A Summary of 1 Cor 2:1-5~After having shown (1:17 ff) that the Gospel is both preached and received by the humble and the simple, St Paul now tells the Corinthians that when announcing to them the glad tidings he observed the characteristic method of evangelical preaching. This he did in order to conform to the divine plane, as already explained, and also in order that the Corinthians might derive the greatest profit from hearing the Gospel.
2:1. And I, Brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.
2:2. For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1. And I, etc, i.e., in conformity with the nature of the Gospel ministry, when I came to you the first time my preaching was simple in style and contents; I simply declared unto you the Gospel, avoiding all loftiness either in form or in matter. The Apostle came to Corinth from Athens, where he had engaged in high dispute with the Stoics and Epicurians (Acts 17:18 ff.). Perhaps his failure there induced him to employ at Corinth a method more in harmony with the requirements of the Gospel.
Testimony of Christ should be “testimony of God,” according to the Greek; and the meaning is that the Gospel, which Paul announced, was God’s witness to Christ. Some MSS read “mystery” in place of “testimony.”
2. For I judged not, etc. If the negative οὐ, not, is to be connected with κρίνω, judged, the sense is: “I did not pretend to know,” etc.; if connected with ειδεναι, to know, we have: “I judged it better, or I decided, not to know,” etc. The meaning is that, while at Athens just before coming to Corinth, St Paul had argued learnedly with philosophers, he made up his mind upon arriving in Corinth that it was better to keep to simple doctrines about Christ, especially the mystery of the Redemption. Hence among you is in contrast with the Athenians.
2:3. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
2:4. And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the spirit and powers;
2:5. that your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
3. In weakness, and in fear, etc. The weakness referred to was perhaps bodily infirmity (Gal 4:13; 2 Cor 10:10; 12:10), or the natural spiritual infirmity which he felt aside from the help of God (Acts 18:9-10). the fear and trembling were probably caused by poor results he had just experienced at Athens (Acts 17:33), by prospect of stripes (i.e., being whipped) and persecutions (St Chrysostom), and by the greatness of the task that confronted him in Corinth (Acts 18:9).
4. My speech, i.e., my private instructions given to individuals, and my preaching, i.e. my public discourse to the multitude (St Thomas), were not in persuasive words, etc., i.e., not after the manner in which the philosophers and rhetoricians were accustomed to address their hearers.
But in the shewing of the Spirit, etc., i.e., his preaching was directed by the Holy Ghost, who enlightened his mind to know and moved his will to say what was most useful and instructive; and who, at the same time, by his grace disposed the hearts of his hearers to receive his words with faith (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 4:7). Some authors understand the word powers to refer to the miracles that were worked in confirmation of the Apostle’s preaching. In light of 1 Cor 1:22 this St Paul probably does not have in mind miracles.
Human (Vulgate, humanae) is found only in MSS A C; it is omitted by all the best MSS., Old Latin, Peshitto, and some copies of the Vulgate.
5. St Paul had a special reason in avoiding a display of human wisdom and lofty language at Corinth, namely, that the faith of the Christians there might not be based on anything so vain and subject to error, but might have as its foundation the power of God, working through grace and miraculous gifts, which cannot err or be led into error.