Tuesday, February 1, 2011

how we pair with the gospel

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5

Paul makes it clear that his experience with the Corinthian church was one in which the power of God was demonstrated and not the power of human persuasiveness. It was not about human leadership. It was about God's Spirit using Paul in his weakness. It wasn't that Paul was not being used by God to lead this church to Christ. He was. It was just that the manner of God's work was not the way human beings would do it. The gospel does not pair with unredeemed human strategic thinking.

One of the reasons I find ministry uniquely challenging is this very dimension. Everything we do has to be done by God's equipping and power. And often the people God uses mightily are the people we would least suspect. For instance, I really enjoy listening to John Piper teach the Word. Yet, he is quick to illustrate from his own struggles and weaknesses. But strangely, that has given him a platform of usability be God. That is what I think Paul was experiencing and describing to the Corinthian church.

Why would Paul reiterate this history with them? It was because of their tendency toward celebrity Christianity (see chapter one and yesterday's post). They were the ones putting stock in the gifts of human beings. They were the ones valuing human wisdom and strategies with no thought to divine power and providence. They magnified the messenger above the message (a powerful tendency even today) and the result was gross immaturity in the Body of Christ.

There is a role for human gifts and abilities. They should pair up with spiritual gifts (a theme developed later by Paul) to bring the gospel to the forefront. But when the focus is the people God uses, rather than the power of the gospel to transform lives, we miss it. And the gospel gets diminished by this kind of thing. We should have as our goal to pair with the gospel our humility and weakness. It is in so doing that the glory and power of God can come forward through the Holy Spirit's use of fearful, powerless, broken, yet believing people.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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