2 Corinthians 6:7-10 ~ 20190331 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God's minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word 'in'. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.
Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.
The Means of Ministry
Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with 'in', he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses 'through' three times, followed by seven uses of 'as', introducing contrasts or paradoxes.
We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!
You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said 'Woe to you when all people speak well of you' (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn't like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.
7... through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]
Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God's unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!
He uses this word 'weapons' in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.
He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. 'The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him' (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God's righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God's righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.
The next two contrasts are also introduced by 'through', indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.
8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]
through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]
Paul's sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.
Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:
It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?
In Acts 5,
Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:
Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.
Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).
It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.
Seven Paradoxes in Ministry
Paul switches in the next seven pairs to 'as' to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).
as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]
Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that 'if Christ has not been raised... We are even found to be misrepresenting God'. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet
9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]
Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet...
Even if you don't know me, don't recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.
as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]
Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are...
Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!
We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!
as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]
These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.
If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:
The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”
The punishment that brought us peace was on him.
Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]
In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:
There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,
Paul writes also to the Colossians:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.
as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]
How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.
Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8
Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.
as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]
How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.
This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)
This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org