The Power of God- First Corinthians 1:18-32

In this passage, Paul refers to Jesus Christ through the use of the phrase “the power of God”. This is a phrase used more than once in the New Testament, and we will examine this passage in order to understand what Paul means by it and see how he applies it to the lives of believers. Gaining a proper understanding requires a brief, and hopefully painless, examination of Greek philosophy. The original recipients of this letter were Greeks, and an understanding of their way of thinking will provide us with greater insight into what Paul was saying in this passage, as well as a greater understanding of what it means to us today. The central concept which Paul focuses upon here is the concept of power, and it is therefore necessary to take a look at the Greek understanding of power current at the time of the writing of First Corinthians. The two primary Greek words for power are dunamis and ischuno. In very early Greek writings, these two words meant essentially the same thing and were used interchangeably. As Greek philosophy developed, these words came to mean different things. The two words both contain primarily the idea of “to be able”, and normally refer to the ability or capability to do something. By the time this letter was written, they had acquired different shades of meaning among those influenced by Greek philosophy, as would have been the Corinthian recipients of this letter. The word ischuno had come to refer to the power inherent in man himself, what man was capable of doing on his own. The word dunamis had come to represent a cosmic principle, a power external to man and inherent within the universe. The dunamis was understood to be the power of the logos. This logos was believed to be a force which kept the universe in order. The universe was not chaotic and operated according to discernable patterns because of the logos, which functioned as a kind of impersonal God in Greek thinking. The logos kept the cosmos from chaos. In the philosophy of the day, true power came from tapping into the dunamis, true power was the power of the logos harnessed by human beings and used for their own benefit. True wisdom then consisted of learning how to tap into the dunamis, for this is the way in which one magnifies and multiplies his or her own ischuno and uses the power of the dunamis to magnify his own inherent power, his own “self”. So in the Greek thinking which was all the rage in Corinth at the time of this letter, true wisdom consisted of learning to harness the “power” of “god” and use it for your own benefit. The power of God was something to be manipulated and used by humans for their own ends, which they could use or discard as they saw fit. As we examine this letter in our next post, we will see that Paul presents them (and us) with a very different understanding of the power of God, and also with a very different means of tapping into it, as well as a different goal for its use. This power is not something man can manipulate in order to magnify “self”, but is in fact something quite different,is accessed in a very different manner, and does something very different to “self” as well.

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Growing In Grace  //  Jesus Christ  //  Nature of Man

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