“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom – but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” I Corinthians 2.1,4b-5
The local church at Corinth was divided because some members preferred the gifts of one church leader over those of another. Therefore, in the early part of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded them that human abilities are not the foundation of Christian faith. We are saved by the power of Christ and not by human effort.
In chapter 2 of the letter, Paul applies the same thinking to his own work as an apostle and preacher. Paul brought to the Corinthians the good news of God’s plan of salvation. But he didn’t proclaim it to them in sophisticated words or deep human wisdom. Paul deliberately limited his presentation of the gospel to the simple truth about Jesus and his saving death on the cross.
Paul taught the gospel not with the confidence of a professional speechmaker, but with reverence appropriate to someone doing God’s work. “I was nervous and rather shaky” is how JB Phillips translates Paul’s feelings. But the nervousness was not because Paul was afraid of the Corinthians, but because of the importance of the challenge of sharing the Gospel.
Paul didn’t try to use methods of human persuasion on the Corinthians. Rather, he showed them what God was offering in the power of the Spirit.
The result was the miracle of faith, and the beginning of a church community. “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10.17)
The result was that the Corinthians’ faith could be attributed only to the work of the Holy Spirit and not to human eloquence or wisdom. It is the Spirit who teaches. “The meek he will guide in the path of justice: and teach the humble his ways,” we read in Psalm 25. “Lead me in the ways of your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation,” the psalmist prayed.
Paul wanted his hearers to heed the message and not to concentrate on his qualities as a preacher. It was the message of redemption in Christ that was important.
We also rely on the Holy Spirit so that we can share Jesus with others. We don’t have to be superbly learned and skillful. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t grow in our understanding of our faith or our skills in Christian work! The Holy Spirit makes alive the scriptures, but this doesn’t mean that the preacher can forget to prepare the sermon! We all should be as effective for God as we can be.
However, we don’t have to have a degree in theology to share the good news of God’s love with other people. We can all bear witness to the Good News and let others see what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Parents do this all the time by living out their faith in ways that their children can see.
Friends share their lives and activities and gradually understand what is really important in each other’s lives.
We announce the gospel to our workmates as they come to understand our values and see why we live the way we do.
And this is what we seek to do here in our parish – simply share the Jesus we know and love.
The Holy Spirit is the principal preacher of the Good News of Jesus. The challenge for us is to be willing instruments of the Spirit.
In this morning’s Gospel reading from Jesus’ prayer on the night he was betrayed, we find two principles that are very helpful when as a community we seek to share Jesus with others.
I ask not only on behalf of these (the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. – [M]ay they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. -John 16.20-21
When our friends, neighbours and work colleagues come to our church as our guests, to share with us and talk about Jesus, our conversation with them will be better if we are one – if we are united in purpose. That doesn’t mean that we all have to think exactly the same thing, but it does mean that we have be as one in our desire to share with our friends the love, fellowship and good news of Jesus. Also in his great prayer, Jesus said,
Righteous Father – I made your name known to them (the disciples) – so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. -vv. 25-6
Our love, shown to each other and to our friends, will be our strongest testimony of the love of Jesus. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13.35)