Last Sunday morning I began a series of sermons drawn from 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. Toward the end of my time I commented briefly on Paul’s words in verse 17:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (NASB)
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (ESV)
The final two phrases really struck me. In Greek, we have, “ouvk evn sofi,a| lo,gou( i[na mh. kenwqh/| o` stauro.j tou/ Cristou/.” The NASB’s “cleverness of speech” carries a thought not necessarily found in the ESV’s “eloquent wisdom.” The NIV has “words of human wisdom” and the NET “clever speech.” We should be very concerned to identify what Paul is referring to in light of the dire result of preaching the gospel in this manner: the nullification, emptying, of the cross of Christ! Whatever we do, we want to avoid such a heinous act of treachery against our Lord. What follows gives us a good idea of what he is referring to, for v. 18 begins an explication of the concept raised here. As I work through this text I will be posting snippets of my research, reading, and thinking on this tremendous passage. It has deep relevance to the church today and for all serious believers who desire to conform their thinking and their lives to the biblical norm.