The Paradoxical Life of the Christian

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“By honour and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (KJV, 2 Cor. 6:8-10).

In 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 Paul highlights the paradoxical life of the Christian. The context is that of Paul speaking as God’s ambassador. Paul had been reconciled to God. He had been given the ministry of reconciliation. As a result, God made His appeal through Paul. However, every Christian has been given the ministry of reconciliation and should heed the apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 and 6.

As the reader approaches chapter 6, he sees that Paul was concerned with the Corinthians not receiving the grace of God in vain. Therefore, he told them that today was the day of salvation. On Paul’s end, he ensured that his conduct was upright and blameless before the Corinthians. The reason was that Paul would not place a stumbling block in front of them, hindering them from accepting the Gospel.


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Instead, in all things, Paul presented himself as a worker approved by God. Second Corinthians 6:4-7 is the first half of the many things in which Paul established himself as approved of God. The passage for the present devotional is the second half of Paul’s list. In it, one can see the paradoxical nature of the Christian life.

“By honour and dishonor”

The first paradox on Paul’s list was that of honor and dishonor. The Christian is a dishonored man in this life. He goes against the grain. He is in the world but not of the world. He is a pilgrim passing through, and the more he seeks to be like Christ, the more he will appear as a stranger. The word stranger bears the meaning of being strange.

A true Christian is a little strange. He is different. He does not blend in with the crowd. Instead, he stands out. Not necessarily because he wants to, either. He would prefer to be like Jesus, Who sent away the crowds and told people not to tell of His works, but nonetheless, His peculiar lifestyle is what it is. As a result, it draws the attention of onlookers.


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Paul said elsewhere, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised” (1 Cor. 4:10). Here we see Paul contrasting the life of the Corinthians with his own. Paul followed in the path of Christ and therefore received similar treatment. However, just as with Jesus, some looked upon his ministry with spiritual eyes, and thus Paul was honored.

“by evil report and good report”

The reports concerning Paul consisted of a mixture of the good and the bad. Scripture says, “Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Cor. 4:13). Nevertheless, one can read of the many churches Paul was involved in and the grand reception he received from some.

“as deceivers, and yet true”

Although his words were the truth, Paul was often viewed as a deceiver. Yet again, we see the ministry of Paul in line with that of Jesus. When Jesus cast out demons in the sight of the religious elite, they claimed He was casting out demons by the prince of demons.

His opponents made Paul a liar, so he sought to vindicate his ministry. Paul stated, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Cor. 9:1-2). Paul was an apostle who was freed from the law. He witnessed the resurrected Christ, and his ministry bore fruit for the Lord. Nevertheless, he was made to be a deceiver while proclaiming the truth of his Lord.

“As unknown, and yet well known”

What Paul was referencing was that he was not recognized in his ministry. Indeed people were aware of Paul. They knew who he was and what he stood for. Even the demons knew his name. Many sought his life after he became a Christian. Before his conversion, the Christians witnessed the death of Stephen at his hands.

However, while many turned their backs on Paul’s message and discarded his ministry, God recognized the work of His servant. In speaking to Timothy, Paul said, “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his…” (2 Tim. 2:19). Paul was well known by God, and in that, Paul found his strength.

“as dying, and, behold, we live”

At the beginning of 2 Corinthians, Paul tells of his adversity in Asia. He was so burdened beyond his strength that he despaired of life. Death was at the forefront of his mind and thoughts. The ministry was hard on Paul. From a natural perspective, any day could have been his last.

However, Paul could also say, “…but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). Paul’s outer man was perishing before his eyes, but at the same time, God was working within Paul to make him more like Jesus.

“as chastened, and not killed”

Paul was brutally beaten for his ministry. He carried around visible scars which identified him with his Savior. He served the Lord “In stripes…” (2 Cor. 6:5). But not only in stripes, “…in stripes above measure…” (2 Cor. 11:23). The Jews sought to end the ministry of Paul. Of the Jews and Paul, it was said, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one” (2 Cor. 11:24). Paul was familiar with being chastened, but only in God’s perfect timing would Paul’s life come to an end.

“As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”

Paul’s life was a mixture of sorrow and joy. Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was imprisoned. The prison would have been a sorrowful place. When the prison was crowded, the common practice was to drown the prisoners to create more room for new ones. Nevertheless, in a place that would have brought about many reasons to be sorrowful, Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). Rejoicing was a resounding theme of Paul’s life. So it should also be a constant state of the Christian.

“as poor, yet making many rich”

Paul gave up a lot to follow Christ. The disciples gave up their livelihood during Christ’s earthly ministry to follow the One Who had nowhere to lay his head. Even the foxes would have seemingly had more to offer a man as they had holes to live in. To follow Christ truly meant bearing the cross.

Paul was a poor man but possessed eternal riches. He was much like Peter and John who, upon seeing the lame man at the gate begging for alms, claimed, “…Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Paul may not have had earthly riches, but those who believed in His message became rich beyond measure.

“as having nothing, and yet possessing all things”

Finally, Paul had nothing materially to offer his followers, for he possessed nothing. Nevertheless, Paul had been given many spiritual blessings, which he sought to share with those who would receive them. He said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Paul was a blessed man, although not by worldly standards. He had much to give but not in the eyes of those who sought worldly things.

Paul truly lived the paradoxical Christian life. So will anyone who seeks to follow Jesus.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the example of Paul. Help me to live like him and honor You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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