March 13, 2015
Keep It Simple
By Skip Heitzig
The church at Corinth faced some problems that were stunting their growth, and one of them was worldly wisdom. Corinth was second only to Athens as the philosophy center of the ancient world. As the pressure to accept the value system of the world grew, it started coming into the church. Worldly philosophy was being mixed with the truth of Christ. That always spells danger.
The Greeks prided themselves in their pursuit after wisdom and knowledge. The passage in Acts 17 where Paul stood before the Athenians on Mars Hill gives a good description of Greek thinking: "For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (v. 21).
It was like a modern talk show, like a Letterman or even a Jerry Springer. They loved the new thing—the more outlandish the better. They discussed these points but never really came to a conclusion. And they gave off an air of intellectualism so that others would be intimidated around them.
While they were intoxicated with fine words, Paul said, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God" (1 Corinthians 2:1). Paul could do philosophy with the best of them, but he was blunt and simple in this case. Seeing the needs of a very debauched and immoral city, he didn't use great, eloquent speech to wow the crowd. He just presented the plain, simple gospel of the cross and a crucified Savior.
Not everyone that you speak to believes instantly what you share. Sometimes people are just ready to receive: "Yes, I need that. How do I get it?" But others need quite a bit of explanation to remove the roadblocks that they have with the Christian faith. Some need a great deal of apologetics, where you have to present the Christian worldview, the evidence of creation, the evidence of Scripture, etc. We need to present that in some cases, but it's best to just start with the basics—the person of Christ, the nature of Christ, and the love of God—and then deal with the roadblocks as they come up.
Paul came that way to Corinth: simply. "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). That's the example we need to follow: keeping the focus on the cross and the crucified and resurrected Lord. Why? Because that is the central focus of the gospel and God's plan of salvation. It's always the cross. When Jesus said in John 12:32, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself," He was speaking of the cross (see v. 33).
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul continued, "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (v. 4). He didn't use manipulation or theatrics; he was very simple—and we should be, too. Although many will respond to an emotional speech, it's not always a true conversion or a true conviction of the Holy Spirit.
It's not like we should deliberately preach poorly or dumb down the gospel. Paul was simply saying, "Don't rely upon your eloquence or your learning or your techniques." His first approach with the Corinthians was that simple approach of just sharing truth.
This is his point: when I'm speaking to people, I'm going to give them the basic facts—the cross and how to get saved. That's something we should all remember—"that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (v. 5).
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