Why study 2 Corinthians?
It has been said that hardships reveal the measure of a person. This is the central theme of 2 Corinthians.
It was at Corinth that Paul encountered the most formidable challenge to his leadership. Paul faced destructive criticisms against his apostolic authority from a group of traveling Jewish Christian preachers who sought to undermine his ministry, stressed sensationalism and questioned his character and credentials. As if this was not enough, Paul was already facing great hardships and sufferings in his ministry in the province of Asia, even to the point of near death experiences. A lesser person would have crashed, caved in and given up.
But, not Paul. In 2 Corinthians, Paul was firm yet affirmative, uncompromising yet loving. He never allowed the false accusations and subtle innuendos to ruffle him. He was cool, calm and collected. From the study of this awesome letter, we will learn how to be "strong men/women in difficult times". This is the theme for the series of pulpit teachings at SIBKL this year as we study 2 Corinthians together.
But more than just being strong, the key lesson we will learn is that our strength lies in our Lord Jesus Christ. The centrality of Jesus in 2 Corinthians is clearly a distinctive of this epistle. In the midst of all the external sufferings Paul experienced in his ministry and the internal challenges he faced from within the church, Paul fixed his eyes on Jesus. He constantly pointed his detractors back to Jesus and the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus had entrusted him to carry. We are nothing more than Christ's ambassadors and it is ultimately the love of Christ that constraints us to do what we do. Paul constantly reminded the Corinthian church that the weapons of warfare are not physical but spiritual to the breaking down of strongholds. Paul consistently referred back to Jesus and never allowed the carnality of the Corinthian church to distract him from the centrality of the finished work of the cross. In this way, Paul was able to remain strong and to overcome all the intense challenges he faced. His strength and confidence came solely from Jesus. Hence, Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
My prayer for all of us is that as we face the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead of us for the rest of 2012; let us remain strong and resolute. God is with us and come hell or high water, we will emerge not only unscathed but triumphant.