Followers of Christ should keep their focus on the Gospel as they share their faith with the world, trusting God for the outcome.
Over the previous few weeks, we examined the concept of the Christian’s “CALLING”, the idea that through the work of Jesus Christ, we’ve been called out of darkness and into light. That we’ve gone from being dead in trespasses and sin, and restored to life through the power of God. Our calling is to be IN Christ.
The very last words of the first chapter was “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
We shift gears a bit as chapter two begins, in essence telling us HOW to boast in the Lord well. If chapter one was about the Christian CALLING, chapter two is about the Christian MESSAGE: It’s all about the Gospel.
So, how do we boast in Christ and stay on message? Or, in other words, how are we meant to communicate the truth of God to the world around us? After all, one of the core values we hold as followers of Jesus is a commitment to the Great Commission: the command of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He commanded.
What we believe impacts how we live. So, if we truly believe the Great Commission – as we say we do – then as a local church, we will work to give every man, woman, and child in our area repeated opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel.
Now, our job is not to save people. That’s Jesus’ job; he’s the only Savior. However, our job IS to clearly point the way to Him.
Paul shows us how in chapter two. So, this morning, we begin looking at the first five verses. Beginning in verse 1, Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV) - 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul is writing here, to the Corinthian church. He had previously visited them, and spent time ministering among them, preaching the Gospel and helping to establish the church in that city. He was familiar with their customs, and as we’ll see later in the letter, he was familiar with the issues that the church struggled with, and knew where they needed correction.
That being said, the first verse is interesting. He points out something regarding his time there that we should take note of. He says, “- 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.”
As we’ve discussed some in past weeks, the Corinthian culture of Paul’s day was heavily influenced by Greek philosophers. Folks were very interested in high-minded discussions and valued the pursuit of KNOWLEDGE above most other things.
In order to be accepted among those WISE and KNOWLEDGEABLE men, it seemed one would almost assuredly have to use a certain kind of Greek rhetorical thinking. They would also have to be able to speak in public with eloquence and bravado. In short, they would have to put on a good show.
However, Paul had a different approach. Paul was a well-educated man. However, what he says in verse 1 is that he jettisoned the “normal” way of doing things; He didn’t use their lofty speech or worldly wisdom. He didn’t believe it had any value for his Great Commission purpose.
On the contrary, he says in verse 2, “ 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Notice the word-play there: Paul decided to KNOW nothing except Jesus! In a culture where knowledge was a major idol, Paul kept his focus on the Gospel.
That’s an important lesson for us. In fact, it’s one of two I want to highlight this morning.
We began our time together by asking the question, “How are we meant to communicate the truth of God to the world around us?”
Instead of trying to put on a show and impress folks with lofty speech or wisdom, Paul simply focused on Christ and him crucified.
Now, in case you’re wondering, that doesn’t mean that he focused on the crucifixion alone. Obviously he preached the fullness of the Gospel:
Paul preached all of this and more. In fact, he outlines much of it in Chapter 15 of this book. He simply mentions the crucifixion here, because it stands in such a sharp contrast to the philosophy offered by the Greeks. They struggled with the idea of a God sacrificing Himself for His people. Paul knew that bringing that truth home to them would be essential.
Paul kept his focus on the Gospel. Not on fancy words or technical jargon, but on the simple message of Jesus. Not on trendy church growth strategies, but on the grace found in Christ.
The Gospel should be our focus as well, as we intentionally seek opportunities to share our faith.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always taken a lot of comfort in the scriptural idea that I don’t have to be the most eloquent guy in the world in order to faithfully serve Christ.
Starting in verse 3, Paul explains why that makes sense:
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (ESV) - 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
In other places in scripture, the view we have of Paul isn’t exactly that of a timid or weak man. However, here he describes himself a bit differently. When he came to minister to the Corinthians he did so “in weakness,” “in fear,” and “much trembling.”
By human standards, it sounds like Paul was, well, nervous, right? He was preaching to a community of people who were smart, and who were opposed what he had to share with them.
