When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” — these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.1 Corinthians 2:1-13
After every morning prayer, the leader of our group usually asks if anyone had any insights to share on any of the readings for the day. the first thing that jumped out to me was this phrase, “…no eye has seen … what God has prepared for those who love him.” I mentioned the hope that is contained in those words, as this phrase is often used by itself, outside of this context within Paul’s letter, often on calendars or postcards intended to lift our spirits. The hope comes from this idea that God has prepared things for us that are beyond our understanding, and beyond our imagination.
But within this context, Paul is defining for us those things that we cannot have come to understand in any way except that God revealed them to us through the Spirit. And that Spirit is given to us by God for the sole purpose of understanding the gifts bestowed upon us. It almost sounds Gnostic, this idea that we understand things because we have received the Spirit of God, because by implication, there are those that have not received the Spirit of God (the rulers of this age), and therefore, they wouldn’t understand. Of course, the difference is that Paul believes that everyone has access to the Spirit of God, and that it is not some mystery that is available only to the initiated.
What Paul is teaching, however basic it might appear to some, was wisdom that can only be understood in spiritual terms. The academics and the scholars of the age could not preach and teach what Paul was teaching, unless they also had the Spirit of God. So Paul, timid and fearful, proclaimed the Good News of a God who died, a concept that he had just called “foolishness to the Greeks,” in chapter 1. Since the Greeks were known for their wisdom and learning, the idea of a murdered God seemed asinine.
But for those who accept the Spirit of God, “Christ crucified,” is the beginning of understanding the depths of God. It is the first step in coming to learn “what God has prepared for those who love him.”
It’s Paul’s approach that I find interesting here as well. He basically tells his listeners that he didn’t come with big, fancy words, but with the basic concept of a crucified Lord. It was the story of a God who humbled himself, and was humiliated by the powers of this world. It was the story of a God who died for those he loved. It was the story of a Christ who presented his weaknesses to the world to show them the strength of his desire to redeem them. And Paul did all of this while he, himself, was afraid, trembling in the fear of his own weaknesses. But that’s what Paul wanted. His approach was to let others see the power of God in his actions, and not in his fancy and persuasive words.
Just recently, someone told me they questioned my commitment to a particular institution, and this got me to thinking about this very phrase, “I claim to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Paul turned the world upside down with a simple message of God’s grace, and from that, somehow, we have turned ourselves into institutions of varying size and creed, yet all still professing the same basic truth – even if we disagree on so much more beyond that simple truth. Our understanding of God changes and morphs over time as God reveals more and more to us. So should we declare our commitment to a particular institution? Or should we only ever declare ourselves to “know nothing, except Christ, and him crucified?”
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.