Tenacity in Spite of Shortcomings

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

As chapter 4 begins, we find ourselves in the midst of a unit of the letter which is a defense of Paul’s apostolic ministry, that began 2:14 and runs through 7:4. With 4:1, we are entering into the next subsection of this unit and it runs from 4:1 through 5:10 dealing with Paul’s tenacity in spite of his shortcomings.

We begin with Paul drawing another conclusion:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (4:1-2)

In chapter 2, Paul made the case that the New Covenant is superior to the Old, and that the Spirit was superior to the Law. Because of these facts, Paul will not lose heart in the face of the opposition he has received in Corinth, or anywhere else. In saying that he has not used “secret and shameful ways” he amplifies and mentions what were apparently the things he was accused of in Corinth: “deception” and distorting the Word of God. Remember, this whole unit is a defense of his ministry, and in these verses, Paul has taken quite an interesting route to come back to those allegations.

This last about speaking the truth openly and commending himself to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God is rather amazing rhetorically, for it has a dual meaning. First would be something like this: “With all of this in mind, and in the sight of God, do you really think I did anything that I’ve been accused of? Remember, God is watching you!” The other way you could take it would be: “So, you’ve seen everything I’ve had to deal with, and you know I have taken it for the sake of Christ, and why; don’t you think you should do the same?”

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (4:3-4)

Now Paul pours it on. An unbeliever has an excuse for not understanding the situation, for they have been blinded by “the god of this age”. Yet Paul has not written this to unbelievers, he has written it to the church; they have no excuse.


For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (4:5-6)

Again, Paul points out that he has never approached his ministry for any kind of gain or status. Instead, he has preached Christ only, and as a servant. As a result of him fulfilling his ministry in their midst, they all have Christ’s light of truth within themselves; they have the very glory of God in their midst, and at this point, it would be hard for anyone to give any credence whatsoever to Paul’s opponents.

We, as our Corinthian brothers and sisters before us, sometimes have people in our midst who seek to tear things down, rather than build things up. Maybe they want to tear down a church leader and start a whispering campaign in the shadows. Maybe they want to distort the gospel to pursue an unsound teaching of the Word of God. Maybe they just like to stir the pot, then stand back and watch the fun…

I used to deal with things like that in teaching when someone would make a comment in class just to start something. I’ve also seen it in the church, and in the blogosphere; yep, some folks think that kind of thing is fun, and if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that when I was a kid, I did too.

We are supposed to grow up at some point, both in maturity and age, and spiritually into mature followers of Christ.

I will add that there are times when a person, perhaps a leader, has said or done something that needs correction, and Scripture is quite clear on how this should be dealt with. None of that guidance includes creating dissention or gossip however, for dissention and gossip are the two most common things in churches that require correction.

I’d love to hear what you think; please feel free to join in with your thoughts!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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7 Responses to Tenacity in Spite of Shortcomings

  1. Tom says:

    Great word. One thing we need to keep in mind when “correcting” someone is doing it in love, mercy, grace and kindness. It is meant to build up not tear down or condemn or to gossip. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We need to have a few more “Pauls” stand up and proclaim the truth in love, not back down and set some correction and re-proving. People look at what he wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 and love that about instruction, but when they get to the correction and reproof part they hesitate. Reproof means simply to re-prove the truth or facts about something. People look at reproof and thing of rebuke, that comes under correction, but Paul is not telling Timothy to beat people over the head with it. The Word of God and the Spirit giving power to THAT Word is like the Living Word Himself, Loving and willing to do what ever it takes to get the truth across.

    Now, if our modern day “Pauls” will stand up and come forth, they can expect to receive the same treatment Paul is speaking of here. It WILL happen and it DOES happen. After all, “what right do YOU have to correct me on Scripture?” “Who do you think YOU are trying to tell me what God thinks” and so on and so forth. Any teacher/preacher who has stuck his neck out there to do what the Lord has called him to do and the Holy Spirit anointed him to do WILL experience this. Is our conscience, our motive, our heart in good standing before God and all other witnesses? It is, if the motive is as Paul’s is, as he wrote in 1Timothy 1:5-7, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.”

  3. DWMartens says:

    Verse 6 of chapter 4 generally reminds me of something I have heard Ravi Zacharis say a few times; the shorter version of which is: The pursuit of the Hebrews was light; the pursuit of the Greeks was knowledge; the pursuit of the Romans was glory. In his letter to Corinth, a city which had become symbolized with depravity and dissoluteness, Paul says this, “God who has caused the light to shine out of darkness has caused His light to shine in our hearts to give to us the LIGHT of the KNOWLEDGE of the GLORY of God in the face of Christ Jesus our Lord.” (my emphasis)

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