Big Talk vs THE WORD OF GOD

By Cornelius R. Stam

“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.” – The Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 2:4,5

I asked a friend, recently, for his appraisal of a certain theological magazine in which I could somehow not get interested. “To me,” he replied, “it always sounds like a lot of high-sounding talk about nothing very much.”

This, sad to say, is true of much that is being written by those who are still holding out against “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.” Unable to answer the plain Word of God, they must offer fine-spun theories in abstruse language, quoting many theological “authorities” to cover up their mediocrity as teachers of the Word.

The sacred secret which the glorified Lord committed to Paul to dispense to us is not only something which had been “kept secret since the world began”; it is also the secret, the key to God’s eternal purpose and to all His good news to man down through the ages. This is why it is called “the secret of His will” (Eph. 1:9) and “the secret of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19).

Through the revelation of this mystery, or secret, we can now understand God’s dealings with men of past ages, from Adam to the believers at Pentecost. We can see how it was that God required blood sacrifices from Abel and others “for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.” We can see why He required water baptism of Peter’s Pentecostal hearers “for the remission of [their] sins,” even though it is obvious that oceans of water cannot wash away one sin.

And as we see this, the door is opened for us to the most blessed truths of all: those of our completeness in Christ, our “one baptism” into “one body,” our position in the heavenlies in Christ and our blessings there with all spiritual blessings.

In Paul’s “preaching of the cross,” and all that was accomplished there, we have the grand solution to problems that must remain unsolved by those who suppose that the teachings of Christ on earth, or those of Peter at Pentecost, belonged to God’s message and program for today.

An understanding of the great Pauline mystery, therefore, must necessarily contribute vastly to our understanding of the Bible as a whole, reconciling apparent contradictions and simplifying truths which otherwise would be difficult to understand.

We say this because the opponents of Pauline truth so often warn their hearers and readers against what they call our “over-simplification” of Bible truth.

When we point out how John the Baptist and the twelve were sent to baptize (John 1:33; Matt. 28:19) while Paul was not (1 Cor. 1:17) they call it an “over-simplification” of the facts.

When we show from Scripture how Peter proclaimed “the gospel of the circumcision,” while Paul proclaimed “the gospel of the uncircumcision” (Gal. 2:7) they call it an “over-simplification” of the facts.

When we show how the twelve apostles represented the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) while Paul represented the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24,25) they cry “Over-simplification!”

And when we demonstrate how our Lord on earth proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) while to Paul was committed “the preaching of the cross” (Acts 20:24) they again cry: “Over-simplification”‘

The reason?

Because they are finding it difficult – yea, impossible – to make their varied and conflicting positions clear, even to themselves. Unable to refute the Word of God, yet unwilling to bow to it, they meet the clearest, simplest arguments with the reply: “That’s an over-simplification”

Is it not a fact that one who does understand his subject can generally present it with directness and simplicity, while another who opposes a clear truth has to try to build an argument where there is none, and soon “darkens counsel by words without knowledge.” Carnal men may be pleased with such a display of polemic ingenuity, but truly spiritual men are not. Peter, by the Spirit, wrote of false teachers and their opposition to the truth:

“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, THEY ALLURE THROUGH THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH” (2 Pet. 2:18).

By contrast, see what Paul says of his own preaching:

“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 … THE POWER OF GOD” (1 Cor. 1:17,18).

“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 Cor. 2:45).

“Which things also we speak, NOT IN THE WORDS WHICH MAN’S WISDOM TEACHETH, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13).

Doubtless there will always be those who glory in the preacher whose discourses they cannot understand. We once heard an amillenarian trying to explain away the truth about the millennium. His arguments were ambiguous; he drew hair-line distinctions; his phraseology was “heavy.” Yet after be had brought his address to a close his hearers stood around exclaiming what a master he was in theology. One said: “He is deep”; another; “He was away over my head.” All agreed that he was an intellectual and theological giant and had certainly proved that there would be no millennium. Yet when we inquired of several of them as to which of his arguments had convinced them, not one could answer! A great theologian, but they had not understood him and so he had impressed them, but had left them without spiritual food or light.

