Friday, August 22, 2008

The gospel: Christ and Him crucified (1)

1 Corinthians 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."

He is now speaking to the Corinthian Christians that he did not come to them with superiority of speech or of wisdom.

When I read and re-read this verse, I thought that Paul was contradicting himself as he obviously taught high theology. His wording in Romans and Ephesians reveal that his knowledge of the law and the prophets is profound. His knowledge of the mysteries of God is also extensive, for example, he teaches us about the marriage relationship between the bridegroom, Jesus, and the bride, the church, in Ephesians 5. However as we will see soon, when he talks about superiority of speech and wisdom, he means something completely different.

It would be helpful to define the speech and wisdom that Paul is referring to. First of all, this speech and wisdom caused sectarianism. in the preceding chapter, Paul condemned the sectarianism among Corinthians. Many of them obviously lacked the true knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ because people divided themselves into different sects. Some said, "I am of Paul," while others said, "I am of Apollos," and another said "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ."

It is noteworthy that the exact same thing has been happening throughout the Christian history. The great schism had divided the church into Eastern Orthodox church and Roman Catholic church in the 11th century, Luther had initiated the reformation in the 16th century and many protestant denominations had arisen afterwards resulting in more than 38,000 Christian denominations. The fine points of the doctrinal differences result in schism after schism.

So what is the source of all these divisions? Paul answers, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" The source of dissension is the wisdom of the world. And this wisdom of the world includes not only the world's wisdom such as philosophy and science but also theology and specifically Christian theology. Paul asked rhetorically, "Where is the scribe?" Of course the scribe is a person who transcribes the word of God and has an extensive knowledge of the word of God. But if this knowledge does not lead us to Christ and cause dissension, it may well be the wisdom that God has made foolish.

So now we come back to the main verse. We learn that Paul did not come to Corinthians to teach them truths(the gospel) in a sophisticated manner as Greek philosophers would do nor in a complex, burdensome manner as Jewish scribes would do. But he simply proclaimed to them the testimony of God that Christ died for many for forgiveness of sins and that He rose again on the third day vindicating the name of God who is just and justifier of those who put faith in Him.

Paul preached the gospel. He did not preach the gospel like Greek philosophers nor like Jewish scribes although he was both a philosopher and theologian. As in verse 2, Paul,"determined to know nothing among Corinthians except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." And the gospel is "foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us (Paul and believing Corinthians) who are being saved it is the power of God."

And lastly it is written,
(Isaiah 29:14)

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