Exploring the Scripture
This letter was written by the apostle Paul to the believers in Corinth, a city in Greece. Paul planted the church there about three years before writing this letter. He received word there were divisions among the five house churches in that city and felt the need to address it. Paul did not directly mention specific issues of conflict. Instead, he chose to present principles of what has been called “proper life,” which should be lived as followers of Jesus.
In today’s passage, Paul makes clear that he came to the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” Thus, he set the stage for one of his foundational messages: humans should humbly recognize that their wisdom is nothing compared to God’s wisdom. He points out that it was God’s wisdom working with his weaknesses to plant the church in Corinth, not by human wisdom and creativity.
Paul also suggests that allowing God’s wisdom to work within human failings requires the intentional pursuit of spirituality. This idea is in sharp contrast to some Christians’ understanding that our connection to God is external. Instead, Paul teaches that God is within people and that God’s thoughts can be within us if we prepare ourselves spiritually. As he puts it in verse 16, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
Rather than talking about any of the specific divisions among the five groups, Paul calls the people to intentional spiritual preparation. Spiritual preparation will let the mind and will of God–the true source of wisdom and power–direct them rather than the wisdom of the world. This worldly wisdom that was heavily influenced by the Roman Empire that ruled Corinth could easily be destructive and counter to the mind of God. The same holds true today.
His focus on spirituality and wisdom sometimes overshadows another feature of Paul’s message. Paul admits his concerns when he first arrived in Corinth to share the Gospel. “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (v.3). Despite these emotions, Paul boldly followed the leadings of the Holy Spirit and shared his testimony. Part of his concern was that most Corinthians were Gentiles. Paul felt called to be the apostle to the Gentiles. He also knew how difficult the task would be since they did not have any Jewish background and might have difficulty connecting with Jesus.
In upcoming verses, Paul again points out the importance of planting the Gospel’s seeds even under challenging circumstances. He also recognizes that any success is not because of his wisdom, but the power of the Holy Spirit. We may also experience similar difficult situations as we witness and testify. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to companion our journey.
- Human, worldly wisdom is nothing compared to God’s wisdom.
- Christian believers are called to spiritual formation so the “mind of Christ” and the resulting wisdom can guide their lives individually and communally.
- Followers of Christ must not let fear and sense of weakness keep them from actively and intentionally sharing their witness and inviting others to Christ.
Questions to Consider
- When have you felt the presence of God’s wisdom because of your spiritual preparation and formation?
- Who is “out there” with whom you could share your witness and invitation despite your sense of weakness, fear, and trembling?
- What practices have you found to be helpful in your spiritual formation? What other practices could you use to go deeper?
- What can we do to make sure that we are, indeed, listening to the wisdom of God and not applying that measurement to worldly wisdom?