Thursday, January 18, 2007

How we Proclaim Christ is Important

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

As I was doing my morning Bible reading, well early afternoon today, I was struck again by this passage. In it Paul points out to the Corinthian church that when he came to them and preached the good news of Jesus Christ, that testimony of God, he did not do it with "lofty speech or wisdom."

To understand what is going on here we need to remember that one of the problems in the church in Corinth seemed to be a going back to Greek wisdom, if not outright, at least in terms of how they viewed those who they heard proclaiming the gospel. By that I mean that at the very least the way they judged those who spoke was on how well they used rhetoric, hence the various divisions following various teachers. At worst they were looking for the teachings to match up with those of the various Greek philosophies of the time. More than likely it was some mixture of both of these.

But, Paul points out to them that he did not come like this. He did not come as some itinerant philosopher who spoke with great rhetorical skill (lofty words) or who presented some mere human wisdom. Instead, Paul strove to proclaim one thing only, "Jesus Christ and him crucified." He set out with the intention of proclaiming a message that earlier he said was, "folly to the Gentiles." The message of a man, who is more than a mere man, who was put to death by the shameful execution on a cross. Paul gave them not the wisdom of the world they could find from any traveling philosopher, but Jesus Christ the Son of God put to death on the cross for the sins of his people.

Neither did Paul get caught up with a stylish presentation. He came in "weakness and fear and much trembling." He came now in his own seeming power, but in humility, knowing his own weakness. He did not use the words of the wisdom of this world, but instead came with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power.

But, why did Paul come this way? Why not use the "lofty speech or wisdom?" Would that not be what would attract a good crowd since that is what they were used to? Would that not have given his message more authority in their eyes? From our human point of view we would think so, but Paul realized that to do so would be to compromise the message, the testimony of God he came to proclaim.

This is not to say he used obscure language that they could not understand. Nor did it mean he never used rhetorical devices to make the message clear, but rather that first, he did not depend on these things, and second, he realized that, to be anachronistic, "the medium is the message." Paul did not want them to miss the message of Christ crucified. He know that message was folly to the natural mind, so he did not try to overcome that by making it seem less foolish by use of those things that might obscure it. Instead he looked to the power of the Spirit to work as he proclaimed as clearly as he could "Jesus Christ and him crucified."

The reason for this is found in the last verse, "that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." That is, how the message of Christ is presented can change what a person's faith rests in. It is possible to use lots of wonderful techniques, and end up with people whose faith is not resting in the power of God, that is in "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1:24)

This is a sobering reminder to myself as a pastor, and to all of us as Christians, that we must be careful to make sure that we are proclaiming Christ crucified in the power of the Spirit, and not obscuring him or the seeming foolishness and weakness, from a human point of view, of the cross by our techniques. This is something that we must consider. We must ask ourselves are the things we are doing bringing people to rest in Christ the power of God, or to rest in some mere human thing like the appealing speaker, or the helpful life advice, or the wonderful music (contemporary or traditional), or any other thing. We need to consider how do we in our congregational worship and life, and in our personal life, "know nothing . . . except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

These are vitally important questions. They are questions we too often have neglected to the detriment of the church as a whole. I am sad to say that there are many people in churches today whose faith is not yet resting in Christ because it is instead resting in something else that has obscured him from their view. So ask yourself how do I show people by all I do that they are to rest in Christ alone?

Technorati Tags: , ,

powered by performancing firefox


Post a Comment