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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 3: The Mystery of Yahweh God.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 ends as Paul compares worldly wisdom, which is doomed to fail, with the wisdom of God which is far better than that of man. Paul explains that although the Gospel of God is folly to man, the wisdom of man shall be destroyed, and has already been made to look foolish in the account of the Christ. In many respects the humanist philosophies OF were comparable to those of modern times, and the religious authorities were just as humanistic as those of today. So while the world thinks that Christians are fools, in reality Christians should see that those who are worldly are the true fools. As David wrote in two of his Psalms, numbered 14 and 53, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”
The first ministry of Paul of Tarsus in Corinth lasted over 18 months (Acts 18:11) until the Judaeans attempted to persecute him by charging him before the Roman proconsul Gallio. After the persecution had failed, Paul continued in Corinth for an additional but indeterminate period, which Luke describes only as “many days” (Acts 18:18). The end of Paul's ministry in Corinth having coincided with the term of the proconsul Gallio can therefore be dated to 51-52 AD from an inscription discovered at Delphi in Greece and first published in 1905 which is called the Gallio Inscription. The inscription represents part of a letter from the emperor Claudius concerning Gallio himself, which was written in 52 AD. After departing Corinth Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 19, cf. vv. 10, 22, Acts 20:31) and after that passing through Macedonia he once again returned to Greece, where he spent another three months. By Greece, as the text records in Acts 20:2, it can be told from Paul's epistles that Corinth was where he spent at least a part of those three months. This first epistle to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), and the second was written as Paul was en route from Macedonia to Corinth for his final visit there (2 Corinthians 1:8, 15-16, 23, 9:4, 11:9).
Paul's departure from Ephesus seems to have been imminent when he wrote this epistle, where he said “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost” at 1 Corinthians 16:8. If Paul was tried before Gallio in 52 AD, then with the intervening travels and three years in Ephesus he very likely may have written this epistle in the early part of 56 AD. Therefore here in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul is recollecting his long ministry there which had ended approximately four years before this letter was written.
1 And I having come to you, brethren, came not in accordance with eminence of speech or wisdom, declaring to you the mystery of Yahweh, 2 since I had decided not to acknowledge anything [the MT adds “of that which is”] among you, except Yahshua Christ, and that of His crucifixion.
The Greek verb εἴδω (Strong's # 1492) is literally to know, however Liddell & Scott (εἴδω, B. 1.) also explain that the phrase used here, τι εἰδέναι was used in this sense, to acknowledge anything. Paul had merely explained that the Gospel of Christ was his sole focus.
Rather than “mystery of God”, the Codices Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text have “testimony of God”, as does the King James Version. The text of the Christogenea New Testament agrees with the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), and Ephraemi Syri (C).
We would contend that the phrase “mystery of God” is very poorly understood. It has nothing to do with God Himself being a mystery, as even Paul said in Romans chapter 1 “18 For the wrath of Yahweh is revealed from heaven upon all profane and unjust men, who withhold the truth with injustice. 19 Because that which is to be known of Yahweh is visible among them, since Yahweh has made it known to them.” If this is true, then there is no further mystery concerning God Himself which can be revealed by Paul's Gospel or epistles, because Yahweh had shown to men “that which is to be known” of Him. Therefore the phrase “mystery of God” cannot be a mystery about God Himself, but rather it must be a mystery which God outlined through the writings of His prophets that is being declared, as Paul said in Romans chapter 16: “25 Now with ability you are to stand fast in accordance with my good message and the proclamation of Yahshua Christ; in accordance with a revelation of mystery having been kept secret in times eternal, 26 but being made manifest now, through the prophetic writings; in accordance with the command of the eternal Yahweh, for the submission of faith to all the Nations, in discovering that 27 Yahweh alone is wise, through Yahshua Christ, to whom is honor for the ages.” While some topics in Romans are further developed than what we have here in 1 Corinthians, Paul's relationship with the Corinthians was much further developed and he had also written earlier epistles to them.
