Using PAUL as our ‘MODEL’ for SERMON DELIVERY: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 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 Cor. 2:1-5)
In the above verses, Apostle Paul reflects upon his initial ministry with the Corinthian church. Although Paul was a man of letters (having studied under the tutelage of Gamaliel, see Acts 22:3), very knowledgeable of the Old Testament laws (having been raised as a Pharisee) and very zealous about his mission (having traveled far and wide to preach the gospel), his message was not characterized by eloquence or an abundance of Greek wisdom (2 Cor. 11:5, 6). Rather, it was a declaration of God’s testimony revealed to him by the Holy Spirit (vv. 10–14). The focal point of Paul’s preaching was Jesus Christ alone!
Paul had given careful thought to his approach for sermon delivery, and had resolved to lay aside the ornaments of speech and usage of philosophical skills to announce Jesus Christ and Him crucified (v. 2). Jesus Christ refers to His Person, while Him crucified refers to His work (vv. 7, 16). Both the content and the style of Paul’s preaching conformed to the ways of God as revealed in the Cross. Paul did not preach to show off his oratorical skills and draw attention to himself like the other itinerant teachers in Corinth. Rather, his faith was in God, not in himself (Zech. 4:6), and he wanted sinners to trust in Christ’s power. Thus, with a deep sense of his own insufficiency, Paul carried on a ministry characterized by modesty and humility!
Paul further emphasizes in this passage that his personal demeanor was neither impressive nor attractive. He was with the Corinthians “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling”. The treasure of the gospel was contained in an earthen vessel so that the excellence of the power might be of God and not of Paul (2 Cor. 4:7). He himself was an example of how God uses weak things to confound the mighty. However, to some of Paul’s enemies, this approach was a stumbling block (2 Cor. 10:10). In spite of this, the Spirit of God used Paul’s sermons to produce conviction of sin and conversion to God!
Just like John the Baptist, Paul’s heart desire was that “He (Jesus) must increase, but I (Paul) must decrease” (John 3:30). Even though Paul had many strengths of his own (see Phil. 3:4–9), he wanted to be counted among those who relied on God’s strength. In doing so, his ministry demonstrated the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so miraculous signs, wonders and miracles accompanied Paul’s preaching (see 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 2:3, 4). Through these signs, God’s name alone would be magnified. It is possible that Paul’s motivation of preaching in this manner comes from His own words (below):
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
So, in order to be effective in God’s kingdom we must use Apostle Paul as the ‘model’ for sermon delivery. Instead of flocking around preachers with oratory skills and well scripted preaching, let us learn to discern the heart cry of God as we lead people to trust in God alone rather than in the wisdom of men. All who proclaim the gospel message or, teach the word of God should make this their constant aim as well.