September 17: 2 Cor 6
September 20, 2010
2 Corinthians 6 continues the flood of gospel-saturated exclamations that have been flowing from Paul's pen since chapter 2. Now he reminds his readers that the age of the gospel is here, and, more specifically, that as that gospel lays its claims on each individual, there is no time like the present in which to turn to God. In this context, Paul again cites his own ministry as placing no stumbling block in anybody's way but as having demonstrated in its integrity the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, his ministry is marked by pure speech, pure conduct, pure motives, and deep love for people, even in the face of persecutions and extreme provocation.
To underline this, Paul draws a series of remarkable contrasts between outward circumstances and actual reality: treated as an impostor, yet he is true; as unknown, yet well know; as dying, but alive; as punished, nut not killed; as sorrowful, yet rejoicing; as poor, yet rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.
This is, of course, nonsense talk in a world where pragmatics and aesthetics hold sway. How many of us judge the church's success by outward trappings? By numbers? By budgets? By buildings? By invitations to appear on influential television shows, to hob-nob with politicians, to have our voice heard, loud and clear, in the public square? To have our voting blocks stroked at election time? Yet such things are mere outward flummery, of little or no consequence. Paul ultimately cares nothing for his outward prosperity or reputation, so long as his ministry can be said to have integrity. The only thing that really matters is the one end - that Christ's gospel may be preached and thus presented to the world. Everything else is distraction from the main task.
Surely there is a lesson there for all of us.