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Paradigm for Pentecostal Preaching

Robert Mounce summarizes the didactic nature of New Testament preaching, especially as exemplified in the epistles, as follows: 1) Preaching serves as the means of God’s self-revelation to people. 2) Preaching reveals the actions that God has taken to redeem humanity. And 3) for preaching to be effective, the listeners must receive its message. The problem is not with people’s inability to understand the gospel, but their unwillingness to hear it.6 Thus, there exists all the more need for Pentecostal preachers who preach didactically with ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.’

In addition, some specialization of the ministry occurred not long after the ascension. For then Christ gave:

Some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).

The bulk of ministers today sense a calling to serve as pastors and teachers, which underlines the felt need for a didactic ministry in the church. Believers need regular, systematic instruction in the fundamentals of the faith. They require guidance in response to contemporary moral dilemmas. And Christians want constant pastoral care in the wake of modern stresses and strains, whether spiritual, physical, social, intellectual, emotional, or financial, etc.

The Book of Acts and the epistles also make it clear that Pentecostal preaching should be pneumatic (i.e., anointed by the Spirit) in nature. But we will examine this aspect in depth in the latter part of this paper.

Some Specific Biblical Principles For Pentecostal Preaching (1 Cor. 2:1-16)

Corinth was an unlikely place to plant a church because of its reputation for wickedness. Still Paul spent eighteen months there, longer than usual for him, and left behind a vibrant church.7 Most scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter most likely from Ephesus on or around A.D. 55 in response to reports and a letter containing questions from Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11; 7:1, etc). The city was a wealthy trade center and featured a temple to the goddess Aphrodite with 1000 priestesses, who served as temple prostitutes. Paul came to Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18).

The culture of Corinth, no doubt, had an impact on the local church. The members divided into factions over their favorite preachers, sinful lifestyles, differences in worship styles, and questions about the gifts of the Spirit, etc. They struggled with issues that involved sexual immorality and lawsuits, etc. They also had questions regarding marriage, personal rights, and the resurrection of Christ.

Some scholars like James A. Davis argue for a Jewish sapiential (i.e., wisdom) background, instead of a Greco-Roman background.8 Wilhelm Wuellner also believes the background of 1 Cor. 2:1-16 is Jewish homily rather than Greek rhetoric. He asserts that the three features of the homily pattern fit the larger context of 1 Cor. 1-4: “(1) The correspondence of the opening and closing statements or scriptural quotations; (2) subordinate scriptural quotations supplementing the opening quotation; and (3) paraphrases of key words or phrases from the opening and/or subordinate quotations in the homily.”9 However, Wuellner admits that this pattern does bear resemblance also to ‘Cynic-Stoic diatribes.’

The passage in 1 Cor. 2:1-16 reveals the material and means for Pentecostal preaching. The material for Pentecostal preaching comes from Christ (1 Cor. 2:1-5). The means for Pentecostal preaching comes from the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16).

Gordon D. Fee argues that 1 Cor. 2:1-5 provides a pattern for preachers. He writes, “One senses that for Paul this is not merely a historical replay of his time with them, but also functions as something of a paradigm for his understanding of Christian ministry.”10

As for the immediate historical background of this passage, some like William Barclay believe Paul failed for the first time in Athens before the Areopagus, so that the apostle comes to Corinth with fear and trembling (Acts 17:22-31; 18:1).11 However, it is more likely that Paul was concerned to please God and to reach the Corinthians with the gospel. After all, there were some positive results in Athens (Acts 17:32-34).

Furthermore, the speeches Luke records of Paul in Acts are rhetorically polished. Even Paul’s protestations to the contrary belie sophistication.12 The apostle may mean to appeal in 1 Cor. 2:1-5 to his sincere motives, honest humility, or a subtle sarcasm and irony.

Interestingly, in the ancient world, “Even the most renowned speakers (e.g., Dio Chrysostom) regularly disavowed their own speaking abilities in order to lower audience expectations; then they spoke brilliantly. Rhetoricians recommended this technique.”13 In this way, Paul actually used the very same skills with the addition of the anointing of the Spirit that some Corinthians denied he possessed.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Spring 2010

About the Author: Steve D. Eutsler, D.Min. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), M.Div. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), M.A. Biblical Literature (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), B.A. Bible (Central Bible College), is professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Global University in Springfield, Missouri. He has extensive experience as a pastor, evangelist, and educator and is the author of numerous articles and books. www.wix.com/SteveEutsler/reveut Email

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