Summary: At first blush, God’s wisdom seems so elementary, so foolish even. We as humans love to debate and create big complicated philosophies. Instead, the Apostle Paul shows us how to simplify our understanding to know the REAL wisdom of God.
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If I asked you to name some great speakers – who comes to mind? Oddly, when I thought about it, the first person who came to my mind was Oliver North. Remember Ollie North? He was the guy who helped mastermind the sale Iran/contra scandal of the Reagan administration. I watched the Congressional hearings when Ollie testified. No matter the question Ollie was not fazed – in fact he often came back with these great patriotic sound-bites that were incredible.
Its kind of odd because what North and others did was illegal – yet it sounded so right. As it turns out, a flowery speech conceals many weeds.
Want to know who else was a really good speaker? Adolph Hitler. Hmmm. In fact, Hitler created an entire group whose sole job was to make movies and provide communications (read – propaganda) to persuade people to join his cause. It worked – and what resulted was one of the worst atrocities ever committed and nearly swept the world.
Both Hitler and North succeeded by using oration to make patriotism the focus, not the activities going on under the surface. Who can argue with patriotism after all?
We like good speakers. We like to be entertained. This was very true back in the days of Corinth. The problem then as now is oration can get in the way of real wisdom. Many times on Easter Sunday we expect a great oration – it’s a special day, after all. While there’s nothing wrong with a good sermon – this Easter I want to focus our thoughts not on a good speech, but on a Good Savior. And, coincidently, that’s what we see in chapter 2 of 1st Corinthians.
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
To understand what Paul is saying – let’s look back at the events he speaks of in Acts, chapter 17:16 through 18:8.
Paul came to Athens and gave a famous speech on Mars hill to a group of seasoned orators who were used to debating on a high philosophical and intellectual basis. These people liked to show off how much they knew. He used the idol to the “Unknown God” as a means to reach these gentiles. It didn’t work very well – but some believed.
Coming from this backdrop Paul entered Corinth. There he preached to the Jews, who rejected him. So finally he left the synagogue and went next door, renting a hall and preaching the gospel for a year and a half.
You gotta think that Paul was pretty fed up with the rhetoric of Athens and so he determined not to use “eloquence or superior wisdom” with the Corinthians.
2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
So instead of showing off his intellect – and he had it, believe me, he “resolved to know nothing.” The way the Greek is constructed here could suggest that Paul decided before coming to Corinth to sort of “forget” everything except the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
Do you ever get caught up in intellectual debates about Christianity? I’m not saying that debating is bad, or intellect is bad – but when the focus of the debate is to show how much you know, instead of how much you can know Him – something is wrong.
Good advice – don’t let your intellect crowd out Jesus. And don’t get side-tracked when sharing the gospel with someone. I’ve had many discussions where members of a cult will try to pull the argument into some obscure Scriptural reference that they believe supports their cause. We should always take the debate back to the central issue – the person of Jesus Christ.
Not only did Paul put aside intellectual arguing when sharing the gospel at Corinth, he did something more:
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.
Paul ends Chapter 1 talking about how it’s not through the powerful but through the weak that the gospel came – “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor 1:27). He’s making the same argument about man’s oratorical and intellectual prowess – it’s not in the strength of the speaker, but in the strength of the message.
Some might think they are unable to give the message of the gospel unless they’ve gone to Toastmasters or taken a speech class.