1 Corinthians 2:1
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
A Faithful Picture of a True Gospel PreacherD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Brilliant, But not Saving, SermonsC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Conditions of Successful PreachingJ. Lyth.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Faith, not Intellect1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Gospel PreachingC. Hodge.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
How St. Paul Preached the GospelC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul a Model PreacherJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul the Model PreacherH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Pauline PreachingE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Preaching -- Fruit and FlowersC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Rhetorical PreachingJ. Halsey.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Christian PreacherJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Divine Testimony, and the Apostle's Responsibility InThe Study1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Messenger Like the MessagePrincipal Edwards.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Right Kind of Preaching1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Spirit of Successful Preaching1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Spirit or Tone in Which St. Paul PreachedF. W. Robertson, M. A.1 Corinthians 2:1-5
A great truth is capable of manifold presentations. To be seen fully it must be viewed in various aspects, each of which is relative to the wholeness of the idea, while supplying to the student an increased sensibility to its excellence. Sir Joshua Reynolds speaks of his disappointment when he first saw the painting of the Transfiguration, but it grew upon him and educated his eye, the mind in the eye, to appreciate its sublimity. Hazlitt mentions a similar experience in his own case. Such impressions are not due to simple recipiency; the active intellect is aroused, and the thinker himself becomes a voluntary party to the object affecting him. Evidently, now, St. Paul's idea of preaching, as given in the first chapter, returned upon him and solicited further consideration. Accordingly, we find him in the second chapter detailing his personal history as a preacher while at Corinth, and, as usual in his Epistles, the autobiographical clement discloses its presence in his logic. Whenever there was an important issue in his ministry, we see the man in the fulness of his proportions and look into his very heart, so that we are at no loss to understand the reason of his impassioned energy. In this instance he declares that he did not come to the Corinthians "with excellency of speech or of wisdom," as the world regarded speech and wisdom. But he was with them "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." It was not the "weakness" of cowardice, nor the "fear" that brings a snare, nor the "trembling" that conies from an apprehension of criticism and hostility. Agitation and solicitude were the product of his fine sensibility, not rising from below, but descending from the highest realm of his being, the ideal of duty and responsibility so vast within him as to oppress the capacity of performance. A most blessed "weakness" this, the best possible assurance of truthful power, the most reliable token our latent nature offers as a promise of success. The throb of the engine in a huge Atlantic steamship sends its own quiver into every plank and bolt of the vessel. There is a "trembling" in all its compartments, but it is the trembling of power. St. Paul had no gift more remarkable than the gift of feeling to the utmost the doctrines of the gospel. Christ in him, Christ as the self of self, was the Christ he preached; and hence no discourse he ever delivered, no letter he ever wrote, affected others as much as they affected him. Effective speakers and writers are never on a level with their hearers and readers. They see more, feel more, than those whom they impress, and their personality is no small constituent in the effect produced. Rightly enough, St. Paul specializes "my speech and my preaching." The "my" means a man "determined not to know anything... save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Self exaltation he had none; for self exaltation is always a parody on the truthfulness of one's nature, and Christ was so real to St. Paul that he could not be other than real to himself in his ministerial work. And, in accordance with this fact, his manner of preaching the gospel is itself evidential of the divineness of the gospel. It was a "demonstration of the Spirit and. of power." Of what avail that the "Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom"? Give them the "sign" and the "wisdom:" what then? The belief, or "faith," if you so call it, is the man's own product, standing in his own strength, the pride of his own intellect, the joy of his own vanity. Not so the doctrine of "Christ crucified." The way it comes to the soul proves its infinite truth. It does not approach a man on the sense side of his nature, but on the spiritual side. Unlike education and culture, which begin with the intellect of the senses and develop upward, Christianity arises from the instant of its initial contact with the human soul at the highest moral capacity, and recognizes this soul as it stands related to God its Father, to Christ its Redeemer, to the Holy Ghost its Convincer and Sanctifier. Man as the image of the natural universe is regarded subsequently. Therefore the emphasis of St. Paul on the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power," and therefore the strength and glory of faith, which stands, not "in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." - L.

