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1 Corinthians 2:3-5 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 36 secs

Witnessing; DVP Methods vs HVP Methods; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5


1 Corinthians chapters one and two deal with the underlying issue in the church at Corinth which had to do with the fact that they were still thinking about life primarily from the framework of their own cultural background as Greeks. Therefore Paul is juxtaposing this conflict between the way man thinks, human wisdom (what we call human viewpoint) vs. divine viewpoint. What Paul is saying if you boil all of this down is that divine viewpoint is the only way for the believer to look at life, and if you don't understand divine viewpoint and have the thinking in your soul transformed by the Word of God, so that you think about life as God has defined it in His creation, then there will always be problems; and that ultimately what we do is the result of what we think.

Witnessing has been seriously affected by our cultural concept of pragmatism. What works must be right, therefore if you go out and have an evangelistic crusade and you have 20,000 people show up and 5,000 people walk the aisle, come down front and make a profession of faith, then that must be the way to do it. In other word, it works, it produces some level of visible result and therefore it must be the correct methodology or a valid one. That is, rather than looking at the underlying presupposition and the underlying theological assumptions that gave rise historically to this whole concept of having people walk the aisle, come forward, and making a profession of faith. That didn't come out of any other country, it is something that ism uniquely American, born and bred here, and has its roots really in the pagan thinking of a Christian evangelist—that sounds like an oxymoron, nevertheless it is true—by the name of Charles Finney who was an evangelist in what was called the second grade awakening which took place in the 1800s. He rejected the doctrine of the total depravity of man, the substitutionary atonement, and was a post-Millennialist and believed that somehow man on his own efforts after a moral reformation….he equated spirituality with morality, therefore Finneyism gave birth to such deep and profound legalism in the church that it is still with us today.  In fact, a lot of what people identify as Puritan legalism really isn't Puritan legalism, it is the legalism in this country that has its roots in the second great awakening, not in the Puritans. If your starting point is that man is not totally depraved, that man is basically good, and that man can reform himself and be good and that the issue is not a substitutionary atonement but simply following the example of Christ, then of course, man can improve himself. And that is the root of legalism, and it dominated the thinking of what was called the second great awakening.

The point is that what you do is ultimately the result of what you think, and if you just get involved in methodology because it appears to work, without looking at the under girding theology, you are going to end up in some sort of problem eventually. Human viewpoint is always grounded in arrogance because it believes that man on his own apart from God can come to an understanding of truth. And nothing is more arrogant than for the creature to think that he can outthink the creator. So arrogance always results in some level of distortion and some level of implosion and fragmentation. The whole concept of revivalism and revival in this country came out of this country and came out of the second great awakening, and it was all based on the idea that if you had the right technique, the right methodology, did the right thing, then you could get the people to convert to Christianity; because the problem wasn't that they had an evil heart, the problem wasn't that man was basically a sinner in rebellion against God, the problem was that he just wasn't correctly motivated. So Finney developed things like the walking-the-aisle invitation, and all kinds of psychological manipulative techniques, in order to get people to convert to Christianity. But the Christianity, the gospel, that they were being converted to wasn't a biblical gospel; it was a gospel of works salvation and a gospel that was ultimately legalistic. So whether we are talking about 1st century Corinth and the horrible consequences of pagan philosophy from Aristotle and Plato on their thinking, or whether we are talking about 21st century American and the impact of secular philosophical concepts and what the Bible calls worldliness on our thinking, it is pretty much the same thing and has resulted in the same problems, i.e. a fragmented church, a church that has diluted biblical truth to the point that it has very little impact on people's lives. We have watered it down and mixed it with so much human viewpoint that we no longer recognize pure, radical divine viewpoint. Divine viewpoint is always based on the concept of grace, and that just flies in the face of all of man's legalistic efforts to somehow improve upon God's way of doing things.

