And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it’s written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”(Isaiah 64:4)
The things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”(Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ. –1 Corinthians 2:1-16
When traveling through 1 Corinthians, we need to remember that this is a letter, not a long sermon, not a venting moment, and there are no “oh yeah, let me just mention this” moments out of context. Everything we read is connected. When we get to the middle of the letter, it will still be connected to the issues from the beginning. In fact, it will be the result of something led from what was talked about in the beginning. And the same is also true with the end…it is all connected. The reason Paul is writing this letter to the Corinthian Christians is because somebody from Chloe’s household church came to him about the issues and problems occurring among the believers and during their gathering services, and Paul is addressing the issues.
In the first chapter, we read about the personality cults among the congregation. People were claiming to belong to certain evangelists (Paul, Apollos, Peter, even Jesus, but in the wrong way). Paul is addressing this really as a two-fold problem:
- Following the certain person under whom they were baptized or from whom they learned the Gospel, versus only Christ Himself;
- This leading to cliques and divisions within the Church.
Paul will talk about these divisions for the next couple of chapters.
One of the other issues that Paul stresses though is why people are attaching themselves to these people. See, in Greece, there were many things the Gentiles did for entertainment. Many of their interests included gladiator fights, architecture, mythology, and philosophy. Now, philosophical discussions were very popular among the Gentiles, for such were how they understood wisdom. If somebody had a great idea that nobody had ever thought of before, or could explain something that others had been struggling with, then they were praised for such wisdom. So this wisdom and gift of great speech intrigued those of the Corinthian church, so much to where they would become the disciples of he who spoke with such. And the better the person was at preaching in front of a crowd, the more honor given to him.
However, Paul explains to them that such speech does not glorify Christ, but actually instead takes away from the Gospel, and he uses the example of how he brought the Gospel to them. ‘Remember? I didn’t come to you with fancy words of wisdom…but in fear and much trembling.’
Paul reminds them that the Gospel is not about how the messenger tells the message, but the message itself, for people often remember the packaging more than the product. But if their focus switches to the messenger (the packaging), then the cross has lost its power, because the message of the Cross is about God raising Jesus and welcoming in those who were not originally allowed to share in the blessings. Salvation is not for those who think they deserve it, nor the rich and lofty who depend on their status and wealth, but for the lowly and sinners who know they don’t deserve it, yet repent and give their lives up to Jesus. But this is not the wisdom of the world. See, to those in the world, death is seen as weakness. For example, in a movie, when somebody is killed in battle, it is often because they were weak or not skilled enough (such also with the gladiators). And the character is neither seen nor heard from again…because they’re dead. This is how the world understands death. But in Jesus, death has a whole new meaning, for Christ allowed for Himself to be killed. This is God’s wisdom, but because the people of the world couldn’t understand it, they claimed it as foolishness.
Now, Acts 17 tells us the story of Paul’s visit to Athens as he waited for his comrades to meet him in Corinth. He explored their temples and saw their need to know God, whom they labeled, “the unknown God”. So he went to talk among such philosophers about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many were interested in learning more of the Gospel, so they invited him to speak before their bigger group. Paul accepted, and brought the Gospel to them. And for most of the message, people were intrigued with what he said, but when he spoke of God raising Jesus from the dead 3 days later, many scoffed at him…because they thought it was foolishness.
Paul is saying that the reason they don’t understand is because they actually can’t understand, for it is the Holy Spirit that communicates God’s wisdom to us.
Remember, all this is in response to the problem of divisions within the Church. If it wasn’t a problem, then Paul would not have addressed it. Also, today, we tend to focus more on the packaging than the product, don’t we? Look at the many different religions and different gospels in this world:
- ‘if you give more money to the church, God will give you more money back’ (prosperity gospel)
- ‘if you accept Jesus, then your life will be easier, you won’t get sick, and if you do get sick, then it’s because you must have sinned…therefore, repent and become well again’ (health and wealth gospel)
- ‘If you want to be happy and successful in life, then give yourself to Jesus, and HE will make all this come about’ (prosperity gospel)
- “God just wants you to be a good person” (Word’s gospel / hybrid of other relgious beliefs)
- “We are the correct church, everybody else is wrong, so if you want to be right, you need to be here with us” (said among most cults)
- “The power of God is inside of you” (New Age)
- “If you’re a good person and do all these things, then you too will go to Heaven.” (world’s gospel)
Have you heard any of these? Maybe you haven’t heard them straight out, but I’m sure you have, hidden in fancy words and packaging. But these are not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are they? They’re all just lies in fancy packaging.
Paul knew that if he had fancied up his presentation of the Gospel, then it would fit in right with the lies, making it difficult to pick it out from the lies. So instead, he chose to present it plain and straight forward. This is how it is, this is the Truth, and this is what you have to do to receive it. No fancy yet empty promises, just straight forward Truth and demonstration.
- What do you look for in a good preacher? In your opinion, what makes a “good preacher”?
- Do you feel that how somebody speaks adds to the Gospel message, or takes away from it? Can or should anything be added to the Gospel? (Why, for both parts).
- What other “Gospels”, or messages, have you heard?