“But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.” (2 Corinthians 11:6, KJV)
There is an old joke, “How do you tell when a politician is lying?” The answer is, “When he is speaking.” It is unfortunate that we would make such a pun when speaking about those who will potentially take positions of leadership over us. However, the joke is not unwarranted. Not all politicians tell lies but some do. They come at you with eloquent speech to tickle the itching ears of potential voters. Some seem to make big promises but do not do what they say. Some grossly embellish their accomplishments.
Yet there are others who speak truth but in a way that is not pleasing to the hearers. They make campaign promises and, if elected, do everything in their power to fulfill them. They will do this even if popular opinion goes against them.
There have been some politicians who had the ability to combine eloquence and truth. Yet, if you had to make a choice between eloquence and truth, which one would you choose? Well, in politics all we must do is look at what happens after the candidate is elected.
Paul’s adversaries, the false teachers, must have come with eloquence of speech. They were because of their speaking skills very persuasive. Paul alluded to this by stating that he was “rude in speech.” The word “rude,” idiotes, as the KJV translators put it is perhaps a bit misleading in our modern day understanding. We might see it as if Paul’s speech was harsh or insensitive. This is not the correct meaning. Here it refers to one devoid of gifts, a plain person (Thayer 87). The ESV better translates the phrase, “unskilled in speaking.” Paul indicated that while he might not be the most eloquent of speech, he was one that knew and communicated the truth to them. Truth is infinitely more important than eloquence.
In professing Christendom, we have a similar issue. There are many highly charismatic preachers with large congregations who are not preaching the truth or the whole counsel of God. They are eloquent speakers with all the bling. Their message sounds good. They tickle the itching ear, giving people what they like to hear. Some lead people into some false doctrine. Some omit certain truths of God’s word, which also leads people astray. To omit all the true facts of anything we communicate is to deceive, it is to lie.
Being eloquent in speech is a good thing if it is combined with the truth, the whole truth. Yet the power of good preaching and teaching is not found in eloquence. The powerful preaching and teaching is only possible through one with humility and the power of the Spirit of God. Look at Paul’s words, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4, KJV).
Many may not be eloquent public speakers. Yet God will powerfully use believers who are filled with His Spirit who will communicate the truth of His word humbly by the Spirit’s power.