- When I came (2:1-3)
- How he preached (2:4-5)
- What he taught (2:6-9)
- How we receive it (2:10-16)
In 1 Corinthians chapter 2 Paul reflects back on his missionary endeavour at Corinth in Acts 18, which was one of his most successful.
Chapter 2 is his reflections on the success of his mission at Corinth
Not just speculation but Spirit inspired revelation.
God had many people in that city, many came to Christ
Here was a success rarely to be repeated, except in times of revival
In chapter 2 Paul reflects on why that mission was such a success, so this ought to be of interest to us
When I came (2:1-3)
Paul emphasises what he did not come with:
- Excellency of speech (v1)
- Wisdom (v1)
- Weakness (v3)
- Fear (v3)
- Trembling (v3)
In doing so the ministry of Paul is seen to fit into a consistent and confirmed pattern of biblical teaching;
God will deliver His people from famine by Joseph – sold as a slave and cast into a pit.
God will deliver His people from Egypt by Moses – stammering tongue, meekest man in all the earth.
God will deliver His people form the Midianites by Gideon – least in Manasseh
The way that God works with His servants is the way that God works in salvation (1:27)
It would be a strange thing if God were to contradict Himself and tell us that when it comes to Salvation; that:
- Its all about Grace
- Its all about His Power
- Its not by works of Righteousness we have done
And then when it comes to the Christian life and service to then tell us:
- Its all about works
- Its all about our power
- Its all what we can do
It would be very strange if:
Salvation is all about His Power
Service were all about our Power
But God is consistent
The preacher who preaches a salvation by Grace for those who can not do it themselves is the preacher who depends on the same power to preach the message and serve that God!!
So Paul comes:
“not with excellency of speech” - Moses could identify with that
“or of wisdom” - Peter and John could identify with that
“weakness” - Samson could identify with that
“fear” - Gideon could identify with that
“trembling” - Daniel could identify with that
We are so often tempted into delay and to excusing our disobedience until we feel ready or up to taking on the task! Until our faith is strong enough, until we know the answers, until we feel ready! Until we possess enough self confidence?
If we ever get there we have just disqualified ourselves from service for Christ!
God calls those who are dependent upon His all sufficient power.
As a man I rest in His all sufficient power only when I feel my weakness!
You might be forgiven for thinking; 'that's a bad start to any work'
But Paul is coming with the “Testimony of God”
What can we add to the message that comes from God?
If God is with us...
Here lies the key …. 'If God is with is'
God is 'omnipotent' – it may be the Theologians who have taught us the truth of this Divine attribute but perhaps it is the physicists of the 20th Century who helped us to understand what it means?
The energy in the universe: E = mc2
Consider the power and energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, releasing just some of the energy of the atom.
Required only 600mg of Uranium to destroy the city
Compare this to the power of God
v2 – Person of Christ
v2 – Work of Christ
Paul did not preach a method but a person
How he preached (2:4-5)
“demonstration of the Spirit and power”
2 things came together in his preaching:
compare Matthew chp 11:
“mighty works” done in Chorazin and Bethsaida (11:21) cf. Matt 11:5 and yet these cities did not respond.
Rather than see this as a failure of method and a disaster, this response gives rise to thanks giving and worship (Matt 11:25).
The God who is sovereign over heaven and earth has actively hid the truth of the gospel:
heaven and hell (11:23)
Let us not think of the gospel in such a way that God is a defeated and dismissed party, that man has the upper hand or that man is in control.
God is not begging for man to listen,
Man does not hold the trump card.
Matt 11:25 – God has hid His gospel form some and revealed it to others
Matt 11:28 – a verse often taken out of its context; “come unto me all ye that labour...”
Yet despite the fact that mighty works and great power is show they will not come.
So how do we come to Christ?
The promise of rest is there for all who come
Yet despite convincing evidences of Gods power they will not come
So how do we get them to come for the rest that is in Christ?
This drawing to Christ is the work of the Spirit of God; John 6:44; 6:65; 16:33.
