1 Corinthians 1:17-31
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words…
Paul sought to teach that there were different functions which belonged to the officers of the Church. Some were to "serve tables," some to administer the ordinances. He did not cast contempt on the ordinances, but declared that he had a special work appointed him.
I. THE OFFICE OF THE PREACHER AROSE WITH THE SAVIOUR. There were instructors previously. The prophets were much more teachers than predictors. The Rabbis when Christ was upon earth were teachers. Christ's method of teaching was utterly different. Outwardly it was the same — He went from place to place, He taught sitting, &c.; but the interior contents of His teaching were very different. Christ spake "with authority"; so does every man who speaks from the roots and fundamental elements of truth.
II. PREACHING IS TEACHING IN A VITALISING WAY ETHICAL TRUTHS — truths which ally men to God and to each other. They must be taught so as to breathe the life of Him who teaches. They must carry personal power.
III. IT IS NOT TO BE THOUGHT THAT THIS FUNCTION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH HAS CEASED EVEN IN LIBERALLY EDUCATED AND CULTIVATED SECTIONS OF SOCIETY. Let us look closely and ask, Is the function of the preacher temporary? Will it ever pass away? There is one element belonging distinctively to the preacher which will for ever give him a place and function which can never change: the bringing of the truth home to men in a living form. In the light of this observe the genius and the sphere of preaching —
1. From this sphere are excluded largely the higher forms of theological speculation, for it is not possible to bring these home to men in a living way. His distinctive business is to deal with those truths which he can take into his consciousness, and, having given to these a personal expression from himself, send them forth living truths. His proper sphere is ethical truth. That which men most need to know is how to love God and man perfectly. This is his whole duty. To teach this duty is the sphere of the preacher.
2. This includes every condition of mankind.
3. From this it appears that no man is a true preacher whose chief business is the organisation of worship, the conduct of Church affairs, or mere pastoral administration. The true preacher is the utterer of truth.
4. Then as no man can represent in himself every form of the human mind, or have a full conception of all truth, the preacher must necessarily be a partialist. The robin sings as a robin, bluebirds as bluebirds. One man has large power of imagination, another overflowing emotion, &c. All are fragmentary preachers. No man was ever built large enough to preach the whole of God.
5. Pride, vanity, and unspiritual life will effectually prevent the preacher becoming personally, experimentally, a presentation of the truth to the people.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.