I Corinthians 2:1-16

Dr. Steve Viars July 13, 1991 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Introduction: Turn to I Corinthians chapter 2
    - I'd like to begin by talking about: 2 Important Reasons
      To Study This Chapter

    1) Because it teaches us how to more effectively share
       the gospel with those who don't already know Jesus
       Christ as Lord and Savior.

       INPUT - why should it be important to us that we
          become more effective to speaking to others about
          the Lord Jesus Christ?

       INPUT - How important is it that our evangelistic
          methods are consistent with God's Word and why is
          that important?

            (only God understands the human mind)
            (only God understands the nature of the gospel)

          - we're not saying that every person's evangelistic
            methods have to be exactly the same.
          - we're not saying that every person is won to
            Christ in exactly the same way.

          - but regardless of the variety of methods and the
            variety of evangelistic situations, everything we
            do in those situations must be consistent with
            and in response to what God has revealed to us
            about this important topic.

- I'm going to use a couple of "big-sounding" words in the
  next two minutes not because I think we all need to
  remember the words, but because we all need to be aware of
  the concepts behind the words.

- What we're talking about right is called in academic
  settings "apologetics."
    - literally means - "how you defend or share the faith."

- we get that word from verses like I Peter 3:15 - "But
  sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always
  to INPUT - What? (give an answer to every man who asks you
  a reason of the hope that is in you, with all meekness and
- phrase "give an answer" is the word "aplogia"

- while most of probably don't use that word, we ought to all
  be very concerned about what the Bible says about
  the subject of apologetics, because we're all concerned
  about the best and most biblical ways to "defend or share
  our faith in Jesus Christ."


- now, like many subjects, there's not complete agreement in
  the Christian world about apologetics, or the best, most
  biblical ways to evangelize.
- what you believe on this subject will radically affect the
  way you go about it.

- the two positions are:
     - rationalistic or pre-suppositional

- now again, I'm not expecting us to memorize those words or
  go around using them all the time, but the ideas they
  represent are very important.

- Those who are rationalists (and there are many in the
   Christian world) believe that:
      - unsaved man's reason is competent to judge truth
      - the truth of the Bible can be demonstrated by
        historical and scientific proofs that will be
        accepted by the unsaved mind using the scientific

  - INPUT - let me ask you even before we talk about the
            other position, "What are some of the
            implications of the rationalist's position?"
              (How important is the knowledge of the
               "presenter?"  What impact might this have on
               the place of the Holy Spirit in the process?
               What kind of activities might these kind of
               folks be involved in?)

- The other position is know as the pre-suppositional
  position.  This position holds that:
     - unsaved man's mind is depraved and he is unable to
       judge spiritual truth on his own.
     - a person must accept the existence of God and His Word
       by faith.
     - The truth of the Word of God stands on its own. (it's
        true because it's true - not because someone decides
        it's true.  "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy
        Word is truth -John 17:17")
     - The Holy Spirit is an important part in anyone
       discerning spiritual truth or coming to know Jesus

     - What are some of the implications of that position?

        - not going to be arguing with folks.  We will always
          seek to direct them back to the truth of the
            - what the Scriptures say about salvation through
              Jesus Christ
            - how accepting Christ has Savior has impact your

- now, at this point I'm not going to ask you which one of
  those positions you hold, nor am I going to tell you which
  one I hold...
    - but I Cor. 2 will help us greatly in understanding what
      the Lord says about this issue.

- the second reason we ought to study this chapter is :

  2) Because it teaches us about God's wisdom so that we can
     avoid being proud in our knowledge of Him.

     - INPUT - what was the first problem Paul talked to the
          Corinthians about? (divisions in the church).

     - INPUT - How were they demonstrating their
          divisiveness?  ("I am of Paul," "I am of Apollos:)

    - Paul is doing a spin-off of that subject in speaking
      about the difference between the man's wisdom and God's
      wisdom, but he's not done with the issue of
    - let's "take a peek" at what's coming up in the next

        - I Cor. 3:4

        - I Cor. 3:18

        - I Cor. 3:21 (NIV) - SO THEN, no more boasting about
             men!  All things are yours, whether Paul or
             Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death
             or the present or the future--all are yours, and
             ye are of Christ, and Christ is of God."

