I offer here 13 theses of life and ministry in Christ from 2 Corinthians. Why? Because 2 Corinthians speaks the language of the soul, the language of hope for a believer when confusion surrounds.
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in the context of a brutal situation within the Corinthian church. Pain was present; offense was real; longing for restoration filled Paul’s heart. Through the confusion, Paul’s heart – and therefore, ours – is raised to the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
When the soul is overwhelmed, we turn to Jesus.
2 Corinthians: a book for when the soul is overwhelmed with weakness, when the church needs its eyes lifted to Jesus Christ, and for any problem in between.
And so consider these theses that draw the church to the face of God. The theses largely move in order of the book’s unfolding argument.
1. Life through death: Christian labor follows the death-to-life pattern of our Savior, Jesus Christ (. 2 Cor. 1:8, 4:7-18, 6:8-10). What feels like death, what causes us to “despair of life itself” is the means through which God brings resurrection life through Jesus. It is the pattern of sorrow and joy, of being unknown and well-known, of dying and yet behold we live.
2. Clarity through Communication: Conflict within the church overwhelms the soul. Reconciliation is pursued through clear and clarifying communication (2 Cor. 1:12-2:4). What can seem scandalous in another believer – like Paul’s supposedly deceitful travel plans (2 Cor. 1:12-17) – may not be as scandalous when the fellow believer is truly heard. We must listen to fellow believers and understand their expression of commitment and pattern of living in view of the promises of God in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). The tears of pursuing understanding and reconciliation are worth it (2 Cor. 2:1-4).
3. Restoration through forgiveness: God’s plan for sin outbreak in the church – real offense leads to real discipline leads to real restoration and forgiveness that builds the life of the church together (2 Cor. 2:5-11). Satan’s plan: design to use sin to either lead to unrepentance or lack of forgiveness. Such unrepentance and lack of forgiveness both seriously damage the church of Christ.
4. Triumph through suffering: God leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. In other words, we follow Him – and it will lead us in surprising and painful directions (2 Cor. 2:12-17).
5. Glory through Jesus: Nothing can dampen the glory of ministry – because ministry is always a gazing at the glory of the LORD – seen in the face of the glory of God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:1-4:6). Turning our eyes from the LORD will cause us to see darkness. Turning to Him will be light, even in the midst of affliction.
6. Longing for eternity: Ministry will make you long for glory. Guess what? One day, in the presence of Christ, pain will give way to peace, death to life, hope to realization (2 Cor. 4:13-5:10).
7. Commendation through holiness: Our service to Christ will be commended to others by our suffering and Holy-Spirit-driven holiness (2 Cor. 6:3-10).
8. Restoration through repentance: Repentance – the true road of heartache, pain, indignation over personal sin, etc. – is essential on the road of advancing in the church! (2 Cor. 7:2-16). When repentance is expressed, confidence in going forward with fellow sinners can be found.
9. Co-laboring on the other side of pain: Where repentance takes place, the co-laboring of the churches of Jesus Christ can flourish again (2 Cor. 8-9). This repentance-restoration experience was the case in the Corinthian church participating in a multi-church giving program. The churches, the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 9:23) full of repentant people, work beautifully together toward one common goal.
10. Repentance … and more growth needed: Repentant churches and individuals will still have problems that require real confrontation and development (2 Cor. 10-11). After the repentance, Paul wasn’t done working with the Corinthian church with its serious problems. The other side of conflict and repentance will include continued discipleship and development.
11. Power through weakness: Life in Christ would drive us to despair – if Christ’s power wasn’t resting on us in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:1-10).
12. Aiming for victory: Through it all, this becomes our policy – we rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace (2 Cor. 13:11).
13. Trinitarian blessing: Our ultimate hope is not in ourselves, but that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with us (2 Cor. 13:14).
So today, we press on in life and ministry in Jesus Christ. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).