No doubt we have all been there. We are in a conversation with a friend, and an opportunity to share the Gospel approaches. As it draws near, we think of whether we would offend them, if we have enough time, and how awkward it may feel. We think of our evangelism training and the Romans Road and of all the objections they might have…
And then the moment passes. Like a leaf on the breeze the opportunity floats away, the person departs, and we are left chiding ourselves for not making the most of the time.
Why did we freeze? Why did we falter at the last minute?
Over the past few weeks, we have looked at the Gospel and how it alone is the power of God to save. We have seen why many will reject both us and our message. And we have seen that in the face of this we must stand firm on the truth of God.
Yet, while we stand uncompromised on the truth, we may still feel unprepared to proclaim the truth. We know the message, but what about the methods? In this fourth and final part of our series, we look once more at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) and see how he preached the Gospel to them.
If you were to think of what was necessary to win those in the pagan, philosophy-rich city of Corinth, you may have conjured some image of a magnificent personage- mighty in appearance, broad in knowledge, lofty in speech- who could sway the crowd with words and personal influence. But this is not how Paul appeared in Corinth. As he describes his preaching, he shows his inadequacy and the simplicity of his preaching. Not at all what you would expect!
The Inadequacy and Simplicity of the Preacher
Paul says he came in weakness, fear, and much trembling. He felt an inadequacy in himself for the task. He was well aware of his weaknesses, and so he relied on the power of God alone. Sometimes we can think that Paul was superhuman and felt no pain. We see his boldness and persistence in Acts and think he was aloof from the concerns that plague us. This is not the case. Paul felt pain and fear as much as anyone. It is not that he felt no pain and fear in his task, but he let no pain and fear keep him from his task.
Paul also came lowly in speech and wisdom. He did not come with excellent speech to dazzle them. He did not come making a display of worldly knowledge. He came knowing one thing. In the face of the secular, intellectual world, Paul preached the message that appeared foolish to many. But it was the only message that could bring them hope.
We face a similar culture with many of the same challenges today, and we see our inadequacy. But this is a good thing! It means we recognize the gravity of the task and know that we ourselves cannot impart spiritual life. And our response to the inadequacy should not be to avoid the task or to try and make ourselves more adequate by gathering worldly wisdom. Rather, it should be to rely even more on God as we carry out the task.
We may not know everything about pop culture or all of the answers to their objections. We may feel that the hour demands Shakespearean eloquence or Socratic wisdom and that we cannot give it. But we see from Paul that the Gospel does not need us to add anything to it to make it more powerful. It is the testimony of the Most High God! Should we not be content to proclaim it as we have received it?
Encouragement and Exhortation
For those who have not trusted in Christ for salvation, perhaps you are put off by the simplicity of the message and are waiting to be convinced by a lofty preacher. Know, dear friend, that it is no deficiency in the message or the preaching that leaves you unconvinced. It is your unbelief. Are you not yet convinced that true life is in Jesus, the Son of God? Read the Gospel of John, for he has written it for just a one as you. Are you convinced of these truths but have not yet trusted in Him alone for salvation? Pray that God will give you a new heart and new life! As God opens your eyes, see your sin and repent of it, and see your Savior and run to Him!
For those brothers and sisters who feel that this message is insufficient on its own to convince the minds of men, remember this: we are called to bear witness to the testimony of God! Is it not sufficient? We must not be like the Corinthians and grasp at the trends and whims of culture to support our task. Will God’s wisdom succeed in creating the minds of men and yet fail in convincing His chosen ones of the truth? Must we add wisdom to complete it? Does God’s power hold the world together and yet fail to accomplish His purpose? Must we add new methods to make it effective? We must dilute no longer the purity and power of the Gospel with the supposed wisdom and flashy tricks of the world. Enough with this tomfoolery! As men and women of sincerity who have seen the power of God, let us hold fast to the Word and proclaim the Gospel! It alone has the power of God to save.
Lastly, for those who desire to proclaim the Gospel but do not feel up to the task, if you feel inadequate, you are right! God does not call us to be adequate in ourselves or to go with superiority of speech or wisdom. Rather, he calls us to be faithful witnesses who rely on His power. We have received a message of hope and life, and His Spirit works through the message to create life in those who will believe. Look not to yourself, but look to our Savior and Lord. He is our strength for the task and the hope for the world!
It is my prayer that this series engenders within us a renewed love for Christ and a reinvigorated confidence in the Gospel. Let us rejoice in the glorious person and work of Christ, and let us proclaim it to the world! All in the power and for the sake of His glorious name. Amen.
Mike Engelsgjerd recently separated from the U.S. Army after 15 years of service. Towards the end of his service, Mike began to feel God’s call to full time Christian ministry. In following this call, He is pursuing an M.Div. at TMS with the goal of becoming a Chaplain in the U.S. Military and a Pastor.