Man’s Wisdom or God’s Power?

August 3, 2015


1Co 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Having spent many years in ministry and learning all I could via colleges and self-study I have come to the conclusion that we need more “in demonstration of the Spirit and power” and less of man’s wisdom in our preaching. While education in nearly all disciplines is wise and we are to go into the world and teach all nations making disciples, we seemed to have become obsessed to the point of near idolatry over degrees. It is extremely difficult for an Amos to serve in a realm where three degrees are required as much as three points and a poem in homiletics or expository preaching class.

Frankly, it seems clear that our method of preaching/teaching to make disciples is inferior to that of Christ’s since He only took three years to train the 12 disciples and the 13th audited the course since he was not of the original 12. Paul’s one on one training was also only three years and Paul only had three weeks to plant a vibrant church. While Mormons can field missionaries with a very brief training period we send men to school for many years. Some programs from ThB to ThD can take up to 15 years. Then the man may have great knowledge and eloquent speech but still have a status quo church that declines as he and his church ages. It would appear that we are missing something much like Apollos, who was a gifted preacher and well versed in the Law, yet lacked the basic understanding of the Gospel and had to be schooled by a couple who never went to bible college let alone seminary.

We are well versed in the wisdom and theologies of men, but that is not what Paul used in his ministry though he had more of that kind of wisdom than folks today with several degrees in various disciplines. Indeed, he counted all that he had as dung and stayed away from it as much as possible except when the situations warranted it to gain a hearing. His focus was Christ and Him crucified and the power of the Spirit who worked powerfully in Paul.

I fear that much of our infatuation with degrees is to impress men, both saved and unsaved. I appreciate what one local notable preacher said that all his degrees did for him was to get him an interview at the church where he now serves. I was told by a local seminary that a man cannot pastor in Texas without some form of doctorate. While it is difficult because churches have been trained by the theologians that they need a doctor, it is very possible to pastor quite well without a degree let alone a doctorate.

Many have stopped getting ThDs and now seek PhDs. The world respects those more and if ministry fails the chances of getting a teaching job or some other job is better with a PhD versus a ThD. A PhD might even generate a larger salary in a church ministry as well as a secular job. A church that has a pastor with a doctorate of any kind can bring in more affluent members and maybe a PhD does ever better. I cannot judge everyone’s motive, but it would be interesting to know what caused that shift.

Our appealing to the World through education has not really helped much. We may have more doctors in the Church than the medical career field. That may be indicate that we are more ill and forget that it was the doctors, Pharisees and Sadducees, that Christ criticized and condemned the most. Indeed, the greatest insult to that crowd was that to them He was just a carpenter’s illegitimate son and He picked unlearned fisherman and a hated tax collector for His disciples. He also hung out with prostitutes and thieves more than He did with the Sanhedrin. How terribly undignified Christ and His ragtag band were to the doctors.

I don’t remember how long after attending bible college it was when one of my buddies asked me if I noticed that my spiritual life had taken a downhill turn since coming to college. I had to admit that it had indeed slumped when I would have expected being in such a cloistered environment amid a great number of saints all preparing for the ministry or to be a pastor’s wife it would have soared instead of slumped.

I grew more when I was witnessing to the “heathen” and doing my own study in the library than I did in class. Oh, I graduated with honors so I learned stuff. However, it seemed my bible turned into a textbook and a manual on how to militate against the other denominations or cults more so than my own instructional manual for holy living. My manna from Heaven dried up and I was not in the Promised Land.

I spent more time reading about Calvin, Arminius, Covenant theology, Dispensational theology, theories of the Rapture, Tribulation and Millennium by various theologians, both dead and living than I did reading the Word of God that I came to learn. Indeed, much of that I have never used in my ministry because few people are interested in supralapsarian, infralapsarian or sublapsarian theologies. Sometimes I have to throw some of those words in a sermon so I can get some use out of them since I paid good money and spent time to learn them. Most people are just interested in knowing how to get through the nasty now and now in the grace of God until they get to the sweet by and by.

My early experiences with God were more rewarding than my graduating with honors. Though for a guy that graduated 55/57 in his academic high school class it was a cool thing to be in the top 10. I owed those honor cords to my wife who kept me from quitting after my third year of trying to explain how the GI bill worked to the business office who told me they knew about it before I enrolled. I gave them to her when I came down from the podium. They were her reward for my four years.

If is now 40 years since that day I went to church to get a guy off my back and ended up with Christ in my heart. It has been a long and winding road with joys, sorrows, some success and many failures. I have pastored, gotten pieces of paper, taught in a seminary, wrote books and ministered in many areas including social media to many people around the world. I have been received, rejected and oft times a Pharisee and in some areas, a Sadducee.

God has been very gracious to me and better to me than I deserve. He has done things for me when my education and man’s wisdom failed me. I am seeking to go back to my early experiences with Him or my first love. It was an amazing and simpler time.

Indeed, I think I was saved as an apostolic Christian though I was in a Baptist Church. I can remember making some statements that raised some eyebrows back then. I was more attuned to His voice and the Spirit’s leading before I became a theologian. My son called me that once and I told him to never do it again. It’s a good word, but folks called theologians are often confused, much like the scribes they use may, maybe, possibly, could be and quote their favorite men more than “thus saith the Lord.” Theologians thrived in the Dark Ages while many of God’s people had to hide in the dark to avoid theologians.

I wish I had never heard of Calvin and Arminius as well as much of the other stuff that has not profited my life or spirit nor those whom I have taught and given guidance. Often people come to me messed up because of some issue taught them by a theologian or pastor. Indeed, we have many camps who teach things they think are good doctrines based upon some theology that just does not pan out when placed under the light of Scripture. People put too much trust in the theologian of their choice and are not good Bereans who search the Scriptures to see if the things are are told are true.

I am seeking not to be more Spirit led than man led and to seek God’s approval more than the approval of men. I am not dumping doctrine for the sensational as some do, but there is a balance between dead orthodoxy and wildfire pietism. The Holy Spirit in not hobbled by the Bible, but neither will He do anything contrary to the Book He, the Father and the Son wrote. The Word and the Spirit will dove tail, not rabbit trail. I want that balance and that balance may seem unbalanced to men as His thoughts and ways are not ours. May God bring me to that balance to His Glory, by His mercy and grace. After all, He is the “same, yesterday and forever.” I believe it! May God bring you there as well so “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Maranatha!

PS

Interestingly. the two men that are admired most by my peers or pastoral acquaintances are D. L. Moody, 8th grade education, and Charles Spurgeon, no formal biblical training yet considered the Prince of Preachers.

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