None But Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
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. —1 Corinthians 2:1-2
I long for the day when letters like 1 Corinthians will no longer need to be written to churches and Christians struggling for a life of authentic Christ-likeness in the midst of a corrupt and wicked world. But, as long as the world is driven by the passion of sinful hearts and the frustration of a defeated enemy, and as long as people are rescued from the world by the sovereign choice of God and work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, there will be a need to clean up the spiritual and relational messes we make of ourselves and our churches. Until His final kingdom comes, Christ will faithfully, powerfully, consistently, and patiently remind Christians that their lives are no longer about them but about Him.
Paul deals with partiality and factions in the opening chapters of his first letter. The church has begun to divide around the supposed superiority of one leader or teacher over another. This hardly comes as a surprise for people coming to faith in the religiously pluralistic, culturally diverse, economically driven community that was ancient Corinth. Theirs was a lifestyle of gaining and maintaining market viability through strategic relationships, both real and supposed. If a vendor wanted to get ahead in his market niche, he or she could work hard, maintain a quality product and fight to keep prices competitive. Or, they could develop a relationship with a more well-known producer. Or, they could skip the whole relationship thing altogether and just drop a name or two here and there and pretend to be more importantly connected than they really were. After all, it was a big city. Who was going to check references?
The problem is, that way of thinking, that worldly strategy of using other people to bolster one’s own reputation and position in the community had walked fully clad through the front door of the church and had taken a seat on the front row. And, while the church is a good place for sinners, it is not the place for sin! You see, in the church, we all share the same reputation: sinners. We all share the same need: grace. And there is only one source we all have for what we all need: Christ! We are saved from sin through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, according to the word of God alone.
Notice how, in that fairly well known and beautifully accurate summary of salvation, there is no room for any one person to claim any foothold for social advancement. The entire act and fact of salvation focuses upon, centers on, is built on, revolves around, requires only Jesus. And Him crucified, nailed to a cross, dead and buried and raised from the dead.
By the time Paul gets to the thoughts contained in what we identify as 1 Corinthians 2:1, he has already debunked their love for contention and factious thinking on the basis of the message of the cross (mercy) and their own personal history (sinners). Now he engages them in the truth that it was not through one of their favorite recreational pastimes, professional rhetoric, that they are saved, but through the gospel of Jesus Christ empowered not by fine words and human wisdom but by the Holy Spirit and the power of God.
They have no foundation whatsoever to claim superiority over one another. There is no name they can claim that will advance their fame. To adhere in faith to Christ is to declare oneself, by faith, a sinner in need of a Savior, as needy as every other person on the face of the planet, and as much a guest of grace as any other.
Are there ways in which you secretly think of yourself as just a little bit better than those other Christians because of a theology you love, or a teacher you follow, or a leader who inspires you?
Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what “those” people are doing in your church?
Are there ways in which, rather than being fully dependent on the grace of God in Christ Jesus for your public identity, you find it easier to call yourself a disciple of some well known preacher rather than a servant of the crucified Christ?
The Corinthians were relying on human reputations and relationships to seal their positions and reputations in the church. And they were sinning, needing to be called to repentance and change. Is there sin in your heart from which you should turn?