Know Christ First


If the apostle Paul were tasked with bringing the true gospel to Latter-day Saints, where would he begin?

Perhaps he’d knock on a few synagogue doors as he did Thessalonica (Acts 17:2). Or maybe he’d find his way to the campus of Brigham Young University like he found the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:19). And maybe, just maybe, I could convince him (tongue in cheek, of course) to begin his evangelistic journey with me atop a Utah ski resort on a bluebird day.

If we asked Paul himself, I’m very confident his answer would go like this, “The location hardly matters when compared with the need to know Christ first.” Why am I so sure? Because Paul emphatically says so.

Paul’s Journey to Corinth

In Acts 18, Paul arrives in Corinth weary from perpetual rejection and horrific persecution (Acts 16:18ff; 17:5, 13-14). But Corinth’s cosmopolitan ethos offered some hope. Its two harbors (one on the east end of town and the other on the west) provided fresh sea breezes and brought trade the world over. Every other year, the city hosted its own version of the Olympics, an event called “the Isthmian Games.” Nero himself competed one year – the contestant who dared to beat him was summarily executed. The city’s marble highway, pillared temples, and ready supply of prostitutes were all points of civic pride. It was here in this warm, Mediterranean, seaside city, that Paul heard the reassuring promise of Christ, “Don’t be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you” (Acts 18:10).

Paul stayed a year and a half, and the result was a thriving church just as the Lord implied. But from the human perspective, how did Paul contribute to that success? Fortunately, he tells us.

Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Years later, when reflecting on Corinth’s early prosperity, Paul says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). In the vocabulary of Paul, knowledge is a living thing. And the knowledge of Christ, well, that’s a thing that bristles with Spirit-wrought power.

In 1 Timothy 2:4, the knowledge of Christ’s ransom is tantamount to salvation. Knowing Christ breeds hope in His glorious inheritance and immeasurable power (Ephesians 1:17-19). Hope, once born, produces boldness (2 Corinthians 3:11), enlarged gospel influence (2 Corinthians 10:15), and unabashed worship (Romans 5:4-5; 12:12). Knowing Christ was the great purpose of Paul’s apostleship (Ephesians 4:12-13), its surpassing worth makes everything else look trashy by comparison (Philippians 3:8). Knowing Christ imbues upon believers the very power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10) as they boldly proclaim Christ’s crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

Knowing Christ in Utah

If born-again Christians want to win their LDS friends to the true Christ, they must begin with a growing knowledge of Christ. And Jesus says it all starts with His abiding Word (John 15:7). As we meditate on Christ’s goodness expressed in that Word (Psalm 145:5), we start to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:16). By and by, with greater ease, we draw near to crucified One (John 10:15). Once near, fear melts in the overwhelming presence of Christ’s mercy, blessing, and grace (Psalm 23); boldness takes its place (Psalm 56:3-4). When the knowledge of Christ dawns, power is sure to follow.