1 CORINTHIANS – SERIES : NR 5
Theme: By Spirit and Power
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2 : 1 – 5
READ VERSES 1-2
Man thinks that His wisdom – worldly/human wisdom – is everything. But God’s wisdom and power trump human wisdom. It puts human wisdom to shame. It turns human wisdom on its head. And it takes you into heaven while human wisdom drags you down to hell.
The entire question of the difference between human/worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom is therefore a very serious matter.
The other day I watched a video about a prominent person at the World Economic Forum – the organisation that is trying to eventually control every person on earth – who at a conference said: Our knowledge and ingenuity – it does not come from some or other power above the stars – it is out of MAN.
He does not keep in mind that 2000 years ago, God already had it recorded in His Word that the Antichrist shall raise himself above God and assume that he is God – and that man is everything. This gentleman spoke through the spirit of the antichrist and he was not even aware of it. He spoke AGAINST God and did not realise that God forestalled him and 1000s of years ago already had it recorded that he would speak that way! He thinks human wisdom is wielding the sceptre. In the meantime, he is like a dog in a leading role. And so too every person who boasts of human wisdom. It is the grossest foolishness imaginable.
And yet it is present in the DNA of every human being on earth. In our hearts and heads, we are forever meddling with God’s wisdom and replacing it with our own – and particularly with the world’s view and opinion.
Human wisdom draws you away from God’s revealed truth because it elevates King Man above God. Exactly what Satan did and was consequently brought to a gruesome fall. But when Jesus rose from the grave, God trumped satan’s wisdom and gave it an eternal knock-out blow. And Christians are meant to live within the atmosphere of that victory and be Word-filled and not bow down to the wisdom of man.
The Apostle Paul now gives a second example of how God’s wisdom and power shame the wisdom of man – and that by the content of his preaching and ministry. Just look at it for a moment.
The first example which he explained in the previous verses, was merely to look at how the Lord assembled the Corinthian church. Most of the people He called and saved and added to the church, were not important and influential people – as human wisdom would’ve argued it should be.
And here is now a second example. Look at the content of his ministry and the content of the preaching.
When Paul was in Corinth before, what was his preaching other than the foolishness of God in action? The foolishness of the cross? Seen from a human point of view, the message of the cross is pure foolishness.
Think about it: In a nutshell, the message of the cross consists of the following 6 truths:
1 > God is holy and righteous
2 > We are evil sinners who daily break God’s law
3 > We deserve His wrath and punishment
4 > Christ took this wrath and punishment upon Himself
5 > when He died on the cross and rose from the grave
6 > Now He instructs you to repent and place your trust in His completed work
But: Imagine a person hears this message in his/her inborn pride and thinks: “WHAT? Must I – who in my own opinion is not such a bad person – place my trust in a Jewish man who lived somewhere in Jerusalem 2000 years ago and died on a wooden cross and of whom it is said that he lives? Really? I can not even see him. I can not hear him. I can not prove that he ever existed. What on earth can such a person’s death do for my salvation? It is pure foolishness. No, I will just calmly carry on with the way I live and try to do good and remain steady and hope that I too shall end up in a good place.”
Can you see? My wisdom is better and makes perfect sense. GOD’S wisdom is foolish and senseless.
And yet, at that time the Lord brought out of heathendom in Corinth a church of Christ through Paul’s preaching of the message of the cross.
Paul did not go to Corinth to contribute to the cultural heritage or to contribute to the riches of their Greek philosophical wealth. The place did not need a new philosophy. They needed Christ. Worthless philosophical wisdom cannot turn the heart of a lost sinner to God. The message of the cross can though. The message of the cross is unpopular because, in essence, it opposes sin. It is against anything dear and precious to the lost-in-sin-person. Once the message of the cross has penetrated your heart, you can never again make peace with the sin of any kind and your life shall not continue in the old way. Where the cross of Christ came to do something in a person’s life, that person longs for sanctification, and victory over sin. Such a person hates sin and loves righteousness, loves the Scriptures, loves prayer and shares the Gospel message with others and despises the worldly spirit. The person upon whom the message of the cross has operated, their entire being starts to say: “I desire that my thoughts and heart and life must be centred in Christ and what His will is for me. I have turned my face in only one direction. I do not have time and have no interest in anything LESS than Christ. I am sold out to the Son of God. I am His witness and servant. I will not give up something ETERNAL for something TEMPORAL. It does not matter what happens to me or what people think of me. I desire to live as Christ wills it.”