So the mystery of Yahweh is something revealed in the prophetic writings, and its purpose is for the “submission of faith to all the Nations”. Paul said some very similar things to the Colossians in the first chapter of his epistle to them. In that epistle he mentioned the complaisance with which they should walk in Christ (1:10). Complaisance is a willingness to be agreeable. Paul then told them that God “has rescued us from the authority of darkness, and instead gave us into the kingdom”, while also telling them that in Christ “we have redemption: the dismissal of errors”. Then Paul said (1:21-22): “21 And you at one time being alienated and odious in thought by wicked deeds, 22 yet now He has reconciled ... to present you holy and blameless and void of offense before Him”. With all of this it is manifest that the Colossians must have been of the children of Israel who were put off from Yahweh for their disobedience. At the end of that same chapter (1:25-27) Paul said “25... I have become a servant in accordance with the administration of the household of Yahweh which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of Yahweh, 26 the mystery which has been concealed from the ages … 27 to whom Yahweh did wish to make known what the riches of the honor of this mystery are among the Nations, which is the expectation of honor anointed in you”
Ostensibly, the mystery of Yahweh is the expectation of honor anointed in the Colossians, who were being taken out of darkness, and having been alienated from God were being reconciled to Him in Christ. Their sins were being forgiven, and they were being established once again as members of the household of God. The mystery of Yahweh is therefore what He had done to the children of Israel, how He put them off from His communion in ancient Israel, how they were scattered into many nations, and how He reconciled them to Himself in Christ, forgiving their sins. Christ had said in John chapter 10 that “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” However 700 years before His coming He had said through the prophet Ezekiel that “6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” The shepherds of ancient Israel failed to keep the sheep, so Yahweh Himself became their shepherd in order to ultimately demonstrate to man that only their God can be their king – and that He will indeed keep the sheep. In ancient Mesopotamian inscriptions, kings were analogized as shepherds from the earliest times.
Yahweh is telling us through Ezekiel that He came as Christ to search out His sheep, because the anciently appointed shepherds failed to keep them secure, and it is to those sheep that Paul had brought the Gospel of Christ. They were scattered “in the cloudy and dark day” when the children of Israel had gone into captivity. Many of them were actually scattered over the centuries before the captivity, and had been breaking off to settle elsewhere from the days preceding the Exodus. The nations to which Paul brought the Gospel were all descended from the ancient “lost sheep” of Israel, and were therefore being reconciled and forgiven. Those words have no relationship to any other people. Later, Christ Himself quotes Isaiah chapter 42 where He explains that the purpose of the Gospel is “7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Paul explains to the Colossians that in Christ they were delivered from “the authority of darkness”. Then through Isaiah in that same chapter Yahweh says “16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.... 18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. 19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant? 20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. 21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. 22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”
The prisoners were the Israelites in their dispersions which culminated in the captivities at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. It is they who were to be restored to God in Christ. Isiah was writing about Israel's captivity. “None saith, Restore”, and therefore Yahweh Himself would be their saviour and restore them. In Isaiah chapter 43 He proclaimed: “8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. 10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. 12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. 13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? 14 Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. [A prophecy with a dual fulfillment, as seen in Revelation chapter 18.] 15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King. [Therefore all the nations of Israel are “all the nations” of Isaiah 43:9.] 16 Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; 17 Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow. 18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” The children of Israel in the wilderness are depicted in Jeremiah chapter 30 and in Revelation chapter 12, as well as here in Isaiah.
The “new thing” in Isaiah 43 is what Yahweh did to the children of Israel, and this is the mystery which Paul revealed: that the children of Israel were led off to the wilderness, and became many nations in their captivity, and as those nations were being converted to Christ they were fulfilling the “proof of the Anointed” as Paul had explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
3 And I in weakness and in fear and with much trembling had come before you; 4 and my speech and my proclamation were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in exhibition [D has “revelation”] of Spirit and of power; 5 in order that your faith be not in wisdom of men, but in power of Yahweh.
The Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Ephraemi Syri (C) and have “not in persuasive words of man’s wisdom” (i.e. human wisdom), of which other variations are found in groups of later manuscripts. The 3rd century papyrus P46, which is followed by other later manuscripts, has only “not in persuasive wisdom”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D).
Regardless of the popular perception, Luke was not with Paul regularly during these middle years of his ministry. Luke was left behind in Philippi at the house of Lydia as Paul departed for Thessalonica, as the Book of Acts attests in the last verses of chapter 16 and the beginning of chapter 17. Luke does not appear in his narrative of Acts again until Paul goes to the Troad, in Acts chapter 20. Therefore, although Acts chapters 17 through 19 describe a period which spanned over 6 years, those chapters are very concise and actually contain very little of what had evidently happened as Paul conducted his ministry during that time. Luke did record such things as Paul's speech at Athens, gave us a brief description of the extended stay in Corinth and then the longer sojourn in Ephesus, and a mention of his final trip to Antioch and back through Galatia, and also his several journeys through Macedonia. But most of the details of these journeys are wanting in Acts, and there are lengthier accounts of only a few events. Some of the details of what happened during that period are described in certain places in Paul's letters. For instance, some of the events of Paul's Acts chapter 18 visit to Antioch are recorded in his epistle to the Galatians.
However while reports of any exhibitions of the spirit are wanting in the account of Paul's stay in Corinth which is recorded in Acts, we are informed that this is where he first met Priscilla and Aquila, and then of the conversion of Crispus and of Titios Ioustus (who is only identified as Justus in the King James Version, and who is almost certainly the Titus of the epistle of that name). Before leaving Corinth Paul also evidently converted Sosthenes, who is with him when this very epistle is written. All of these people are mentioned in Luke's account of Paul's first sojourn in Corinth. Both Crispus and Sosthenes were at different times the assembly hall leaders of the Judaeans in Corinth, and therefore Paul's sojourn there must have been filled with notable events since he was able to bring such notable men to Christ.
There are a couple of accounts in Acts of supernatural events at the hands of the apostles, and they are portrayed as a product of the Spirit of God bestowed upon the faithful from the time of the first Christian Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Yet what is remarkable is that the Book of Acts and Paul's epistles move along in their narrative without boasting about these miracles or even focusing upon them, never putting them in the spotlight. The miracles are only mentioned in a few episodes in Acts, as the occasional healing or as the earthquake which opened the prison doors, yet they remain in the background while the Gospel account is always in the foreground. Here in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 where Paul mentioned the exhibition of the Spirit and power he is actually quite modest and discreet, and made the reference only as a part of his profession that the Corinthians were not persuaded to Christ by his own rhetorical skills. Paul admits that his own presence is humble and weak. This is important to perceive because from these experiences about which Paul writes there came 250 years of men and women who were willing to die at the hands of the pagans and the Jews for the faith in Christ.
This faith came only in part from the ministry of Paul in the way in which he describes it here, because there were also other apostles of the faith whose works have not come down to us in writing but who must also have had a hand in its dissemination. The proof of this is in Paul's own words, for instance in his epistle to the Romans, that there were already steadfast Christians in places where Paul had not yet taught. But with those other apostles as well, the transmission of the faith in the Spirit and power which Paul described here must have left such strong impressions of the truth of the Gospel of Christ that men and women were willing to defend the Gospel unto death, and indeed they did.
6 Now we speak wisdom among the accomplished; but wisdom not of this age, nor of those governing this age, who are being done away with.
The word rendered accomplished is an adjective, τέλειος (Strong's # 5046). It may mean finished, completed or perfected, among other things. Although Christ used a word which literally means restored (καταρτίζω), the King James Version has Him saying at Luke 6:40: “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” The apostle John said in his first epistle: “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5) and “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12). It is in the sense of 1 John that the Christogenea New Testament translates the word as accomplished here, that the accomplished Israelite is one who has accepted the Gospel, and who thereby loves his God and his brethren, being perfected in Christ.
