By Shawn McMullen
I’ve known many powerful preachers in my lifetime, but none can hold a candle to the apostle Paul. He entered the ministry by divine appointment and fulfilled his calling with divine guidance. He was truly an inspired preacher.
It’s only fitting, then, that we look to Paul as a model for preaching. Although he preached in a different time to a different culture, his perspective on preaching is one any minister of the gospel today would be wise to adopt.
Paul reflected on his preaching at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. We find several key preaching principles in this passage.
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdomas I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that when he preached to them on his first visit to the city (see Acts 18), he didn’t build his ministry on his public speaking skills or philosophical arguments. Instead, he stuck to the facts—”the testimony about God.” He no doubt appealed to the writings of the prophets, the life and teachings of Christ, the apostles’ instructions, and his own personal encounter with the risen Lord as he preached.
Paul stuck to the facts. Preachers who do this today, holding up the Word (the testimony) of God, can’t go wrong. They may be misunderstood and even persecuted, but they’ll be sure to be pleasing to God.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Jesus Christ was at the center of all Paul’s preaching. The heart of the gospel message is that Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, died on the cross in our place to atone for our sins. He then defeated death forever by rising from the grave. People want to hear many things from the pulpit today. But they need to hear this.
I came to you in weaknesswith great fear and trembling. Paul didn’t take lightly his responsibility to preach the gospel. Undoubtedly a powerful orator and great debater, the apostle didn’t rely on such human strengths when he preached. Instead, he preached with a view to the majesty of the sender, his own inadequacies, and the eternal importance of his task.
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Paul didn’t preach to win arguments. He preached to win souls. He viewed conversion not as his work, but as the work of the Holy Spirit. So rather than depend on his persuasive powers, Paul depended on the Spirit’s power to bring people to Christ. And he demonstrated that power in his life.
So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. Paul’s preaching had its desired effect. The people who responded to the gospel message he delivered did not place their faith in the preacher and his wisdom, but in God. Granted, they faltered later—thus Paul’s letters to the church. But in the initial presentation, the gospel was preached with clarity and received with conviction.
That’s a goal worthy of every preacher of the gospel.