“THERE’S A BETTER WAY                     By Pastor YAU

Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5                               November 27, 2011

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)    A modern-time debate: Since August 2011, it was told on news that there would be 14 debates among the GOP presidential candidates before the primary election of the party.  Eight men and a woman will present their best plans on politics, economy, social and international issues. Observers mostly agree that there is not much difference between the candidates in term of policy and political stand, it is more on their oracle skill, style and persona appeal that may win support of the public. To win a political campaign also needs lots of money, support of major donors. So, they will travel to raise money for election.

2)    An ancient-time debate: About 2,000 years ago, when Paul was on missionary trips bringing the gospel message to the Roman Empire first from the Eastern cities such as Corinth, Ephesus and Athens and finally the capital city Rome. In all this great cities, Paul encountered tremendous challenge from the agnostics and the intellects. First, they ridiculed the message of salvation only through faith in Jesus Christ; then, they ridiculed the messenger Paul on his lack of oracle skill or persona appeal. “For some say: His letters are weighty and forceful but in person he is unimpressive (weak, KJV) and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:10) Today, many people who reject the gospel message still use the same method: attack the message and the messengers.

 

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE BIBLE: (2:1)

1)   Not about oracle skill: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence.” Eloquence, huperoche in Greek, means superior, elevated or rising above others in terms of presentation skills. Although Bible scholars agree that Paul, with his excellent training background and language knowledge, he is one of the best of his time in those skills. Yet, Paul stressed that he didn’t use any of those skills to present the gospel message in order to win over the intellects. Even though presentation skill helps to make it clear and convincing, no one should depend on personal skill to share the gospel and hope for success.

2)   Not about human wisdom: “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom.” (2:1) Superior wisdom here refers to human learning or education. No one can discredit the value of learning and its positive effects in results, but sharing the gospel message to lead people to Christ can never depend on human wisdom or degree of learning. We see many of Jesus’ disciples came from very little background of formal learning. But they were very effective in witnessing and writing. God used people like Isaiah who grew up in the king’s court. God also used people like Amos, a shepherd and a caretaker of sycamore-fig trees. (Amos 7:14) No one should depend on his education or knowledge in sharing the gospel.

3)   But the revelation of God: “I proclaimed to you the testimony of God.” (2:1) “Testimony” here is from marturion in Greek which means mystery or revelation of God, what we call the Bible today. When we share the gospel message with non-believers, we don’t need to have the best language skill or the best education or knowledge. All we need to know is the word of God revealed in the Bible. No human knowledge or language skills may lead anyone to salvation in Jesus Christ. No wonder Paul wrote this to Timothy: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 3:15)

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST: (2:2)

1)    It is about determination: “For I resolved to know nothing (else) while I was with you.” (2:2a) “Resolved” is from a Greek word, ekrina, which means “determined,” “have decided deliberately after weighing all other options.” Paul had a choice to make if he would present the gospel message in ways that would impress the intellectual audience or he would just present it the way God wanted him to. With all the education and experience, Paul could use others options to make him and his message more pleasing, acceptable and easy to the wise of the world. But after weighing all the options and possible results, he made up his mind in doing it just one way: God’s way. All witnesses for Christ must make up his/her mind which way will we go, what method will we use to approach people with the gospel.

2)    It is all about Jesus Christ: “I resolved to know nothing...except Jesus Christ.” (2:2b)Of course Paul knows a lot of things, both the wisdom of the Jewish religion and the teaching of the secular world of his time, but he chose only to preach Jesus Christ. Regardless of what others believe who Jesus is, to Paul, Jesus is the only way of salvation, the Son of the Living God as Peter declared, and the Savior of human souls. God has designated Jesus alone to save the souls of men from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) Peter had also declared, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

3)    It is about Jesus crucified: “I resolved to know nothing...except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2:2c) It is the death of Jesus on the cross that provides the forgiveness of human sins. It is the death of Jesus that paved the way for sinful men to access the presence of God. It is the death of Jesus demonstrated the great love of God to fallen human beings. It is the death of Jesus that sets Christian faith on top of all other religions on redemption of all men for eternal life with God. “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE POWER OF GOD: (2:3-5)

1)    Recognize human inadequacy: “I cam to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” (2:3)The appearance of Paul may not be impressive. His stature may be small or weak. His exposure to worldly skill of philosophical debate may be limited and his charisma may be low for recognition by the intellects of the highly educated scholars of the metropolitan city. Therefore he came to Corinth in fear and feeling weak and trembling. We may have that same awe feeling of inadequacy when we are at the presence of high-class people, people with extra ordinary status or position or background. We are intimidated, frightened and full of self-image deficiency when we face powerful people, very rich people or high academic scholars. It is a deep sense of inadequacy to present to them the message of Jesus Christ.

2)    Recognize the power of Spirit: “My speech and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstra-tion of the power of the Spirit.” (2:4) Speech are conversations, discussion with people in daily life. Preaching is formal delivery of the gospel message. In both cases, Paul did not use wise or persuasive words to attract attention or agreement from listeners to make them believe in the gospel. Instead Paul lived, preached by the power of the Holy Spirit that inspired him the right words to say. Jesus promised his disciples the pouring of the Holy Spirit when he commissioned them to brig the message of salvation to the end of the world. (Acts 1:8)

3)    Recognize the power of God: “So that your faith might not rest on the wisdom of men but on the power of God.” (2:5)While the power of the Holy Spirit enabled Paul to present to gospel to the people of the world the power of God convicted them to confess their sins so they will be saved. This is not to discredit the value of human wisdom in presenting the gospel; this is to reaffirm the true power that convicts people of their sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord, that power is from God. Paul said: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6) We need to do our part faithfully, but it is God’s power that convicts people of their sins to receive forgiveness.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   God has made a promise: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8) Before Jesus commanded his disciples to be his witnesses, he made them a promise: The Holy Spirit will come on them and they will receive power to do the mission Jesus commanded them to do. Power to share the gospel message doesn’t come from our own but from the power of God’s Spirit. No matter whom we may witness to, the power of God is within us. So, just share the gospel---Christ and him crucified. We sow the seeds, the Spirit water, and God will receive the harvest in His time.

2)   The message is for you: “There is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) We all were born sinners with a sinful nature and have sinned ever since we know how to make decisions. The gospel is for everyone who confesses his sins to the Lord and he will receive from him forgiveness and eternal life. Do not debate with worldly wisdom or your own intelligence. God is love and He loves you. Take Jesus into your heart and he will save you and direct your life to a higher ground.