Paul is addressing this because he recognizes in Corinth that the root problem is that as these people were saved, coming out of the pagan culture of Corinthians Greece, that they were coming in to the church this philosophical baggage, cultural baggage, cultural value systems, cultural way of thinking and approach to live and problem-solving. While they were changing a few things superficially in their lives there is really no change on the inside and they are still thinking like they were before they were saved. Sooner or later under the pressure of life that house of cards will collapse because what the Scripture teaches is that if we don't change the way we think and begin to think biblically about life then ultimately we will come under a testing or a certain amount of pressure and we are going to wonder where God is, and the next thing is people are going to say well Christianity really doesn't work, and they throw it out. It is simply because they never understood the Word, even though they may have doctrinal notebooks three inches thick. It never really transformed the way they thought about life. Doctrine did not become a way of life for them, whereas attendance at Bible class might have become a way of life for them. Don't confuse the two. Just because you are at Bible class two or three times a week it doesn't mean doctrine is a way of life for you. What you do with the doctrine you learn the rest of the week is what determines whether or not doctrine is your life or not.

Before Paul can address the key issues, the real problems that are facing this congregation, he has to address the underlying problem. The underlying issue is always how you think. The end result of how you do what you do is your methodology. In witnessing there is a certain amount of methodology. Methodology doesn't just pop up in a vacuum, it always has its roots in knowledge, what philosophers call epistemology. What Paul focuses on here is the term "wisdom." Wisdom is a key word in 1 Corinthians chapter two. What Paul is showing here is how he proclaimed the gospel and how he taught the Word in Corinth was the result of a certain view of wisdom that he had. So what he is saying is, how you do what you do, your philosophy of ministry, is the direct result of his thinking about something called wisdom, or epistemology. Metaphysics has to do with ultimate reality or ultimate being. In other words, what kind of view you have of a supreme deity, a God or gods, or just whatever ultimate reality there is in the universe. Is the ultimate reality in the universe just pure matter and energy, according to Darwinism or evolutionary thought? Or is ultimate reality involved in a deity? Is this deity multiple as in polytheism, or one God, a monotheistic or Trinitarian God who has personality. It is awfully difficult just speaking in terms of just basic logic for personality to come from impersonality. One of the basic philosophical problems that secular humanism has is how do you explain the development of personality from that which is impersonal? How can a rock ultimately evolve into a person? Can personality come from impersonality? That is going to involve at that level an entire theory of personality. So that in a theory of evolution, Darwinism, you ultimately work from the starting point of matter giving birth to man, and you have to develop an entire theory of what personality is, what the essence of man is.

Think about this. You have a theory of personality. Any theory of personality is going to involve a certain amount of thinking about thought, about thinking, about the entire process of intellection, the entire process, therefore, of learning. If you have a theory of personality that is predicated upon a Darwinian concept of reality, from pure matter that somehow developed into a personality, then your concept of how people think, how they learn, how they reason, is going to (if you are logically consistent) be logically related to that ultimate view of reality. So you have moved from an ultimate view of reality to a view of epistemology, how you think, how you learn. That is going to affect certain things like education theory. You are going to develop entire theory of education that is going to be based on how you understand human personality. How you understand human personality is going to based on how you understand the ultimate reality of the universe. So what we are developing here is that if your ultimate view of reality is nothing more than a mass of atoms and pure matter, then you are going to end up with an education theory that is related to that. However, if your view of ultimate reality is a supreme deity that is going to change your view of personality. If your view of that supreme deity isn't just some sort of formless deity, some sort of vague concept of a god but is a Trinitarian God as we have in the Scriptures, that has created man according to His image and in His likeness, then that is going to change your view and affect your view of human personality and the makeup of human personality. That personality is immaterial and not material, and there is a soul, and that soul is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore has value and significance because it is in the image and likeness of God. Furthermore, as a believer you know that there was something called a fall and that when Adam sinned it affected every aspect of his person, including his soul, and that his mentality, his emotions, his conscience were all affected by sin. So that there is now a warped image of God, a distorted image of God, but nevertheless it still has value because a human being was originally created in the image and likeness of God, and that God has solved that problem. But because you have a theory that is radically different from the evolutionary theory of personality it is going to change your view of learning, and how a person learns, and why a person is supposed to learn. Because in a purely material universe the only reason you ultimate have to learn, the ultimate reason you have to develop any kind of skills in life, is for some sort of finite self-improvement, ultimately a deterioration into pure materialism—that I'm just here to get all the toys I can get, and like the bumper sticker says, Whoever dies with the most money or most toys wins. And there is nothing beyond that. But with a theory of personality derived from the Scriptures and an understanding of the fall you understand that there is much more to life than simply material gain, material possessions, or even success in this life. It has to do with this impact on eternity and what we call the spiritual life which is the development of that human spirit which we acquire at the instant of salvation, and developing in our relationship to God who has communicated Himself to us and informed us about the nature of reality.

