Studies in Second Corinthians
The Apostle Paul Defends The Gospel Ministry
In chapter 10 Paul shifts gears and returns to the theme of this letter — the defense of his Gospel ministry in the face of the opposition of some in Corinth. In the last three chapters the apostle reluctantly “boasts” of his Gospel ministry because of the opposition of false apostles.
The Church Growth Movement of today is concerned with outward growth and outward results. Unfortunately, there is also the danger in our midst of a “spirit” which is contrary to the Gospel. This is a result of a prideful spirit which feels free to criticize those whom God has called to serve congregations in the Gospel ministry. Individuals within a congregation criticize the sermons of their pastor. They complain that he does not visit enough. They refuse to listen when the pastor deals with their sinful and proud attitudes. Pastors can also exhibit an unwillingness to listen and a dissatisfaction with others. These people are proud of their answers to the problems of the congregation. A few people can do a great deal of harm to the Gospel and to their called pastor. The apostle Paul experienced all of these things. For the sake of the Gospel, he was forced to reluctantly defend his ministry in 2 Corinthians.
The apostle lays bare the folly of judging the Gospel and its results by human standards. In verse three he states the principle: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” The NIV translates: “We do not wage war as the world does.” We do not operate according to the standards of the world. We do not use the weapons of the world. The faithful pastor and congregation use the Word of God and the power of the Gospel to accomplish God’s ends and purposes.
The Gospel Needs No Gimmicks
This does not put us at a disadvantage, for the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. The Gospel is able to pull down the strongholds of unbelief and opposition. The Word of God is able to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against God. The Spirit is able to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Sometimes people act as if they have to prop up the Gospel and use the gimmicks of this world in order for Christianity to survive. “You are looking at things as they are outwardly” (v. 7).
Paul was not a marshmallow. The Lord Jesus gave to His apostle Paul the power of the Gospel and the ministry of the keys. By this authority of the Lord Jesus Paul dealt with the opponents of the Gospel and his ministry. Paul was accused of being all talk and no action (vv. 10-11). Paul was planning to return to Corinth, and it was up to his opponents whether he would come with harsh talk or not.
Those who commend themselves and boast about their ministry are fools. Paul would remain within the sphere in which God appointed him. Paul had been called by Jesus to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was called by the congregation at Antioch to go out into Asia Minor and preach the Gospel. Paul would not go beyond the extent of his call, his sphere of activity. A pastor called to serve a congregation operates under the authority of Jesus Christ. Paul’s purpose was that the Gospel spread out from Corinth into other regions.
The nub of that matter is summed up in verse 17 which is a reiteration of 1 Corinthians 1:31: “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord.” The Church Growth Movement as well as all other false Gospels puts self ahead of Christ. The outward success of a mission field or congregation is regarded as more important than the means used to achieve that success. The root cause for this is always pride. The pastor or missionary or professor who labors for the praise of men will have that praise, but that is all he will have. We and our ministry are always to seek to glorify Jesus and the power of His cross.
May the Lord Jesus commend our ministry in these last days.
–Pastor John Schierenbeck