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1 Corinthians 2:1-5 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:58 mins 35 secs

Doctrine of Witnessing; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5


In 1 Corinthians chapter one Paul laid down the foundation for what he is going to cover in the remainder of this epistle. That foundation is really based on the doctrine of positional truth, that at the instant of salvation we are sanctified, that is, positional sanctification. We are in Christ. Everything that we need for the spiritual life in terms of spiritual assets, spiritual provision, is given to us at the instant of salvation. The only thing we don't have at the instant of salvation is a knowledge of God's Word, and as we study and learn God's Word that is the process that Paul outlines in Romans 12:2, that we renovate our thinking, we renew our mind, according to the absolute standard of God's Word. As Paul addresses the problems that he has been presented with in Corinth he begins, not as the modern psycho-shrink pastor does today when he is trying to figure out what the problems are and how we can figure out some technique to get past these things, or whatever the latest gimmick is, but with positional truth, recognizing who and what we are in Jesus Christ. Then at the end of the chapter he focuses on the starting point of the real problem in Corinth, and that is that they have not renovated their thinking. Paul recognizes that these Corinthians are still thinking like the pagan culture around them. They have failed to apply what he has taught to the core issue of their worldview, how they looked at life. So they still had the same values of the pagan world around them, they still operated on the same ideals, the same standards of what is important in life, what is valuable, what is significant. As a result they emphasize form over content, and in Greek culture debating was a great form of entertainment. It didn't matter what they were arguing about, what the debate was about, that was a secondary matter, relatively insignificant, what mattered was how they debated, how they crafted their arguments, how they presented what they were saying.

So often today that is what happens in our culture. When you go to some churches and hear some Christians they want to listen to a certain kind of message on Sunday morning because they are emphasizing style over substance. The same thing happens when it comes to evangelism and there is an emphasis today over technique instead of substance, as though somehow the power, the real ability is that if we can just say it the right way, if we can just present it in the right emotional tome, if somehow we just have the right methodology, that somehow we are going to surmount people's negative volition and the problems of their spiritual obstinacy. This was the problem in Corinth because the culture so emphasized these values that when it came to church and it was centred around public speaking they evaluated the teaching, the evangelism, what the pastor was communicating on the basis of this pagan framework for public speaking. There is such a difference in the concept between preaching and what we believe in here, the teaching of the Word. And it has to do with your ultimate goal. In preaching as it is practiced today, not in terms of what the Bible says preaching is but in terms of what it is in 95% of churches, it oriented towards exhortation, towards application, towards somehow uplifting people, giving them a little encouragement. That is such a human viewpoint pagan concept. When we go away from church we ought to have our toes stepped on a little bit by the truth of God's Word. There ought to be a challenge set before us that the Holy Spirit is suing the Word of God to challenge the way we think and the way we live, that we need to do things differently, that we need to apply doctrine in different areas. We believe that the core issue here in the communication of the Word is to teach us how to think biblically, and to learn how to think is a radical concept. It takes time, effort, mental sweat; you have to completely renovate your thinking from the ground up.

We saw in 1:20 that Paul raised three questions which he is answering in this section. First he said, "Where is the wise," i.e. the philosopher "of this age?" Secondly he said, "Where is the scribe," i.e. the Jewish legalist? Third he said, "Where is the debater of this age?" The point that he was making was the fourth point he asked there, "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" He is driving home the point that God's wisdom is better than man's wisdom, and that God has rendered the value systems, the thought systems of the world nul and void; they are irrelevant. Then in vv. 21-28 he answers the first question: Where is the philosopher? He is not really asking for a location but where in the sense of what place does their thinking have in Christianity? In what sense does that value system have in Christianity? Of course, it doesn't have any in any sense whatsoever. The answer is none. Human viewpoint has no place in Christianity at all and we have to constantly be on guard because we are constantly trying to slip our own efforts, our own abilities into the Christian life and into Christian ministries. It is just amazing all the subtle ways that we try to assert ourselves so that we can somehow at some level, no matter how subtle or self-righteous it might, find something to boast about in terms of our own efforts. So down through verse 28 he demonstrates that the basic standards of Greek philosophy do not have a role in the Christian life.

Then in verses 30-31 he emphasizes the fact that the issue is what Christ did for us; it is all grace; it has to do with God, not us; concluding: "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD," not in their own works.

