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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Cor. 2:1-5 Preaching! The Answer to Local Church Division


1st Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Remember that one of the causes of this division at Corinth was about who was the better preacher! There were people in the church who followed Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and some even (self righteously) declared that they were of Christ. So they fought among themselves over which former minister had contributed most to the local church, and which kind of preacher should occupy their pulpit. It truly was the church of the personality cult! Followers of man!
(cf 1 Cor. 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Ephesians. 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.)

Some time ago I attended a meeting of ministers, and in our company was a certain man who had just been inducted into the pastorate of what would be described as a ‘difficult’ church. It was a church which had some deep personality clashes, and a number of serious rows and divisions. Someone asked the minister how he was approaching all these problems in his new position. “Oh” he said, “I’m just preaching the Word.” Now this is exactly what Paul is saying here in chapter 2. Many of the problems and concepts that he has introduced in chapter 1 are dealt with again in chapter 2, (For example, in chapter 1, he has briefly noted the action of the Holy Trinity in redemption, and in chapter two he peppers the chapter with references to the work of the three personas of the Trinity) and he begins the chapter with this straightforward endorsement of solid sound exposition of God’s Word as the method of dealing with local church difficulties. Let’s spend a moment or two and examine Paul’s pulpit ministry!

Paul’s Preaching Described!
Paul speaks in these verses about HIMSELF. He is defending his own ministry among the people of Corinth. From verse 6 he switches to the plural ‘we’ and ‘us.’ But in these verses he says, “I came to you” “I determined” “I was with you” etc. So here we are seeing the apostle, in an autobiographical manner, describing his own ministry!

It was preaching with meekness! 1 Cor. 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
There was no eloquence in this preaching! The essence of Paul’s ministry was SIMPLICITY! He did not seek to impress the congregation with fancy words, or with high-sounding phrases. The word translated ‘excellence’ actually could be translated superiority! How many ministers and preachers like to demonstrate their verbal or theological superiority? Such verbal gymnastics may well impress the people, and they may well provide some prestige for the preacher, but they will be of no eternal value, and they will certainly not result in conviction of sin in the hearer. Cf 1 Cor. 4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
There was no human wisdom! The most powerful thing a preacher can do is to speak often of Christ! “Tell me the stories of Jesus, write on my heart every word. Tell me the stories most precious, sweetest that ever was heard!”
There WAS the TESTIMONY OF GOD! Paul’s preaching emphasised GOD’S TRUTH! The preacher is not an adviser on how to live your life, or how to feel better about yourself, or how to feel good after a meeting, or how to think more positively about life! His message is to declare the whole counsel of God to a needy world! 2 Cor. 4:7, 2 Cor. 10:1, 2 Cor. 10:10, 2 Cor. 11:30, 2 Cor. 12:5, Galatians 4:13.

It was preaching with fear! 1 Cor. 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. I know exactly what this means! I can truly say that I am as nervous about preaching today as I was twenty years ago!
It was not physical weakness! Paul had done hard physical labour to earn his living while ministering in Greece! Acts 18:3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. Acts 20:34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
It was not a fear for his own safety at Corinth. Paul had been beaten and imprisoned many times for the faith! Not a fear of being mocked or scoffed! Not a fear of proclaiming the Gospel, for Paul was never ashamed to speak of Christ! It was the anxiety of a man facing a great task! Do you know that God will hold every preacher to account for the words that he utters in the pulpit? Every flippant jest, every wasted opportunity, every political point, every time that a preacher promotes his own agenda instead of declaring God’s Word and God’s will!

It was preaching with results! 1 Cor. 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: When Paul preached, things happened! People’s hearts were touched; Christians were encouraged, or built up, or challenged or admonished… People were changed! Souls were saved! This was not due to Paul’s choice of words; it was because of the work of the Holy Spirit, accompanying the preaching of the Word!

