My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have been studying 1 and 2 Corinthians with my Community Bible Study group. Not only do I study with an excellent group of ladies, but I also guide learning for middle school and high school students with the material. In order to help myself be able to answer questions and to prepare lessons for the students, I often find some commentaries and Christian living books to be helpful in lesson preparation.
When I came to the final part of 2 Corinthians, I was surprised to find that there were very few commentaries and books to help with my learning. So, I was thrilled to find that one of my favorite authors had written an exposition of the final four chapters of 2 Corinthians.
D. A. Carson writes this cook as part of an effort to help explain what true Christian maturity looks like. If you’re unfamiliar with this section of 2 Corinthians, it is a very harsh section of condemnation for the church. They have allowed some flashy “super-apostles” to come into the church, and the church has begun to question Paul’s authority and mission. Paul begins to discuss the “qualifications” of the “super-apostles” and the call of his ministry. Along the way he discusses thorns in the flesh, spiritual strongholds and calls for the church members to give themselves an examination to test the trueness of their faith.
Carson’s exposition goes verse by verse and both gently explains the text and applies the passages to the Christian life. I want to spend the rest of this review sharing a few of my favorite quotes from the book to hopefully give you a little of the flavor.
Carson says in his discussion of chapter 10: “Argue a skeptic into a corner, and you will not take his mind captive for Christ, but pray for him, proclaim the gospel to him, live out the gospel of peace, walk righteously by faith until he senses your ultimate allegiance and citizenship are vastly different from his own, and you may discover that the power of truth, the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and the glories of Christ Jesus shatter his reasons and demolish his arguments until you take captive his mind and heart to make them obedient to Christ.”
This is Carson’s answer for the question of how we actually go about demolishing strongholds. As any of us who have tried to argue someone to faith knows, convincing someone to faith by arguing is almost impossible. In fact, having an actual argument with a skeptic is usually a step backward for our hopes of winning them to Christ.
Carson on tolerance: The appeal to limitless toleration—not just toleration of the other chap’s right to be wrong, but toleration pushed so far one can never say that anything or anyone is wrong—presupposes the greatest evil is to hold a strong conviction that certain things are true and their contraries are false. Worse, this presupposition operates because of an antecedent presupposition: confident knowledge in religious matters is impossible.
This is the problem of our day, isn’t it? There was a ton of stuff I highlighted in this section because Carson’s argument is that we are more defined by the things we oppose than the things that we tolerate. This is a completely fascinating section, and so relevant to the world we live in.
Carson on the topic of boasting: Christians ought to be greatly ashamed of boasting about strengths, skills, victories, training, successes, and productivity in their lives as if, on the one hand, we either earned those things or deserved them, or as if, on the other, such things make us intrinsically more acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ. What do we have but what we have received? And if we received it as a gracious gift from God, how dare we boast about it (1 Cor. 4:7)?
Boasting is such a huge theme of this chapters, and Paul even answers a fool as a fool and “boasts” of his “accomplishments” in ministry. This section, as well as Caron’s commentating, make me feel a huge swell of conviction for how often I have bragged about all these things as if my victories, accomplishments, etc. were solely due to my own virtue. It is not so! I only have what I have been given, and I have often not even been a good steward of that.
All in all, this is an excellent book, and I enjoyed reading it. It’s something that is best read meditatively and reflectively, with your Bible open to be able to look at the verses as you read and study. Carefully reflecting on the chapters of Corinthians and on Carson’s writing will help you to become more mature in your Christian walk.