So on the one hand you have a view of intellection and learning that grows out of a pagan system of evolution that is pure human viewpoint, and that is going to always be contrasted to a biblical view of learning, divine viewpoint that is hopefully developed by thinking through the implications of the biblical view of the soul and biblical view of personality so you develop a biblical view of teaching and learning. As a believer, if you have thought these things through, your concept of education and the purpose of education is going to be different from the concept of education from the person who operates on a purely human viewpoint pagan concept of education. Therefore because your epistemology is different, your methodology is going to be different, and how you educate people, and the view of education is going to also differ. This is one of the things that Paul is getting at here. He is not going to come to the Greeks emphasizing rhetoric, emphasizing oratorical skills, as they did. That was the entertainment of their day. The emphasis was on the skill, not the content. It didn't matter what they were debating for as long as they did it well. That had its impact in the church so they began to emphasize personality and methodology, and they would look at Paul and say, well Paul wasn't really that good as a teacher. Cf. 2 Cor. 10:10. Apparently he didn't have a dynamic charismatic personality. This is one of the things people look for as they go to church. They want a pastor who has a certain kind of personality, speaks a certain way, has a certain type of style, and if they don't have that they will go on down and look for something else. As Paul prophesied in 1 Timothy, what is going to happen in the church age is that people will eventually get to the point where they reject the content and would rather just be entertained. Yet the Scriptures says that the purpose for the communication gifts of the Spirit—teaching and evangelism, which are operational today—was to teach. Romans 12:2 states it so clearly, that the purpose is to renew the thinking, to renovate the thought, exchanging the thinking that is cultural, the kind of thinking that comes out of the surrounding environment for the kind of thinking that God reveals to us in His Word. It means to reconstruct the entire framework of thinking on that principle, which ultimately is a grace principle.

We have to understand that, and that there are different ways of doing things, but God has a way that is consistent with grace and that impacts evangelism and witnessing. Witnessing is not a matter of developing certain techniques or skills. Paul's point in the first part of chapter two is that he is not approaching the gospel ministry from the framework of human viewpoint techniques methodology or wisdom.      

Paul says in 2:1, "I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom," and by those two words he is emphasizing the methodology of the Greek culture. The emphasis in oratory was on excellence of speech, the turn of a phrase, and wisdom in terms of philosophical wisdom. Remember he is answering the three questions that he raised in 1:20, and here it is to "Where is the debater of this age?" In verse 8 there will be a transition into a divine viewpoint understanding of how we know what we know. So he emphasizes the fact that it is not based on human methodology. When you witness it is not based on mastering certain skills, certain abilities, being able to say it just the right way, it is based upon the power of God. It is the gospel itself that has power, according to Romans 1:16.

1 Corinthians 2:2 NASB "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is the key principle in evangelism, i.e. keep the issue on the cross. People raise other questions, but don't become distracted. Many of those questions cannot be answered at that time and they won't understand the answers until they have the frame of reference from the Scriptures. Keep the issue on the gospel.

1 Corinthians 2:3 NASB "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling." Even Paul at times, when he is in the midst of an environment where there is a lot of hostility such as he faced in Athens, when he faces failure—as we all do when we are witnessing—it causes a feeling of intimidation. Nevertheless, Paul did not allow that to control him. That is the difference between someone who is brave and someone who is a coward. It is not the fact that they are afraid, it is the fact that they let the fear control them. If you let the fear control you and if you are intimidated and don't witness, then you are letting fear control you and you are out of fellowship and a failure as far as that responsibility as a believer-priest goes.

1 Corinthians 2:4 NASB "and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Paul is saying he made it a point that he was not going to go to them and communicate to them using the forms and the methodology that they were used to from orators and from teachers, because that form becomes the issue rather than the content, and the issue is not human technique of human skill, the issue is God the Holy Spirit. He is the sovereign executor in evangelism. 

1 Corinthians 2:5 NASB "so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." So in evangelism the issue is not us, not our skills, not our power or ability, it is the power and ability of the gospel itself and the power of God the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of witnessing

1)  Every believer in Jesus Christ is in full time Christian service from the moment of faith in Christ. It is the responsibility of every believer to communicate the gospel to anyone and everyone that they can.

