“Not With Wisdom of Words”
1 Corinthians 1:17
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
The Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that his primary mission, and this is the primary mission of all God-sent preachers, was to preach the Gospel–God’s promise of salvation and final glory conditioned on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Here, he states that he did not preach the Gospel “with wisdom of words.”
Paul did not mean that the Gospel is to be preached foolishly, without thought, without seeking to choose and arrange our words and ideas wisely, logically and intelligently. We are to preach the Gospel clearly, so that men can understand exactly what we are saying, whether they believe it or not. Paul is rebuking any preaching that would, by clever speech, or words of human wisdom, seek to empty the Gospel of its power and distinction. We are to avoid any of man’s wisdom, reasoning, and eloquence, which would remove the offense of the cross.
The offense of the cross lies in the fact that we who believe are dogmatic that no sinner is saved who is either ignorant of or not submitted to the imputed righteousness of Christ as the only ground of salvation.
The Gospel addresses all who are ignorant of, or not submitted to, this righteousness as lost and walking and minding the things of the flesh. It exposes their deeds as evil, fruit unto death, and acts of open idolatry. Paul was opposed to any of man’s wisdom and eloquence which would seek to remove these plain facts and empty the message of the cross, the doctrine of Christ, the Gospel, of its distinction, significance, meaning and saving power.
These things are revealed not to offend sinners, but that sinners might see their lost condition and seek salvation God’s way through Christ. Sinners are commanded to believe God’s truth and reject all else.