A friend of mine approached me with an excellent comment regarding the last article¹. In First Corinthians, we come across an interesting statement made by the apostle Paul with regards to preaching:
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5, NIV84, emphasis added).
How do we reconcile what Paul said here with the use of good speaking methods? Is he squarely against the use of methods within the realm of preaching? Just looking at First Corinthians alone, it’s obvious that Paul wasn’t against the use of literary methods to convey messages in clear and memorable ways. The letter to the Corinthians is riddled with examples of literary features that Paul intentionally made use of:
(1) His message was written in the form of a letter (an epistle) and used a structure that was common during his time.
(2) He used plenty of metaphors to exemplify his points (i.e. 1 Cor. 9:7-12).
(3) He quoted from the Old Testament to add credibility to what he was saying (i.e. 1 Cor. 15:32).
(4) He asked plenty of questions to spark interest and produce a knowledge gap. Then he answered those questions to satisfy their curiosity.
What we need to understand is that Paul made use of those literary methods to make his message clear and memorable. I believe Paul was against the use of “wise and persuasive words” to manipulate people into believing—rather than relying on the Spirit to bring about true repentance and faith. Once again, there’s a work that only the Spirit can accomplish and that’s to change the hearts of people. No amount of clever or flowery words can replace what only the Spirit has the power to do. Therefore, let’s rely on the Spirit to produce the change in people but let’s not forgo the use of speaking methods to make the message clear to human listeners. In short, use good speaking methods to communicate—not to manipulate.
¹The comment was in response to this article: Preaching Myth #1: “All I need is the Holy Spirit.”