THE SIMPLICITY OF THE GOSPEL
1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-5
The Corinthians believers had been very much impressed by secular philosophy. They had been raised on Plato and Aristotle. They loved nothing better than to argue for their different points of view. This argumentative spirit had infiltrated the church at Corinth. As a result, the church was in danger of being split by warring factions.
That is what always happens when Godís people get their eyes off the basic truth of the gospel. The simplicity of the message of the cross does not split Christians apart. To the contrary, it binds them together. It is the glue that unites the church.
Therefore in order to heal the hurts of the church at Corinth, Paul set out to show the superiority of the gospel over manís philosophical systems.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Consider your calling...
When I came to you...
What kind of people did God choose?
What type of tactics did I use?
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul used the experiences of the Corinthian believers to show that it was not secular wisdom that brought them to God. Instead, God chose the weak and the foolish and the base and the despised.
Now in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul will turn to his own personal experiences with the Corinthians to show that it was not the discussing of philosophy that saved them, but the preaching of the gospel.
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 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Paul was the first to bring the gospel to Corinth. Up to that point, none of the philosophy or the learning or the education of the Corinthians had been of any use in bringing them closer to God. The Corinthians worshiped gods of their own making, but they were totally ignorant of the God of the universe. That only changed when Paul arrived on the scene preaching to gospel of Jesus Christ.
He first tells us how he did not come and then he tells us how he did come. I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom (2:1). Paul was a down-to-earth preacher. He did not use big or impressive-sounding words when he spoke. Neither did he attempt to impress his audience with philosophical terms. Instead, he spoke a simple message. It was the message of the gospel.
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (2:2). This is the message of the gospel. It is the message of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. This is the center of Christianity.
There are many who have tried to take the moral teachings of Christianity and to divorce them from the message of the cross. It doesnít work. Such teachings are meaningless and powerless. There can be no Christianity without the cross.
What is so special about the cross? What makes it so significant?
1. Christ Bore our Sins on the Cross.
And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).
It is no mere coincidence that Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover. As the High Priest in the Temple was slaughtering the Passover lamb, the Lamb of God was hanging on a cross outside Jerusalem. He is the fulfillment of the Passover lamb. Indeed, He is the fulfillment of every animal sacrifice of the Old Testament.
When He went to the cross, Jesus bore our sins in His body. Our sins were put to His account. God judged the Son as though He were a guilty sinner. The wrath of a righteous God was poured out on Him. From His lips was torn the cry, "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?" Why such a cry? Because for the first time in all of history, the Father turn His back on the Son.
2. The Demands of the Law were met on the Cross.
God is righteous and His law is righteous. Godís law demands righteousness. The law of God demands that any deviation from righteousness receives the just reward of death. The good news is that the just demands of the law were fulfilled on the cross.
And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
When a criminal was being crucified, it was customary to write his name and a list of his crimes on a tablet. This tablet would then be taken and nailed to his cross. It would serve as a public warning to others who might be tempted to commit similar transgressions.
The law of God was a tablet that was the certificate of our debt. It consisted of all our crimes. It was a list of all our sins. It pronounced our guilt. It declared that we were worthy of death. We had all broken the law of God and we had all fallen short of its perfect standard of righteousness. It condemned all of us.
But now it condemns us no longer because it was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross of Christ. Those were the crimes for which Jesus was punished. The demands of the law were met on the cross.
3. The Cross was Designed to Bring us to God.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18).
Many people seem to thing that they were once searching for God and that they finally found Him and came to Him and were saved. The Bible says something quite different. The Bible says that Christ died in order that He might bring us to God.
If you are a Christian, it is because Christ brought you to God. The unbeliever does not seek after God. He isnít interested in knowing the God of the Bible. The only god he wants is one of his own making. He does not seek God.
As it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Romans 3:10-11).
There is none who seeks for God. This means that the only reason a man comes to God is because Christ, on the basis of His work on the cross, moves in that manís life and brings him to God.
This is the message that Paul preached in Corinth. He did not lecture on future events. He did not try to get people to speak in tongues. He did not campaign against godless government. He proclaimed the message of the cross.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:3).
We often think of Paul as some great powerhouse for God. But he was no super saint. He was probably not much to look at. He was not necessarily an eloquent speaker.
A second century description of the apostle refers to him as "a man small in size, with meeting eyebrows and a father large nose, bald-headed and bow legged."
This is important for you to know. I used to think that there was someone out there who had it all together. His family didnít have arguments. He never became impatient with his co-workers. When a car cut him off on the Interstate, he merely smiled and said, "God bless you!"
Iíve come to learn that there is no such thing as the super saint. Even the Apostle Paul did not have it all together. What he DID have was the gospel. That gave him the greatest message of all time. He had the message of the power of God.
You have the same thing. You may not have a Ph.D. You may not be eloquent. You may be nervous about sharing your faith. You may not come across as cool, calm and collected. But you do have the greatest message of all time. The resources that were available to Paul are also available to you today. God has not changed. His message has not changed. It is still the same gospel that is preached today.
And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
Throughout chapter one, we have seen a continuing contrast between the wisdom of the world as opposed to the foolishness of the cross. The point was not to say that the cross was in any way foolish, but to show that the methods utilized by the world are at contrast with the way in which the Lord works.
Now the contrast continues between the world and the Lord.
I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom (2:1)
I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (2:2).
My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom (2:4)
My message and my preaching were... in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (2:4)
That your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men (2:5).
That your faith should... rest...on the power of God (2:5).
Paul did not resort to gimmicks to try to win the Corinthians to Christ. He did not impress them with big words. He did not attract them with a contemporary music program. He did not try to motivate them with calculated theatrics. These things did not fit his purpose. To have used such means would have negated the purpose that he had in coming to Corinth.
What was Paulís purpose. It was that the faith of those who believed should not rest on the wisdom of men -- that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (2:5).
The church today has gotten away from this basic concept. In this age of the mega-church, how many people have their faith based on the wisdom and the understanding of a single man? We in the Protestant and Reformed churches are quick to point out finger accusingly at the Roman Catholic Church for having a trinity that is too crowded. But we are often guilty of raising our own leaders to a pedestal that ought to be reserved for Christ.
When I was a student in Bible College, there was a scandalous affair in which the president of the college left his wife and ran off with a young girl. As a result of this scandal, quite a number of the students were spiritually uprooted. To this day, there are people whose spiritual lives have been shipwrecked by that affair. This was a direct result of holding a man in an exalted position. Many of those students had based their faith on the persuasiveness of a manís preaching rather than on the power of God.
Our faith is to have a stronger foundation. It should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (2:5). This brings us to a question. What is the power of God? Paul has already answered this question here in this epistle. The power of God is seen in the cross.
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
...we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness,
The crucifixion of Christ is the ultimate manifestation of the power of God. It was there that sin was conquered. It was there that Satan was defeated. It was there that our redemption was obtained.
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