Summary: The Corinthians criticize Paul's preaching. What can we learn from this conflict?
[First half of church fight story from Andy Stanley about his Dad - this can be found at the start of Andy Stanley's book Deep and Wide]
TRASHING PAUL: It is both stunning and comforting that Paul got some negative reviews.
- 2 Corinthians 10:1, 9-10.
- We usually think of Paul as the great and impossibly talented early missionary. He wrote most of the New Testament. He traveled starting churches. He stood boldly for the truth. He endured numerous harsh situations and conditions in his travels.
- Because we have this high opinion of Paul, a passage like this shocks us. How can they complain about the preaching of Paul? How could anyone complain about the preaching of Paul?
- And yet here we are.
- In v. 1 we see Paul noting that they accuse him of being bold in his letters but timid when he is present with them. “You’re a great writer, but your preaching doesn’t blow us away.”
- In v. 10 the point is repeated.
- In essence they say, “Your writing is an 8/10 but your preaching is a 3/10.”
- I said in my bulletin outline point that this is both stunning and comforting. Let’s look at each in turn.
- As I stated, our high opinion of Paul leads us to be shocked that someone would talk about him like this.
- It may initially seem ridiculous to say that something like this happening to Paul could bring comfort to us. I don’t mean that we’re glad that Paul went through this or that the Corinthians treated him in this way.
- No, what I mean is that it’s comforting to see in the Scripture that even as great a figure as Paul went through the same kind of thing that almost all the rest of us go through. If you do anything substantial for the Kingdom for any length of time, you will have times when you receive criticism.
- To know that it’s not just us but that even figures as great as the apostle Paul suffered similar struggles can bring a measure of comfort to us.
WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THIS?
1. No one pleases everyone.
- Often we presume that if we do our ministry well that everyone will love and support us. That is not true. It is impossible to please everyone.
- Why can’t you please everyone?
a. Some people’s priorities are not aligned with God’s priorities.
b. Some people are immature and focused on self.
c. Sometimes we are wrong (after all we are sinners) and therefore we might be the ones in the wrong.
- I remember meeting with the MBC pulpit committee. The church was coming out of a time of division and tension. In the midst of a conversation about vision and unity, someone asked, “How do you keep everyone happy?” My response to that was it’s not our job to keep everyone happy. It’s our job to make God happy. Making Him happy might involve making a few of our people unhappy or even having some leave the church, but that’s ok as long as we are achieving our goal (making God happy).
- Not to mention that it’s simply impossible to make everyone happy.
2. God works through flawed people.
- Within all of this, we should acknowledge that it’s likely there was a grain of truth within the Corinthians’ complaint. We have Paul’s writings and we know without question that he was a brilliant author. It’s not a surprise that God chose him to write the majority of the New Testament. We do not, know, however, what kind of a speaker Paul was.
- There are obviously no audio recordings to help us. We do know the famous incident at Troas with Eutychus falling asleep and falling out a third story window. In Paul’s defense, though, he was leaving them the next day and so was forced to preach for hours all the way until midnight. It’s tough for anyone to preach for hours on end and keep your attention.
- Nonetheless, it is quite possible – even likely – that Paul was not a gifted speaker. Most complaints have a grain of truth to them, even if they’re poorly motivated.
- Of course, we normally think of Paul as a Superman who did everything better than anyone, but that’s just not the Biblical record.
- This is an encouraging fact, when you think about it. It means that God works through flawed people. In fact, it makes what God did through Paul all the more stunning. God was able to spread the gospel through this committed missionary even though he wasn’t the most dynamic speaker in the world.
- That’s great news for all of us who aren’t the greatest in the world. We don’t have to be excessive skilled to be used by God. We can be imperfect. We can be flawed.