My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (HCSB)
God has chosen to reveal himself to us by becoming a man. By submitting to the temptations of Satan through the serpent, mankind lost his intended glory. He had been designed to reflect the nature of God on the earth and subdue the earth under the rule of God himself. However, when mankind fell into the deception of Satan, he lost that glory. But God’s wisdom made a way for mankind to regain his glory through the Son becoming a man and modeling what mankind was designed to be. Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was innocent, but Jesus, the last Adam, was perfect. He is the accurate example of mankind as God intended. So God is not reluctant to work through human flesh to fulfill his purposes.
However, God does not rely on human initiative to accomplish his purpose. Flawed mankind will do works for God in order to gain some sense of significance. He can easily get caught up in enjoying the applause of others to the extent that he is controlled by their acceptance. He can use his talents and gifts to gain a reputation for himself and in the process neglect the original purpose of featuring the glory of Jesus, who is the hero of earth and heaven. He falls prey to the deception that he is the center of the universe, and that life is about his achievements and his accolades.
The Apostle Paul was very careful to preach the gospel in such a way that those who heard were not focused on the messenger, but the message. They would not hear the story in such a way that the preacher was the hero, but that the Lord Jesus Christ was the hero. Paul lived in a culture where oratory was prized as a remarkable and enviable skill. Those who heard him tell the story of Jesus must not be confused by his rhetoric, but quickly directed toward the real hero, Jesus.
As we compare our own culture to Paul’s, we are forced to admit that our fascination is with entertaining and captivating speakers who are obviously relevant to the values of the culture. They are aware that the public demand is for nice, professional, astute, hip communicators who relay a message that appeals to the consumer. Often times you will hear a contemporary speaker introduced as a great communicator. Even those who intentionally appeal to the conservative, Bible-believing audience often relay a message of self-improvement by focusing on laws and principles rather than the embarrassing grace of God in Jesus Christ. Paul never received an introduction as a great communicator. He was careful that the story of Jesus was not diluted by attention to the skills of the storyteller.
Paul believed that the story had supernatural power in it. He believed that when he explained the mystery that had confounded the saints of the Old Testament, the very presence of God’s Spirit was present, convicting and converting those who heard. He was fearful that the hearers would get so caught up in the way the story was told that they would not experience the power that accompanies the gospel. He knew how to debate, speak, entertain, and compete, but he refused to do so when presenting the gospel. The story of the eternal purpose of God being played out in history and climaxing in the appearance of Jesus must not be diluted by the human instrument who is telling it.
Today we suffer from a man-centered gospel. When good, church-going people talk about the gospel, they often are more impressed with the skills of the one who gave the message than the content of the message and the mysterious power that comes when one meets the star of the story. Good communicators are not enough. We must have men and women who explain the mystery in such a way that the hearers are in awe of Jesus who accompanies the story. The living Christ will eternally transform these hearers. Their story will be about the Jesus they met, though they will have adequate appreciation for the human instrument that God used to convey the message. The gospel is too grand to dilute it with the faint praise of any man. It is the power of God unto salvation.