Speaking Ability and Proclaiming Christ - Thoughts from I Corinthians
Paul reminds the Corinthians that when he was first among them, he did not preach the gospel news about Jesus with clever tactics of oratory. Because Corinth was historically a Greek city, and because the Greek philosophers and their descendants prized polished speaking ability, some of the Corinthians thought Paul should be using those clever forms of communication when preaching the good news about Jesus. This expectation had become a problem in the Corinthian church and had necessitated Paul to write this letter (as well as a few other matters besides).
Chapter 2 begins with Paul reminding them that when he first came, he “did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (I Cor 2:1). That is, he had not used Greek forms of communication when he first came, but for some reason the Corinthians were expecting him and others to do so now. Paul goes on to say that “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor 2:4). Paul did not care to speak according to the forms they desired. Rather, he reminds them that when he first came, his message was communicated by God’s power and that God’s Spirit used it to change the hearts and minds of the Corinthians. This is important, Paul says, because the Christianity of the Corinthians did not rely on man’s words of wisdom, but on God’s power (I Cor 2:5).
The importance of this ancient correspondence from Paul to the Corinthians is especially apparent today. Some people do not wish to hear the truth about Christ unless it can be done according to the culture’s expectations of “wisdom” and “lofty speech”. While the manner in which some wish the gospel to be preached today has changed form, the issue is still the same. Should the proclamation of Jesus and what he has done for the world be communicated according to the way God prescribed, or according to the way the modern culture desires it to be communicated?
Many today want Jesus communicated only if those speaking about him will do so with modern tolerance and politically correct language. Others only wish to hear of Jesus in short, pithy tweets on Twitter, while others will only consider what he said in a meme on Facebook. But Paul’s message to such individuals today is that God does not necessarily work according to what we would like or expect. Rather, simple proclamation of the gospel truth about Jesus is the way God has ordained for his words to be spread. No gimmicks, no changing with the culture’s and people’s expectations of what worldly wisdom should look like, but rather with God’s power accompanying the truth of his son Jesus.
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