The Christian message, while not commending itself to man’s philosophical approach, is nevertheless the instrument of God’s power and the complement of God’s wisdom. Now Paul proceeds to discuss the communication of the message. There is nothing more important for businessmen and housewives, preachers, and teachers than this matter of communication. The priority program of the church until Jesus returns is the communication of the Christian gospel to every creature in every country.
The Master said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). And again, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
As a communicator himself, Paul knew something of the inherent dangers in the methods and motives of public preaching. Indeed, the church at Corinth was divided on this very issue. Some said they preferred Paul, others said they preferred Apollos, still others said they preferred Cephas, and so on. There was division because of the differences and preferences relating to the personalities and presentations of these preachers. So Paul tackles this problem by saying, in effect, that temperament, background and training are not what matters; the power of the Holy Spirit is needed to be a communicator for Christ. This anointing of the Spirit concerns three aspects of the task as a communicator.
First of all, there is the supreme passion of a communicator. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Drawing heavily upon his own experience, Paul shares with us the twofold secret of the consuming passion of a gospel communicator.
To start with, there is dedication to the Master. Paul uses a special word here to describe his dedicated resolve. He says, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2). This is the secret of a true passion for preaching and communicating. This man was so Christ-centered and Christ-controlled that nothing else mattered, save Jesus Christ. He could say, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); and again, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:8-10); and yet again, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press [or I pursue, the same word that he used for the persecution of the church] toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
How true it is that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Some of us remember the crusade that Dr. Billy Graham had at Harringay in the city of London. I was then pastor of the Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Surrey, and we took scores of people every night to the meetings. Riding home on one or two occasions by subway, I made it my business to go from car to car and meet people who had just trusted Christ. It was absolutely thrilling! These folk were so full of their newfound joy that they were singing and talking about Jesus in every compartment of the train. And it did not matter how much the conservative Britisher tried to hide his face in The Times or the Telegraph, he still had to hear. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Many years ago I was preaching in the city of Birmingham, England, and while there, stayed in the home of a lovely couple. Just before my arrival their daughter had become engaged, so almost the first word of greeting was, “You know, Dorothy has become engaged!” I turned to Dorothy and said, “Tell me, who is he?” and she, with radiant face, replied, “Oh, his name is George.” I thought that was the end of it. But believe me when I tell you that we had George for breakfast, George for lunch, and George for supper! At the table when Dorothy passed the sugar it was with the left hand, so that everyone could see those flashing facets of the engagement ring! You see, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
A little later, in that same city, I was speaking at a rally on the theme of witnessing, and at the close of the meeting a young fellow came to me and said, “You know, I find it difficult to speak about the Lord Jesus. I can talk about other things, but when it comes to witnessing for Christ I just seem to be tongue-tied.” I paused a moment and then put this question to him, “Tell me,” I asked, “have you a hobby?” “Oh, yes!” he exclaimed, “My hobby is motorcycling.” “That’s very interesting,” I observed, “because I used to own a motorbike.”
His eyes opened like saucers, and in a moment he had launched into a most detailed description of motorcycles in general, and his machine in particular. In fact, for twenty minutes I couldn’t get a word in edgewise! Finally I stopped him and gave him this parting word, “Son, when you spend as much time with Jesus as you do with your favorite hobby, you will have a polished twenty-minute sermon every time you speak!”
Dedication to the Master, this was Paul’s passion. For him living was Christ. As the pages of the Old Testament scriptures opened to him it was Jesus he saw. As he prayed it was Jesus he sensed. As he witnessed to others it was Jesus he shared. So it should be with us. Our holiness, our power, our victory, our blessing, is all wrapped up in Christ, and if the Lord Jesus means everything to us, we cannot but talk about Him. Thus Paul could say, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
But alongside of dedication to the Master there was concentration on the message: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul determined to present Christ in all the simplicity of the essential facts of His death and resurrection. His supreme passion was Christ and Him crucified. And knowing what the philosophers of Corinth stood for, he saw to it that his message was Christ and Him crucified, “not in His glory but in His humiliation, that the foolishness of the preaching might be doubly foolish, and the weakness doubly weak. The incarnation was in itself a stumbling block; the crucifixion was much more than this.”1
Some students of the Bible maintain that Paul’s emphasis on the cross in the city of Corinth was because of his sense of failure in the alleged philosophical approach he adopted at Athens. But a study ofActs 17 makes it evident that the apostle’s preaching there was not basically philosophical, even though he did quote from the philosophers of his day. His sermon began with a biblical presentation of creation and ended on the note of the resurrection. Why would he speak of the resurrection if there were no crucifixion? Whether in Athens or Corinth, Paul could affirm, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The gospel, according to Paul, was that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
A young preacher in a college town was embarrassed by the thought of the criticism he was likely to receive from his cultured congregation. He sought out his father, an old and wise minister of the gospel, and said, “Father, I find it hard to outline a sermon that I can preach to these people. If I cite anything from geology, there is Doctor A, the geology professor before me. If I use an illustration from history, there is Doctor B, ready to trip me up. If I choose English literature for some allusion, I am afraid the whole English department will challenge me. What shall I do?” The sagacious and godly old man replied, “Preach the gospel, my son, they probably know very little about that!”
