Summary: The Christian life is challenging and one way we trip up new believers is by giving them false expectations about what the journey will be like. This passage details the difficulties Paul encountered and serves as a good summary of the struggles any believer may encounter.
HOW WOULD THEIR MINISTRY BE DISCREDITED? If their children in the faith didn’t continue the race.
- 2 Corinthians 6:3b – “. . . so that our ministry will not be discredited.”
- Paul talks elsewhere about his children in the faith being his joy. And certainly they were. Here we see another truth about his children in the faith: they were the proof of his ministry.
- If someone says he’s a great painter, but doesn’t produce any art, you’ve got good reason to question his assertion.
- If someone says he’s a professional golfer, but can’t shoot around par on an easy course, you’ve got good reason to question his assertion.
- If Paul is going to make the case that he is a Spirit-empowered, Christ-preaching missionary, there should be a significant number of changed lives to back up that statement. If at Corinth (and elsewhere), he had some people who showed initial interest in Jesus but did not continue on that path, it’s hard to claim that he had a significant ministry.
- Note that he’s not saying that the gospel would be shown to be untrue. He is saying that his ministry would be discredited.
WHAT'S ONE BIG STUMBLING BLOCK THAT MIGHT CAUSE THAT? Giving new believers a false understanding of what lay ahead.
- 2 Corinthians 6:3a – “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path . . . .”
- What is the significance of the mention of a stumbling block in v. 3 followed by the long list of hardships? I think it points to preachers who put artificial stumbling blocks into new believers’ paths. That stumbling block is failing to give them a clear picture of what it means to be a Christian.
- Many people wander off the path of following Christ because they get disillusioned.
- False presumptions are a killer.
- It’s important to know what they path forward really looks like. We need to grasp the challenges ahead.
- Our salvation presentations and our preaching often fail to give an honest picture of what it looks like to follow Christ. That’s like encouraging people to run a race but then strewing obstacles all along the path. [Maybe do that with the center aisle as an example.]
- I want to look at some of the examples that Paul gives here. We could divide up into many more pieces, but let’s keep it broad and take them in three parts.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THAT?
1. “God is going to smooth the road.”
- 2 Corinthians 6:4, 8-10.
- These verses speak to the necessity of endurance.
- Unpack the verses. They show that the Christian life requires perseverance.
- When new believers don’t know this, they don’t realize that following Christ isn’t a downhill road. They presume that God’s power will allow them to coast to their destination.
2. “Spiritual growth is optional.”
- These verses speak to the necessity of moral excellence.
- Unpack the verses. They show the need to grow into Christlikeness.
- When new believers don’t know this, they think that being a “sit and soak” Christian is sufficient. Of course, that’s not at all the vision that Christ had for the normal Christian life. He said in multiple places that He expects obedience. This failure to grow in maturity makes them prime candidates to wander off the path.
3. “God will vanquish your enemies.”
- These verses speak to the necessity of spiritual warfare.
- Unpack this verse. It shows the reality of struggles and obstacles.
- When new believers don’t know this, they often think they’re doing something wrong because they continue to have problems in their lives. They were promised by the preacher that God was going to wipe out all their difficulties.
OUR JOB: Share the whole gospel.
- 2 Corinthians 6:4 – “. . . as servants . . .”
- We’ve been talking around this all sermon, but let’s state it explicitly as we close. It’s essential that when we preach the gospel that we preach the whole gospel.
- We are doing no one a favor when we leave out the hard parts in the interest of trying to get the new convert possibility to say, “Yes.” In fact, we’re doing harm.
- We have an obligation to preach the whole gospel. Jesus never soft-pedaled the truth. Jesus never shied away from telling people what it meant to follow Him.
- We are called to be servants.
- Many American Christians desire to be consumers in church. It’s about what they can get out of church. That’s not at all the vision that Paul shares here. It’s a vision of service, sacrifice, and tenacity.
- We embrace all that it means to follow Jesus.