In his epistle to the Hebrews Paul used the verbal form of this same word where he said of Christ “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). The children of Israel are those who were sanctified in Christ, and therefore only the children of Israel are perfected, or can be among the accomplished in Christ. From Ezekiel chapter 37: “28 And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”
The children of Israel are sanctified in Christ, and those governing this age are being done away with. In John chapter 16 Christ made a statement and although we shall not elaborate upon His entire discourse He said “11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” In John 14:30 Christ said that “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”, evidently meaning is that he has no part or share with Him. In the response to a voice from heaven recorded in John chapter 12 we read: “30 Yahshua replied and said: 'Not on account of Me has this voice come, but on account of you. 31 Now judgment is of this Society; now the ruler of this Society shall be cast out! 32 And if I am lifted up from this earth, I shall draw all to Myself!'” These words are profound because it can be demonstrated in history and archaeology that they were written down by the end of the first century. With the “lifting up”, or crucifixion of Christ and the spread of the Gospel a process was begun by which the entire White Adamic world had indeed been drawn to Him. The “ruler [or prince] of this society” is manifest in Luke chapter 4: “5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
Christ spoke of the “prince of this world” in the singular number. Paul mentions the “princes of this world”, or the “governors of this age” as it is translated in verse 8, here in the plural. The seemingly contrasting terms are better understood when it is realized that Christ used the term collectively to describe the rulers who were opposed to Him. Paul also used similar epithets collectively, for example in Romans 16:20 and in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. As it is apparent in the Gospel, as it was in the first century, and as it is today, quite often those sitting in the public seats of authority are not always the true rulers. In Revelation chapter 13, in a prophecy of world powers, we read that “4... they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” Once Europe abandoned paganism and Christian governance and cultural institutions had developed, the devil was ostracized from society for a thousand years. Now Satan is let out of the pit and has deceived the nations once again. But when Babylon falls, Christians have a promise that those governing this age will indeed be done away with. They cannot be converted to Christ, and as Paul said in chapter 1 of this epistle, it is folly to preach the Gospel to those who are going to die. They have no part with Christ and therefore they have no life in Him.
7 Rather we speak wisdom of Yahweh, that had been hidden in a mystery, which Yahweh had predetermined before the ages for our honor, 8 which not one of the governors of this age has known, (since if they had known, they would not have crucified the Authority of that honor,)
The 3rd century papyrus P46 has “the Authority of their honor”. The phrase “the Authority” here, where the principle word has been capitalized as an epithet, is from κύριος (2962) with the Definite Article. As a Substantive it is usually “Lord” in the King James Version or “Prince” here. The epithets “Author” or “Master” also would be appropriate here. If Christ is the Author of Salvation then Christ must be Yahweh Himself, as He says at Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.”
Paul told the Corinthians at the beginning of this chapter that he has been “declaring the mystery of God” to them. He was not declaring that God is a mystery, but was rather explaining the mystery that God had purposed in the prophets. Here he says that the things which he was teaching “had been hidden in a mystery”. Paul's language insists that with the Gospel and his teaching, these things are no longer a mystery because he is explaining them. Where Paul refers to the mystery “predetermined before the ages for our honor” he must be referring to things foretold in the prophetic writings, and he had explained to the Romans that the revelation of this mystery was made manifest in those very writings.
When we search the prophetic writings we find a promised honor of restoration to God for the children of Israel. A signal example is in Hosea where it says of the cast-off Israelites that “10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. 11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” Paul taught the fulfillment of this passage of Hosea in reference to the Nations to which he brought the Gospel in Romans chapter 9 (9:24-26). This is the same thing which Paul teaches the Corinthians in a different manner, which we shall see in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 where he says that “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all had passed through the sea”, and then he goes on to explain that the pagan nations of Europe were “Israel according to the flesh”.
