1st Corinthians - Wayne Barber/Part 18 | John Ankerberg Show

1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 18

By: Dr. Wayne Barber
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By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
When Christians live as if they are lacking, they are still immature. They don’t realize who they are and whose they are and what they receive when they receive Jesus Christ. As a result, they attach themselves to a man or they attach themselves to a gift as if they are always lacking. We are not lacking, and when we mature in Christ, we will detach ourselves from these things and attach ourselves to Christ and live in the fullness that He offers each of us.

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1 Corinthians 2

Grow Up

One of the most difficult things I do is come up with a sermon topic. I have more struggles there than anything else. But when you study scripture, you take it verse by verse and the topic has got to surface out of what the scripture says, not out of what you want it to say. So studying on further, even into chapter 3, I want to entitle this study “Grow Up.” I hope before we finish this you will understand what we are talking about. Just grow up.

You know, when Christians live as if they are lacking, they are still immature. They don’t realize who they are and whose they are and what they receive when they receive Jesus Christ. As a result, they attach themselves to a man or they attach themselves to a gift as if they are always lacking. We are not lacking, and when we mature in Christ, we will detach ourselves from these things and attach ourselves to Christ and live in the fullness that He offers each of us.

Chapter 1 Review

Well, we finished chapter 1. As I finish each chapter I want to go back and review. Now I am going to do this quickly. I want to make sure that we are always couched in a context. So we will go over it and over it. It will even change some in the way we present it as we do that, because as it is becoming more and more familiar to us, you have got to see the context. Observation, interpretation, application.

In verse 1 of chapter 1 the apostle Paul just identifies himself. He wants them to know that he is Paul the believer, the apostle of Christ Jesus. But in verses 29 he forms a grid. And that grid is the way you look at the book. This grid shows you what a Christian really is. He calls it the church of God. If you are a believer, then this is what you should be living like. They weren’t in Corinth, but this is what it is supposed to be. This is right side up.

The first thing he says in verse 2 is that we are a purchased people. The church of God is made up of believers who are a purchased people. He says, “To the church of God [not man] which is at Corinth.” That phrase, “church of God,” is found in Acts 20:28 where it adds “purchased by His own blood.” So the idea is we are not our own. We are His, purchased by His blood.

So if you are a believer, you realize that you don’t have rights to yourself, but you have privileges in Him. You are bought by Him. You are owned by Christ. He lives in you to do a work through you. And that purpose overshadows everything else. We are a purchased people.

Right in line with that, we are a purposeful people. He says, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” The word “sanctified” carries the meaning right on. It means that we have been set apart for His purpose. There is the purpose right there. We’re purchased, and we have a purpose. That purpose is to be that vessel through which God can use us. The word “saint,” by the way, is what you call somebody who has been sanctified. Hagiazo is the word for sanctified; hagios is the word saint. So when you look in the mirror in the morning, say “Good morning, Saint.” You are reminding yourself of the purpose you have in all eternity. You don’t retire, you just refire. God wants to use you. As long as your heart is beating, you have a purpose. God purchased you. He is going to use you until the day He takes you home.

Well, the third thing we saw in this is they are a prayerful people. That is what a Christian is: a person who depends upon God. Prayer is always our dependence upon Him. It says in verse 2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling [now look], “with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” That little word “call” does not mean just when the kids are sick. It does not mean just when the income taxes are due, but it means constantly depending upon Him in everything. It is a present middle participle. Present tense means constantly as a lifestyle. Middle voice means no preacher has to stand up and make you depend upon him. That is what you do. That is who you are. You have been purchased. You have a purpose and you live prayerful, dependent upon Him for everything in your life.

Of course, two of the things you depend upon Him for are found in verse 3, grace and peace. He says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace to help you deal with your sin every day and the enablement to be and do what He wants you to do. Then peace gives you that enablement for your relationships, with Him first and then with others.

Fourthly, we discovered that believers everywhere are peculiar people. Now, I know some peculiar believers, but that is not what I am talking about. In all the race of humanity, we are peculiar in this sense: we live in a needy world but we have everything we need to exist here. We can make it through. You see, it is all in Christ who lives within us. He says in verses 47, “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him [then he narrows it down], in all speech and all knowledge,[that has to do with their assignment that God had given them], even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you.”

Now, the problem in Corinth was it hadn’t been confirmed through them yet. In them it had; Christ was there, and He was their completeness. Then verse 7 says, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So we are a peculiar people living in the world, fully contained in Christ Jesus. We have everything we need within in Him and therefore, we can be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, knowing that Christ one day will be coming for us.

