For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18
In the spirit of maintaining relevance in today’s society many church leaders are trying to accommodate the world and its changing morals and practices to gain converts and fill pews. I find it interesting that Paul strolled up to Mars Hill, the center of Greek philosophical discussion to give one of the most direct evangelical speeches of his ministry. (Act 17:18-31)
With a crowd that certainly would be familiar with virtually any philosophy, Paul, with his own great learning could have gone toe to toe with them arguing in depth concerning the failure of their thought processes. But did he start there? No. He understood that all the clever words were completely irrelevant when it came to the truth of the things of the Spirit and of God and of Jesus Christ. The only word that had any consequence was the word of the cross. Either a person accepted the gospel of the cross or he didn’t. Either his heart was captured by a need recognized or it rejected that thought. Fancy words would only serve to muddle the message.
So Paul could say in 1 Cor. 1:20 “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” And it is certain, talk to anyone who is unsaved about Christ’s death on the cross and His Resurrection and he’ll look at you like you are a complete idiot. Is the gospel foolishness? To the unsaved it certainly is. It is ridiculous, stupid and dangerous “we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” verse 23 But as verse 24 states, “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The person who does hear God’s voice and accepts the free gift of salvation, the power of God is demonstrated completely in that person’s awakening from death unto life. He has no question that a quickening has occurred in his own spirit and he has been changed.
It doesn’t take clever arguments, or speeches. You don’t have to be concerned about knowing all kinds of special philosophical terms to evangelize. It is just as Paul said two thousand years ago, and remains the same today. “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. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:1-2 Paul says even he was “with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (v.2:3) – you’d think if anyone Paul wold have the most confidence evangelizing; we can take some measure of comfort there.
So next time you are wondering how clever you need to be when sharing the Word, just remember, talk about the cross of Christ. Because, as he writes in ( 1 Cor. 1:30) it is God’s job to save, not ours. We can share the gospel, God does the saving.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]