Message Title: Declaring the Testimony of God, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Broadcast Date: October 25, 2020 (No. 4060)
Radio pastor: Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, pastor of Pittsburgh PRC
Dear Radio Friends,
There was quarreling and unrest in the congregation of Corinth. All this was rooted in the party strife between various factions of the congregation. In our last broadcast we found that this strife was caused in part by the carnal desire on the part of some to follow certain men rather than Christ. In the first few chapters of this epistle, Paul sets out to correct the error in this regard. In chapter 1 Paul immediately sets the Corinthian church straight about the preaching of the gospel. In effect, he tells them that, rather than glorying in certain men, the church ought to make its boast in Jesus Christ alone. We do that by boasting in the gospel that is preached. If we glory in the gospel, then no matter who the preacher is, we are glorying in Christ Himself.
So, with what then ought the members of the church be concerned? The preaching! Why? Because it alone is the very power of God unto salvation! The true preaching of the gospel sets forth Christ in all His fullness. It centers in Christ and His work. That is as far as Paul went in his reasoning in chapter 1. He concentrated solely on what the preaching is.
In today’s broadcast we consider the first five verses of chapter 2. They are a personal testimony of Paul to his own preaching. We read,
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
In these verses there is a shift of emphasis from the last chapter to this one. Instead of defining the preaching now, Paul begins to describe how the preaching must go forth. He defines what is the proper way to deliver or to declare the gospel. Paul was determined to preach, to declare the testimony of God concerning Christ. Not with fancy words or men's philosophy. He had determined to preach Christ alone. It is that determination we consider today. Every minister of the gospel must be determined not to use his pulpit as his own personal soap-box to express his own thoughts or philosophy, but to preach the testimony of God. A true preacher of the gospel is resolved to do one thing: bring his church to Christ and the cross.
Declaring the Testimony of God
Paul wanted to make something perfectly clear to the congregation of Corinth. He came to the city of Corinth for only one reason: to declare the testimony of God! That is all. He was not out to fulfill some personal goal. He had no hidden personal agenda. He was not out to gain a following to himself. He was determined only to declare the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ. Such is the intention of every faithful preacher. He is not out to gain a following. He simply fulfills the calling to which Christ has called him. That calling is to declare the testimony of God.
But what does Paul mean here by that “testimony of God” that the faithful preacher is called to declare? The testimony of God is simply that which God has chosen to reveal or make known to us. God has chosen to testify or give witness to us concerning great and wonderful truths. These truths concern Him as God, us as man, Christ as Savior, salvation, the church, and the days in which we live. God gives testimony concerning all of these to us. Great and marvelous truths He has chosen to declare concerning Himself and His purpose for all things in Christ. That testimony we find in the Scriptures. The Bible contains everything God has chosen to testify of Himself and all the other truths we have mentioned. So in reality, when Scripture speaks here of the testimony of God, it refers to all that God has revealed to us in His Word.
Yet, there is more to this testimony of God. In verse 2 Paul writes, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Here Paul states that he determined to preach or declare to God's people in Corinth nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Now, of course, this does not contradict, neither is it something additional to, the testimony of God of which Paul speaks in verse 1. What we find here, however, is that the very heart and core of the testimony of God to you and me centers in the cross of Christ. It centers in Christ and Him crucified. That tells us what the content of the preaching must be. The preacher must be determined in his preaching to declare God's Word as it exposes sin, first of all. The preaching must call sinners to know their sin and repent of that sin in dust and ashes. Then the preaching must lead that sinner to the cross, where Christ was crucified and slain as a sacrifice for sin. The preaching must not lead a person to Christ the humanitarian, Christ the politician, but to Christ the Savior! Every true preacher of the gospel is determined to declare the testimony of God concerning the cross of Christ! Christ through His church has called him to do this. That is his sole duty. That must be his only goal. He has nothing more in mind when he mounts the pulpit.
The Word of God in verse 4 uses a term in the Greek language that does not translate itself into the English. It refers to the message of a herald. A herald was a trusted servant of a king that was appointed by that king to go out and officially declare to his subjects the decrees of the king. If the king passed a law or made a declaration, it was made known by means of the mouth of certain trusted ambassadors specifically chosen and called by the king. These men would go out into the cities of the kingdom and declare to the subjects exactly what the king wanted announced. They would add nothing to the decree of the king and leave nothing out.
