When we read 1 corinthians 2 we see Paul Use the phrase, 'I came to you in fear and trembling', why did he do that and what does it mean?
in this blog i want to explore Christ in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Why not pour yourself a drink, take of your shoes and knuckle in for a ride through the chapter.
Firstly lets understand that this isn’t the first letter to the Corinthians, but that it is the first letter to Corinthians by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to become part of the cannon of scripture. Paul didn’t sit down and say let’s write a bit of the bible. The only scriptures they had were the Old Testament so we can understand that what the New Testament is, is a commentary on the Old Testament.
We understood that when the Spirit gives inspiration to that which became Scripture it was for the purposes found in 2 Timothy 3:16, Doctrine, correction, reproof and instruction in righteousness.
Doctrine is the bed rock belief that we must learn to understand God
Correction is correcting wrong doctrine
Reproof is correcting wrong application of doctrine in our lives
And instruction in Righteousness is teaching those who didn’t know how to act righteously according to the word.
The letter to Corinthians was a letter of reproof, correcting their wrong application of doctrine in their lives.
In chapter one this began with a look at the factions which the Corinthians had formed. But it wasn’t a teaching that denominations are wrong, which it is often applied to this teaching, because Paul shows that there are factions, those who are saved and those who are unsaved. This is a letter to the former. What the issue was is that they looked to put particular leaders upon a pedestal and to follow them against the others. What made this worse is that one of the four names mentioned was Christ, suggesting that some put the other three on an equal footing with them. The danger of following a man is indicated. And Paul makes it clear, only Christ gives us spiritual gifts, only Christ could die for our sins and most importantly only Christ can and should get the glory.
Paul shows that those who they are following or looking to make kings over them are not to be considered wise men, or great men, because the Lord choose fools, and foolish things, even the gospel message which is salvation, is considered foolish by those intellectuals of the world. So the Lord is the only one to follow, the rest of us are foolish, and not to be considered wise. This shows that while trying to make a king for themselves, so that they didn’t need to directly go to God, but that the leader could do all things for them then they were acting just like Israel did in 1 Samuel 8.
Now the guys that the Corinthians were following were not corrupt or false teachers or prophets, they were good guys who shared the message of Christ. However, Paul showed them that the people they were following may be likeable guys with talents but the talents were in fact the base things, the foolish things of the world. They weren’t used by the Lord for their abilities but because of the willingness to be used by God so that He might get the glory.
Now do you think this chapter follows on in the same issue, or do you think it’s a different issue? The answer is it is a different issue, which is related to the first one.
Therefore when we look at the chapter what we are seeing is the question or reproof being posed at the start of the chapter. Then we move on to a series of arguments making the point leading to the conclusion at the end. 1 Corinthians chapter 2 starts with
And I, brothers, when I came to you, did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God.
And it ends with
For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
So what do you think the question is? What do you think the conclusion to that question is? And what do you think the arguments in-between are?
The answer to this is where true wisdom comes from and how it’s comprehended. Do you see that? The reason I highlight this to you is because our favourite thing to do with all of the letters of the New testament is to dip in and pick a verse here or there. the problem with that approach is that when you do this you can take that statement and use it to say what it wasn’t intended to say. Sometimes you can even make it say something that shouldn’t be said. Now context is always key, but this is often coloured by the reason you’ve come to the scripture. If this is your primary text the likelihood is you know all the surrounding bits, if your main text was somewhere else and you were looking for a verse which seemed to agree with your argument then it’s tempting to dip into it and take it away. The letters were to be read as one letter not as seperate chapters so the original readers would have looked at it all. Yet in some letters, especially a long one like 1 Corinthians is then in a letter there are points where the discussion changes. What went before had no bearing on the text your reading. So it’s important to understand what the writer and what the Holy Spirit were trying to say before you use that verse and not assume the chapter break is a break or that the whole letter speaks to your point. In this chapter no verse is stand alone, they are all part of a conversation, to understand each verse you need to understand all the verses. This is common, and not to do so is lazy, so don’t fall into that trap. Now that’s a little side line, the purpose of the question I asked was what is this a reproof of?
