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 Corinthians 2:1-5, N.K.J.V.)
A country boy was on trial for stealing a pig. Through the help of his public defender, he managed to beat the charge. To close the trial, the judge looked at the country boy and said, “You are exonerated.” To that, the country boy said, “Judge, does that mean I don’t have to give the pig back?”
The world has plenty of educated, highly intelligent people who know the definition of “exonerated” and scores of other words. In point of fact, though, the world also has people who don’t know either the definition of “exonerated” or the definitions of various other words rarely used in everyday language. This is why it is so important that we Christians use down-to-earth language, the language of the masses, when we talk about Jesus.
Jesus, being God in the flesh, was the most brilliant person who ever walked this earth, but when we read His teachings and His sermons, we find that He always used simple terminology to convey His message. He told stories (parables). He talked about nature (birds, lilies, fruit trees, etc.). He used exaggerated illustrations such as the one about the person whose eye has a plank in it. It’s no wonder the common folks flocked to hear Him.
The apostle Paul was no slouch in terms of intellect, either. He was a highly educated theologian/apologist who studied under the scholarly Jewish rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). To find evidence of Paul’s lofty brilliance, all we have to do is read his epistles (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.). But what does Paul say in our text passage about his preaching? Thinking back upon his ministry in Corinth, he says that he didn’t use excellency of speech, excellency of wisdom, or persuasive words of human wisdom. That’s what you call keeping it simple. He does admit later that he preached a different type of message when he was with mature believers (1 Corinthians 2:6-8), but such messages were not his norm for the masses.
The challenge for us Christians today is to keep the gospel of Jesus simple and share it with the world. Somehow we’ve got to be not only doctrinally sound but also easily understood. We don’t have to make the gospel relevant to this culture because it is inherently relevant to every culture. But we do need to explain to people why it is relevant to THEM. As Paul said, the best way to accomplish that is to rely upon the Holy Spirit’s help. When we share the gospel in the Spirit’s way and in the Spirit’s power, allowing the Spirit to use us as His vessels for evangelism, our sharing becomes more than just a religious sales pitch. Instead, it becomes nothing less than telling spiritual corpses who are bound for hell how they can become spiritually alive and bound for heaven. Obviously, that’s a message that needs to be not only heard but also understood, and there is no message anywhere that is even remotely as important.