|The Word of God|
|Christ our Wisdom of God|
"For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." (1 Corinthians 4:20).
While writing his voluminous Summa Theologica, a theological work lauded among both Catholic and Protestant theologians alike, Thomas Aquinas suddenly ceased from this labor and declared that all of it was nothing but straw. He is said to have had a spiritual encounter with God. What happened? Henceforth, we shall easily see what Thomas came to realize. It was not the content of his work that was straw from a human perspective, but its relative comparison to something else that made Thomas realize it was nothing but straw.
What does Paul mean when he says the Kingdom is not in word but in power? As Peter himself teaches us, people do strange things with Paul's words. Perhaps his words are too much for them. It is common to treat Paul's words "wisdom of men" and "traditions of men" as "unBiblical teachings," and some even go as far as saying it is a human philosophy that humanistically leaves God out of the picture. This is pure bunk and is itself a "tradition of men" not found in the Scriptures. "Theology" is just a fancy way of saying "Philosophy concerning God." When Paul is speaking of "human words of wisdom" he is talking about wisdom in the realm of the human intellect that are expressed with human words such as in everyday life. He includes human wisdom about God in this category. He is not just speaking of false or wrong ideas from the flesh of man as opposed to really good ideas from God. In fact, with respect to God's wisdom, he is not talking about concepts at all whether or not they are theologically subjected. Philosophy means "love of wisdom," and it is this love of wisdom on a human conceptual and intellectual level, no matter what the subject matter is, that Paul denounces as the foundation of the Christian faith, whether theological or not, and whether from him (Paul) or not. It is not the subject matter of any philosophy that makes any intellectual teaching the wisdom of God and it matters not if you call that philosophy "theology." It matters not if it is theological or even from the hand of an Apostle, for to Paul, the wisdom of God cannot be expressed in any human words. Paul deposits all of it, theological or not, into the trash can, as compared to knowing Christ himself and the power of his resurrection life. Theology is indeed useful but Paul understands it is only intended to be a set of signposts to point us to Christ and that is as far as its worth really goes. But Christians today, such as the Christians in Corinth, were treating this wisdom as the foundation of their faith. But Paul explains to them that concepts of Christ are not the foundation of their faith but Christ himself who lives in their hearts.
Firstly, by "traditions of men" in Colossians 2:8, Paul is actually referring to philosophical precepts of the Mosaic Law, but we shall leave that for another day. Secondly, every philosophy of that time centered around each philosopher's respective image of a Creator and his cosmos. These were not atheistic humanists although many had very different concepts of God than Christians and Jews. And neither were these pagan philosphers men who were the humanistic products of the Enlightenment of the 16th century whose philosophies had nothing to do with God. This is absolutely not even close to what Paul is discussing at 1 Corinthians 1 to 4. As we shall see, for Paul, the "human wisdom of men" and "traditions of men" are theological belief systems about God in concepts that men rest their faith upon instead of Christ himself. And as we shall see, in this case, it is the teaching wisdom of the Apostles themselves. The Corinthians were serving wisdom about Christ in theological concept as taught by the apostles, instead of Christ himself, the wisdom of God. Jesus is not a theological concept to follow. He is the Lord of heaven who lives in our hearts.
At 1 Corinthians 1 to 4, Paul gives us an extremely important teaching. He reminds the Corinthian Christians that the wisdom of God upon which we are to base our faith is not a theological belief system but Christ himself. They were making the foolish mistake of making the wisdom of some Apostles' conceptual teaching about Christ an end and foundation upon which to rest their faith, instead of the means to guide people to Christ, who is himself the true wisdom of God and foundation of faith. Today, we see many people who do the very same thing and do not even understand the difference. Because these Corinthians were basing their faith on the human wisdom of the theological philosophies of the Apostles, Paul writes that the Corinthians are fleshly and not spiritual. Indeed, Paul explains such things are but straw that will be burned up on the Day of the Lord. These Corinthians were becoming "puffed up" concerning this intellectual knowledge and as such they were dividing into factions according to whose wisdom teaching they considered to be best, and Paul lets them know very sternly that such knowledge is nothing but foolishness to God. If Paul were alive today and heard people were treating his letter, 1 Corinthians, as the "wisdom of God," he would probably die of laughing himself to death at the utter folly of such commentators. His letter teaches precisely the opposite.
We shall decisively show that this is indeed what Paul teaches here in his letter. Paul confronts this Corinthian error by opening his discussion on the matter in the following manner:
For it has been made known to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. And I say this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ. Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (1:11-13).
Now, as we shall henceforth plainly see, Paul has this sectarian problem in mind right through chapter four. The Corinthians were dividing into Pauline, Apollinarian, and Petrine factions based on the teaching wisdom of each of those men and were resting their faith upon that wisdom instead of the wisdom God gave them: Jesus. He continues:
I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gauis so that none of you could say you were baptized into my name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas but as to the rest I do not know of any others I baptized. (1:14-16).
Now here we see that Paul is a little ticked because people were going around claiming they were "baptized into the name of Paul" and "baptized into the name of Cephas" and "baptized into the name of Apollos." Why? In Corinth at this time, it was common for a person to hear and weigh out a wisdom teacher's philosophy and if you decided that you wanted to adopt his philosophy as a lifestyle, you would then be baptized as an initiation into his mystery cult. Such was the mindset of a Corinthian. Similarly, these particular Corinthians falsely presumed that some of them were baptized into Paul's wisdom and others into Peter's or Apollos' teaching wisdom. In other words, they were not following Christ but various wisdoms about Christ. For this reason, Paul is thankful that he did not baptize many so that they could not claim they were baptized into his name instead of Christ. Paul keeps this problem in mind throughout this letter. For example at 1 Corinthians 12, he demonstrates how the body of Christ is one and they were all baptized in one Spirit into one body and then afterward explains their diversities have the purpose of building up that body of Christ for the sake of unity, not division.
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not in wisdom of word so that the cross of Christ is not emptied of its power. (1:17).
Now right here Paul gets to the crux of the matter, pun intended. Paul's gospel was not a matter of wise theological words but the resurrection power of Jesus Christ through his cross and sharing with that suffering. Very often this passage is abused to say Paul did not have a mission to baptize but to preach a message so that people could put their faith in his preaching message instead of being baptized into the faith. This is precisely the reverse of what he is teaching. Why then did he baptize Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas? For Paul, to be baptized is to die with Christ and be raised up with him (Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:11-2) and is the means by which we put our faith in Christ (Gal 3:26-27), not simply by acknowledging a message to be true. From the preceding context, it is patently obvious that he means, "I did not come to baptize anyone into my name and my human words of wisdom, but to preach the good news of Jesus Christ into whose name you were baptized." This is why he says, "was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" The answer is "No," they were baptized into the name of Christ which is what Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-19). Obviously, Jesus did not give Peter one command and Paul the opposite command. So Paul isn't saying, "Christ did not send me to baptize in any respect," but "Christ did not send me to baptize into my name but into his name." Now as we shall see, this statement, "not in words of wisdom" is the central theme of the next four chapters and Paul will conclude with: "For the kingdom of God is not in words but in power. (4:20). And we shall now see that he is referring to placing one's faith in theological wisdom. Now let us carefully check out what Paul has to say about human philosophies about God and let us remember he is discussing the problem of their church dividing into the respective factions of the wisdom taught by the three Apostles he has mentioned.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but for us who are being saved the power of God. For it has been written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the intellect of the intellectual I will turn over." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe (grammateus)? Where is the debater of this age? Did God not make foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Now notice already how Paul is saying what he is preaching is itself foolishness compared to the wisdom of God. Right here he is speaking of human perspective as opposed to God's perspective. Also notice that he points out the "scribe" who spends his time learning intellectual theological concepts and puts all his stock in those concepts and also the "debater" or "disputer" who debates such concepts as approving one theological system against another. It is plainly clear that Paul has intellectual wisdom in view and more precisely is squarely aiming at theological philosophies as preached by either himself, or Peter, or Apollos, and insisting that such things are foolishness to God as compared to his own wisdom who is His Son revealed to us by His Spirit. Philosophy, the "love of wisdom," and here it means "love of the wisdom taught in human words about God" in the sense that the human wisdom Paul is talking about is a theological wisdom taught in human words and concepts about God.
