“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”
Paul explained that he went to Corinth with fear and trembling because he might not have an adequate gospel presentation for the intellectual Corinthians. He went with a sense of dependency on the Lord to do the work. This verse explains that dependency.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom,
When Paul came to Corinth, he did not come with human persuasion. He did not coax or convince with human persuasion. He did not conciliate the Corinthians with their philosophy. The Corinthians were famous for putting a premium on the façade of false rhetoric.
The word “speech” refers to the content he preached, and “preaching” refers to the style or delivery. Paul adjusted neither his content nor his style to suit the Corinthians. Rather, he presented the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power
Paul depended on the Holy Spirit to minister in Corinth. He did not rest in his intellect or speaking ability. The Holy Spirit took the content of his message and won a number of Corinthians to Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit who persuaded the Corinthians to come to Christ. Paul proclaimed, and the Holy Spirit persuaded.
The word “demonstration” carries the idea of demonstration, manifestation, proof. The Holy presents evidence that convinces. This is the polar opposite of the façade of false rhetoric. The Holy Spirit shows by demonstration and exposition that something is the fact – proof, evidence, verification. It is proof that it is necessarily or demonstrably true – incontrovertible. This is evident beyond contradiction by expressing absolute certainty; it is true with mathematical certainty. “Demonstration” was a term of Aristotelian logic that was opposed to dialectical thought. The Holy Spirit proves the Bible to be true by the demonstration of His power. He makes the propositions of Scripture unassailable.
The point of this passage is to demonstrate that knowledge of God depends on God deducing His knowledge into time and space so that man can understand it. Man cannot find the transcendent and infinite God by finite means. He needs the Holy Spirit to reveal God to him. In logic, this is called the a priori approach to truth. Man cannot come to God by studying the universe inductively (a posteriori). That is why there is no certainty in human systems for finding the truth. There is peril in taking a human approach to understanding God because it rests on the false presumptions of human reason to demonstrate that the existence of God is absolute (apodictic) certainty.
The Holy Spirit characterizes God’s Word through evidence and certainty. The issue at hand is the certainty of the premises. Only God knows premises that are transcendent, so only He can know whether those premises are true. The Holy Spirit shows the ultimate causes of truth within God’s sphere of knowledge. All other knowledge is subordinate to these reasons.
Dialectical knowledge starts from uncertain and non-evident premises. Thus, the apodictic knowledge of the Holy Spirit stands in opposition to the prominent system of thought today – dialectical knowledge.
Apodictic (certain) knowledge rests on two kinds of properties: definitions and assertions. Definitions present the object of what God says in His Word, while assertions present the connection between the objects. These definitions and assertions create a system whereby definitions are justified by assertions justified earlier. All this rests on ultimate premises of the Word of God – axioms revealed by God through the Holy Spirit. An axiom is the most general assumption for finding truth.
The only way we can find God is through God, revealing Himself deductively. That is why God uses the term “demonstration” (apodictic) here. This is a Greek term for deductive knowledge. A deductive syllogism’s validity rests unconditionally on the relation of the facts inferred to the facts posited in the premises. The premises of God’s syllogism depend upon the existence of knowledge that comes only from God. A syllogism whose validity rests partly upon the non-existence of some other knowledge is a probable syllogism. That is why it takes the Holy Spirit to give knowledge that rests solely on transcendent knowledge.
Apodictic truth is self-evident truth. The difference between an apodictic truth and an absolute truth is that the absolute truth can be wrong. An apodictic truth is a working fact but not a hypothesis. An apodictic truth needs no justification by reason or argument or evidence. It is truth based on the judgment of the apprehender.
When God revealed Himself, all pursuit of the truth about Him comes to a dead end. God’s truth is external to evidence or philosophy.
It is possible to persuade with great eloquence and philosophy and remain not credible.
The Holy Spirit demonstrably or indisputably shows that Christianity is true. Man cannot autonomously come to God. Finiteness cannot comprehend infiniteness. Man is at the mercy of God, revealing Himself through the Holy Spirit.
2 Co 4:3-4, 3But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
The issue here is not that the Christian should follow his feelings to connect with the Holy Spirit. The issue is that the person should respond to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit’s testimony to the objective Word of God. There is a norm or standard of truth that conforms to that convicting work. That is what Scripture warrants or justifies. This is coming to understand what God wants us to know.