  - point is - the Corinthians had received the truth about
      salvation and the truth about how to live and it was
      making them proud.
  -  the message of chapter 2 was intended to stop that

  - in these verses, Paul gives us three important trues
    about the message of God

- Read 1-5

- in these verses, Paul is saying:

I. Our Message Must Be Presented In A God-Honoring Way

    - INPUT - please tell me, from these verses, what didn't
              Paul do in his presentation of the gospel to
              the Corinthians?

    A. What Paul didn't do?

        1. come with excellency of speech or wisdom

        2. to "argue" with you about philosophy

        3. come with "wise or enticing" words

    - INPUT - on the other hand, how did Paul come, according
         to his own testimony?

    B. How he came.

        1. in "weakness"

        2. in "fear"

        3. in "much trembling"

- one more question from these verses:  - why did Paul
   come this way?

    C. Why he came this way

        "so that their faith would not rest in the wisdom of
         men but in the power of God."

- now, I think we need to be careful with how we handle what
  Paul has said here

- when Paul says, "I didn't come with excellency of speech",
  he's not saying that he used poor grammar or mixed his
- he's not saying, I didn't seek to explain the gospel in
  clear, understandable terms

- there's no question that Paul was a wise, learned man

    - In fact, told the Philippians, "If any other man thinks
      he has reasons for which to trust in the flesh, I the
      more" (Phil.  3:4)
    - he told the Corinthians - for in nothing am I behind
      the chiefest of the apostles

- so what did he mean when he said - "I didn't come with
   excellency of speech or wisdom"

- point is - Paul wasn't depending on his wisdom as being the
           most important part of his ministry to the

    - sure he had thought through the gospel carefully
    - he was presenting clearly

    - but he wanted to be sure that his method of
      presentation enhanced the gospel but did not take its
    - he wasn't going to try to impress them philosophically
     - he wasn't going to use big words or "flowery" language
    - he wasn't even going to engage in discussions about
      those matters

    - Paul knew that salvation is spiritual business
    - he wanted their faith to be in the power of God and the
      message of God, and not his intellectual ability

- the same thing is true when Paul said, "I came in weakness,
  and fear, and much trembling"
- we'll talk about the conditions in Corinth when Paul
  arrived in a minute, (its true that he had gone through
  some difficult times in the previous places) but...

   - I think we overstate that if we think of Paul as
     slinking down behind the "Corinthian pulpit" like a
     little milk toast of a fellow
- Paul was a bold person
     - he preached boldly, lived boldly, counseling others to
       be bold in the things of the Lord
         (cf. Acts 13:46, 19:8, Eph. 3:12, 6:19)

- Often times when he talked about fear and trembling, he was
  talking about genuine concern over an important, urgent

- so again, when he said, I come in weakness and fear and
  much trembling
    - he's talking about
       - here's what I'm emphasizing
       - here's what I'm depending on
       - here's what's most important

    - its not my skills in oratory
    - its not my powerful persuasiveness

   - He wanted his presentation to enhance the power of God's
     message but not take its place

- bottom line is:

    - Paul wanted all the focus to go on the plain, simple,
      life-changing, powerful truth of salvation through
      faith in Jesus Christ

    - he didn't want to take the emphasis off of that with:
         - flowery words
         - philosophical arguments
         - self-induced pride/boldness
   - "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men,
      but in the power of God."

   - now we'll talk about some specific applications to the
     way we share the gospel today in a minute, but first of
     all we need to say this:
       - this emphasis in Paul's ministry is especially
         amazing when you think about the context out of
         which Paul was ministering to the Corinthians

    D. This is especially amazing in light of the context

        - let me ask you to turn back to Acts 16 and lets see
          what was happening in the life/ministry of Paul
          before he came to Corinth

        - INPUT - In chapter 16, what happened when Paul
                  preached in Phillipi?  (he was thrown in
                  jail) (of course they got out - but he took
                  a earthquake to get them out)
                    - that would shake a guy up!

