For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
2nd Corinthians 2:1-5 clarifies: “And 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.”
Colossians 4:2-4: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”
Paul knew how to preach with oratory skill, but he refused, so that people would not look to him and his authority, but to God and His authority. Paul states: “...so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 2:4-5) What was the fruit of this type of preaching? Acts 14:1 states: “In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.”
Calvinist, James White: “We would hope that it is not being suggested that the quality of the apostle’s speech is being credited with the faith of the multitude: men are not converted by words of wisdom or the persuasive abilities of any man. Men are converted when God changes their hearts and draws them unto Christ.” (The Potter’s Freedom, pp.186-187, emphasis mine)
By “changes their hearts and draws them to Christ,” James White implies Irresistible Grace. So why doesn’t he just say that? Does he feel that such a term doesn’t market as well?
Getting back to the point at hand, if conversion is monergistic and irresistible, then how would it matter whether Paul spoke in superiority of speech vs. humble weakness? In other words, if there is an pre-emptive, irresistible regeneration, by which men are converted, then what does it matter how a person speaks? Could either method of speaking override an Irresistible Grace? Do Calvinists understand the meaning of the word “irresistible”? And yet, if it doesn’t matter, why does Paul say that it matters? Calvinists will often suggest that such things are merely the “means” of conversion, but yet, according to Calvinism, it really wouldn’t matter after all, since the alleged, means, comes after Irresistible Grace, thus making whatever “means” simply academic, at that point. Again, Calvinism cannot provide a logical answer.
The problem with James White’s theology is that he believes that God has already decided who to save. What’s missing is the idea of an open salvation, in which Jesus has died for all, who then commissions His disciples to reach all men with the offer of the gospel, and which then gives rise to the potential of salvation for any man, who can be saved (and what is meant by being a soul-winner, because with Calvinism, all the souls who will be saved, are already won by an Irresistible Grace).
Question: Is it possible to preach the Gospel in such a way so as to undermine its power? In other words, if Paul had preached differently, that is, in cleverness of speech, would that have resulted in fewer people getting saved?
Answer: Not according to Calvinism. In Calvinism, it’s all about Irresistible Grace, no matter what you say or how you say it. Although Calvinists insist the faithful manner of preaching the Gospel is the predetermined means of conversion, the reality is that whatever the means may be, it still comes after the application of an Irresistible Grace, and that renders any means of preaching, simply academic. The complaint against Calvinism is that if, according to Calvinism, some people are going to be saved, no matter what, and some people are going to be lost, no matter what, then what does it matter how you preach? Again, if it comes after an Irresistible Grace, then conversion is a foregone conclusion. Additionally, Paul is drawing a direct correlation between the method of preaching and the result of preaching. In other words, it matters how you preach, but according to Calvinism, if one is unilaterally and involuntarily regenerated with an Irresistible Grace, then how you preach is rendered completely academic.
John Calvin: “‘The Cross of Christ would have been rendered useless,’ he says, ‘if my preaching had been tricked out with eloquence and brilliance.’ ... The meaning therefore is that if Paul had used the acuteness of a philosopher and clever speeches in his dealings with the Corinthians, the power of the Cross of Christ, in which the salvation of men consists, would have been buried, because it cannot reach us that way.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, p.33, emphasis mine)
If Calvinism was true, how would any form of preaching render a unilateral regeneration as “void”? Whether Paul preaches in one way, or another, what difference would it make if they are given an alleged, Irresistible Grace? Paul’s concern for the right manner of preaching, in order not to nullify the Gospel (1st Corinthians 1:17), and his deep concern for his countrymen, the Jews, who were perishing (Romans 9:3; Romans 10:1), makes Calvinism logically incompatible with the Bible.
On a side note, Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” (v.17)
Hal Lindsey: “If Baptism was part of salvation, he could have never said that. Could he? Man, he would be hunting for the nearest creek or bathtub or whatever, because he hasn’t finished the Gospel, if Baptism saved you. But he says, ‘Christ didn’t send me to baptize; he sent me to preach the Gospel,’ which gets people Born Again. But he always urged people to be baptized, as I do.” (Gospel of John)