Exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, The power is always from God

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Not only did Paul stick to the crucifixion of Christ as the message during his time in Corinth (1 Cor. 2:2), but he also reminds them that fancy rhetoric and human philosophy played no part in his presentation of the testimony about God (1 Cor. 2:1). Paul is not expressing anti-intellectualism here; he is running toward, and not away from, the message that is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23): Christ crucified.

Verse 3 is difficult, but it probably means that Paul was all-in with his counter-cultural approach to speak the message without the strength and boldness of a cultured orator.[1] One indication that this explanation is correct is that verse 4 says that in different words. The marvelous result of this modest method is that any result — such as those who trusted in Christ through the message — could only be attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit. By eliminating the negative clause, Paul says, “My message and preaching [came] . . . with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4). As a result, no one in Corinth could ever say that Paul used persuasion or rhetorical tricks to bring people to Christ. The many new Christians could only be a result of God’s power.

How could Paul speak of the Spirit’s power? In Acts 18:7-8, we learn that when Paul finished his preaching in the synagogue, the synagogue leader and his entire household trusted in Jesus as their Messiah and were baptized. Not long afterward, the Lord — meaning Jesus — spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

When the Holy Spirit is at work, the simple message of Jesus crucified is all you need.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 85.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, God’s power and wisdom: Christ crucified

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

In verse 17 Paul has rejected words of eloquent wisdom (ESV) as not having anything to do with what God has done in the cross of Christ. Now, in verse 18, he adds that the “word of the cross” (ESV) divides the world into two parts: those who are perishing and [we] who are being saved.

The Greco-Roman system offered human wisdom — including philosophy, rhetoric and military power — as a solid basis for life, leading to the constant scramble for wealth and power. The cross of Christ stands in utter contradiction to all that. Garland summarizes: “The story behind Jesus’ death discloses that he was rejected by the very people he came to save, was deserted by his own disciples, was strung up by the proper authorities, and apparently was powerless to save his own skin.”[1] But God used this seeming defeat to pay the penalty for all sin, to reconcile humanity to God and to be the basis for those who commit themselves to Jesus to be eternally saved.

The choice is simple: jump into the Great Game of the World and join those who are perishing or rely on the cross of Christ, which made it possible for us to join those who are being saved. Paul immediately summons Old Testament Scripture (Isa. 29:14 LXX) to support his argument against human wisdom. The whole reason that human wisdom will not prevail is that God will not allow it to succeed! I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.

In 1 Cor. 1:20, we find three different types of human experts representing rationalism, Jewish law, and Greek rhetoric. The idea behind the repeated “where is . . .?” is that in the realm of knowing God those three are not to be found. Garland says, “One can know God only according to the cross, not through human wisdom.”[2] The wisdom of the world is a general way of assessing life that is egocentric, and it leads away from the cross and its shame.

But the Bible informs us that our kind and loving God did not leave us in this clueless state. He both sent Christ to die for us on the cross and sent emissaries to tell how those who believed could be saved (1 Cor. 1:21). This belief consists of accepting the kindness of God-given to us in Jesus Christ.

Paul looks into the culture of his day and sees some demanding one sort of divine proof and others demanding another form, but God is revealing Christ crucified by preaching the message, no matter how it is received (1 Cor. 1:22-23). Garland explains: “The called . . . is parallel to those who believe in 1:21 and us who are being saved in 1:18. Part of being called is being able to hear God’s call and being open to it.”[3] Christ is both power and wisdom in one person.

Paul again displays his sarcasm in 1 Cor. 1:25, because there is no such thing as “the foolishness of God” or “weakness of God.” Only those committed to the world’s alleged wisdom and strength would discuss it as if it were comparable to God’s wisdom and strength. The death of Christ overturned all earthly wisdom, and the resurrection of Christ overwhelmed those powers resisting it.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 61.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 67.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 70.

Exposition of Romans 1:16, Faith entrusts our souls to Jesus

Lock and load! For those of you who do not have a military background, the phrase lock and load means to engage your weapons safety and load the weapon with ammunition in preparation for imminent battle.