And I, brethren,... came... not with excellency of speech or of wisdom.
It was in —

I. A DECISIVE TONE OF PERSONAL CONVICTION. It was "the testimony of God," not an opinion. He does not say, "I think so," but "God says so." So in Galatians 1:11, 12. St. Paul was no hired, official expounder of a system. He felt that his words were eternal truth: hence their power. Hence, too, arises the possibility of discarding rules of oratory. For it is half-way towards making us believe when a man believes himself. Faith produces faith.

II. A SPIRIT OF SELF-ABNEGATION (ver. 2). There were no side glances at his own prospects, reputation, success. And this sincerity and self-forgetfulness was a source of power. It was so with the Baptist, who declared of Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease." In any work which is to live, or be really beautiful, there must be the spirit of the Cross. That which is to be a temple to God must never have the marble polluted with the name of the architect or builder.

III. A SPIRIT OF PERSONAL LOWLINESS (ver. 3). Partly this refers to his infirmities and disadvantages; but partly, too, it means deep humility. Now, remember who it was who said this — the daring St. Paul, whose soul was all of flame, whose every word was a half-battle, who stood alone on Mars' Hill, and preached to the scoffing Athenians "Jesus and the Resurrection." How little they who heard his ponderous sentences could have conceived that "weakness, and fear, and much trembling" of the invisible spirit! But again: see how this tells on the tone of his ministry. St. Paul did not begin with asserting his prelatical dignity and apostolic authority. He began with declaring truth, and that in "trembling." Then, when men disputed his right to teach, he vindicated his authority, but not till then. And this is a lesson for modern times. Each minister must prove his apostolical succession by apostolic truthfulness, sincerity, and courage — as St. Paul proved his — and by his charity, and by his Christ-like meekness.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Look at —


1. He excludes all that is foreign to his purpose.

2. Knows nothing but Christ.


1. He is modest in the consciousness of his own weakness.

2. Plain in the conviction of the presence and power of the Spirit.


1. Faith not in the man.

2. But in the power of God.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

The grand subject, of his ministry —


1. He is the highest, revelation of God's love for men.

2. He is the most thrilling demonstration of the wickedness of humanity.

3. He is the grandest display of loyalty to moral rectitude.

II. SOUL-ABSORBING (ver. 3). The man who has some paramount sentiment looks at the universe, through it, and values it so far as it reflects and honours that sentiment. Hence to Paul Christ was "all in all." All other subjects-political and philosophical — dwindled into insignificance in its presence; it swallowed up his great soul

III. MAKES HIM INDIFFERENT TO ALL RHETORICAL CONSIDERATIONS (ver. 1). The theme was infinitely too great for it. Does the splendid apple-tree in full blossom require to be decorated with gaudy ribbons? Christ crucified is mighty eloquence.



(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. The testimony of God.

2. Concerning Christ.

3. Divine, therefore true.


1. Not artificial in style, matter, or manner.

2. But plain, simple, pointed.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Note —

1. That the proper method to convert men in any community, Christian or Pagan, is to preach or set forth the truth concerning the person and work of Christ.

2. The proper state of mind in which to preach the gospel is the opposite of self-confidence or carelessness. The gospel should be preached with a sense of weakness and with great anxiety and solicitude.

3. The success of the gospel does not depend on the skill of the preacher, but on the demonstration of the Spirit.

4. The foundation of saving faith is not reason, i.e., not arguments addressed to the understanding, but the power of God as exerted with and by the truth upon the heart.

(C. Hodge.)

At Hampton Court Palace every one regards with wonder the enormous vine loaded with so vast a multitude of huge clusters: just outside the vine-house is as fine a specimen of the wistaria, and when it is in full bloom, the cluster-like masses of bloom cause you to think it a flower-bearing vine, as the other is a fruit-bearing vine. Fit emblems these two famous trees of two ministries, both admired, but not equally to be prized — the ministry of oratory, luxuriant in metaphor and poetry, and the ministry of grace, abounding in sound teaching and soul-saving energy. Gay as are the flower-clusters of the wistaria, no one mistakes them for the luscious bunches of the grape; yet there are many simpletons in spiritual things who mistake sound for sense, and seem to satisfy their hunger not on solid meat, but on the jingle of a musical dinner-bell.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

If a preacher wishes to be successful he must —

1. Deny himself (ver. 1) and exalt Christ (ver. 2).

2. Feel himself weak (ver. 3), yet strong (ver. 4).

3. Ignore the human and magnify the Divine (ver. 5).

(J. Lyth.)

