Text:1 Cor 2:1-8
Today’s lesson on 1 Cor 2:1-8 continues on Paul’s discussion of the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It specifically studies Paul’s explanation of the Gospel that he preached in contrast with the wisdom of humans.
Understanding the context of 1 Cor 2:1-8
There were believers at Corinth who admired the philosophies of men. It is most probable that the oratory of Apollos encouraged this. They thought that the church would be better off using human wisdom and philosophy to win converts rather than the simple and despised message of the cross.
The Two Messages Paul Preached (2:1-8)
A study of 1 Cor 2:1-8 shows that Paul preached two messages namely the Gospel of Jesus and the mystery of God which is the deep wisdom of God.
When Paul came to Corinth, it was from a seeming defeat at Athens (Acts 17:32-34) where he addressed the Greek philosophers but won few converts. This experience, plus his conviction that only the plain Gospel is the power of God, led Paul to minister in Corinth in fear and trembling. Paul explains that he did not use the persuasive words of the orator or philosopher. He simply preached in the power of the Spirit. He was anxious that the believers put their faith in God and not in people. It is sad when pastors or evangelists make converts to themselves and fail to teach people how to walk with Jesus alone. It is also sad when believers have to lean on other believers and never learn to walk on their own. In chapter 3, Paul describes these believers as “babes in Jesus” (3:1-4).
But Paul did not stop with a mere declaration of the Gospel, as important as that is. He also taught a deep wisdom of God to those who were more mature in the faith. But, there were few of these in Corinth! These people had their eyes on human leaders, were comparing men, and were failing to grow in the Word.
The pastor and teachers must declare the Gospel to the lost, but it is also necessary that they teach God’s wisdom to those who are maturing in the faith. It is impossible to build a strong church on the preaching of the Gospel alone. There must be the teaching of the plan and the “mystery” of God. A mystery is a truth hidden in the ages past revealed by the Spirit to those who belong to God’s family. It is a “family secret” known only to the members, not the outsiders. Of course, the mystery that Paul taught at Corinth was the program of God for the present age as outlined in Ephesians 2-3: that Jew and Gentile are “one in Christ” through faith, and make up the one body which is the church.
Paul seems to imply here that the “rulers of this world” could never know this mystery or hidden wisdom of God. It is understood only through the prompting of the Spirit. Many professed believers do not really understand God’s purpose for this age! This is why our churches are still cluttered with Old Testament “antiques” that do not belong to this age.
Contrasting the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the world
In chapters 1 and 2 of 1 Corinthians, Paul contrasted the wisdom of this world with the wisdom of God. The table below provides us with a summary:
|Wisdom of this world||Wisdom of God|
|1. A wisdom of word (1:17; 2:4)||1. A wisdom of power, not words alone (2:4-5)|
|2. Man’s words (2:4)||2. The Spirit’s words (2:13)|
|3. The spirit of the world (2:12)||3. The Spirit of God (2:12)|
|4. Foolishness to God (1:20)||4. Foolishness to men (2:14)|
|5. The philosopher (1:20)||5. The preacher (1:31; 2:4)|
|6. Ignorance (1:21)||6. Knowledge of God (2:12)|
|7. Leads to condemnation (1:18)||7. Leads to glory (1:18; 2:7)|
Conclusion and application
This study of 1 Cor 2:1-8 has focused on the content of Paul’s message that he preached at Corinth. Contrary to preaching a message that reflects the wisdom of humans, Paul preached the mysteries and the gospel of Christ. It is important to note that Paul was someone who could reason and debate convincingly, but he did not use that strategy in preaching the gospel. Instead, he determined to emphasise Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Thus Paul did not tailor his message to what the audience wanted. He was aware that the Jews demanded signs and the Greeks wanted wisdom. Yet he chose to preach the Gospel of Jesus. We must determine to preach the gospel without compromising the content.
- In what ways can we be tempted to water down the message of the gospel?
- What were the two messages that Paul preached?
- State three differences between the wisdom of God and that of humans in the context of 1 Cor 1-2.