Tholuck, a German Lutheran theologian and evangelical preacher, adopted the motto of Count Zinzendorf, “I have only one passion, and it is He, only He.” Martin Luther’s preaching aroused the church from a thousand years of slumber, known by the historians as the devil’s millennium. It is easy to understand why, when we discover how he preached. Luther said, “I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose again from the dead today, and is coming back to earth tomorrow.” This is the supreme passion of the communicator — dedication to the Master and concentration on the message.
This brings us to our second point, which is the spiritual power of a communicator. “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). The apostle knew that the content of his message was so unacceptable to the carnal mind that he had no confidence in his ability to communicate it. In fact, he admits that he came to Corinth “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). J. B. Phillips puts it even more dramatically when he renders Paul as saying, “I was feeling far from strong, I was nervous and rather shaky.”
Have you ever felt like that as you waited in the checkout line and the lady in front of you made a remark that gave you a wide open door to witness for Christ? I am encouraged by the words of Dr. G. Campbell Morgan when he confessed that every Sunday, as he made his way to the pulpit, he was invariably reminded of that scripture, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).
I have never preached in my life without experiencing “butterflies” inside. Time and again, I have prayed, “Lord, how am I ever going to get through this message?” And instead of less fear, I was given more fear. Why? Surely it was God teaching me that it was not human oratory or human argument that was going to get the message across of a crucified and risen Savior, but rather the Holy Spirit with quiet demonstration and power. So Paul says, “I was feeling far from strong, I was nervous and rather shaky.” His fear, of course, was more of God than of man. It was a fear of the task committed to him, or what Kay calls “anxious desire to fulfill his duty.”
Thus Paul writes, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). This means that Paul did not depend on what was known as “the Corinthian words” of excellent speech and poetic persuasion; his confidence, rather, was in the power of divine revelation: “I was with you … in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). The word translated “demonstration” signifies “the most rigorous proof” As Dr. Leon Morris puts it, “It is possible for arguments to be logically irrefutable, yet totally unconvincing.”2
What, then, is the secret of preaching or communicating Christ? Paul tells us that it is the demonstration of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit takes over the argumentation in the simple language of a housewife, a businessman, a schoolgirl, or a schoolboy, something miraculous happens. This is the essential difference between human reasoning and divine revelation. When communicators of the Christian message trust in their own powers to convince men and women “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8), they fall miserably, but when they trust in the Holy Spirit there is always “old-time conviction.” This is why Jesus said before He left for heaven, “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father … of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).
So we can be communicators of this glorious message of Christ and Him crucified because we have received the Spirit of revelation. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The temple was the place of revelation, where God’s word and will were made known. How wonderful to know, then, that you and I can be temples of revelation!
But there is not only the power of divine revelation, there is also the power of divine application: I was with you … in demonstration [this is the revelation] of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4). The phrase “of the Spirit and of power” carries us back to the “dynamic of God” in the word of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18). There is something inherent in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that has a dynamic relevance, and therefore, an application to everyday living. Preach the gospel to any creature, in any country, in any age, and you will find it just as authoritative and applicable as it was in the days of the apostle Paul.
