“NO NEED OF BIG WORDS?” By Pastor YAU
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 February 6, 2011.
1) Using big words: When writer Dennis Fisher was a kid, he was drawn to learn big words. One of the words he had learned is mouthful like “antidisestablishmentarianism.” (28 letters) The dictionary defines it as “The doctrine or political position that opposes the withdrawal of state recognition of an established church.” The definition is almost as confusing as the word itself. Fisher admitted that neither he nor his school friends knew what it meant. But by able to know big words made him felt wise or knowledgeable even though he was still in grade school.
2) Not using big words: But when the Apostle Paul presented the gospel message to the highly educated people in Corinth, he didn’t try to impress them by using any big words. In a little to the Corinthians, he wrote: “When I came to you, I did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1) “Excellence of speech” is the translation of Greek words meaning “big, high-sounding words” or “pompous speech.” This implies using of big words to exalt self instead of to instruct others so they may understand and be benefited. Paul was a brilliant scholar on standard of his day, yet he did not use lofty words to elevate his self-importance.
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF BIG WORDS:
1) God is not shy of big words: Even though most of us are not scholars of biblical languages, but just by reading the Bible in many translations, particularly in the Books of Wisdom, we can taste and feel the beauty of the book in linguistic terms. Most of the world’s largest and respectable libraries carry the Bible in many languages for religious and linguistic purposes. Biblical scholars tell us that the Bible is one of the most beautifully written books in human history. Words, sentence structures, linguistic arts and other features made the Bible on the top list of literature and language in all time. God is never shy of using lofty words or beautiful arts of language to express His mind so human beings may learn about Him.
2) God used all kinds of writers: Among the over 40 writers or pen men of the Bible many of them are highly educated well learned and they used the best words and language to present the mind of God and teachings of His words. Writers like Moses, Isaiah, David and Solomon in the Old Testament and Matthew, Luke and Paul in the New Testament are among the best educated of their times. Even the fishermen like Peter and John, people were astonished of their language skills in presenting the gospel and in the defense of it. (Acts 2:6-9; 4:5-13)
3) God uses all kinds of messengers: Throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history, God is never shy of using all kinds of men and women, from the very humble country preachers to highly educated and sophisticated, even blue-blooded to bring his message to the lost world. God uses simple messengers to bring the very basic teachings of salvation to the non-believers. He also uses scholars to argue with the brilliant secular mind of the world on topics from theological doctrines to philosophical debates with atheists, leaders of false religions and deviations within the Christian church. God is never shy of using people who are good the art of language and big words to present the gospel and to defense the Bible.
4) God is still taking the lead: With almost all the best academic institutions in America were established by the Church and best minds of Christian scholars in the early years of American history. God continues to call and train countless brilliant mind of the modern world in seminaries and other academic facilities. God also raises many highly educated people in churches who are very good and able in using proper words to witness to the non-believers and teach them about the Bible. Most of the new converts are results of these able and faithful teachers.
THE DARK SIDE OF BIG WORDS: (1 Corinthians 1: 18-25)
1) Human wisdom rejects the cross: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” (1:18) These are words of Paul written 2,000 years ago on the consequence of rejecting the message of the cross by those who claimed to be wise in big words. That phenomenon is still so true in today’s world. Many people who consider themselves as learned, wise, sophisticated, smart, strong, able, self-made and even invincible have rejected the message of the cross and therefore will perish without hope. It is a disease of spiritual blindness these people have. They keep themselves live in the darkness of their mind in this life and in the darkness of their soul in the life to come.
2) Human wisdom is nothing to God: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; and will bring the intelligence of the intelligent to nothing. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1:19-20) Wisdom of man is in no match with the wisdom of God. None of the worldly wisdom may come close to the wisdom of God. Men may feel proud of their wisdom, but none of that may help them to know God.
3) Human wisdom hinders salvation: “Since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know him; God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1:21)What was true in Paul’s time is still true today: human wisdom hinders the worldly wise to believe in Jesus and be saved. Many men in this world are wise in many things, except the things about God and salvation.
4) Human wisdom is foolish to God: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man, and the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man.” (1:25)This is the ultimate defeat of human wisdom compares with that of God: the least of God’s wisdom is wiser than the best of man; and the weakest of God’s strength is stronger than that of man as well. If man are truly wise, he should choose God’s wisdom, not his, and God’s strength, not his own. Nothing comes from man’s wisdom or strength may come close to that of God’s. This should be a wakeup call for those who still rely on their wisdom or strength.
WHAT TO DO WITH BIG WORDS: (2:1-5)
1) There is no need of big words: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence (big words) or excellent wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” (2:1) Paul testified that he did not use big words or excellent human wisdom when he presented the gospel to the Corinthians. Although Paul was very good in both, he chose not to use them when presenting the gospel. Paul did not fall into the trap of worldly wisdom as some may have been. Human wisdom or big words are not needed when we witness for Christ. It is never our wisdom or eloquence that may convict people of their need of salvation. It is God’s power and love that bring people to Him.
2) Nothing but Jesus crucified: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2:2) Salvation is totally based on the forgiveness of sin by the blood of the crucified Christ. With all the knowledge Paul had, he chose not to use his own wisdom or big words but to present the facts that Christ was crucified therefore he has washed away the sins of men. This is the essence of the gospel. This is what sets the Christian faith apart and above all other religions. No other religion has its founder born as the Son of God by a virgin and died on the cross for the remission of the sins of men except in the crucified Christ.
3) It is the power of the Spirit: “I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the power of the Spirit.” (2:3-4) Jesus forecasted that “When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8)Paul testified that: “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3) It is the power of the Spirit that convicts men of their sins and brings them to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.
4) It is never the wisdom of man: “So that your faith might not rest on the wisdom of man but on the power of God.” (2:5)This is an affirmation on the power of God and his Spirit when Paul witnessed to the Corinthians. It is also an recognition of the futility of human wisdom, eloquence and strength in bringing people to know Christ and be saved. There is nothing anyone may do on his own effort or power or personal equity to witness for Christ and be effective.
1) If you don’t know big words: That is perfectly ok. You don’t need to know big words or be eloquent to have superior wisdom to be a good witness for Christ. It is never how good you are in speech or education or in language skill to be effective in witnessing. It is all about the power of God and His Spirit to convict people of their sins and to accept Christ as their Savior.
2) If you know big words: If you are highly educated, good in knowledge and skillful in debate, then you need to be careful not to use that to reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t misuse the gift of God to deny your opportunity to know Jesus and to believe in Him and be saved. Misusing your God given skills is a big problem for many people. Be humble before God, confess your sins and ask Jesus to come into your heart to save you and direct your life to a higher ground.