And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. -- 1Corinthians 2: 1-5 (ESV)
As we pick up the first letter to the Church at Corinth in Chapter Two we see Paul returning to a point made in the first chapter. Remember these were free flowing letters not intended in the mind of Paul to be Scripture. Chapters and verses were not added to the Bible until the 16th Century. Paul here is once again trying to reinforce that it is Christ that matters -- not the messenger. There are deeper truths to glean here starting with the fact that the Gospel does not need our help. Paul says I did not come proclaiming the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. Let us pause here to consider the current state of the church. The church today follows the purpose driven church building paradigm within the construct of seeker friendly theories. There is much overlap between these two and they are often used interchangeably. The theory of being seeker friendly is that there are so many people in the world desperately seeking God but they are turned off by church because of the "churchiness" of it all. The "dos and don'ts", sin and repentance, the cross, the blood and in evangelical circles the oft arisen weirdness of it all. Let us first dispel the unbiblical nature of this argument:
as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one;no one understands; no one seeks for God. -- Romans 3: 10-11 (ESV)
There it is beloved. No one seeks after God. Do we often times in our lives come up against strife and problems and want a cosmic bailout? Absolutely but that is not "seeking God." Seeker friendly logic has been around for several decades whereas the purpose driven church model began in the mid-1990s. In the 1970s for example, Bill Hybels was planning to open Willow Creek Church in Illinois. Before opening he canvassed the neighborhood to ask the unsaved goats in his community what they did and did not like about church and he built his church around their desires. They said that they found the crosses offensive and to this day, no crosses can be found in Willow Creek. Never mind that the cross is supposed to be offensive to those who have not repented! Seeker friendly theology has removed the cross from the Gospel so what difference does it make if it also removes it from the sanctuary? At least then they are being consistent. Rick Warren also canvassed his community before opening saddleback Church and he was told to stop singing those old crusty hymns and get a real rocking band in their to liven up worship. So Warren obliged and the new age of faux Christian music was born. In one generation we went from singing about how great God was to how much He loves us and there is a marked difference between those two statements. One is worship of God and the other is worship of self.
The problem was seeker friendly theology was in the ether. It was not a set of agreed upon principles that pastors could rally around. The result is that seeker friendly teachings and organizational principles were implemented with varying degrees across this country. In 1995 however, Rick Warren took the basics of how to destroy the bride of Christ and codified them into his new book -- The Purpose Driven Church. This became the bible for up and coming pastors. A how to manual to grow their individual fiefdoms at the expense of the true kingdom of God. I say that because the first things that had to be eliminated was the Gospel. It was not considered seeker friendly remember? Joel Osteen once said that he felt people already know what they've done wrong, which is why he does not speak about sin. That is missing the point entirely. Even if they do know, which most do not, they do not understand how God sees what they do wrong and why they need to repent of it; you know, the Gospel. The purpose driven heresy taught pastors that they were not shepherds but instead were vision casting CEO's as church became a business model. The problem is that they had a product that no one was seeking after so they modified it. They took out the offensive things like the cross and sin and added some good old fashioned carnality to draw the unsaved. Rocking worship bands, hip and relevant preachers, and sermons designed to speak to the "unchurched" person where they were at. That was the second major swing under purpose driven theology. The lost could no longer be referred to as the lost. That was now offensive. Instead of unsaved -- they were unchurched. That may seem trivial but it is not. That strips the entire point of the Gospel out. The focus is now on the person's church habits instead of their salvation. The purpose driven teachings also instruct pastors to market their churches to goats instead of sheep and that if anyone objects -- show them the door to the sheep pen.
There is a term for all of these schemes beloved -- lofty speech and human wisdom. The very thing Paul is saying here he did not come to the Corinthians with. Keep in mind how debauched Corinthian society was when Paul showed up on the scene. Yet he came to them with only one thing -- Jesus Christ and Him crucified. No smoke machines, disco lighting, feel good motivational sermons or self-help lessons. No trained voices and rollicking bands. No baristas in the lobby or hirelings in the pulpit. Just Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Why? Because that is all you need beloved. You need the Son of God and what He has already done for you on the cross not church growth tricks and promises of future carnal blessings. If we really think about it beloved, what we see in church today is the opposite of the Gospel. We hear very little about Jesus Christ and nothing about Him crucified. Blessings are always couched in terms of what God can do for you now instead of what He has already done for you on the cross.
The next thing from these opening verses is that Paul says that a preacher must present the Gospel with much fear, weakness and trembling. This speaks to the task at hand for the preacher beloved. It is not one to be undertaken lightly. The preacher holds the very keys to the kingdom of heaven in his hands. Acts 20 clearly spells out that the very blood of our listeners is at stake and Paul instructs Timothy that the very salvation of his listeners is on the line. It is not a job beloved. Any preacher who approaches this as a job is a hireling, plain and simple. It is not the job of the preacher to make you feel better. It is not their job to tell you everything will be OK and sing Kumbaya. It is not their job to motivate you or teach you how to be self-reliant. Their job is to tell you about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Period; full stop. Those who preach and teach the Word will be held to a higher standard of judgment. I do not understand how any preacher is not absolutely terrified of the majesty of God that they would approach bringing His Gospel, the only thing with the power to save man, in any manner other than reverent awe. I do not understand how preachers can so casually throw away portions of the Gospel so they can grow their individual church. There is no fear of the Lord before them.