The answer is, understanding the origin of wisdom. Verse 16 would seem to have the answer. it is the mind. The Greek word is nous, and it means the intellect. It is the maxim that you think therefore you are. Who came up with this? The Greeks, this is their wisdom it’s what they believed sincerely. The definition of what seperates man and beast is the ability to think, the intellect. You exist because you know you exist.
Paul blows this thought out of the water. Shots are being fired.
You may be able to think, but only those with the mind of Christ have intellect.
What do you think Paul means when he says I determined not to know anything amongst you except Christ?
A simple explanation would be that He didn’t want to preach anything amongst them except Christ crucified. But I’ve looked and looked at the language and it simply doesn’t say that
The word for determined means exactly that but the word for ‘know’ is eido, means to perceive or to see. The phrase really is I made up my mind I would perceive or see anything else amongst you other than Christ crucified. Rather than it being a sentence about Paul teaching the Corinthians it would seem it’s a sentence about the Corinthians teaching Paul.
It’s an origin of wisdom statement and it is the only wisdom Paul is interested in. This wisdom is that of the gospel and He is looking for it in the Corinthians.
However, that would seem unusual though, to go to a people who don’t know the gospel and look only to see the Gospel in them, or Christ crucified in them. So does that approach or theory on what Paul meant fit with the verses around it?
Paul starts in verse one by linking it to our previous chapter. They didn’t accept the gospel because of Him, or at least not because of his style and presentation or because of His credentials. Paul tells us his credentials in Philippian’s 3:4-10. To the Corinthians he reminds them that He simply shared the testimony of God. The testimony of God means the witness of the things of God to those who did not know God. However, this witness is just in speech, but it is the life watched. Does His life match His words? Now that’s not a claim that he is perfect and sinless, because what is the testimony of God? Well we read the answer in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7. That we are saved by His Grace given to us through His mercy. Therefore the true witness of God is he who shows the mercy of God, in the way He is to others and the understanding of the mercy shown to Him. Paul’s credentials had no bearing on that, his words were not able to show it, all He could do was declare the testimony of God. In so doing he then looked for the evidence of this in the Corinthian’s in the church. Paul did not look for the noble or the mighty just those who responded to the gospel and had a testimony of it.
This he did in weakness and fear, indeed that testimony can be verified by what the Spirit said to Him, when he was in Corinth which we read about in Acts 18
And the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, Do not be afraid, but speak, and be not silent. Acts 18:9
Now this is Paul who had been stoned and beaten and imprisoned already for His teachings, what more could he face, it should have been old hat to him. But he came in fear and trembling, why? Well, to Jewish intellectuals, Paul could argue a thing or two, but to Greek ones he was a plebeian, a simple person, no match for their intellect. Remember all of the jokes often made about philosophers and wise thinkers, many of them were Greeks alive at this time. IF they weren't alive then their teachings were that which the ones who were had been taught and discuses. Even today those thoughts and philosophy's are taught in universities. Sometimes we forget that modern Philosophy, democracy, art, economics, politics all have their roots in Greece. Even the Romans couldn’t compare to the Greek knowledge, they simply assimilated it. Greco Roman understanding is at the base of all of our education systems, particularly in the attitudes of thought and thinking. Paul couldn’t compete with them, he didn’t have their knowledge or schooling. To put it into a modern day context he was standing before People like Einstein, and Hawkings, professor Brian cox, Richard Dawkins, or Professor Winston. Would you be terrified if you were to stand in a room and tell them that Einstein’s theory of the universe is wrong, Hawkins teaching on the theory of the universe is wrong, Professor cox’s views of the solar system are wrong, Dawkins evolutionary principles are wrong, or Winston’s understandings of the nature of life are wrong. Experts in their fields with more letters after their name than a German verb and theirs’s you, with your math's o level trying to tell them that Christ died to save them from their sins. You wouldn’t even try, neither would I, we would be terrified, but of what?