Since Jews ask for a sign and Greeks wisdom. But we proclaim Christ crucified, an offense to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. But to those called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
"He was crucified in weakness but lives by the power of God" (2 Cor 13:4).
Now here we can see why Paul says his preaching in human words of wisdom is foolishness. The Corinthians were Greeks who demand intellecutal wisdom. But the proclamation of the cross is foolishness with respect to their intellecutal wisdom from a human perspective. And indeed it would be. From a human perspective the object is survival not death. So here we can see more clearly what Paul meant when he said he did not come in wisdom of words but to preach the gospel of Christ crucified. Christianity is not about adhering to impressive theological wisdom expressed in human words of wisdom but uniting with Christ himself in suffering with him that we may be glorified with him. Likewise, Paul taught the Romans that they would be joint-heirs with Christ and be glorified with him in the resurrection if indeed they suffer with him (8:17-25), and to the Philippians, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that somehow I might attain the resurrection from the dead." (3:10-11) and "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2:20). The weakness Paul is discussing is our being crucified with Christ (cf. 2 Cor 13:4). Our wisdom from God is Christ and suffering with him and this appears to be quite foolish in from a human perspective, and because these Corinthians were fleshly, they were basically doing the same thing as worldly Greeks and Jews by their sectarianism in basing their faith upon a philosophy, a love of wisdom, about God and Christ taught in the words of human wisdom taught by Paul, and Apollos, and Peter, instead resting their faith upon Christ himself. The Christian faith is not about uniting yourself with intellectual conceptual ideas and your mind having a relationship with those ideas but about uniting yourself with God himself and having a relationship with Him mediated by His Wisdom, his Son Jesus Christ.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many noble, but God choose the foolish things of this world that he might shame the wise and God chose the weak things of this world that he might shame the strong. God chose what the low-born and despised in the world, and things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might might boast before Him. but by Him you are in Christ Jesus, who God made our Wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord."
Now clearly Paul is aiming squarely at the Coninthians who are puffed up concerning the theological wisdom they are following which they got from one of the three mentioned Apostles. And naturally, if one was quite theologically wise, then one could boast before God for having such wisdom and putting their faith in such intellecutal wisdom. But Paul makes it plain that such is not the case. Our wisdom of God is not a theological belief system but Jesus Christ himself. Paul points out that these particular Corinthians were not previously "wise" in any respect and so they are called and chosen by God to shame the wise intellectuals of the world with God's wisdom, His Son, and so to suffer with his Son in his Son's resurrection life. Now we will see Paul turn to what they should be doing instead of running around getting all puffed up about their philosophical belief systems about God as brought to them by Paul, and Apollos and Peter.
Brethren I did not come to you according to loftiness of word or wisdom proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I decide to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and trembling. And my word and my preaching was not in persuasive words of human wisdom but in a showing of the Spirit and power. (2:1-4).
Now we can see here again what Paul meant at 1:17 when he said he did not come in "wisdom of word" but in the power of the Spirit. The power was not in his own words or his teaching or his wisdom but in the Holy Spirit. He came in weakness as he elsewhere says, Christ's power is made perfect in his weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10; cf 12:5,9; 13:4,9). Paul here is simply emphasizing again that God works powerfully in us when we suffer in the flesh and are weak in ourselves. It is not by fancy pants theological words and intellectual wisdom that we know God but in the Spirit of God and our Wisdom from God Jesus Christ himself. Paul will now go on to describe that power of the Spirit in the Christian life as opposed to intellectual wisdom.
