - Not such as human philosophy or eloquence would dictate. They do not have their origin in the devices of human wisdom, and they are not expressed in such words of dazzling and attractive rhetoric as would be employed by those who pride themselves on the wisdom of this world.

But which the Holy Ghost teacheth - That is, in the words which the Holy Spirit imparts to us. Locke understands this as referring to the fact that the apostles used “the language and expressions” which the Holy Spirit had taught in the revelations of the Scriptures. But this is evidently giving a narrow view of the subject. The apostle is speaking of the whole course of instruction by which the deep things of God were made known to the Christian church; and all this was not made known in the very words which were already contained in the Old Testament. He evidently refers to the fact that the apostles were themselves under the direction of the Holy Spirit, in the words and doctrines which they imparted; and this passage is a full proof that they laid claim to divine inspiration. It is further observable that he says, that this was done in such “words” as the Holy Spirit taught, referring not to the doctrines or subjects merely, but to the manner of expressing them. It is evident here that he lays claim to an inspiration in regard to the words which he used, or to the manner of his stating the doctrines of revelation. Words are the signs of thoughts; and if God designed that his truth should be accurately expressed in human language, there must have been a supervision over the words used, that such should be employed, and such only, as should accurately express the sense which he intended to convey.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual - πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες pneumatikois pneumatika sugkrinontesThis expression has been very variously interpreted; and is very difficult of explanation. LeClerc renders it “speaking spiritual things to spiritual men.” Most of the fathers rendered it: “comparing the things which were written by the Spirit of the Old Testament with what is now revealed to us by the same Spirit, and confirming our doctrine by them.” Calvin renders the word “comparing” by “fitting,” or adapting (“aptare”), and says that it means “that he adapted spiritual things to spiritual people, while he accommodated words to the thing; that is he tempered that celestial wisdom of the Spirit with simple language, and which conveyed by itself the native energy of the Spirit.” Thus, says he, he reproved the vanity of those who attempted to secure human applause by a turgid and subtle mode of argument.

Grotius accords with the fathers, and renders it, “explaining those things which the prophets spake by the Spirit of God, by those things which Christ has made known to us by his Spirit.” Macknight renders it: “explaining spiritual things in words taught by the Spirit.” So Doddridge - The word rendered “comparing” συγκρίνοντες sugkrinontesmeans properly “to collect, join, mingle, unite together”; then “to separate or distinguish parts of things and unite them into one”; then “to judge of the qualities of objects by carefully separating or distinguishing”; then “to compare for the purpose of judging,” etc. Since it means to compare one thing with another for the purpose of explaining its nature, it comes to signify to “interpret,” to “explain;” and in this sense it is often used by the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew word פתר phathar“to open, unfold, explain.” (See Genesis 40:8, Genesis 40:16, Genesis 40:22; Genesis 41:12, Genesis 41:15); also of פרשׁ paarash“to explain”; and of the Chaldee peshar Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:17. See also Daniel 2:4-7, Daniel 2:9, Daniel 2:16, Daniel 2:24, Daniel 2:26, Daniel 2:30, Daniel 2:36, Daniel 2:45; Daniel 4:3-4, Daniel 4:6, Daniel 4:16-17; Daniel 5:7-8, Daniel 5:13, Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:18, Daniel 5:20; Daniel 7:16, in all which places the noun σύγκρισις sugkrisisis used in the same sense. In this sense the word is, doubtless, used here, and is to be interpreted in the sense of “explaining, unfolding.” There is no reason, either in the word used here, or in the argument of the apostle, why the sense of comparing should be retained.

Spiritual things - πνευματικὰ pneumatikaThings, doctrines, subjects that pertain to the teaching of the Spirit. It does not mean things “spiritual” in opposition to “fleshly;” or “intellectual” in opposition to things pertaining to “matter;” but spiritual as the things referred to were such as were performed, and revealed by the Holy Spirit - his doctrines on the subject of religion under the new dispensation, and his influence on the heart.