        - INPUT - According to Acts 17:5, what happened when
             Paul went to Thessalonica? (Jews stirred up the
             people - Paul and Silas had to leave)

        - INPUT - according to Acts 17:13, what happened when
             Paul and Silas went to Berea? (same sort of
             thing, the Jews stirred up all the people - some
             were saved but there was TREMENDOUS OPPOSITION)

        - INPUT - in the next verses, Paul goes to Athens
             - according to verse 18, what did the people say
               about him?
                 - what will this babbler say?
                 - he's just a setter forth of strange gods

                 - according to verse 32, what happened when
                   he was done speaking?  (NIV - when they
                   heard of the resurrection of the dead,
                   some of them sneered)

- now you know that the next place he goes is Corinth
- the point is:
    - in several previous cities, the Jews have stirred up
      mini-riots against them
    - the Greeks have made fun of his presentation of the
           - he's a babbler
           - he's a setter forth of strange Gods
           - when he spoke of the resurrection, they sneered
             at him
           - that didn't fit into their philosophical system

- you'd think by now Paul would be ready for a change
- INPUT - what might you expect Paul to do?

    - quit
    - change/water down the message so it was more acceptable
      to his philosophically oriented audience
    - try to dress up the message with flowery words so
      people were impressed by his intelligence
    - might come in "like a bull in a china shop" - no one's
      going to push me around and I'm going to wow these
      folks with my power and persuasiveness

- but see, Paul didn't do that
- Our Message Must Be Presented in a God-honoring way

    - Paul reminds the Corinthians
    - I didn't do anything:
        - in the kinds of words I used
        - in the way in which I spoke them
        - in the subjects I addressed
   - I didn't do anything to take attention away from the
     plain, powerful message of the gospel

   - God's work must be done his way
   - I never depended on, or trusted in, my wisdom or my
     ability to speak

   - I wanted your faith, not to be in the wisdom of men, but
     in the power or God
- now Paul builds on that idea in the next verses
- because even though he's made the point perfectly clear, it
  going to take more to convince the Corinthians
- they would look at verse 1-5 and say, "thats weakness"
    - power comes through intellect and oratory

- Paul says - let me talk to you about power, let me talk to
  you about effectiveness in God's work

- READ 6 - 10a

II. Our Message Is Powerful Because of its Divine Source

    A. Our message shouldn't be universally accepted

        - Paul says - Corinthians – that’s one of your main
        - that’s why your church is so divisive
        - that’s why your church isn't effective for God

        - you want a message that is universally accepted so
          you can be thought of by everyone around as wise

        - Paul says – that’s the last thing I wanted
           - if I had come to Corinth
             - took the emphasis off the plain but powerful
               message of the gospel and placed it on wisdom
               and oratory

          - if everybody had responded with "I like this
            message, it appeals to my natural mind"
- then that kind of message wouldn't save
- because it wouldn't require repentance and faith

- v.6 - we're not looking for the conventional wisdom of the
      - we're not looking for wisdom that appeals to the

    B. Its a mystery

        - not that its strange or puzzling
        - but natural man can't figure it out on his own

        - cf. v 14

        - what's the clear proof of that according to verse
          8? (the crucifixion)

        - Paul says - you need to get over this desire to
            have a message that’s universally accepted so that
            you can be thought of as wise by everyone else
            because you believe it

        - buts that’s not weakness, that's not bad
        - because as you share that message
            - without focusing on or depending on your wisdom
              or skills in presentation

        - as you focus that person on the clear claims of
            - on salvation through faith in Him


    C. Consider and stand in awe of its Source (v. 10a)

        - now, this passage frees us in one sense and grabs
          us in another

INPUT - in what sense does it free us?  (we don't have to
        have the answer to every question before we can talk
        to someone about the Lord Jesus Christ)

        - now you know we're not advocating biblical
        - we're not saying folks shouldn't study, and work
          harder at how to present the gospel
             - and how to handle some common objections

        - but the bottom line is, some of us have placed more
          emphasis on and dependence that part of the
          equation than we should of.

- so in that sense, we're freed

- but that very concept comes around and grabs us
- INPUT - How?
    (some of us have a lot of excuses for not talking to
     others about Jesus Christ, and many of them center
     around ideas like, "He never accept it", "I could never
     convince him" etc.