Such is the calling of the preacher. He is not one who simply takes on himself the task of preaching. But he is officially called and sent by God through the church. God, through His church, has chosen him to be the ambassador of His Word. The preacher must mount the pulpit, therefore, determined to give only the message of the king. He must speak forth only the king's decree, without adding to it or detracting from it. If he does either of these two, the preacher is answerable to Christ the King! If the preacher mounts the pulpit to declare his own word rather than Christ’s, the King will have his head in the day of judgment! Let the preacher beware lest he himself view the preaching as nothing more than a man getting in front of a bunch of people and trying to direct them in the way he thinks is wise! Paul tells the Corinthian church that he determined to preach Christ and Him crucified only—that is the King's Word.
Our text also describes how the preacher is to preach or speak the testimony of God. He must declare it. That term "declare" implies that the preacher must determine to publish the Word, to announce the gospel, to make it known in every place possible. Here is the great commission laid upon the church: preach the gospel to every creature! Preaching is aimed at publicly announcing, to all who will hear, Christ and Him crucified! It calls all to faith and repentance! It sets forth the command of the King: repent and believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. The church and the preachers of the gospel must see to it that the testimony of God, His Word, is proclaimed far and wide. Great must be the company of the preachers who are sent out to bring in the harvest. The Word of God must be preached in the church and outside of the church, in season and out of season. That is the task of the church.
How sad when we become so wrapped up in our own little world that we do not show any concern about the grand and glorious work of the gospel that is going on in the church! Look at what Paul was doing in his own work in the church! And that coupled with all the other preachers of the gospel. "I am determined to declare to you the testimony of God! I will know nothing else among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified!" That is the same declaration that faithful ministers of the gospel are busy with today! The preaching of the gospel is a glorious task! Who is capable of declaring God's testimony in a way that will captivate, enthrall, and motivate the hearts of young and old alike in the church?
But our text does not stop there. The Word of God before us today instructs us in how a preacher will declare the testimony of God. We read in verse 3, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” I believe that a preacher who takes his calling seriously is always characterized by fear and trembling. Notice that Paul does not say in our text that he was nervous and jittery when he first came to Corinth. His fear and trembling were of a deeply spiritual nature. Paul knew he was a mere man. More, he knew he was a sinful man. Now, God had laid upon him the burden and care of the church. Paul was fully aware of his weaknesses and sins. He knew he was in himself unworthy for this task. He also knew that in himself there was no way he would be able to perform the work that God laid upon him. Yet, Christ had placed upon him now the responsibility to declare Christ crucified. And Paul had to satisfy Christ! He knew that!
Paul was not filled with fear and trembling because he had to impress men with what he said and how he said it. Paul was not worried about his style. Paul knew he was answerable to Christ! The burden of the gospel was laid upon him by Christ! Talk about fear and trembling. My prayer as a preacher before I enter the worship of the church is: “give me Thy Word to speak! Make me worthy of my King!” How ought a preacher to declare God's testimony then? With great humility and dependency on Christ Himself. There is no room for pride or self glory on the pulpit. There is no room to use the pulpit to satisfy the preachers own whims and wishes. One must preach in humility, all the while trusting that Christ will take sin-weakened words and use them to fulfill His will.
Neither may the preacher mount the pulpit with the idea that he must say things in a certain way in order to satisfy those who hear. How often this happens in the preaching today. Men leave the simple proclamation of God's Word behind and replace it with all kinds of philosophy and psychology of the day. Or they water down the gospel in order to make it more palatable for men. They try to satisfy the masses and give the people what they want to hear rather than what they ought to hear. Preachers use clever words, strange ways of interpreting Scripture, intellectual phrases, all in order to cover over heresy. They attempt to redefine the terminology of Scripture in order to harmonize it with the dubious findings of science. They soft-soap the gospel so as not to offend people. They round off the corners. In other words, preachers are just not honest with the Word of God or with those to whom they preach. Against all this Paul says, "I do not come with the enticing words of the worldly wise. I do not come with the impressive speech and wranglings of the great lecturers of the day. I am determined to come to you with the cross and everything that it implies! I am not interested in making you feel at ease in your sin. I preach repentance. I'm not interested in becoming a well-known televangelist who boasts in how many souls he has won for Christ. I preach Christ crucified! I know it is offensive. It is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. But to the child of God it is the power of God unto salvation!”
