Such rich teaching from Paul today. But of course, that is what we expect from him, isn’t it?
As I see it, there were three main themes in chapters 2 and 3.
1) Spiritual immaturity vs. spiritual maturity
2) Man’s intellect vs Spiritual revelation
3) Elevating specific preachers vs Honoring the God who called them
Today, I’m going to focus on just one of those main themes: Man’s Intellect vs Spiritual Revelation
As you may know, the Corinthian church was located in Greece in the city of Corinth. At that time, the people of Greece honored intellectual pursuit above all else. They thought that man could answer or reason the mysteries of the world.
And so, when Paul opens chapter two by saying that when he first came to them with the simple message of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, he was saying, “I didn’t present the message in a way that you are used to, with big words and complicated reasoning.” Paul wanted the message to be simple, so that the power of God would be the object of their faith, not Paul’s skills of oratory or reasoning.
And he told them that even the simple message of the Gospel could not be understood be even the smartest individuals unless the Holy Spirit revealed it to them.
And this is something that we need to keep in mind even today. When I hear of debates between atheists and Christians, I have to admit that I’m amused. It’s a lesson in futility. The idea that an intellectual debate will persuade anyone to change their mind about who Jesus is is just ludicrous. The only way a man or woman realizes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He was born to a virgin, lived a completely sinless life, was put to death on a Roman cross for my sin and yours, was laid in a tomb, came back to life on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, and will one day come back to planet Earth to reign as King for a thousand years, and then create a new Heaven and a New Earth where believers will reign with Him for eternity…the only way anyone comes to believe that is if the Holy Spirit breathes spiritual life into him or her and gives them the faith to believe it. All the arguments in the world cannot do that. Expecting someone who has not experienced that spiritual quickening to understand or embrace that is the same thing as expecting the family dog who brings in the newspaper to understand what is written in that paper. It’s not going to happen.
One of the things we hear often today is, “It’s science!” “Science proves this. Science proves that!” Wonderful. In its proper place, science is great. I have a degree in biology. I know the scientific method. And that piece of paper that proves my scientific study is worthless in the eyes of God. It wasn’t science that brought me to the cross of Christ. It was the grace of God. It was the realization, deep in my heart, that I needed God to forgive me of my sins.
My friend, I’m not saying that we should not engage people in conversations about why we believe what we believe. But I am saying that unless God reveals His truth to the heart of the listener, you can talk until you have no more words and they will not believe. Any such conversation must be done after much prayer, and as Paul said in verse 3 of chapter 2, “When I came to you, I was weak and shook with fear.” Come to the conversation with humility, not with arrogance. Ask God to go before you and prepare the heart of the one you will be speaking to, and prepare your heart with love.