So that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (2:5).
Yes, our faith does not rest in the wisdom of Apollos, or Paul, or Peter, but in God himself through his Wisdom Jesus Christ communicated to us by His Spirit. Paul came in weakness and not in impressive theological words so that they did not think for one minute that his teaching wisdom was the foundation to rest their faith upon. Oddly enough, myriads of Christians do this very thing today with this letter of Paul's staring them right in the face; they base their faith upon Paul's intellectual wisdom as he writes it instead of Christ and do not even comprehend the difference. Whether Paul is inspired or not matters not. It is still wisdom on a human level and this is his point. And what is so pitifully ironic is that these people put their faith in the wisdom of his teaching itself in the very letter that he tells them this is a mistake! It would be laughable if it wasn't so downright pitiful. For such people, Christ is an intellectual concept to accept, an image in their minds to know about, and not a personal reality to know intimately. In fact, this idea that one should rest his faith on the foundational wisdom of conceptual teachings is the very false premise of the "super apostles" he mentions in 2 Corinthians that annoy him to no end, who are misleading the people of God into this selfsame folly, and to which so many today have fallen prey. Rather, Paul came in human weakness without trying to persuade anyone with impressive wisdom taught in human words, so that God's own power might be shown and wisdom might be revealed, the Spirit and His only begotten Son. Here we see clearly how Paul is dealing with the Corinthian problem. They are flat out making the same mistake many Christians make today. Today's Christians often falsely suppose that "wisdom of men" is some non-theological teaching, but Paul right here is indicating that any philosophical system that stems from human words and human intellectual concepts, no matter what it is about, is the "wisdom of men" and not "the wisdom of God." To rest one's faith on conceptual theology is foolishness to God; His Wisdom is his Son Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But we convey a Wisdom among the mature, and a Wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are coming to nothing, but we convey the Wisdom of God in mystery hidden which God predestined before the ages for our glory that none of the rulers of this age had known for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."
We will see shortly that Paul considers the Corinthians to be immature infants and as such they are fleshly and not spiritual. The wisdom Paul is talking about is not the wisdom of this age but the coming age and this can be seen clearly at 3:18 where he asks if anyone thinks himself wise in this age to become foolish so that they may become wise with the wisdom of God. And the glory to which he refers is our resurrection glory to which Christians are predestined to inherit. "No eye has seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him.": For this reason we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) because one only hopes for what he does not see (Rom 8:17-25) because when the resurrection comes we will be conformed to the image of Christ (1 Cor 15:49; cf. Rom 8:29-30), our Wisdom of God. The wisdom of this age is quite different than the wisdom of the coming age. The wisdom of this age is intellectual knowledge in human words of wisdom in concept in our minds. The wisdom of the coming age is not and we already participate in that wisdom in the Spirit which communicates God to our spirit. It is a supernatural knowledge of God that cannot be expressed in human words. The Hebrews writer says something similar when he says that Christians are enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, are partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the Word (rhema) of God and the power(s) of the coming age (6:5-6). This is the same Word of God he mentions at Hebrews 1:3 and 4:12, the Son of God (cf. v 6:6; 10:29-32). This great mystery, Paul says, is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col 1:27). Now we shall see him get into more detail concerning that truth.
But God has revealed this to us in His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (2:10).
Now here we see Paul's point even more clearly. It is God himself who reveals these things to us, not in human words, but by His Spirit. Theology is human words. The Bible is human words. We do not rest our faith upon the Bible but upon Christ. Christ is not the Bible and the Bible is not Christ. The Bible is simply intended to point us to Christ who will lead us and teach us as he taught his own disciples in Galilee. Paul says something similar in Romans 8 where he says, "the Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God." (8:16). And John teaches, " but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him." (1 Jn 2:27). If we have Jesus living in our hearts, we know the great Teacher more intimately than Peter and John ever knew him before they received his Spirit. Now here in Corinthians, Paul will teach basically the same thing with a different intent.
