March 19, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“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.”—1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NKJV)
It’s important to keep in mind that the Bible isn’t really one book, but a collection of several separate books that have been brought together by the providential oversight of God’s Spirit. God’s Word reveals one divine narrative through many distinct voices that ultimately complement each other. One area of Scripture, though written by a different human author at a separate time from another location, can have an important connection to another passage of Scripture. In fact, one can even shed some essential light on another.
That’s exactly what we have here as Paul describes his first meeting with the Corinthian Christians. He goes out of his way to state that he rolled into town in a most humble way. He didn’t try to impress anyone there with his lightning-quick intellect or his persuasive speaking skills. We know that Paul had an incredible abundance of both. But rather than rely on these gifts, he simply sticks to the bare basics of the gospel message: “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Why did Paul take this particular approach? This is where another section of Scripture can really open our understanding, because it’s in Acts 17 that we discover Paul sought to share the gospel in Athens right before arriving in Corinth. His experience in Athens reveals why Paul was so humbled before the Corinthians.
Athens was the intellectual center of the world in that day. All the “great thinkers” did their thinking and debated their thoughts from Athens. So, when Paul gets there, he naturally seeks to use his enormous brain power to articulate and debate the message of the gospel to that high-minded audience. Only, there isn’t much fruit to be found. A few decide to put their faith in Christ but the vast majority don’t. By Paul’s standards, this was a setback.
What went wrong? Paul basically tells us in these few verses. He leaned on the excellent speech in Athens, but the testimony of God didn’t come through as powerfully as it could have. This humbled him, and he was determined to correct this by sticking with what makes the gospel powerful . . . Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Paul’s intentions were undoubtedly noble, but the fact remained that his powers paled in comparison to the power of the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done. That’s what people need more than anything and what they will respond to when God’s Spirit does His saving work in someone’s life.
We can make the same mistake whenever we try to serve the Lord out of our own strengths and abilities rather than trust in His sufficiency and power. Who He is and what He has done is enough, we cannot add to or improve it. We can only point to and proclaim it. In our desire to be effective for Jesus, we must remain simple in our dependency upon Him.
Pause: Why did Paul arrive in Corinth as he did?
Practice: Consider how you can subtly fall into the same trap that Paul had fallen into.
Pray: Lord, help me to remain simple in my dependence upon You. Protect me from putting my abilities above Yours. May I always be proclaim Your power and not promote myself. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.