October 15, 2022
By Gina Padilla
In reading through 2 Corinthians recently I was struck by how the apostle Paul, who experienced a personal encounter with Jesus that literally knocked him to the ground, had to defend himself to others who considered him an unworthy apostle. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is being bad-mouthed by so-called “super-apostles” and he begrudgingly discusses himself in his defense. He’d much rather talk about Christ and boast in Him, but some in the Corinthian church are being misled and Paul needs to refute the charges of these “Super-Apostles.”
These “Super-Apostles” denigrated Paul and challenged his credentials. We find this laughable now, but the people of Corinth were no different than us in judging by appearance and status. Who do we follow on social media, slick preachers that give us “feels” or ones who preach bold Truth that challenges us?
Validity in the Christian faith should be measured by the heart – it was true for the Corinthian Christians and true for us today. Come with me as I indulge in a little creative license. Imagine if social media existed in the first century AD and Paul was met with a well-intentioned, but misguided PR person who wants to “help” Paul with his image:
“Hey Paul, I know you are the guy that met with Jesus, and you have a great testimony, but these Super Apostles are everywhere now. They are slick and polished, and they make everyone feel good! The gospel should feel good, right? So, I think it’d be better if you talked about yourself more. You can talk about Jesus, too, but really talk about yourself, your experiences and what you’ve done. That will really show people how spiritual you are! And you should really talk about your Third Heaven trip more! I took the liberty of putting down some information that we can put into a bio for you. We can post it on Linked-In and then link it to all your feeds. Just an FYI – your Linked-In profile is really out of date. It still has all your Pharisee stuff on there. The picture is good, a little scary, though, but we can soften that with some filters.”
I imagine Paul looking amusedly at his “bio”, his eyes skimming over all of his “accomplishments.”
Paul, formerly Saul, of Tarsus
- Roman, Hebrew, Israelite: Tribe of Benjamin
- Education: Mentored under Gamaliel – Super Pharisee
- Work Experience:
- Pharisee – Doctor of the Law
- Personal encounter with Living Christ
- Lost sight and then received it back (miracle!)
- Prolific church starter: Corinth, Athens, Rome, Philippi, Ephesus, Antioch, Macedonia, Colossae, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea
- Managed thousand denarii budget of all churches
- Managed thousand denarii charitable fund for widows and orphans
- Other Experience:
- Extensive travel
- Asia Minor
- Third Heaven
- Extensive travel
- Works well in challenging environments
- Peter, apostle of Jesus
- James, brother of Jesus
I see Paul smiling as he asks the PR person, “You don’t mention my beatings, imprisonments or shipwrecks.”
The PR person would laugh, “Paul, baby, of course I did! See right there, ‘works well in challenging environments,’ I would say prison is a challenging environment, wouldn’t you? ‘Resilient,’ see that? They beat you, but you’re still here, right? ‘Seaworthy’ – not even three shipwrecks can keep you down!”
Paul would gently tell him, “You don’t understand. I did nothing. Christ did all this.” He would then hand the tablet back to the PR guy and tell him to delete the profile.
The PR guy would panic, “Paul, I know you don’t like to say anything about yourself, but you must. Everyone is doing it! You’re losing the Corinthians, and there’s some murmuring in Galatia. To sell Christ, we have to first sell you! Just give me one thing! What do you want to be known as: Paul, Super-Missionary, Super-Paul, Blinded by the Christ! Hey, that’s catchy! I can sell that all day long!”
As I amused myself with this imagining, I couldn’t help but wonder how often I am like those first century Corinthians being more enamored with image than with substance. I had to ask myself, am I attracted to the message or the messenger? Am I more concerned about my image than the condition of my heart? Am I getting caught up in “my” accomplishments and forgetting where my blessings come from? Am I worried more about how I look and how I am perceived than my relationship with Christ?
The snare of the world is nothing new. The gospel isn’t something to be sold, it’s something to be told. Just because first-century Corinth didn’t have the internet doesn’t mean it didn’t have a grapevine. People talked, gossiped, and slandered just like they do today – albeit probably not as fast. The Truth, as always, is only found in the Word.
As I pondered this, I thought back to Paul talking with the PR guy:
“C’mon Paul, just one tagline. How about, ‘Paul, blinded by Christ! I really like that one!’”
Paul will turn and smile, “How about, Paul, a slave of Christ.”
“A slave? A slave has nothing!”
“Quite the opposite, my friend. In Christ I have everything.”
“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in labor, sleepless nights, and hunger; in purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, slander and praise; viewed as imposters, yet genuine; as unknown, yet well-known; dying, and yet we live on; punished, yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.“2 Corinthians 6:4-10 NIV
Photo Credit: Mateus Campos Felipe
Great perspective! I love the sample bio for Paul and how he hypothetically would have responded to it.