Lent Reflection: Foolishness of the cross
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 2:1–5)
Here Paul makes a most astonishing declaration: ‘I determined not to know anything….’ This would be an unusual statement for any person to make. But for a Jewish person, it is especially astonishing—because, through the centuries, Jews have prized knowledge. What could possibly have caused Paul to make such a decision?
Before we can answer that question, we must understand the historical setting in which Paul lived. Paul’s ministry in Corinth is described in Acts 18, but in the previous chapter, we have the record of Paul’s ministry in Athens. At that time, Athens was the university city of the world, it was the centre of philosophy and human wisdom. In Athens, Paul adjusted himself to his audience. He addressed them in terms of philosophy, even quoting a Greek poet. However, in the end, the results of his address were pretty meagre. Only a few people believed.
Leaving Athens, Paul next went to Corinth, which was a large port city. Somewhere between Athens and Corinth, Paul evidently made this decision: ‘When I get to Corinth, I’m going to forget everything I knew except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’
The result of Paul’s ministry in Corinth was tremendous. The whole city was stirred. Historians estimate that quite early in Corinth’s Christian community, there were probably twenty-five thousand believers. What made the difference? The message: Jesus Christ crucified.
This Reflection is taken from