PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Knowing Christ Crucified

03/24 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Knowing Christ Crucified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130324_1cor2_1-5.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον· 3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ σοφίας ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, 5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul is addressing the divisions in the church in Corinth. He appeals to them on the basis of everything the Lord Jesus Christ stands for, that they agree and that there be no divisions. He brings them back to the simplicity of the gospel message that they had believed as a remedy for their pride and quarreling. He was sent by Christ primarily to proclaim a message. The message he preached, he says in 1:18-25, the word of the cross, the good news of a crucified Messiah, seemed foolish, even scandalous to an educated audience. The expectation of the Messiah was one who would be victorious, conquer and rule, not one who would get arrested and executed. The message of Christ crucified seemed weak, but this very message is what proved to be the power of God for salvation to all who believed.

In 1:26-31, Paul points to the background and social status of the believers in Corinth to illustrate that God’s method was contrary to human wisdom, because for the most part, it was the lower classes, the foolish, the weak, the nobodies in society who believed. The message seemed foolish, and the ones who believed the message also seemed foolish. God is determined to shame the worldly wise and bring to nothing the things that seem strong and powerful so that no one can boast in his presence.

Here in 2:1-5, Paul holds up his own method of preaching as lowly, weak, and foolish, to show that his methods matched the nature of the gospel message. He presented the foolishness of the gospel to foolish people in a foolish way, so that God was able to take all the credit and get all the glory for the results.

He is picking up the thought that he left off in 1:17;

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

And now he continues:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Let’s look first at what Paul did not do, then at what he did do, and then why he did things that way.

Paul’s Approach – Negative

What did Paul avoid when he preached the gospel? Remember, as he mentioned back in verse 17, to preach the gospel in the wrong way is to empty the cross of Christ of its power. So what methods does Paul avoid? Paul says:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This corresponds to what he said back in verse 17 “not with words of eloquent wisdom”; literally ‘not in wisdom of words’ [οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου]; here it is ‘not in lofty words or wisdom’ [οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας]. So far Paul has said a lot about wisdom: In 1:19 he quotes God in the Old Testament saying “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise”. He asks in 1:20 “where is the wise?” and asserts that ‘God has made foolish the wisdom of the world’. In 1:21 the wisdom of God determined that man’s wisdom would not lead to a relationship with God. In 1:22 wisdom is what Greeks seek. But in 1:24 Christ is the wisdom of God, and in 1:25 God’s foolishness is wiser than men. In 1:26-27, not many of the Corinthian believers were wise according to worldly standards; God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. In 1:30 God made Christ Jesus our wisdom.

Paul refuses to use lofty words or wisdom, or wisdom of words. Is Paul anti-intellectual? Is Paul promoting a faith that is illogical or irrational, contrary to the evidence? Paul himself made it his practice to ‘reason from the Scriptures’ and to ‘try to persuade’ (Acts 18:4). He is not encouraging us to disengage our brains. He never encourages us to believe contrary to evidence or logic. We are commanded by Jesus to love God with all our minds (Mt.22:37). We are commanded to seek understanding (2Tim.2:7), to be mature in our thinking (1Cor.14:20), to think about what is true (Phil.4:8), and to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pet.3:18). Here we are told that Jesus Christ is our wisdom.

So the wisdom that God destroys, the wisdom that Paul avoids, the wisdom that God will make foolish, is wisdom of words, lofty high sounding wisdom, wisdom of the wise, human wisdom, the wisdom of the world. This is the wisdom of crowd pleasing, ear tickling, preacher promoting, designed to impress with the talent of the messenger more than the truth of the message. Paul refuses to come with lofty speech or wisdom.

In verse 2, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except…” We will come back to what that one thing was in a minute. Here I want to point out that he resolved to know nothing else. We might expect him to say something like ‘I know a lot of things, but I resolved to preach on only one thing; I determined to speak only one thing.’ Instead he says that he decided to know nothing else. He set everything else aside. He was single-minded. Nothing else was really worth thinking about. He had one thing that captured his heart and consumed his thoughts. One thing oozed out of his every pore. Everything else was considered nothing compared to this one thing. Back to that one thing in a moment.

Verse 4 he says that his words and his preaching were not in plausible words of wisdom. Not with skillful persuasion, designed to sway with clever arguments. Paul did try to persuade everyone. But he refused to manipulate anyone. As he says in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul’s Approach – Positive

The open statement of the truth. If Paul refused to manipulate people, if he refused to employ lofty sounding speech that would impress his hearers and stroke his own ego, then what was his method? Verse 1 tells us

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This not only tells us the approach he avoided, but also the content he communicated. He came proclaiming the testimony of God or the mystery of God. He announced, declared, proclaimed the message, the truth from God. The message he announced was God’s message, not his own, so he was not at liberty to tamper with the message.

He describes the manner of his coming in verse 3.