Starting with todays verse, Paul begins his extended exposition of the good news of Jesus Christ. In striving to understand what he says, you will be following in the steps of the greatest Christians of the last twenty centuries!

(ESV) Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In the previous verse (1:15), Paul has spoken of his eagerness to preach the gospel, and now he tells why. To our ears it seems odd for Paul to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (1:16). Why would he begin in this manner? Why does shame enter the picture? It is possible that some claimed Paul had not come to Rome because he was ashamed to proclaim in the Roman capital the name of Jesus Christ, who had been executed for treason against Rome.

NT scholar David deSilva sheds light on the matter: “The form of execution called crucifixion was calculated to leave the victim utterly stripped of dignity and worth in the eyes of the world. . . . A shameful death was the most feared of evils among many ancients since it left one with no opportunity to regain ones honor.”[1] Shame and honor were top concerns in the Roman world.

The Roman capital was designed to impress and overawe all who visited the center of the empire. It will be instructive to visit the gallery of images created by the Universities of California and Virginia to model ancient Rome.Compared to the glory of Rome, the gospel had nothing obvious to show.

Paul is undaunted by these obstacles because he says the gospel offers something unique and irreplaceable: the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (1:16). NT scholar C.K. Barrett says concerning salvation: “The word itself, even when the cognate verb to save is included in the reckoning, is not one of the most common in Paul, but it is certainly central to his thought. Salvation itself lies in the future (e.g. 13:11), and means man’s eventual safe passage through human trials and divine judgment to eternal bliss.”[2] We might call that final salvation.

Yet the blessings of salvation are not confined to the distant future at judgment. Moo points out: “Characteristic, however, of Paul’s (and the NT’s) outlook is the conviction that these eschatological [end-times] blessings are, to some extent, enjoyed by anyone the moment he or she trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.”[3] You may hear the phrase “already — not yet” as a shorthand method of saying that we enjoy many blessings of salvation now (already), but the final, crucial manifestation of Gods grace in Christ will not be evident until judgment (not yet).

Our remarkable verse tells not only about the power of salvation, but it also connects the means of receiving that salvation from God: “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). The Greek verb pisteuo (“believe”[4]) is critical to Christian faith. Osborne says: “The act of belief involves surrender to God, mental assent and the commitment of the will [see 4:18 and 10:9]. The call to faith and the power to achieve it come from God; the surrender of the will to him is our part.”[5] Paul makes it plain in the rest of Romans that this believing is not a human work in which we may boast (Rom. 3:27-28; 4:1-8; Eph. 2:8-9).

Jews who had trusted in Jesus as their Messiah would be unlikely to embrace Paul’s saying that the offer of salvation is “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). Their whole heritage, as they understood it, said that only the children of Abraham would receive blessing from God. Paul’s closing phrase — “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16b) — acknowledges Jewish primacy in the history of salvation but presses the NT’s reminder that the non-Jewish world had always been included in Abraham’s eventual blessings (Gen. 12:3; Acts 10:34-11:18). The mention of Jew and Greek is simply another way of saying everyone who believes will be saved.

Everyone who believes

It is unfortunately easy to become accustomed to the idea that God has made salvation possible for everyone who believes in his resurrected Son. Do not ever take God’s kindness and mercy for granted!

1. How does the fact that Gods powerful salvation is available to everyone who believes affect you in light of the life you have led? Are there any exceptions to the offer? Explain.

2. Since the power of salvation is available to everyone who believes, how should this affect your attitude toward those who still need to believe? How do they need to respond to the salvation they desperately need?

Many in our world doubt salvation exists, or, if they accept its existence, they believe salvation is only for the best of us. But God has not crafted his salvation for the rich, the powerful or the connected; instead he freely offers it to everyone who believes, to everyone who entrusts their soul to his resurrected Son.

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 432.

[2] C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957) 27.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 67.

[4] BDAG-3, pisteuo, believe, q.v.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 40.