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. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:17-18)
Paul in the book of Corinthians directly confronts the carnality of this body of professing believers. The seeds of carnality had been sown in the church when they moved away from the centrality of Christ to the rationalities of men. There are human reasonings within the sphere of religion that “seem” to be correct and biblical. They come from self-serving men of good words and fair speeches deceiving the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:18).
Note in the text that the commission of Christ to the Apostle did not involve baptizing but preaching. The gospel that saves a man from sin does not involve the ordinance of baptism. The content of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Baptism is a local church ordinance for those who have been saved from their sin as a testimony of their faith in the risen Son of God. Also, the commission to preach did not involve the wisdom of words. This would be due to the effect that such an approach would have on the gospel. Wisdom of words would nullify and empty the gospel of its power. The gospel would become form without reality.
What would it mean to preach the gospel with wisdom of words? Within the context of the scripture it would not mean the mere development of sermonic preparation and delivery. There is a place for a pastor and/or believer to conform their speech to the image of Christ (James 3:10 for an example). I believe that within the book of Corinthians that the phrase, wisdom of words, refers to manipulative speech which caters to the desires of men. This type of preaching utilizes Christ topically but does not baptize the message of him, through him, and to him. It salts the message with His name but does not make Him the meat of the message.
The temptation to fall into the trap of cleverness in our presentation of the gospel is strong. True gospel preaching only has two results. Lost people walk away proclaiming that this message of the cross is moronic, foolishness. In contrast, the saved feed on the operative power of God revealed in that same message which the lost reject. Brethren, is it not easier to avoid the world’s rebuttal as they proclaim and view, both us and our message as foolish? Do we not shy away from bearing the shame of the Saviour? Are there not voices within the realm of religion teaching manipulative speech which caters to lost people in order to gain a hearing or decision from them?
The danger is that when we accept the deception that the preaching of the cross is to be mixed with wisdom of words, we have just emptied the foundation and source of the gospel; that is, Jesus Christ. We may gain decisions and bodies but there will be no life of God within the souls of men. We may build big organizations with our man-centered techniques and appeals. However, the end result is that God will destroy both the wisdom of the wise and those who have put their confidence therein. Brethren, pushing people over the wall will save no one. We must all go through the strait gate and traverse the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14).
Throw away as rotten garbage the wisdom of men. Destroy the wisdom of the wise from our conversation. Be willing to bear the shame of the world against our LORD and God. Let us lift up our voices in one accord to God and His messenger at all times. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Sir, we would see Jesus (John 1:29; 12:21).