And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 2:4,5
When Paul first came to the city of Corinth, it was in the wake of his experience in the illustrious Greek city of Athens. During his stint in Athens, he had marvelously presented the Gospel message, yet his teaching did not produce outstanding results. As Paul left Athens and began traveling toward Corinth — a city rife with demonic activity and wholly given over to idolatry and extreme sexual perversion — he must have pondered his performance in Athens. He probably thought about what he had done right, what he done wrong, and why his results weren’t as outstanding there as they had been in other cities.
However, when you study Paul’s ministry in the cities where he had his most dramatic results, you find that he did something in those places that he did not do in Athens. In Athens, he labored to preach a brilliant, intellectual, culturally relevant message to the Greek judges on Mars Hill. But when you look at how he ministered in other cities, you find that in addition to preaching brilliant messages, he also demonstrated the miraculous power of God. That demonstration of God’s power was very important in pagan communities where the occult was pervasive and supernatural manifestations were commonplace. For example:
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- In Acts 13:6-12, Paul had a face-to-face confrontation with a local sorcerer. The power that Paul demonstrated as he rebuked this sorcerer was so dramatic that city authorities were stunned. Verse 12 tells us, “Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed….” This demonstration of God’s power threw open the door for the Gospel in this region.
- In Acts 14:8-18, Paul again demonstrated supernatural power. Seeing a crippled man who had never walked in his life, Paul told him, “Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked” (v. 10). This event had such great impact that verse 11 says, “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” As a consequence of this wonderful miracle, people turned their attention to the Gospel message with outstanding results.
- In Acts 16:16-18, Paul encountered “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.” After this girl harassed Paul and his associates for a number of days, Paul turned to her and addressed the spirit of divination. In verse 18, he said, “…I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he [the spirit of divination] came out the same hour.” When the demon exited that damsel, it created such a mighty stir with the local people that the apostolic team was thrown into prison for doing damage to the fortune-telling business of the city. That night Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs when another act of power occurred. Acts 16:26 says, “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” This act of power was so colossal in its impact that the keeper of the prison cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). These combined acts of power led to the salvation of this man’s family. History tells us this keeper of the prison eventually became of one of the chief leaders in the church of Philippi.
- In Acts 19, when Paul found himself in the midst of Ephesus — the world center of Artemis worship and a city filled to the brim with demonic supernatural activity — it was a moment when a demonstration of God’s power was desperately needed. Acts 19:11,12 tells us that in Ephesus, “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” When the Ephesians saw this demonstration of power, verses 18 and 19 tell us that “…many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts [occult activities] brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” As a result of these combined manifestations of God’s power, verse 20 tells us, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.”
- In Acts 28:6, Paul was shipwrecked on an island that was filled with barbarians. When he was helping the shipwrecked sailors gather wood to build a fire, a venomous snake latched hold of Paul’s hand. Instead of dying from the bite, he simply shook it into the fire with no physical harm to himself. When the local barbaric people saw the snakebite had no effect, they were so taken aback that they said he was a god. Because of this miraculous event, the door to this island was thrown wide open for Paul to boldly preach the Gospel to them! When Publius, the chief man of the island, saw that his own father was critically ill, he knew whom to call for help! He called upon Paul to come pray for his father, and Acts 28:8 says, “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.” Because of this miraculous demonstration of power, verse 9 says, “So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.”
When Paul came into new and dark territories to bring the light of the Gospel, the book of Acts shows us that he repeatedly came with a demonstration of God’s power that had a powerful effect upon his audience.
Is it possible that in Athens Paul was so gripped with the need to present the Gospel in an intellectual, culturally relevant way to the judges on Mars Hill that he overlooked the need to accompany his message with a demonstration of the power of God as he had done in so many other cities? Did he become mesmerized by the intellectual tone of the environment and leave the Holy Spirit and the power of God out of the equation of his preaching and teaching?
Because Athens was a world center of idolatry, it was overflowing with demonic, supernatural activity, and if a demonstration of God’s power was needed anywhere, it was certainly in the city of Athens. Just for a moment, ponder what could have happened if Paul had allowed the gifts of the Spirit to operate in front of those judges so they witnessed phenomenal manifestations of God’s power far superior to anything they had ever seen in their pagan temples? Is it possible that such a demonstration of power may have shaken those listening judges and that the results that day would have been different?
It seems that as Paul approached the city of Corinth, he was reviewing his performance in Athens. By his own testimony in First Corinthians 2:1, he wrote, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” In Athens, he had brilliantly used “words of man’s wisdom” as he quoted their poets and their Greek philosophers — a message that, no doubt, could be included in the most exceptional messages ever recorded.
