Paul determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2) I used this as an example of how Paul viewed his own leadership qualifications and I want to look at it. What does that mean? What does it look like? I think I want that, to have everything shaped and changed by the fact of the man Jesus and his work for his people.
I remember in college being asked to come up with 25-75 observations from a particular text. I also remember thinking, I thought we were doing Exegesis not Eisegesis? Yeah I was that guy. I didn’t realize at the time they were trying to teach us a way of thinking about and analyzing the text rather than a practice in interpretation.
If Paul who wrote so much of the new testament and impacted the world through missions could reduce his ministry to just this phrase, then that is something worth listening to. I want to make some observations on this text as per my assignment in college. I will simply stick with 10 for brevity’s sake.
1. Paul determined to know nothing except…The first is that Paul admits that there is stuff to know, there is a lot to know in fact. But he wants his knowledge to have emphasis, to have a focus. With so much to know, Paul wanted his reader’s to understand that the knowledge of Jesus was paramount to all other areas.
2. This is further eye opening when you understand the things that Paul did know…
. . . though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Philippians 3:3-8)
3. Not only did Paul know his stuff but he was trained by a leader of the Sanhedron…
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. (Acts 22:3)
Paul had every reason to rely on what he knew and was taught, and who did the teaching.
4. Despite his knowledge and background, in other words the options to rely upon other things, the focus of his knowledge is Jesus Christ. In order to do anything that Paul did, his focus had to be Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ informed all his writings and missions.
5. Jesus Christ was enough for him to lay down all his knowledge and experience for. Jesus Christ is more than simply a good guy, he was someone worth laying down all knowledge and even altering a worldview over. Jesus is more than just a movement.
6. The other point of emphasis for Paul’s knowledge is the crucifixion. Jesus’ death, which I should add is only a significant thing because it doesn’t end that way. Lots of people were crucified but Jesus rose again. The points to Jesus’ immortality and ability to keep all his promises. Crucifixion teaches us that Jesus was more than just a man. He is God in the flesh.
7. But let’s play devil’s advocate against myself for a moment. Perhaps the fact that a death itself was even on the cards for the Prince of Heaven is also a point. The fact the Jesus came and displayed a willingness to die is quite something indeed for a leader to do. Jesus tells us this: Greater love has no man than this: He who lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Jesus gave us both an example of the way to live and the way to die.
8. The crucifixion is itself a punishment. From good theology we understand it was not a result of Jesus’ doing but the world’s. Yet he still paid it. There was a price to pay, a debt owed and God paid it. God believes in paying debts.
9. Crucifixion may seem a bit stiff a price for sin, but only for a moment. Both Testaments teach that blood is the price to be paid if forgiveness of sins is to won. (Heb 9:22, Lev 17:11) You want forgiveness? Here is the cost, blood. God believes in punitive justice.
10. Finally if my sin is so bad that it requires shedding blood. It is an amazing thing indeed to learn that God himself paid the penalty for me. He really wants me to be forgiven doesn’t he? He must want something. Perhaps he wants to be known as Paul has firstly said was the point.
Now this exercise was not simply to point out that I did indeed listen while in college but to add to Paul’s point that emphasis must be on Jesus and his work. We should always come back to the point of Jesus and furthermore we should work out the ramifications of those observations. God went through excruciatingly pain and death for us, we should find out why. But in the finding out why we must never stray to far from the man Jesus himself. He came, he saw, he conquered, and he meant it.
Are we changed in such a way that we count all those other things as rubbish as Paul says:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
If Jesus was worth so much that Paul literally changed his entire life focus and ministry over then we should know what God is possibly calling us to do. He most definitely is calling us to evaluate what knowledge that we put our currency in. What are our foundations that we use to help prop up everything else in our life? What experiences or authorities speak into our lives and do they maybe hold too much sway over the man Jesus himself?
If Jesus was enough for Paul, is he enough for us? Furthermore what observations about him inform us? Do they come from the Bible or are they perhaps an idea of Jesus that we have latched onto that are not quite Jesus? Think about it. Then think again about what that means. It should get our attention and perhaps change our focus.