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.
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.
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 250.3Read in context »
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 272.1Read in context »