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Paradigm for Pentecostal Preaching

Michael A Bullmore makes three observations about Paul’s response to the Greco-Roman rhetorical background of 1 Cor. 2:1-5: 1) Paul refuses to adopt the Corinthian style of choice in regards to content and manner of speaking. 2) Paul seems to contrast himself with a particular rhetorical style favored at Corinth. And 3) Paul makes this decision on theological grounds. He desires that the Corinthians rest their faith in God not a particular rhetorical style.14

In any case, the wise people of this world stumble over the wisdom of God. The Lord has made the gospel so simple that anyone can understand its basic message, yet in the process many wise people are repelled by that simplicity. For those who accept it, Christ becomes both the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18-25). As a result, most of the converts in Corinth were among the common people. On one hand, God does this to humble the philosophers of this world. On the other hand, Christ has become our wisdom, which means He provides us with righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). No one can boast that their superior intellect resulted in their salvation in any way (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Salvation actually requires a wise person to become as it were a ‘fool’ to be saved. While the wisdom of God may seem foolish to the world, the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. And the Lord requires sincere humility before He bestows salvation on anyone (1 Cor. 3:18-23). New converts should not even boast over the preacher they happen to be saved under (1 Cor. 1:10-17). Even boasting of their wisdom after salvation perverts God’s intention.

A. T. Robertson gives a succinct explanation of Paul’s disclaimer in 1 Cor. 2:1-4:

One is not to stress Paul’s language in 1 Cor. 2:1-4 into a denial that he could use the literary style. It is rather a rejection of the bombastic rhetoric that the Corinthians liked and the rhetorical art that was so common from Thucydides to Chrysostom. It is with [this] comparison in mind that Origen (c. Celsus, vii, 59f.) speaks of Paul’s literary inferiority. It is largely a matter of standpoint.”15

Paul made this disclaimer so that the faith of the Corinthians would rest in the power of God, not in the power of rhetoric. Also, the apostle refers to wisdom “due to the fact that [he] … takes up ideas of his opponents and tries to put them to a positive use. This is why scholars [also] see reminiscences of the gnostic [sic] myth and terminology of the mysteries in [the next] … section (1 Cor. 2:6-16).”16 But Paul’s ultimate reliance was upon God to convince his audiences.

Now, let us examine three of the principles this paradigm sets forth. I will attempt to state each principle in a complete sentence. In order to develop each principle thoroughly, I will explain, illustrate, and apply each one in turn.

Principle 1: Mystery—A Christo-Centric Mystery Informs Pentecostal Preaching (1 Cor. 2:1)

Leon Morris qualifies the meaning of preaching in the New Testament: “Preaching the gospel is not delivering edifying discourses, beautifully put together. It is bearing witness to what God has done in Christ for man’s salvation.”17 In other words, preaching is more divine proclamation than human persuasion.

The present tense of the participle καταγγέλλων indicates ongoing action. Paul’s preaching continually ‘proclaimed’ the gospel.18

Some discrepancy exists over whether the original reading was ‘testimony’ or ‘mystery’ of God. The KJV, NASB, and NIV translate ‘testimony.’ The UBS and Nestle-Aland Greek texts have ‘mystery’, as does the NRSV. The reading ‘mystery of God’ seems more likely than ‘testimony of God’ because of earlier textual support.19 The word translated ‘mystery’ in this context means the “secret plan of salvation, the gospel.”20

J. Sidlow Baxter expresses the mystery well, “In the super-miracle of the Incarnation, our very Creator, Preserver, Judge, becomes our Kinsman, Sinbearer, Redeemer! Of all miracles and mysteries this is the most staggering.”21 Accordingly, humans cannot understand this mystery without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Principle 2: Message—A Christo-Centric Message Informs Pentecostal Preaching (1 Cor. 2:2)

Paul came to Corinth determined to preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). William Barclay puts it well, “It is always true that simplicity has a power that nothing else has … [F]or most people, the way to the recesses of a man’s inmost being lies, not through his mind, but through his heart.”22 At the same time, Paul did not just preach about the crucifixion of Christ, although it was a major theme of his preaching. He preached Christ in spite of the shameful death He died for the sins of the world.23

When Paul denies using persuasive words in his preaching, the apostle means that he avoids excessive oratory and subtle arguments. Instead, Paul concentrates on the proclamation of the truth and allows it to work in the hearts of people.24 Without doubt, Paul’s many years as an evangelist implies “the ability to find and exploit an initial area of common ground with his hearers.”25 Paul did not intentionally alienate his audiences, but he did rely more on theology than oratory to accomplish his mission.

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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. Email

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