Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
Paul Preached the Message of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.
1st Corinthians 2:1-9
1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
It encourages me to know that Paul saw simplicity and direct reference to God’s truth to be of great value. Paul saw simple, direct truth was more vital than all the human reasoning that he could offer. Paul’s great education qualified and equipped him to contend with the world’s philosophers on their own terms. But he recognized the trap therein, and knew that approaching evangelism in that way would seldom or never bear fruit.
Remember: it says that “the World by Wisdom knew not God.” I
t does not say, “human wisdom was insufficient.” Nor does it say that “Sometimes it worked, but not always.”
It says, “After that, in the wisdom of God, the World by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” (1st Corinthians 1:21)
He warns us that our “clever approaches” don’t help. Rather, they can actually render the true message ineffective and fruitless.
Paul’s Response to the “Lesson”
Remember that, immediately before coming to Corinth, Paul had preached in Athens. Paul went to Corinth. He was feeling pretty beat-up and discouraged. The unbelieving Jews of the last three towns in which he had preached had run him out of town. Possibly he felt this was a great opportunity to “speak his own language” so to speak.
The world knew that Paul had a very good education, from human perspective. He attempted (just this once) to approach other such“educated men” by appealing to their sense of “reason.” And it simply did not work. He established no church in Athens. They saw themselves as “too smart for God!”
Are they “too good” for God, or “too smart” for God?
1st Corinthians 1:23 shows that the Athenians demonstrated how the message of Christ affected the Greeks. The Gospel offended the Jews (as Paul had seen in Thessalonica.) The Greeks just laughed at it. The Jews thought they were “too good,” or maybe “too religious,” or something, to even consider (let alone simply accept) the message of the Cross. And the Greeks often thought they were “too smart” to accept it!
Paul reflected on that experience, and he commented, “But we preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks, foolishness.”
And we still run into that problem today. Some people utterly reject the idea that they need a Savior. They believe in their own “moral superiority”. Even more numerous are those who believe in their own intellectual superiority. And they reject the concept, out of hand.
Confronting this truth in Person
I remember rejecting the message of God, myself, because I thought it was folly. Back then, I thought I was pretty smart: I thought I had all the answers. But I eventually discovered that I could not free myself from sin. I could not “be holy.” And I continually made errors in judgment! I was neither too good nor too smart: I was a condemned sinner.
For his own account, Paul had already known that truth. But in Athens, for some reason, he attempted to appeal to human reasoning. However, he quickly observed that it was not only ineffective, but it was truly counterproductive. He said such an approach could make the Cross of Christ be made “of none effect.” Paul was determined never to make the same error again!
How did Paul Approach Corinth?
He said he was determined to “know nothing except Christ and Him Crucified.”
He also said, 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Why was Paul in fear?
It could have been partly because of the beating he had received at Philippi. That natural fear may have been compounded in Corinth, when he was dragged before the magistrate, Gallio, until Gallio turned on the Jews and threw them out of the court.
But, he also may have been fearful of producing another failure before God. Athens had been a total bust where evangelism was concerned. Every faithful teacher or preacher of God’s Word is careful and anxious to not teach wrongly. We understand the potential for eternal impact upon the lives of others.
Paul strove to demonstrate the power of God in his own life, and in the Word of God as it transformed the lives of believers.
Why no “Enticing words?”
Paul concluded that his reason for the very careful teaching and his abstinence from “human wisdom” and “enticing words” was for one eternal purpose: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
An evangelist may preach a brilliant message, and people may flock to hear it. But if they are just “persuaded by his brilliant rhetoric,” then those people may have only become “acolytes” of that particular teacher. Those who responded to the message may not have responded to the Gospel at all! And if he is an honest, sincere man, he would be dismayed to discover that result.
