2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers,  did not come proclaiming to you the testimony  of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
“Although the works of God always appear unattractive and evil, they are nevertheless eternal merits.” So Luther writes in his Heidelberg Disputation. Primarily in mind is the crucifixion of Christ but in his commentary on the thesis he also has in mind those events in life which leave us helpless and bare. This could be illustrated by Paul’s experience in Corinth.
Paul came in weakness and in fear and much trembling, so much so that his own words seemed that of a crazy person, they weren’t plausible words of wisdom. Yet through the work of the Spirit Paul was able to establish a church there that he would never have been able to establish in his own power or steam.
Paul normally travelled with friends but had to leave Macedonia alone. He had to leave his coworkers behind to continue the work that had begun. Paul had been beaten, he was weak, probably overworked and by all accounts strung out. In such a state of mind he had to give credit where credit was due, to God alone.
Pastors can learn from this. We get proud of “our” accomplishments. Paul could be too. And there were things he had to be proud of, even in Corinth. But we are given to periods of time where everything is going bad. We show weakness. Our faith seems to be at wits end. At these times it is common to hear the devil mocking through the possibly well-meant words of others, “you just need faith.” Behind this is “if you had the faith of a mustard seed you could move mountains.” Just believe they say. How can you claim to be a believer when you are so full of fear? I suppose in the same manner as Paul, that’s how. And Paul isn’t afraid to admit that he was scared, that he was weak.
But it was precisely this that made him remember the sufferings of Christ that accomplished his salvation. God works through the suffering to accomplish his purposes. This so that we would not be drawn astray by the wisdom of men, but rest in the power of God. Not the wisdom of men, flowery speech and rhetoric. There isn’t anything wrong with this in and of itself. Apollos excelled at it. And reading Paul one comes across brilliant gems of poetic dictation. But Paul knows that the gospel is a power all of its own that though it can make use of flowery speech, is not thereby helped in accomplishing its purposes. Here in Corinth Paul gets to witness the power of God being manifest in the midst of profound weakness and distress.