With spiritual - πνευματικοῖς pneumatikoisThis is an adjective; and may be either masculine or neuter. It is evident, that some noun is understood. That may be either:

(1) ανθρωποις anthrōpois“men” - and then it will mean “to spiritual men” - that is, to people who are enlightened or taught by the Spirit and thus many commentators understand it; or,

(2)It may be λόγοις logois“words” - and then it may mean, either that the “spiritual things” were explained by “words” and illustrations drawn from the writings of the Old Testament, inspired by the Spirit - as most of the fathers, and many moderns understand it; or that the “things spiritual” were explained by-words which the Holy Spirit then communicated, and which were adapted to the subject - simple, pure, elevated; not gross, not turgid, not distinguished for rhetoric, and not such as the Greeks sought, but such as became the Spirit of God communicating great, sublime, yet simple truths to people.

It will then mean “explaining doctrines that pertain to the Spirit‘s teaching and influence in words that are taught; by the same Spirit, and that are suited to convey in the most intelligible manner those doctrines to men.” Here the idea of the Holy Spirit‘s present agency is kept up throughout; the idea that he communicates the doctrine, and the mode of stating it to man - The supposition that λόγοις logoiswords, is the word understood here, is favored by the fact that it occurs in the previous part of this verse. And if this be the sense, it means that the words which were used by the apostles were pure, simple, unostentatious, and undistinguished by display - such as became doctrines taught by the Holy Spirit, when communicated in words suggested by the same Spirit.

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
Messages to Young People, 262

The search for truth will reward the seeker at every turn, and each discovery will open up richer fields for his investigation. Men are changed in accordance with what they contemplate. If commonplace thoughts and affairs take up the attention, the man will be commonplace. If he is too negligent to obtain anything but a superficial understanding of God's truth, he will not receive the rich blessings that God would be pleased to bestow upon him. It is a law of the mind, that it will narrow or expand to the dimensions of the things with which it becomes familiar. MYP 262.1

The mental powers will surely become contracted, and will lose their ability to grasp the deep meanings of the Word of God, unless they are put vigorously and persistently to the task of searching for truth. The mind will enlarge, if it is employed in tracing out the relation of the subjects of the Bible, comparing scripture with scripture, and spiritual things with spiritual. Go below the surface; the richest treasures of thought are waiting for the skillful and diligent student.—The Review and Herald, July 17, 1888. MYP 262.2

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 461-2

The knowledge of God is not gained without mental effort and prayer for wisdom. Many are convinced that the precious treasures of the kingdom of God and of Christ are contained in the word. They know also that no earthly treasure is gained without painstaking effort. Why should they expect to understand the meaning of the Scriptures without diligent study? CT 461.1

The word of God is light and truth—a lamp to the feet and a light to the path. It is able to guide every step of the way to the city of God. For this reason, Satan has made desperate efforts to obscure the light, that men may not find and keep the path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. CT 461.2

As the miner digs for the golden treasure in the earth, so earnestly, persistently, must we seek for the treasure of God's word. In daily study the verse-by-verse method is often most helpful. Let the student take one verse and concentrate his mind on ascertaining the thought that God has put into that verse for him, and then dwell upon the thought until it becomes his own. One passage thus studied until its significance becomes clear is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. CT 461.3

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Ellen G. White
Steps to Christ, 90-1

There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Scriptures. No other book is so potent to elevate the thoughts, to give vigor to the faculties, as the broad, ennobling truths of the Bible. If God's word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose rarely seen in these times. SC 90.1

But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets you may read a passage and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in the mind. SC 90.2

We cannot obtain wisdom without earnest attention and prayerful study. Some portions of Scripture are indeed too plain to be misunderstood, but there are others whose meaning does not lie on the surface to be seen at a glance. Scripture must be compared with scripture. There must be careful research and prayerful reflection. And such study will be richly repaid. As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure find truths of the greatest value, which are concealed from the view of the careless seeker. The words of inspiration, pondered in the heart, will be as streams flowing from the fountain of life. SC 90.3

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