And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
Paul’s arrival to Corinth is described in Acts 18. He came and met a Christian couple named Aquila and Priscilla, who were tentmakers (leatherworkers) by trade, like Paul. He served in Corinth for more than a year and a half, supporting himself (Acts 18:3).
In Paul’s day, Corinth was already an old city, a commercial center with two busy. Because of its busy economy and many visitors, Corinth had a remarkable reputation for loose living and especially sexual immorality. In classical Greek, to act like a Corinthian meant to be sexually immoral, and a Corinthian companion was a prostitute. This immorality was permitted (even encouraged) under the widely popular worship of Aphrodite (also known as Venus, the goddess of fertility and sexuality).
When Paul came to such a challenging field of ministry, he did the only thing he could: preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Only Jesus could be the answer for such an immoral place. Preaching to entertain wouldn’t work. Preaching the gospel of self-help couldn’t help. The messages of salvation by good works or noble intentions wouldn’t change lives.
That’s why Paul didn’t come to Corinth as a philosopher or a salesman, worried about the excellence of his speech. Paul came as a witness (declaring to you the testimony of God). Paul was a smart man who could reason and debate persuasively, but he didn’t use that approach in preaching the gospel. He made a conscious decision (I determined) to put the emphasis on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul was an ambassador, not a salesman.
In taking this approach, Paul understood he didn’t cater to what his audience wanted. He already knew the Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22), but he didn’t care. He was determined to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
If a preacher is not careful, he will get in the way of the gospel instead of being a servant of the gospel. Paul could say, “All I know is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified for me.”
There’s a story of a little girl who went to a traditional church with her family every week. The church had stained glass windows, and there were beautiful images of different Bible characters in the window behind the preacher. One day a very short man was the guest preacher, and because he was much shorter, the girl could see the stained-glass window with Jesus behind the guest. She wanted to know where the regular pastor ways, so she asked: “Where’s the man who usually stands in the pulpit so we can’t see Jesus?” Whether you’re a preacher or not, make sure you don’t get in the way of Jesus. Proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified.