By Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme

1 Corinthians 2:1-7
(1) When I came to you, brothers, I didn't come and tell you about God's secret with
rhetorical language or wisdom.
(2) For while I was with you I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him
(3) It was in weakness, fear, and great trembling that I came to you.
(4) My message and my preaching were not accompanied by clever words of
wisdom, but by a display of the Spirit's power,
(5) so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God's power.
(6) However, when we are among mature people, we do speak a message of
wisdom, but not the wisdom of this world or of the rulers of this world, who are
passing off the scene.
(7) Instead, we speak about God's secret wisdom that has been hidden, which God
destined for our glory before the world began.

The wisdom and art of Public Speaking or Oratory have come a long way. In
the Bible, oratory is called “wisdom of words” (1Cor 1:17; Luk 21:15) or
“excellency of speech” (1Cor 2:1) or “persuasive words of wisdom” (1Cor 2:4).
Therefore, Public Speaking is primarily a WISDOM ENTERPRISE, demanding
wisdom from the speaker and communicating wisdom to the hearer.
Oratorical expertise which was well known to the sages of Egypt and the East
(like Job and his friends) was pursued by the ancient macholite poets of the
(E)z(e)rahite household of Judah (1Chron 2:6) but was most highly developed
by Solomon through his Wisdom Writings and popular Inaugural Wisdom
Lectures (1Kin 4:29-34). Later the Greeks developed wise speaking into a
sophisticated art called RHETORIC, to be learned and taught among Greek
philosophers, dialecticians, lawyers and politicians (1Cor 1:19-20). Rhetoric
is the art of rendering a pleasant and persuasive speech based on the power of
organized and incisive argument by means of reason, emotion and morals.
Among the Jews, their Rabbis also developed oratorical rules for Synagogue
Exhortation which exposed the precepts of the Scripture as authoritative
Word of God (Heb 1:1) for the human society, to convince people on rights
and wrongs.
Greek Rhetoric belongs to logical philosophy and secular humanism,
Synagogue Exhortation belongs to dogmatic legalism and ritual piety, but the
Gospel Sermon or Homily belongs to revealed mystery and soul-searching
spirituality, so it is obvious that the Gospel of Christ needs to be presented
differently. In accordance with Apostolic caution (1Cor 1:18-2:16), the


persuasive element of Greek Rhetoric and the authoritative element of
Rabbinical Exhortation have been selectively adapted by the Church through the
centuries to cautiously develop what is now called HOMILETICS.
Church ministers are taught Homiletics to be used for preparing and preaching
Ecclesiastical Sermons as ambassadors and emissaries sent by Christ (2Cor
5:18-20; Act 1:8). Sermons are mind-illuminating and heart-searching
discourses that admonish and exhort the hearers unto the wisdom of
believing and obeying God on the authority of scriptural revelation (2Tim
3:14-17; Heb 1:1-2). Ecclesiastical Sermons or Homilies employ faithful biblical
hermeneutics, persuasive argument, imaginative illustration, captivating
expression, humour, caption and style to wisely convey Christ’s Gospel whether
for missionary (evangelistic) or ministerial (pastoral) purposes. Gospel
homilies expound and apply the Scripture faithfully with carefulness (Gal 1:612); the Scripture is preached as authoritative holy words of the Almighty and
Holy God (Jer 23:9, 25-29).
Homiletic method of biblical authoritative persuasion and faithful hermeneutic
principles of plain and full biblical interpretation alone, without the power of the
Holy Spirit cannot make for effectual preaching. This is more so in these days of
action-seeking, audio-visual, dull-eared and self-indulgent generation (2Tim 4:34). Confidence in technical homiletics has led to recycling and imitating of other
people’s ‘great’ sermons. The message of the Gospel does not depend on human
“wisdom of words” and “excellency of eloquence” but on the revealed wisdom
and powerful working of God’s Spirit first in the life of the preacher and then
imparted on the hearers (1Cor 1:22-25; 2:1-5).
Since Napoleon Hill wrote his Think and Grow Rich in 1930, the demands of
post world war recessions, technological advancement, demand for management
of socio-economic distress, and existentialist philosophical milieu of personal
ambition, corporate transformational leadership, activism and advocacy, have
combined to engender a ‘new’ genre of public speaking called Motivational
Speaking and/or Inspirational Speaking. This is actually a modern reinvention of
the ancient Greek Rhetoric now directed towards propagating beliefs and ideas
for personal actualisation or corporate advancement. Rhetoric uses wisdom to
convince or arouse but may not impart wisdom, whereas Motivational
Speaking uses wisdom to impart wisdom and beliefs. Motivational Speaking
brings required wisdom and orientation that equip and provoke people into
action in order to attain personal satisfaction (whether moral or immoral) and
success in endeavours. Today, Motivational Speaking and publishing is serving
as the philosophical arm for the propagation of existentialism rooted in New
Thought and New Age ideas. Inspirational Speaking brings emotional uplifting
and hope in the face of discouraging experiences and daunting difficulties. As