Sir Astley Cooper, on visiting Paris, was asked by the surgeon en chef of the empire how many times he had performed a certain wonderful feat of surgery. He replied that he had performed the operation thirteen times. "Ah, but, monsieur, I have done him one hundred and sixty times. How many times did you save his life?" continued the curious Frenchmen, after he had looked into the blank amazement of Sir Astley's face. "I," said the Englishman, "saved eleven out of the thirteen. How many did you save out of one hundred and sixty?" Ah, monsieur, I lose dem all; but de operation was very brilliant." Of how many popular ministries might: the same verdict be given! Souls are not saved, but the preaching is very brilliant. Thousands are attracted and operated on by the rhetorician's art, but what if he should have to say of his admirers, "I lose them all, but the sermons were very brilliant!(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. As the gospel is the foolish thing of God, so the apostle had no wisdom or utterance of his own (vers. 1, 2).

2. As the gospel is the weak thing of God, so the apostle came to Corinth in weakness, fear, and trembling (ver. 3). But as Christ is the power and wisdom of the gospel, so the Spirit is the power and wisdom of the ministry (ver. 4).

3. As the gospel is the mystery of God, and therefore a Divine power, so the ministry is a Divine power, and therefore the manifestation of Divine wisdom.

(Principal Edwards.)

The Study.
relation to it: — Consider —

I. THE THEME. "The testimony of God," which has to do with "Jesus Christ and Him crucified(ver. 2). The "declaration" of this theme, in all its manifold relations and aspects, is the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is characterised by —

1. Wisdom (ver. 6). Perfection of moral character is seen only in the character of Jesus Christ.

2. "Hidden wisdom."

3. Ancient wisdom. "Ordained before the world."

4. Glorifying wisdom. "Ordained unto our glory."

II. THE DECLARATION (ver. 1) was —

1. Simple in its character. "Not with excellency of speech— "not with enticing words of man's wisdom."

2. Convincing in its arguments. It was "in demonstration of the Spirit."

3. Powerful in its effects (ver. 5).

4. Of exclusive importance (ver. 2).

(The Study.)

— A friend said to Archbishop Whately on his death-bed: "The Lord has heard your prayers and preserved your intellect unimpaired." He replied: "It is not intellect which can avail me now, but faith in Christ Jesus."

In ascending the lofty peaks of the Jungfrau and Monte Rosa, the guides, I have read, not unfrequently resort to the innocent artifice of endeavouring to interest the traveller in the beauty of the flowers in order to distract his attention from the fearful abysses which the giddy path overhangs. What the Alpine guides thus innocently do, we preachers are often tempted to do not so innocently. We are prone so to occupy our hearers with the graces of composition and the flowers of rhetoric that they are in danger of altogether forgetting that there is a dread abyss beside them, and that there is but a step between them and death.

(J. Halsey.)

The Rev. Dr. McAll, founder and superintendent of the remarkable mission in Paris and other parts of France which bears his name, was the son of the celebrated Robert S. McAll, LL." D., of Manchester, some of whose sermons are justly ranked amongst the noblest productions of pulpit literature. His ministry was powerfully influenced by what he considered to be the failure of his father's ministry. He tells how "he had repeatedly seen his father weep because, while so much run after and admired on account of his eloquence, so little spiritual good seemed to be done, and there were scarcely any conversions." Warned by this example, "he determined," he says, "to throw overboard 'excellency of speech and of wisdom' and to strike direct for the heart and conscience of the unconverted, in the hope of saving many."

Mr. Spurgeon uttered words-in one of his prayer-meeting addresses which speak volumes as to the secret of his successful ministry: "I think I can honestly say that when I have had something come to me rather fine — a nice, rare oratorical bit, and I think I could do it — I think if I tried I might say something "very fine — I have pulled it out of my mouth and flung it away that I might not take away the attention of any hearer from Christ crucified. 'Here is a sword.' 'But,' says one, 'it has not a handsome scabbard.' No; we pull that off. We throw that to some old rag and bone dealer. We use nothing but the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ. When that does not save men, men shall be lost. We know nothing equal to it for the keenness of its edge; for the force with which it slays. It is a strange sword. With its edge it kills, and with its back it heals.

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