By Jenny Fulton
Chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians begins as a continuation of Chapter 1. Taken together, it would read and progress in this fashion:
1 Corinthians 1:16: “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. (17) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
- (18) For…
- (19) For…
- (21) For…
- (22) For…
- (23) But…
- (24) But…
- (25) Because…
- (26) For…
- (27) But…
- (28) And…
- (29) So that…
- (30) But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
- (31) so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
- (2:1) 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.
- (2:2) For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
The Corinthians were divided over which leader they followed, which speaker was the best. But then Paul came and reminded them of something very important: their faith isn’t, or shouldn’t be, based on the skill of the speaker, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). For this reason, even though Paul was highly educated and had received elite training, he chose not to rely upon or flaunt that education and status when he spoke. Instead, he came to the Corinthians in fear and trembling, and allowed God’s Spirit and power to speak through him to the people.
World’s Wisdom vs. God’s Wisdom
In the world’s system, people flock to the one who speaks best – the one who presents the best arguments with the most cleverness, skill and charm. According to Paul, following someone solely based upon those external attributes is to put our faith in the wisdom of men rather than in the power of God.
From here, Paul launches into another description of God’s wisdom (his first description of it is found in Chapter 1). According to verses 6-10, God’s wisdom:
- Is spoken to those who are mature
- Is a mystery revealed to a small group of people
- Was secretly known and decided by God before time began
- Is for our glory
- Isn’t understood by the rulers of this world
- Isn’t obtained in a physical way
- Is revealed through God’s Spirit
The Work of the Spirit
Paul refers to the Spirit for the first time in this letter in chapter 2 verse 4 when describing his method of preaching. Paul says his message and preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
The phrase, in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, is described in contrast to speaking with persuasive words of wisdom. Given the contrast, it would make sense that Paul is referring to the persuasive words of the world’s wisdom. Or possibly, he’s referring to a reliance upon physical and mental ability rather than upon God’s Spirit and His ability and power to move and work in the hearts and minds of people. Either way, the emphasis is placed upon God’s Spiritual work rather than man’s physical ability and reasoning.
In verses 10-13, Paul mentions three different spirits: God’s Spirit, a person’s spirit, and the world’s spirit.
According to this chapter, the world’s spirit
- Hasn’t been given to all people by God
- Doesn’t know, understand, or accept the things of God
The human spirit:
- Is present within each person – each person has their own spirit
- Knows the thoughts of a person
- Searches all things
- Reveals the things of God
- Knows the thoughts of God
- Has been given to us
- Enables us to know the things of God freely given by God
- Teaches us the things of God
- Enables us to speak of the things of God
And then Paul makes these statements in verses 14 and 15: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”
Based on the context, it would seem that the natural man is someone who doesn’t grasp the spiritual nature of God and His work. This man is likely focused on the physical aspect of life and isn’t able to understand the things of God because those things must be critically evaluated and ascertained on a spiritual level.
In contrast, the one who is spiritual – filled with and connected to God’s Spirit – is able to critically evaluate all things and is not subjected to the critical evaluation of himself by others.
So, what is Paul’s main point in all of this?
The key verses that stood out to me in this chapter were verses 4 and 5. “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
My summary of Paul’s message in this chapter:
Our faith shouldn’t be based upon a man’s speaking skills but should be founded upon the wisdom and power of God which is revealed to us through His Spirit.Tweet
- In order to accept and understand the spiritual truths and wisdom of God, we must be mature and attentive to God’s Spirit as it connects with our spirit.
- Man’s wisdom, the world’s wisdom, focuses purely on the physical elements of life. Anything involving the spiritual sounds like foolishness to them.
- Without God’s Spirit and without taking into account the spiritual part of life, we can’t grasp God’s wisdom.
- We need to look at 1 Corinthians through the eyes of the Spirit – to look beyond the physical to the spiritual truths Paul is pointing toward.
What Do You Think?
- Have you ever been captivated by someone’s word-usage and method of speaking and then later realized you didn’t actually agree with what they were saying?
- What are some examples of spiritual wisdom that the world considers to be foolishness?
- What does this have to do with unity in the church?
- Do you think this chapter can be applied to churches today?
In this Series
Chapter 2: In Demonstration of the Spirit
1 Corinthians Bible Study
For the last few months, the book of 1 Corinthians has weighed heavy upon my heart. In May, I joined a women’s online fellowship site, Bloom.com, and decided to lead a Bible study on this book. These musings are a summary of my findings and the relevance/application I see surrounding us today. If you’re a woman and would like to participate in the study, head on over to www.Bloom.com and join the 1 Corinthians Bible Study group where you’ll find study guides to follow and discussion threads to participate in.
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