Listen how the Apostle puts it: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and Him crucified.”
There was absolutely nothing attractive or enticing to his preaching. Nothing which would’ve drawn man’s nature and heart. He merely preached the message of the cross of Golgotha in all its simplicity.
But, because the preaching came in such simplicity and had a content which did not make an impression on the heart of man, exactly that was revealed/demonstrated the power of God.
The Apostle did not preach the Gospel among the pagans, clothed in humanly wise words and in line with the style of the Greek philosophers! Certainly not! Exactly the opposite. He merely began to pass on the testimony concerning the crucified and risen Christ. But his address was not interspersed with well-spoken or exemplary cleverness. And the content of his preaching was true – in the ears of fallen man – foolishness.
But the Apostle continued to proclaim the testimony concerning God – the true living Triune God – and how He worked throughout history towards the justification of all God’s people in the whole world – and how He gave His own Son to be crucified. With a purposeful dedication and resolve to ONLY preach Christ without compromise. Out of the OT Scriptures and according to eyewitnesses and testimony of the Apostles. Only that. Without a speck of uncertainty. With the total trust and knowledge that God uses exactly that – this unadulterated message – for deliverance and salvation.
The crucified Christ. Meaning the complete final work of atonement of Christ in His virgin birth, His obedience to His Father, His innocent suffering and rejection, His death on the cross, His resurrection, His ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. THAT is the crucified Christ. THAT is the Word that saves – through the unfathomable power of God.
READ VERSES 3-5
Brilliant three verses. It contains a very important principle we should take note of.
In short: What exactly is the Apostle saying here? Listen carefully.
It is now – not about the content of the Apostle’s preaching and ministry – but about how he preached and ministered.
In the book of Acts, we see how lots of things happened – particularly in Athens – which greatly discouraged Paul even before he arrived in Corinth. And we know from 2 Cor 10:10 that the Corinthians were not particularly impressed with the Apostle’s personal presence or his preaching. They were sceptical and disdainful because Paul did not appear to achieve much.
With his arrival in Corinth, he was therefore rather discouraged and very far from strong – rather full of nerves. Full of weakness and fear, he is saying here. It is not that he was necessarily weak physically, but he had a struggle with the spirit.
“What would the reaction in Corinth be?” he might have wondered. Yes, he was full of trepidation about the reaction to the preaching of the cross in the metropolis of Corinth? He was not very well-spoken and did not use any of the Greek oratory techniques. His task was so great, his calling enormous, but his human ability so weak.
That is what caused the inner tension.
But in the end, Paul was thankful for this weakness. Because then God’s power could simply be EVERYTHING. And the people who would come to faith were not dependent upon the Lord’s human mouthpiece.
Look what he is saying in verses 4-5. He was conscious of the fact that his preaching compared poorly with the great speakers of that time. He was aware of his shortcomings. Clever arguments there were none. His teaching and proclamation (which refers to the same thing namely preaching) was however a demonstration of the power of the Spirit – referring to the Holy Spirit and the power of God who used his ministry to open the eyes of people and convict them of their lost state and bring them to the Lord. Something which can take place ONLY by the Holy Spirit and the power of God.
The faith-confidence and knowledge of those in Corinth who came to faith and redemption and salvation in Christ Jesus was therefore was not based upon human wisdom, but upon the truth and power of God. And that is how it should be, otherwise, it would have failed.
What a significant truth. NOTHING in the preacher can create and bring into being new birth and sanctification. ONLY the Holy Spirit and the power of God – by way of the simplicity of the ministry/proclamation of the Message of the cross of Christ.
And in the 21st century, it still works the same.
What does your faith-confidence rest upon? The assurance that you are a child of God – what does it rest upon? Perhaps on some or other personal experience? Or perhaps on a certain preacher under whose teaching you came to faith?
That is quick-sand.
The Christian Faith is a revelation of God and not a product of man’s wisdom and clever design.
Your stability must be anchored in God’s revelation in A) the Scriptures and B) Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
Translated by Marthie Wilson