For who of men knows the things of a man except the spirit of a man which is in him? Also the things of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God so that we might know those things God has given to us.
And here we have it very plainly. One can only know the things of God and the Wisdom of the coming age by the Spirit of God himself. Just like one could only truly know things of a man by the spirit in that man, one can only truly know the things of God by the Spirit of God. However, Christians did not receive this spirit of the world that is in every man and reveals his thoughts and intentions, but the Holy Spirit from God so that we might all know those things of God Himself has given to us. If we have his Spirit we know His heart. When we give up our bodies as living sacrifices in unity with His Son, he gives us His Spirit to renew our minds and know His will and the deep mysteries and deep things of God Himself. Paul says we are blessed with all kinds of spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Eph 1:3) albeit we now see as in a mirror darkly until the day of redemption (1 Cor 13:12). Our fleshly passions tend to blind us and so we can only see dimly which is why it is so important to put off the flesh. This is also why we should fast. Paul explains in Romans that our present afflictions and suffering are not worth comparing to the eternal weight of the glory of resurrection glory (Rom 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:17-5:5) but God reveals these things to us by His Spirit so that we who suffer with Christ groan, longing to be clothed with that glory. It is by His Spirit that God communicates his profound wisdom to us, that Wisdom of the coming age. This is not about God teaching us theological ideas in human words but God revealing inexpressable heavenly knowledge to the eyes of our hearts. The natural man without the Spirit of God just doesn't get it because he does not have the Spirit of God poured into Him that cries 'Abba Father.'
which we also convey, not in teaching of words of human wisdom, but in the teaching of the Holy Spirit, discerning spiritually. But the natural man receives not the spiritual things of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot know them for they are spiritually discerned but the spiritual man discerns all things and he is judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that they may instruct him. But we have the mind of Christ.
I did not come to you according to loftiness of word or wisdom.. but in... the Spirit and power. So that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (2:5).
Paul lays it on very powerfully here. Christians have the mind of Christ by God's Holy Spirit. It is not by human words of wisdom by which Christians know the things of God but by His Spirit who teaches us these things. Indeed, words are insufficient to express and incapable of communicating the things of God. But the natural man won't believe it and it is foolishness to him because he cannot discern such a thing without God's Spirit. The natural man regards all this as foolishness because he can only relate to such knowledge. He has no idea what spiritual wisdom from God is all about. The natural man rests himself on intellectual wisdom expressed by human words and this is just what these Corinthians were mistakenly doing with the teaching wisdom of Paul, Apollos and Peter. But Paul says that by no man a Spirit-filled Christian is judged and thus by no theological wisdom will he be judged since this is not the Wisdom and Truth of God which is rather His Son Jesus Christ by whom we will be judged. Indeed, Paul will say just in a bit that he does not even judge himself but will wait upon the Lord's judgment on that Day. This is why he asks who will instruct the Lord? What the Lord teaches anyone in His Spirit is true wisdom and who shall be foolish enough to instruct God with his own theological precepts? But we Christians, through His Spirit teaching us, have the mind of Christ His Son, our Wisdom of God. The true fool is that unspiritual person who refuses to accept that God teaches us through His Spirit in His Wisdom, His Son.
And brethren, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual ones but as fleshly and infants (as opposed to the mature) in Christ. For I gave you milk to drink for you were not able to handle meat and you are still not able. For you are still fleshly, for where among you is envy and strife and divisions are you not walking according to a fleshly man? For when one may say, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not fleshly?
