2 Corinthians 12:19 – Building Up the Church

Building a Church

Building a Church

Looking back on everything he has written thus far, Paul says his defense of himself is really intended to “upbuild” (ESV) the church.  Paul considers his letter to be a legal defense against an attack coming from his opponents in Corinth. He describes it as an apology in the legal sense of the word (ἀπολογέομαι). Acts 24:10 uses the word for Paul’s legal defense before Felix, the Roman governor. Paul has been defending himself, but not for the purpose of winning the argument with the church and proving himself to have been in the right all along. His goal in this defense is to build up the church in Christ.

The word Paul uses is used for buildings or structures (οἰκοδομή), the ESV uses the odd word “upbuild” the NIV has “strengthening,” the KJV has “edifying.” Paul uses this metaphor frequently to refer to things that “build up” the church in contrast to tearing down the church (1 Cor 14:12, spiritual gifts, 14:16, orderly worship). In Romans 15:2 it refers to speech which “builds up” a neighbor.

Paul has used architectural metaphors in 1-2 Corinthians several times (the temple of the Holy Spirit, etc.) Sometimes to construct something new old things must be destroyed. Old structures need to be demolished and the ground needs to be properly prepared for a new structure to be built. Edification therefore requires Paul to occasionally knock down old ways of thinking (especially the pagan worldview of the Corinthian church) before he can build up the church to maturity.

Change EverythingIf the church felt they had been wronged by Paul or they were offended by his change in plans, it was because their suspicions about Paul were wrong or the accusations coming from the opponents were wrong. Paul’s defense in the last few chapters was to allay their fears so that their anger with Paul will no longer hinder their maturity in Christ. If Paul has hurt the church, it is because it as necessary to tear down their existing ways of thinking in order to replace those structures with a Christ-like world view.

This is a very difficult aspect of ministry to get right since most people in the church feel attacked if a pastor tries to deal with tough issues from the pulpit. I think Paul has it right, he preaches Christ crucified seeks to apply the death and resurrection to all aspects of life. In my experience, preaching through the text of the the Bible will raise issues in context churches need to hear.

To a large extent, any pastor who is leading a congregation needs to worry less about their reputation or legacy than the spiritual growth of their congregation. A pastor who is seeking to pad out a resume for the next (bigger and better) church has completely missed the point of being a servant of Jesus Christ.

12 thoughts on “2 Corinthians 12:19 – Building Up the Church

  1. My grandpa is a pastor and is always working in his shop, similar to Paul, my grandpa likes to talk in architectural metaphors and analogies as it is something that he can relate to. I can understand where the people of Corinth are coming from when hearing these things from Paul because the truth hurts. In the blog post it mentioned that it can be very challenging to be a part of the congregation and the pastor talks about something difficult, but the purpose of the message is not to make you feel comfortable or complacent in your faith, the message is to make you grow your foundation in the faith. In my Bible, NIV, the word that Paul used was “strengthening” but I feel that the KJV says it best. Edifying, providing moral or educational instruction. As a pastor we are meant to provide for the church and let the people know what to do and what we should avoid according to the doctrine. Although it may be difficult, it is better to have that firm foundation in a building which is set in stone rather than in sand. Just like Paul is trying to do, he is not wanting to prove himself to the church, but rather build their foundations in their faith so when it comes to a time where they are challenged, then they can go through the storm knowing who their faith is put in. That seems crazy to some people is faith to another person. Paul seemed crazy in the eyes of the world and their pagans’ ways but when the Church realizes what he did, it will be looked at as faith instead of craziness. I find it to be very difficult to see Paul and what he did in his life especially with all the opposition that he had to face when trying to rebuild the faith in these areas. In 1 Corinthian 16:8-9, Paul stays in Ephesus because even though he knows that people will oppose him, he understands how effective his works will be if they do change. In today’s world it can be very hard to do something knowing that people will be against, yet Paul seems to do it effortlessly. The faith that he has in Christ is so strong that he doesn’t need the approval of others to do the work of the Lord. Paul realizes that there is opposition to the Lord which means there is an opportunity to lead others to the life that he has. I feel that this is how we are supposed to live our lives if we want to make impacts on those that don’t have a solid foundation in their faith.

