I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,1 Corinthians 2:3(NASB)
Corinth was a city of great orators and intellectual philosophers. It was a place where credibility was founded on one's academic ability, educational prowess, intellectual stature, and oratory skills. Paul however, had determined that he would not speak to the people in Corinth about God with flowery words or convincing arguments. He did not proclaim the gospel with great wisdom or politically persuasive rhetoric. Paul determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul was a man who was educationally and intellectually equal with the great debaters of Corinth. He was a knowledgeable Pharisee who had studied under some of the greatest teachers of his day, but he had been brought low before the Cross of Christ and dared to break with the accepted traditions of the day. Paul had learned that human wisdom and worldly power was of no consequence when compared with the infinite wisdom and eternal strength of the almighty Creator.
Paul did not approach these intellectuals with a know-it-all attitude or a barrage of carefully thought-out words. He did not try to share the gospel with persuasive words or clever innuendos. Paul was prompted to share the simple truth of the glorious gospel of the Cross clearly and plainly, and so he simply taught the truth - that the eternal God came to earth as the incarnate Son to be the sacrificial offering for the sin of the world - so that by His death He could take the punishment for our sin upon His sinless shoulders - so that by His resurrection the sting of death was removed for all who would believe.
Sometime earlier, Paul had attempted to use his oratory skill to persuade the high-brow Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill of the gospel of grace... but he discovered that there is no human wisdom or counsel that can prevail as effectively as the plain truth from the Word of the Lord. And so Paul determined to speak God's way, and not by means of words taught through human wisdom. Paul spoke those things as guided by the Spirit of God - communicating spiritual things by spiritual means.
Paul had learned that when self remains crucified and the indwelling Spirit of God is permitted to lead and direct the steps of a man, then God's grace is sufficient - for His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And so in humility of heart and with a deep love for his Lord, Paul abandoned His philosophical training and spoke to the Corinthians simply, in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
From a human standpoint, Paul's preaching was pitiful and pathetic. He appeared as a weak, ineffective, fearful individual, compared with the high-flying intellectuals of Ephesus. But from God's point of view, Paul was His chosen vessel to preach the word of truth to a lost and dying world... and Paul was permitted to write a significant portion of New Testament Scripture.
Paul knew the dangers of man's prideful wisdom and was determined that no one should enslave believers by means of philosophical argument, or the worthless deceit of human wisdom according to the tradition of men. He knew that the wisdom of the world is according to the elementary principles of the world and does not come from Christ.
Paul learned that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God, but that in His strength we are to preach Christ crucified. The message of the Cross may be a stumbling block to the Jews and seen by the Gentiles as foolishness. Nevertheless, we rejoice to know that the foolishness of God is wiser than man... and the weakness of God is stronger than man.
How important that our faith is not based on human wisdom, academic ability, educational prowess, intellectual stature, and oratory skills, but on the truth of God's Word and in His mighty power. May we follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul who did not teach the Word with the superiority of speech or with human wisdom, but in weakness, fear, and much trembling.
Let us like Paul, teach Jesus Christ and Him crucified... for Jesus said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
Heavenly Father, what a wonderful example of a man of humility and grace who did not seek to use His own wisdom, academic ability, intellectual stature, or oratory skills in his ministry, but recognised his own human limitation and instead, became a living sacrifice unto God. I pray that I will never seek to elevate my own importance in the eyes of man but present my life as a living sacrifice, holy to the Lord - so that in Your power I may be enabled to share the simple gospel of grace to a lost and dying world, not in my own strength, but through the power of Him Who called me out of darkness into His glorious light. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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