The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on Select Passages in Second Corinthians
Although it is very hard for us to believe, the Apostle Paul was forced to defend his apostolic authority in a church which he helped to found. In making this defense of his unique calling in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul directs the Corinthians back to the very same gospel which he first preached in Corinth. This gospel, which centers upon the proclamation of Christ crucified, reconciles God to sinners, sinners back to God, and is the means through which believers are reckoned righteous before God. Paul proclaims this message (even though it is a scandal to Greeks and Romans) because the New Covenant is vastly superior to the fading glory of the Old, and because the long anticipated day of salvation has finally come. Paul now exhorts the Corinthians to realize that they themselves are the living temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and that they must leave behind all of their pagan ways of thinking and doing.
As we resume our series on 2 Corinthians, we come to the end of chapter six (and the opening verse of chapter 7). Throughout the past several sermons, we have been looking at Paul’s defense of his apostolic office in the face of a serious challenge raised to his authority by a group of men in Corinth whom Paul calls “false apostles” (chapter 11). Beginning in 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul has been defending his apostolic office against this challenge by engaging in a running argument (of sorts) which concludes with our text this morning (at the end of chapter 6). Throughout this opening section of 2 Corinthians, Paul has covered much ground, but he has focused upon the contrast between the fading glory of the Old Covenant (and its veiled mediator, Moses) with the far greater glory of the New Covenant, which has been ratified by the shed blood of its mediator, Jesus Christ.
Throughout Paul’s defense of his office, we get a hint at some of the issues being raised in the Corinthian church in Paul’s absence. The false apostles, apparently, were contending that Paul is too boring a preacher, that he lacks personal charisma, and as skilled rhetoricians, these men knew how keep an audience on the edge of their seat (unlike Paul, who preaches an unpopular message about crucified Savior). To ensure their own popularity and that nothing too offensive gets in the way of their flowery and lofty speech (so loved by the Greeks of that age), the false apostles are perfectly willing to sand down the gospel and remove the rough edges to make the cross of Christ less offensive to an audience eager and expecting to be stirred and entertained by classical rhetoric.
Ironically, in their attempts to undermine Paul’s authority, the false apostles and those taken in by them, end up in the same place as those Jews who still rely upon doing enough good works to earn favor with God. Sadly, whenever the Jews hear the law read aloud, Paul says that their minds and hearts are veiled to the truth of the gospel. The law stands outside of them (written upon stone tablets and in the Torah), demanding perfect obedience from all, yet giving no one the power to obey the law’s demands. Tied to the blessing/curse principle (God will bless those who obey his commandments and curse those who disobey them), the law inflicts the curse upon the disobedient. As Paul says, the wages of sin is death, and the purpose of the law is to both excite sin in us, as well as to show us how sinful we truly are.
To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here