Strength Through Weakness : Paradox and Power

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

guillaume-de-germain-92869-unsplash.jpg

The Apostle Paul counters his Corinthian opponents’ love of power with the power of love.  He contrasts their preoccupation with style and personality with gospel and character.  Having pleaded for reconciliation he urges the Corinthians “not to receive God’s grace in vain” (v12).  His plea is not to take God’s goodness for granted.  As C.K. Barret put it, “The Corinthians had indeed been reconciled to God, but it was for them to receive the reconciliation more effectively”. 

As a missionary Paul saw hardships and conflict as part of the territory.   He took it squarely on the chin without flinching or complaint.  He was no masochist.  He did not see suffering itself as a mark of spirituality.  However, linked to mission and the cause of Christ it is redemptive.  He had no romantic notions about suffering.  He had suffered too much for that!

Strength Through Weakness: Ambassadors of Christ

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:10-6:2

Cross.jpg

Preaching has rightly been described as ‘letting texts talk’.  The text in this instance is both surprising and challenging.  It reminds us that not all fear is bad.  There is healthy fear (v11a), a timely reminder that all of us will render an account to God on that great day (v10).  Accordingly, Paul is motivated to “persuade others” by appealing “to [their] conscience” (v11).  Unlike his opponents in Corinth he does not resort to manipulation or rhetorical excess.  He simply states gospel facts: all face judgement (v10), equally, Christ died for all (v14).  There is paradox and mystery here, responsive to ‘faith seeking understanding’ as opposed to philosophical speculation about God’s character and human merit.

Strength Through Weakness: New Creation

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:16,17

new creation.png

Alistair Sparks depicted our transition to democracy and beyond in two books: ‘Tomorrow is Another Country’ and ‘Beyond the Miracle’.  Hindsight has taught us that we did not miraculously change overnight and ‘another country’ has morphed into something very different than that envisaged by our founding fathers who drafted our constitution.  So how do we address the creeping cynicism in our hearts fueled by factionalism and populist rhetoric?  I would suggest that the answer lies in an ancient letter written by Paul to the church at Corinth.

Strength Through Weakness: Life After Death

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:18-5:10

to-live-is-christ-to-die-is-gain.jpg

A contemporary writer has described death as a “conspiracy of silence... the universal repression of our day muffled up in illusion”.  Part of the problem is confusion.  People are not sure what happens when we die, so in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet “death doth make cowards of us all.”

 

In stark contrast to this, Paul moves life after death from the realm of conjecture and confusion to established fact.  Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of our resurrection to follow in time.  For Paul this is no pious myth, escapist superstition, but historical fact attested to by hundreds of eye-witnesses including Paul himself.  Granted the passage before us is a difficult one, its interpretation disputed: is Paul dealing with the ‘intermediate state’ of believers upon death or the “Parousia’, the great day when Christ returns?  However, the difference is a matter of degree about which we can afford to be agnostic.

Strength Through Weakness: Style or Substance

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

peter-feghali-339944-unsplash.jpg

The novelist John Updike’s critique of organized religion being “like Coca-Cola billboards: they promote thirst without quenching it” is apposite with regards to Paul’s opponents at Corinth.  They were strong on style, weak on substance.  They dismissed Paul as wishy-washy and weak in comparison.  Little wonder then that Paul twice in this chapter, once at the beginning, the other at the end, reiterates “Therefore we do not lose heart” (vv1,16).

 

Strength Through Weakness: Captive and Competent

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18

peter-feghali-339944-unsplash.jpg

Several years ago the comedy “Twins” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny De Vito depicted two polar opposites: the one super-sized marvel of humanity, the other short and dumpy, something of a misfit.  In comparison to the ‘super-apostles’ of Corinth.  Paul was similarly written off as a wimp and ineffective.  Moreover, in their eyes he was unreliable.  He changed his travel plans at the drop of a hat.  Whilst his letters were bold and brash, his person was wishy-washy and non-descript.

 

Strength Through Weakness : Testing Times for Troubled People

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

guillaume-de-germain-92869-unsplash.jpg

Paul had an ambivalent relationship with the church at Corinth.  Having established the church on his second missionary journey in the early 50’s AD, he had written both 1st Corinthians as well as a ‘painful’ letter prior to writing what is known as 2 Corinthians.  The church had all but turned its back on Paul.  False teachers, so-called ‘super-apostles’, had infiltrated the church.  Carrying letters of authority from dubious sources they had won the allegiance of most of the house churches in and around Corinth.  Trained orators, they dismissed Paul as ineffective and ‘wishy washy’ who failed to deliver on his promises.  He said one thing and did another.  His travel plans were suspect and his authority questionable.  So Paul responds.  His motive is not so much to vindicate himself rather to defend the gospel which had been compromised through false teaching which promoted legalism that led ironically to license, loose living and sexual immorality.