The First to the Corinthians 2:1-16

2  So when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with extravagant speech+ or wisdom* declaring the sacred secret+ of God to you.  For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him executed on the stake.+  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling;  and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,+  so that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power.  Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature,*+ but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing.+  But we speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret,+ the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory.  It is this wisdom that none of the rulers of this system of things* came to know,+ for if they had known it, they would not have executed the glorious Lord.+  But just as it is written: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”+ 10  For it is to us God has revealed them+ through his spirit,+ for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.+ 11  For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God except the spirit of God. 12  Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God,+ so that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. 13  These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom,+ but with those taught by the spirit,+ as we explain* spiritual matters with spiritual words.* 14  But a physical man does not accept* the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. 15  However, the spiritual man examines all things,+ but he himself is not examined by any man. 16  For “who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, so that he may instruct him?”+ But we do have the mind of Christ.+

Footnotes

Or “with superiority of speech and of wisdom.”
Or “full-grown.” Lit., “perfect (ones).”
Or “this age.”
Or “combine.”
Or possibly, “as we explain spiritual matters to spiritual people.”
Or “receive.”

Study Notes

this system of things: The basic meaning of the Greek word ai·onʹ is “age.” It can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. (See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”) Here the term refers to what 2Ti 4:10 calls “the present system of things,” that is, the prevailing state of affairs in the world in general.

this system of things: Or “this age.”​—See study note on 1Co 1:20.

sacred secrets: The Greek word my·steʹri·on is rendered “sacred secret” 25 times in the New World Translation. Here used in the plural, this expression refers to aspects of God’s purpose that are withheld until God chooses to make them known. Then they are fully revealed but only to those to whom he chooses to give understanding. (Col 1:25, 26) Once revealed, the sacred secrets of God are given the widest possible proclamation. This is evident by the Bible’s use of such terms as “declaring,” “making known,” “preach,” “revealed,” and “revelation” in connection with the expression “the sacred secret.” (1Co 2:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3; Col 1:25, 26; 4:3) The primary “sacred secret of God” centers on the identification of Jesus Christ as the promised “offspring,” or Messiah. (Col 2:2; Ge 3:15) However, this sacred secret has many facets, including the role Jesus is assigned to play in God’s purpose. (Col 4:3) As Jesus showed on this occasion, “the sacred secrets” are connected with the Kingdom of the heavens, or “the Kingdom of God,” the heavenly government in which Jesus rules as King. (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10; see study note on Mt 3:2.) The Christian Greek Scriptures use the term my·steʹri·on in a way different from that of the ancient mystery religions. Those religions, often based on fertility cults that flourished in the first century C.E., promised that devotees would receive immortality, direct revelation, and approach to the gods through mystic rites. The content of those secrets was obviously not based on truth. Those initiated into mystery religions vowed to keep the secrets to themselves and therefore shrouded in mystery, which was unlike the open proclamation of the sacred secrets of Christianity. When the Scriptures use this term in connection with false worship, it is rendered “mystery” in the New World Translation.​—For the three occurrences where my·steʹri·on is rendered “mystery,” see study notes on 2Th 2:7; Re 17:5, 7.

upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come: The apostle Paul had related a number of events in Israel’s history (1Co 10:1-10) leading up to the ends of the systems of things, or the prevailing states of affairs, of his time. (See Glossary, “System[s] of things.”) Those “systems of things” were closely related to the Law covenant and included such elements as the following: a priesthood, a system of sacrifices and dietary regulations, a system of tabernacle and temple worship with festivals and sabbaths, and a national system that came to involve human kings. Many of the distinguishing features of the Israelite or Jewish age, or epoch, did not come to their complete end until 70 C.E. At that time, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, permanently ending the Jewish priesthood, sacrifices, and temple worship as prescribed in the Law. Also, the Jewish people, once God’s chosen nation, were scattered among the nations, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy at Lu 21:24 as well as Paul’s words here about “the ends of the [Jewish] systems of things.”

God’s wisdom in a sacred secret: That is, the wise arrangement that God put in place for ending the rebellion that started in Eden and for bringing about universal peace and unity. (See Glossary, “Sacred secret.”) The declaration of the “sacred secret” (Greek, my·steʹri·on; see study note on Mt 13:11) began with Jehovah’s prophecy at Ge 3:15. Jehovah’s “sacred secret” centers on Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:9, 10; Col 2:2) It includes Jesus’ identity as the promised offspring, or Messiah, and his role in God’s Kingdom (Mt 13:11); the selection of anointed ones​—taken from among both Jews and Gentiles​—to be Christ’s joint heirs, with whom he shares the Kingdom (Lu 22:29, 30; Ro 11:25; Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26, 27); and the unique nature of this congregation composed of 144,000 “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Re 14:1, 4). These facets can be understood only by those who thoroughly study the Scriptures.

the hidden wisdom: Paul called the sacred secret “the hidden wisdom,” that is, hidden from “the rulers of this system of things.” (1Co 2:8) God through his spirit reveals this secret to his Christian servants so that they might make it public.

the systems of things: The Greek word used here, ai·onʹ, has the basic meaning “age.” It can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time. In this context, the term refers to those systems that have developed during man’s history since the rebellion in Eden.​—See Glossary, “System(s) of things,” and study note on 1Co 10:11.

