Preaching and Character

While preparing for Sunday’s message on 2 Corinthians 5:17, I came across a great quote from William Barclay.  I disagree with Barclay on some points, including on his understanding of the phrase “fear of the Lord” in 2 Corinthians 5:11.  He suggests,

It is not so much the terror of the Christ he really talks about.  It is rather awe and reverence that he means (Barclay, The Letter to the Corinthians, 207).

We will agree to disagree on this interpretation.  However, he nails it with his comments on v. 12 which reads, “We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.”  Here’s what he says.  This is a tremendous reminder for all preachers and teachers of God’s word and also for every one who proclaims Christ in their daily spheres of influence.

Paul is trying to persuade men of his own sincerity.  He has no doubt whatever that in the sight of God his hands are clean and his motives pure, but his enemies have cast suspicion on them, and he wishes to demonstrate his sincerity to his Corinthian friends.  This is not from any selfish desire to vindicate himself.  It is from the knowledge that, if his sincerity is questioned, the impact of his message will be injured.  A man’s message will always be heard in the context of his character.  That is why the preacher and the teacher must be beyond suspicion.  We have to avoid, not only evil, but the very appearance of evil lest anything make others think less, not of us, but of the message which we bring (emphasis added, Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, 208)

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