Now here we can see clearly that Paul has had this problem in his sights throughout his whole discussion so far and we shall also see he does not end here either. The Corinthians were dividing up into theological factions according to respective Apostolic teachings and were being fleshly by resting their faith on this theological wisdom taught in human words. They are not mature but acting like spoiled bratty kids caught up in the fantasies of interesting theology. As we can see here, human wisdom for Paul, is any philosophical teaching conveyed in concept for the human intellect, instead of spiritual communication, whether or not such concepts be about God. To rest one's faith upon such things is very unwise according to Paul. These human words of wisdom taught by the Apostles are a means to bring people to Christ himself and are reflective signs to point to the reality of those image reflections of Christ the reality, and they are not ot an end in themselves for faith, or a foundation of faith. Christ is the rock, not theological ideas in our minds about Christ. Apostolic teachings in human words of theological wisdom are concepts to point to Christ. They are not what we rest our faith upon.
What then is Paul and who then is Apollos but ministering servants through whom you believed and to each [of us] as the Lord showed us. I planted, Apollos watered, but God makes things grow, so that he that plants is anything or he that waters is anything, but God who makes things grow. But he that plants and he that waters are one and each will have his reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers and you are God's field. According to the grace which God has given me as a wise master-builder I have laid a foundation and another man builds upon it but let each man take care how you build upon it. For there is no other foundation which may be laid except that which is laid, Jesus Christ.
Paul comes right back to it again. What is Paul's teaching wisdom? What is Apollos' teaching wisdom? It is nothing to rest one's faith upon. It is only a means to lead people to Christ, a means and not and end upon which to rest one's faith. To rest one's faith upon the wisdom of their teaching is foolishness to Paul. It is God who makes the Christian grow, not a faith resting upon the intellectual teachings from Paul or Apollos or anyone else. And Paul turns again to Jesus. He HIMSELF is the foundation of the faith, not Paul's teaching, not Apollos' teaching and not Peter's teaching, not the Bible, but Jesus Christ himself, our Wisdom of God. Jesus is God's Word to us and this Word, Jesus, lives in our hearts.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation using gold or silver or stones or precious wood or straw, the work of each will be manifested for the Day will show it because in fire it will be revealed and the work of each will prove what sort of work it is. If anyone man's work which he has built on it remains he will receive his reward.
Here Paul explains that our labors will be tested by fire on judgment day. Only that work which is built upon Christ himself will remain and all else will burn up to nothing. If any man's work is burnt up he will be in ruin but himself saved as through the fire. Notice how Paul metaphorically speaks of noble objects one might use in building a stone temple. In the very same way, using things that are prized in the world's eyes to build up the body of Christ is a fruitless labor. Again he is referring to theological wisdom taught in human words that sound pleasing to the human mind. This is not how the body of Christ is built. Paul will explain in chapter 12 and 13 how the body of Christ is built and it always boils down to laying down one's life in love for his brother and in this way to suffer with Christ. Building it on theological precepts is futile. Theological precepts and intellectual teachings and doctrines are only a means to show people that Christ himself is the way. Our faith is not acknowledging that the Via Dolorosa is a nice theological precept to put our faith in but our faith of Christ is suffering along with him, the Rock of our salvation.
Don't you know that you are the temple of God and God's Spirit dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks himself to be wise among you in this age, let him become foolish so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God, as it has been written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness." And again, "the Lord knows the arguments of the wise, that they are vain, so let no one boast in men, for all things are yours in Christ, whether Paul, or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or the present things, or the coming things, all things are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ of God. Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
I did not come to you according to loftiness of word or wisdom.. but in... the Spirit and power. So that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (2:5).
Today many attempt to quote a theologically wise "scholar" as a validation of serving their particular belief system? How about the teaching wisdom of Paul, or Apollos, or Peter? Will faith in their teaching approve you before God? No. The foundation laid is Jesus Christ God's Wisdom communicated by His Spirit. He is our wisdom of God and it is submission to him by which we are approved on that Day. Jesus taught us that unless we pick up our cross and follow him we cannot be his disciple. Our faith is a response of submission to a person not obedience to a set of theological concepts. To build on him with anything else is fruitless and foolish. The Apostolic teaching was not for the person to rest one's faith upon but to know that one is to rest his faith upon Jesus Christ. Faith in Christianity is not being obedient to doctrines or submitting to nice ideas about God. Faith in Christianity is being obedient to the Truth and Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ himself, the Word of God, and in this way we follow him our Lord, and not some theological system as our God and Lord. God communicates to us through his Word and that Word is Jesus who lives in our hearts and mediates the reality of Himself (God) to us.