I have actually spoken by interpretation, when communication involved four or five languages, and people have been converted! This is the miracle of divine application. This is why Paul exclaims, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
A dramatic illustration of this is the young fellow I interviewed on our television program when I was a pastor in New York City. He had been one of Hell’s Angels, a club of motorcycle riders. He hesitated to speak about his past life, but suffice it to say he was guilty of the most dreadful deeds of obscenity and cruelty anyone could ever talk about. Eventually, however, he came to the end of himself. He told how on a drug trip he climbed into a metal trash can, pulled the cover down, and determined to die. For four days he stayed in that self-imposed prison without light, food, or hope. Then at the urging of his mother, he attended a Billy Graham Crusade meeting. As he lay on the grassy infield, listening to the evangelist, the withdrawal pains got worse and he began to cry; he realized he was breaking down. The Spirit of God, through revelation and application, began to communicate the message to his heart, and he decided to give his life to something greater, Someone who could do the job he had failed to do. Very simply, he prayed and invited Christ to take control of his life, and instantly he was delivered from the desire for drugs. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit in the revelation and application of saving truth.
My last point is the single purpose of a communicator. “That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). No communicator fulfills his mission until he brings boys and girls, men and women, to rest their faith in the power of God. The power of God is nothing less than the word of the gospel, even our Lord Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The problem in Corinth was that the members of the church were seeking to pin their faith on Paul, or on Apollos, or on Cephas. So Paul takes pains to correct this divisive misplacement of confidence. To achieve this end, he realized that men and women had to exer-cise faith, and for faith to be sound the apostle knew that it had to be reposed in the Savior Himself with-out dependence on human wisdom or power.
Paul amplifies this point when he writes concerning the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 of this same epistle. There he declares, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). If Christ were not alive from the dead then sin was not put away, the gospel was not true; the Corinthians had believed a lie; the apostles were false witnesses, and the loved ones who had fallen asleep were gone forever. So to be sound in the faith a person must believe in the Son of God who literally and physically rose from the dead. All other tenets of evangelical faith are both included and implied in this one central and focal fact of the resurrection of Christ.
Is your faith sound? Do you believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again for your justification? Have you a sound faith? More than this, have you a saving faith? Does it stand in the power of God?
Paul has explained the meaning of “the power of God” in a previous verse. He has asserted that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:18). A saving faith is one that effects a mighty transformation in the believing soul. It is a faith that owns the Lord Jesus as Savior in the deepest sense of that word. So I ask, can you sing: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart” (Alfred H. Ackley).
Yes, you must have a sound faith, a saving faith, and also a steadfast faith, “that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). It has been well said that what depends upon a clever argument is at the mercy of a more clever argument. But this is not so when faith is reposed in the unchanging Son of God. This is why Paul employs the term “stand,” which conveys the idea of steadfastness.
Twice over in this epistle he exhorts the believer to be steadfast in the faith. The first mention follows the glorious treatment of the unalterable facts of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. Having declared the triumph of the Savior over sin and death and hell, Paul says, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The second reference coincides with the conclusion of the epistle where the apostle exhorts, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Paul has made it abundantly plain that the gospel of God cannot be communicated or understood apart from a God-given passion, a God-given power, and a God-given purpose. Thus, whoever claims to be a communicator must possess these qualifications through the sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit.
The famous British preacher, Rowland Hill, knew something of this. Addressing the people of Wootton during one of his pastorates, he declared:
Because I am earnest in my preaching men call me an enthusiast, a fanatic. When I first came to this part of the country I was walking on yonder hill and saw a gravel pitfall in and bury three human beings alive. I lifted up my voice for help so loudly that I was heard in the town below at a distance of nearly a mile. Help came and two of the sufferers were rescued. No one called me an enthusiast or a fanatic that day; yet when I see eternal destruction ready to fall upon poor sinners, and I call upon them to escape, men dare to call me an enthusiast and a fanatic. How little they know of my accountability to God and my responsibility to men!
Never in human history have means of communication become more accessible and adaptable to the preacher of the Christian message. Today we have the printed page, the pager, the television screen, the laptop computer and transmission by satellite. In fact, we are told that the time will soon come when people will be able to view a television program in any part of the world by means of a device as small as a wristwatch. Such facts as these should stir our hearts and strengthen our hands as we seek to preach the Christian message to every creature.
Let us remember, however, that whatever means we may employ in this technological age, nothing can ever take the place of the personal witness of life and lip. Our daily prayer should be: “Mine are the hands to do the work; My feet shall run for Thee; My lips shall sound the glorious news: Lord, here am I; send me” (Howard W. Guinness).
Taken from The Christian Message for Contemporary Life: The Gospel’s Power to Change Lives by Stephen F. Olford. (c) 1999 by Stephen E. Olford. Used by permission of Kregel Publications.
1Bishop Lightfoot
2Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians (London: Tyndale, 1958), 52.

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