Great Plainness of Speech

2 Corinthians 3:12

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV).

Paul told the Corinthians that he deliberately made his words and his message clear and understandable in his work as a minister of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). The new covenant Paul referred to is the gospel. He used “great plainness” as he preached. Why use such plainness? It is because of the hope we have under the new covenant. Those who obey the gospel have the hope of heaven because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But why is “great plainness” necessary in preaching the gospel? Let us notice a few reasons.

So People Can Understand

Paul requested prayers on his behalf that as he preached the gospel, he might “make it clear in the way [he] ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4). The gospel is designed to be understood. If it is preached plainly, it will be understood by those with honest hearts. Paul told the Ephesians that when they read what he wrote to them, they would have the same understanding that he had (Ephesians 3:4). People sometimes say that we cannot understand the Bible alike, but we can. I heard one preacher say that if we do not understand the Bible alike, we do not understand the Bible. He was absolutely right! “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He designed His word to be understood. We use “great plainness” to help people understand it.

Because the Gospel is God’s Power for Salvation

Paul told the saints in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Without the gospel, salvation would not be possible. It is not the only thing connected with our salvation, but it is essential. Anyone can be saved if they will “call on the name of the Lord” by being obedient to the gospel (Romans 10:13; cf. Acts 22:16). Paul then asked the question: “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). People must be taught the gospel in order to be saved. Preachers must present the gospel in its simplicity and plainness so that they will understand.

So People Know What to Do

Some believe that the gospel is merely the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul said this is something of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3), but it does not constitute the entire gospel message. If the gospel was simply this story of Christ (i.e. God’s work in our salvation), there would be no need for us to understand – hence, no need for “great plainness.” But the fact is that the gospel includes both the story of Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection (God’s part) and conditions that must be obeyed in order to receive salvation (man’s part). When Jesus comes again, He is coming to execute punishment “to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Those who “do not obey the gospel” are going to face damnation for their disobedience. The gospel tells us what we must do in order to be right before God and avoid this fate. People need to clearly understand what they must do to be saved. The seriousness of this demands “great plainness.

To Avoid Misuse of the Scriptures

Paul admonished the preacher Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If great care is required to handle God’s word accurately, then we can conclude that if we are not careful in our handling of the Scriptures, then we are more likely to misuse or abuse them. Paul warned about doing this as he referred to those who were preaching a perverted form of the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). In essence, this made it a different gospel. Regarding one who would teach a different gospel, Paul said, “He is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8-9). Peter spoke of those who would “distort…the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). “Great plainness” is needed in teaching so we are not guilty of changing the message or causing others to follow after a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).

So People are Drawn to God and not Man

Paul told the Corinthians that when he came to them, he “determined to know nothing…except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). He did this so that their “faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). There are many preachers who can amaze people with their great speaking ability, hold anyone’s attention, make everybody love them, and teach soul-damning false doctrine all the while. There is nothing wrong with a preacher being an excellent public speaker. But the most important thing is for him to be accurately teaching the simple gospel. He needs to do as the priests who “read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that [the people] understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). The job of a preacher or teacher is to direct people to God’s word and help them understand it, not to promote himself (2 Corinthians 4:5). Plain teaching will direct people toward God and His will for them.


Paul said, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). For one to be ready to face the Lord in judgment, he must have heard the word, understood it, and faithfully obeyed it. Those who fail to do this will be lost (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). We need to follow Paul’s example and use “great plainness of speech” in order to help prepare others to meet the Lord in that last day.

This article is one of the fifty articles included in the book Plain Bible Teaching: The First Ten Years. Click on the link to read more about the book.

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