In chapter 2:1-5 he addresses the third question: Where is the debater of this age? What role does rhetoric/oratory have in the gospel ministry, where it is in evangelism or in teaching? And he basically is going to conclude that there is a contrast between human viewpoint systems of oratory and verbal expression and divine viewpoint systems, don't confuse the two, and there is no place for human oratory per se in the Christian ministry. That doesn't mean you don't think about what you are going to say or that you don't try to say it well, say it clearly, or that you don't pay attention to your vocabulary, but that is not the issue. The point that he is going to make is that it doesn't matter if you get in the pulpit and you stutter, you fumble over yourself, and you mumble a little bit, if you are communicating the gospel you can be as effective as the person who is extremely articulate because the power is not in the methodology, the power is in the gospel. That is true for getting in the pulpit and that is true for witnessing.

When you are witnessing to someone you may not know all the answers, you may not be the most clear person in the world when it comes to explaining things, but the issue is not how you do it. That is the grace of this whole concept of ministry, that it is up to the Holy Spirit, it is not up to us. That is the point that Paul makes in the first five verses of chapter two, addressing the question, "Where is the debater of this age?" In other words, what is the role of rhetoric and excellent verbal skills. They don't have a role. That is not the issue. That is not to say that it is not important at times, but it is not the issue.

1 Corinthians 2:1 NASB "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God." What he is saying here is that when he first came—he is using an aorist active participle from the deponent verb ERCHOMAI [e)rxomai]. It lacks an article so it is a temporal participle, "when I came." An aorist participle always precedes the action of the main verb. The main verb is "did come." It is with a negative so he says, "When I came I did not come." Since the aorist of them participle precedes the action of the main verb, what Paul is talking about is, When I first arrived I did not come before you, did not speak to you, did not approach you on the basis of the excellence of speech or of wisdom. Here it is the Greek preposition KATA [kata] plus the accusative which always indicates a norm of a standard. He didn't do it on the basis of the standard of excellence of speech [superiority of words] or wisdom. He wasn't emphasizing how he said what he said. He didn't get into all of the little philosophical arguments that seemed to entertain the Greek mindset. He wouldn't let the Greek world system set the agenda for what he talked about or how he said what he said. "…proclaiming [declaring] to you the testimony of God." Here we have a present active participle of manner. The word translated "testimony" in the NASB is the Greek word MUSTERION [musthrion], the mystery of God. Mystery refers to doctrine that has not yet been revealed, so he is talking about the entire realm of church age truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament. There is a very subtle slap there against the Jewish legalists because they keep wanting to go back to the Old Testament and the Mosaic law as the precedent for living the spiritual life. Paul didn't come teaching the Old Testament, he came teaching the mystery, church age doctrine. The new information that God has revealed to him as the apostle to the Gentiles related to the unique spiritual life of the church age.

