In this message we come to 2:1-5. According to these verses, Christ crucified was the focus of Paul’s ministry. Furthermore, in these verses we see the way of the apostle’s ministry.
In verse 1 Paul says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, came not with excellence of speech or wisdom, announcing to you the testimony of God.” Literally, the Greek words rendered “with excellence” mean according to elevation or superiority. Paul did not come to Corinth to display excellent speech or philosophical wisdom in the testimony of God.
The Greeks delighted in excellent expressions of philosophical thoughts. Paul, however, did not come to Corinth with excellence of speech or wisdom. This indicates that Paul did not preach the gospel to the Greeks according to their way of wisdom. On the contrary, he avoided such a practice.
Paul’s way of preaching the gospel was different from that common among ministers and pastors today. In Bible institutes and seminaries people are taught to preach using the psychology and philosophy of the people to whom their message is addressed. For example, those who go to Germany to preach the gospel are encouraged to learn German psychology and philosophy and to use these things in their preaching. However, when Paul went to Greece, he did not preach in this way. Paul was concerned that the cross of Christ should not be made void through the wisdom of speech.
In China I heard certain missionaries preach in the way of using Chinese ethical philosophy. Although these ministers used the name of Christ and mentioned the Bible, their speaking did not impress others either with Christ or with the Word of God. Instead, they gave the impression to the learned Chinese that the gospel actually confirmed their native philosophy.
In speaking to others concerning Christ and the gospel, we must be certain that the way we speak does not cause the listeners to miss the crucial point. It is better that our speaking be considered awkward than that we should cause others to miss the basic matters of Christ and the cross. It is not our aim to impress people with our knowledge or speech. Instead, our burden is to impress them with Christ. We must minister Christ to them and not make a display of our language or knowledge.
A second important point in verse 1 concerns the testimony of God. What is the testimony of God to which Paul refers in verse 1? Some of the best ancient authorities have mystery instead of testimony. What the apostle announced as the testimony of God was the mystery of God, which is Christ as the embodiment of God and the church as the expression of Christ (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3; Eph. 3:4-6, 9). Actually, the testimony of God and the mystery of God are one. The mystery of God is the testimony of God. This testimony, this mystery, includes Christ as the embodiment of God and the church as the expression of Christ.
Today many preach about Christ and testify of Him. But most of those who preach Christ do not care for the church. However, the full testimony of God includes both Christ and the church. Recently, in the Life-study of Exodus we saw that the ark of the testimony, a type of Christ, has measurements which are half units. These dimensions indicate that a second half is needed. If we preach Christ without preaching the church, we give only half the message, only half of God’s testimony. The majority of today’s Christians at most have only one half of the testimony. Actually, many do not even have a complete half, for they do not have a complete Christ. In the New Testament the full testimony of God is Christ and the church. Christ is the Head, and the church is the Body. Christ is the mystery of God, and the church is the mystery of Christ.
When Paul came to Corinth, he announced both halves of God’s testimony; that is, he preached concerning Christ and the church. This can be proved by the contents of 1 Corinthians. In this Epistle we see both the Head and the Body. In fact, the greater portion of this book is related to the church, not directly to Christ. In the first two chapters Christ is revealed, but all the remaining chapters concentrate on the church. Most of the problems among the believers at Corinth involved the church. Therefore, Paul presents to them the complete testimony of God: Christ the Head and the church, the Body. Furthermore, he announces this testimony in simple words, not in excellence of speech with philosophical speculations.
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