Also we learn as we look in that grid that believers everywhere are a protected people. Now this is in the sense of security. We are protected, but not from circumstances. We have to go through things that are difficult like everybody else, but we are protected in the sense that we are secure all the way until the day of Christ. It says in verse 8, “who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, he didn’t say “sinless.” He said “blameless.” There is a big difference. Knowing that we are going to sin, but any sin that we commit after we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior can threaten our rewards, but it cannot threaten our eternal security in Him. That is what we need to know, blameless in Him. No accusation. We are kept until the day of Christ Jesus.

In verse 9 we find that we are a partaking people. We partake of Him. We have a resource. It says in verse 9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Fellowship means to partake in Him. Now it means we partake in the sufferings as well as in all the other things that we partake from Him. He is our resource.

I am so excited that I could alliterate all those things. Normally I can’t do that. But we see that the church of God, made up of believers, is a purchased, purposeful, prayerful, peculiar, protected and a partaking people. Now that is what we are supposed to be. That is how we are supposed to live. That gives the whole gamut of what it means to be a Christian.

Now, what is the problem? The problem is they weren’t living that way in Corinth. So Paul starts off and says, “This is what you ought to be. Now let me talk to you about what you are not.” In verse 10 he says, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you are all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Remember, that word “division” is the word schisma and it means to rip or to tear something. There is nothing nice about it. He is really alluding to a division in Corinth. When you are living according to verses 29 there is no division, but when you are not living that way, there will be division and that is what he is getting to.

As a matter of fact, it evidences itself in the fact that they were attaching themselves to preachers of the Word, good men with a great message. They were attaching themselves to men. It says in verse 12, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I am of Christ.’” Can’t you just see this. Paul was the originator of the church, the founder. Can’t you see people going around saying, “I love you, Brother Paul”? “He is my favorite. Brother Paul is my favorite.” I am sure Apollos who came in to succeed him really appreciated that bunch. “We really liked the former pastor more than we like the one we got now. He was just so good to us. Paul came over and just preached the Word to us, and we just love him.” They excluded everybody else who didn’t think the same way they thought.

“We like Brother Paul. We like him.” Apollos was the one who came in after him and succeeded him. Here is the bunch who says, “Oh, no, no, no. We don’t like Paul. We didn’t like him because he was too hard to understand. We liked Apollos. He was more down on our level.” Then you had a bunch of them who said, “We liked Simon Peter. He was sort of the unsung leader of the whole Christian church of that day. We like him.” But then you had another group who was the hardest group and they said, “But we are of Christ.” Oh, buddy, watch out for that bunch. They had the right man, the right message, but the wrong motive. They didn’t have a clue. They were excluding everybody who didn’t see things like they saw them.

Paul said, “What are you doing attaching yourself to men?” They had torn the body of Christ apart. Paul immediately focuses in on this. This is the context. You have got to stay with the context. First of all he attacks their faulty logic in verse 13. He says, “Has Christ been divided?” Come on. Do you realize when you attach yourself to a preacher you are lacking and claiming that preacher has something of Christ that you didn’t get. If you don’t have his message and if you don’t have all this together, if you can’t stay around him and attach yourself to him, then somehow you are incomplete. Paul said, “What do you mean? Is Christ divided? Did I get something you didn’t get? Did Apollos get something you didn’t get?” No, if you received Christ, you got it all.

Peter himself said it one time. He said, “We are writing to those who have received a like faith as unto ours. You didn’t get anything less or anything more. God is not a respecter of persons.” Paul said, “What are you doing going around as if Christ was divided, attaching yourself to preachers rather than attaching yourself to Christ?”

Secondly, he attacks the faulty leaders they are attaching themselves to, good men but faulty men. You see, faulty logic always leads you to faulty leaders and Paul puts himself right in front. He doesn’t pick on Apollos and Cephas. He puts himself right up in front. He says in verse 13, “Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” He is saying, “Hey, guys, I am not God. What are you doing? What are you doing attaching yourself to me? I was one of the others. I was a foolish man for years until Jesus saved me.”

