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Paul’s Hardships January 11, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 6:3-13.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that as an apostle, he refrains from acting in any way that would cause his hearers to not believe the Gospel. Instead, he – as a minister – always acts to convince his hearers of his integrity; he patiently endures all trials, including:

  • anything that tests his endurance
  • anything that stretches his endurance to its limits
  • anything that causes him to view defeat as a certainty.

More specifically, he patiently endures:

  • being lashed by Jews and Gentiles
  • being imprisoned
  • being confronted by angry rioters

while voluntarily making the following sacrifices:

  • toiling as a minister and as a tent-maker
  • forgoing sleep on numerous occasions
  • forgoing food due to his workload.

In all circumstances, Paul:

  • has the right motives
  • shows a thorough understanding of the Gospel
  • patiently endures trials
  • desires to benefit others
  • possesses the Holy Spirit
  • loves his brothers in Christ
  • preaches the Gospel – which is truth
  • shows that the power of God works through him
  • employs the full armor of God, enabling his hearers to receive His righteousness.

Paul remains faithful through all circumstances, including:

  • being honored or dishonored
  • being judged positively or negatively
  • being regarded as a truth-teller or as one who leads people away from truth
  • being praised or treated with contempt
  • being regarded as close to death – yet God continually rescues him
  • being afflicted – yet not overcome by his afflictions
  • being sorrowful – yet he is also joyful
  • being materially poor – yet he gives true riches to others
  • being destitute – yet God orders all things for his benefit.

He directly addresses the Corinthians, reminding them of his freedom and openness towards them. While he loves them unconditionally, they have not acted in kind. Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians – as his spiritual children – to love him in return.

Thoughts: In verse 6, we see that Paul’s possessing the Holy Spirit was one of the reasons for his consistency as a minister. Hodge offers some relevant thoughts on this point:

To prove that he was a minister of God, Paul appeals to the evidence of the presence of the Spirit in him. This evidence was to be found in those graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit that he was full of, and in the divine power that accompanied his preaching and made it successful.

I see this as the main reason for Paul’s consistency as a minister through all of the difficulties that he endured. Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in him, he certainly would have acted based on impure motives when preaching the Gospel; also, he would not have worked so diligently as to give up food and sleep on a regular basis. In addition, he would have abandoned his ministry when faced with death. One must wonder how many believers through the centuries can trace their “spiritual heritage” back to the work of Paul; they can be thankful that he did possess the Holy Spirit – in abundance.

In verse 10, we see that Paul was both full of sorrow and full of joy. Hodge offers some illuminating thoughts on this point:

This is one of the paradoxes of the Christian experience. The believer has more true joy in sorrow than the world can ever give. The sense of the love of God, assurance of his support, confidence in future blessedness, and the persuasion that his present light afflictions will work out for him a far greater and eternal glory mingle with his sorrows and give the suffering child of God a peace that passes all understanding. He would not exchange his lot with that of the most prosperous of the children of this world.

Clearly it is not the case that when a believer receives abundant joy in the midst of abundant sorrow, their abundant sorrow magically disappears. I thought about this, and it seems to relate to my previous post on how believers should rejoice in the fact that they have two natures – a sinful nature and a spiritual nature. Similarly, believers can be thankful for the fact that they experience both sorrow and joy in this life. As believers will never be free from sorrow until the next life, they can rejoice that God does give them joy in this life, enabling them to endure their sorrows.

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