2 Corinthians is a complex book, but one of the central themes is Paul’s defense of his ministry against his critics. This provides wonderful insights into Paul’s life, ministry, and personality.
But it is clearly awkward for Paul to be in a position where he has to defend himself. So the key verse is 12:19: “Do you imagine all along that I have been defending myself to you? In fact, I have been speaking in the sight of God as one who is in Christ; and everything I have said, beloved, was intended to edify you” (my translation – taking the first person plural pronouns and verbs as epistolary plurals, i.e., “we” = “I,” and so throughout 2 Cor).
When Paul is talking about himself and his ministry, he isn’t merely engaging in petty self-defense. He is attempting to change us, to transform our values and way of thinking. And he does so by putting himself forward as an example of what it means to be, live, and minister as one “in Christ,” i.e., as a Christian whose existence is not about himself but about Christ (a message that is particularly needed for those in positions of leadership in the church). When viewed in this light, practically everything in this book leaps off the page. “We preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” (4:5).
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
What It Means to Defend Yourself in Christ