Lastly from these opening verses we see Paul really drive the point home. There are two competing things at odds here beloved - human wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit. They cannot co-exist because God will not share His glory. The Holy Spirit is God and human wisdom is the wisdom of this age. God's ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours. Every time we rely upon ourselves we are shunning the Holy Spirit and there is a cost. The cost is where the faith of those listening will rest. If you spend your church life listening to Joel Osteen then your faith rests with Joel Osteen because he does not preach the Gospel. He preaches an eternally powerless screed that cannot save anyone, as does much of churchianity today. Romans teaches us that only the Gospel can save so if you are relying upon human wisdom to preach then no one gets saved. Their faith will not rest in the power of God but rather in the words of men. Think back to the incredulity of Paul in the first chapter! Was Apollos crucified for you! Were you baptized into the name of Paul! Stop it! Jesus Christ and Him crucified so that our faith rests in the true power of God unto our very salvation.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, 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 imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"--these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. -- 2Corinthians 2: 6-16 (ESV)
The chapter closes out with a more detailed examination of the differences between the unsaved and the saved. The differences between those reliant upon human wisdom and those reliant upon the Spirit of God. Let us go through the many truths contained here and reason together. The first thing we should take away is that Godly wisdom can be imparted to those who are mature in the Lord. What impresses man does not impress God. How often do modern day pastors hold up ordinary men who have done extraordinary feats as men instead of presenting Jesus Christ and Him crucified? I read recently from a leader at Bethel Church glowing praise for an unsaved individual with the vision to colonize Mars. Who cares? Tell me about the God that created Mars by speaking it into existence! Tell me about the God who conquered death itself! Don't waste my time with people who are doomed to pass away! Tell me about Jesus Christ and Him crucified! That is an important point to remember beloved. Alexander the Great had conquered the known world by the age of 30 and was dead by 32. The greatest leaders throughout history are mere footnotes in the story of He who spans the entire known universe and time itself.
The second takeaway is in relation to verse 9, as it is often misrepresented. Hucksters and false teachers love to use this verse to promise all of the trinkets and baubles this world has to offer. Like a 70's game show host they speak at a fever pitch about how no eye has seen nor hear heard what God has in store for you! You know"if the tithe is right! They always sell God so short. He is not promising carnal excess here but spiritual discernment. The Word of God is the revealed insight of the Creator of the entire universe. The unsaved person might be able to appreciate the stories or find the poetry moving but they cannot understand the things of God! They cannot understand the way God thinks! It is through the Spirit that we can begin to understand all that God has given us in Christ and the eternal life we now enjoy. Have you ever had a Bible verse jump off the pages at you? Sure you read it 100 times before but now God has revealed something to you. Something from with His mind! Paul spoke about how he imparted the Gospel only through the power of the Spirit so that the faith of men would reside within the power of God. This is how he can impart things which no eye has seen nor ear heard!
The final takeaway wraps up the two chapters nicely. Beloved we live in a time where the Word of God is under constant assault. The world tries to scientifically debunk any sliver of biblical account so that they can usurp God and be their own god. The things of God are utter foolishness to them. We expect this assault therefore. The Word of God labels them a sinner. It renders judgment upon them. That is why Jesus taught that He had not come to bring peace but a sword. The real problem is that the Word of God is also under assault from those within the walls of the church itself. Disgraced mega pastor Perry Noble once referred to his own congregants who wanted to go deeper in the Word as the jackasses in his church. Another pastor preached once that such people were the excrement in the body of Christ. The enemy of the false signs and lying wonders movement and experiential Christianity is the Word of God. Sure they will never outright say it but they preach it nonetheless. They refer to people who criticize their wicked heart driven theologies as legalists who need to stop worshipping the Word and get a deeper revelation of the Spirit. They say that we need to stop putting God in a box. Cute catch phrase that shows how biblically ignorant they are. God put Himself in the box and it is called Scripture. David said he hid it in his heart so that he might not sin against God. As we have seen in this chapter it is insight into God Himself and how He thinks. If you think you will stand before Jesus and He will complain that you read His Word too much, you are completely deceived. God places Himself in the box so that we are protected from the wicked deception of our own hearts. It is the plumb line we are to measure everything against. If I am forced to decide whether my personal experience or the Word of God is correct I must forfeit my experience as being a willful deception of my heart. Otherwise Scripture is worthless.
Scripture is not worthless beloved. It is what unifies us, as we learned in the first chapter and it is only fitting that Paul brings it full circle back here at the end of the second chapter. We do not operate under the spirit of this world! We operate in the Spirit of God so that we might understand God through His Word. The mind of Christ. It is what must be at the core of our unity beloved. Jesus Christ and Him crucified might sound like a simple summary but within that truth are all the things our eyes cannot see, ears cannot hear and hearts cannot imagine, which God has prepared for us. Give me that unity.