Commended in Every Way2 Corinthians 6:3-13Theme: Commending the Gospel.This week’s lessons teach us how to endure in all circumstances.
LessonOur study of 2 Corinthians brings us to chapter 6, verse 3. Here we find a remarkable passage from the hand of the Apostle Paul describing the nature of his ministry, and the way in which, in all kinds of difficulties and hardships, he conducted himself so as to commend the Gospel to his hearers.
It is hard to praise this passage sufficiently. I reflect on it and try to think of anything to which it can be compared. The closest thing that comes to my mind is that passage of Rudyard Kipling’s that begins, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….” It goes on to talk about all of the bad things we experience, including having the work of our life destroyed in an instant, and then having to build it up again with worn-out tools. When Kipling reaches the end of the passage, he concludes by saying, “You are a man, my son.”
That is really a great passage of literature, but it pales by comparison with Paul’s writing. That is because Kipling is talking about what it is to be a man, humanly speaking, whereas the Apostle Paul is talking about what it means to be a spiritual man – God’s man – and above all, to do that in the Christian ministry.
In this portion of 2 Corinthians, Paul focused chiefly on his ministry as an apostle. When he uses the word we, he is thinking also of the other apostles. If I were preaching to a group of ministers, I would take this text and I would apply it rightly and emphatically to every single one of them, because this is our calling as ministers. Yet, since these words are recorded in Scripture, they are, like all Scripture, profitable for everyone. Paul’s words apply first to those who are called by God to a specific ordained ministry; yet, nevertheless, it applies in a secondary sense to all Christians, for all are called upon to minister.
We are to be witnesses in this world. Jesus did not merely send out his disciples to be witnesses in the world, but he sent the Church. That is the nature of the Great Commission. Wherever we go with that message, we experience the kind of things the Apostle Paul experienced. Paul is a pattern for us, so the things that he experienced are to serve as an example to us.
Paul himself stated that God had sent the apostles forth to be examples of suffering to those who would follow after him. So as we carry out our work in the Great Commission, it is impossible, I think, if we really are serious about witnessing to God’s grace in Jesus Christ, not to recognize that many of Paul’s experiences have entered into our own experience as well. So, the question we want to ask ourselves as we study this passage is whether we are conducting ourselves in a way that actually commends the Gospel, or whether we are behaving in such a way that discredits it.
The best commentary that I have found on 2 Corinthians was written by Philip Hughes. Hughes concludes his introduction of this portion of the letter with these words:
This movingly beautiful, hymn-like passage flows from the deep heart of the Apostle’s knowledge and experience. It is almost lyrical in intensity. Its structural balance and its genuine spontaneity have called forth the response of admiration and gratitude in all generations. It displays without a trace of artificiality all the ardor and devotion and sincerity of his regenerated nature. And it challenges every serious reader to reexamine, as before God, his own relationship to the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord.
If, as we study it, it has that result in our lives, then our time together will be profitable.
When Paul writes using the plural pronoun “we,” to whom is he referring?
In what way do the apostles serve as examples to us?
ReflectionAre you conducting yourself in a way that commends the Gospel? Or are you behaving in a way that discredits it?