“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:1 – 2)
In this second letter to the believers in Corinth Paul is pulling out all the stops to get through to his audience. My sense is that Corinth was not an easy place to be a believer in the Lord God and Jesus Christ. So many competing ideas and streams of thought abounded in Corinth, one of the places where Greek philosophy sparred with other religions. Paul wanted to be sure that his ministry was clear and straightforward. But in the same vein, I wanted to be sure the believers of Corinth understood his fervor and extremes he would go for the faith.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
I have to wonder if stories about Paul, exaggerations and false telling, had reached Corinth. It also seems as if Paul is feeling the sincerity and truth of the gospel he preaches rests on his own sincerity and honesty. I am remembering Paul’s teaching/writing in other places where he talks about the gospel as foolishness compared to human wisdom. And that Divine uses such “foolishness” to counter the wisdom that humanity clings to but will not save them.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11 – 13)
And Paul does want them to be saved. You can tell that he is worried about them. And perhaps worried that their reluctance to come to faith will give opportunity for more “worldly” and “secular” issues to displace and supplant the gospel that Paul had preached.
Yet, beloved reader, I also get the sense that if Paul is resorting to defending the message he preached with his personal suffering for faith – this faith may not take root as it should in Corinth. We hear stories of missionaries and leaders going to extraordinary lengths to deliver the gospel. But if the listeners of the gospel do not take it into themselves as their personal credo, this precious faith will not take root.
I am not faulting Paul, nor do I feel he made any missteps in his preaching and teaching. It is just a simple fact that some will not take to the Christian faith through the traditional mode of preaching and teaching.
There was a boy (actually he was between adolescence and adulthood) I knew in high school. He was a staunch atheist. I did not think he would ever come to faith. A youth group in the area was putting on a debate as part of their activities; a debate where one side argued for faith and the other side argued for atheism. The point was to strengthen the youth’s faith against naysayers. Well, this boy/young man was asked to coach the non-faith side, and he did. But when he saw/heard his “proofs” disproved, he came to faith. An amazing story! I think Paul would be pleased!