Would we be terrified that they may prove to us God doesn’t exist? Well now were getting to it. For if this is a battle of intellects, who knows more then that is the problem. We look at the same world but we start in a different place and we also end in a different place. We Christians believe in the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth and in the end the Lord is coming back to take His bride and set up the new Heavens and earth. The world sees any other beginning but that and its end is not a definite date but will come at our own hands. When we accept that is the position of both sides then we have to act in accordance with our Faith. It is very possible to look at the same thing and get two different and opposing answers, spend ten minutes on social media to find out. When Paul went to preach the gospel to the likes of them he was able to do it because of the same reason we should be able to do it. You see Paul took that message of the Spirit and preached the gospel to the likes of them, because the Lord said to Him in Mathew 28:19-20, that He would always be with us. How did He do it? well verse 4 is a lesson to us in Gospel preaching. Not with enticing words, but by a demonstration of the Spirit of Power. What does He mean by this?
Well the word for demonstration is apodexis, meaning a manifestation or a provision of proof. And this proof was done two fold, firstly by the Holy Spirit and secondly by the Doonamis, or power.
When Paul says 'in the Holy Spirit', he is not talking of the gifts of the Spirit, but the works of the Holy Spirit, We read what that is in John 16:8-15 where Jesus explained what the Helper was coming to do.
And when that One comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. Concerning sin, because they do not believe on Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatever He hears, He shall speak. And He will announce to you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine and will announce it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and will announce it to you. John 16:8-15
That is what Paul means in demonstration of the Holy Spirit. He doesn't mean his demonstration but the Lord's demonstration. So wat does Paul then mean when he says 'coming in the in Power'?. He is talking about a faith that is more than words, look at 1 Corinthians 4:19-20, such is the kingdom.
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills. And I will not know the speech of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
1 Corinthians 14:19-20
Yet what does it mean not in words but in power? Could it mean manifestations of the Spirit? Well none are recorded as happening in Acts 18. What is recorded is the intervention of the Lord in certain defeat. As Paul was dragged, as he had been in most places, before the court to be arrested, beaten and imprisoned. Yet before he opened his mouth in defence the judge through out the case and had his persecutors beaten. Paul's life bore Godly intervention and the truth is you will either see it has that or as a happy coincidence.
Let us put it all together to figure it out. Paul preached and lived the gospel of Grace, in the face of intellectuals. He didn’t argue with them on their terms, he simply preached the Gospel and the Holy Spirit was the proof of his actions, as was the strength of words that came alive in how God intervened in his life so he could share that message. What we learn from this is that the gospel isn’t a point of changing someone’s mind. It is a case of simply preaching the message we have been given which the world's thinking has automaticly rejected.
Why preach it at all? verse five answers this.
so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:5
Our acceptance of the gospel we are required to accept by faith and not by argument so that we know Christ is Crucified for us when we did not see it. Those Christians who sit on theories of creationism which they have used scientific principles to build; or because of historical evidence proving the existence of Christ; they are false floors, they won’t support, you; for eventually when you use the worlds wisdom you will collapse. The Just shall live by Faith. Our salvation must be built on faith. Not of the preacher but of Christ and this is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Now I said before, are you afraid of discussing Christ with intellectuals in case they take your belief in God away. Well in the armour of God, Faith is a shield, it protects you from arguments and fiery darts, and salvation is a helmet which protects your thoughts. If you know you put them on because of faith and not because such and such said this. Then they will protect you. And what is faith
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen Hebrews 11:1
In conclusion we must not lose heart because the world doesn't take us seriously or we are not intelligent in their eyes. The world's wisdom begins in the wrong place because they would rather reject God for the responsibility of following Him brings into our lives. In so doing they must prove why He does not exist breaking their own rules of scientific discovery to not rule anything out. Yet we who know Christ do not have to convince people set in such entrenched positions. If we preach the gospel as Christ has laid it on out heart and live life as we know it, then we are doing our part in the work of the Gospel.