The Appearance of Paul, Part 6

We’ll see how much blogging I can get done tonight. I hope to write more than one.

I’ve done 4 parts of a series on the appearance of Paul before tonight. This is Part 6 because I skipped part 4 in order to do part 5 on exhortation, which I think is very important.

All of those were from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2.

Now I’m continuing to skip part 4 so that I can get to the part that doesn’t come from 1 Thess. 2.

This is 2 Cor. 10:10 …

For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but in bodily presence he’s week, and his speech is unimpressive.

Paul the Famous Preacher?

Nowadays messages given by preachers are well-prepared. They are not only taught how to outline and write a sermon, but they are taught how to deliver it as well.

There’s a lot of shouting along with careful use of pauses and even quiet whispers for effect. A properly trained preacher uses hand motions, and he makes sure to move his body around—whether by walking or by vigorous gestures—to keep his audience’s attention.

Most sermons have three points, and if possible, they should all begin with the same letter.

Not Paul’s. The report about him is that his speech was unimpressive.

Paul’s Purpose

I remember the first time I did a radio program on a Christian station in Sacramento.

As soon as I got done, I got my first phone call at the station. Because I was on in the evening, the front desk was closed, and the technician and I listened to the answering machine pick up the call.

"I don’t know who this guy is," the caller began. "He never gave any credentials, and he didn’t even preach! He just talked!"

The caller would have had a hard time with the apostle Paul, too. Paul was concerned about content, not presentation.

I … did not come with excellency of speech or wisdom … I was with you in weakness, in fear, and with much trembling. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1,3-4)

Paul had something to say, and he was not ashamed of it.

He knew that his Gospel was the power of God to salvation, and he was content to let God back it up, not his seminary training.

And don’t be confused; Paul had seminary training. He studied under Gamaliel. He knew human wisdom, and he makes it clear in Romans that he knows how to logically argue.

He saved his logical arguments, however, for those who were already convinced. Those that he had to convince, he sought to convince with the straight powerful words of the Gospel.

The verse I left out above says, "I determined to know nothing among except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

Don’t be deceived into thinking that Paul determined to know nothing among them except the crucifixion of Christ. That is not what that verse says.

1 Cor. 2:2 says he determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ, not nothing except the crucifixion.

Yes, Paul carefully includes the crucifixion in that statement, but it is not all he knew or all he preached. All he knew and preached was Christ, which includes everything about him.

For example, in that very letter he devotes an entire chapter to the resurrection (1 Cor. 15), which is possibly more important even than the crucifixion because it is the resurrection that proves he is Christ (Acts 2:32-36) and which the apostles were commanded to testify to (Acts 1:22; 4:33).

Learning from the apostle Paul

It would do us good to learn from Paul. I cannot imagine him recommending three point sermons with each point starting with the same letter.

It’s not the ability to be remembered that makes a good sermon; it’s the power of God that makes a good sermon.

The whole idea of picking a pastor from a school somewhere is completely contrary to the spirit of the New Covenant. Shepherds were chosen from among the people, and the Christians knew their shepherds. They knew their history in Christ, they knew their testimony, and they knew the power of their walk with the Lord.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews could tell us to submit to our leaders "considering the result of their behavior" (Heb. 13:7).

That’s why Timothy and Titus were left in Ephesus and Crete, respectively, to appoint elders.

Timothy and Titus were not pastors; they were apostles (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6).

Apostles appointed elders to shepherd the churches (Acts 20:17,28), and some of them, especially Peter, functioned as elders themselves (1 Pet. 1:1-4).

One early Christian wrote:

Tested men, our elders, preside over us, obtaining that honor not by purchase, but by established character. (Tertullian, Apology 39, c. A.D. 200)

There’s some things we need to do differently?

Let me ask, when you teach or when you hear teaching, is it the enticing words of man’s wisdom, or is it the power of God?

P.S. That’s not a suggestion that everyone preaches 3 point sermons that they learned to preach in seminary. There are plenty of pastors that know they’re supposed to depend on the power of God.

Nor is every 3-point sermon a bad one.

Nonetheless, the practice of bringing in some unknown outsider to shepherd is almost universal, and depending on human wisdom learned in a seminary is rampant.

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