I was with you in weakness and in fear
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 Paul knew that it is quite easy for people to put faith and trust in the words and ideas of man, so he suggests that the Gospel be proclaimed simply and plainly.
Image of Paul preaching to the Corinthians, generated by Dall-E 3
”I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.“
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NASB1995
Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians are instructive in many ways. The apostle was sending both encouragement and admonishment to the early group of believers, much of which is still relevant in the Christian church. The epistles also give us insight into both the faith and character of Paul.
Here, early in the first epistle to the church of Corinth, Paul is recalling ministry to the believers. During that time, he met Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple who were also Christians. The two became leaders in the church, trusted and loved by Paul, and like Paul, they earned their keep as tentmakers. More detail of Paul’s ministry in Corinth is found in Acts 18.
Paul had been a persuasive scholar before his conversion on the road to Damascus, but he chose wisely to avoid acting like a philosopher or religious huckster. Instead, he was a witness to the testimony of God, determined to only preach the Gospel — “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
We might think that Paul, having been such a convincing and eloquent writer, was full of self-confidence. However, he begins these verses admitting that “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” — not exactly the confident Christian preacher you’d expect him to be!
Some commentaries point out that this “weakness, fear and trembling” might have been caused by an illness, while others think Paul was concerned about the threats and realities of persecution by both the Jews and Gentiles in Greece. Regardless of the cause, Paul was simply lacking in confidence. He chose to work through the problem the best possible way — by letting the Holy Spirit speak for him.
Paul had often preached persuasively, using wisdom and logic to present an irrefutable argument for the Gospel (his defense speech to Agrippa in Acts 26 is incredibly persuasive). Yet here he admits that relying on powers of human persuasion isn’t always the best way to preach the Gospel. Paul knew that it is quite easy for people to put faith and trust in the words and ideas of man, so he suggests that the Gospel be proclaimed simply and plainly.
Paul knew that it was his job to preach the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit would demonstrate the power of the Gospel. He might not have been an eloquent and persuasive preacher, but he let the Spirit bolster his words with holy power!
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to share the truth of the Gospel to others simply and truthfully, led by Your Spirit, so my faith and the faith of those I reach is founded on the truth, unvarnished by fancy rhetoric. This I ask in the name of Your Son and my Savior, Jesus. AMEN.