But when Paul later recalled his first ministry in the city of Corinth, he said, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5).
It is clear from his own testimony that when Paul preached the powerful message of the Gospel to the Corinthians, he had determined to go one step further than simply preaching an intellectually and culturally relevant sermon. This time he had made up his mind to also come with the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” as he had done so many times in other pagan cities where he was the first person to penetrate the darkness with the preaching of the Gospel.
The word “demonstration” is translated from the Greek word apodeixsis, and it means to display, to show off, or to demonstrate. Paul knew that to reach the pagans in Corinth, it would require a demonstration of power so outstanding that it would convince the unbelieving audience that his preaching was more than mere words — it was a message backed up by Almighty God Himself! He knew it would take an awe-inspiring demonstration of power to get their attention and to persuade them that his Gospel message was true. Thus, Paul started his ministry in Corinth not only with words, but also with a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
The word “power” is dunamis. This Greek word and its various forms are used 119 times in the New Testament, and it denotes the mighty power of God. As used in this verse, the word denotes not merely power, but tremendous power. In fact, the word dunamis is where we get the word dynamite. I believe this is an important fact to point out, for the word dynamite — denoting an explosive power — very well expresses the type of power Paul is describing in this verse. This word dunamis denotes God’s supernatural power, which when released on a human level, is explosive, mighty, and awe-inspiring to those who see it or experience it.
An interpretive translation of these words in First Corinthians 2:4 and 5 could be taken to mean:
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but I came with a display of power so outstanding that it really showed off the power of God.”
There is no concrete record in the book of Acts about Paul’s earliest preaching in Corinth. But from his own memory recorded in First Corinthians 2:4 and 5, we know that Paul’s objective was to bring such a mighty display of power with his preaching that the unbelieving Corinthians would be taken aback by the power of God and forever changed.
I feel compelled to ask you: What kind of power do you demonstrate with your life and your message as you share Christ with your friends, family, or acquaintances?
So often we preach the right words to people, but they are constantly hearing words — words from other people, from all forms of media — television, Internet, advertisements — and from all kinds of other sources. This constant stream of words that is trying to get people’s attention or to lure them to spend money or to make some kind of decision. People are inundated with words and messages in our world today.
But when they are confronted with a bona fide manifestation of God’s power so outstanding that they cannot debate its reality, they are forever impacted and changed by it. Certainly we must be wise in the way we preach and present the Gospel, but we must never forget the importance of preaching the Gospel with a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Nothing impacts an unbelieving crowd more than the power of God! The need for divine power is just as important today as it was 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians believers.
After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, what do you need to do differently in the way that you present Christ to people who are lost and unsaved? Are you making room for God’s power to operate and show off in front of the unsaved or unbelieving? Today I want to encourage you to open your heart to the possibility that God may want to demonstrate His power to those people you are trying to reach.
Instead of relying only on your own careful selection of words, why don’t you start seeking the Lord with greater fervency than ever before for His divine power and articulation as you present the Gospel to people who are in darkness? The impact of His words spoken with His power behind them through your mouth will leave your listeners inwardly reeling — and those words will hang in the air and rest in their hearts, not to be easily forgotten by them.
Remember, Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel is the power of God, and I assure you that He is just as willing today to back up His Word with a supernatural display of power as He was 2,000 years ago!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I ask You to help me surrender myself to the power and working of the Holy Spirit as I present the Gospel to people in darkness. Yes, I need to speak the right words and to speak it in a way that is relevant to those who are listening to me, but I also need to come with a demonstration of the power of God. Holy Spirit, I am looking to You to help me find the right words, to empower me and flow through me, and to do Your mighty work as I share Christ with people who are lost and in darkness. Today I ask You to release Your great power through me and to help me surrender when it’s time to allow that power to operate!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am an instrument through which the power of the Holy Spirit can flow to touch other people. I am not afraid of the power of God, nor do I hinder the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When it is time for God to show up in all of His marvelous supernatural ability, I move out of the way and make room so that God can do exactly what He wants to do. Rather than hinder or thwart the power of God, I am a facilitator that creates environments and provides time for God to show up and show off so that people will see and know His mighty strength!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a time when you seemed to have said all the right words, but because you didn’t allow the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power to operate in conjunction with your message, the results weren’t so outstanding?
- Can you think of a time when you did allow the Holy Spirit to move, and you watched in amazement as people’s hearts were softened and touched — and afterward they wanted to know more about the Lord?
- What are you going to do differently when you present the Gospel to lost people as a result of today’s Sparkling Gem? Is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, providing you with direction? If so, what is He saying to you?