Word of Mouth and Word of God
BY JORDAN MAYER
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
(2 Peter 1:16)
When I travel for work, I like to find new places to eat. Scratch that. I like to find good new places to eat. This can be a challenge as there is never a shortage of mediocre restaurants. But I have found that one of the best strategies for finding good food is to ask a local. Usually, the places they offer up are small, hole-in-the-wall joints. Most do not look like much from the outside. There is no flashy website or giant billboard advertisement. But inside, you find friendly staff and an authentic menu that tastes like a good, home-cooked meal.
You see, these kinds of restaurants do not need to rely on elaborate marketing campaigns or expensive advertising. They simply build a loyal customer base that freely, and often passionately, shares their experience with friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers on the street. Any marketing guru will tell you that word-of-mouth remains a lucrative and powerful strategy for business. It is free advertising built on the personal and positive experiences of loyal customers.
In a similar vain, the message of the Gospel has been entrusted to the followers of God. It is to those who believe that God commands to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
In Peter’s second letter to the churches, he recalls the manner in which this Gospel was preached. It was not a carefully crafted tale, a polished script, or a fanciful myth. It was simply the honest testimony of men, led by the Holy Spirit, who spoke of what they saw.
To craft a convincing story, one will usually employ the most convincing witnesses. But rather than reveal himself to an impressive circle of religious or political elites, Jesus surrounded himself with fishermen, tax collectors, and sinners. It was women who were the first heralds of His resurrection, even though a woman’s word was given little weight in their society. If the truth and message of the Gospel was merely a cleverly devised myth, it did not employ, by worldly standards, very convincing messengers or witnesses. But so the Bible teaches that God uses what is foolish and weak according to the world to reveal the powerful work of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:26).
The apostle Paul makes similar remarks in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul was no great orator. In fact, he was not very impressive at all. He did not speak with fanciful words or illustrations, but simply preached the crucified Christ. For the Gospel rests not in the power of its messengers, but in the message itself. Paul writes the following:
"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)
This should encourage us in our own efforts to share the Gospel. We need not worry ourselves with sounding impressive or using the right words. We can't save anyone; we merely point them to the One who can. But we are promised that God will supply us the right words at the right time (Luke 12:12). We also don't know where people are in their faith journey. Perhaps you are preparing the soil, or planting the seed, or watering the ground. But it is God that provides the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). For the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Peter also reminds us that Scripture is our greatest authority, the ultimate source of truth, and the primary witness to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. The testimony of men is important, but the testimony of God is greater.
There were many false teachers in Peter’s time that sprouted up within the church. They secretly and sneakily planted destructive seeds of heresy, motivated by greed. They denied the return of Christ and promoted a false freedom in practicing sin. They too testified, but they were testifying of that which is false.
In the midst of lies, Scripture stands as truth, the absolute Truth . For it is like a lamp shining in a dark place. Wherever it shines, the light makes clear what is true and what is false. On its own, the testimony of men is a fickle source for truth ,as it can be so easily swayed and twisted. And yet, grounded in the truth of Scripture, our testimony can point others to the glory and majesty of Christ.
Think of Peter and the wondrous things he beheld on that mountain. Think of your own life and the wondrous things you have seen God do. We are all a living testimony to the truth of the Gospel and the power of Christ.
And we can join in with the Psalmist in saying, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” (Psalm 66:16