Ministry style matters. First Corinthians 2:4 tells us that Paul decided on a manner for his entire ministry that was harmonious with his message. Paul’s message was Christ, in His cross and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1–4), so his manner likewise had to be cross-shaped, rather than posturing or self-promoting. How a preacher presents his message and carries himself either illustrates or distracts from the meaning of the message God has entrusted to him.
This is the ministry logic that lies behind Paul’s refusal to rely on “plausible words of wisdom.” The Corinthians, like the rest of the Greco-Roman world, believed that wisdom is the ability to achieve status and success by appearing to be great, positioning oneself alongside society’s celebrated men, and looking and sounding the part. This cultural wisdom was manifested in the popular orators of the day, or sophists. These were celebrities who knew how to present themselves and speak in order to gain followers, status, and success even if their message was vacuous.
So, when Paul says he decided not to use “plausible words of wisdom,” he was not saying he did not take a studied approach to preaching and teaching, or that how he used words did not matter (2 Tim. 2:15). He decided not to rest the plausibility of his message on his perception as a great man. It wasn’t that he didn’t think carefully and reason thoughtfully in his preaching and teaching (Acts 18:19). He had decided not to mask his weakness so that the power of the Holy Spirit would be evident in his message (2 Cor. 4:7; 12:9–10).