    - Paul says - our faith isn't in the wisdom of men - its
        in the power of God

- that’s why we're not rationalists in our apologetics
- we believe that the hearts and minds of men have been darkened by sin
- while we seek to present the gospel clearly
   - we're trusting in and depending on an all-powerful God
     to work in and the bless the presentation of that
     powerful gospel

- I think the Lord would be greatly pleased if the rest of
  the summer and onto in the fall would be characterized by
  you and I being more aggressive about sharing our faith
  because of what we don't have to depend on
     - and what we can depend on

- the Lord can do great things with humble people who stand
  in awe of the gospel message

  - I mentioned this morning that a group of Christian
    businessmen called Dave Howard this week and said they
    had all the printing equipment he had asked for the
    Romanian Christians
  - let me tell you a little bit more about how that happened

  - this week Dave was supposed to be printing a big mailing
    for us that was scheduled to be delivered here on
    Thursday and mailed on Friday
  - we had a number of ladies lined up for Friday and things
    seemed to be going well

  - at the beginning of the deacons meeting on Thursday,
    someone mentioned that Dave had called to tell us about
    the printing equip. and we all rejoiced in that just like
    you did
  - I got to thinking during the meeting - I don't remember
    the printing for the mailing being delivered today

  - so at the break, I came up to the office and looked and
    sure enough - no printing
  - I called Dave at his office and he was still there

  - I said, Dave, what's the status of our mailing?

  - He said, Didn't you hear? Someone gave us everything we
    need for the Romanians!
  - I said, that’s great, about the...

  - He said, yea, As soon as I heard, I dropped everything
    (including our printing) and went to Indianapolis
  - He said, you ought to see it
  - the press is an "Olympus 4207A" (or some such number)

  - I said No (having no idea what that was) - he said "Yea"
  - he went on to describe all the equipment

  - then he said - and someone's probably going to have to go
    over there and help them learn to run it

  - I wanted to say - I wonder who that will be!

  - it took a long time before we got back around to talking
    about our mailing because like I said this morning, "He
    was beside himself"
  - He is absolutely convinced that if they can gets tracks
    and other Christian literature printed and in the hands
    of the Romanian people - that many will come to know
    Jesus Christ as Savior
       - and he wants to be part of it

       - he doesn't know any Romanian
       - he doesn't understand the culture
       - he's not an unusually articulate person

       - but you know what - he believes the gospel has a
         divine source
       - he believes in the power of the gospel

       - he doesn't have to have the wisdom of words or the
         excellency of speech
            - he just wants to be a faithful ambassador
- I think a good question for us to ask tonight would be:
    - What do my witnessing habits reveal about the strength
      of my faith that the source of the gospel is divine?

- Now, if the Corinthians are thinking, at this point they're
  going to be saying things like:
     - if in witnessing, we need to focus our other's
       attention on the clear gospel of Jesus Christ
        - we need to study that gospel to present it as
          clearly as possible
            - not out of balance with all we've said
                - but to complement what we've said

III. Our Message Has Been Miraculously Revealed

    - read 10-11

    A. By revelation

        - Paul says - God didn't entrust this job to an angel
        - the message of eternal life through trusting Christ
          as Savior and Lord was communicated through the
          Spirit of God

        - Paul says- He's uniquely qualified, as a member of
          the godhead to communicate the way of salvation

        - our message came by miraculous revelation

    B. By inspiration

        - vs. 12

        - the we's in this passage apply primarily to Paul
          and the other writers in the New Testament

        - it's just like John 14:26 where Jesus said that
          when the Holy Spirit came, He would "teach you all
          things, and bring all things to your remembrance
          that I have said to you."

        - that’s speaking about the individuals who would
          write the Scripture

        - Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration
          of God"
            - therefore, you can be sure as you share the
                - regardless of how others respond

                - you are speaking words that were
                  communicated to us through the inspiration

- cf. Sam and Jamie - its hard to see folks you love travel
      to a foreign country
        - would seem like a waste except for passages like
        - not just any message, but a message from God


    C. By illumination

        - read 13-16

        - Paul says, the Holy Spirit will even help you as
          you seek to understand that message and present it
          with clarity

        - Psalmist said - "Open my eyes, that I may
             understand wonderful things from thy law"

        - Martin Luther - "The Bible cannot be understood
            simply by study or talent, you must count only on
            the influence of the Holy Spirit."

          - not that we're going to know it all - Deut. 29:29
              says we never will

          - not that we don't need teachers - Eph. 4:11-12
            says we do

          - not that it won't take hard work - Paul told
            Timothy to be a good workman in II Tim. 2:15

- but you can have confidence that your message is a
  supernatural one

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video