Summary: How are we to understand the New Testament? Are some of its instructions now irrelevant to us? Should we preach ourselves, our denomination, or popular opinion which contradicts the New Testament?
How are we to understand the New Testament? Are some of its instructions now irrelevant to us? Should we preach ourselves, our denomination, or popular opinion which contradicts the New Testament? Purpose: Let’s examine the popular notion that we can ignore or reinterpret clear New Testament teachings. Plan: We will look at 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 and Paul’s loyalty to teaching Christ, not himself.
2 Corinthians 4:5 Preach Christ
2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For [indeed] we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus [as] the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.” Paul did not preach about how great our human efforts are, but how great God is. This is a troubling thing in any church, bragging about ourselves, our denomination, our fallible human doctrines. Paul expressly did not preach himself as Lord, but Jesus, and spoke of himself only in the context of being a servant of Jesus. Jesus is the only infallible teacher for the Church, and our only Savior. Faithful Christians get their doctrines from Jesus as did His Apostles, not from themselves or the world.
Christians are taught to interpret the Old Testament in the spirit not the letter, because the letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). The New Testament is different. It contains the teachings of Christ and the Apostles in the spirit, not the letter. It's easy to understand if we take them at their word. We should not interpret the New Testament like the Old. We turn circumcision into a matter of the heart, but we should not turn plain New Testament teachings into historical irrelevancies. This approach can be very dangerous, and lead to heresy. We should not twist the plain words of Christ and His Apostles.
2 Corinthians 4:6 Light in Hearts
2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Why did Paul and the other Apostles not preach themselves or their own doctrines? Paul explains that it was because of the light from God. What they preached did not come from people, human reason, science, or unilluminated traditions. Paul seems to imply the same for future generations that it is the light of God’s glory that gives us impetus to preach Jesus, not things that neither Jesus nor His Apostles taught.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 Fallible Apostles
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed”. Paul readily admitted his faults (Romans 7:15-25) and also knew the suffering of being out front as an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:16-33). All who love God are humble and will suffer to some extent in a world going the opposite way. In four pairs of contrasting statements, Paul is near to defeat but never forsaken by God.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12 Danger for Apostles
2 Corinthians 4:10-12 says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” Paul was constantly in danger of losing his life. This he did willingly so that others might receive salvation. Yet the life of Christ was manifest in their ministry. Apostles faced danger, but not necessarily average church members, who were often not in similar perils.
We preach Christ; not our denomination, not our human doctrines, not our prejudice, not our culture, not our political party, not our human efforts, not our bragging, not smooth things, not our watered down reinterpretations, not our nationalism, not populism, but Christ, what He taught and what the Apostles taught about Him, unfiltered, unaltered and as pure as humanly possible.
King James Version (KJV) Public Domain