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(Simplicity and humility in preaching)

Paul Melton

Being able to consult definitions of Bible terms in the original languages is sometimes necessary to a proper understanding of God’s Word. However, any preacher or teacher who uses Greek phrases, pretentious rhetoric or ostentatious loftiness of language to incur the admiration of the audience needs to assume the attitude of the apostle Paul who said,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1,2).

“Excellency” literally means “prominence, i.e. (figuratively) superiority (in rank or character)” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).  Rather than showcase his cultured skill in word usage, Paul simply relayed God’s truths in common parlance.  We hope that those speakers who emit a vibe of superiority will take to heart the following anecdote from the life of “Raccoon” John Smith which superbly illustrates Will Roger’s wise aphorism, “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

During the debate with “Raccoon” John Smith in 1834, the Presbyterian preacher, Dewey Whitney began to flaunt his knowledge of Greek. [They had agreed beforehand not to speak in Greek or Hebrew during their discourse- P.M.] Smith’s ear instantly caught the strange sounds, but, looking over the large audience, he saw that not a man in the house, save his learned opponent himself, understood one word of the matter in hand.

He then arose, and, after replying to everything relevant to the question, he said: “It was my fortune, as you all know, my friends, to be raised on a frontier, where I had no opportunity to acquire a collegiate education. I am unable to say, therefore, whether the gentleman has spoken good Greek, or even Greek at all. But, lest some of you may suppose that there is argument in an unknown tongue, I will attempt to answer the gentleman’s Greek also. When my father first settled in Kentucky, many Cherokee Indians used to come about on friendly hunting excursions. I was a lad then, but was always fond of hanging about their camp and observing their ways, and I learned, at last, a little of their language. “Suddenly turning to his reverend opponent and taking the attitude of an Indian brave in the act of letting fly an arrow at his foe, he exclaimed, with a strong Cherokee accent: Segilluh unuhsohee unaka howee taw!

With a stamp of his foot, he gave a startling emphasis to the last word; the bow string twanged, the arrow sped, and his opponent started, as if a Cherokee warrior was upon him. (This excerpt is from The Life of Elder John Smith by John Augustus Williams)

” . . . and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5

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The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”