What does 1 Corinthians 2:1 mean?
ESV: And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
NIV: And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
NASB: And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God.
CSB: When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom.
NLT: When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.
KJV: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
NKJV: And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
Verse Commentary:
Paul seems to return to his train of thought from the middle of the previous chapter, where he said that Christ did not send him to preach the gospel with words of eloquent wisdom, which would risk emptying the cross of Christ of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17). He is also continuing to make the case for why the Corinthian Christians should not swear their allegiance to a teacher or preacher (1 Corinthians 1:12–13), but to Christ alone.

Paul now reminds them of when he first came to Corinth and began proclaiming the testimony of God. Paul spent over a year and a half in Corinth leading people to faith in Christ and helping to establish the church there. Many of his readers would remember well when he first showed up. Paul's arrival marked a significant change in their lives as they began a relationship with God.

Paul wants them to remember that he did not preach the gospel to them as if he were performing. The Corinthians would have been very familiar with ancient speakers who amazed their audiences with lofty speech and displays of their own wisdom. Such speeches were part of the entertainment and wisdom culture of Greek and Roman society. Skilled orators would travel from place to place to entertain crowds in this way.

Paul did not present himself or the gospel in this way, however. He did not wrap the great truth of Christ's crucifixion for human sin in a fancy package to impress the Corinthians. Paul did not perform the gospel—he was not focused on making it entertaining or spectacular. Instead, he presented it to them as plain truth.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 2:1–5 begins with Paul asking the Corinthians to remember what he was like with them when he first came to Corinth. He did not tell them about Christ with impressive speaking skills and displays of knowledge. In fact, he was weak, fearful, and trembling. That was a deliberate tactic on Paul's part, for their good, so their faith would be based on God's power and not on any amount of impressive human wisdom.
Chapter Summary:
When Paul first came to Corinth, he did not present the gospel to them with lofty speech and impressive arguments. He presented the truth as simply as he could so their faith would be based on God's power and not human wisdom. Only those with God's Spirit can understand the truths revealed by God, including Christ crucified for human sinfulness. Those without God's Spirit are limited to what can be observed and worked out with human reason. God's Spirit makes it possible for us to understand and believe spiritual things.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 2 picks up Paul's train of thought from the middle of the previous chapter. He reminds the Corinthians that he did not make an impressive display of his own speaking skills or knowledge when he first came to them. He wanted their faith to be in God's power, not human wisdom. God's ultimate wisdom can only be understood spiritually, revealed to human beings through God's Spirit. Those without God's Spirit cannot understand spiritual things. As a result, they reject the idea of Christ crucified for human sin as foolish. Through the Spirit, spiritual people have the mind of Christ.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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