Know Nothing Except Christ Crucified
We easily forget the foundation on which our church is built. Christ.
In Christian churches there are many conflicts of thought and the same was true for the people of the church of Corinth in Paul’s day. They were caught in a culture of Grecco-Roman logic and reason. This culture demanded that different schools of philosophy and thought be the peak of man’s existence. People would align themselves with different schools of thought and great teachers like Plato, Socrates, and the like. It was easy for the Corinthian believers to to say that, “I follow the teachings of Paul,” or “I follow Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4).” We do a similar thing today with many famous theologians of church history. We hold tightly to the Creeds, to famous thinkers and orators like Spurgeon, Wesley, or Calvin, even our own pastors at times and thus fall into the same temptations.
Paul saw these things happening within the church and addressed the disunity using the testimony of his past interactions with them.
2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
Paul proclaimed the gospel to the unbelievers of this culture without using the big fancy words, the eloquent mastery of human language, or with an attitude of specially gained wisdom. He addressed them simply with what God had already bore witness about Himself. Notice that Paul made the conscious effort to do this when he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ…” Its not always easy choosing to forego large schools of thought in favor of a simpler doctrine. The fact of the matter is that we cannot pursue other kinds of thought without this basic understanding of Christ. The Corinthian church had allowed men to become their foundation f thought and not Christ himself. They aligned themselves more with the teachings of a man than with the death burial, and resurrection of their Savior.
The apostle Paul had to pursue these people from a place of humility, not claiming to know much. “I was with you in weakness and much fear and trembling, and my speech and message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” The message of Jesus Christ does not jive with the message of sanity. In fact sometimes it seems rather peculiar that one would believe that their salvation came from the death of some “man.” This stood in stark contrast with the ideology of the surrounding culture that said enlightenment came from reason and logic. Paul felt weak, and even afraid to preach this message. Yet by doing so from that position of humility, he demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit in transforming their ways of thinking.
Why was this so? “So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in God.” The wisdom we attain through believing in Christ crucified is far more than the logical reasoning of man. This is done on purpose in accordance with God’s plan so that “no man may boast (1 Cor. 29).” Listening to the counsel and direction of other teachers, pastors, creeds, theologians, etc… are completely fine as we need role models, just as Paul and Apollos were to the Corinthians, but our foundation, the lens through which we evaluate all things, must be Christ lest we become puffed up in our arrogance; boasting in the reason of man. It was allowing this arrogance to enter their midst that the Corinthian church became divided. Later on in Chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians Paul says this:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
When we start with Christ and build up from there we do not undermine our unity. The church today is very diverse in thought across denominations. Even within specific churches we disagree on issues pertaining to the gospel which just goes to show that we have much work to do in repairing our foundation in Christ. Let us not adhere to mans wisdom but to the wisdom given by God as we desire to know nothing except Christ crucified.