Posted by: forbygrace | February 27, 2009

The Foolishness of Preaching?

Walking through the park and handing a gospel tract to someone has proven a wonderful opportunity to speak to many different people with varying religious backgrounds. What the group I go out with does is called evangelism–a word which means to bring the good news. The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You see and hear many different types of gospel presentations as you should with a church that is made up of diverse peoples and personalities. What never changes is the gospel message. The question then comes up–what place does the gospel have in saving people from their sin and reconciling them to God? I have heard many gospel presentations that would say the gospel points us to Christ and gives the evangelist the foundation so they can convince a person of their present hopeless state and subsequent need for Christ. An analogy might be that the gospel is a tool a mechanic has in his shop and it us up to him to use it skillfully in order to restore that which is broken. Accordingly, if the gospel is to be useful, a great deal of persuasiveness and knowledge in presentation styles, apologetics, and logic, marketing and world religions becomes imperative.

I want to ask you if this paradigm is what we should hold to–is it what the bible says regarding the proclamation of the gospel? Whether you answer yes or no, depends a great deal in how you view the work of the message (the gospel) and the messenger (the evangelist/preacher). In evangelism, you cannot separate the two as God has chosen to save people through the people that share His word. We would all agree (I hope) that God could preach audibly from heaven and avoid using us at all if He wanted to, but He chose to use us to preach the word and through that preaching to save all who believe the word.

Paul in speaking to the church in Corinth says, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe(1 Cor 1:20-21). Take note that Paul is telling us that what is preached is foolishness to someone dead in their sins. The need to be reconciled to God would seem absurd to an unbeliever. So what does Paul tell us is the message preached? Christ crucified (v.23). This is the complete message that saves.

You might be saying, “Alright, then are you saying there’s no point in planning, learning, strategizing, etc”? God’s word tells us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope which lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). It should also be plain that our understanding of how the message fits in context to where we are and who we are speaking with is a powerful witness to the hearer. Look in Acts 17 and you see Paul speaking to the philosophers at the Areopagus (Mars Hill) and making use of his knowledge of some of the ruling philosophies of that time. In the end, there were some who sneered and others who wanted to know more, of whom a few became followers and believed. What did these men hear that divided them into two camps (those who believed and those who sneered)? The resurrection of Jesus Christ (v.32)–it was the gospel, that which is sharper than any two edged sword.

Take note of the centrality and efficacy of the gospel in the conversion of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. We see the power of God bringing the jailer to the place where he would hear the words of Paul and Silas, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved–you and your household”.

God may use the man who preaches (witnesses, evangelizes) and call him to share from his background, understanding and experiences in areas related to the gospel and the hearer–but it is the gospel itself in salvation that changes the heart of the hearer. It is God saying to the unbeliever’s heart through the spoken word, “Let there be light!”

For this reason the gospel must be seen as paramount in preaching and evangelizing unbelievers. It’s not God doing 99% and us doing 1%–its God doing 100% through His word. We are ambassadors–we take the message our King has given us and proclaim to everyone who will listen.

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