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father." (John 6:44-46)
What happened at Corinth was that both of these came together:
Gods Presence (1Co14)
Biblical exposition (Acts 18)
Apostolic signs (2 Co 12)
What he taught (2:6-9)
Corinthians despite their many failures do come in for some commendation in 1 Corinthians:
Wealth of Gift (1:5)
We can commend them for this; they were looking for more than just what lay on the surface.
They were seeking real answers to some real big questions.
There were those at Corinth who were content to:
Believe in those attributes of God they could perceive with the senses. They could see the rhythm of nature, feel the force of the wind, observe the cycle of the planets and power of the sun. That they could perceive as a consequence of a Divine act and those forces they deified and worshipped, those were the pagans.
The god of Thunder
The god of Wind
The gods of harvest
The gods of fertility
The gods of the seasons
The Pagans looked out and would only worship what they could see and they could see nature and forces.
Others were content with what little light and teaching they could glean from the itinerant philosophers and preachers.
Some were tempted to look within themselves, to find the 'god within', an 'inner peace' – these were the ascetics.
One group at Corinth was satisfied with none of that.
One group was searching beyond what (2:9) :
The eye could see – more than paganism
The ear could hear – more than philosophy
What had entered into the heart of man – something beyond asceticism and meditation, the main problem with looking for what lies within is that you will only find what is within, and that won't take you very high at all! If you are searching for something, it is probably safe to say that you are searching for more than you already have!
These Corinthians could be commended for this; they were:
Not in the Scottish sense of the 'wind always in yer face' not that they were only happy when they had something to grumble about.
Rather they were not content with what satisfied the majority, they were looking for something more.
For them, the apostle Paul had: “the wisdom of God in a mystery” (2:7)
There are 2 possible meanings here, both possible in the Greek:
'we mysteriously speak the wisdom of God' – an art perfected by many preachers over the years; along the lines of; 'your not edified unless you're mystified.' Unlikely though, why try and communicate truth in an obscure way? Surely more reasonable not to bother communicating it at all?
'we speak the mysterious wisdom of God' – this fits well with 1 Co2:7b “which God ordained before the world unto our Glory” - ie wisdom built in to the very design and destiny of the universe but only now perceived through the person of Christ (2:10). This wisdom was “hidden” (2:7) : “apokrupto” : encrypted in Gods plan for the universe!
Like the code behind a computer programme; by its nature hidden, unseen and running in the background
What is the mystery wisdom of God?
May be familiar with the oft repeated definition:
'a mystery is a truth once concealed and now revealed'
Short, pithy, memorable but:
Uninformative – doesn't tell me anything about the content of the mystery
Inaccurate – some of the Divine mysteries are yet to be revealed (2 Thess 2) and some perhaps will never be fully revealed at all (1 Tim 3:16).
So what is the mystery wisdom of God?
'The mysteries of God are Gods foreordained, determinative purpose for His creation, in Christ, which have as their goal the Glory of His Son and consequently the blessing of His people. These mysteries have previously been concealed to be revealed at their fulfilment by Divine revelation.'
It may never catch on quite like: “mystery” - truth once concealed and now revealed, but it is closer to the truth.
The above definition emphasises:
'of God' – the origin of this mystery wisdom is God rather than man
'foreordained' – built into the foundation of the world (1Co2:7)
'determinative' – theses are not a collection of random, disconnected secrets but rather part of one coherent plan with a purpose (Eph 1:9-10)
'for His creation' – Gods overarching plan and purpose for the created order (1 Co2:7; Eph1:10)
'Glory of His Son' – Eph 1:10-12
'blessing of His people' – 1 Co 2:7,9
'revealed at their fulfilment' – not an arbitrary hiding and revelation of Divine secrets but Divine purpose, revealed as it is worked out in time in the purpose of God (1 Co2:8; 1 Tim 3:16; Gal 4:4)
How we receive it (2:10-16)
Notes from a sermon preached as part of our systematic bible study series on 1 Corinthians.
Free audio, mp3 downloads available above, of these messages as we expound verse by verse through the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie