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1 Corinthians 2:3

ESV And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
NIV I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
NASB I also was with you in weakness and fear, and in great trembling,
CSB I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
NLT I came to you in weakness — timid and trembling.
KJV And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

What does 1 Corinthians 2:3 mean?

Paul is reminding his Corinthian readers of his first encounters with them, when he first arrived in town to preach the gospel. He did not wow them with his great speaking skills. He did not try to impress them with his expansive knowledge and wisdom. He decided to only talk about Christ and His crucifixion.

Now Paul adds that, in fact, his presentations were marked by weakness, fear, and much trembling. It is unclear if this was normal for Paul or something unique to his time in Corinth. Some scholars suggest that he may have been sick or suffering through a period of low confidence. Others argue that perhaps Paul was not very impressive in person, generally, and understood that about himself. He remarks in 2 Corinthians 10:10 that one complaint people have with him is that his written words are strong while in person he is "weak" and his speaking is of "no account."

Paul's point now is that his weakness as a speaker at that time was actually a good thing because it put all of the focus on the cross of Christ and none of the focus on his presentation skills. Orators of his era were entertainers—amazing crowds with their verbal performance skills. Paul's apparent lack of theatrics, in its own way, was a major advantage in proving the truth of his message. The gospel can stand on its own without being "dressed up" by showmanship.
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