In Isaiah chapter 45 the Word of God says “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end” and “20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations...”, which is a reference to the Israelites who survived the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and then it says “21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.” This is the mystery which Paul discusses here, which no others but the prophets of Yahweh had declared from ancient times. The conclusion is that “25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” This is one announcement of the honor which Paul mentions here and similar announcements are found throughout all of the prophets. Paul explained it, but still the world to this day will not accept it. The wisdom of the world is therefore folly before God, and the wisdom of God is folly to the world, as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. Yahweh will save Israel, and only Israel.
9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye did not see, and ear did not hear, and came not into the heart of man, those things Yahweh has prepared for them that love Him,”
With a difference of one word, Paul seems to quote from Isaiah chapter 64 in a prophecy which relates to the same sin and ultimate salvation of the children of Israel: “4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. 5 Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.” The extant Septuagint version of Isaiah 64:4 is somewhat different: “From of old we have not heard, neither have our eyes seen a God beside thee, and thy works which thou wilt perform to them that wait for mercy.” Of course, only those who love Yahweh among the children of Israel taken into captivity would be waiting for mercy as Isaiah had written. In either version of Isaiah, the context of the words which Paul quotes limits their application to the children of Israel.
10 yet to us Yahweh reveals them through the Spirit [D and the MT have “through His Spirit”; the text follows P 46, א, A, B, and C]; for the Spirit inquires of all things, even the depths of Yahweh.
Many people tend to think that things revealed in the spirit are simply what they themselves feel in their heart. Yet the Word of Yahweh says in Jeremiah chapter 17 that “9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” To the contrary, there is a prophecy in Zechariah chapter 7 which shall serve to help explain this statement of Paul's: “8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, 9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. 11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts: 14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” Zechariah is of course referring back to the captivities of Israel and Judah.
Where Zechariah says “lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets” we may see what Paul meant by referring to the revelation through the Spirit here in verse 10. The words of the prophets are the will of Yahweh God expressed through His Spirit so that His will could be transmitted to us in those words. Therefore Paul told the Romans (15:4) “Now whatever things have been written before, have been written for our instruction, so that through patient endurance and the calling of the writings we may have expectation.” Then he explained to them that the “revelation of mystery having been kept secret in times eternal, but being made manifest now, through the prophetic writings” was “in accordance with the command of the eternal God” (Romans 16:25-26). In Romans chapter 7 where Paul said that “the law is spiritual: but I am carnal” he was comparing the essence of the commandments in the written law to the fleshly desires of man. That essence in the written law is spiritual, as are the words of the prophets. Both the written law and the writings of the prophets are the expression of the Spirit of God, as Paul in Romans chapter 7 attests and as Zechariah chapter 7 attests. Where Paul tells us here that the things which Yahweh has in store for those that love Him are revealed through the Spirit, that revelation is in the books of the prophets, and studying the words of the prophets our individual spirits can accept the will of God if we indeed have His spirit and love our God!
11 Indeed of men [A wants “of men”] who knows the things of mankind [or “the things of the man”, but the expression seems to be a Substantive, referring to mankind], except the spirit of man which is within him?
Only the spirit within a man knows what truly lies in his own heart. Here Paul seems to distinguish between the conscience of a man and the desires of his heart. Although this is a digression from Paul's topic, aside from man himself God certainly knows what is in man, and therefore God can rightfully judge men. From Ezekiel chapter 11: “5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” Only God knows the truth concerning what lies in the hearts of men. That is why only God can rightly judge men, because God is true and every man is a liar, as Paul explained in Romans chapter 4, ostensibly because only God knows and can consider everything in judgment. The apostles marveled that God incarnate, Yahshua Christ, knew what was in men, as it is expressed in John chapter 2: “24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Paul continues:
Even so no one knows the things of Yahweh, except the Spirit of Yahweh.
Yet as both Paul and the prophets attest, the will of the Spirit of Yahweh is revealed to men in the prophetic writings (which includes all of the Old Testament scriptures). That revelation, however, is evidently only a partial revelation of Yahweh's will. Even Christ attested that He revealed things in the Gospel that had been “kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). Only Yahweh Himself knows what He has reserved, and man cannot search it out.
