Jars of Clay: Spiritual Warfare 2 – Deception

jars - calendar2 Corinthians 11.1-21a

1. The danger the Corinthians and we are in (11:1-6).

There are those who risk falling prey to Satan’s temptation, even as Eve did in the garden (11:3;  1 Tim 2:14). Just as the devil deceived Eve by calling into question the sufficiency of God’s provisions (Gen 3:1-13), so too he is seeking to undermine the Corinthians’ and our devotion to Christ by enticing them and us with "another Jesus". 

It is as if the Christ of Paul’s gospel is not enough. Satan tempts God’s people by presenting a substitute saviour: In the garden it was the false promise that they could provide for themselves without consequence, in Corinth it was the promise that the real "Christ" would provide for them health and wealth.

Therefore Paul portrays them and us:

    1. as the counterpart to rebellious Israel under the law In verse 2 (i.e., replicating the "fall" of Israel (3:14))

    2. as the counterpart to Eve at creation in verse 3 (i.e., reproducing the "fall" of humanity (4:4)).

The reference to the Fall reveals just how serious the danger facing the Corinthians really is. It is a warning that, in reality, his opponents are "servants of Satan" who are seeking to destroy the Corinthians’ marriage with Christ in the same way that Satan spoiled Eve’s relationship with God (cf. 11:14-15).

As in the garden, the goal of their deception is to create a new way of thinking among the Corinthians that no longer agrees with God’s will. 

But those who are truly God’s people will resist this satanic temptation to idolatry and strife (2:11; 6:14-7:1; 16:17-20).  In this way they show themselves to be "new creatures" in Christ, who are being transformed by God’s glory in their midst (2 Cor. 3:18; 5 17). Their lives will be characterised by sincerity and purity toward Christ (for sincerity is evidence of grace of God in one’s life (1:12, 2 17, 6:6)).

2. The ways of deception

1. Preaching another "Jesus," a "different Spirit”, and "a different gospel", and an emphasis on the miraculous (11:5).

2. The Deceiver maintains that the Spirit of God, if truly present, delivers one from suffering.

3. The cross is merely a matter of history, having been replaced by the resurrected Lord. That the deceivers preach "another Jesus" is clearly revealed in their refusal to take up their cross on behalf of the Corinthians (4:5).

4. Deceivers "masquerade as apostles of Christ" (11:13). This is no innocent misunderstanding on their part. The verb translated "masquerading" signifies the idea "to change the form of … to change or disguise oneself into or as something."    These people disguise themselves as "apostles of Christ" even though they serve Satan.  As prisoners of Satan’s deceit, these opponents preach a "different Jesus."

5. As a result, just as God made Paul competent to be a "servant" (diakonos) of the new covenant "ministry [diakonia] of righteousness" (3:6, 9), so too Satan’s "servants" are masquerading as "servants [diakonoi] of righteousness" (11:15).

6.  Their deceptive, satanic claim is that Christ’s life and death are not sufficient to bring about the righteousness of God, but must be supplemented with the stipulations of the old covenant.

7. Satan’s "servants’ (11:15), in the end, sell the "Self’ or some trinket of this world as more reliable, sufficient, and satisfying than knowing and living for God.

3. How to avoid deception?

Danger 1: We long for immediate gratification and personal autonomy rather than finding our delight in learning to depend on God in the midst of suffering and affliction, weakness and woe.

Danger 2: Church leaders are drawn to models of power and prestige.

Danger 3: We gravitate to promises of health and wealth and to messages that puff us up rather than glorify God. In a word, to become "worldly."

David Wells:

This "world" …. is organised around the self in substitution for God. It is life characterised by self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-satisfaction, self-aggrandisement, and self-promotion, with a corresponding distaste for the self-denial proper to union with Christ."

Is the focus on the growth of God’s glory? Our single-minded focus in worship must be on recognising, reflecting, declaring, and celebrating the glory of God! In the first century the cross was simply too repugnant to exploited for personal gain.

a. Avoid worldly methods

More and more, modern management strategies, personal and church growth techniques, and therapeutic messages are infiltrating into every area of life.  These Self-saturated approaches make it increasingly difficult to boast in God alone as the one whose goal it is to glorify himself by working in and through “jars of clay”.

As it was for Paul, today too the pressure on churches to be successful according to the standards of contemporary culture is intense. And as it did for Paul, today too this pressure comes not from the world but from the worldliness within the church. The temptation is to respond by boasting in one’s strength.

Paul did not disagree because the deceivers were immoral; he rejected them because their technique was based on a purely human dynamic which produced human results. If Paul was so exercised about avoiding methods which engendered merely human results, so should we?

We cannot assume that as long as we avoid immoral, unfair, or fraudulent methods, we are free to use whatever other means will "work."

b.  Avoid consumerism


The reason churches today are so quick to adopt the strategies and worldview embodied in modern marketing, with little if any regard for truth as her primary message, is because they have been convinced that "the church must define its services in terms of contemporary needs just as any secular business must. Allowing the consumer to be sovereign in this way in fact sanctions a bad habit. It encourages us to indulge in constant internal inventory in the church no less than in the marketplace, to ask ourselves perpetually whether the "products" we are being offered meet our present "felt needs."

In this sort of environment, market research has found that there is scarcely any consumer loyalty to particular products and brands anymore. The consumer, like the marketeer, is now making fresh calculations all the time.

What is going to happen when churches meet all of the felt needs of their consumers and then realise that they have failed to meet the genuine need for meaning? Meaning is provided by the functioning of truth—specifically biblical truth—in the life of the congregation.

A business is in the market simply to sell its products – it doesn’t ask consumers to surrender themselves to the product.  Businesses offer goods and services to make life easier or more pleasant – the Bible points the way to Life itself, and the way will not always be easy or pleasant.

c. Is there integrity in the teacher?

Our public manner inevitably reveals our private character (1:12-14). The heart of the issue is that the gospel we believe will invariably be expressed in the image we portray, and vice versa, so that the integrity of the gospel and its messenger must be our primary concern.

A right heart produces appropriate habits. Biblical view is that Spirit of God is experienced in and through the suffering of this age.  For Paul, the cross is still central to the gospel. He carries in his body the death of Jesus (cf. 4:7-12).

Ultimately, however, Paul is not concerned with himself at all. Paul’s simple language, his willing self-support, and his daily suffering for his churches all indicate that his ministry in Corinth, unlike that of his opponents, was aimed at benefitting the Corinthians, not himself. (11:7; cf. 4:5; 8:9).   The counterpart to Paul’s weakness is his strong anger over the danger of someone falling away from Christ (11:29). 

Hence, to wrap up his boasting in his weakness as the consequence of his calling to be an apostle, Paul provides one final and especially poignant example of his suffering (11:30-33). Like his suffering in Asia recounted in 1:8, his opponents may well have used this incident against him as an example of his cowardice. But from Paul’s perspective, his narrow escape in Damascus, like his despairing even of life (1:8-11), serves to highlight God’s deliverance and sustenance.

d. Is the language simple?

Paul’s opponents criticised him for failing to reflect the sophisticated style and flashy rhetorical forms that were characteristic of professional entertainers and orators in first-century culture.

He intentionally remained an "amateur" when it came to public speaking because he viewed his calling to be proclamation, not persuasion. He did whatever it took not to be confused with an entertainer or professional speaker.

Paul’s concern was the possibility of obtaining false, human-centred results … (1 Cor. 2:5)".  Our efforts are neither results-driven nor audience-driven,- they are obedience-driven.

e. Is the teaching from the right perspective?

By boasting, Paul’s opponents are the real fools. In turn, by accepting such boasting, the Corinthians are being led astray from their devotion to Christ as the ultimate and all-sufficient provision from God! (11:3).

Driven by his experience "in Christ" and by the content of the gospel itself, Paul’s boasting in his weakness is not simply a parody of his opponents. It is a positive expression of his calling. This priority of theology over practice is crucial for evaluating the content and validity of boasting today, whether in our personal lives and churches or in the quality of our ministries and ministers.

We can boast only in what God has done in and through us, giving credit to God for all that we are and do, since everything is a gift from him. The principle of Jeremiah 9:23-24 provides the key both to the positive practice and content of Paul’s boast and to the contours of our own.

23 This is what the LORD says:

   “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
   or the strong boast of their strength
   or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
   that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
   justice and righteousness on earth,
   for in these I delight,”
            declares the LORD.

Jars of Clay: Giving as Worship

jars - calendar2 Corinthians 9

Week 1 – 2 Corinthians 8

Spiritual gift of giving to others is to be the reflex of our joy in God’s gift to us in Christ. The Macedonians’ joy led to giving, not the other way around. For this reason, the collection is termed a "grace" and a "ministry!"

