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1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

You can read the text here. Throughout I am deeply indebted to Thiselton's marvelous treatment of this section.

As we had seen earlier, the Corinthians were having trouble with factionalism. The antidote, in Paul's mind, is a reminder about the gospel they had received. Paul preached a powerful message, but only to those who saw it that way, to those who were transformed by it. Most did not see it that way. The message of a crucified Messiah seemed like the message of a failed Messiah to the Jews. To the Gentiles it sounded like a sure way to humiliation, not to an elevated status. But that wasn't God's way of seeing things, and that's all that matters is how God sees things. For the Corinthians, Paul's proclamation was a transformative event, one that should change the way they see and evaluate things. God subverts the ways of the world because he does not value what they value. The power of his love overcomes the folly of worldly pride.

Paul goes on to remind them further, that they are a mixed group. While a few of them may have been of high status, most of them weren't. God did not bestow grace upon them because they were worthy of it, but because of his love for them. Grace did not depend on status, but in the long run, status will depend on grace. By being in Christ the Corinthians get to share in his victorious status, a status which only comes through union with him because he paid for it by redeeming us, which then undercuts all pride.

This is the background for why Paul preached as he did in Corinth. He was not trying to get a following for himself as one skilled in rhetoric. He preached in a manner faithful to the message, and he did not try to emphasize anything but the message of Jesus, the crucified Lord. He did not want their allegiance to Jesus to rely on anything he brought to the table, but to rely solely on the work of the Spirit to give them eyes to see reality the way God sees it. All of the power came from the Spirit of Christ, otherwise the centrality of Christ would have been compromised and the footing of the Corinthians new found allegiance would have been shaky.

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