1 Corinthians 1:16-2:5 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Paul tell us Christ commissioned him to do and why? See 1 Corinthians 1:17 (printed below)

Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; and to do so not with a discreet choice of words, so that the cross of Christ would not be deprived of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

Paul testifies that he was sent by Christ to preach the gospel, and to do so “not with a discreet choice of words,” so that the cross of Christ would not be deprived of power. The phrase translated, “a discreet choice of words” (literally, “wisdom of words,”) means a careful, wise choice of words; a prudent, discreet selection of just the right words that would be most winsome and appealing to the audience: words that would win their favor, words that would not cause them to be offended. But Paul was instructed by Christ to shun such words so that the cross of Christ would not be deprived of its power.

2. How do the Jews view the preaching of the cross (see 1 Corinthians 1:23a (printed below?) What do you think this means? How do the Gentiles view the preaching of the cross (see verse 23b printed below?) Why do you suppose they hold this view?

…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23)

The gospel of Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling block (or, an offense)—they refused to identify with the shame of the cross. They refused to accept a Messiah who suffered the humiliating death of a criminal. The doctrine of Christ crucified was to the Gentiles a matter of foolishness—they could not comprehend, and hence accept, the power of the cross. The question posed in their mind was, “How can this man save us when he could not save himself?”

3. What does Paul reveal about his emotional state when he preached the gospel in the city of Corinth? See 1 Corinthians 2:3 (printed below)

I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:3)

In 1 Corinthians 2:3 the great apostle describes his emotional state as he ventured to preach the gospel to the Corinthians. He testifies that he was with them in “weakness”—there was a great sense of his own inadequacy, there was no sense of self-confidence and self-sufficiency. He was with them in “fear”—there was great apprehension that both he and his message would be rejected, ridiculed and spurned. He was with them “with much trembling”—the apostle Paul’s preaching of the gospel in the great cosmopolitan city of Corinth was quite literally a traumatic experience (the Greek word translated “trembling,” is the Greek word from which we derive the word “trauma.”)

4. How does Paul describe his preaching in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (printed below?)

And my speech and my preaching were not characterized by persuasive wisdom, but by a demonstration of the Spirit and power; (5) in order that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

Despite his emotional condition, when he spoke, the apostle Paul’s preaching was with “a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power” (verse 4). His own human inadequacy and frailty were overwhelmingly counterbalanced and offset by the presence and the operation in power of the Holy Spirit. As he preached, people were aware that they were encountering the presence and the power of God, that this was the very Word of God: the Word about God, the Word from God, the Word by God. Note: this supernatural and divine phenomenon was especially apparent and gripping to those in the audience in whose hearts God was working; and they were compelled by the Holy Spirit to respond in faith to the preaching of the gospel.

5. According to 1 Corinthians 1:30 (printed below), what is the ultimate source and reason for our salvation? What response should this elicit from the Christian (see verse 31 printed below?)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—righteousness and sanctification and redemption; (31) in order that it may be just as it has been written, He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 we are confronted with the ultimate source and reason for our salvation—the power and the will of God: “It is because of him (God the Father) that you are in Christ.” If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior it is because God has graciously granted to you saving faith in His Son and has brought you into a living relationship with Him (note Ephesians 2:8). Consequently, as verse 31 indicates, all the glory and praise and thanksgiving is due to God. We cannot congratulate ourselves on our good choice; we must humbly thank God for His mercy (note James 1:18).