FOR READERS: I have just started a new blog: xtremejesus.co which is intended to contribute to political and social debate from the point of view of the Jesus tradition. Some have found difficulty in accessing the site from their search engines and browsers. At present, Google Chrome gives it easily.
MEANWHILE, this old faithful blog continues to explore Paul’s Corinthian correspondence day by day. At present it is dealing with 2 Corinthians. I’m assuming that all his Corinthian letters were sent from Ephesos. The news headline is a reminder of the world we live in.
NAPALESE STILL WAIT FOR HELP
2 Corinthians 4J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
4 1-6 This is the ministry of the new covenant which God in his mercy has given us and nothing can daunt us. We use no hocus-pocus, no clever tricks, no dishonest manipulation of the Word of God. We speak the plain truth and so commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. If our Gospel is “veiled”, the veil must be in the minds of those who are spiritually dying. The spirit of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them. For it is Christ Jesus the Lord whom we preach, not ourselves; we are your slaves for his sake. God, who first ordered ‘light to shine in darkness’, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten people only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ.
7-13 This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives. We are always facing death, but this means that you know more and more of life. Our faith is like that mentioned in the scripture: ‘I believed and therefore I spoke’.
14 For we too speak because we believe, and we know for certain that he who raised the Lord Jesus from death shall also by him raise us. We shall all stand together before him.
The first paragraph of this passage announces the centrality of Jesus while relating him at all points to the story of creation.
The Messiah is the “image of God” which is in Genesis, humanity male and female. Jesus Messiah reconstitutes humanity in God’s image. He is what human beings were meant to be. So Paul’s message is no religious cult, and needs no hocus- locus as it is grounded in human knowledge of human nature. The special enlightenment which the Gospel of Jesus brings is nothing other than the first divine command of creation, “Let there be light. ”
Paul acknowledges that the spirit of this world, that is, the arrogant spirit of Adam and Eve still blinds people to God’s glory, but he asserts that those who trust Jesus see God’s glory shining in his human character. These references to Genesis place Paul’s message in the context of Jewish faith, while insisting that the life of Jesus is the place where God’s glory is to be seen. God’s creation of the universe and her/ his rescue of humanity in Jesus are the one divine process in Paul’s view.
The second paragraph reflects wonderfully on how the precious message of Jesus has been entrusted to frail human beings like Paul, who are like Adam made of dust. This ensures that the message is not confused with any religious power – there are no semi-divine beings in Paul’s mission- but the message is carried by weak and vulnerable agents, who like Jesus, risk death, in order that God’s life may be transmitted to people. If they were successful human beings they could transmit a worldly power, but as they are weak, they can only transmit God’s power. Paul’s description of the life of emissaries is eloquent: in worldly terms they are failures, but in Messianic terms they are bearers of the life of Jesus, crucified and risen.
Paul is quite clear: only those who identify themselves with the executed Messiah can carry the message of his risen glory. He invites his converts to see that the new life they experience has been given them by emissaries who have put their own lives at risk. There is an important criterion here. The test of authenticity for Christian leaders is whether their lives are conformed to the executed Jesus. Oh dear.