Summary: Paul did not rely on his own power but on the power of the gospel through the Holy Spirit. We can boldly proclaim the gospel when we rely on God’s power instead of our own.
The summer after I graduated from high school, God called me to go on a mission trip to Taiwan. I was really excited about going and sharing the gospel with the people there; however, I am deathly afraid of heights, so the thought of flying, or more accurately being 20-40,000 feet above the ground for about 18 hours, was very intimidating. I had flown for the first time a year before, on a trip to New York, but it was only a couple of hours each trip and I was surrounded by friends and my mother went with me. I was comforted by the fact that three other people from our church was going on this trip, one of which was my friend Jake. Now when I went to NY, we all sat in the same section, so I just assumed that would be the case on this trip as well; but I was wrong. After boarding, I discovered that our seats were so scattered and far apart that we could hardly see each other. So here I am, scared nearly to death just by the thought of flying, and surrounded by people I didn’t know, most of whom I assumed spoke little English. But before takeoff I was reminded that I was on a mission trip, and we didn’t have to wait until we got in the country to begin talking about the gospel with people. In fact, what better place than on an airplane, where you have a captive audience for 18 hours? God gave me the power that day to proclaim the gospel to those around me.
In the same way that God used me, somebody who was trembling with fear, God used the Apostle Paul in the city of Corinth, and He can use you. But you remember your message, the source of your power, and what your faith is built on. And when we do that, we can boldly proclaim the gospel.
So let’s read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I. CHRIST IS OUR MESSAGE
Paul says “1when I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Christ, and Him crucified.”
Paul says that when he came to them he was announcing the testimony of God to them. Whose testimony is it? Often I hear Christians, especially Christian leaders, speaking about sharing your testimony or that we are to share our testimony. But Paul says that it isn’t our testimony that he was sharing, but rather it was God’s testimony that he was sharing. He realized that we are not the primary figures here. We are so proud, so arrogant, that we think the whole universe revolves around us. But it doesn’t. It revolves around the One who created it. It revolves around God. It is not all about us, but it is all about Him. We are not to go out and share our story, but we are to go out and share His story.
Paul goes on to say “I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.” Let me tell you a little something about Paul. If you remember in the book of Acts, when we first meet Paul he goes by a different name. His name then was Saul. He was Pharisee. He grew up in a town called Tarsus, which was well known for its highly intellectual environment. He moved to Jerusalem and was taught by a man named Gamaliel, who was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid-1st century AD. He was a very intelligent guy. He would’ve been trained in Greek rhetoric and philosophy. He would have been able to debate well and speak well. However, we see that he says that he did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. He didn’t use the philosophical method of preaching. He didn’t use funny stories or great oratorical language. He simply preached the Word. He declared the testimony of God. He told God’s story. And all of God’s story points to Jesus and what He did on the cross.
I find it interesting that Paul was determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified. Why Him crucified? Why would he focus on something so tragic? Why not focus on the glory of the resurrection? Why not focus on his great teachings? Why focus on the cross? Because that is where everything changed. Prior to the cross, we were all dead. Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” In verse 3 it says that we were by nature children under wrath. We were born into sin. And Romans 6:23 says that the penalty of our sin is death. Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah, even though we were dead in trespasses.” It was what Christ did on the cross that made all the difference. He paid the price for our sins when He died on that cross. And that was what Paul was focusing on. He refused to enter into philosophical discussions that would only produce strife and division. He simply preached the cross. He preached a crucified Savior that died for the sins of the world.