But the things which Yahweh reveals through His spirit, exemplified in the law and the prophets, and now in the Gospel and the Revelation, man can indeed know if man has that same spirit! Therefore Christ was recorded in John chapter 14 as having said “16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The children of God can indeed receive the truth from the Word of God. However those who have not the Spirit of God in them have no truth in them and can only corrupt His Word. Paul had said in Romans chapter 8 “9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him”. John explains that in his first epistle, and Paul explains it in a different way here.
12 Now we do not receive the spirit of the Society, [D has “of this Society”] but that spirit from Yahweh, in which case we should know the things granted to us by Yahweh; 13 which also we speak of, not instructed in words of human wisdom, but instructed in of the Spirit, [the MT has “Holy Spirit”; the text follows P 46, א, A, B, C, D, and 0185] by the spiritual compounding with the spiritual.
The word compounding here is from the verb συγκρίνω (Strong's # 4793), which is “to compound...II. to compare...to measure, to estimate...”, according to Liddell & Scott. Literally it means to judge one together with the other. If we are born of God, our spirits can hear His Word and agree with His will. The things granted to us which Paul mentioned are those things which Yahweh had expressed for His children in the law and the prophets. Paul said in Romans chapter 8 that “14 Indeed as many as are led by the Spirit of Yahweh, these are sons of Yahweh. 15 Therefore you have not taken on a spirit of bondage anew to fear, but you have taken on a spirit of the position of sons, in which we cry: Father, Father. 16 That same Spirit bears witness with our Spirit, that we are children of Yahweh. 17 And if children, then heirs: heirs indeed of Yahweh, and joint heirs of Christ; if indeed we suffer together, that also we will be honored together.”
But not every person is of Yahweh, and not all people have that same spirit. Here Paul contrasts the spirit of God with the spirit of the Society, or “world”, and perhaps this can be more fully explained by understanding the apostle John's comments relating to this which are in the 4th chapter of his 1st epistle: “1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” Earlier in that same epistle John had spoken of the same antichrists where he wrote at 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
There are men whose origin is with God, and having the Spirit of God they have the ability to agree with and follow the Word of God. Then there are people whose origin is in the Society, they are the result of the sins of the society and they will never be found to be in agreement with God. This is why Paul gives two options in his admonition to the Hebrews: “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). We see John say that “they came out from us but they were not of us”. Peter and Jude both speak of those same infiltrators in a quite different way, explaining that they were from outside and “crept in unawares” into the body of God's people. In 2 Peter chapter 2 they are called “natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed” while Jude says that they are “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” and that they do not have the Spirit of God. Neither can they obtain it, because to have it one must be born from above (John chapter 3), being a child of Adam the son of God (Luke chapter 3).
14 Now the natural man does not accept that of the Spirit of Yahweh, for it is folly to him, and he is not able to know because it is inquired of spiritually; 15 but the spiritual inquires into all things, and it by no one is examined.
The ψυχικὸς ἄνθρωπος is the natural man although the word ψυχικὸς is an adjective from the noun ψυχή (Strong's # 5590), which is “breath, Latin : anima,...the life, spirit...soul...”, according to Liddell & Scott. Often in the secular writings ψυχή is used instead of πνεῦμα (Strong's # 4151) to mean spirit, but at times it is also distinguished from πνεῦμα. Joseph Thayer explains this in his definition of ψυχή, where he says that the Greeks had a three-fold explanation of the nature of man. Here and elsewhere ψυχικὸς is used by Paul in contrast to πνευματικός (4152), or “spiritual” and therefore it is understood in Paul's writing to refer to the “natural” man, the man of the flesh. It is πνεῦμα that is always used in the New Testament Scriptures to refer to the Spirit, and especially to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God (a parallelism).
