We know that God not only loves you but has selected you for a special purpose. For we remember how our Gospel came to you not as mere words, but as a message with power behind it—the effectual power, in fact, of the Holy Spirit. You know how we lived among you. You remember how you set yourselves to copy us, and through us, Christ himself. (JBP)
Those of us who regularly preach sometimes have the mistaken idea that lives will be changed if we simply speak words that are consistent with the Bible. Right information will lead to transformation. This isn’t how it works.
Paul tells us that while he spoke many wise and true words to others, the Holy Spirit was working through those words with great power. Merely being a powerful orator does not mean there is spiritual power in those words so powerfully spoken. Unless the Spirit is working through our words there can be no life change. Oratory, knowledge, passion are not enough. We have to be reminded repeatedly that life transformation is God’s work and not simply a product of human effort.
Paul also reminds us that there is another dimension to sharing the faith. He shared by living out his faith among those to whom he preached. It is not enough to proclaim right beliefs. The proclamation is to be backed up by right behaviour. Listening to a message is one thing; seeing it lived out is another.
Too many of us have made Christianity a very wordy faith. So many words are spoken and yet sadly many of those words merely inform and do not transform. We need Holy Spirit power and changed lives to give those words their desired impact. Otherwise we are left with mere words, mere facts, mere formality.