How Could I Ever Share My Faith in Christ?
And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:4
First-century Corinth was a cosmopolitan city with lots of “up-and-comers” who sought financial, intellectual, and social advancement. Because of its location and reputation, Corinth was a magnet for popular philosophers who sought to hawk their wares in the hopes of increasing their popularity and, perhaps, their economic standing. The Corinthians were especially fond of articulate speakers who would impress and entertain them.
But when the Apostle Paul came to Corinth, he chose not to adapt his preaching to Corinthian expectations. Rather, as he explains to the believers in that city, “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” (2:2). Why did he make such an unusual choice? Why not give the people what they wanted as a way of getting them to listen to the Gospel? Paul explains that he chose to preach plainly so that the Corinthians “would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God” (2:5). His message, which was itself a stumbling block, would only be received if the Spirit of God moved in people’s hearts. Thus, its acceptance by the Corinthians would be a miracle, a testimony to the power of God at work in Corinth.
Paul chose to avoid eloquence in Corinth, but that does not mean Christians should never use persuasive arguments in presenting and defending the Gospel. Different contexts call for different strategies. The example of Paul warns us against assuming that it is always best to communicate in the mode of any and every culture, because the very forms of communication might themselves be inconsistent with the message. Preachers and teachers need to exercise mature discernment when choosing how best to communicate in any given setting.
The example of Paul also serves as an encouragement to Christians who feel ill-equipped to share their faith in Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say something like, “Oh, I could never share my faith with my colleagues. I’d botch it up completely. I’m not nearly articulate enough.” They assume that one has to be eloquent in order to speak of Christ. In fact, however, eloquence can sometimes get in the way of hearing the Gospel. Most people don't need a preacher who is excellent at speechifying, nor an apologist who has all of the answers, but rather a friend who speaks honestly, authentically, and even at times inarticulately. When we simply tell the truth about what God has done in Christ, then we are in a position to experience the power of the Spirit to persuade and transform people’s lives.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you ever feel inadequate to speak of your faith? When? Why? Does the example of Paul encourage you? Why or why not?
PRAYER: Thank you, gracious God, for those you have raised up to be preachers, evangelists, and apologists. Give them wisdom, even as you once gave Paul, to know how best to communicate the good news in the places they are serving. Help them to discern when to adopt the ways of the culture and when to resist them, so as to be most faithful in disclosing the Gospel.
Help the rest of us to understand that sharing the good news isn’t the responsibility only of those who have been called into specific ministries. Every one of us has the opportunity—indeed, the responsibility—to speak of what you have done in Christ. Yet we can be silent out of fear that we will not be able to be articulate or persuasive enough. Help us, Lord, to tell the truth with honesty and authenticity. May we have the courage to be clear, trusting you with the results. And then, may your Spirit work in power to bring to faith those who do not know you.
In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.