the ancient Church had carefully struggled to do in the past, the Church of
today must again ensure the application of the apostolic caution (1Cor 1:182:16; 2Tim 3:13-4:5), in their attempts to integrate elements of motivational
speaking into the preaching of sermons in the Church and to the society.
Many young and ambitious preachers today are so fascinated with the novelty
and popularity of motivational-inspirational speaking that they have totally
abandoned Ecclesiastical Preaching principles in their Churches and
programmes. This is a most dangerous trend. What the Apostles purposefully
avoided, we have dabbled into with reckless abandon! Even Apollos, an
Alexandrian Rhetorician, had to be reoriented by Priscilla and Aquila before he
was sent to pastor the Corinthian Church for a while (Act 18:24-19:1). Under his
pastorate the Church at Corinth (a city proud of their culture of immorality and
idolatry) advanced in oratorical wisdom and spiritual gifts (1Cor 1:4-7), but
remained carnal and spiritually immature in many aspects of Christian living
(1Cor 3:1-4). It took St Paul two long severe letters at the least and several
apostolic delegations to deal with this. The Church of today is again at the
Corinthian crossroads. The Church must return to the Scriptures and refrain
from following mundane wisdom and cultures else the Church would drift off
into error and apostasy.
Ecclesiastical Preaching is meant to impart spiritual wisdom unto salvation by
patiently “reproving, rebuking, exhorting and instructing” (2Tim 4:2; 1Thes
5:11-14), because it is based on the Scripture which has been inspired for these
same specific purposes (2Tim 3:13-17). Motivation alone even when biblical,
without rebuke, reproof, correction and instruction can neither impart saving
wisdom on the unbelieving sinner nor thoroughly equip the believing saint for
every good work. Any motivation-inspiration in the Church should be
biblical exhortation-consolation helping believers become useful in life but
also be zealous for good works and persevere in the faith unto the end (Tit 2:1415). This is essence of the Gospel Message.
 The thrust of the Gospel Message is not about devising new methodical
strategy but depending on the ancient divine strategy in Christ (Heb 1:12).
 It is not about success in acquiring material abundance but success in
obedience to God and good works of faith.
 It is not about blaming others for your misfortune but about taking
responsibility to repent and believe God for your reform and restoration.
 It is not speculative wisdom about personal fulfilment but revealed
wisdom about divine approval.
 It is not about we breaking through to get things but about we being
broken through by God to deposit His treasures.



Oratorical MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING is self-pleasing; it shows you
where others are bad to you and why you should get rid of or get back at
them, but not points out where you are bad to others and how to change.
Oracular ECCLESIASTICAL PREACHING is God pleasing; it shows you
where you are bad to others and to God, and why you should not neglect
God’s Grace in Christ made available to help you change. The one is
amoral and worldly; the other is moral and godly.
May God grant us wisdom and understanding.
Updated June 16, 2010
by Ven. Dr. I. U. Ibeme
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
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PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre



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