No Clever Speeches
1 Corinthians 1:17-19
Have you ever sat through a church service, the whole time thinking to yourself, “Wow, this guy is an awesome speaker?” You know those sermons, he had some hilarious jokes, great anecdotes, and really waxed eloquent on the subject…um, whatever it was. Wait, what did he talk about? Hold on; I remember it was something about…no that wasn’t it. One of those pastors who sounded great, looked great, probably even smelled great, and said a lot, but it turned out to be a lot of nothing.
I have watched a few of these TV pastors, who shall remain nameless. These guys are brilliant speakers, extremely well spoken, and charismatic, but never really say anything. Don’t get me wrong, they make you feel really good about yourself and tell you all the things you want to hear, but not what you need to hear. Many of these people never open their Bible. They will preach for an hour and never even quote a verse. And, if they do quote a verse, they are taking it totally out of context to try to prove some point. These people have built huge “ministries” and amassed massive amounts of wealth for themselves, but they are not preaching the word and will have to answer for that one day.
In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul said, “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” Paul had just finished writing about how he was glad that he didn’t baptize but a few of them, so they couldn’t say that they were baptized in the name of Paul. Then he goes on in this verse to tell them that God didn’t send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel. But notice what he says at the end of the verse, he says that he wouldn’t preach with clever words, but why? Because clever speech might take away from the power of the cross.
You see, this is the problem with those types of pastors, it becomes all about them. They aren’t preaching the good news; they are telling you things that make you feel good about yourself so you will like them and give them money. Their preaching is taking away from the power of the cross! Please don’t get me wrong; there are popular pastors out there who are preaching the cross. Men who aren’t getting caught up in the trap of popularity yet are still well followed. Men like Francis Chan and Mark Driscoll are preaching the Word, not with clever speech, but with conviction. So, don’t write a pastor off just because he is popular, listen to what he is saying and test it against scripture.
Paul goes on in verses 18 and 19 to say, “18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.’” See what he says? If someone sees the gospel as foolish or useless, that is a good sign of where they are heading. Then Paul says, “But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” We know that the gospel is not foolish, we know that it is the very power of God. But notice that it says, “we who are being saved.” The verb tenses of this phrase, as well as the phrase, “are perishing,” are both very significant. You see, both of these phrases describe a work in progress. Every one of us is moving in one direction or the other. We are either being saved or perishing; there is no middle ground.
We will be looking at the end of this chapter in a few weeks, but what does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29? He says, “26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” So, God isn’t worried about the wisdom of this world; He doesn’t care what we think about any of this. We may try to impress people with our fancy words and eloquent speech, but we don’t impress God. He doesn’t call the wise or rich or famous; He uses the poor and foolish and things the world counts as nothing to bring to nothing the things the world considers important.
I know this family who most people would consider backward hillbillies. They live in a trailer and drive an old beat up car. They have very simple and unpretentious speech and just seem uneducated. But once you get to know them you find out that the father and the son are both geniuses, they are both spiritual giants, and they are very wealthy, as the world sees wealth. There are no pretenses to them, but they regularly confound the wise.
We need to stop trusting in our wisdom. We need to become more like Paul and simply present the gospel. If there is a pastor that you love listening to, take some time to listen to what he is saying and doing. If his life and message don’t line up with scripture, then get away from him. But, like I said last week, if he is preaching the cross, you still need to do the work of studying out what he said with the Bible. If he is a man of God, he will be pleased that you are doing this.