What convinces people to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Ask around the Christian community (and look at the products marketed at churches) and you might settle on a few likely answers: powerful, eloquent sermons and persuasive arguments for Christianity. Active church programs and youth ministries. Masterful Gospel presentations and debating skills. Well-written Bible studies and testimonies. Iron-clad knowledge of apologetics.
None of these are bad things. In fact, they’re all really good things. But when the apostle Paul recounted his evangelism strategy to the ancient church in Corinth, he describes an almost counter-intuitive approach:
When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.
However, we do speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written:
What eye did not see and ear did not hear,
and what never entered the human mind—
God prepared this for those who love Him.
Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For
who has known the Lord’s mind,
that he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ. — 1 Corinthians 2 (HCSB)
Questions to Consider
- What does it mean to share the Gospel message with “weakness, in fear, and in much trembling?” Aren’t those bad things?
- Why did Paul give so little thought to eloquence, and what is the point of him calling attention to that lack of eloquence?
- If unbelievers only see the Gospel message as “foolishness” and cannot understand it, what must happen for them to become “spiritual people?”
- If people do not accept or understand God’s wisdom on their own, and human eloquence is inadequate, why are Christians nevertheless commanded to go out to the world sharing the Gospel?
- How does this passage speak to you and your personal approach to evangelism in your home, workplace, and community?