“For I have resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1ST CORINTHIANS 2:2
Context – Power > Talk
In my view the first segment of the 2nd chapter of 1st Corinthians, which the above verse is sandwiched between, is essentially saying that Paul utilized power over rhetoric in ministering to the Corinthian people. This wasn’t necessarily a universal strategy for Paul, as it’s apparent that he debated much more with the Romans, for instance, in his missionary excursion to Rome. As far as reaching the Corinthian people with the Gospel, however, Paul thought that it was a better idea to talk less and rely more on the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s not to say that the power of the Holy Spirit was not with Paul as he debated and preached in Rome, but I do think as I read this passage that it’s clear that the focus in Corinth was a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” So what does that mean? I believe it means signs, wonders and miracles. Greater, I believe God was with Paul as he traveled and knew how to best approach each region and culture with the Gospel. It may have been more fruitful to win an oratory argument in Rome but perhaps the best way to get the attention of the Corinthian people was to heal the sick and prophesy through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have resolved… To resolve or decide to do something means that it’s a conscious and controllable choice. I think it’s easy to over-spiritualize what Paul is inferring here; his decision to know only Christ is a straightforward resolution, not a mystery. It’s worth considering, too, why Paul would even be saying this to the Corinthian crowd. I think what he is actually pointing to is idolatry, a sin that he speaks of elsewhere in his writings and many times with his Greek audience(s). Paul has decided to know nothing except for Christ; that means NOT knowing pagan deities, extraneous cultural practices and counterintuitive social norms. Paul isn’t interested in societal coexistence, but rather a single and holy representation of the Gospel of Jesus.
There is a difference between knowing about something (aka head knowledge) and knowing someone, as is the case with a relationship. In knowing Christ, Paul is unquestionably citing the latter. Rather than being “puffed up” with knowledge, to use a term that Paul himself coined, he had resolved instead to fortify his relationship with Christ and block out any distractions in achieving that goal.
Not just Christ, but Him crucified
Paul makes a clear distinction at the tail end of the Corinthians 2:2 verse; he not only had decided to know Jesus Christ, but also Jesus Christ crucified. But why? It’s true, Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) but Paul isn’t claiming that Jesus is inconsistent, he is knowing/believing what Jesus crucified meant to Him and the early church. Jesus himself said:
“It’s for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (JOHN 16:7)
The advocate, also referred to as counselor or helper is the Holy Spirit, and He could not come without Jesus first taking His spot at God’s right hand. Jesus on the earth meant the forgiveness of sins and the promise of salvation to Paul and his counterparts, but Jesus crucified added a huge dynamic to the ministry of the church. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit when he said in John 14:26 that “he will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you.” Christ crucified means instant access to the Holy Spirit, whom we desperately need to learn and remember the ways of Jesus. Paul especially needed not just the guarantee of salvation but the present and real power of the Holy Spirit, thus he writes to the Corinthian church proclaiming to know Christ and Christ crucified.
It’s always so very valuable to not simply breeze through our bibles out of a sense of duty and miss the purpose and meaning of the scripture. I encourage you today to prayerfully read, discern and consider those precious words that are “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2ND TIMOTHY 3:16)
Joe D’Orsie – Communications & Spiritual Life Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org