2 Corinthians – A more excellent way – of Life
"For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you." 2 Corinthians 1:12
Apostle Paul most likely wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth not too long after the first letter. First Corinthians is corrective and instructional, directing the church to leave worldly vices behind. The selfishness of the old life has no place in their new life and certainly not in the Body of Christ. Then, he compels them to learn to walk in love, the more excellent way.
In the second letter, Paul writes about what walking in love looks like, what they can look forward to in the more excellent way of life.
There had come behind Paul self-proclaimed ministers with suspect credentials who arrogantly twisted and distorted Pauls words, setting themselves up as authorities, super-apostles, who knew much better than this side-show wannabe. They spoke ill of Paul's troubles, the persecution, the unending hardships, even his speech, and general persona.
You know how if feels to be talked about behind your back. Most of us have experienced someone putting us down in order to elevate themselves. What do you do? Get in their face and tell them to back down and get their facts straight? Shame them back on social media? Defend yourself by showing the flaws in their thinking? Or just keep quiet and trust the Lord to defend you. This is hard, it is real life.
Paul would have been justified in any of a number of responses to the accusers, but he reacted differently than expected, he didn't take the bait. He responded not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God. (1:12)
Instead of traveling back to Corinth and confronting these men, Paul wrote another letter, this time showing how the things they accused him of were actually just further proof of the goodness of God and the power of Jesus resurrection.
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant…" (3:5-6)
"For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (4:5-6)
Sincerity and simplicity. Sharing the truth of Jesus Christ from a selfless, humble heart. Focusing always on our Savior, Jesus, consistently pointing people to Him, no matter how they felt about Paul as the messenger. His only worry was that the Christians would believe the nonsense of his accusers.
"I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (11:3)
Satan will twist and distort the simplicity of the message of the cross. He'll do so through men and women who feign depth and intelligence and posture themselves over others. With no standard of interpretation or accountability, people can preach whatever they want. "For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted…" (11:4a)
A different Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel… And Pauls greatest fear, not for himself but for his dear Christian friends, was that "you may well put up with it!" (11:4b)
Love is the more excellent way. And for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, here is how that love manifested itself in life, specifically, the life of the great Apostle Paul.
"We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." (6:3-10)
That is love manifest in life? In Paul's it was. In many believers around the globe, it is. For the underground Christians in China, for the persecuted in North Korea, for the hunted in Ethiopia and Sudan. Christianity isn't a promise of health and wealth in this life – it is the promise of communion with Jesus Christ and the joy of seeing another person changed by His love.
Love is the more excellent way. Live it.