2)  Full time Christian service relates to our royal priesthood and our royal ambassadorship. At salvation every believer immediately becomes a royal priest and a royal ambassador.

3)  A priest is a member of the human race who represents the human race, or some portion of it, before God. In the church age every believer is a royal priest and represents himself before God. It is God-directed. 1 Peter 2:5 NASB "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:6 NASB "and He has made us {to be} a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him {be} the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." See also Revelation 5:10. There are three areas of Christian service that relate to our priesthood.: a) to learn Bible doctrine, because doctrine teaches how to function as a priest; b) prayer. We have immediate access to God as believer-priests; c) giving, to support the local church, to support missions. A fourth area is described in 1 Peter 2:9. "…that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"—proclaiming and explaining the gospel to those you come in contact with.

4)  The second area related to witnessing goes from priesthood to our royal ambassadorship. Witnessing is a function of Christian service in relationship to being a royal ambassador. a) An ambassador is a high-ranking minister of state or royalty sent from one country to another country to represent his sovereign or his country or his government. By analogy, we as believers are spiritual aristocracy as members of the royal family of God, our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth, and Christ is the king who has sent us into a foreign country (the world) in order to communicate the message of how to become a Christian and how to have citizenship in heaven; b) At salvation every believer is a member of the royal family of God through the baptism of God the Holy Spirit, and at that same instant he becomes a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. So ambassadorship stems from being in union with Christ; c) Each church age believer is a member of the royal family of God representing the King of kings and the Lord of lords during his life on the earth; d) Ambassadorship emphasizes that every believer is in full time Christian service; e) That will differ to some degree because of one's spiritual gift, but certain things apply to every ambassador and one of those is witnessing; f) Christian service relate do our royal ambassadorship includes witnessing, missionary operation, the use of our spiritual gifts, and it may involve administration work in many areas of responsibility in Christian organisations and groups; g) A nation's ambassador does not support himself. Likewise, we as ambassadors in Satan's domain are supported by God's logistical grace; h) The recall of an ambassador is tantamount to a declaration of war. At the end of the church age all believers are going to be recalled to heaven, and that is virtually God's declaration of war and the outpouring of the wrath of God on the earth during the Tribulation. There is a contrast between priests and ambassadors. The priest is invisible but an ambassador is visible. As a priest the believer is involved in giving, but that is invisible. As an ambassador the believer is more involved in witnessing and that may be more visible. A priest emphasizes relationship with God, whereas ambassadorship emphasizes relationship with men. The priesthood functions in private whereas an ambassadorship functions in public. The priest is involved in learning doctrine; the ambassador is going to be involved in relating doctrine to people. The priest is focussing on his own spiritual advance and spiritual growth whereas ambassadorship is going to focus on spiritual service.

5)  Witnessing, then, is the operation of your responsibility as a royal ambassador; we are all required to be involved in witnessing. How do we become an effective witness? It begins by understanding some basic Scripture. For example, 2 Cor. 5:17-20 NASB "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Reconciliation summarizes everything that Christ did on the cross. When He paid the penalty for our sins the barrier was removed so that we can have access to God by simply faith alone in Christ alone. The ministry of reconciliation is communicating that reality to those who are ignorant of it. Acts 1:8 NASB "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

6)  The church age believer has two areas of responsibility. The first area is the witness of the life. We are to live a life that manifests the grace of God. Secondly, there is the witness of words. This is the verbal witness of our life where we are communicating the gospel. You can't explain the gospel to anybody by simply living a good life, a Christian life. Just because you have a non-verbal witness doesn't means anybody is going to understand that Christ is the only way of salvation.

7)  Always remember that God the Holy Spirit is the sovereign executive of witnessing.

8)  Don't get side tracked by false issues. First of all, sin is not an issue in salvation. Christ paid the penalty for all sins, the issue is Jesus Christ. Don't be distracted by trying to prove the Bible is the Word of God.

9)  Memorize five or six key verses for salvation. E.g. Romans 3:23; 5:8; John 3:16; 3:18.

10)  Avoid subjectivity. Don't get involved in emotionalism, don't try to get people to trust Christ in the basis of guilt, on the basis of fear of eternal damnation; focus on the biblical evidence that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be and that He died on the cross for our sins. Our own attitude should be that of Paul in Romans 1:14-16, recognizing that we are under obligation to communicate the gospel and that we should not be ashamed of the gospel.