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1 Corinthians 2:1–5

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2).

First-century citizens of the Roman Empire prized eloquent, persuasive rhetoric, often elevating the speaker’s ability and crafting of phrase above the actual content of what was said. Evidently, the Corinthian Christians loved these kinds of words as well, with at least some of their factionalism based on choosing to elevate well-spoken believers above others. This is clear from 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul contrasts the supposed strength of eloquent speech with the apparent weakness of the cross. But eternal life comes through the truth of the cross, which is the power of God unto salvation even when it is preached ineloquently (1:10–31).

Paul stresses this point again in today’s passage when he refers to his ministry among the Corinthians. He has already stated that not many of the Corinthian believers were wise according to worldly standards (v. 26), so they would not have been master rhetoricians. The Apostle expresses his solidarity with the Corinthian believers in this, for he reminds them that he did not come speaking with lofty speech and wisdom (2:1). In fact, he focused not on developing skilled speech but rather on “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2). The point here is not that it is wrong to speak carefully or to hone one’s speaking skills. Rather, Paul means that he did not focus on his speaking abilities at the expense of the content of the preaching. He placed utmost importance on the truth delivered, not the manner of delivery. Charles Hodge notes that in 2:2, “Jesus Christ” refers to His person, and “Him crucified” to His work. Paul unfolded the precious message of who Jesus is and what He has done faithfully but not in the most eloquent manner. Yet, because he explained Christ accurately, he fulfilled his Apostolic task.

This lack of eloquence did not make the message less powerful; nor did the weakness of Paul’s person. The gospel still came to the Corinthians in all power (vv. 3–4). Indeed, it had to, for the Word of God always achieves the purposes that God has for it (Isa. 55:10–11). Our eloquence does not make God’s Word more powerful even if it is worthwhile to strive to be a good speaker. Moreover, it is good that power is inherent in the Word itself and not in the preacher or his abilities. If it were otherwise, our faith and hope might rest in mere men who preach the Word. Because the power is the Word itself, our faith rests in the author of that Word, the Lord God Almighty (1 Cor. 2:5).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God works through His Word when it is faithfully taught and preached, whether the preacher or teacher is eloquent or not skilled in speech. Thus, whether we are ordained church leaders or we simply communicate the Word to others more informally, our primary goal should be to get the content and meaning of Scripture correct. That requires us to be diligent students of God’s Word.


For Further Study
  • Joel 2:11
  • Zechariah 4:6
  • 1 Corinthians 1:21
  • 1 Peter 1:22–25

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The Hidden Wisdom of God

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From the January 2021 Issue
Jan 2021 Issue