1 Corinthians 2: 1-5 gives us an insight into the peculiar ministry philosophy of the Apostle Paul. I do not say peculiar because it is wrong, obviously. Paul preached Christ and Him crucifed. The people of Corinth were used to Greek sophists and rhetoricians would use “lofty speech or wisdom.” In other words, they would just talk circles around people. The less intelligent would be enamored by their speech and so would listen to whatever they said. Paul says instead that he would simply preach the cross so that their salvation would not rest in the power of men but in God. Paul preached the gospel! The gospel is the power of salvation to whoever turns and trusts Jesus (Ro 1:16). Instead of relying on himself, Paul yielded his ministry to the Word of God. Isn’t that peculiar, today?
Today’s Preaching (Typically)
I wanted to include the “typically” here. There are some happy exceptions in the evangelical world today, men who teach the Bible and get out of the way. They realize that they could not change themselves with their own wisdom so they could not possibly change anyone else either. Those men are exceptions. Unfortunately, the ministry of God’s Word is waning in mainstream Christianity. The exposition of the Bible has taken a backseat to topical sermons that offer no more than “lofty speech or wisdom,” wisdom of man that is. It is like we’ve moved on from the Bible. We are too progressive for that. Besides, the Bible is boring and primitive, right? I mean, it actually tells us what to do! How intolerant?! Please excuse my sarcasm but there is a lot of truth there. That type of thinking dominates the landscape of God’s people. Teaching the Bible seems risky. Sure some people enjoy it but we can get more people saved if we teach about sex. To be sure, the Bible has a lot to say about sex but that is not for this post. There is no confidence in the Word of God. We want to “go deeper” with God by doing the very things that will not get us there. It has never been innovation or schemes that cause reformation. No, it has always been the Holy Spirit speaking through the inspired Word that changed hearts and ultimately societies.
Speaking of Reformations…
Say what you will about John Calvin, but dude could preach. People across the entire theological spectrum admit that much. He was known as a great expositor of the Bible. His commentaries are still selling nearly 500 years after his death. It was Calvin’s conviction that the Word of God was the only thing powerful enough to change the lepers spots, as the hymn reads. Calvin made it a practice to preach the whole counsel of God. He did so by preaching through entire books of both Testaments. On the Lord’s Day, Calvin would preach through New Testament books. Every other day of the week he would preach the Old Testament. Calvin’s sheep knew the Word. His preaching was used by God to change the lives of people in his congregation. His teaching ministry was spread throughout Geneva and effected the city so much that it was called a “New Jerusalem” by one Reformer. This power was not in the genius of John Calvin. The power of the Reformation same from the sola scriptura attitude adopted by its leaders. Calvin knew he was responsible to teach the Bible, the very Word of God. But don’t take Calvin’s word for it, let’s look in Ezra!
The Faithfulness of Ezra
Nehemiah 8 gives us a beautiful picture of Biblical exposition. In verses 1-8 we see a group of people hungry for the Lord. They nearly demand Ezra to read from the Book of the Law of Moses. Ezra proceeds to do what we would call expository preaching. Instead of giving his thoughts of life, Ezra reads the Word of the Lord. Not only does he read the text but he also explains it. He breaks it down to them. That is our job as preachers. There is no great art to what he does. Ezra read and explain the scriptures and the people received it with great joy! There was a great emphasis on the Scriptures here. Ezra was anxious to explain it and the people were anxious to learn about God. Does that look like most of our churches today?
Back to Today
I am in no way saying that pastors should not use their intelligence. God has gifted them to understand and be able to communicate truth. What I am saying, what Paul is saying, what Calvin is saying and what Ezra is saying is that we cannot trust in our abilities to save or sustain. We can entertain and we can help out. But in the end only what is of the Spirit lasts. So preachers today, be like Ezra. Teach us the Word! That is what we want and certainly need. God help us when we don’t want it! Future handlers of God’s truth, let us be faithful to give our people the Word of God. It is only by our dedication to preach the Bible will people be transformed by the renewing of their mind. God, spur us on to faithfulness.
soli deo gloria