(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
In this section of Scripture, Paul emphasized that he did not stress human wisdom like so many other people at that time. Many false prophets would try to gain followers through the dynamic and persuasive way that they spoke. Even though the content of the message was wrong, people were so enthralled by the speaker that they chose to follow these wrong paths. Part of the reason that Paul downplays human wisdom is because he knows that human knowledge is vastly inferior to God’s wisdom. People don’t like to hear that but it’s the truth. People would like to think that we are very intelligent and can do just about anything but that is false.
Before the fall into sin, human beings were much smarter than we are today. Before Adam and Eve ate that fruit that they were not to eat, their thinking and intelligence was outstanding. They were created perfect. After the fall into sin, everything was corrupted. Human reason no longer thought in line with God’s Will. Now, reason is contaminated by the sinful nature that resides within all of us. Our problem solving skills have been greatly diminished and we often choose sinful paths to walk down. We don’t like being told that God knows better than us. We like to think that we can figure out the world around us without God’s help.
Paul told the Corinthians that his message was not to be thought of as an incredibly wise message. In verse 1 he said, “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom.” In verse 4 he said, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.” Paul was a smart man. He had been trained as a Pharisee. He knew the scriptures very well. You can tell by the way he writes his letters that he knew how to write articulately. But he didn’t come to try to show off his intelligence. He wasn’t necessarily the most eloquent speaker and the wisdom he shared was certainly not superior in the eyes of the world.
Greek culture back then wanted to be convinced. They wanted to be persuaded of the merits of what was being presented to them. There are many people today that think the same way. We tend to think, “If I am going to give you an hour of my time, you had better make it worth it.” It is basically an attitude which says, “What are you going to do for me?” Paul needed them to understand that this was not the right thing to be looking for. They should not be looking for the most persuasive and intelligent speaker. They should be looking at the content of the message rather than the messenger.
A huge reason that it is bad to look too much at the messenger is because we human beings are seriously flawed. Our sinful nature has so corrupted our rational minds that we tend to analyze things incorrectly. This is especially true when we are talking about spiritual matters. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that we are not intelligent. Human beings can accomplish great things. We can gain all kinds of knowledge. But when we ignore God’s knowledge, we are being foolish. God is the creator of all things and he has the greatest intelligence. Why would we ignore what he wants us to know?
And yet that is exactly what people tend to do. Human beings, because of sin, tend to think that we are smarter than God. Even though God says that we can’t save ourselves through works, think about how many people think that they can get to heaven through their own good deeds. Even though God tells us that life starts at conception, there are many people who think that the baby in the womb is not a real baby. That doesn’t even make logical sense. We can see the child growing and developing. It is a living being and yet some people who think they are intelligent, don’t think that the baby in the womb has a right to live.
There are kinds of ways that human reason makes mistakes. Even when we are evaluating churches, we tend to be like the Corinthians and look for persuasive words rather than a message from God’s Word. Think about how easy it is to evaluate pastors based on popularity or story telling ability or even personality rather than the content of the message. Or we may look at all the external things. Do we think about the design of the building or the amount of youth programs or the friendliness of the people? I am not saying that these things are not important but if the truth of God’s Word is not there, all those other things don’t matter.
Now I am also not saying that if we have the truth of God’s Word, we can just ignore all those other things. I as the pastor still strive to share the Word in a thought provoking manner. I still prepare well to communicate the message. I don’t think that I can just show up on Sunday morning and expect the words to just flow out of my mouth because I have the truth. We need to continue to grow in our faith by studying the Word. We need to be prepared to share that message of Christ. We can’t just become complacent about having this truth of God’s Word. If we become spiritually lazy, we might lose our truth when the wise of this world try to persuade us.
We need to cling to God’s power. And that’s not even something that we do on our own. The power of the message of the cross draws us close to the power of God. His forgiveness preserves us. Our eternal home in heaven gives us the greatest hope. That is why Paul proclaimed the message of Christ crucified. He knew that the gospel message was the only way the Corinthians would be saved. He emphasized this by saying, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). The message of Jesus and his crucifixion is absolutely the wisdom that we need to be saved.
God’s power has saved us. The message of the cross looks like weakness but it is actually power. The cross was a battlefield and Jesus was the victorious conqueror. We were not persuaded to believe that message through a powerful speech like those we might hear from political candidates. Rather, the Holy Spirit came into our hearts in a subtle way. He came to us through the power of the water and the Word in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Paul said, “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 men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5).
As we live in this world which constantly opposes our message, we remember that we have the wisdom of God. The devil is going to try to do whatever he can to get us to stop sharing the message. Don’t be afraid of sharing the message. You might worry that you won’t have the right words to say. You might think that others who are more wise or eloquent than you could share the message better. But God would say that is not the most important thing.
When we have God’s wisdom, we can speak boldly. We know the basics and that is what we need. We know what sin is from the Ten Commandments. We know what forgiveness is all about from the message of the cross and the resurrection. We are relieved that every one of our sins has been forgiven and we have an eternal home in heaven because of Jesus. This is the message of God’s power that we can share with others.