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Devotion for Aug. 4, 2010

A kindergarten teacher wanted to understand her students’ struggle to master the fine motor skills of writing, cutting, and tying their shoes. For a period of time, she decided to use her weaker hand for all of her own fine motor tasks. She soon understood how it felt to fumble clumsily with a pair of scissors or a pencil.

In his own ministry, Paul purposefully “disadvantaged” himself for the purpose of upholding the integrity of the gospel. There were methods and means he could have used that might have arguably been more persuasive, but he made the deliberate decision not to employ them. “I resolved to know nothing . . . except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). Paul did not avail himself of the rhetorical devices he could have used to make compelling arguments about Jesus. Instead, for Paul, there was only the cross and the God–Man, Jesus.

From portraits of Paul in the book of Acts, we know that he was capable of powerful oratory. He was well–versed in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the contemporary poetry and literature of his day. Notice his address to the scholars and philosophers of Athens in Acts 17! But Paul, for all his academic and religious training, gave up the tactics of logical persuasion and argumentation, at least in Corinth, to focus all the power of his message on the Cross. And the Cross, as we’ve seen yesterday, doesn’t fit neatly into common–sense categories.

In the culture of Corinth (and the Roman empire at this time), men were admired and esteemed for their rhetorical abilities. If one succeeded in public speaking, he earned the iconic status that movie stars and professional athletes enjoy in our day. Today, beauty and athletic ability are the currency of fame; in the Roman empire, philosophical wisdom and rhetorical eloquence were sought–after gifts. The Corinthians obviously held these in high esteem, which is why Paul would not, in his preaching, capitulate to their terms and compromise the gospel in any way.

Apply the Word

Everything seems upside–down in the kingdom of God. Weakness is power. Humility is strength. Foolishness is wisdom. But the force behind preaching that centers on this “foolish” gospel is the Spirit’s power. When the Spirit of God animates His Word with power, there is healing, conviction of sin, and worship. There are real encounters with the living God, and in His presence everything is possible. Must we, like the Corinthians, repent of worldly values that displace our allegiance to the crucified Christ?

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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