By Joe Chesser
From time to time we need to be reminded that the power of the word of God is in the message, not the messenger. A simple illustration was when Jesus was heading into Jerusalem for His final week on earth. He sent two of His disciples ahead of Him to go and get a colt that was tied up just inside the city. Why would someone let strangers untie their colt and lead it off? So, Jesus told the disciples that if they were questioned why they were taking the colt, their reply was to be, “The Lord needs it.” Sure enough, the owners of the colt questioned them, but when they heard that the Lord needed it, they let the disciples take it away (Luke 19.29-34). The power was in the message, not the messengers.
Amazingly, even Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected as a messenger. He gave up equality with God to become flesh and to bring the message of salvation face to face (Philippians 2.6-7; John 1.1). For a short time, people flocked from the villages to hear Him. But even His preaching and miracles were not enough for them to follow Him and accept His message. The greatest message ever was rejected because of the messenger (John 1.11).
Human nature being what it is, we have an understandable tendency to be drawn to great messengers over great messages. We love to listen to gifted and polished speakers. We love stories and captivating illustrations, and that’s natural. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself. The danger is when we fall in love with charm, personality and wit to the neglect of truth and spiritual nourishment. But the food is more important than the packaging.
I thank God for gifted preachers who can communicate God’s powerful word with humility, persuasiveness and love. May their number increase. But I’m just as thankful for those men who, though less gifted, are proclaiming God’s message to the best of their abilities to people who love the Lord and are anxious to hear a word from God. I’m also thankful for these patient and faithful brethren who assemble every week to hear the word of God preached, regardless of the abilities of those who are standing before them. Men should always do their best when it comes to proclaiming the gospel, but with a constant awareness that the power is in God and His word, not in their ability to preach it.
If we are not reminded of this occasionally we will naturally drift toward elevating the messenger over the message. It has always been this way, and always will. People have always had their favorite preachers. This problem quickly arose in the 1st century. Paul heard about “preacheritus” in Corinth and needed to correct it ASAP (1 Corinthians 1.10-13). Believe it or not, not everyone in the church at Corinth was a fan of Paul … or of Peter … or even of Apollos (a gifted and powerful speaker; cf Acts 18.24). Quarreling over preachers has been around a long, long time. That kind of division may be human nature, but it’s not God’s nature. God chose the “foolishness of preaching” the message of the cross so that our faith might not rest in the messenger, but in the message (1 Cor. 1.20-2.5).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org