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

This is quite the opposite of the sophists and philosophers of his day. Who wants to listen to someone who can barely stand, whose knees knock together and whose hands shake almost uncontrollably? We don’t know for sure what Paul’s physical presence was like. A second century document describes him as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked’ [Acts of Paul and Thecla, cited by Morris, p.51]. If we put some of the background of his visit to Corinth together from the narrative in Acts, we may be able to appreciate more of what he describes here as ‘weakness, fear and much trembling’. Toward the end of his first missionary journey, there was an attempt on Paul’s life in Iconium, so he fled to Lystra. The Jews followed him there and persuaded the crowd to stone him. He was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead. On his second journey, Paul was beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi. After being released, they went to Thessalonica, where there was a riot, and the brothers sent them away by night to Berea. The Jews from Thessalonica came and agitated the crowds, so the brothers sent him off by sea to Athens and he was there alone. After a short and discouraging time in Athens, he came to Corinth. We can imagine the physical condition of Paul. I suspect that being stoned and left for dead would leave an impression on a person. He may have been quite a rough looking character, scarred and disfigured.

But his weakness, fear, and trembling can be explained another way. In 2 Corinthians, he describes the apostolic ministry as spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, which is a fragrance of death to those who are perishing and a fragrance of life to those who are being saved. And he asks the question ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ [2Cor.2:15-16]. The sheer weight of the responsibility of preaching Christ and the realization that for some this is the fragrance from death to death should cause anyone who takes on the task of preaching Christ to be weak in the knees with much fear and trembling. Paul must have felt the weight of his responsibility so acutely in Corinth that the Lord encouraged him one night in a vision.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul did not approach ministry in strength, self-assured, confident and capable. He had learned the secret of effective ministry, that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness (2Cor.12:9). So he was with them in weakness and in fear and much trembling.

Verse 4 tells us that his speech and his message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Some have taken this to mean that there were supernatural phenomena accompanying his ministry. And in other places, Acts records signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles. But there is no record of any supernatural signs in Acts 18, which documents Paul’s visit to Corinth. And this would not fit well with the statement he just made that he was with them in weakness and fear and much trembling. It also would not fit well with his argument in 1:22 that Jews demand signs, if his preaching in Corinth had been accompanied by signs.

So what does he mean when he says that his speech and message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power? This fits well with his thanksgiving in 1:6, that ‘the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you’. The power of the gospel was confirmed in Corinth when in weakness and fear the preacher preached the foolish message of the cross and dead sinners were given spiritual eyes to marvel at the beauty of the gospel and believe. This is the power of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8). This is the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to give life to our mortal bodies so that we can now live in a way that pleases God (Rom.8:11). This is transforming grace that as we turn our attention to Christ, we are being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). The foolish message was preached in Corinth by a weak and fearful preacher, and the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Cor.6:9-11). That was irrefutable evidence of the Spirit and of power.

Resolved to Know One Thing

How did this power come to them? This is what happens when the cross of Christ is not emptied of its power. The word of the cross is the power of God to to us who are being saved. This preaching of Christ crucified is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is why Paul resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The one thing that had captured his heart and consumed his thoughts and shaped his life was Jesus. Specifically Jesus Christ crucified. This is why he doesn’t say ‘I determined not to speak about anything else or preach about anything else’. He says ‘I determined not to know anything else’, because you can speak or preach about an idea or a thing or an event, but you can only know a person. This one relationship so consumed him that he could write to the Philippians

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

This relationship, Jesus said, is the definition of eternal life.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

He resolved, he purposed, he determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The person and work of Christ is the one thing that is at the center of the gospel. Who Jesus is; the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, God in the flesh, the only Son of God, God from all eternity, perfectly obedient to his Father. What Jesus did; the perfect Lamb of God, our substitute, crushed for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions, the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:5-6). ‘Crucified’ is a perfect passive participle; it is a past completed action that has results which continue. We know Jesus today as the crucified one. We can only know him because he was crucified in our place. This crucified one will remain the center of worship for all eternity.

Revelation 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, …9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Paul resolved to know one thing, and one thing only. Everything else he determined to put aside. That one thing was Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Paul resolved to preach a cross-centered message, and to present it in a cross-shaped manner.

Faith Resting on a Sure Foundation

The purpose of Paul’s method was this.

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul knew that if he mastered their intellect with logical arguments, there would always be the chance that someone else would come along with something that sounded more persuasive and sway them in a different direction. If he manipulated their emotions with a stirring appeal, their passions might just as quickly carry them off after something else that moved them. If he persuaded them with his powerful personality, they would be his disciples and not Christ’s. Paul knew that faith resting in the wisdom of men is shaky faith built on a shaky foundation. Paul’s preaching Christ crucified, preaching in weakness and fear and trembling, made room for a demonstration of the Spirit and God’s power so that faith would rest solidly on the power of God.

If faith is rooted in the wisdom of men, faith would be a system of belief that I can pride myself in that by my faith I have made sense of the universe. But if faith is dependence on another born in humility out of conviction of my sin and need, then my faith is looking away from myself to another for rescue. That faith is as strong as the object in which it is placed. If my faith is placed in the historical and theological facts of the person and work of Jesus, then faith is crying out to Jesus to save, and faith is counting on Jesus to be faithful to his promises. Jesus is the only sure foundation for your faith to rest on. Christ crucified is the good news, the power of God and the wisdom of God, the power of God to save believers, Christ who is my righteousness and Christ who is my sanctification and Christ who is my redemption.

I pray that your faith might rest on Christ crucified, the power of God. I pray that together we would resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 24, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , ,

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