The Church at Corinth held a special place in Paul’s heart. He established the church while on his second missionary journey. Being a city in Greece, the Greeks were known for their philosophy and intellect. Paul was a Roman citizen and Jew, but he was well-educated and trained as a Pharisee, referring to himself as a “Jew of Jews.”
At some point, as pointed out in the book of Acts, Apollos was known for his speaking ability among the Corinthians as well. This drew the inevitable comparison between him and Paul among the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes from a position of almost defending himself and the ministry to which he was called. This letter contains some of the most familiar passages of Scripture, ranging from the ministry of an apostle to him addressing those in Corinth who sought to discredit his ministry and the reiteration of the authority of his call as an apostle.
I like to say that Christians (and churches) have a terminal case of humanity, meaning both will let you down. This is not meant to sound cynical but rather realistic. It was as true in Paul’s day as it is in ours. When I first started preaching 30 years ago, my pastor (and mentor) was quick to caution me about not becoming “puffed up.” I was a relatively new believer at that point, and that was a valid warning. Over the years, I became more comfortable with preaching and teaching, but still would find myself being cautioned, but also at times criticized on my preaching, or challenged on a doctrinal issue. My fleshly reaction was (and sometimes still is) to lash out, allowing hurt and embarrassment to overcome a rational and measured response. Yet, it ultimately must always come back to Jesus.
Are my words and ministry honoring Him, encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ, and drawing the seeker to Him? When we face those attacks against our character, we must let our faithfulness speak for itself, and respond in love. As I consider the book of 2 Corinthians and Paul’s situation, I am reminded that we all are, at times, faced with the situation where we are questioned by other believers as to the authenticity of our desire to minister and serve. Like Paul, we can feel hurt and the need to defend ourselves. However, when we find ourselves in that situation (and invariably, we all will), we must always remember to point everything back to Christ.