Too Simple to Be Easy
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 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 2:1-4, ESV)
This is how he did it, Paul, the one man who did more to turn the Roman world on its head than any other except Jesus himself. The pattern is personal. It’s how Paul lived. It is also tested. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. We are still reading it. Enough said.
Here are four simple principles with one grand result.
Plainness of speech. He used no “lofty speech or wisdom.” He would later say in this same letter that he would rather employ five clear words than ten thousand that no one could comprehend. (14:19) You would think plainness of speech would be easy while lofty eloquence would be hard. Actually, plainness of speech is hard work. R.G. Lee is reported to have said regarding so-called trial sermons that “any fool can fire a big gun once.” It requires effort to be clear and more to be consistent, but the fruit of that labor is understanding in the hearer.
Simplicity of message. Paul was focused on “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” This is not about how you talk but about what you talk. No good being plain if you have nothing to say! Paul went straight to the heart of the message for it was the only message that could change the heart. Having gone there, he stayed there. Crux means cross. It is the real matter and the real center. Don’t lose it.
Unadorned life. Paul was among these people “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” There was no personal put on. I am not sure if this weakness, fear and trembling refers to Paul’s personal state because of all that he recently been through (beaten, jailed, harassed) or his personal state before God because of the greatness of the task laid on him. Either way, Paul didn’t dress it up for the Corinthians. You can’t fool them for long anyway. If you pretend you are something you are not, some wise head will penetrate your disguise and you’ll have to move on to keep up the charade. If you do that, there is only one who is being fooled and it won’t be the Corinthians around you. But if you know that God loved you enough to let his Son die for you and that he did that while you were in the worst condition possible, what have you to fear what people think?
Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Paul depended on the work “of the Spirit and of power.” He could rest using plainness of speech, simplicity of message, and unadorned life because he was convinced of this. There is only one who can do the work of conversion and of making disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. If that is true then it is better to trust him. That’s what he has always wanted us to do anyway.
These four principles had a single goal, the making of faithful disciples of Jesus the Messiah. Paul wanted to know that when he walked away from this city, the faith of these Christians would stand because it did not rest in Paul or in any personal charisma or cosmic wisdom he had. Their faith rested in the power of a living God. If you walk away and everything falls, what did you do? But if you walk away and look back and something is still standing, then you know you had a part in building for eternity.
A simple formula that will take everything you’ve got. But when you are ready to give it everything you’ve got, you will awaken to the presence of one who gave everything he had for you. You won’t be alone!
What a wonderful Savior he is!