Paul Embodies Christ Crucified

A few days ago, I wrote that Paul speaks of his original visit to Galatia as a public display of Christ’s crucifixion.  This may have been the beginning of Paul’s use of cruciform language to frame his apostolic ministry.

He uses similar language for his ministry mode among the Corinthians.

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. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Paul certainly preached Christ crucified to the Corinthians.  But his reference to knowing nothing among them except Jesus Christ crucified has to do with more than his preaching.

It captures his entire mode of ministry, his presentation of himself to them, his personal bearing, and the posture from which he related to them.

His presence was a performance of the crucified Jesus, embodied by a ministry style of weakness.  He intentionally avoided cultivating their approval and playing to their desires for impressive speech and powerful rhetorical displays.

Had he accommodated to their corrupted cultural expectations, he would have obscured the power of God.  Embodying cruciformity through weakness and servant-shaped ministry postures, however, unleashes God’s power.

Paul’s conception of his ministry—like the cross—is seriously counter-cultural, subverting human modes of working in every age.

People in ministry need to discern, then, what practices and patterns of ministry embody “the wisdom of this age.”  And what ministry practices embody cruciformity, thus unleashing the power of God?

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4 responses to “Paul Embodies Christ Crucified

  • michaeljgorman

    Well said, Tim. (I’m sure you’re not surprised.) I’m teaching a course right now on Pauline spirituality for church and ministry, and we are asking the same questions.

    • timgombis

      Cheers, Mike! It seems that the questions must be constantly asked, since the day-in-day out dynamics of our lives press us into relational dynamics of power and ideologies of self-protection and self-advancement.

  • Jeff Johnson (@jeffodist)

    I’ve wondered quite awhile about how I am to respond to that part of Jesus’ invitation to discipleship that instructs me to take up my cross. Now I have an idea of how Paul would have me to respond.

    Thanks!

  • Steve Martin

    “We preach Christ crucified”

    There it is. In a nutshell. So much for our spiritual ladder climbing projects.

    All of that stuff was nailed to the cross with Jesus.

    Thanks. Very interesting blog site.

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