1 Corinthians 2:1–5

1 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. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. NKJV, ©1982

Αʹ Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ. Βʹ οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. Γʹ κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, Δʹ καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, Εʹ ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ. NA28, ©2012

The apostle Paul uses several words that seem to allude to the rhetorical art (ἡ ῥητορικὴ τέχνη) popularized by the Greeks, especially Aristotle: λόγος, σοφίας, ἀπόδειξις, and πειθός (cf. πιθανός). So, is the apostle Paul referring to (and thus denouncing) rhetoric here?


2 Answers 2



I think Paul was highlighting the difference between those who are really sent by the Lord to speak His words in the Spirit versus those who say they are sent by Him but really are not (false apostles = falsely sent).

There was (and still is) a big difference between those who preach the Word of God sincerely in the Spirit of Truth and those who do not (false prophets/false apostles).

That difference is in the display of the power of the Spirit within the heart of the listener.

Paul’s preaching of the testimony of God came with the demonstration (manifestation) of the Spirit and of power. That demonstration of the Spirit and of the power is evident within the heart of the hearer of the testimony of God.

Those who are falsely sent (false apostles who contended with Paul also) do not have this accompanying demonstration of the power of the Spirit within the heart of those they “preach” to.

They must use and rely on persuasive words of human wisdom in order to deceive those who listen to them. Without their fine eloquent speaking in their human wisdom, they have no power. That is all they have: fine-sounding words that really do not carry any heavenly wisdom in them and have no demonstration of the power of God within the heart.

Yet, holy men speak as they are moved by the Holy Spirit….and the evidence that this is a person who is really sent by Him to speak with the Spirit of God is within the very heart of those who hear such a person.

The Light shines within the heart of the listener as the day dawns (the morning star) arises as he or she hears the Word of God spoken with true power. The evidence is within the heart of those who hear.

2 Peter 1:19-21 KJV (19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Those who are falsely sent (falsely say they are sent of God) do not have this effect within the hearts of others. They must rely on great swelling words of emptiness as they privately interpret the Bible for their own gain.

We receive the witness of men (who speak as they are moved by the Holy Spirit) but the witness of God (WITHIN our very own hearts) is greater.

1 John 5:9-10 KJV (9) If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

The Light shines within the very heart of the hearer that this is His Son (whom we are to listen to) who speaks.

The Son of God speaks to people via “strangers” sent out by Him to speak His words. He that believes on the Son of God (as they hear His testimony) has the witness of God within himself…within the heart…that this is His Son speaking to the ears.

(10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

Falsely-sent speakers (who are sensual and do not have the Spirit) do not have this accompanying witness of God within the hearts of those they speak to.

They must rely on “great swelling words” to deceive people into listening to them. They speak empty words having men’s persons in “admiration” (Greek : thaumazō = “wonders”) because of profit.

Jude 1:16 KJV (16) These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.

That is all false Christs and false prophets have are “wonders” (great swelling words spoken with eloquence which appeal to human wisdom) to deceive those who “wonder” or admire their words.

They also show “great signs”….outward signs of supposed inward (behold, He is in the secret chambers) realities.

There is nothing they do or speak that result in an inward display within the hearts of their listeners of the power of the Spirit. They must rely on outward signs that fascinate the senses of people and speak fine-sounding words in order for people to “wonder” in admiration after them. They do this for their own profit’s sake.

Matthew 24:23-28 KJV (23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before. (26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

No so with the presence (coming) of the Son of man. His presence is very different from those who are “false Christs” and “false prophets”.

Those who hear the Son have the witness within their very hearts as the “lightning” shines out of east (the rising of light within the heart) and shines even unto the west (the darkness where the sun had gone down).

It is very evident in the darkened heart of those who hear the true voice of the Son as the “morning star” shoots rays of light with our very own hearts making things light. The witness of God is within the once-darkened heart and speaks that this is His Son and we are to listen to Him.

(27) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Thank you for reading and considering.


Paul's credibility was under attack in Corinth:

[2Co 10:10 KJV] 10 For [his] letters, say they, [are] weighty and powerful; but [his] bodily presence [is] weak, and [his] speech contemptible.

Apparently there were much more eloquent and impressive teachers around than the physically homely, servile and gentle Paul:

[1Co 1:4-5 KJV] 4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and [in] all knowledge;

Apollos was especially impressive:

[Act 18:24 KJV] 24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.

[Act 19:1 KJV] 1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,

[1Co 1:12 KJV] 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

[1Co 3:4-5 KJV] 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

So Paul explains that the gospel was not a contender in the marketplace of ideas but rather a fulfillment of prophecy that God would make the counselors of this world into fools and cause them to reel and puke like a drunk:

[Isa 19:12-17 KJV] 12 Where [are] they? where [are] thy wise [men]? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt. 13 The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, [even they that are] the stay of the tribes thereof. 14 The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken [man] staggereth in his vomit. 15 Neither shall there be [any] work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do. 16 In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it. 17 And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.

[1Co 1:17-31 ESV] 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

So when Paul was dismissed as "unsophisticated" he does not try to "up his game" and become more like rhetoricians but instead explains that all of the sophistication of their speech, which was based on human wisdom rather than divine revelation will come to nothing. They will hear Paul's gospel and become troubled fools.

Note that he has nothing bad to say about Apollos, as if Apollos were a genuine rival:

[1Co 3:4-9 KJV] 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

Rather than understanding Apollos to have been doing something wrong we should understand the Corinthians to be being "puffed up" (their egos were being inflated) by the vicarious exaltation of their heroes.

So all of this leads me to believe that:

  • Apollos was the kind of speaker that is made the keynote speaker because they draw a crowd. Wow. "He has da best words; everybody says so"

  • Paul was, by divine design someone whose presence was unimpressive and his speech devoid of all artifice.

  • this "weakness" of Paul's was actually intentional so that no one would have cause for boasting

While the current context isn't an attack on rhetoric per se it does show that Paul's own speech never would employ it and that all the celebrated speakers and teachers would find out soon enough that God is not impressed with fancy talk but in the life-changing power of God in his inspired words:

[Psa 147:10-11 KJV] 10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

[Jos 8:31 NLT] 31 He followed the commands that Moses the LORD's servant had written in the Book of Instruction: "Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools." Then on the altar they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD.

  • You say, ...as if Apollos were a genuine rival, but Paul says, "we are labourers together with God". Paul declared Apollos to be a co-worker whose efforts complemented his own. The narrative indicates "the people" were being divided, not by either of these men, but by their own fleshly inclinations.
    – enegue
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 21:20

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