The issue of giving away money evokes two diametrically opposed responses among Christians:

   an awkward timidity amongst some and

   an "in-your-face" boldness among the prosperity gospel movement.

In the first case, we fear that "too much" talk about money may offend. Truth is that it directly confronts our materialism and the individualistic nature of our lives. We say, ‘The preacher should talk about God," we mean that the preacher should not talk about money (since, for us, giving is a private affair and nothing to do with being blessed spiritually).

Week 2 – 2 Corinthians 9

Giving is a response to what God has already done for us in the past and a demonstration of our continuing confidence in what he has promised to do for us in the future. Just the same as other components of worship.

In Pauls day, like our own, participation in charitable giving and the administration of financial affairs were matters of public concern. It is not surprising, therefore, that each of Paul’s three major themes finds echo in our time:

1. a concern for integrity (the need to send the delegation (8:16-24)).

2. a concern that giving be uncoerced and generous (completing the collection in advance (9:1-5)). Giving is a matter of the heart as much as the mind.

3. a concern for maintaining the proper purpose (responding to the grace of God (9:6-15).

If we intend to live in ways that honour God we have to get this giving issue right!

1. God the Giver

Our resources originate from him as a blessing, not from us as an expression of what we deserve. This insight is as profoundly life-changing as it is simple. That God is the giver of everything is the foundation of our giving to others.

The key to generosity is not caring less about what we have in the world, but caring more about God’s purposes in granting to us his gifts.

Wealth is a gift of God, freely given as an expression of God’s commitment to his people. Hence, for those who trust in him, it can be freely given way.

"Cheerful givers" are not so by nature. Only those who realise that they received great benefits from God have both the material means and the inner disposition to become cheerful givers.

2. Giving as challenge to our culture

Ours is the first major civilization to be building itself deliberately and self-consciously without religious foundations. Beneath other civilizations there have always been religious foundations, whether these come from Islam, Hinduism, or Christianity itself. It creates marvellous ingenuity and intricacy but it is arising over a spiritual vacuum.

As a result we have also rewritten the religious question. That question was always how we might be consoled in our journey through this valley of tears.

Socrates found consolation in the good, the beautiful, and the true; the New Testament finds it in Christ’s redemption; Marx and liberation theology found it in the journey toward a more just world.

But we find it simply in ourselves. We have become both our own patients and therapists, deeply committed to the gospel of self-fulfilment. And at its heart is our obsession with money.

Giving away generously challenges everything we learn in our society.

3. Giving as an act of grace to the glory of God.

Since our giving is an expression of God’s having already given all things to us, we must focus on God’s grace as the basis for giving.

1, This means resisting the temptation to turn giving into a voluntary opportunity "to do something great for God." Giving to others is not yet another way of contributing back to God for what he has done for us.

2. God does not need our money to further his causes. He is not dependent on us. God gives out of his sovereign self-sufficiency and love, not in order to receive back, as if he needed anything (Acts 17:24—25).

3. Nor should we give "in order to show God how thankful we are." Our job is not to prove our sincerity to God. Those who recognise God to be the giver of all things are thankful, and God knows our hearts.

Instead, the motivation for giving is as radically God-cantered as its foundation.

Giving to others is a response to what God has already done for us in the past and a demonstration of our continuing confidence in what he has promised to do for us in the future.

Giving is an act of faith in response to God’s grace.

As such, our giving is not a decision to participate in the projects of the church, but an expression of the fact that we are the church; that is, that we belong to God and hence to one another.

For this reason, the affirmation of the Corinthians, who have already repented, climaxes with the collection. The collection reveals the manifestation (3:7-18) and praise (9:12-15) of God’s glory.

4. Giving as a sign of belonging

The New Testament does not teach a doctrine of tithing. Nor does Paul hint at what constitutes giving generously. He does not even provide a target or general guidelines. The only rule is to give freely and generously as an expression of our continuing trust in God’s grace (9:5-8).

Paul simply assumes that believers will give all they can to meet as many needs as they can in order to glorify God as much as they can. The point of 9:6 is that one should give as freely as possible, knowing that the "return" will be of like kind.

There is a principle of divine retribution here, since the manner of one’s giving reflects the character of one’s heart. God gives back blessings to those who give as a matter of blessing, but withholds his blessings from those who withhold from others.

We must be careful here, however. The “payback" is not material, but the prayers of God’s people and the enjoyment of God’s glory (cf. 9:12-15).