I have mentioned to you before, that when a sermon is preached two things are happening at once.
* The Sermon is being verbally delivered. This in itself should be in the power of the Holy Spirit. The preacher should have experienced the leading of the Spirit in the preparation of the Sermon. A sermon cannot therefore be an academic exercise. It can never be an essay, simply read to a number of people.
* The Sermon is being spiritually applied! This is what makes a sermon different from a lecture. When a preacher has prepared his heart, and a congregation have asked for God’s help, the Holy Spirit takes the words of the preacher and applies them to the hearts of the listeners. It is this extra dimension that makes preaching different from any other kind of public address. I am not trying to persuade you by my words. I am simply seeking to be faithful to God’s Word, and praying that the Holy Spirit Himself will work in your heart and mine to bring us into conformity to God’s will. Only the Holy Spirit can convict of sin and convert the sinner! Only the Holy Spirit can impart life to the sinner! John 16:8-11 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Paul speaks of his preaching being in demonstration of the spirit and power. The word demonstration means with convincing proof! The work of the Holy Spirit, following the preaching of the Word is so strong, that people are convinced that God’s Word is Truth!
So here we see a description of Paul’s own preaching style. It should be the style of every person who claims to be called to be a preacher of the Gospel. It is the answer to problems in the church at Corinth, and it will work just as well elsewhere!

Paul’s Priority Declared!
1 Cor. 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Just like Peter in Acts 2, Paul had one great emphasis in his pulpit ministry. It was totally centred upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is emphatic about this! The Amplified Bible puts it like this: “For I resolved to know nothing, to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing and to be conscious of nothing, among you except Jesus Christ the Messiah and Him crucified!” Paul is emphatic about this. He is DETERMINED. In some parts of the country we describe a determined person as being ‘thrane.’ Paul was being thrane about this! Paul mentions here two aspects of that determined concern:-

* The Person of Christ. He was concerned to present to the factions at Corinth, the PERSON of Christ as the Son of God! Remember what he has already said about the person of Christ in chapter 1! 1 Cor. 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Thus the great importance of the Person of Christ! This is important. When we speak of Christ, His life, His miracles, His example, it touches the heart of man. Rarely does a man sit down and rationally establish the theology of regeneration before he comes to Christ. But when he hears the story of Jesus, His great love for the lost, His compassion for the sick, His unjust death, His glorious resurrection… His sinful heart is softened and the ground is prepared for the sowing of the seed! Oh if only we would speak more often of Christ! But no amount of knowledge regarding the person of Christ could bring us into a relationship with God without…
* The Passion of Christ. Paul concentrated on the death of Christ in His preaching! It is only through the death of Christ that we are cleansed from sin! John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. 1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Isaac Watts wrote the hymn,
“Alas and did my Saviour bleed, and did my sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
When God the mighty maker died, for man the creature’s sin!”

Paul’s Purpose Demonstrated!
1 Cor. 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
There was a purpose to Paul’s sermons. That purpose was to increase the faith of those who listened, so that they did not rely on their own ideas, but rather that they would stand upon, trust in, the power of God.
This is so much needed today! There is so much of man’s wisdom in church life today! We must please men in our services, or worse, we must ‘entertain’ people in church, so says modern wisdom, so that we get them into the building. Even much of the worship in churches today has become pleasing to men, rather than pleasing to God!

To do this, our preaching must aimed! Preaching is not designed to tickle the ears, to amuse, to appeal to men, not to hit people where it hurts! Some preachers have become so adept at this that they preach for years and never ever apply what they say to others! They can be evangelicals, and they can speak of the atoning death of Christ, and yet never tell people that they need to be saved!

So here we have Paul’s preaching described, and its priority declared, for it was truly centred on Christ, and its purpose demonstrated, that it might have an effect on the hearers and make them think, and maybe cause them some pain and perhaps convince them of some inadequacies in their lives, so that they rejected man’s teaching and turned to the God of power for their help!

From → Sermon Notes

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