2 Corinthians 6:4-5 ~ 20190317 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/17_2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul's Résumé of Afflictions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190317_2cor6_4-5.mp3
Last time we looked at the cover letter to Paul's résumé:
He is commending his ministry as a ministry of integrity, a blameless ministry. He removed obstacles from the gospel so that it would have maximum effect. God alone saves, but he did everything in his power to eliminate stumbling blocks to clear the runway for the gospel. The only offense he allowed was the offense of the gospel itself, the message of the cross.
Paul gives his resume in verses 4-10. Don't open your Bibles, and let me read to you Paul's resume:
'I've successfully planted over 20 churches all around the Mediterranean, I've brought the gospel to every important city, preached to huge crowds, made an impact everywhere I've traveled, packed out every venue. I'm a skilled communicator to both large and small groups. I'm a gifted writer; I've authored at least 11 best sellers. I'm driven and tenaciously faithful; I had to part ways with a co-worker who just couldn't keep up with my pace. I was even instrumental in correcting one of the Lord's own original twelve when he got off track. I've mentored countless people in successful ministry techniques and developed leaders. I've seen the risen Lord face to face, he speaks to me in dreams and visions. I have an abundance of spiritual gifts, not to mention my charitable work collecting and distributing funds to the poor and oppressed.'
Although most of that is true, and these are the things we would expect anyone to highlight in a resume, that is not what Paul says. This is not the kind of resume anyone would expect. If you haven't already, please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 6 and look at what Paul lists as his credentials that commend him as an authentic minister.
As I said last week, this passage is lyrical, poetic, it has a rhythm and cadence to it, it is memorable, and as worthy of memorization as 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. This passage is structured in a way that does not come through in many translations; there are three different prepositions; in (ἐν) 18 times in verses 4-7; through (διὰ) 3 times in verse 7-8; and as (ὡς) 7 times in verses 8-10. After the introductory statement in verses 3 and 4, he lists ten hardships in verses 4-5 that he faced in ministry, beginning with the way he faced them (in much endurance) followed by three general hardships (in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities), three specific types of persecution (in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots), and three voluntary hardships (in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers). In verses 6-7 he lists eight characteristics of ministry; four fruit of the Spirit (in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness) and four means of grace (in Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in word of truth, in power of God). In verse 7 he gives us a picture of how he fought the battle of ministry (through the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left), introducing nine paradoxes of ministry (through glory and shame, through slander and praise, as deceivers yet true, as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not killed, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything).
This is not what the Corinthians expected ministry to look like They were being led astray from the way of Jesus by false impostors who painted a worldly picture of ministry as glamorous, prestigious with plenty of fame and fortune. For them the sign of God's blessing was outward and material. For Paul, the evidence of authentic ministry was ministry that followed in the footsteps of the Master.
The authenticity of a ministry is not demonstrated so much in God's external blessings, but rather in how one responds to adversity.
In Much Endurance [ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ]
Paul starts his list with 'in much endurance'. The word endurance literally means to remain under.
Paul lists endurance or patience in chapter 12 where he says
Here we get insight into what he means by the signs of a true apostle. In Mark 13 Jesus warns:
It is not merely supernatural signs and wonders that evidence authenticity; it is primarily character, especially under adversity. Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says:
Paul repeats in the context of the signs of a true apostle two of the terms he lists on his resume here in chapter 6; hardships and calamities, with much endurance or patience.
As we will see later in this list, this endurance in the face of adversity is not a mere stoic resolve to tough it out, but a gift of the Spirit of God. It is divinely enabled endurance, the ability to remain under adverse circumstances with joy that demonstrates authenticity.
General Adversity; In Afflictions, In Hardships, In Calamities
[ἐν θλίψεσιν] [ἐν ἀνάγκαις] [ἐν στενοχωρίαις,]
Afflictions, hardships, and calamities are broad general categories of circumstances that call for endurance. Affliction means to be hard pressed or squeezed. Hardship means necessity or distress. Calamity means anguish, or literally narrowness. The verb form of this word in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is translated 'crushed'. Afflictions, hardships, calamities; under heavy pressure, in distresses, experiencing anguish. Together these words paint a picture of hardship, the trials and stresses of ministry.
