Faith in God’s Power Alone

Jim Cymbala

Every believer is probably familiar with the important role that preaching and good teaching play in extending Christ’s kingdom and helping us mature. But over the last few years, I have begun to wonder if our understanding of preaching is defined more by our life experience than by the Bible.

In most churches, a minister stands before the congregation and shares a passage of Scripture, usually in a sequential, logical manner that breaks down the meaning of the passage for everyone to understand. If the message is Scripture based and the speaker’s communication skills are of a high caliber, one would usually define that as a “fine sermon.” The same can be applied to us when we share the Word one-on-one with a friend or coworker. The recommended advice is to use your head, be as persuasive as you can, and try to bring the person to a belief in Jesus.

While all that is good, what are we going to make of the apostle Paul’s description of his method of preaching? Reminding the Corinthian church of his eighteen-month ministry there, he said: “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthian 2:1-5, emphasis added). 

What? A speaker not depending on wise and persuasive words? Isn’t that what most of us aim for when we share with others? But that was never part of Paul’s strategy as a preacher of the gospel. He boasted in the Spirit’s power resting on him. Why? In order that the Christians in Corinth might have their faith “in God’s power” and not in “human wisdom.”

Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.