1 Corinthians 2:2 NASB "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." He was going to focus on the issue which was Christ and what Christ did for us. It sounds here that Paul is saying that the only thing that I taught you was basic information about Jesus Christ and the crucifixion. Jesus Christ and the crucifixion is the core of everything in the New Testament. We know from what Paul says in Corinthians that he taught them what we would consider to be other things, but you see Jesus Christ, as Paul says, is the foundation. So once we understand who Jesus Christ is as the hypostatic union, the God-Man, then the next step is that we understand that as the God-Man in His humanity Jesus Christ faced and handled every problem, every issue, every temptation in life on the basis of His dependence upon God the Holy Spirit. That is the precedent for the Christian life. So when Paul says, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," the entire realm of the spiritual life is included in that concept. He is teaching them about the spiritual life because it was Jesus Christ who pioneered that spiritual life. So he is going to focus on Jesus Christ, who and what he is, and "Him crucified," the crucifixion, is the core issue in the Christian life because we understand there that Jesus Christ did everything for us. He paid the penalty for every single sin, so that means that every post-salvation sin is already taken care of at the cross. The only issue is our ongoing relationship with Him in terms of fellowship. So these are the core issues. He summarizes it very briefly but there is a lot more to it than basic Christology and basic soteriology. Everything else in the Christian life is built upon an understanding of these two concepts. Paul emphasizes what the priority was. He wasn't going to be distracted by getting involved in discussions about politics, discussions about the moral majority, discussions about how Christians ought to treat Muslims, he was going to focus on the basic issue of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:3 NASB "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling," This is very interesting because it sounds like Paul has just fallen apart. We have to understand some things about what had just happened. Before coming to Corinth Paul had been in Athens where he had quite an encounter with the intellectuals, and here he is revealing not necessarily carnality but his humanity, just like any of us. Paul was dealt something of a defeat or rejection when he was in Corinth. They called him a babbler, they rejected everything he said, they ridiculed him, they sneered at him. For the most part they didn't accept what he was saying. Most of us can relate to that. We have all had experience when trying to witness to somebody of people calling you a fool or an idiot, or how can you believe those things? and afterwards felt pretty stung by that. We recognize that there is nothing wrong with having that fear. That is what Paul says here, he is with them in weakness. Te term weakness is the Greek word ASTHENEIA [a)sqeneia] which can refer to either a spiritual weakness or a physical weakness. Here it is probably to do with a physical weakness. Paul was tired, he had been travelling a lot, and maybe he was going through some kind of malady or physical illness which may have affected his overall stamina at this point. He says he was in fear. Fear can mean a number of things. It can indicate a mental attitude sin where we are operating on the fear, or it can just be the same thing as with many of us when we have a little fear and trepidation when we get ready to witness to somebody, because in some sense we are going to expose who we are and what we believe, and we might be rejected, ridiculed or sneered at. But the coward is not the person who has fear, the coward is the person who operates on the fear. The brave person is not a person who is fearless, he is the person who does not operate on his fear. That is where Paul is. He recognizes that at times he is facing this intellectual crowd that has a lot of questions and he has already been rejected and sneered at by them, so inside of him there is this certain level of anxiety that is the result of his sin nature but he is not going to operate on it. He is going to rely not upon his own ability, his own strength, he is going to rely on the strength of the gospel. He recognizes that the real power is in God the Holy Spirit and in the message, not on who he is. So he doesn't operate on his weakness and fear and trembling. The trembling here indicates a physical response to what was going on in his life, so apparently he was really bothered by that rejection.

The point that we need to realize is that there is nothing wrong in being shaken by things, nothing wrong with being upset over being rejected, it is how we handled it at that point. Are we going to let our actions control us in the future and not witness? Or are we going to realize the power is in God and trust Him despite the fact that we are a little bit fearful and anxious about witnessing.

1 Corinthians 2:4 NASB "and my message [speech] and my preaching [proclamation] were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." That is, Paul is not going to use the debater's technique of winning people to his side, he is not going to emphasize technique. He is not going to use manipulative techniques to get people saved, he is just going to present the truth. He is going to make sure more than anything else that if people are there it is because of the work of God the Holy Spirit. In this verse he is emphasizing what the priority is to be, it is on doctrine; doctrine related to the filling of the Holy Spirit and power. That power is not force or strength, it is talking about the ability to live the spiritual life and the ability to understand doctrinal truth.

1 Corinthians 2:5 NASB "so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." We want to make sure that there is no chance that in any way your faith in God is the result of technique, of rhetorical persuasion, or the result of any human factor. The issue is the truth and being convinced of the truth of God's Word by the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of witnessing 

Seven negatives: things that are not important in witnessing.

a)  It is not about personality.

b)  It is not about methodology or technique.

c)  It is not about reasoning ability. The issue at salvation is not intellectual, it is spiritual.

d)  It is not about intellect, education or academics. That doesn't means that these are wrong, it just means they are not the issue in gospel presentation or teaching the Word.

e)  It is not about success. A successful person has no more validity than a person who doesn't have much education but has been studying the Word all his life and can understand truth.

f)  It is not about learning everything you can about the other person's belief system. You just have to know the Word of God.

g)  It is not about public speaking skills because the power is in God's Word. The power is in the message, the content, not the man or the method.

To be an effective witness we have to understand the message first and foremost. That is the prerequisite for witnessing. We have to understand the basic issue. It is the universality and penalty of sin, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. We have to understand the concept of spiritual death as the penalty for sin, not physical death. Therefore, we can then begin to explain accurately the atonement; that Christ died a substitute for our sins, He paid the penalty for our sins, and that His physical death, burial and resurrection was designed to show that He conquered the consequences of that spiritual death. We have to know key promises. Effectiveness is on the content of the witness and on God the Holy Spirit—John 16:7-10. Then we need to realize that witnessing is our responsibility, and the responsibility of every believer.