Friday, February 13, 2009

Wisdom and Eloquence in Preaching

An interesting trend has unfolded over the past week in five venues. In my homiletics class we are studying how to display wisdom with eloquence in our preaching; in my missions class we are examining how to conform ourselves to the world; in a Greg Stier book I'm reading, he recounts a time in his childhood in which he was trained to preach with style in order to win a 'preach-off' for his school; Phil Johnson's testimony describes how he was utterly crushed by the reading the first chapter of First Corinthians, which denounces the wisdom of men; and finally I was interviewed on camera at Kennesaw State University, having preaching for about fifteen minutes, by a man completely astonished that I would do something so foolish.

It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. - 1 Corinthians 1:21

I vacillate frequently on my favorite book of the Bible. Last week it was Psalm 73, the week before that it was Romans, before that it was First John, and before that was Acts; but the most useful book which I always return to is the Epistle to Galatia, against a church that abandoned the wisdom of God in order to seek after the wisdom of men, thoroughly content to reject Paul as an Apostle, excited to be perfected by their own works. Truly, they called themselves a church of Christ, but were not, but were a synagogue of Satan. A variety of quotes jump out at me as pertinent to those who would reject the foolishness of preaching in order to win the world through their own eloquence and wisdom, completely content to empty the cross of Christ of its power.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel... - Galatians 1:6

Oh you foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you? Did you receive Eternal Life through words of eloquent wisdom or baptism? Or through hearing the word of faith as it was proclaimed? For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. And if I, or an angel from Heaven, would preach to you a Gospel different than this, let them be accursed, though they bring interesting stories, relevant to the world, indistinguishable in word or talk from the world, let them be accursed.

Paul, in one of his "unprofitable" boasting fits, states this, "I worked harder than any of [the other Apostles], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." (1 Corinthians 15:11) Paul, THE Super-Apostle, whom could have come with every manner of eloquence and wisdom of speach, is so quick to point at the grace of God as the source of the gift of faith.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. - 2 Timothy 4:1-2

Rely not on yourselves, but on God who raises the dead.

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