Summary: In whose power do you operate?
August 17, 2003
Text: I Corinthians 2:1-5
Subject: The Pure Gospel
Title: What You See Is What You Get
I went to school with a preacher’s son in Troy who was the radical leader in our school back in the late sixties. He was a charismatic sort who could talk his way into and out of any situation. He firmly believed in the radical social changes that were taking place back then and had convinced some of us to jump on his bandwagon. The way he did it was to just speak words of wisdom that to our young impressionable minds seemed to make perfect sense. It is very much like the car salesman who knows just the right words to say and the right technique to use in order to persuade someone to buy a car from him. By the time he is done talking, you would be a fool not to buy. There are people out there who just have a knack for speech.
Back in 1887, someone was convincing enough to persuade government officials to dig up Abraham Lincoln’s coffin. Though it had lain there for 22 years, they dug it up and pried it open and sure enough, the body of the former president was there. Even more amazing than that is the fact that 14 years later another rumor began to circulate that the body was not there. This rumor became so persuasive that as it swept the land the only way to stop it was to once again dig up the coffin and allow a handful of witnesses to view – yes, you guessed it – the body of a dead president.
Today we are going to look at the apostle Paul. He knew about the power of persuasive speech. He grew up in Tarsus. The philosopher Strabo preferred Tarsus to the Greek learning centers of Athens or Alexandria. Paul’s secular upbringing, then, was in a place where he would know how to use words to get his point across. He even quotes Greek poets in his writings. (Acts 17:28, Titus 1:12, 1 Corinthians 15:33). Most of these Greek philosophers though were like today’s scientists. They had theories and used as much persuasive communication as they could to convince others to believe them.
Paul was a learned man, both in the secular and religious worlds. For him to cast aside the best of both worlds and go out preaching the gospel indicates to us just how real he considered the truth of Christ to be. Yet, he chose not to use philosophic or religious words to convince.
Today we will see that Paul had motive behind the way he spoke.
First, he spoke to impress. Second, he sought to regress. Third, he reached the height of progress.
I. Speaking to impress. (verse 1)
A. Paul was just an awesome guy. As I said before, he grew up learning philosophy. To the Greek/Roman society education meant everything, and being able to speak properly and convincingly was a great tool. Yet he tells the church in Corinth, “I did not come with excellence of speech”. Immediately before he had come to Corinth, Paul had seen great success. Wherever he went people were saved and opposition arose. Then we see in Acts 17:16-34 while in Athens, Paul came up against philosophers. Knowing that they were not religious, he began to speak to them logically in order to convince them to accept the One True God. This logic, mingled with the gospel truth, had little success in Athens. When he came to Corinth, he had made up his mind not to go there as a philosopher or a salesman but as a witness. Why would Paul need to speak eloquently? In Galatians 1:11-12 he says, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received if from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
B. Paul didn’t come in wisdom. In 1:20-21 he asks, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 2:6,7 “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.” Do you know what happens if you convince someone of the gospel using worldly wisdom? That same worldly wisdom can convince them that the gospel isn’t true. Jesus Himself said that false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect and Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) The things that look and sound good to the world is not godly wisdom.