Paul stood firm and PROCLAIMED THE TESTIMONY OF GOD... despite feeling weak and fearful. In other words, Paul shared the Gospel, despite being nervous.
But did that stop Paul? No... He did it anyway... 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
His sharing of the Gospel, despite his nervousness, was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. And the faith that resulted when people heard his words and yielded to Christ was FROM “the power of God.”
Salvation is all a work of God. Which means we need to be faithful to do our part in sharing the Gospel, and trust that He will be faithful to do His part in saving His people.
And that’s the second lesson for us today! “How are we meant to communicate the truth of God to the world around us?”
First, we keep our focus on the Gospel. Then, we...
If we’re going to be serious as a church about giving every man, woman, and child in our area repeated opportunities to hear and respond to the Gospel, then each of us is going to have to be committed – passionately committed – to sharing the Gospel in the places and spaces that God has placed us. That means speaking into the relationships we have with the truth of Christ, and developing new relationships with a missional focus.
It may look different for each of us, as we all have been blessed by God with different lifestyles, employment, hobbies, and social circles. However, if you’re a follower of Jesus, then you have a Story of Grace... You’ve experienced first-hand how the message of the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, and you have been CALLED from death to new and abundant life, to a life of grace, and to a life of missionary service for the King of Kings.
It’s our great desire as a church to see all of you who have trusted in Christ, ready and willing to share your Stories of Grace – committed to sharing the testimonies of God’s redemptive plan in Jesus, and how He has impacted your life in specific ways.
This doesn’t have to be a hard thing. It can be a 30 second point of encouragement towards Christ in the midst of a conversation. It can be a three minute explanation of who Christ is and what he’s done to transform your life. It can be a half-hour back-and-forth where you dive into the deep things of life that a friend or neighbor is processing. But whatever form it takes, the goal is simple: to be genuine as you KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THE GOSPEL, and TRUST GOD FOR THE OUTCOME.
This morning, I’ve asked Conrad to come and share a bit about his story of grace with us. [...]
ASK: How many of you have ever been nervous of sharing your faith with someone else because you weren’t sure what to say, or you thought they might reject it or you?
I completely understand. I’ve been there.
I remember when I first came to faith fifteen years ago, one of my biggest fears was that I would lose most of my friends. I had a conversation with Pastor Mike about that. He was real with me. If I was going to be committed to the things that Christ would have me be committed to, and not live the life I had been living, that was a real possibility.
Within a year, I had almost no contact with most of my “closest” friends.
Following Christ, and sharing the Gospel had cost me something. It was painful, at the time... But it was the right call.
It’s gotten a lot easier for me to share the Gospel with folks since then. I still wouldn’t say I’m an “evangelist”, but I definitely love to tell people about Jesus.
And the only way that’s been possible for me, has been by looking to scripture and especially at the example of Paul. As we discussed last week, Paul was an ordinary person called to an extraordinary ministry, just like you and I are today.
Even though Paul didn’t place his confidence in his own words or ability, that wasn’t a problem, because his confidence was found in Christ, and that confidence overflowed!
Paul was able to share the Gospel, both in the form of preaching to large groups, and in more informal settings such as smaller groups and one-on-one.
Sure, he may have gotten nervous... But above all, he took seriously what God wanted of Him.
If we truly TRUST God, then no matter how much we may be nervous about talking to someone, we can overcome it by knowing that God will use it for His glory. It’s not about us, and our comfort. Even if the conversation doesn’t go the way we might want it to, God is in control.
So, as we close this morning, I am reminded of what Paul said last week:
Brothers and Sisters, “CONSIDER YOUR CALLING” in Christ... Be mindful of where you once were, apart from God, and where we are now in the body of Christ, thanks to His love and grace!
And now, building on that, KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THE GOSPEL by sharing the truth of Jesus as a faithful missionary. And TRUST GOD FOR THE OUTCOME as you do!