Commended in Every Way2 Corinthians 6:3-13Theme: Commending the Gospel.This week’s lessons teach us how to endure in all circumstances.
LessonThe second category of things that Paul mentions here in 2 Corinthians has to do with his character. Paul’s list contains purity, understanding, patience, and kindness. Just a few pages further on in the Bible, in the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul gives another list, this one containing the fruit of the Spirit. The Galatians list includes a number of the traits mentioned here in this letter. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In spite of being an aggressive evangelist, and a bit of a feisty man, Paul was characterized by these great fruits of the Spirit.
As Paul wrote out his list in 2 Corinthians, he likely realized that the things on his list do not come out of a man or a woman naturally. We are not naturally patient, or kind, or pure. The Holy Spirit does that in people.
When Paul continues on and mentions truthful speech, he uses the word, logos, which refers to “an utterance.” Paul claimed that the utterances of the apostles were truthful and spoken in the power of God. When he talks about the power of God, he is saying the same thing that he said at much greater length in his first letter to the Corinthians. In the second chapter Paul refers to the time when he was first with the Corinthians. He wrote, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:1-3). He went on to add, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4).
That is precisely what Paul wrote here in the second letter. He explained that the apostles had not come as orators, but rather as men whose lives had been touched by God. Accordingly, the apostles sought to present evidence of the presence of God in all they did, said, and thought.
So, is Paul’s attitude characteristic of yours? Many of us have not had to experience many troubles, distresses, beatings, and imprisonments. But, as far as the remaining things Paul listed–purity, understanding, patience, kindness, love, truth, and righteousness–every one of them should be present in great abundance in every single Christian. Paul’s list is a means by which we can evaluate our own conduct.
The third category of characteristics in this portion of 2 Corinthians has to do with the way Paul was received. There are four things mentioned, set in two pairs: glory and dishonor, bad report and good report. That word glory comes from the Greek word doxa. Initially that word meant “to have a good opinion of someone.” The best way to translate it in this particular phrase would be the reading “praise and criticism.”
When Paul refers to “bad report and good report,” he was distinguishing what was spoken directly to him from what was said about him behind his back. Sometimes ministers hear, “That was a good sermon.” Other times a minister is criticized. Paul knew how to conduct himself in either situation. When people praised him, he knew that the glory belonged solely to God. When people criticized him, he would try to discern any truth in the criticism, and, if necessary, make corrections.
Furthermore, he applied such conduct whether or not the criticism was spoken directly to him, or whether it was uttered behind his back. He was not unaware of all that was said of him in his absences.
The last thing he talks about is the things that are seen versus what is not seen. In some ways this is the most interesting part of Paul’s list. If you isolate all the negatives in the list, they afford an accurate description of the way in which Paul was likely viewed in the Gentile communities to which he came to minister: impostor, unknown, dying, beaten, sorrowful, poor, having nothing. The Apostle Paul was perceived to be like that.
What traits should characterize every Christian?
How did Paul handle criticism?
ApplicationMeditate on Galatians 5:22-23. Are these fruits of the Spirit evident in your own life? Ask a trusted friend to tell you in which of these you evidence strength or weakness. For those in which you are weak, ask God to work them into your character.