It was in weakness, fear, and great trembling that I came to you. My message and my preaching were not accompanied by clever words of wisdom, but by a display of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.1 Corinthians 2:3-5
Why was Paul in weakness, fear and trembling when he spoke to the Corinthians?
Why would Paul with all his wisdom and experience be in fear and trembling before the Corinthians?
I believe it was not so much a case of Paul being in fear and trembling of the Corinthians themselves, although by the time of the first letter to them there had been contact and he had written the warning letter. So as with all of us when he was faced with a hard thing there was no doubt some degree of fear and trepidation wondering how it would go. Then after this letter he makes the painful visit. So all of that no doubt was stirring in Paul’s heart. There were also those who were threatening his life, lying in wait for him. The Lord had to encourage him in a vision telling him not be afraid, but to boldly preach the Gospel. (Acts 18:9)
I sense however the main reason Paul was in fear and trembling was the fact of the greatness and awesomeness of the work in which he was involved. The souls of those he ministered to were in his hands. There were some among them who were tempted to stray from the truth into sin. I have met a number of top preachers from around the world and all have had the same response as Billy Graham once reportedly had. Someone once commented to Billy Graham after years of ministry, that by this stage he would not fear crowds anymore or get nervous before preaching. The great man responded by saying something like (this is not a quote): On the contrary it is not man I fear, it is God. Always when I rise to preach the fear of God is on me. I fear God far more than man. I need to hear God and deliver His message faithfully. – I am sure it was this that was concerning Paul. Even more so when he was handling a difficult situation in a church he had planted. These saints were dear to his heart. He had lived with them for 18 months. Their burden was his burden.
Some commentators say that “Paul was sensible of his own natural disadvantages as a public speaker, He knew too, how much the Greeks valued a manly and elegant species of oratory; and he, therefore, delivered his message with deep and anxious concerns as to the success. It was at this time, and in view of these circumstances, that the Lord spoke to him by night in a vision, and said, “be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city,” Act_18:9-10. I don’t think this was the source of his trouble at all. But I will let you be the judge. It was one of these three factors or a combination thereof.
Why were the Corinthians in fear and trembling?
I think for two of the reasons stated above. One that there were difficult things that Paul was admonishing them about. This would make both parties somewhat apprehensive.
But I think it was also clear to some of them that Paul had the mark of apostleship upon him. As a result when facing Paul they were dealing with a minister of the Gospel. One who had challenged them about the Word of God being a matter of power and not mere words. They had asked questions related to the gifts and it was clear the gifts of the spirit were operating in their midst. I wonder if there was a sense of awe about them wondering if Paul himself would be given a word of prophesy or a word of knowledge about them. After all he was very direct when he needed to be. Of course there were others of them who challenged Paul’s apostleship. I sense not from a genuine sense of God not being involved but maybe because they didn’t like what Paul was saying to them or for reasons of jealousy. No doubt, there was a mixed reaction among them.
All of the above would have made for a sense of fear and trembling on both sides.
No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God.A. W. Tozer
I pray all the time. Not because I’m spiritual, but because I’m scared.Andy Stanley
Great people make others feel great. Small people make others feel small.Rick Warren