Paul will press the issue even further later in this very letter, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up" (8:1). Here he is obviously referring to the same intellectual knowledge as back at 1 Corinthians 1 to 4, the wisdom taught in human words as opposed to the Wisdom of God revealed to us by God's Spirit. The Corinthians were getting quite haughty about the stuff they knew and were resting their faith upon this intellectual wisdom in human words taught to them by Paul and Peter and Apollos. Paul shows it is nothing but a means to point to Jesus Christ. Indeed, he says this in the context of having other Lords and gods and he does the same again at 1 Corinthians 12:2. He essentially sees they are slipping into idolatry by serving a belief system as their god. To truly know God through Christ is to suffer with his Son and lay down your life for your brother. This is the faith of Christ by which we walk. This is how we know God and do his will, offering up our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to him so that we may be renewed in our minds and do His good will. This is why Jesus will not say to some, "I never knew you." John explains in his first letter that if we do not lay down our life for our brother the love of God is not in us.
Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any man's day. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby justified. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the intentions of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
Paul is here hearkening back to "who shall instruct the Lord?" It is He who reveals things to the human heart and he who is Wise and he who is the righteous judge, not theological wisdom comprehended by human intellect. Paul dares not to even judge himself for there is only one righteous judge and he isn't it. Paul has a similar idea in Romans 14 where he talks again there about everyone being convinced in his own mind and all will stand before God in judgment, just as he does here in 1 Corinthians. It is not up to us to second guess God's wisdom that he conveys to human hearts; indeed it is utter foolisheness, for it is not by rules and regulations he judges but by the motives and thoughts and intentions of the heart counselled by His Spirit.
I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go above what is written, that none of you may be puffed up for or against another.
Sometimes this passage is amusingly quoted as an appeal to Sola Scriptura. Quite ridiculous given the immediate context. If we were to accept such an erroneous concept, the later Corinthians would have to refuse acceptance of just about all of the New Testament that had not been written yet. 1 Corinthians was one of the earliest written books we have in our New Testament. Furthermore, it would also be then ridiculous to assume that since something got later written on paper the Corinthians would have to accept it. And written by who? Let's not be stupid. What Paul is talking about here is that the Corinthians should not go beyond what Paul is writing to them in this letter and especially referring to that he has written to Apollos on this matter. Paul is indeed referring to getting puffed up with conceptual knowledge concerning theological ideas taught by Paul, or Apollos, or Peter. To turn this passage on its head and claim that it actually means that one should not listen to anything but the theological wisdom written by Paul herein is hysterically laugable considering his argument here. But that is what today's "scholarship" will afford you - blind men.For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
Sarcasm anyone? Paul is not obviously not impressed with these people. They are acting like cliquey children in a schoolyard. Very immature.
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will not know the word of those puffed up but that of power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Spanking anyone? Are you a fleshly infant all puffed up with your theological knowledge and thinking this what you rest your faith upon? That would be very unfortunate for you. Paul has just written four chapters explaining how foolish this is. In Romans 14, when dealing with a similar matter, Paul says, "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God." It is by the way we live in the Holy Spirit which counts, not by rules and regulations and that is what theology is all about. Theology simply defines boundaries of what men deem to be "right" and what men deem to be "wrong." Theology is a set of rules and regulations on how to think about God. It is just a modified version of following the Mosaic Law with a Messiah twist. But as Paul says so many times and in so many places, we do not follow the letter but the Holy Spirit (Rom 7:6). The Kingdom of God is not a matter of the wisdom of theological human words pertaining to God but the power of the Spirit of God himself who works in us according to His will and good purpose.
