In verses 18-31 of I Corinthians 1, Paul told us that human wisdom plays no part in man’s salvation. In verse 31 Paul says that all glory goes to the Lord because salvation is a work of God. Here, in chapter 2:1-5, Paul uses himself as an example and discusses his message, his method and his motivation for reaching the lost.
I. HIS MESSAGE (verses 1-2)
In verse l, Paul describes his message as “the testimony of God”. The Greek word here is “marturion”, the word from which we get our English word “martyr”. The word was often used in the lawcourts of that day. A witness in a courtroom could only testify to what he himself had seen or heard or experienced. He was not to make guesses or give opinions. When Paul had come to Corinth he shared with them only what God had revealed to him. If you would like to hold your place in I Corinthians and turn with me to Acts 18:1-11, I’m going to read about Paul’s visit to Corinth and ministry in Corinth. (READ IT)
Getting back to I Corinthians, chapter 2, we read in verse 1 that Paul did not come to Corinth to glorify himself or to start a “religious club or cult”. He had come to glorify God. Paul did not depend on “excellency of speech or of wisdom”, as did the philosophers and teachers in Corinth; he simply declared God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The focus of Paul’s message is given in verse 2 : “Christ crucified”. Paul didn’t’ preach Christ as the teacher, nor Christ as the example, but Christ as crucified. In the Greek, the word “crucified” is the perfect participle, implying a past action which has continuing results. The Lord Jesus Christ died on a cross outside Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago, and as a result, God has made it possible for men and women today to have their sins forgiven and have a personal relationship with God through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.
Paul is not saying that “Christ crucified” was all he talked about, but that it was the central focus of his preaching. If Paul would have begun to preach about worldly wisdom rather than the cross, his preaching would have lost its power. He said that in chapter one, verse 17. Even though the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews and considered foolishness to the Gentiles, Paul would not leave it out of his presentation of the Gospel.
How important is the message of Christ crucified? The Lord Jesus Himself says in John 12:32-33, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself”. In the next verse it says, “But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, the first time the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was openly preached, 3000 people were saved at one time!
When the Moravian missionaries first came to Greenland, they found the people totally ignorant of the meaning of such words as “sin”, “righteousness”, and “justification”. So they decided to educate them about various theological terms. The results were so unproductive that, after a period of time, the missionaries decided that the situation was hopeless and they might just as well leave. Since no ship was due for some time, one of the missionaries began translating parts of the Bible into the native tongue. Seeking to test the accuracy of his words, he read a passage to those who had been unresponsive to his ministry. The portion he chose was Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
After he finished reading, the chief of the tribe asked him to repeat it. The missionary read the passage again. “Why didn’t you tell us about this in the first place?” asked the chief. “Don’t leave now! We’d be happy to listen to the words of a Man who suffered that much for us!” So they remained and saw much fruit from their labors as they proclaimed Christ crucified. The story of the cross had won the people’s hearts.
We too have the opportunity of telling others of the love that led Christ to die for them. On my blogsite, biblentsermons.wordpress.com, I received the largest response to the sermon entitled “The Suffering and Death of Christ”. Let’s make the cross the focus of our witness.
II. THE METHODOLOGY (verses 3 and 4)
In verse 3, Paul says that his witness is “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling”, yet in verse 4 he says that his message and preaching were “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” It seems like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? How can there be power in weakness? Yet Paul already said in chapter 1, verse 27, that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong , , , that no one should boast before God”.
In a gun factory, an elongated bar of steel, which weighed 500 pounds, was suspended in the air by a chain. Beside it, an average-sized cork was hanging by a silk thread. It was swung gently against the bar which remained motionless. For 10 minutes the cork, with a regular rhythum, continued to strike. Then the heavy piece of metal began to move slightly. At the end of an hour, both objects were swinging together like the pendulum of a clock!
Many of God’s children feel that they are not exerting a feather’s weight of influence upon others or making even a tiny dent upon the strongholds of evil. This is not so! As we recognize our fear and inadequacy, and continue to be an influence for good and a witness for Christ, relying upon the power of God’s Word and the Spirit of God, we will find that in God’s hands there is power in weakness. Therefore courage is not the absence of fear, but the conquest of fear by relying on the power of God. The Holy Spirit is the source of the power in the Gospel message. Paul’s method was to depend on the Spirit of God to convince the person that the message he was sharing was the truth, and to allow the Holy Spirit to use that message to bring the person to saving faith. We allow the Holy Spirit to empower our witness when we stick to the Scripures, which are the “Sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
III. HIS MOTIVATION (verse 5)
In verses 4 and 5, Paul said that he didn’t use persuasive words of wisdom. The reason he gives is so that “your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God”.
It has been said that the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards, read his sermons so that he would not be guilty of using human persuasive techniques to gain a response. He wanted only the message to bring the results. It makes you wonder how many there are in the world today who responded to an emotional appeal or to pressure tactics without a true understanding of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ.
About 40 years ago an evangelism program was set in motion by Campus Crusade for Christ. It was called “Here’s Life America”, and I was personally involved in the program through the church I attended. Maybe some of you were also involved in that evangelistic program. Churches across the United States were given a list of phone numbers of the people who lived in their communities. The purpose was to call each of these phone numbers, share the Gospel message with the people who answered the phone, and ask them to repeat a prepared prayer, asking Christ to come into their lives and give them eternal life. About ten years later a study was done to determine the success of this evangelistic campaign. The findings showed that, of the millions of people who prayed that prayer over the phone, the percentage of them who were now attending churches and showing evidence of a changed life and a genuine relationship with Christ was so small that it couldn’t be printed.
A valuable lesson was learned from this. In spite of good intentions, committment by individuals and churches, and prayer, the United States could not be won for the Lord Jesus Christ through an impersonal and persuasive method such as this. Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is a miracle performed by the power of God working through His Word. True saving faith is the work of the Holy Spirit convincing a person of his sin, of the worth of Christ’s death on the cross, and leading that person to genuine repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
To try to summarize this passage and apply it to our lives today, Paul is saying that as we witness for Chtist, our message must be God’s Word, not ours, Our focus must be the cross of Christ, not our own human wisdom. Our aim must be God’s glory, not ours. And our confidence is to be in the Holy Spirit’s power, not ours. Then, and only then, will we be useful instruments in the Master’s hands.
Are you equipped with an ever-growing knowledge of God’s Word? Are you ready to focus on the cross of Christ? Is your reliance on the power of the Spirit of God? Is your aim to glorify God? Then be an ambassador for Christ! Your world is waiting!