Paul was a brilliant man, but was he a passable speaker? In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, he says to the Corinthians that he did not come to them with “brilliance of speech or wisdom”. Why? Was he, as some speculate, just not a very good speaker? Plenty of brilliant men share that weakness. Was Paul one of them?
Just wanted to show you our new family member,
My mom’s puppy, Bouncer.
It’s amazing how much laughter and joy can
come in such a small package.
Chapter 2, Verse 1-2
Paul’s trip to Athens, which came immediately before his first visit to Corinth, seems to indicate that he was a decent speaker. He was asked to speak at the Areopagus and gave a well-reasoned and diplomatic presentation. The results, however, were disappointing, with only a few people coming to faith in Jesus. Most of us would be thrilled with even one, and I’m sure Paul was as well, but he was used to seeing bigger responses. Perhaps this experience was the cause of his rather different approach to the Corinthians.
He says here that he decided, determined to know nothing among them but the crucified Lord, Jesus. This was not his approach to the Athenians. It sounds to me as if Paul may have done a little soul searching after the Athens experience and decided to leave off logical reasoning and depend simply on God’s power and ability to make Himself known through the “foolishness of preaching”.
Instead of appealing to the minds of the Corinthians, he appealed to their hearts. Logical, coherent arguments can and should be made in defense of the existence and nature of God, but these arguments do not change hearts. They are of limited use in evangelism–what is wanted there is the power of God. Our human brilliance often just gets in the way.
God knows the simple message of the cross is offensive to many, particularly to the wise, noble, powerful, etc. of this world. He chose it anyway, and He can make it speak to people’s hearts if they are genuine truth seekers.
Paul doesn’t bother laying out the logic. I have looked at the logic as have many of you, and the logic does work beautifully, but it doesn’t change hearts. It may take away a roadblock for a genuine seeker or reassure a believer who is struggling with doubt, but it will not capture the heart of a rebel. Apologetics (the logical, scientific, historical defense of one’s faith) are important to believers–knowing that the science, etc. works, helps to strengthen our faith, but ultimately our faith must be in something much greater than well-constructed apologetics.
In place of “persuasive words of wisdom”, Paul depended upon the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”. To what does this refer? How is the Spirit demonstrated? What is the manifestation of God’s power? People were often healed and set free from demonic power under Paul’s ministry, but there is no specific mention of anything like this in reference to Paul’s trip to Corinth as recorded in Acts. Imagine miraculous healings becoming so commonplace as not to provoke so much as a comment. People were always healed when the gospel went forth, so a lack of healings might be more likely to be noted. In addition to objective miracles, there must be the subjective, and far greater, miracle of God reaching out and touching people’s hearts.
A faith based on man’s wisdom is always going to be vulnerable to attack by someone cleverer that we are. Satan has been around a lot longer than we have, and he’s a bang-up liar. Our wisdom, however well thought out, is not a match for his lies. Mind, I’m not putting down apologetics, but logical assent to God’s reality and the truth of His word just isn’t good enough to get us through this life with faith intact. Our faith needs to be based on God’s power, not on man’s wisdom.