Enticement or Demonstration?
Robert Wurtz II
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4–5 NKJV)
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19–20 NKJV)
Reading these passages leaves much to be desired in what we often term as Christianity or even Apostolic Ministry. Clearly Paul was operating on a different level than what has been known for many hundreds of years. Our passages suggest that the power of God was the operating principal in all of Paul’s ministry. He did not stoop to function as did the Greek philosophers of the day who were forever measuring a man by his oratory skills and capacity for debate; he was moving in a prophetic unction.
Paul told the Corinthians (who were taken up with eloquence) that “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom […].” The Greek word for persuasive is peithois and it is the rarest Greek word in antiquity. In fact, its only known use is in this 1 Cor. 2:4. It means that Paul did not work to persuade people to believe by using impressive rhetoric. He gives the reason why, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Paul did not polish his words. His detractors said his “bodily presence is weak and his speech is contemptible.” No one was impressed by Paul’s eloquence; but everyone experienced the prophetic unction of God when he spoke.
It is unfortunate that the word prophetic has been abused in modern times. One hesitates to use it because of all the misuse of it. nevertheless, Paul could sense when a person was operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. You will recall that he asked the Ephesians if they had received the Holy Spirit. Clearly he sensed that they lacked the inspiration or empowerment of the Holy Spirit when they spoke. This was something Paul always looked for in people. He told the Corinthians a few chapters later, But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19–20 NKJV)
The question is not merely whether our words are true, the question is “does God back the words.” This does not mean loudness or some other strange voice inflection. It is not uncommon for ministers to speak directly into a microphone or shout to the top of their lungs to give the impression of power (dunamis). It is false. Paul was not listening for wisdom, eloquence, loudness, or voice inflection when he tested the authenticity of ministry; he was identifying the power of God manifest in the words.
Paul knew that if this prophetic unction was missing, something was seriously wrong. Why? Because if the people were right with God He would be inspiring and backing their speech. Not that their words are “inspired” in the same sense as scripture, but that there is a holy unction from God inspiring the speaker to say what God wants said. The old timers used to pray for God to superintend their mind as they ministered so they could be the very oracle of God when they spoke. If this is lacking and something else is being substituted for the unction, there is a serious problem. Why? Because the peoples’ faith is being made to stand on something else other than the revelation and power of God.
To move in the power of God like Paul is speaking of one has to approach ministry like Paul did. He was no weekend warrior for God — he lived the life 24/7. He stood before the Lord as did the prophets of old. He was continually conscious of God and depended upon Him for the grace needed to do His will. Pride takes matters into its own hands and speaks what it wants to speak. Paul did not do that. He didn’t try to impress people or tickle their ears. Whether he said it or not, his words were “thus says the Lord.” The authority was in the power of God revealing and backing the words.
There is no substitute for the power of God in the preaching of the Gospel. If we seek to entice people to come to God with anything of man or this present evil world we are only fooling ourselves. A minister needs to be anointed of God to be effective. A lot of people are being won to a lot of different things today. In Paul’s day the risk was that people would place their faith in the wisdom of men. In other words, they were not being won to God, they were being won to the wisdom of men in the name of God. This is true in a thousand ways in modern times. People are being won to ______ in the name of God. Whatever lesser thing is used to “win people” that will be the thing people are won to. It is axiomatic.
It is so much easier to employ man-made measures to “win people” than to simply pray and live close to God. This is why we have a pandemic of worldliness in the churches. It is what multitudes have been won to. It is what their faith is in. Worldliness in Paul’s day manifested itself in eloquent rhetoric. People would come out to hear it and even imitate it. That was the particular way the world was manifesting its pride and rebellion at the time. God sent Paul to destroy the wisdom of the wise.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:27–29 KJV)
Key in on the last statement: That no flesh should glory in his presence. This is why God rejected the use of mens’ wisdom and any other self-glorifying contribution a man can try to make to the preaching of the Gospel. This is what God wanted avoided at all costs. He will not share His glory with another. On the other hand, a person who will seek God in prayer, live holy and depend completely on Him can be used of God in such a way that God receives all the glory. When people do dare to glorify them they will deflect all the glory back to God where it belongs.
In the 21st century we don’t need a new gimmick. We don’t need people polishing their oratory or singing voice in order to stir faith in sinners. God never advertised a meeting saying, “come out and hear some great singing and preaching!” Had he taken that approach the Church would have never reached England. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4–5 NKJV) Paul did not want peoples’ faith to be in him or anything he was capable of. He wanted their faith to be firmly planted in God.