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November 8, 2007 / beidson

Gospel Grammar: Communicating The Gospel With Humility

Does our grammar matter when we’re speaking with someone about the gospel?  According to the Apostle Paul, it does.

The other day I ran into my old Anthropology professor who has made it his life’s work to reprogram the minds of his students.  As he sees it, most studentsgrammar.jpg have been misguided by Bible Belt beliefs and practices, and it his goal to cause them to unlearn all that they have ever learned about God, the earth, humanity, sin, salvation, etc., at least, all that would cause them to act contrary to his beliefs.  In other words, though they may enter his class professing to believe in God, or more specifically, Christ, he hopes and aims to change their minds about such things during the course of the semester.

We spoke for a few minutes, and I was reminded why I liked him so much, and why I was so intimidated by him when I was his student.  He is a passionate philanthropist, no doubt, and he hopes to capture the hearts and minds of his students with the same humanitarian vision he has embraced, one of global peace and equality.  For this, I admire him.   On the other hand, his fierce opposition to everything biblical and Christian disturbed me a great deal that semester long ago, and as I found that night, still disturbs me a great bit.

Is there anything I could say that would convince this man that the ultimate philanthropist and humanitarian dwells in heaven, served by myriads of angels, having conquered the enemy of humanity by his sinless human life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection?  Will any argument persuade my old professor that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, will come again to Palestine, even to the whole earth, with a sword of judgement against his enemies and a declaration of righteousness for all who have hoped in him?  Will any philosophical argument convince him that God exists, and would anything I said to him open his eyes to the reality he has been denying for so long?

The truth is that I am incapable of delivering such a persuasive argument, and even if I could, he would be unable to receive it.  His problem is not philosophical; it’s theological.  His knowledge of God is insufficient because he does not know Jesus Christ, and in fact, has no desire to know him, and indeed, cannot know him, as Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  Unless the Spirit of Christ works in my professor’s life, he has no hope of being reconciled to God.

But there is hope, and our “grammar” has much to do with this hope.  The Apostle Paul understood that the power of Christ to save is not displayed in lofty intellectualism and philosophic wit, but in a seemingly insignificant message which appears to be nothing more than foolishness to listening ears. 

He said to the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers, (I) did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

My professor will not come to Christ even if I convince him that there is a God, and that Jesus Christ is Creator, and that he was raised from the dead and did ascend into heaven.  The only message that will break his heart is the gospel.  My professor must be convinced that he is a sinful person and under the wrath of God.  He must be convinced that Jesus Christ will judge him on the Last Day, and that he will not be guiltless before Christ, but worthy of everlasting condemnation.  He must be convinced that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26), and that the righteousness of Christ becomes the righteousness of all who hope in him, the Son of God and Son of Man.

If I am to be an effective witness to the gosepl of Jesus Christ, then I must deliver the gospel with humility.  Yes, I must be persuasive and convincing, but only in a manner that displays the mercy, grace, and power of God in Jesus.  My “grammar” is everything because what I choose to say and how I say it matters.  Eloquent speech doesn’t save; the gospel does.  Our approach must be humble, and we must cut to the heart with the gospel because it is the only message God uses to save, and it doesn’t display the wisdom of man but the wisdom of God.

It is my goal to undo all that my professor is doing, and the only way to do this is to communicate the gospel with humility, so that the faith of those who hear and believe may rest, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  And I pray to God that my professor would be one of these who believes, not because I convinced him of creation, but because the spoken words of Christ brought him to repentance.

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