Monday, March 26, 2012

Letting the Gospel Work on Its Own Terms

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.

Actually, he gave both directions: "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  But preaching is more important than baptizing.  Baptizing is easy for those thought worthy of priesthood, whereas preaching is proper to a few who have received this gift from a divine source.  At this point he then represses the sense of importance of those who pride themselves on their eloquence, saying, not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  If I were to have inclination to wordiness and cleverness, the power of the crucified would not be demonstrated.  Everyone would get the idea that believers had been snared by rhetorical skills, whereas the preachers' lack of expertise proves superior to those taking credit for eloquence and thus clearly reveals the force of the cross.

Theodoret of Cyrus, "The First Letter to the Corinthians" on 1 Corinthians 1:17

Theodoret was an ardent adherent to baptism as a work of grace and effectual in salvation (see his comments on Romans 6).  However, he recognized that the true power was God's word.  No unique or extensive rhetorical training is necessary.  No extraordinary measures used to draw crowds or manipulate for decisions.  Churches or preachers who use these actually strip the gospel of its power by making the message about what man can do.  No, the gospel is to be clearly and simply given, so that men may see the extent of the great work that was accomplished by Jesus death for the sin of the world, his burial, and his resurrection demonstrating that the work was fully accomplished.

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