September 15: 2 Cor 4
September 16, 2010
2 Corinthians 4 is a particularly important chapter for those in ministry and, indeed, for every believer. Building on the argument of earlier chapters, Paul points first to the fact that his ministry is something he has by the grace of God and which is therefore powered by the grace of God. For this reason, his ministry is built on the plain, open statement of the truth, and rejects all kinds of tricks and gimmicks as a means of making the gospel more powerful. The gospel brings its own power; it has no need of slick marketing or trickery to enhance its capabilities. It is true that some will not believe; but that is because they have been blinded by the god of this world; it is not a sign that the apostle needs to get with the program on the latest thinking on sales psychology.
This is a powerful corrective to the temptations we feel today. In a world where aesthetics are seen as fundamentally constitutive of truth, where success is judged by numbers rather than faithfulness, and when the loudest voices always grab for themselves the most air play, Paul's words stand not only as a devastating condemnation of those who think sales technique is more important than sound exegesis but also as an immense encouragement to those ministers who know their complete inadequacy for the task set before them: it ultimately is not about them or their ability; it does not depend on them in an ultimate sense at all; the success of the gospel depends upon the gospel itself.
In the second half of the chapter, Paul underlines this by highlighting how the weakness of the minister, distressing as that often is for the minister himself, is actually a crucial part of the ministry. Resonating with comments he made in 1 Cor. 1 and 2 about the cross, Paul here highlights the fact that the fragility and sometimes complete brokenness of the minister simply makes the gospel shine more clearly. Such a minister draws no attention to himself but only to Christ. Might one pointedly comment that such a minister is unlikely to have a ministry named after himself, or theological groupies of the kind condemned in 1 Cor. 1? Sure, we all want to be big shots and have the most important place at whatever table we happen to be seated; but Paul's point here is that the minister's calling is to be of no account in comparison to the One to whom he is to point. It may be painful, counterintuitive and at time rather depressing, but, as Paul makes clear, these things shall pass. The eternal weight of God's glory will last forever.