On January 31, 2011 I was blessed with the opportunity to speak on 1 Corinthians 2:1-10 in Undergraduate Chapel at Trinity International University. I will post a link to the podcast when that is available, but for now I thought I would go ahead and post for you all a copy of the working manuscript.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Who or what defines you?
-This is a question we ask ourselves regularly- and a lot of time the answer depends on the season of life that we’re in. Lots of times its friends, work, music, sports…but we aren’t ever necessarily forced to stick with one thing.
-Especially with every new January
-We reflect on our lives in the past year, years and resolve to change something.
-Paul was a man who’s definition for himself was flipped upside down. We know the story of Paul pretty well, that he was a known persecutor of the church, up until that moment on the road to Damascus where the entire definition of his life shifted drastically and permanently. And in this the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul makes very clear precisely what it is that defines him… He tells us this, right off the bat, which is, as v2 indicates is to know Christ, and Him crucified.’ In the second verse here Paul is going back to very roots of Christianity. Right away Paul is telling us not only something about himself, but telling us something about the people of the church in Corinth, and even us today.
To give a brief context of the text- The city of Corinth sits along the isthmus that connects the Greek mainland with the Peloponnesian peninsula. It was a major stopping point in the trade route because of its location connecting the Aegean and Meditterranean Sea.
The people in Greece liked words. They were fans of philosophical thought, which explains the reasoning behind some of the divisions within the church, Paul touches a bit on this in Chapter one where you have people claiming, “I am of Paul, or Apollos, or Peter” in regard to whose teaching they are following…
Americans, on the other hand, like food. Not to say we don’t philosophy as well, but for the sake of later analogies, I am sticking with food for now…. Think about how our days are structured… our schedules revolve around when we eat. Think about when gather together as families and friends, or the Holidays… on most occasions, all of these things are accompanied by a meal of some sort.
Lets look again at what Paul is saying here in the first two verses of Chapter 2:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV)
Paul is dismissing himself of any Philosophical triumph- he is saying when I came to you I decided to come to you KNOWING NOTHING! Unaccompanied of any wisdom of my own… Only Christ crucified! To Paul this absolutely needs to be at the Center of the Church at the center of the Christian Faith… we need to always be reminded to never lose sight of the basics.
In just these few verses alone we are able to learn much about Paul, and from Paul.
-First of all, we see just from his language along, that he is coming to them not on his own accord, or his own merit, not for his own gain, not for his own praise, but he comes in humility. Almost as if he was not good enough in their eyes to be in their presence… look at his language here in verses 2 and 3… he says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom,” I’m going to stop us here midsentence to look at Paul’s posture. Paul, who was once a persecutor of Christians, once a Pharisee, by no means a weak individual had come to the people of Corinth in WEAKNESS, in fear and in much trembling! He is coming to a place where the words of man are revered in complete humility.
When I read this, I can’t help but think of something else Paul writes to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 12 where he writes the following: But he [Christ] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Why does this verse stick out to me? Well, if we continue on in the sentence that I cut us off at, Paul continues on to give reason to his lack of self, gives the reasoning for his humility… he says: “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
And it’s the same thought here, this boasting in weakness that is the same in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul understands that in his own humility that the people will be able to find rest not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. If Paul comes bearing no wisdom of man, there is no way to find rest in it! Thus, he is saying when I came to you and you believed the words I spoke to you, you believed in Christ Crucified. | That’s all I brought.
What Paul is doing here is almost Paradoxical- he’s saying I came to you knowing nothing, but we find that even in his weakness that the Gospel had been preached. In his knowing nothing the most important thing that is needed to be known, the Gospel is proclaimed!
In essence, it’s almost as if he is non-chalantly saying, When I visited you for Thanksgiving, I didn’t come to you with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce, I came to you with the Turkey!
In his humility there is in all actuality, boldness- and because he acknowledges his weakness he is able to boldly proclaim they fact that HE hasn’t come bearing the petty wisdom of humanity which is much of the source of the division in the Church of Corinth. No, he hasn’t come bearing the side dishes, the afterthought. He is bringing the meat. Wisdom greater than that of humanity- Christ Crucified.
Now- This portion of Text- is part of a larger portion of Text that is focusing on the Divisions within the church over the teachings of Various Christian teachers, and when I look at my context, I still see lots of division over this very issue.
One of the most common and closest to my own heart within the church body is the argument of what kind of music we should worship with… it’s called the worship wars for a reason. | I am not going to go there.
Another example is some of my buddies in the Divinity School like to make a habit of having theological discussion over lunch or dinner. Usually the discussion turns into a back and forth on the sovereignty of God vs. human free will, and before you know it, the Calvinist/Wesleyan discussion turns from conversation to short tempered confrontations. Things are said, feelings are hurt, and at least for some moment- there is division in the church body based on human wisdom… Similarly, I feel the need to address the topic of spiritual temperaments as David brought up at the beginning of the Fall semester. We are all prone to worship God in different ways, to some its intellectual or academic, to know God is to study God. To some its emotive, to know God is to feel his presence, worship is experiential. To some its about being the hands and feet at all times, doing God’s work by fighting for Social justice… and you know what? That is not a problem… what becomes a problem is when we believe that our way is the only way. When we get caught up in or opinions, our own approaches, we begin to lose sight as to what binds us together to begin with. We begin concentrating on our own side dish, and forget all about the Turkey that’s been sitting there at the middle of the table all along.
I really liked how Michael Card coined that term Bullet Theology this past Friday. When we realize that theology is simply a human study of God, we have to realize that theology is not infallible – therefore, we have no choice but to go back to the basics, back to what we can hold to certain truth, knowing for certain nothing, but Christ, and Him crucified.
I love the way Eugene Peterson approaches this text in his transliteration- he writes… We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross.
The Gospel is not a fad- its not the latest trend. The gospel transcends all aspects of human wisdom. When today’s fads become yesterdays news… the Gospel remains the same.
I have to admit, when I first sat down to work on this message, I began thinking to myself, what can I say, what story can I share, what words of wisdom can I share that will cause everyone in the Chapel to have this life changing epiphany, and I go back to the text, and am immediately convicted of relying on my wisdom. I myself was relying too heavily on the side dishes, and losing grip of Paul’s reminder that we always need to be centered by the basics, Christ crucified, when we have that knowledge at the core of hearts, it is then that we begin to understand the wisdom that comes from knowing God.
My grandpa died this past December, he had been fighting a battle with leukemia throughout the later years of his life…… I remember sitting there in the memorial service, celebrating the man that he was, reflecting on the life that he lived and what defined him… and as I am sitting there, what I can recall most vividly are memories of waking up in the morning, know that my grandpa had been up tending to his vegetable garden, and he would be sitting at the kitchen table, reading and memorizing scripture, while looking out to the garden. And as we’re sitting there in the Church sanctuary, person after person, would share story after story, about the wisdom my grandpa imparted on them by just the simple reality that he knew Christ, and longed for others to see that in his own life. I had already seen that from my own experience, but seeing how many people shared that view made me see the fruit of his life. I think its impossible for someone to sit in that environment and not then begin to think about the kind of fruit you are bearing yourself. I left that memorial asking myself, would people be saying the same sort of thing? And so in light of that thought I ask you….. Who or what defines your life? We are still at the start of the new semester- a new year, many of you have made new years resolutions and many of you have already broken them. I want to encourage you today, not to think in terms of resolutions, but surrender. Surrender it to Christ.