While giving must be done freely, it is not optional!

The Corinthians’ participation in the collection was not "for the church," but evidence that they were the church, to give to others is a manifestation of the righteousness of God, apart from which there is no salvation (9:9-11).

The fact that believers often ask how much they should give reveals that they have not yet grasped the point. Besides, our problem is usually not that we are in danger of harming ourselves by giving too much!

John Piper:
When people don’t find pleasure (Paul’s word is "cheer"!) in their acts of service, God doesn’t find pleasure in them. He loves cheerful givers, cheerful servants. What sort of cheer? The safest way to answer that question is to remember what sort of cheer moved the Macedonians to be generous. It was the overflow of joy in the grace of God. Therefore, the giver God loves is the one whose joy in him overflows "cheerfully" in generosity to others.

5. Giving as Proclamation

Faith is trusting in God to meet our needs in the present so that we might give to the needs of others. As such, faith encompasses the past and future as we live them out day by day before God.

We give, therefore, as an expression of our trust in God to meet our needs today. We should not give simply out of our surplus from the past, nor should we give in the hope of getting more in the future. Rather, not worrying about tomorrow and trusting God to sustain if through the trouble of today (Matt. 6:34), we are free to share our daily bread with others.

Indeed, Paul calls us to give freely and generously supremely because of our riches in God himself, past, present, and future, quite apart from our current economic status (remember the Macedonians), and without any thought of future financial recompense (Paul never promises financial reward for giving).

Jars of Clay: Generosity

jars - calendar

Generosity: Growing in the Grace of Giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-15

There is another post on this subject at: godmanchesterbaptist.org/web/index.php/gbc-news/why-a-widows-mite-turns-out-to-be-a-lot-more-than-i-thought

“In many respects western identity is established in material terms. We define ourselves by our relation to our material environment; perhaps more than our relation to other people (or even to God). That this has resulted in great material prosperity and great technological accomplishment we can readily acknowledge. But we note a dark side as well: Westerners invariably tend to endow material means with ultimate or final value. Owning a home, for example, is seen as one of the ends of life rather than as a means to other ends. Meaning is attached to accumulating an estate far beyond any conceivable use.

Communicating the gospel will then invariably reflect these emphases. On the one hand, it will tend to affirm the quest for achievement. It might emphasise that God loves us and seeks to help us realise our potential or our gifts (He "has a wonderful plan for our life"). On the other hand, it will encourage a practical no-nonsense kind of faith, a "faith that works"… it will in general affirm the goodness and value of the person and the created order. As a rule, Christians will feel the need of affirmation rather than of deliverance!”

Does this compromise the gospel itself? Is God the great "supporter of my goals," the assistant assigned to help me realise my potential? Is the call to give merely an affirmation of my duty within society? Is my giving just an expression of my goodness as a person?

Sloppy thinking about this crucial area of our Christians life will open the door for an invasion of self-serving materialism and self-congratulating moralism.

1. The smorgasbord of values.

We, of often, give a mixed message. Regular giving is a key Christian characteristic. It is an outward evidence of God’s grace in the Christ in our life (2 Cor. 8:7).

This smorgasbord approach to answering the question of how to give leaves the impression that there is an array of ways to give that we should pick the one that fits us best, whether "cash" on the one or "willingly" on the other, as long as we give.

But from the excellent Stewardship document on giving:

7. Know that people give to many things for a variety of reasons. Few have a well-planned or consistent giving strategy. Some give on impulse. Others are more cautious. Different kinds of appeals are effective with different types of givers.

9. Appreciate that faithful giving is a fruit of spiritual maturity. It takes time and much nurture to develop.

10. Do not engage in fundraising. People give to God, not to raise the preacher’s salary or pay the utilities. Don’t make church gifts “one more bill to pay” – a bill that can be skipped without late fees, penalties, or the need to catch-up. Emphasise giving as a joyful response to God’s generosity, not an obligation


16. Do not make assumptions about what people give — most of the time you will be wrong.

17. Give your pastor access to members’ giving records as a matter of pastoral care, not power or privilege.

18. Keep alert for any changes in giving patterns – if giving stops without explanation, if an adult child starts writing cheques for their parents, if there is confusion about giving, if designated gifts replace general giving, etc. Notify the pastor of any potential pastoral care concerns.

19. Know your people and approach them where they are. Someone who has never given does not respond in the same manner as someone who gives faithfully, proportionately, and generously.

