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Faith That Rests on the Power of God

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

 

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.”  (1 Corinthians 2:1-13)

 

 

Have you ever heard words come out of your mouth - or perhaps someone else’s, perhaps a child’s - and you say, “Where did THAT come from?” You might go on to talk about “wisdom beyond one’s years” or “It felt like God spoke through me. I had no idea I was going to say that!”

 

I think of those instances when I read Paul’s words above. On the one hand, he came to the Corinthians (when he first brought the good news of Christ to them) “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” (verse 3) It fits right in with what many have said of public speaking. It can be a terrifying experience, especially when one has not done very much of it. Paul then writes, “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (verses 4-5)

 

In other words, those in Corinth who came to faith in Christ did not come to faith based on any wisdom or eloquence that Paul had, but through the power of God working through Paul and, indeed, in those listeners. 

 

That is one of the traits of the Spirit of God, of course: power. When a 5-year-old says something well beyond her age… when you are suddenly given words to share that offer comfort or encouragement or wisdom or forgiveness or strength to another, there is a power at work that is palpable. That is the Spirit of God at work.

 

In this passage, there is also an extremely close association between the Spirit of God and God’s wisdom. Paul seems to be using the phrases interchangeably. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” (verses 12-13)

 

And what are the gifts bestowed on us by God, that the Spirt of God helps us to apprehend? Isn’t it by God’s Spirit that we come to understand that God has given us life, that God provides for all of our needs, that God has brought certain people into our lives, that we are the beloved children of God, that we are forgiven, that God calls us to go out and love others in Jesus’ name? Do we not come to know these truths by the guidance and wisdom and presence of the Spirit?

 

It is those who are spiritual - that is, those who have the Spirit of God in them and already working on them in some way - who can understand spiritual things, i.e., things related to God.

 

So - back to verse 5 - to the extent that any of us have faith in God, that does not rest on human wisdom… yours or anyone else’s! It rests on the power of God, at work in you, and at work in anyone through whom God spoke to you.

 

I remind you that in the Nicene Creed, we state at the very beginning, “We believe in one God…” We do not say, “We believe that…” When we say we “believe that, ” that is something that comes from our minds. When you “believe in,” the word “credo” is used. That is the same root for the word “cardio” - the word for heart. When you say that you believe “in” God, that is the kind of faith that comes from your heart.

 

But it even goes beyond that. We don’t just believe in God. When we come to faith, we become something new, and we begin to recognize that, in fact, we LIVE in God… we live “in Christ”… we live “in the Spirit.” We participate in this transformation by saying “yes” to God, but it is mostly about what God does!

 

Which is why Paul writes, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” (Galatians 6:14-15)

 

 I rejoice and give thanks for the new creation that is you and the new creation that is me, and especially for Christ, who brought this transformation about!