1Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul did not give great, eloquent speeches designed to stir up the emotions of men. He did not go and blockade the local abortion clinic and preach the judgment of God upon those murderers and upon all who would dare kill their unborn babies. He did not go to pagan temples and inform them that they were really serving demons masquerading as gods. Nor did he go around debating religion and philosophy with the leaders of these temples.
Rather, he went and told them about the supreme God who created all things, and about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ who died for their sins. He sometimes used their own religious beliefs as a springboard from which to jump into the truth – telling those in nearby Athens, for example, about the unknown God to whom they had created an idol (Acts 17:22-34). This left the Holy Spirit free to work in them and bring them into the truth of Christ, demonstrating the power of God.
Paul came in weakness. Not weak as in timid and uncertain, but as in humble. Humility of spirit is not part of most people’s nature, and is often viewed by the world as weakness. Paul came with humility rather than a holier-than-thou attitude of arrogance. He did not come telling them he was the apostle of the true God and they had better listen to him or they would pay. He did tell them of the certain judgment of God, but he focussed more on the Good News of Christ and God’s love for them. Paul came concerned about their welfare and salvation, not how much money their presence would bring to the local church, or how many he could get to follow him so he would appear to be a great spiritual leader.
In fear and trembling… Not that he was afraid OF them but that he was afraid FOR them. Paul’s fear was more that his efforts at presenting the Gospel would be ineffective, that the message he brought would not be received. Corinth was a major crossroads of trade, and as a result most religions had a following in this area. He was concerned the truth of the Gospel would just be blown off as another strange religion not worth noticing. His fear and trembling was at the great responsibility he had from God to bring salvation to these people.
Preaching the Gospel by natural human wisdom is not typically effective in bringing people to a saving knowledge of Christ. You see, philosophy and human wisdom, being about ideas, is abstract in nature. It is something that can be developed through the powers of reason. It can be debated and reasoned out. It is about rules and regulations and methods of doing things. It is about the ability of man to reach God by his own power. Pagan religions are based on philosophical reasonings stemming from the un-regenerate nature of man. In Greek philosophy, for example, if you were the violent type you could choose the god of war, Mars. If your focus was sexual gratification, you might choose Venus or Diana. For every desire of the flesh nature, and for every philosophy of man, there was a patron deity.
Christianity, on the other hand, is about a person, Jesus Christ, and His death on our behalf. Whereas philosophy is based on the abstract, Christianity is based on the concrete fact of Christ, who has the answer to all of man’s needs. Christianity is about man’s inability to obey true holiness, and God’s solution to that problem. Faith in Christ is about rejecting philosophy and wisdom that exalts man, and replacing it with the wisdom that can only come from the mind of the Almighty.
Paul did not bring a philosophy that appealed to man’s base nature. He preached Jesus Christ crucified, that God requires absolute holiness which man can never attain in his own power, and that man needed a Savior – so God sent His Son to provide the way. Human philosophy and wisdom appeals to the nature and follows the theme of that old Frank Sinatra song, “I did it my way.” The wisdom of God says, “It doesn’t work that way. You must come to Me on My terms, not on your terms.”
Reflection: What is our focus in life. Is it about self-gratification and self-exaltation? Or are we concerned about the needs of others? When we pray, are our petitions mostly “Give me this, and do that for me?” Or do we lift up others in our prayers, too – for God to bless them, encourage them, meet their needs? Humility focuses on others.