Now verse 14 has a multifaceted interpretation, where Paul says that “the natural man does not accept that of the Spirit of God”. First, the men who are born “of the world”, as John explains, and who do not have the Spirit of God, as we have seen that both Jude and Peter agree, those men could never accept the things of the Spirit of God. But the Adamic man is special in that he has two natures, the spiritual and the fleshly, and therefore he can make a conscious decision to choose to follow one or the other. Paul wrote about this very thing in Romans chapter 8, where he said in part:
“1 Now then, there is no condemnation to those among the number of Christ Yahshua. 2 Indeed the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yahshua has liberated you from the law of guilt and death. 3 The law is powerless, in that it has been weak over the flesh, Yahweh sending His own Son in the likeness of errant flesh, and amidst guilt, condemned guilt in the flesh, 4 that the judgment of the law should be fulfilled among us, who walk not in accordance with the flesh, but in accordance with the Spirit. 5 For they who are in accordance with the flesh, strive after the things of the flesh; and they who are in accordance with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 Indeed the purpose of the flesh is death, but the purpose of the Spirit, life and peace. 7 Because the purpose of the flesh is hostile to Yahweh, then to the law of Yahweh it is not obedient; neither is it able to be; 8 and they that are in the flesh are not able to satisfy Yahweh. 9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him: 10 but if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of fault, but the Spirit alive because of righteousness.” Paul is teaching as Christ Himself said in John 14:23: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Once again we see that there are people who do not have the Spirit of God, because they are not of God. Those without the Spirit of God cannot possibly know the truth from Scripture and will never be anything but fleshly. However those with the Spirit of God have a calling to depart from the Society and live in accordance with that Spirit.
16 “For who has known the mind of Yahweh? Who will instruct Him?” But we have the perception of Christ.
The verb συμβιβάζω (Strong's # 4822), is “to instruct” here as it also is in the King James Version. It is from the prefix συμ, or with and the verb βιβάζω which is to make to mount or to lift up. The verb can be interpreted as to bring together, or in the passive voice to be joined or knit together or framed...” and therefore metaphorically it can be “to bring together, reconcile...to put together, compare, examine...to prove logically...to teach, instruct” This last use of the word seems never to have been employed by the secular Greek writers. But wherever the word appears in the Septuagint it is always used in this context, where Brenton translates the word “to teach” or “to instruct” at Exodus 4:12, 4:15, 18:16; Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 4:9; Judges 13:8 and Isaiah 40:13, 14; “to impart (understanding)” at Daniel 9:22 and “to guide” at Psalm 31(32):8. This seems to be the only time that Paul uses the word in this manner, where at Ephesians 4:16 it seems to mean “to reconcile” (A.V. “to compact”) and at Colossians 2:2 and 2:19 “to bring together” (A.V. “to be knit together”). The word appears elsewhere in the N.T. only in Acts, at 9:22 and 16:10, and at 19:33 where Majority Text (and therefore the King James Version) has προβιβάζω instead. This may seem trivial, but is perhaps one good indication that Paul's grammar was influenced by his study of the Septuagint.
Here in the first part of this verse Paul is quoting from Isaiah 40:13, although Jeremiah 23:18 is quite similar. In Jeremiah we see Yahweh's wrath against those who walk after the thoughts of their own hearts: “16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. 18 For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? 19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.” Paul is calling Israel back into the obedience of their God.
However Isaiah chapter 40 is a prophecy of comfort to those in Israel who love Yahweh, where all the other nations are considered to be nothing before God. We shall not read that much of the chapter here, but only the immediate passages: “11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?”
The Codices Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D) “But we have the perception of the Prince”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), the Codex Vaticanus Graecus (048) and the Majority Text.
As for Paul's closing statement: “But we have the perception of Christ”, the word for perception (νόος) may have been written literally as mind, and the word for Christ may have been written as “the Anointed”. However Paul is distinguishing what is fleshly from what is of the Spirit of God, and the perception of Christ is very well made manifest through the Gospel of Christ, and that is the Christian advantage. Since Christ had indeed opened His mouth in parables, and uttered things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:35), we need the Gospel of Christ to understand Godliness and iniquity, and He gives us the keys by which to truly understand both the law and the prophets.