True, Peter tells us that Paul’s writings contain some truths which are “hard to be understood,” but this is not meant in the sense that they are ambiguous or difficult to reconcile, but rather that they are infinitely sacred. It is, of course, difficult for us, all still so carnal by nature, to take in all the hallowed truths associated with our oneness with Christ, our heavenly position and blessings, etc. But Paul himself says of this:

“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [mature]: yet NOT THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD, NOR OF THE PRINCES OF THIS WORLD, THAT COME TO NOUGHT” (1 Cor. 2:6).

A young scientist, who constantly surpassed his colleagues in offering clear solutions to scientific problems, was once asked how he had acquired this gift. His answer: “When I have a problem I cannot solve, I go straight to the men at the top. They use the simplest language.” Naturally! They had the clearest grasp of the problem.

In much of our current theological literature, one wades through seas of words to find a small ray of light. Technical phraseology, appraisals of schools of thought, frequent citing of “authorities,” etc., often give an impression of great learning, when actually the author has little to contribute to the understanding of the Word. This is one reason for the appearance of an increasing number of reprints of older theological writings. These writers of the past few generations may not have grasped the details of the mystery proclaimed by Paul, but generally speaking they taught what they did understand and did not get into a religious “razzle-dazzle” by opposing the truth. Rather they sought for further light.

As Dr. Scofield wrote at the turn of the century: ‘The last fifty years have witnessed an intensity and breadth of interest in Bible study unprecedented in the history of the Christian Church. Never before have so many reverent, learned, and spiritual men brought to the study of the Scriptures minds so free from merely controversial motive.” (Introduction to the Scofield Reference Bible).

This writer, for one, has received far more help and light from the theological writings of the past few generations than from those of the present. The spiritual giants of the past few generations have in general been replaced by men of much smaller stature – smaller because, in the measure that they oppose the truth and seek to build up an argument where there is none, they shut out light and deny themselves the power and blessing of the Spirit in their ministry.

It does not pay to set one’s self up against the truth of God’s Word, for “God is not mocked”; “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” Thus the Apostle says:

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, LET HIM BECOME A FOOL, THAT HE MAY BE WISE.

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…” (1 Cor. 3:18-19).

It is ever true that “The entrance of Thy [God’s] words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psa. 119:130).

Thus Paul, who constantly urged believers to grow from infancy to maturity, nevertheless urged them also to be babes in their attitude of heart. In this he concurred with His Lord, of whom we read:

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that THOU HAST HID THESE THINGS FROM THE WISE AND PRUDENT, AND HAST REVEALED THEM UNTO BABES: Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (Luke 10:21).

Similarly the apostle wrote of himself:

“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that IN SIMPLICITY AND GODLY SINCERITY, NOT WITH FLESHLY WISDOM, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward” (2 Cor. 1:12).

So we urge our friends who continue to strive vainly to build up a “case” against the distinctive character of Paul’s message and apostleship, and are thus opposing the message of the glorified Lord to us and biding the key to the understanding of the Word of God: Stop multiplying words to gainsay plain truths of Scripture. Acknowledge the sacred secret revealed by our ascended Lord through His Apostle Paul and you will not need to offer ambiguous explanations to bolster up weak arguments.

The writer rejoices in the fact that the one type of response received more than any other at this office is the type which says: “So many seeming contradictions have been cleared up. Your writings have made the study of the Scriptures a pleasure. At last it is all beginning to make sense.” The credit for this does not go to the writer’s ability, but to the enormous vitality of the message we proclaim, the very “secret of the gospel” and the “secret of God’s will.”

This article was taken from the Berean Searchlight, volume LIII February, 1993, Number 11.

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