“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.” Acts 18:1
What happened in Athens? Paul stood and preached in the Areopagus. We also know it as Mars Hill. It was the epicenter of human wisdom. You can hear echoes from Plato and Socrates. The Bible says that Paul encountered Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and that there were always both Athenians and foreigners there doing nothing but talking about the latest ideas.
At this significant location, Paul preached what most consider to be a perfect example of a missionary sermon. He began incarnationally by referencing the many idols to many gods in their city. Paul zeroed in on a statue that was built for “an unknown god.” (Just in case they had missed one!) He preached to them about this “unknown God.”
Paul spoke about the God who made the world and the Lord of heaven and earth. He told the people that they were God’s offspring, using some of their own poetry. He closed his message by focusing on judgement and need for repentance. When it was over, the Bible says that some sneered and others wanted to hear more. Acts 17:34 says, “A few men became followers of Paul and believed.”
Then Paul went to Corinth.
In the 2nd chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul described his coming to Corinth:
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom. . .”
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. . .”
What happened to Paul on the way to Corinth from Athens?
After delivering the New Testament’s most eloquent sermon, the first letter to the Corinthians begins with Paul emotionally declaring the foolishness of human wisdom. . .
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? v. 20
In the 2nd chapter, in his weakness, fear and trembling, Paul turns away from eloquence and superior wisdom. He clearly states that He will not rely on “wise and persuasive words.” He uses strong language to describe what seems to be a new focus in ministry. . .
“For I am resolved. . .” v. 2
What is this new focus?
JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED WITH A DEMONSTRATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’S POWER!
Paul committed to preaching the Cross. This wasn’t an intellectual decision. He was broken. . .he even says that he was afraid. Is it possible that Paul saw the emptiness in his own abilities? There is no doubt that Paul preached a great message, but the results were not necessarily in New Testament proportions. “A few people became followers of Paul.”
I believe that Paul had a spiritual encounter on the way to Corinth and God clearly showed him the powerlessness of his own human wisdom. He came away from that encounter committed to preaching the cross with faith for the Holy Spirit to come with power.
I NEED THIS KIND OF ENCOUNTER AGAIN, AND SO DO MANY PREACHERS IN OUR CULTURE.
Proclaimers of the Word in our society are more creative and more sensitive to people’s needs than ever before. But to what avail?
It’s time to once again gaze at the Man as he hangs on the cross. Don’t move too quickly to the power of the resurrection. Let’s fully encounter the benefits of our Atonement. Preach Christ and Him crucified. Leave room for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. . .
Then the people’s faith will not rest on men’s wisdom, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5