Verse 14 says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” In baptism you make the statement of attaching yourself to Christ. At salvation, He attaches you to Him. In baptism you are making a public witness that you are living attached to Him. It doesn’t have anything to do with your salvation. It has everything to do with your witness. And Paul said, “You weren’t baptized into me. You didn’t attach yourself to me. You were baptized into Christ.” He uses that as a picture here to help them understand. He says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”

I love his nonchalant attitude towards baptism because some people say it is essential to salvation. Is that right? Well, why in the world is he so nonchalant about it? He said, “I wasn’t called to baptize. I was called to preach the gospel.” The gospel doesn’t include baptism in the sense of water immersion, in the sense of salvation. Baptism comes next as a public witness of what we have just experienced in putting our faith into Jesus Christ.

He goes on and focuses in now on the message of men. He says, “Now, look. If you are going to put your faith into men, if you are going to attach yourself to men, you have got to understand something. The wisdom that a man comes up with is absolute foolishness when compared to the wisdom of the preaching of the cross. Now this is the key right here. He takes all the messages but he narrows it down to the preaching of the cross. And he said, “You find the most intelligent man on the face of this earth and you preach the message of the cross and that man is going to look at it and call it foolishness because in his mind, he doesn’t see himself as a sinner, especially if he is a wise man, a mighty man or a noble man,” as this comes up later on in verses 26 and 27. You see, Paul says, “Hey, these people see that as foolishness.”

That is how foolish man really is. He would take the wisdom of the preaching of the cross and call it foolishness. That is how much a fool man really is. Now why would you want to attach yourself to men? That is his whole point.

Verse 18 says the message of Jesus dying on a cruel cross is to them that are perishing foolishness. “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Then in verses 19-31 he takes that message of the cross and makes it his center point here. The wisdom of God makes the wisdom of man just absolute stupidity. He just shames the wisdom of man with the preaching of the wisdom of the cross. In verse 19 he quotes out of the Old Testament where God said He would destroy the wisdom of the wise and the counsel of the prudent or clever ones. Now, that was in a context of when God said, “Listen, you have got a big enemy coming in, but don’t you pay attention to man, you pay attention to Me.” What did the people do? They turned from God’s wisdom and turned to their own thinking and that is when God said, “I am going to destroy the wisdom of the wise and will destroy the wisdom of the clever and the prudent of that day.”

Well, in verse 20 he points to the two people who make up that kind of wisdom in the world. There were only two groups, the Jews and the Gentiles. And so he points to them. First of all, he says where is the wise man today? That points to the Greek or the Gentile thinking and the foolishness of man’s wisdom. But then he says, “Where is the scribe?” That points to the Jewish people who thought they were wise. Then, in case he missed anybody, he says, “Where is the debater of this age?” He throws in the guy who just likes to argue in the barber shop. He says, “I just want to make something clear to you. All of this wisdom is foolishness to God. They think they are so smart.”

In verse 21 he shows that as smart as they think they are, they couldn’t even discover God and God’s wisdom was all around them, in creation and in other things. They couldn’t even discover God. As a matter of fact, Israel was God’s idea to begin with. They didn’t even come up with themselves. God came up with Israel. And he says their wisdom has never caused them to discover anything about God. God had to reveal Himself.

You see, the Jews were hung up in looking for a sign (verse 22), and the Greeks were hung up in trying to figure it all out. He said that is their whole problem. They can’t receive the wisdom of the preaching of the cross.

In verses 23-25 Paul shows that the message of the cross puts to shame all the wisdom of the Jew and of the Greek. Then in verses 26-31 he closes the chapter and he says, “Now let me just ask you a question. Look around you. Look at your congregation. How many people in there are wise? How many people in there are mighty? How many people in there are noble?” He is not saying that God doesn’t love these people. He is saying these are people who are wise in their own estimation, they are strong in their own strength, they are mighty in their own nobility and riches and they say they don’t need Christ. And when you preach to them the foolishness of the cross, the message of the cross, they see it as repulsive. “What do you mean Jesus died? What do you mean the blood of this man cleanses me? I am not even a sinner! I am not lost!” They don’t want to admit that they are lost. So the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world.

Paul is saying, “Listen, if you ever attach yourself to man, this is the kind of wisdom he comes up with. Man laughs at the preaching of the cross. Why would you want to attach yourself to man? Any man that preaches the right message is the message that God has had to give to him.” That is what Paul is saying. “Take me out of the lineup. What I preach to you, God gave to me. I wasn’t smart enough to come up with it myself. This is a message that originated in the heart of God.”

So the whole implication here is, why in the world would you attach yourself to men? Why would you act like little babies having to follow a man around just because a man preaches the message that you need to hear? Why don’t you let the message drive you to Christ? Why don’t you let the same message that drove him to Christ drive you to Christ and drive you to the cross and let you live in the fullness of what God has to offer you?

Remember the question he asks. He said, “Was I crucified for you? Were you baptized in my name?” He is still trying to remove his name from this list of people they have attached themselves to.

Chapter 2

So we come into chapter 2 and verse 1. There are two things that I want you to see here. Paul takes them back to when he first came and established his ministry there at Corinth. This is so imperative. He said, “Hey, let me take you back, let me remind you of some things.”

The first thing he does is, he says, “I came to you with a determination to only preach Christ and Him crucified. That is the only message I brought to you. That determination carried me the whole time I was there.” This is significant because he is taking the attention away from himself and putting the attention back on Christ and back on the message. This is very, very key. If you are a preacher or a leader, remember that is your key. Never point to yourself, point back to Him. Keep taking people’s mind off of you and putting their mind on Christ and putting their mind on the message.

There are many people who enjoy people attaching themselves to them. But the true person to whom God has given a message never pulls attention to himself. He puts the attention back on Christ and the one who is the center piece of the message.

Well, verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2 read, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” That is a significant phrase. In defense of the fact that you never attach yourselves to him, Paul takes them back to when he first preached there at Corinth. He reminds them that his message was a message given by God. He said, “Now listen, when you go back, remember my method. Remember my method. Did I ever point to myself in my method? Did I ever do that? No, I didn’t.”

Verse 1 again says, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.” The phrase “superiority of speech or of wisdom” is the key. The term “superiority” comes from the term huper, which means above, and echo, to have or to hold. So together it means to take something that you know and hold it up over somebody, to act superior in your knowledge over other people.

Now Paul had the ability to do that. The apostle Paul was an intelligent man, probably the most intelligent person in all of the New Testament, other than Jesus. He had the ability to woo and wow them and all these other kind of things, but he didn’t come that way. He had made a determination in his heart. He said, “Nothing I ever did pointed to me. Everything I did points to Him and His message. Why would you attach yourself to me?”

He didn’t water down the gospel with his own opinions and intellect so as to make it more appealing to the Corinthian mind. Paul knew what they would have liked. He knew. He knew exactly what they would have liked. He had been in those arenas before and he knew how to jump in. He knew how to use certain things to pull them to him and his wisdom, not to God and His message. He simply preached the message of the cross. He says, “Now why in the world would you attach yourself to me, because I never for one second drew attention to myself. I drew all the attention to Him. I only preached Christ. That was my method. I determined to do that.”

Secondly, he says, “Now if you will remember back, my message never pointed to me. It pointed to Christ.” Look in verse 1 again. “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.” Now the word “proclaiming” is kataggello. Kata is an intensive; aggello is the idea of delivering a message but with openness and simplicity and plainness. That is what he said. “I don’t think any of you could have missed it.” That doesn’t mean he didn’t use illustrations. It meant that whatever illustrations he used simply enhanced what he was trying to tell them of the message that Christ had given to him.

He said, “When I came to you I didn’t say anything about what I may have wanted to talk about. I came only for one reason and I didn’t point to myself by my method. I certainly didn’t point to myself in my message. I simply gave you the message of the cross, the testimony of God.”

Now the testimony of God is the key word. Marturion is the word used of a witness on a judicial stand. It must be precise with nothing added to it and nothing taken away from it in order to be what is truth. It must be told in total simplicity. You see, we live in a world which says, “No, no, no! Dress it up with all the academia you can to make it appealing.” No! It must be told in total simplicity for it not to deny the truth of what is being testified to. Now that is very important for you to understand. Paul said, “I could have done a lot of things with that message. I could have watered it down, added to it, done a lot of things, but I didn’t. I preached as simple as I knew how to preach it so that you could understand it. I never pointed to myself, only to Christ.”

He said, “I didn’t come in here with something to add to it. I didn’t try to make it appealing. I know you think this message is foolish, but I came determined to preach just this message. And that message did not point to me. That message pointed to Christ, the one crucified. Why would you attach yourself to me? My method and my message had nothing to do with me and had all to do with Him.”

Well, not only that, but he also wants them to remember his determined motive. This drove Paul. This was his motive in life. Never did he preach himself, only Christ crucified for others. He never preached himself and him being the servant to others with that message. Look in verse 2. He says, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” The word “determined” there is the word that means to make a decision between that which is good and that which is evil. He had to make a decision. He knew if he added anything to it, that was evil. But for that to be righteous and good, it is to take the message in its entirety and in its simplicity and be determined only to preach that message.

