George Whitefield
Wikimedia Commons
George Whitefield

Good news for third-rate speakers

Faith & Inspiration

“Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (2 Corinthians 11:6, ESV). (Literally from the Greek: “But even if ‘idiotes’ in speech I am, yet not in knowledge; but in every [way] manifest in all things to you.”)

One of the things I like about the apostle Paul is his honesty. I know that sounds funny, considering this is the Bible we’re talking about. But I mean that Paul is just as quick to admit his strengths as his weaknesses. No false modesty here. And since Paul in several places tells us to be imitators of him, we must aspire to do so.

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But look more closely at his statement. Paul is not necessarily saying he is unskilled at speaking. He is saying that even if he is unskilled in speaking (maybe he is and maybe he isn’t), it is certain that he is not unskilled in knowledge. That is, in an admirable blend of humility and boldness, Paul is rhetorically conceding the argument of his detractors as to his speaking gifts, while holding his ground as to his knowledge of God. To do otherwise—to feign mediocre knowledge of God and his Word—would be a lie.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Paul really is and was unskilled in speaking—unpolished and “idiotes.” Paul says that doesn’t matter much. Being a great conference speaker doesn’t matter much. At least, not compared to knowledge. And not just any kind of knowledge—not sterile academic knowledge of a down-pat system—but knowledge that can be “manifested in all things to you.”

What kind of knowledge can be “manifested”? Knowledge that in preaching touches lives, that saves people just by the hearing of it, that convicts, that demolishes strongholds of thinking, that exposes lies we believe, that sets people free. It is knowledge that comes from experience and not just textbooks, from obedience and not just head-learning. It is the knowledge of a man who has spent time with God.

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, ESV).

Jonathan Edwards was nearsighted and prepared every word in advance and read them off the page. George Whitefield was cross-eyed and had a loud voice and small stature. When they preached, revival broke out:

“And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit …” (1 Corinthians 2:13, ESV).

Our church pulpit committee is presently searching for a new lead pastor. Whoever they find, I hope he will be a good speaker. But I hope most of all that he will have knowledge that “in every way manifests in all things.”

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20, ESV).

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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