Jesus promised his followers affliction or tribulation.
In his parable about the sower and the soils, Jesus warned that affliction would cause false believers to fall away (Mt.13:21; Mk.4:17). Jesus said in Matthew 24
In Acts 14, Jews from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra and persuaded the crowds to stone him. He was dragged out of city, assumed to be dead. But he rose up and went back in to the city, the next day continuing on with Barnabas to Derbe.
I can imagine what Paul looked like after being stoned and left for dead, and I'm sure hearing from his lips was a vivid picture of what kinds of afflictions they may have to endure in following Christ.
At the opening of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of God's comfort that he has experienced in the midst of his afflictions, and he invites them to join him in patiently enduring suffering so that they too might experience God's comfort in affliction.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
There is that word distress or hardship. Paul experienced distress and affliction out of concern for the faith of the young believers who were experiencing affliction.
Paul is painting a picture that affliction, hardship, even calamities are all part of normal ministry, part of following Jesus.
Specific Persecutions: In Beatings, In Imprisonments, In Riots
[ἐν πληγαῖς] [ἐν φυλακαῖς] [ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις]
Beatings, imprisonments, and riots are more specific forms of adversity that require endurance; while the others can be purely circumstantial, these three forms of persecution are carried out by people.
Up to the time of writing of 2 Corinthians in the narrative of the book of Acts (20:2-3), Luke only records one imprisonment and beating (Philippi – Acts 16:22-33), and one riot (Ephesus – Acts 19:23-20:1). We learn from this and other statements in Acts that Luke did not record every event that happened everywhere; he was selective. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul mentions 'countless beatings' specifically listing five lashings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning.
Acts 16 records one beating and imprisonment in Philippi:
Acts 19 records a riot in Ephesus:
Notice that this riot was a response to what Paul preached, and the fact that people had believed his message. His preaching was a threat. It challenged their culture and beliefs.
Several months later, Paul gathered the elders from Ephesus:
Here we see Paul embracing afflictions and even imprisonment as an expected part of gospel ministry.
Voluntary Hardships: In Labors, In Sleeplessnesses, In Hungers
[ἐν κόποις] [ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις] [ἐν νηστείαις]
Labors, sleeplessness, and hunger are things voluntarily endured in the service of Christ and the advance of his gospel. They are not necessarily unavoidable, but they are embraced by the genuine servant of God.
Labor can mean trouble, toil, wearisome work. It could refer to manual labor, that Paul worked with his own hands to support himself in ministry. It can also refer to the labor involved in preaching, teaching, and making disciples.
Sleeplessness could refer to times Paul went without enough sleep because he was working night and day to support himself (1Thess.2:9; 2Thess.3:8). It could also refer to the long hours of ministry (Acts 20:31). Often it refers to being vigilant or watchful in prayer. Paul mentions praying earnestly night and day (1Thess.3:10; 2Tim.1:3). It is not that Paul had trouble sleeping; it was that the demands of ministry often required him to serve well into the night.
Hunger can mean fasting, voluntarily abstaining from food to focus on prayer; or Paul could mean that he simply went without enough food. As he says in Philippians 4
All this points to circumstances that are both physically and emotionally draining; weariness, fatigue, exhaustion that comes through serving others. Paul understood what it was to be brought to the end of himself so that he would rely not on himself 'but on God who raises the dead' (2Cor.1:9).
Last time we saw that Paul seeks to give no offense but the cross, and this is exactly what the Corinthians are offended by; that his life and ministry is characterized by the cross. He endures suffering in service to others, because his Master is the Suffering Servant. He took up his cross to follow Jesus.
He said back in chapter 4 as a description of his ministry 'we are:
Paul endured, not by sheer strength of will, but by divine enablement, by the resurrection power of Jesus at work in him.
And he invites us to share with him in the sufferings of Christ.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org