Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Persuasive Words? (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

"And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4).

The beginning of chapter 2 reiterates a theme from the first chapter: the power of the simple preaching of the pure Gospel. As Paul stated before, he did not preach to the Corinthians with persuasive, impressive words, but he preached Christ and Him crucified—the teaching of the person of Christ and His work, which is the sum of the Gospel.

“It might have been easy for Paul to argue the Corinthians into a conviction of the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to its superiority to heathenism and to the evidence of its divine origin afforded by prophecy and miracles,” Hodge wrote. “He might have exhibited the folly of idolatry, and the absurdity of pagan rites and ceremonies, and convinced them of the historical truth of Christianity. The conviction thus produced would be rational and important; but it would not be saving faith. Faith founded on such evidence is merely speculative. The true foundation of faith, or rather, the foundation of true faith, is the power of God.”

In these verses we are taught four important things 1) The proper method to convert people in any culture, Christian or pagan, is to preach and proclaim the truth concerning the person and work of Christ. Whatever other means must be subordinate, designed to remove obstacles and to gain access for the truth, just as the ground is cleared of weeds and brambles in order to prepare it for the seed. 2) The Gospel should be preached with a sense of weakness, humility, and with great anxiety and dependency on God. 3) The success of the Gospel does not depend on the skill of the preacher, on his eloquence, his power, his confidence, but on the demonstration of the Spirit. 4) “The foundation of saving faith is not reason, i.e. not arguments addressed to the understanding, but the power of God as exerted with and by the truth upon the heart,” Hodge wrote. All the arguments in the world will not bring about saving faith if the heart is not changed. Faith must be rational, but it is more than a reasonable assent to the truth. The Gospel must be embraced not only with the mind but with the heart, with a will that is bent in subjection to Christ, with a mind that is enlightened to the excellency of Christ, which is something only the Spirit can accomplish.

Read Acts 8:5, 35; 9:20; 10:36. What do these verses reveal about the preaching of the early church? Listen to some tapes of sermons this week; listen to sermons on the radio and television. What is being preached today? What is attractive about such preaching? How often do you hear the Gospel proclaimed in simplicity and truth?