The disciples were to wait for this POWER from on high. They were instructed not to preach without it. It was Christ in them which was that Word of Power which they preached. It was that power which cut men to the heart. It was not the weight of the intellectual argument in words which they presented. Else, there was no need for them to wait for that power of the Spirit before they would be witnesses for Christ. It was Christ in them that was powerful to call people to himself and open their hearts to him. His voice calling them through his servants in whom he lived. Or as Paul would say to these people in his second letter, "Christ speaking in me." And oh boy, these smarty pants people figured they needed intellectual proof that Paul was speaking in them too (13:3). Paul's miracles were apparently not enough for them - they needed theology. There are some people today who pull the same stunt. And when Christ calls them by the power of the Spirit and they submit and are baptized Peter promised they would all receive the Holy Spirit and Paul roundly tells us, here and in numerous other places, that this is how one can know the wisdom of God and it is this Word of God Jesus Christ himself we rest our faith upon.
"For the kingdom of God is not in words but in power."
It is not hard to understand. God wishes us to know him and communicate with Him. Indeed, we may enter His throne room through the mediation of His Son and his body. God is Truth, Absolute Truth and our theological truths are only relative truths, that is, truths which are only relatively true to each other. While relative truths may be certainly true with respect to each other, they are not absolute truth since an absolute truth is true in and of itself and needs to be compared to nothing. No theological precept can make such a claim. For this reason who shall instruct the Lord? All things must be proven true to God himself who is the benchmark of truth. Theological truths are a pitiful attempt at being approved by God when you really start to think about it. They attempt to approve and prove God to us instead of us to Him as if He must stoop to us and prove Himself to us before we accept Him. It is an egotistical self-centered fool's way of thinking. It is we who must be proved and approved by Him so that he accepts us, not the other way around. He needs to prove absolutely nothing of Himself to us nor should His regal Majesty stoop to it. Prideful men have great difficulty accepting this level of humility. They revel in their knowledge and want to believe it makes them above the rest. But as Paul says, and Thomas Aquinas discovered, it is nothing but straw compared to the wisdom of God - Jesus.
As a word that you might speak mediates to someone a concept in your mind conveyed through the spirit of your breath, and that word mediates to someone your concept in your mind, God gave us a Word which mediates Himself to us conveyed through the Holy Spirit of his breath and that Word was his Only Son Jesus Christ, the Word of God (Rev 19:11) and who will come again in glory to judge and this Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It is by him we will be judged, the Word of God, not precepts but the living Word of Glory. Christian faith is not a intellectual obedience to a conceptual word taught in human words of conceptual wisdom but obedience to the ultimate and final Word God gave to us, his Son, Jesus Christ. It is not your Bible that is this living Word and it is not your Bible that will be judging you but Jesus Christ. As a conceptual word mediates a conceptual knowledge of a relative truth, this Living Word of God mediates to us personal knowledge of Absolute Truth - the being God Himself. Christian faith is submission to the Wisdom and Word of God Jesus Christ, not faith as submission to a set of theological ideas. Not in words of human wisdom, but by the Spirit He gives us. "So that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God," in the glory of the mystery "who is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Some say, "I am a Catholic," others, "I am a Baptist," others, "I am a Christadelphian," and others, "Christ."
Follow the person Jesus Christ who lives in you, not a system of ideas. The concepts in theology and in the Bible are fleshly signs to point you to Jesus. Stopping there, as the Corinthians did, is immature and fleshly. Jesus knows the way to the Father. Know him, listen to him, follow him, and serve him. He is the Word of all creation. Know him, and you know all truth - literally. Every truth that will ever be known is summed up in Jesus, the whole truth of creation, the Word of God. He is the creation puzzle all put together that was taken apart by men. But now God is gathering together the children of God.