Wednesday Evening: Sam Harbin -- "Leadership under Attack"

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After a beautiful time of worship (with strings, guitar, piano, and vocals) singing songs like: Before the Throne of God Above, In Christ Alone, It Is Well, and How Can I Keep from Singing, Dr. Sam Harbin launched into a great overview of 2 Corinthians.


  • Corinth had an enormous middle class; and in that middle class, the way you got ahead was by the acquisition of wealth and status. Sounds like our culture.
  • In Corinth, there was a great emphasis on the heroes of the culture.  They had special honor for those who could speak well. They embraced a class of traveling teachers of the Sophists tradition. Sophisticated haughtiness became a virtue.
  • If you picked one of the temples in Corinth, you would hear the same message: salvation was about deliverance from suffering now, power in daily life. They wanted health and wealth, protection and sustenance, not moral transformation.
  • The believers in Corinth had an “over realized eschatology.” They believed in the “already” and didn’t need the “not yet.” They had a spiritual smugness.
  • Into this climate come the super-apostles.  They come from out of town, opposing Paul’s ministry, with letters of commendation, touting their own credentials. In order for them to survive, they had to attack Paul’s leadership.  The two could not co-exist. Their leadership philosophy:
    • Promote yourself. “We’re in the line of Moses!”
    • Endear yourself. Give people what they want using the rhetorical tricks of the trade. (4:2)
    • Enrich yourself. (2:17) “peddling the word”
  • They attacked Paul in the following ways:
    • “He suffers too much”
    • “He is unimpressive in speech and appearance.”
    • “He does not take money for his work.”
  • If this were you, what seems like the natural response to such vicious slander? Fight fire with fire? Give them a Sunday sermon their grandkids will still be talking about? Paul does the exact opposite.  He starts the letter by agreeing with their first charge “He suffers too much.” Through the letter, he agrees with all three of the charges.
  • But in chapter three, Paul explains his unusual strategy of leadership. (3:4-6)
  • Paul was unique in certain ways. But still we can see a general pattern that is legitimately applicable to all shepherds who want to be faithful to the Great Shepherd.

Text: 2 Corinthians 4

Paul’s leadership philosophy:

  • Get over yourself! (v. 5)

    • Leadership that flows from the Gospel is not self-fixating.
    • “Jars of Clay”
    • He does not boast in accomplishment but in weakness.
    • Our tendency is to take credit when wonderful things happen. Not Paul.  There is humility.
    • Article “Naked Preachers Are Distracting” – the idea that preachers confess their sins in preaching to relate to their people. “If you don’t have a prayer life, don’t whine about it in the pulpit.  Go home and get one.”
    • Paul admits in ch. 11 that he is unskilled in speaking but that’s alright! Aren’t you glad it’s not based on our skill set but on God’s grace?
  • Lift Up Christ. (v. 5)
    • By trusting the power of His Word
    • By avoiding manipulation (2:17).
    • By not clinging jealously to our authority (10:8)
    • By imaging for others the suffering and resurrected Christ (4:10-11)
    • Lifting up Christ is not just about preaching pretty sermons.  It’s about seeing Christ in our lives, enduring what should break us.  There is something very compelling and intriguing about that. 
  • Bless others. (v. 5)
    • Consider the needs of others as more important than our own.
    • 12:15 is quite a statement.
    • 11:28 has always intrigued me.
    • It’s difficult to compare the lack of some middle-class preacher comforts as the way we suffer for the Lord, especially compared to Paul’s accounting in ch. 10-13.
    • Paul is willing to sacrifice his comfort so the people could know Christ and the Gospel.
    • If suffering needs to be empowered by the spirit of God, so does our serving.
    • This service is motivated by the coming return of Christ. (ch. 5:9-10)
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Todd Wood's picture

More on Corinth. Interesting.

(The phrase in the introduction - “over realized eschatology" caught my attention. It is just a sidenote, but I can see this in I Corinthians. Jesus said there would be no marriage in heaven. Perhaps a radical wing of the Corinthian church was pushing for the realization of that now. Be single. If you are married, get divorced. Become an eschatological woman or man.)