THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PREACHING DERIVES FROM ITS FOCUS ON THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST AND ITS DYNAMIC OF THE POWER OF GOD RATHER THAN FROM THE ELOQUENCE OR PERSONALITY OF THE PREACHER
What makes for an effective sermon or for a powerful preacher? What makes one sermon fall flat while another has tremendous impact in the lives of people? What are the criteria we should use in evaluating preachers? The Apostle Paul has been criticizing the Corinthians for placing too much stock in the personality of individual preachers. He has already stripped aside all reliance upon human wisdom to get to the core of the fundamental message of the gospel – the cross of Christ. Now he points to his own example of what constitutes powerful preaching.
I. (:1-2) THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PREACHING DERIVES FROM ITS FOCUS
A. (:1) Not on Human Wisdom or Eloquence
“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.”
Hodge: The testimony of God may mean either the testimony which Paul bore concerning God, or God’s own testimony, i.e. what God had revealed and testified to be true. “The testimony of God” is, in this sense, the gospel, as in 2 Tim. 1, 8. The latter interpretation best suits the connection, as throughout these chapters Paul contrasts what reason teaches with what God teaches. He did not appear as a teacher of human wisdom, but as announcing what God had revealed.
Contrast the approach of Madison Avenue advertising via the media
Contrast much of the approach of TV evangelists
B. (:2) But on the Crucified Christ
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
II. (:3-4) THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PREACHING DERIVES FROM ITS DYNAMIC
A. (:3-4a) Not of Human Personality or Charisma or Powerful Oratory
1. Not Humanly Impressive in Charisma of Appearance
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling”
– sense of human inadequacy coupled with overwhelming sense of awe in being used by God; tremendous responsibility on his shoulders
– inner fears, some form of human frailty referred to elsewhere as his thorn in the flesh, etc.
In either case Paul needed divine encouragement and faith in the power of God and the enabling work of the Holy Spirit to carry out his mission to the Gentiles
Hodge: here the whole context shows he refers to his state of mind. It was not in the consciousness of strength, self-confident and self-relying, that he appeared among them, but as oppressed with a sense of his weakness and insufficiency. He had a work to do which he felt to be entirely above his powers.
2. Not Humanly Impressive in Sophistication of Utterance
“and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom”
B. (:4b) But of Divine Power and the Working of the Holy Spirit
1. Spirit Energized
“but in demonstration of the Spirit”
2. Power Packed
“and of power”
Robertson: The demonstration is that which is wrought by God’s power, especially His power to save man and give a new direction to his life. As it is all from God, why make a party-hero of the human instrument?
III. (:5) THE GOAL OF PREACHING SHOULD BE TO ESTABLISH THE PROPER FOUNDATION FOR VITAL FAITH
The proper focus and dynamic are critical in establishing this proper foundation for faith.
A. Not a Foundation of Human Wisdom
“so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men”
B. But a Foundation of Divine Power
“but on the power of God.”
Gromacki: Paul was not after superficial decisions; rather, he desired genuine, God-produced experiences in the lives of his listeners.