The word for “know” is the word eido, which basically comes from the word horao. It means to say “yes,” but it means more to understand and perceive something. In other words, you know something but you understand it. A lot of people can know about things and not have this word. They don’t have that intuitive perception of something. That is what he said. He said, “While I am among you, that is the only thing I am concentrating on. It is the only thing I want to be bothered with. I want to just perceive this one message. I didn’t come to Corinth to discuss your opinions. I didn’t come to talk about intellectual arguments. I came with one thought in mind and that is the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I only want that to be perceived.”

Now, be careful here. It doesn’t mean he didn’t preach anything else. That is not what he is saying. He is saying that until this message is perceived, there is no reason for anything else because you can’t understand anything else. There is no revelation until this revelation comes to a person’s heart, the message of the cross, the fact that I am a sinner and that fact of salvation. When Jesus died for me on the cross, He had to shed His blood for Wayne Barber. I have got to understand that. And God will reveal that to me with the proper preaching of His Word.

But not only that, once I am saved, I also have to remember I continue to identify with the cross. I have to die daily. And if I don’t, then I haven’t perceived the message. So why learn anything else? It doesn’t make any sense anyway. This is the bottom line of all of it. This is what makes the wisdom of men look foolish. They reject it. They call it foolishness. God says you have got to understand this. Flesh will not cut it when it comes to God. The cross is what crucified it, and the cross is what you need to embrace as a believer. As an unbeliever, you must come and identify with Him who died for you on the cross. This is the central message.

Acts 18:11 talks about the time that he spent at Corinth. It says, “And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” It didn’t mean that he just taught one thing, but this one thing was the very central focus that must be perceived and be understood or there would be no understanding of the rest of it.

I tell you what, we are living in a day when people hate this message, folks. I go a lot of places and if I have learned anything, if it is going to be of benefit to you, I will come back and tell you. If you don’t want to hear it, then welcome to the human race. Nobody else does either. Just like Paul said in the book of Philippians, “There are those among us who are enemies of the cross.” Do you know how you are an enemy of the cross? When you think you have got something to offer Jesus rather than Jesus having something to offer you as you surrender to Him. That is when you know that you are an enemy of the cross.

I will tell you another way you will know you are an enemy of the cross. When you call everything in your life a demon instead of realizing it is your wicked flesh you are dealing with, then you are an enemy of the cross. You don’t understand what happened at the cross. You haven’t got a clue. And people that get off in that kind of stuff are people who don’t understand the crucified life. They don’t understand the exchanged life, the Christ life. They haven’t learned how to deal with self at the cross. They don’t want to learn because it makes them have to die to what they want and surrender and yield to what God wants. That is foolishness to man. Man doesn’t want to hear that.

So, therefore, we are forced with this message. Paul says, “Hey, I came for you to perceive one thing and that is the message of the cross, the testimony of God. I was determined to preach it.” He would not offer his message in any way. Again, I want to make sure I impress upon your mind. I hope it is impressed upon mine. Paul knew how to add to it. He spent his life knowing what he could add to it. He knew what appealed to the flesh. But he made a determination and said, “I am not going to do that. I am going to do it differently. I am going to just preach Christ and Him crucified.”

Paul said, “I am determined. I am just going to preach that one message.” In other words, “I know what could be added to it, but I am choosing one thing. I am choosing to preach that which offends your flesh because until your flesh is offended, you will never understand anything else. Until it is reckoned dead, you will never understand anything else. It will all be distorted and confused in your mind.”

The second thing I want you to see is, he came in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and His power. He didn’t come in his own power. He came in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Look at verses 35: “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

Now look at verse 3 real carefully. He says, “I was with you in weakness and fear and in much trembling.” The word for “weakness” is astheneia. It means powerless. Now, this is the apostle Paul. I always see him as a bold man. But he said, “When I came among you I was with you with weakness.”

Then he says, “I was with you with fear.” The word “fear” is phobos. It is translated fear, terror, honor, reverence, respect, but the idea of fear is in there. The word for “trembling” is the word that is the emotional accompaniment to fear. In other words, when you are afraid inside, it begins to show on the outside and you literally tremble on the outside.

Now, what in the world is he talking about? Paul, the great missionary was with them with weakness and fear and trembling! What was his problem? Well, look in verse 5. I want to show you what he was afraid of: “that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Paul knew what he could have done. He could have won those people to him. He could have won those people to his own wisdom, to his own intellect and then they would have had a reason to attach themselves to him. But he chose against that. And the thing that made him fear, the thing that made him tremble and felt weak was the awesome respect that he had that the message wasn’t from him. The message was from God.