20. Understand the financial profiles in your community. If few people carry cash, a spur of the moment offering will not succeed.

The fact that Paul devotes so much of 2 Corinthians to the issue of the collection should be a reminder of the significance of this aspect of our Christian life. Nowhere is our materialism challenged more directly, and nowhere do we skirt the issues more often, than when it comes to expressing the genuine nature of our faith and the unity of the church through our giving.

Learning from the Macedonians.

The "generosity encouraged" in chapters 8 and 9 is not something that Paul adds to the repentance he has just outlined, as if the Corinthians have one more hurdle to jump in order to prove themselves "innocent" (7:11). Nor is it an aside from it, an optional "add-on" for those who are really serious about their faith.

Instead, their generosity in giving to the collection is to be an expression of the gospel itself in the lives of those who have already shown the kind of "godly sorrow [that] brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret" (7:10).

The Macedonian example outlines the contours of the "obedience" that the majority of the Corinthians demonstrate (1:24-2:6; 7:9-16). To fail to give generously is to expose the false nature of our professed faith!

The example of the Macedonians is instructive. In a radical role reversal of the world’s values, the abundance of their poverty, fuelled by the riches of their joy in God, led to a wealth of generosity.

We usually think of "fund raisers" as encouraging those who can afford to give to give more; in the Macedonian churches those who had nothing begged to give.


Paul’s answer is the grace of God. Indeed, the "also” (8:7) shows that giving is just as much a spiritual gift of grace as any of the other charismatic gifts the Corinthians had received.

Giving is not merely an expression of compassion for the needy. Rather, the spiritual gift of giving to others is the reflex of our joy in God’s gift to us in Christ. The Macedonians’ joy led to giving, not the other way around. For this reason, the collection is termed a "grace" and a "ministry!"

Giving is not motivated by trying to convince people of how "smart" and "responsible" and "enjoyable" it is to give. Not about trying to pay dues or make a wise financial investment!

Instead, we are savouring and seeking the kingdom of God. Only the greater treasures of the kingdom of God can free us from clinging to the competing treasures of this world (Jesus’ call to do some "comparison shopping" in Matt. 6:19-21).

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Why do we lack models of that kind of joyful giving.

Macedonian" giving that comes from a profound experience of God’s grace. As a result, we struggle against nominalism that chokes out voluntary, sacrificial giving as an unsavoury example of religious fanaticism.

What could be more "fanatical" in our day to live below one’s level of income for the sake of giving away as much money as possible? In today’s world, the Macedonians’ giving out of their poverty serves as a wake-up call in the midst of our self-satisfying slumber.

William Law (1686-1761): A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life: Law recognized that central to this concern for godliness is the issue of money. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Law’s call was to apply the cross to our money.

The Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the mystery of Christ upon the cross. And the state of Christianity implies nothing else but an entire, absolute conformity to that spirit which Christ showed in the mysterious sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross.

Just as God calls the Christian to forgive his brother "seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:21-22, RSV), Law saw this "rule of forgiving" to be "the rule giving" as well.

In his words, "it is as necessary to give to seventy times to live in the continual exercise of all good works to the utmost”.

To spend needlessly on ourselves at the expense of others is to question our salvation itself. For Law, as for Paul in 8:8, the test of genuine faith was a willingness to give and the adoption of a lifestyle that makes giving possible.

“Either, therefore, you must so far renounce your Christianity as to say, that you need never perform any of these good works,- or you must perform them all your life in as high a degree as you are able. There is no middle way to be taken, any more than there is a middle way betwixt pride and humility, or temperance and intemperance.

This is indeed a "serious call." Law realized that he was living in a dangerous day. He saw clearly that the values of the secular world, "with its pull of sensuality, self-love, pride, covetousness, ambition, and vain” are the enemy.

It is a more dangerous enemy by having lost its appearance of enmity.

Spiritual warfare – strongman of the secular "Christian world" is money.

We must be careful here. Law’s call is uncompromising:

But it is by no means a summons to a self-destructive "sacrifice", not to “martyrdom”. The opposite is true.

Law’s "serious call to a devout and holy life" is serious call to be happy!

Christian faith teaches believers how to use everything God has granted them,

Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor," it is because there is no other natural or reasonable use of our riches, no other way of making ourselves happier for them….

