Week of March 21

Are We Just Chasing after the Wind?

Read: Deuteronomy 32-34; 1 Corinthians 2
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV


The old saying that we will not know where we are going unless we know where we have been applies to Paul’s work in Corinth. The forward progress of the church in Corinth, as well as churches today, was hindered by a great misunderstanding of the central truth of the gospel. Human wisdom and effort will not enable a church or an individual Christian to apprehend the wisdom of God. The church was filled with gifted people, but they were immature and unspiritual (1:4-7; 3:1-4). Our focal passage today will remind us of how we came to be Christ followers and the daily implications of that commitment.

Let's See What the Bible Says

The Apostle Paul’s genuine heart cry, and his message, was simple: Just give me Jesus. He heralded this gospel wherever he went, and God used this message to change hearts. We all do well today to learn Paul’s simple secret to being used effectively by God. In our focal passage today, Paul takes up again the idea that he had left off in 1:14-17; namely, the message about Christ, who was crucified. There are several unique features to this section (vv. 1-5).

First, Paul’s emphatic use of “I” is significant (2:1). He argues that since salvation is not attained through human wisdom or effort, but only through the cross, he came to Corinth in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit to preach Christ and the power of his death (EBC; cf. Acts 18:1-18). He did not rely upon lofty words or a superior attitude, nor did he try to show off his impressive education (1:17; 2:1). I have often shared with young pastors the words that one of my pastor mentors once told me about showing off one’s degrees. He said, “Larry, a pig’s still a pig whether its tail is curled or not. Be humble.” The power was to be in the message that the Holy Spirit shared with them! This rootedness in Christ must be carefully guarded or the fruit will not be well-pleasing to the Lord.

Secondly, Paul determined to make Jesus the center of his teaching (2:2). Paul made a conscious choice “not to know anything,” in contrast to the people in Corinth who enjoyed telling everyone what they knew (2:2)! Paul, through limiting a showy demonstration of his own knowledge, was able to share the supreme knowledge of the crucified Jesus Christ. Paul does not mean that he burned his diplomas, so to speak, and became a theological simpleton. This was not the point that he was making. He maximized every means at his disposal to learn and share the sacred truths of Scripture and God’s redemptive plan for humankind. Paul had pre-determined prior to his arrival in Corinth that he would only bring them Jesus Christ, in contrast to relying upon human knowledge and flowery rhetoric. He refused to cast a shadow on Jesus with the glaring light of his own arrogance, so that Jesus’ Gospel light might shine into their lives!

Thirdly, Paul placed his weakness on full display rather than vaunt his powerful use of rhetoric. In short, “Livestream this approach!” He had clung to the cross through a rhetorician’s windstorm in Athens (cf. Acts 17 and 18:1) and, as a result, he came to them in a severely weakened state. His body was worn down, and he was trembling with fear. Here is the glory of the result: Once he was out of the way, the Holy Spirit was freed to work powerfully in their midst (2:4). This was quite evident because his teaching and preaching were attended with signs that the Lord was working in a mighty way. This, in no way, indicates that Paul checked his mind or communication skills at the door. In other words, the fresh breath of the Spirit was more readily felt because the Corinthians did not have to contend with the hot breath of a blowhard.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

“There’s a way to preach the Bible unbiblically,” says Alistair Begg. I agree, and I add that there is a way to live the Bible unbiblically. These two sentences apply to all my readers (including me!). Submission to the Holy Spirit is the key. Let me illustrate.

I will share a story from my childhood, if you promise not to make fun of me. Seriously, kids can do some pretty silly things, and I was a poster child for childishness. Here is my confession: I recall chasing after the wind on a playground near our home. I literally ran with my arms waving wildly as I attempted to harness the wind in my grasp! Looking back, I now wonder what passersby were thinking as they viewed that silliness. I digress. It is a simple anecdote with a powerful application.

We are not to attempt to bridle the Holy Spirit; instead, we are to be led by the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1:12, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness). Yes, the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was led by the Spirit! The gospel is to be delivered persuasively, but it is not to be delivered using “false rhetoric and thin thinking” (2:4; EBC). Our flashy speaking is not what changes hearts. Our churches, children, and work colleagues often live deaf and dead to the voice and movement of the Spirit because they do not sense the breath of the same speaking the word of God through our changed lives.

Here is a thought for our spiritual formation. We show our immaturity in handling the word of God when we fail to show our dependency upon the Spirit. Paul knew that the Gospel must not rest upon human wisdom alone (2:5). As Pastor Begg would say, some preachers use the Bible as the launching point for all kinds of ideas by finding “something that fits [their] fancy and launch a rocket off it.” Moms and dads do the same at home. Paul, however, knew that real Christian faith was generated and strengthened by the power of God, the same power that was also at work in his life! The key was faith. The faith about which Paul writes is not just the act of believing but is to be the “substance of their belief based on the person and work of Jesus Christ” (EBC).

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Respiratory therapists use a simple breath test to determine the lung strength of patients. Take the Holy Spirit’s breath test today by examining the strength of the Gospel in your life (review the points made in this devotional). What steps will you take to submit your life to the Spirit’s control?

2. For Families:  Take your children outside to your yard or nearest park and ask them to close their eyes. Ask them to feel the wind. As they turn, ask them to feel its effects upon their skin and hair and clothing. From which direction is it blowing? Then have them make a “windsock” with a few staples, a wooden dowel or broom handle, and a bandana. Have them test the wind direction by experimenting with the windsock. Remind them that we cannot see the wind. We can only see the results of the wind. Ask them to tell you what they see the wind doing (bowing tree limbs, swirling leaves, rippling water, flags rippling, etc.). Relate these experiences to living with the Spirit of God. We cannot see him, but he is powerful. The Holy Spirit, living through us, enables us to bear fruit, help the Church with our gifts, understand the Bible, and live lives that please God.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock