Online Worship for Epiphany Five, Sunday February 7, 2021
Sermon for Epiphany Five – 2/9/14 - February 7, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace, mercy and peace be multiplied to you from God our Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (ESV)
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.
In the Name of Jesus the Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood --
What are you good at...what do you enjoy…where do your gifts lie? These are questions that many students are asked during their last two years of High School. The reason that high school guidance counselors ask these questions is to get students thinking about their futures, about college and a career.
So…what are you good at…where do your gifts lie?
Is your gift a positive attitude…have you been taught to analyze problems and have the intellect to solve them? Are you stubborn when it comes to problem solving…have you been blessed with a certain ‘stick-to-it-tiveness’? Have you been blessed with compassion…do you see other people’s needs and want to help them?
Is your gift an ability…are you good at communicating, talking with people? Can you strike up a conversation with anyone? Are you good at organization and mathematics? Do you enjoy building or repairing things with your hands?
I’m not asking to get you thinking about a career. I’m asking because our God says (Romans 12:6a; 1 Corinthians 10:31):
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
God has given you your gifts and He wants you to use them to serve Him in His Kingdom. We should honestly evaluate our gifts to determine what we can do…and don’t say you don’t have any. It may be that your gifts can be improved through the regular use of God’s Word. The Spirit of God can build on our gifts.
There is one thing we do need to learn when it comes to working for the LORD Christ. While the Spirit can increase and improve our gifts, we need to learn that we can’t improve the tool He has given us to use – His Word.
So as we consider the Word of God given to the Apostle Paul this morning we seek to learn:
What God asks of us…and what He does not!
Since these are not merely the musings of the Apostle Paul but the very words of God, we ask that the Spirit of God help us to learn and grow in our faith. Therefore we pray: “Sanctify us by the Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
We would probably call them statistics…but marketing businessmen in our country call them ‘Demographics.’ Demographics set out to determine the make-up of a population of people. They want to know, for example, what percentage of the people in the Marquette area are women, and whether they are single or married. If the stores in the Westwood Mall are any indication, there are far more women in the area than men.
Who made up the Christian Congregation in Corinth? There were very few wise, powerful or influential by worldly standards. As is the case at Calvary in Marquette, God chose people considered simple, weak and despised to put to shame those who were wise, powerful and influential. God’s purpose was that all should learn to glory in the LORD, and not in things valued by human beings.
In the first few verses of the 2nd Chapter we are told how the Apostle Paul was when He first came to Corinth. When we think of THE APOSTLE PAUL we probably picture a wise, well-spoken and confident man with Charisma.
Yet, when Paul of Tarsus first came to Corinth, He was far from a picture of wisdom, influence and power. The Holy Spirit prompted him to remember for the sake of the Corinthians and for us:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
Human beings have always been impressed with great speakers. The people of Corinth were no different. The Greeks (and Corinth was located on an isthmus connected to mainland Greece) admired a man who was good with words…and Paul of Tarsus was good with words. When he visited the city of Lystra in the province of Galatia on his first missionary journey, they singled him out as ‘god-like’ in his speech, calling him ‘Hermes’ (Acts 14:12).
But when the Spirit led Paul to speak in Corinth, He didn’t use ‘high sounding’ words. He didn’t speak with an air of superiority. He didn’t use complicated words or terminology to illustrate his learning. It wasn’t just because He was speaking to common people…it was rather that He didn’t want them to see HIM...he wanted them to see Jesus.
This is an important lesson for us to learn. When we communicate the Good News of what Jesus has done through His suffering, death and resurrection, our LORD Christ would have us keep it simple. We don’t have to augment the Gospel of Christ. We are not to add to the Scriptures. He doesn’t ask us to use big words or to parade our learning to emphasize that we are well-read. It is our goal – not that people see us – but that they see Jesus and His Cross.
In fact, the Apostle Paul came to Corinth determined only to know Christ Crucified.
2 For I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Human beings are often followers. We gravitate toward people who are like us, who have the same interests. We are more likely to listen to people who have similar views, than those who mock our conservative natures. We have a certain ‘flock’ mentality.
The Apostle Paul could have capitalized on that human tendency…but He didn’t. When Paul came to Corinth He didn’t first set out to be noticed and make a name for himself. He didn’t set out to make friends or gather a following. He didn’t try to gain influence with a certain sector of society.
When He came to Corinth, He decided that he didn’t want to know anything -- except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. There was nothing else for Paul. He set aside himself and his pride and with simplicity presented Christ and His Cross.
There is a lesson here for us to learn. There have been times when I’ve thought that If I could just make friends with someone then I could convince them to trust in Christ. Have you ever thought, “If these people just get to know me, and see my earnest passion for Jesus…they will listen.”
The message that we proclaim doesn’t concern us, it’s not about us. The message that the Holy Spirit uses to grant spiritual life to human beings born spiritually dead…is about Christ and what He has done.
The Lord Christ asks you to point to His Cross and empty grave. He doesn’t ask you to be charismatic and charming. He asks you to simply show others his love as it has been revealed to you. He asks you to love as you have been loved.
Well, at least we should be self-confident and assertive, right? Again we note how the Apostle Paul was when he came to Corinth:
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
There are some people who just have a physical presence about them. They seem to glow with self-confidence and power.
When the Apostle Paul came to Corinth He wasn’t a picture of strength and power. He was with them in weakness…in other words he was either physically weak or sick or mentally and emotionally beat. It may have been a combination of the two; after all, he came to them by way of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens.
In Philippi he was beaten and thrown in prison (Acts 16:11-40).
In Thessalonica, some jealous Jews incited a mob and they had to leave town (Acts 17:1-9).
In Berea things began well, but the jealous Jews from Thessalonica appeared and agitated the crowds he had to depart for Athens (Acts 17:10-15).
In Athens He was mocked for proclaiming Christ’s death and Resurrection (Acts 17:16-34).
Wouldn’t you be beaten down with a stretch like that? In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle described himself and his fellow workers before they even came to Philippi like this (2 Corinthians 7:5, ESV):
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.”
There will be times when we will be sick and weak. There will be times when we have doubts and fears. There will be times when we are troubled, when we know what the right thing to do is…but are too afraid to do it.
There is a remedy to physical weakness – rest and sometimes medication. We can also pray.
There is also a remedy to spiritual weakness – and it’s not staying away from worship! Satan wants you to believe that the answer is always – time away from church. He’d prefer that time stretch through every weekend until, say, Judgment Day. When Paul was at his weakest he remembered that Christ was his power (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
It is often when we are weak and powerless that Christ’s power is most evident. Sadly, we sometimes have to ‘bottom out’ before we lift up our heads and look to the Cross and find strength and hope.
The Lord Christ doesn’t need your strength and power…but you need His. It is to be found in His Words of promise in abundance and full of power.
Why didn’t Paul set out to impress with words of wisdom?
Why didn’t he set out to gain a following?
Why didn’t He put up a façade of strength, self-confidence and power?
The answer is right here and it’s yet another lesson for us to learn:
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.
The Holy Spirit had taught Paul to set aside His own personal pride…for the sake of the Cross of Christ.
He didn’t want the faith of the Corinthians to be founded on His wisdom, His charisma or his perceived power…but on Christ’s Cross – a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the result of His power.
The wisdom of men changes day by day. It wasn’t that long ago that man was convinced beyond all doubt that the earth was flat.
The Word of God is a power which daily remains constant and sure. Its powerful battery will never go dead.
While we can improve our understanding of God’s Word; we can’t improve on God’s Word. We dare never modify it or leave one teaching or another out thinking that it will become more effective or more palatable to humankind. In the end if a person’s confidence rests on man it rests on shaky ground. If a person’s confidence rests on Christ and His Cross and empty grave…he is eternally secure.
Isn’t that what we want for everyone? If it is, then let’s remember what God does and doesn’t ask of us. May we in our weakness be fit vessels of His power. Amen!