In this chapter, Paul defends the gospel he taught in the face of severe criticism in Corinth. False teaching, party spirit and worldly wisdom had encouraged arrogant and power-hungry people to declare that Paul should not be trusted: he was not teaching the truth, they said. Paul knew he did not need to vindicate himself (Romans 12:19), but he had to defend the gospel. It was God's secret which He authorised the apostles to release to the world. The great privilege was also a great responsibility; and Paul was determined to be faithful by only revealing what Christ had taught him (Colossians 1:25-26).
Paul did not boast about being an apostle. He simply stated that he was not a master of the truth, merely its servant (Ephesians 3:7). He was a trustee with the responsibility to deliver God's message fully and without any alteration. The church's opinion of Paul, or even his own opinion of himself, carried no weight compared to God’s opinion.
Unlike the whims of human philosophy which gather short term supporters, the gospel is unchanging (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). Its messengers are not judged by popularity polls or legal processes, but assessed by the Lord at the end of time. Only He knows their motivation and the fruitfulness of their ministry. Those who have been faithful will be rewarded. So, Paul was looking for the Lord's commendation and firmly rejected the opportunity of bending the gospel message to suit what people wanted.
Yet, in every generation, the church has been plagued by people who distort the gospel. They may make it over-severe and demand good works to atone for sin; or they may liberalise it, claiming that all are saved; or they may mystify the message and claim that only a small elite group can know God's secret; or they may say that Christ's death was not a substitutionary sacrifice for sin … the list of perversions is endless. Like Paul, it is not our job to invent a gospel we like but to present the gospel which Christ first revealed to the apostles. So pray for your leaders that they will faithfully transmit what the apostles taught. And do not be ashamed to share it with your friends and colleagues (www.crosscheck.org.uk); whatever they think of it, the Lord will reward your faithfulness.
© Dr Paul Adams