Exploring the Scripture
Today’s passage suggests the uneasy relationship the Apostle Paul had with the people of Corinth. That association included arguments, corrective direction, and loving connection. In this letter, Paul is found in a defensive posture striving to garner support for his interpretation of the gospel in the face of challenges from so-called “super apostles.” These people promoted a self-focused message rather than the Christ-centered message Paul proclaimed.
Paul suggests the “super apostles” interpretation was from “the god of this world” (v. 4). Scholars and theologians disagree to whom or what the phrase “god of this world” refers. Possible definitions include another supernatural force, false loyalties to the present generation, or perhaps Satan. Theologian G. Oliver Wagner offers some others: love of success, hunger for power and privilege, seeking after wealth, blind nationalism, and church tradition.
However, there is agreement that no matter precisely what the phrase refers to, this “god” veiled or caused blindness in the minds of unbelievers and kept them from “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (v. 4). Many people were focused on the things of the world rather than on the things of God.
Perhaps this is an application of one of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:19–21, he is quoted as saying,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A second theme Paul lifts is that those promoting this self-focused interpretation of the gospel wanted to proclaim themselves—to place themselves in the spotlight. He then says, “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake" (v. 5). This is a two-fold message. First, followers of Jesus should not proclaim or promote themselves because there is only one worthy of such worship: Jesus Christ.
Paul suggests light does not come from us, but that divine light can shine through us because God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Paul's words suggest disciples of Christ should be slaves to people “for Jesus’ sake,” extending hospitality to all and not seeing themselves as somehow greater than others.
Project Zion Podcast
Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.
- We must be careful to proclaim Jesus Christ and not ourselves.
- Human, worldly wisdom is nothing compared to the light of God.
- One should be careful not to have the “god of this world” captivate them and, thus, blind them to the real message of the gospel.
Questions to Consider
- Through what means and by whom might the gospel’s message be “veiled” in today's world?
- What can we do to make sure we are indeed listening to the wisdom of God and not applying that measurement to worldly wisdom?
- Can you recall a time when you felt the presence of God’s wisdom rather than that of the world because of your spiritual preparation and formation?
- What practices have you found to be helpful in your spiritual formation? What other practices could you use to go deeper?