Those things ought not to characterize a preacher's preaching. Paul very clearly in our text points out what must be the way a preacher preaches. We read in the last part of verse 4, that Paul preached “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” What Paul means by this is that his preaching must be proof conclusive that the Spirit was present and working! His preaching must demonstrate, prove, that the Spirit was present in that preaching. We must never divorce the work of the Spirit from the preaching. Never ought we to think that the word the minister preaches can in themselves in some way save us. The Word of God alone, in itself, does not save. There are many, and will be many more who sit under the preaching, some perhaps their whole life long, who are not saved! These are indifferent to the Word that is spoken. They either do not listen, or the word, though heard, has no effect on them in their lives. Paul tells the Corinthian church that he will preach in the way that the Spirit Himself exhorts him to preach. When Christ crucified is preached in all its fulness, the Spirit will be present and working in the hearts of God's chosen people. He will subjectively apply the spoken Word to the hearts of God's elect and the result will be holiness in the lives of God's people. The preacher, therefore, may never preach in such a way that he will stand in the way of or hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in the preaching. Instead, he must preach clearly and unequivocally the testimony of God with respect to Christ crucified. Then the Spirit works through the preaching.
And that work of the Spirit will be in power! There is nothing more amazing than the power of God! It is a force that no man can contend with. No man can create. Look at the heavens, look at the oceans, gaze upon the beauty of the forest, consider the complexity of your own body. God did that! No man has the power in him to do that. No man can maintain or govern the forces of nature. No man can harness, much less control, the winds that rip apart houses and trees or anything else that is in the way. I say, there is nothing more awesome than the power of God! That power reveals itself in no more amazing way than in the salvation of the sinner. Through the Spirit, God takes hold of the spiritually dead heart of a man and instills in it the very life of Jesus Christ. Imagine that, beloved believer, if you can. The Spirit works in a man in such a way that this man who once hated God with every fiber of his being now loves God and seeks to serve Him in all that he does. The Spirit takes one who is hopelessly lost in the despair of sin and is miserably confused with life, and He gives him eternal life, directing him to the cross of Christ where is found joy forevermore.
That is power! That is God's power. We can see how great that power really is when we look at our own stubborn hearts and how God has softened and turned them. That power of God is revealed or demonstrated only when Christ crucified is preached! Let the world mock. Let the world call us foolish! Let others be angry and offended. I say, give me the preaching! It is the power by which God has saved me and by which I now am assured of my salvation.
That brings us to the why of preaching. Paul answers this in verse 5 of I Corinthians 2: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” There can be no doubt that the preaching works faith in the hearts of God's people! We read in Romans 10:13, 14, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” The faith spoken of by Paul in our text for today is not simply the power of God by which we are grafted into Christ. That also is true. Such faith is often worked in the heart of an unbeliever after he hears the preaching. But when Paul speaks of faith in our text, he is more interested in the activity of faith. Preaching Christ crucified works in God's people a deep, profound, personal, heartwarming knowledge of God as the God of our salvation. Such faith gives to us a childlike trust in God. Such knowledge and confidence the preaching of the testimony of God works in the hearts of God's people. Paul insists that this faith of his hearers does not depend on him as a man. Paul did not want the glory. He did not want anyone to say that he was a follower of Paul. We know that if faith rests upon a man, it is not truly faith at all. If a man relies on another for faith, it will be a faith that fails him. Paul directs the attention of the Corinthian believers to the cross. There lies the foundation for all faith.
Then the faith of God's people rests upon the power and strength of God alone. Then, and only then, is faith well founded. God will never fail. God never changes. In His strength He will uphold you and me. That is why, Paul says, we preach Christ crucified. May God work such faith through the faithful preaching of the gospel in us who hear. May that faith be solid, as we are, through the preaching, constantly led to the cross of our Savior. Then all our boast will not be in man or against man—but it will be found in the cross of that one who has saved us.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
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