executed on a stake: Or “to be fastened on a stake (pole).” This is the first of over 40 occurrences of the Greek verb stau·roʹo in the Christian Greek Scriptures. This is the verb for the Greek noun stau·rosʹ, rendered “torture stake.” (See study notes on Mt 10:38; 16:24; 27:32 and Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”) The verb form is used in the Septuagint at Es 7:9, where the order was given to hang Haman on a stake that was over 20 m (65 ft) tall. In classical Greek, it meant “to fence with pales, to form a stockade, or palisade.”

executed: Or “executed (fastened) on a stake.”​—See study note on Mt 20:19 and Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”

Eye has not seen and ear has not heard: The quotation in this verse is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures exactly as Paul words it. He seems to be combining the thoughts of Isa 52:15 and 64:4. Neither Paul nor Isaiah was referring to the future blessings that Jehovah has prepared for his people. Rather, Paul here applies Isaiah’s words to the blessings that first-century Christians were already enjoying, including their spiritual enlightenment and understanding of “the deep things of God.” (1Co 2:10) People who lack spirituality do not value such blessings. Their eye cannot see, or discern, spiritual truths, and their ear cannot hear, or understand, such things. Knowledge of “the things that God has prepared for those who love him” does not even enter into the hearts of such people. But God has revealed these precious truths through his spirit to men and women who, like Paul, are dedicated to Him.

the spirit of the world: Paul here refers to the dominant attitudes and inclinations of the world of humankind alienated from Jehovah God. Because of the pervasive influence of Satan, the spirit of the world is marked by selfishness, immorality, and disrespect for Jehovah and his righteous standards. (Eph 2:1-3; 1Jo 5:19) The spirit of the world works in direct opposition to the spirit that is from God, his holy spirit.​—For a discussion of the term “spirit” as used in the Bible, see Glossary, “Spirit.”

the spiritual man: Lit., “the spiritual (one).” Paul here contrasts the spiritual man with the “physical man” mentioned in the preceding verse. (See study note on 1Co 2:14.) A spiritual person values spiritual matters and is guided by God’s spirit. God is very real to spiritually-minded people, and they strive to “become imitators of God.” (Eph 5:1) They endeavor to obtain God’s view of matters and meet his standards for living. The spiritual person examines, or clearly sees, the wrong course of the physical man.

a physical man: In this context, the term “physical man” does not refer merely to a human of flesh and blood. The expression is used in contrast with “the spiritual man” in verse 15, so it refers to a person who has no interest in or appreciation for spiritual matters. The Greek word for “physical” used here, psy·khi·kosʹ, is derived from the word psy·kheʹ, sometimes rendered “soul” in this translation. As used in the Bible, psy·kheʹ generally refers to that which is physical, tangible, visible, and mortal. (See Glossary, “Soul.”) So “a physical man” is one who is preoccupied with the desires that are associated with the physical or material life to the exclusion of spiritual things.​—See study note on 1Co 2:15.

a physical man: In this context, the term “physical man” does not refer merely to a human of flesh and blood. The expression is used in contrast with “the spiritual man” in verse 15, so it refers to a person who has no interest in or appreciation for spiritual matters. The Greek word for “physical” used here, psy·khi·kosʹ, is derived from the word psy·kheʹ, sometimes rendered “soul” in this translation. As used in the Bible, psy·kheʹ generally refers to that which is physical, tangible, visible, and mortal. (See Glossary, “Soul.”) So “a physical man” is one who is preoccupied with the desires that are associated with the physical or material life to the exclusion of spiritual things.​—See study note on 1Co 2:15.

the spiritual man: Lit., “the spiritual (one).” Paul here contrasts the spiritual man with the “physical man” mentioned in the preceding verse. (See study note on 1Co 2:14.) A spiritual person values spiritual matters and is guided by God’s spirit. God is very real to spiritually-minded people, and they strive to “become imitators of God.” (Eph 5:1) They endeavor to obtain God’s view of matters and meet his standards for living. The spiritual person examines, or clearly sees, the wrong course of the physical man.

who has come to know the mind of Jehovah . . . ?: The answer to this rhetorical question is: “No one, of course.” (Compare Ro 11:33, 34, where Paul quotes from the same scripture, Isa 40:13.) Paul then says: “But we do have the mind of Christ.” Humans can never fully understand all of Jehovah’s thoughts. Christians can, however, come to know God better by studying “the mind of Christ” and cultivating his way of thinking because Christ is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15; see study note on we do have the mind of Christ in this verse.) In fact, the better a Christian understands Christ’s mind, the better he will understand God’s mind.

the mind of Jehovah: Paul is here quoting from Isa 40:13, where the Hebrew text reads “the spirit of Jehovah.” However, Paul was apparently quoting from the Septuagint, which uses “mind” (Greek, nous) instead of “spirit.” Although available manuscripts of both the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures read “mind of Lord,” there are solid reasons for believing that the divine name was used in corresponding manuscripts that existed in the first century C.E.​—See App. A5, C1, and C2.

Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 40:13, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text of Isaiah.​—See App. C1 and C2.

we do have the mind of Christ: A Christian can have “the mind of Christ” by coming to know the pattern of Jesus’ thinking. Such a person meditates on all aspects of Christ’s personality and then adopts Christ’s way of thinking and imitates his example of humility and obedience. (1Pe 2:21) A Christian’s “dominant mental attitude” will then reflect the thinking of Christ, whose “mind” reflects the thinking of Jehovah.​—Eph 4:23; Joh 14:9.

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