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September 28, 2023

Paul’s Greatest Failure In Ministry

My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

–1 Corinthians 2:4

Just as salvation cannot be obtained through wealth, education, or power, salvation also cannot be presented through wealth, education, or power. God uses the weak and not the strong. And in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul said, in essence, “If you do not believe that, just look at my own example.”

The biggest failure of Paul’s ministry occurred just before he came to Corinth. It happened in Athens at Mars Hill. In Athens, there were shrines to all kinds of pagan gods. So Paul stood before the elders of the city and said, “I observe that you are very religious in all respects” (Acts 17:22). Then he mentioned a shrine he had seen to an unknown god, and he very eloquently explained that this unknown god was the true creator God. But never in this beautiful, philosophical speech did Paul mention the name of Jesus Christ or talk about the cross of Jesus Christ. And when the message was over, some people believed, but Paul left Athens without establishing a church there.

Today, there are Christian organizations built around the Mars Hill philosophy. They say, “If we are going to engage this culture in conversation about Jesus Christ, we cannot talk about Jesus and the cross. We have to use philosophical arguments.”

But building a ministry around the sermon at Mars Hill is kind of like founding a naval academy called the Titanic School of Navigation. Mars Hill was not the zenith of Paul’s ministry; it was a dismal failure. With all of Paul’s oratorical and philosophical skills, he failed to talk about Jesus Christ, the cross, and redemption. That helps us to understand what Paul was saying to the Corinthians. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:1, 3-4: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. . . . 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.”

Paul was saying, “After that Mars Hill disaster, when I came to you with my tail between my legs, I purposed I was not going to make the same mistake again. I was not going to come in the power of my own reasoning but the power of the gospel.” God is not impressed with our philosophy or our rhetoric; He is impressed with our faithfulness and our commitment to Him.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Person God Uses” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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