Eloquent speech and Paul’s cross-shaped leadership

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:1–4,

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (NIV)

How should we understand this passage?

Frank Matera, 2 Corinthians (Louisville: Westminster, 2003), says the following.

What Paul means by ‘another Jesus’ is problematic, since he never explicitly explains how the teaching of the intruders differs from the gospel he preaches. Consequently, one must be careful not to read too much into this statement by suggesting, for example, that the intruders espoused a ‘heretical’ Christology. It is more likely that the real conflict between Paul and the intruders concerned issues of ministerial style and jurisdiction, which in Paul’s perspective cannot be separated from the gospel, since they reflect one’s view of Christ. As Paul will show in his foolish boasting, there is an intimate connection between the way in which one exercises apostolic ministry and the gospel message that one preaches. For example, because suffering, hardship, and weakness are such integral parts of his ministry, the gospel that he preaches necessarily focuses on the paradox of the cross and the crucified Christ who manifests God’s power through weakness. Conversely, because Paul’s gospel focuses on the cross and the crucified Christ, he understands suffering, hardship, and weakness as integral parts of his apostolic ministry. If, in contrast, the intruding apostles focused attention on their powerful deeds, eloquent speech, and ecstatic experiences, it is unlikely that the cross of the crucified Christ played as central a role in their preaching. Conversely, if their preaching was concerned first an foremost with the power of the pneumatic Lord, they would have been more inclined to boast of the outward manifestations of that power in their own ministry. Understood in this way, Paul is quite correct when he accuses the intruders of preaching ‘another Jesus.’ (pages 243-4; emphasis added)
 
Although an outsider might view these approaches to ministry merely as different ways of preaching the same gospel, it is clear that Paul did not, since there can be no other gospel (Gal 1:7). Just as there is an inseparable relation between the minster of the gospel and the gospel that is preached, so there is an intimate relation between the ‘Jesus’ that is preached and the ‘Spirit’ and the ‘gospel’ that is received. In accepting the preaching of the intruders, the Corinthians have experienced a different Spirit, but in Paul’s view it is not the authentic Spirit of Jesus. Likewise they have received another gospel, but since there is only one gospel, it is not the gospel that he preached. (page 244; emphasis added)
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Gospel paradoxes

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Frank J Matera has the following to say about the paradoxes of the gospel.

The Corinthians did not appreciate Paul’s new covenant ministry and their status as a people of the new covenant, in large measure because they did not grasp the paradoxical nature of the gospel Paul preached to them. In their view, Paul’s afflictions and sufferings were signs of weakness that were unworthy of an apostle of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, when other preachers arrived at Corinth who appeared more powerful and eloquent many of the Corinthians sided with them and criticized Paul. Although the conflict between Paul and the Corinthians was undoubtedly multifaceted, it was ultimately rooted in the inability or the refusal of the Corinthians to embrace the paradoxical nature of the gospel that Paul had already discussed in 1 Cor 1–4. In 2 Corinthians Paul develops this paradox in relation to his apostolic sufferings and weaknesses. (page 14)

I have been wondering whether Christians today rely on the “powerful and eloquent” preachers/teachers too much. We like to listen to them because they are such effective communicators and their lives and ministries seem to be (so-called) “incredibly amazing”. I think this is problematic. The apostle Paul, on the other hand, boasts about his weakness, through which God’s power manifests. It is not about his success and power, but God’s resurrection power working through the apostle’s suffering and death.

Something for us to ponder…