(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, we get to 2 Corinthians and you think, “Well, what else can be said about the gospel?” Well, I would title 2 Corinthians, “Different From Anything Else.” Paul, through the vehicle of his own life, lays out for us how this way of living that is the life that is formed by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the life that really finds its hope in what Jesus has done, is different from any other life.
And, he is his most autobiographical here; Paul is his most transparent here. That transparency really begins with 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about this moment where he thought it was the end. He said he had given up hope; and in his heart, he felt this was a sentence of death. Now, this is the great man of faith, the Apostle Paul, who thinks, “This is it! I'm done; it's over!” And he does that again to reinforce that our hope is in God; it's not in us, our reliance is on Him.
And it's a gospel that is contrasted to everything else; it's not the external religion that is so much the man-made religion that so many people have given themselves to. It's a religion of, again, a heart change. It's not about self-glory; it's about humility. It's worship of God versus all of the idols of power and pleasure and wealth.
And you see in 2 Corinthians these contrasts, well, a better word is paradox, like comfort in suffering. I mean, that’s where the book begins. I mean, how can suffering ever bring comfort? But Paul argues that that's what the gospel can do. That this is the gospel of the cross. What does the cross teach us? That God can bring very good things out of very bad things. What is the worst thing that ever happened? The death of Jesus! What is the best thing that ever happened? The death of Jesus! It's strength and weakness.
How could you ever be excited about your weakness? Well, the gospel does that because my weakness is a playground for God's grace; it’s where God's grace does its best work. It's a gospel that is about reconciliation versus living for yourself. It's a gospel that really is different than anything else.
Let me read you one of those passages that I find so moving. Paul writes: (2 Corinthians 4:7ff.)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the (all) surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested (into) our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, death is at work in us, but life in you…So we do not lose heart. Though our (outward) self is wasting away, our (inward) self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
What a beautiful life we’ve been called to. It's not living for the moment, it's not living for what you can see, it's not living for comfort; it's understanding that, although we face struggles every day in this fallen world, every moment, we are being renewed by the presence and promises and power and grace of Jesus!
And this is not our destination; it is a preparation for a final destination; and when we’re on the other side, we will look back and we will name the struggles that seem so big today as light and momentary afflictions. That message is fundamentally different from any other philosophy you will ever hear. It's a radically different gospel infused with glorious, ‘right here right now,’ and eternal hope!