  2. Paul has done a wonderful job just being a servant of God and not worrying about his reputation. I’m sure he knew coming in that it was going to be hard and he had to make sure and stay grounded in his faith and be guided by the holy spirit. The one line that stood out to me in this passage was the one about reputation, and being obedient to God. It’s hard when people don’t like you and are threatening you, to worry about your reputation. Paul didn’t though he kept on going listening and obeying God. This is important because the hearts of the Corinth people are what he is after at the end of the day. It is kind of like keeping your eye on the prize, and not getting distracted.

  3. I feel like it is so important for a pastor to pass on as much knowledge about the Bible as they can. If they put their own and personal reputation or “fame” ahead of the church, then they will typically fail the people of the church. They have to let the idea of leading a church go and regain the focus of representing God. In the article, Professor Long states “If Paul has hurt the church, it is because it is necessary to tear down their existing ways of thinking in order to replace those structures with a Christ-like world view” (Long, 2015). Paul knew what he had to do. If the people did not agree with him, he knew he was doing his job. Providing new knowledge to his people only benefited them more. I feel like it is so important to put feelings aside and to hear the ideas out to gain a new perspective on ideas just in general. In Thinking Through Paul, Longenecker states “Paul feels he had a right to speak severely to them, just as a father has cause at times to speak severely to his children (4:14-16)” (Longenecker, 120). Not everything that happened in the Bible is easy to talk about. Paul makes sure to mention some of these topics to not make the people feel uncomfortable, but to help them grow their knowledge and trust in the Lord. It is so important to build a strong and faithful basis in your religion. This is one of Paul’s main focuses and goals. He wants the people to gain a strong foundation to their religion. Paul disregards his own reputation and feelings to talk about the Bible and hard topics so that the people he was teaching could build their faith. We all need to think about the way Paul preached to the people, as he did not look for any approval from them, but to teach them. We need to not be so insecure and worried about what others think, so we can also help strengthen others’ relationships with God or bring them to the Lord. Paul sets us with good concepts on how to touch other people that every Christian should practice upon.

  4. Coming from a charismatic background I grew up in a church where my pastor wasn’t afraid to truthfully be blunt with the Word of God. I would often hear my pastor say “I wasn’t put on this earth and called by God to sugar coat things”, I never understood what this meant until I started to grow in my relationship with Christ. In today’s society there are so many topical issues that are avoided in the church because the congregation or pastor is afraid of losing members or being slandered. Unfortunately it seems as though more than half the churches out in western religion seek approval from the things of man rather than the things of God. There is a way to go about preaching the word in a loving way, but too much love and acceptance can lead others astray. It’s important that pastors still preach love but also correct the wrongdoings. If Paul was scared of offending the Corinthians while preaching he might as well have walked away from the city all together. I understand that truthful preaching is a tough subject to clash with due to today’s society but we as Christians were not made to blend in with the rest of society. If one is afraid of offending a people group, one individual may never get to hear what their soul and spirit longs for. Each pastor has a different style, not every one of them is going to be a charismatic preacher jumping up and down, getting on top of chairs and sternly getting his points across during the sermons like I grew up. Others might have a quiet, soft approach which is also totally fine. But preachers are in fear of offending others so much that they are straying away from preaching the truth that needs to be heard among believers.

    Ephesians 4:25

  5. Paul was a great example for pastors to follow. Pastors are not supposed to be worried about their reputation with people but with God. God calls pastors to speak truth and share the Gospel and to follow what the Bible says. Galatians 1:10 states, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” When church pastors are focused on themselves and what other people believe instead of the Bible. They should check their own heart, because the Bible is very clear on believers. When pastors speak only on what their church community wants to hear it puts them in a bad spot. Church is supposed to make you uncomfortable in a good way, because it is supposed to cause growth. When people go to church they should go home and read the message for themselves and study it. To make sure that the pastor was accurate. People will learn a lot from church if they started to do this. Paul is an example to us also because he reconciled with the Corinthians, he did not just let them go. Even though they wronged him, he still made things right with them while he was hurting and in pain because of their actions against him. It is important to read and learn the Bible on your own along with listening to sermons and going to Bible studies. Reading the scripture by yourself and learning about what God has to say is important because sometimes the people that you are listening to make a mistake and they are wrong. That’s why it is important to learn it on your own along with others.