Understood in this way, the Christian faith teaches believers how to use everything God has granted them, so that they "may have always the pleasure of receiving a right benefit from them"

Paul’s argument in 8:1-15 is based on the reality of the all-satisfying grace of God.

The Macedonians are no fools for giving out of their poverty.

But neither are they great religious heroes.

It is not Macedonians who are praised in this passage, but the God who brought about their giving by first having given them joy in himself in the midst their poverty in this world.

Where is the RSS Feed Icon in Firefox 4?

I’m a massive fan of Firefox and have been for since version 1 back in 2004.  I’ve been using 4.0 in beta for what seems like ages.  Where’s the RSS web feeds subscription button gone?

The new design of this button isn’t great either, It uses extra space and it is present in the toolbar at all times. The button is black when an RSS feed is present and grey otherwise.  Ironic, since Firefox invented the orange icon!

How to add the button to the tool bar?

By default the new RSS web feeds subscription button is not even visible. To add this to the toolbar just right-click on the toolbar and select customize. In the customize tool bar window that appears, click and drag the “Subscribe” icon to the desired location. Done.

Jars of Clay: Model Leadership

jars - calendar2 Corinthians 5:16-6:13

The story so far! How we show God’s glory when we are jars of clay? OR “Call yourself a Christian!”

How do you know what great Christian leadership looks like?  Is it the same as great secular leadership?  Particularly, does suffering and weakness in a leader imply they are not living in the power of the Spirit? Paul is relentless in his response: The greatest display God’s power is not the absence of pain or the presence of a miracle, but in faithful endurance in the midst of adversity, through which God “makes many rich” (6:10).

This then is a "leaders identity card."  It doesn’t tell us everything about leadership!

1. Jars of Clay leaders live for others (6.1-3)

• The call to leadership is a call to live for others

• Great leaders do not need recommendations from others or bragging (3:1; 5:12)

• The commendation that counts is the faithfulness of God in one’s life, as evidenced in faithful endurance (3:1-6, 10:16-18)

2. Jars of Clay leaders do not just suffer but endure (6:4-10)

• By itself, suffering is the consequence of sin

• Suffering is not a noble and purifying virtue

• Suffering and endurance on behalf of others is not masochism but mission.

• Self-denial for Christ’s sake is not a sacrifice, but the pathway to gaining life itself (Mark 8:34-48)

3. Jars of Clay leaders anticipate a response (6:11-13)

• Genuine leadership in the power of the Spirit anticipates a genuine response (5:10, 18, 20-21)

By appealing for the affections of the Corinthians, Paul is fighting for their lives. Far from engaging merely in private speculation or simply sharing his feelings, Paul speaks on the basis of God’s self-revelation in space and time (5:18, 20-21) and against the backdrop of the universal judgment of Christ (5:10). His confidence in the truth of his message and in the transparency of his testimony leads him to expect that those who know God will open their hearts to him too.

Today such declarations of the gospel as a "public truth” that makes a personal claim on others are met with scepticism. Throughout the West there is a general mistrust of the motives and message of anyone who claims to represent God and his Word.

Leslie Newbiggin:
[Mission in Birmingham] is much harder than anything I met in India. There is a cold contempt for the Gospel which is harder to face than opposition.  England is a pagan society and the development of a truly missionary encounter with this very tough form of paganism is the greatest intellectual and practical task facing the Church. When the Church affirms the gospel as public truth it is challenging the whole of society to wake out of the nightmare of subjectivism and relativism, to escape from the captivity of the self turned in upon itself, and to accept the calling which is addressed to every human being to seek, acknowledge, and proclaim the truth.

Faced with competing truth claims, Paul gives evidence for the truth of his own position, confident that God has entrusted him with both the ministry and message of both repentance (6:11-13) and reconciliation (5:18-19, 6:3-10).

We too, like Paul, must be willing to state our message openly before the court of public evaluation, thereby taking the risk of being wronged.  Moreover, we must be willing also to challenge publicly the ideas of others. The church cannot:

”continue to accept the security which is offered in an agnostic pluralism where we are free to have our own opinions provided we agree that they are only personal opinions." 

4. Jars of Clay leaders act from a position of weakness (6:4-10)

When Paul speaks, he does so from a position of weakness before the Corinthians, not from a platform of power over them.

Under the convicting work of Holy Spirit, Paul’s only power is the persuasion of the gospel as it is embodied in his life and in the lives of those who join him in the ministry (3:9; 6:7). The same remains true today.

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