Much has been made over Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians and his “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4). Usually it is quoted in context to a platform ministry with signs and wonders. As valid as this may be, this not Paul’s point in the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul is addressing a serious issue of pride and boasting in the church that is leading to the exaltation of man, which creates disciples of men rather than God (1 Cor. 1:10-16). The ultimate result is that the testimony of the Cross is “emptied of its power” (v.17). As among the Philippians (cf. Phil. 1:15-17), there were those who preached the Cross, but they did it out of selfish ambition, envy and rivalry. Through their actions and “eloquent speech” they exalt themselves and go about like “kings” (1 Cor. 4:8), lording it over others and in practicality writing their own names upon the souls of men (cf. 1 Cor. 3:4, 17). By the way they minister, they empty the Cross of its power, meaning and impact. Like a parent who tells their child they love them, and then they punch them in the face. The message seems to loose it power because of the action.
On the other hand, Paul explains that God is not like this. Men use their power for self-exaltation; God uses his power for love. Men use their knowledge and ability at the expense of others; God uses his at his own expense. The last half of the first chapter of 1 Corinthians contrasts the power of man in the world versus the power of God in the Cross. In this light Paul says that he did not come to the Corinthians like these other men. His ministry was a demonstration of the Cross and an embodiment of the power of God “with weakness, fear and much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Similar to the Colossians, he sought to “fill up in [his] flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (1:24). This is the way of God, that our faith might rest on a tangible expression of the love of God rather than mere words.