  6. Ministry is a tricky business to get into. There are several reasons for this, the main reason being that the gospel should be offensive to most people when it is properly preached. Think about it: one of the key facts of the Gospel is that we are all sinners – that’s why we need a savior. But to preach that we are all sinners, we must tell people they are wrong, that they mess up, that they have problems. In order to lead people to salvation, they first have to know that they are condemned, in order to understand their need for a savior, and that is offensive to people. All preachers will be judged harshly, but especially those who preach from the Bible. James 3:1 expresses that those who teach will be judged more strictly, and preachers are the biggest teachers of the Bible. I do not think that this verse refers to being judged by mankind, but that is also true. Pastors truly need to be able to place the growth of their congregation above their own reputation, because preaching through the Bible will offend some people. I think that Paul is able to claim his defense as upbuilding for the church because his defense shows he has been preaching the gospel, and that is ultimately the goal. I wonder why specifically the word used is the word for buildings and structures. Is it simply for the purpose of the metaphor? Were there other words that could have referred to upbuilding, or was that the only form of the word? I also think that this concept fits well with the chapel theme for this year: be renewed. Being renewed is not just adding onto the old, it is a process that gets rid of the old and allows a space for the new to be built.

  7. I know quite a few pastors from the few churches that I have been to. My childhood church where I had attended for many years that saw three different pastors who I became very close with a couple of them and still occasionally, talk with him and his family. From what I know about them is that they care about their job and teaching others about God’s word and and less about their reputation and the money that comes along with being a pastor. There are things that you need to talk about in the church that me be a concerning subject to certain attenders. In the past couple years, we have seen the church being divided more and more based on people’s beliefs. We are now seeing what are called “super church” where I believe that these pastors are there for the money, yes they teach people but they care more about their reputation than those who belong in a small church. The community that attends smaller churches tend to have better relationships with those in the church where the pastor can reach their needs for what they might want to hear and learn about where in a big church, you can’t get that same feedback from the church. P Long states that the church is not the building itself but the people who make up the church. This is something that I did not hear until a few years ago when my pastor was speaking on this topic. I thought it was very interesting in the way that the church is the people that are underneath the roof of the building. From that day, this is something that has stuck in my head since that day.

  8. Here, Paul is truly one of the best examples for having preached the gospel and to teach biblical truths regardless of offending others or losing his own reputation. Far too often, modern church pastors are more focused on maintaining their reputations and avoiding at all costs offending others. It is during these times that as a result the pastor begins to deviate from the scriptures altogether. If pastors are to take on this particular ministry within the church, it should be vital for each pastor to seek to only please God in all that they preach. Paul showed genuine care and concern for the church at Corinth and was willing to preach what was needed at that moment in order to protect the church from the influence of society and the temptations of sin. So; with setting Paul as the example as seen in Corinth, what are modern church pastors doing to fully dedicate themselves to guiding, teaching, and protecting their own church congregations?

  9. I can sense Paul’s frustration with the Corinthians in this particular section. He’s been put on blast for his “hurtful visit,” questionable apostolic authority, and accusations of taking advantage of the people there, and he’s left to defend himself. Yet, he has so much care and concern for the people that he doesn’t want them to get the wrong idea of what he’s trying to do or hurt them even more. Thus, his main rebuttal is that “everything [he] does, is to strengthen [them]” (v.19).
    I think you point out a great observation in that his wording compares to other architectural metaphors that emphasize the need to sometimes tear down before building up. Both of these Corinthian letters are clear in that the congregation is not on the right track. There are a ton of issues and things that are hindering spiritual growth in their lives and the church, which is why Paul is making these statements. There’s no doubt that Paul loves this church, and there’s no way that the harsh comments he makes do not have a purpose. Just as “the Lord disciplines the one He loves” (Heb. 12:6), Paul is not making these comments to harm the people, but to build them up.
    The role of a pastor today is to do the same for their congregation. One who simply preaches what the people want to here and refuses to ruffle up a few feathers, when it’s needed, does not care for the congregation. A pastor/teacher is looked up to for correct doctrinal teaching and clear guidance, but when that guidance has an ulterior motive to just sound nice, it hurts everyone in the end.

  10. While reading through this passage, I found that the phrase “building up the church” is simply Paul creating the Corinthian church from the structure of a Christ-like world view. Paul is wanting to make an impact on his church that people will remember him for in a way that individuals are living life in a similar perspective of Christ. A final thought that I have from this passage was how strongly Paul preached the gospel. Preaching in a sense that Christ’s crucifixion seeks to apply both the death and resurrection to all aspects of life.

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