Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review: From Triumphalism to Maturity

In most churches and teaching environments I've experienced, Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians is regularly tackled and taught through. But when it comes to 2 Corinthians, it's dealt with less often. There are the so-called 'purple passages' which might be preached in a stand alone fashion, but 2 Corinthians seems to be harder than 1 Corinthians. It's a letter that has always intrigued me, probably because it's harder to grasp, so I took a helper on holiday with me, in the form of Don Carson, in his book 'From Triumphalism to Maturity'.

The book takes the form of an exposition of chapters 10-13, but as you would expect, the whole letter is referenced and explained by the providing of context and illustration. Writing in the preface, Carson admits that he loves the apostle Paul, but the chapters under scrutiny are among the most intense he has written:

'Arguably, the most intense chapters in all of his writings are those studied here, viz., 2 Corinthians 10-13. Certainly they reveal more about Paul himself - his sufferings, values, motives, wrestlings, and self-perceptions - than any other four chapters of comparable length; yet far from promoting egocentricity, they point unerringly to Jesus Christ and to what it means to be a Christian.'

That really is the most concise summary of what the reader will find discussed, in suitably brilliant Carson style. There are closely argued discussion and weighing of various interpretations, rhetorical flourishes and glimpses of superb writing, helpful illustrations, and Carson's wit which drives the reader onwards.

There is much to be learnt and taken onboard by the pastor who seeks to emulate the 'super apostles' troubling the Corinthians, with corrective and clear instruction on the appropriate models of biblical ministry. Boasting in weakness rather than in imagined strength, in the grace of Christ is the repeated message, not depending on self. It's a key lesson to learn and remember for the pastor, or indeed the Christian, who thinks they have it all sewn up and can manage on their own.

From Triumphalism to Maturity is available from Amazon.

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