Something better than good advice
It’s common. You sit with a group of friends talking about life and challenges and daily struggles. And, with compassion, someone weighs in. He or she offers some advice.
“Let me tell you what I did when I faced the same thing just a few weeks ago.” “My doctor told me something about that very problem last month when I saw him.” “You know, just the other day I came across an article in a business journal that was addressing that issue. What they said was . . .”
It’s not that good advice is not, well, “good.” Sometimes it can be very helpful. And it is often offered with the best of intentions. But good advice might not be the best thing we can offer one another. Paul, the apostle, clarifies the matter for us in writing to the Corinthians. Paul shared his perspective on how we wanted to minister to others.
“When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5).
Some things were primary for Paul; others were not. It’s not that less-than-primary things were necessarily bad; they just weren’t the essentials.
What things were secondary for Paul? A couple of things can be seen. “Superiority of speech or of wisdom” is one. Paul didn’t privilege communicating in “lofty” ways; no need to impress. “Persuasive words of wisdom” was another secondary thing. Paul didn’t see his primary call to convince others of his position.
And what about the essentials? For Paul there was a core message. Woven into and through all of Paul’s sharing was “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul’s “advice” was about who Jesus is, what He accomplished, and what that meant for Paul’s hearers. That was what mattered most to Paul.
There also was a central method. This message was not shared in the enablement that came from human power and competency and skill. Paul’s communication of the message bore witness to the power of that message. “My message and my preaching were . . . in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” It wasn’t enough for Paul to merely share words—he shared Gospel truth in such a way that the active presence of God was evident.
Finally, there was Paul’s intended outcome. Ultimately, he wanted others to have a faith that “would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” All his sharing was purposefully pointing others to greater God-dependency.
This is more than “good advice.” Jesus-focused, Gospel-anchored, Spirit-empowered, God-dependent communication of truth.