2 Corinthians 6: Characteristics of an Excellent Gospel Ministry
May 7, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Paul is continuing to describe some of the characteristics of an excellent gospel ministry. This matters to us because whether we are a gospel minister ourselves or not, we all—all Christians—have a responsibility to share the gospel. And we all need wisdom to be able to discern true gospel ministry from false, merely human religiosity.
First, Paul models the kind of urgency that is a necessary companion to true doctrine. Can you actually say you know God if you do not urgently desire that God be honored? Can you actually say you understand the gospel if you do not urgently desire that people believe the gospel? To claim to know God without any great love of God is only to believe like the demons—who are orthodox enough, but tremble. True knowledge of God, and of his gospel, however, leads to the kind of urgency that Paul models in the first couple of verses of this chapter: now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!
Second, through Paul’s own life, he explains how—counterintuitively—true gospel ministry includes sufferings. Paul’s sufferings for Christ were extreme. And we will not all suffer to the same extent that he did. But if we are following Christ we are moving against the flow of the world (and sometimes the nominal church goers living around us as well) and therefore we will experience push back from the culture and people who are moving in the opposite direction. And, therefore, if we also become vocal about Christ and his gospel, we can expect more opposition. Also more fruit! But a true gospel ministry and a true Christian will experience opposition for their faith. This is what Paul explains in the second part of this chapter, verses 3 to 10.
Third, Paul shows how a true gospel minister has an openhearted love for the church. How can someone say they love Christ but not love Christ’s bride? How can someone say they love Christ but not love Christ’s body? Paul has great affection for the Corinthians, even these wayward, troublesome, difficult Corinthians. Churches today, even true churches, certainly can have many problems. They are made up of sinners! If you find a perfect church, don’t join it—you’ll only spoil it! Instead of carping from the sidelines about all the problems you see in the bride of Christ, love compels you to open your heart, get involved, and make a difference. The Church Needs You (and you need the church, too). Paul explains all this in verses 11 to 13 in our passage.
Fourth and finally, and very strangely to our modern ears, Paul explains how a true gospel ministry has a separation from worldliness. Now here we need careful balance—as well as clarity. Jesus, in his great prayer in John 17, prayed that the church would be in the world but not of the world. The church is an embassy of heaven representing Christ in the world. A church that seeks to separate itself from the world in the sense of removing itself from human interaction with non-Christians, making it hard for non-Christians to hear the gospel, or not aiming to fulfill the great mandate of the Great Commission of Matthew 28 to go and make disciples—a church that is not missional as well as missionary—is at best living far below the Lord’s intentions, and at worst is no real church at all (just a religious club for the insider). But, and here is where balance and clarity is important, at the same time a church is not to be of the world. The great temptation is to run to one or other of these extremes. Either to remove yourself from being in the world at all; or, if that danger is avoided, start to act just like the world around you and become worldly, become of the world. That too is disastrous. For then the church has nothing different to offer. It may have discovered how to communicate in contemporary idioms, but it now has nothing distinct to communicate! All this Paul explains from verse 14 to the end of the chapter. How to strike this balance between being in the world but not of the world? The answer is to emulate the example of Christ. He ate with sinners. But he did not sin.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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