But that is actually the deliberate goal of many false teachers: In Acts 20:30, Paul warned that they will “seek to draw away disciples after themselves.” Paul referred to such people as “grievous wolves.” And Jesus referred to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Godly Fear and the Light of God
Paul desperately desired to not commit errors that might produce false believers…false fruit. So, his earnest desire was that no one would be impressed with his articulate, well-reasoned and erudite speech. He wanted God’s light to come through unshaded and unfiltered by himself.
When we shine a physical light through a glass or plastic lens, we usually want a clear lens, so as to see clearly. Can there be a reason to want to filter physical light, or to reduce its brightness? Yes, of course there are many reasons we might need to do that. But under what circumstances should we want to filter or dim or color the Light of God’s Word? I hope we can agree that we would prefer to see His light clearly and without artificial colors.
As teachers, we want to transmit the full spectrum of God’s light. We want His light to shine without restriction. In the past we have pointed out that when the headlamps on our cars are covered with road grime, It becomes difficult to see the road at night. The light inside the headlamps has not grown dim, but the lens through which it shines is failing.
We do not want the failures and dirt in our lives to diminish the Light of God for others. That may have eternal consequences in their lives. And, that alone should be a major source of “Fear and Trembling” for any honest teacher. And Paul was no exception.
What about Teaching for Mature Believers?
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
At this point, when a believer is becoming very solid in his or her faith, Paul says he could go ahead and use logic and grammar and all the “proofs” for which people hunger. But it is still not to be the World’s “wisdom.” We are not “going along with the World consensus” as to the meaning of the Bible. Truth is not derived by popular opinion.
We use scripture to interpret scripture, and we show believers how incredibly well the entire Bible fits together as one book. As those entrusted to feed the flock, we teach the truth of His Word, and believers are delighted. We are thrilled by the way God’s Word is deeply and eternally true, not just superficially or temporarily. So we are called to feed the flock, and the specific food is called out.
Sheep Food Only, Please!
We do not “feed the flock” on philosophy, or politics, or current events, or personal opinions. As God commands, we feed the Flock of God on God’s Written Word.
We show the hidden wisdom in the Word of God, to which the unbeliever is blind. God gave us believers only a little of what went on before the creation: just a few solid facts and not much more.
And after the end of time as we know it, we have also been given very little. Just enough that believers can rejoice but nothing to satisfy the rebellious, demanding heart.
Paul points out that had the religious rulers understood the real truth, they would not have rejected Jesus and crucified Him. Their actions proved their position, as emissaries of evil, not of God. The rulers of this world still completely miss the eternal realities God teaches in His Word. World religions make up traditions and lore to explain their own existence and to justify their philosophical position. But there are many questions God simply does not answer.
What is the Alternative?
As a result, many of the religious leaders exercise their imaginations and answer such questions from their own point of view, not the authority of God. They come up with false and dangerous teachings. They tell us all sorts of things regarding the eternal state. Even so-called Christian bookstores, for example, frequently have various books spelling out all the details of heaven. (Where did the information come from? I don’t know! But God says it didn’t come from Him!)
Verse nine says “…as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…:” God has not been revealed it at all, nor has anyone ever been able to guess or even imagine what God has in store for His children. So, when people say such things, telling all about the unseen things, you should feel free to ask where that information is found.
If it isn’t clearly laid out in God’s Word, you are under no obligation to believe it! In fact, all the writers warn us to not believe it. Jesus warned against false revelations, in Mark 13:21. He warned specifically of those claiming to have identified some person as the second coming of the Messiah. He said, “Don’t believe them!”
What about Us?
We will do our best to continually feed the flock on God’s Word. We will study carefully;searching anxiously, to be sure we lead no one astray. We have no hidden agenda, and we are accountable to God for the outcome.
This epistle addresses each of you personally. Paul encourages us to feed heavily on God’s Word. We learn to search the scriptures to be sure the teaching is correct. We each are accountable to God for our response to His truth.
Lord Jesus, please raise us up from babyhood, as believers. Teach us how to become the men and women of God that You have called us to be!