Paul argues that when he was in Corinth he didn’t seek to impress them with flashy rhetoric and charisma, rather he taught them wisdom from God, so that their confidence would rest in the power of God and not on the wisdom of humans.
In the first major section of 1Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:10-4:16), Paul discusses the factions in Corinth. Some have decided that Paul lacks wisdom in his speech. They prefer Apollos who is a much more impressive speaker. This creates 2 problems. The smaller problem is the factions themselves which Paul addresses in 1Corinthians 1:10-17. The larger problem is their foolishness that has caused them to reject Paul because they don’t think he speaks with wisdom.
Paul is not concerned that the Corinthians are rejecting him as a teacher. Paul is concerned that his message is being rejected. Paul says the Corinthians are foolish to value the style of the message over the content on the message. Making the gospel message attractive to the world means changing it so that it is no longer the gospel. When calling His people, God ignores the world’s idea of class, social standing, intellectual accomplishment, and professional glory, so that no one may boast.
In 1Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul turns to the issue of how he spoke when he was with them in person.
2:1And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB
- The Corinthians want Paul to speak in a way the world would consider wise, following the rhetorical style of the sophists.
- Paul responds that seeking that kind of preeminence in speech and wisdom was not his purpose. His goal was never to be a great debater in the way the Greek culture expected.
- Instead his goal was to preach the gospel of Christ crucified.
- 1Corinthians 2:2 is one of those verses that is frequently taken out of context (see: How not to interpret the Bible: Don’t “think twice”).
- In context, Paul is contrasting “I did not seek to be preeminent in speech” (1Corinthians 1:1) with teaching Jesus Christ crucified (1Corinthians 2:2).
- Paul’s claim is that he chose not to alter or adulterate the gospel. Paul is NOT excluding debate, theology or persuasive arguments.
- 1Corinthians 2:3 reveals that Paul was afraid and needed encouragement. He knows he doesn’t meet the rhetorical standards of the day and his message is offensive to the world.
- But you should listen to Paul because he is an apostle and God confirmed his authority through miraculous signs (1Corinthians 2:3-5; also 2Corinthians 12:11-13; Romans 15:18-19; Hebrews 2:2-4).
- Therefore we can have confidence that our faith is not dependent on a flashy argument or a charismatic speaker. It is backed up and demonstrated by the power of God.
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