I think I know how he felt. Every time I speak, my hands are just wet on the inside of the palms. Every time. If it is ten people, if it is 4,000 people, I do the same thing. There is a churning in my stomach. It can be a little small group I am meeting with on some morning. But when I open up the Word of God, there is something that comes over me that is incredible because I know that one day I am going to stand before a holy God and be judged with more judgment than you are for having handled His Word. I also know what Paul told Timothy: when you preach, you do so in the presence of God. God is watching as we are preaching.

I want to tell you something, friend. If you understand the difference of that and what man can do in his human ability, you will understand why Paul was amongst them with fear and weakness and trembling; because he didn’t want to leave with them anything of himself to where they would end up resting their faith on the wisdom of men rather than on the power of God. He was so cautious and so respectful. He is trying to help them understand something. “Why would you attach yourself to me,” he asks. “I am the one who was there, scared to death that I would be in the way. What are you doing attaching yourself to me? Don’t ever attach yourself to me. I am a faulty man,” he says. “Attach yourself to God, the one who gave me the message that I brought to you, the message of the cross.”

He said, “I didn’t come with persuasive words of wisdom.” The word “persuasive” comes from peitho. The word peitho is the word that is used there. It is found in Hebrews 13:17 and is translated “obey”. It is an action caused by allowing someone to be persuasive. You listen to them and you change your conduct because of what they say.

The word for “words,” when he says “persuasive words,” is the word logos, which means intelligent words. Now it can be divinely intelligent, but intelligent well thought through words.

And the word for “wisdom”, of course, is the word we have already looked at, sophia, which is the word that means the ability to rightly use truth. There is a man’s wisdom, and there is God’s wisdom. There is another word in the Textus Receptus that is left out of the New American Standard. It should read, “Not in persuasive words of man’s wisdom.” He said, “I didn’t come to you with persuasive words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” You see, if he had come the other way, he would have brought a response to himself and his message rather than a response to Christ. He did not come that way. So why would you attach yourself to him?

The word for “power” there when it says, “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” is dunamis. It means ability. There are two kinds of ability. There is the ability of what you can do and there is the ability of what only God can do. He said, “I didn’t come in my ability, no sir. I was scared to death because I didn’t want to get in God’s way. I came in the ability of His Spirit of what He did in and through me.”

Why is all that? Look at verse 5: “that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” That is the bottom line, folks. Why in the world would you attach yourself to a man? Isn’t it amazing how people are so immature that they would attach themselves to a man, not realizing that man is not worth a grain of salt except for that which God has done in his life. And if he is worth anything, he has a fear that he will ever get in the way of God and draw a man to himself and not to Christ which is his message.

I love what Spurgeon said about this very thing. Spurgeon said, “The power that is the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher. Otherwise men would be the converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning, otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach until our tongues rotted, until we would exhaust our lungs and die. But never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit be with the Word of God to give it the power to convert a soul.”

That is exactly what Paul is saying. He is saying, “Man, if anything ever came out of me that is good, you had better point back to the one it came from. Your faulty logic has led you to attach yourself to a faulty man. Don’t you do that. That is a sign that you are immature. You are a little baby in Christ. You haven’t grown.”

You say, “Wayne, you are making that up.” No. Go to 3:15. Just take your time and read it and see what it says. He says, “Could I call you mature? No. You are little infants. You are little babies.” Why? Because you still go around attaching yourself to men. Grow up. Grow up and attach yourself to Christ. You don’t need the preacher in the sense of having to attach yourself to him. They are given to the body as gifted teachers, etc., and all these things are important. But remember, you have all of God you are ever going to get right now, right now. Why follow a man around? Walk after Him. That is what he is saying.

But to walk after Him you have got to perceive the message of the cross, and most people think that is foolishness. That is why they go after men. That is why they go after gifts. They don’t want to go after Christ.

But I want to tell you something, you better not be attached to a preacher. You better attach yourself to God. That is the mature believer. That is the one who comes out of the nursery and realizes who it is that lives in them. Appreciate them, yes. Listen to them, yes. But don’t attach yourself to them at the exclusion of the rest of the body of Christ. They are not worth their salt unless God has done a saving work in them and unless God is empowering what they are preaching. The message is from Him, not from them. That is what Paul is saying.

Read Part 19

Dr. Wayne Barber

Dr. Wayne Barber

Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.
Dr. Wayne Barber

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