Means – People of God

12 Aug 2019

I’ve been reading Corinthians of late. In 2 Corinthians 10:10 Paul quotes others by saying, ‘For some say, ‘Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!’’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a hidden camera had been planted, so that we had a video of Paul and what he was actually like? Here the Corinthians are deriding Paul because he didn’t communicate in a certain way. He didn’t meet expectations – the expectation of eloquence, of utilising a certain oratory form. Instead, he was straight forward, maybe even blunt. It’s hard to imagine that he was “timid” when speaking with people face-to-face, as Corinthians 10:1 points towards, or “unskilled as a speaker” (11:6). Perhaps his speech was the thorn in the flesh (12:7-9). It’s hard to imagine that this is the Paul we know and love.

And yet, it’s also consoling that such an apostle was not perfect. That he had his struggles, was vulnerable and weak. He may not have been the most charismatic or skilled communicator, but what do we know about Paul in these surrounding chapters? Much could be said, but let’s note three things about Paul’s ministry.

Paul had a sincere love for the Corinthians. In 12:14-15 Paul talks about visiting them for a third time and how he would “gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.” He was committed to this community of people, willing to give of himself. It was a costly love – costing him time, finances, energy, reputation – and yet he gave of himself so that they would be strengthened in the gospel.

Paul also delights in working with others. In Corinthians 8:16-24, Paul speaks highly of Titus. They are one in purpose – gospel purpose – and Paul not only advocates for Titus but honours this fellow worker, writing about both his character and his capacity. In 8:23 Paul refers to Titus as “my partner who works with me to help you.” These few verses resound with united joy.

And Paul was willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel and the Christ that he loved. We know this list well from 11:23-27 – whipping and threat of death, stoning, ship-wrecks, dangers, robbers, went without sleep, food and enough clothes. It was extreme, even hard to relate to. Yet he did it without complaint because of the One he served. He was tenacious, resilient, sold out.

You may wonder about your part in mission. Not very eloquent? Perhaps you would describe yourself as an “unskilled speaker” or a “timid” gospel-presenter. Sharing the gospel can be learned. But do you have a sincere love for those God has placed on your heart? Do you delight in working with others towards a gospel purpose? Are you willing to be tenacious and resilient, even when the going gets tough? Have no doubt, God can and will use you. It may just be in unexpected ways.


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