Category Archives: Apostle Paul

Was Paul the Best, Worst Communicator or is Something Else Going on?

There is a place in Paul’s writing that confused me for the longest time. What is the confusing statement?

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words,” – 1 Corinthians 2:4

When I hear “wise and persuasive” I think of Paul. I think of him first because of his pedigree,

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” – Phil 3:4-6


“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.” – Acts 22:3

Furthermore, how does a Paul who lacks persuasive abilities fit with the content of the letters we have from Paul where his rhetoric (the art of persuasion) is remarkable? Paul was thoroughly trained in rhetoric. Rhetoric is a word that has a specific meaning that we aren’t used to. In Greek philosophy, rhetoric was a method of persuasion through speech and writing. There were specific conventions used in order to be persuasive that date back to Aristotle that are prevalent in Paul’s writings. Ben Witherington has done extensive work in this area in his socio-rhetorical commentaries. Paul’s letters are classic Greek rhetoric to the “t”. Paul is one of the most persuasive people in all of scripture. Read Romans looking for how he makes his points masterfully and persuasively, making an argument, anticipate their questions and/or rebuttals, asking their question for them and then answer them in his next argument. That is how you write a letter to people a month’s journey away who won’t have you in person to dialog with. Read Philemon and tell me Paul is not persuasive.

Paul saying he didn’t come with persuasive words is persuasion at its finest. Paul most certainly did come with persuasive words. Paul’s point is that he doesn’t want the Corinthians (who are Greek and value philosophy and good rhetoric almost to the point of idolatry) to do what good Greeks in that day do – get caught up on the way the argument is made rather than on the truthfulness of the content. In other words, Paul is painting himself as an unpersuasive person so that they don’t become followers of Paul but instead get pointed to Christ. This is why 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 ends the way it does,

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

It is important that the Gospel not be clouded by charisma and skill. That does not mean we avoid trying to be persuasive. It does mean that we don’t make the message about ourselves.


Brief Review of a Not so Brief Book – Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright

I started this book months ago while on jury duty and finally finished it last week. I have a hard copy but decided to read this via the kindle app on my iphone 4S. That was brutal! I think I would have to read this book several times to really get out of it halfContinue Reading

Losing & Finding Our Way: Paul points to Jesus

One final post on Paul before we dive into Jesus in order to connect the two. One of our fundamental miscues in the Restoration Movement has been turning to Paul to fine tune how we do church rather than turning to Paul to find Jesus. Paul was certainly interested in church life and worship. HeContinue Reading

The Power of God’s Possession

One of the things that has been really helpful to me over the last few years has been the little word “of.” When you use that word you are talking about belonging. If something or someone is “of” something or someone…then it belongs to them. That little word of is in the phrase/name “Church ofContinue Reading

The Three Places Paul Reaches Out to in Athens and What We Can Learn From It

In Acts 17 Paul has gone to Athens to tell people about Jesus. In verse 17 we get this fantastic verse for formulating a good ole 3 point sermon, “So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened toContinue Reading

If You Want To Understand Church, Start With Jesus

If you want to wrap your mind around church you can’t just stick with Paul, you have to go to Jesus. If you want to wrap your mind around Jesus you can’t just go to the Gospels, you have to go to the Old Testament. The story of Scripture from cover to cover is amazingContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Mission (Part 2)

In spite of the persecution and in spite of their lack of technology…the early church experienced explosive growth. A quick glance at the book of Acts reveals just how much the church was growing in its early years. Acts 2:41 – “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added toContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Mission (Part 1)

Jesus began his ministry with his baptism by John and calling disciples. Jesus ended his ministry telling those disciples to make more disciples by teaching and baptizing others. Jesus’ ministry didn’t just start and stop his ministry with mission. Jesus was constantly on mission and he wanted his disciples to do the same things theyContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Gathering Places

It is universally agreed on that the early church primarily met in homes. The first church building that we know of, which was a house converted solely for the use of the assembled church, didn’t come along for 200 years (see Dura-Europos below). Here are some of the verses we have as evidence of theirContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Instruction & Teaching

The last post talked about the Bible proper. This post is going to be exploring how the early church went about making instructions and teaching from what they had. As was already mentioned, completed New Testaments took some time to be compiled, copied and circulated as a whole for the churches in the ancient world.Continue Reading


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