The Christian's Legacy

Dr. Eric Radecki - 6/13/2021

What’s This Life For? It’s a good question, and the title of Creed’s #1 song off their 1997 debut album “My Own Prison.” Band members Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti wrote the song following a friend’s suicide. It’s about finding happiness amidst the difficulties of life.

What is this life for? Why are we here? It’s a worldview question. It’s 1 of 3 questions:

  • Where did we come from?
  • Why are we here?
  • Where are we going?

You’ll answer these through the lens you use to perceive the world around you.

So, why are we here? The 19th century American philosopher William James said that “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

He’s talking about legacy; what you leave behind after you’re gone. It’s like your bank account ledger: how you spend your money reflects where your true priorities lie. So it is, what we leave behind—our legacy—reflects what we truly valued and pursued in this life.

The world says…

  • legacy is about “being on the right side of history” (a loaded phrase that today means, “you agree with my take on the socio-political scene)
  • legacy is about jumping on a cause or bandwagon
  • legacy is about what we virtue signal on social media
  • legacy is about what they mine out of our decade-old emails
  • legacy is tweets, tik toks, and “influencers”
  • legacy is about wealth or fame, or celebrity

Rich Mullins, the Christian singer/songwriter said, “If my life is motivated by my ambition to leave a legacy, what I'll probably leave as a legacy is ambition. But if my life is motivated by the power of the Spirit in me, if I live with the awareness of the indwelling Christ, if I allow His presence to guide my actions, to guide my motives... That's the only time I think we really leave a great legacy.”

Mullins must have been reading through Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. He pretty much summed up Paul’s response to those who would challenge his commendation as an Apostle. You see, Paul’s attackers were chasing credentials for themselves based on achievement and association, and attempting to denigrate Paul in the process. They were ambitious for a legacy, and so their legacy was ambition.

But Paul had no use for it, he knew why he was here because he had encountered Christ (and so have you and I, so what do you think that means for us? Foreshadowing!). Paul knew that his call came directly from Christ and quite frankly, he had the tee-shirt to prove it.

Paul sets up this passage with v3, “We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed.” He’s saying, “This is my resume, and it holds up against anyone else’s and against any of my accusers.”

Last week, Jon outlined 4 worldly perspectives that change when we encounter Christ found in chapter 5:

We don’t regard…

  • people
  • Jesus
  • ourselves
  • time

… from a worldly perspective.

We can continue the list today, because here in chapter 6, we’ll see that:

We don’t regard…

  • suffering
  • worldliness
  • 7reality

… from a worldly perspective.

We’ll see those as we look at the text Akindele read for us a moment ago. 6:3-18 (specifically 6-10) is one of Paul’s most beautifully constructed passages, second only to 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, love is kind…). The “love chapter” is often recited at weddings. I can promise that you’ll never hear 2 Corinthians 6:3-18 at a wedding! However, in the Greek language, it’s just as beautifully poetic, full of alliteration, clever turns of phrases, and elaborate construction; most of which doesn’t really come through in translation.

That being said, I need to do my best to demonstrate how the structure of this text itself brings out the meaning of what Paul is saying, even if it comes off somewhat clumsily. So bear with me, and I’ll ask your forgiveness in advance.

In Romans 5, Paul writes: We boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 CSB).

The Apostle Paul says, “Suffering leads to endurance; endurance leads to character. Character leads to hope.”

The wisdom of our age: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, Jedi mystic

I’m not suggesting that suffering can’t result from fear, anger, and hatred. Of course it can, and often does. Yoda’s not wrong. But I am offering a counter perspective. That is, suffering isn’t the end itself, but a means to endurance, character and ultimately our hope in Christ.

In fact, if we take 2 Cor 6:3-16 passage, along with the OT passages he quotes in vv16-18, and hold it all alongside Romans 5:3-4, we’ll see a clear pattern emerge. Romans 5:3-4 states it explicitly. 2 Corinthians 6:3-16 demonstrates it through Paul’s life (his legacy). The OT passages state it in God’s own words.

Take a look at this chart…

Rom. 5:3-4, Suffering produces endurance.

2 Cor. 6:4-8a; Paul’s endurance

OT, Lev. 26:12 (v. 16b); God walks with us.

If we look at v4, it can seem as if endurance is just the first in a very, very long list of trials, but actually it’s the main thing, and everything that follows through v5 is in a giant parentheses. So it reads like this…

We commend ourselves in everything by great endurance

(afflictions, hardships, difficulties; — 3 general sufferings

beatings, imprisonments, riots; — 3 external sufferings

labors, sleeplessness, starvation), — 3 voluntary sufferings

And then he continues the sentence in v6…

by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, sincere love, the word of truth, the power of God, through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left… — inward moral character and the presence of God

Basically, he puts his money where his mouth is. Rom 6:4-7 outlines his resume, badge of Apostleship. Show me your paper resume, and I will show you my endurance. But make no mistake, Paul’s legacy is not one of victimhood. He doesn’t leave it there… It’s by purity, inward moral character and the presence of God in his life, that Paul has been able to endure all the afflictions.

Listen to Leviticus 26:12, which Paul quotes in v16: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

Do you see it? We don’t regard suffering from a worldly perspective because God walks with us.

Let’s go back to our chart…

  • Rom. 5:3-4, Suffering produces endurance.
  • 2 Cor. 6:4-8a; Paul’s endurance
  • OT, Lev. 26:12 (v. 16b); God walks with us.

  • Rom. 5:3-4, Endurance produces character.
  • 2 Cor. 6:14-16a; Paul’s purity
  • OT, Is. 52:11 (v. 17); God sets us apart.

How did Paul endure the suffering? By drawing upon the Holy Spirit, the power of God, the truth of the Gospel… vv6-7 we looked at a moment ago. And because of that, Paul can call the Corinthians—and you and me—to purity as well.

Paul asks pointed, albeit rhetorical questions, we need to wrestle with if we’re going to pursue purity:

What partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness?

What fellowship does light have with darkness?

What agreement does Christ have with Belial? (Satan, or worthlessness)

What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

What agreement does the temple of God have with idols?

This question of being yoked to an unbeliever usually comes up in the context of dating and marriage. The Scriptures testify to what many pastors, including this one, have seen with our own eyes, time and again, and far too often… And if you’re young, single, dating, I plead with you to hear me on this: you won’t be the one who disproves thousands of years of Godly wisdom. Think of Paul’s rhetorical questions when you hear friends say, or if you find yourself saying one of these statements:

“We want to live together to find out if we’ll get along.” You will also find out that at times you don’t get along. Neither of those is a basis for making the decision to marry. If you’re married, there will be times you get along and times you don’t. That’s no big discovery.

“We want to have sex before we’re married to see if we’re compatible.” He’s a male and you’re a female. You’re compatible. Shall I draw a picture?! You don’t have to rebel against God’s promise or design in order to figure that one out. Turn off the noise of the world. It’s mostly nonsense.

“I’m a Christian, but he isn’t, but that’s ok. We have so many other interests in common.” First of all, sharing interests is virtually unimportant for a marriage. Instead, you better work to find out if you share values. And following Christ is a value—the deepest value—not an interest. You can like sci-fi and she can like rom-coms. Fine. Go to movies with friends, or agree to watch an even mix of each together. Whatever. You’re marriage can withstand differences in movie, music, and food preferences. But if you are in Christ and she is not, you’re marriage will be difficult at best, and the spiritual lives of your children will be at risk in more ways and for more reasons than we can fully unpack here today.

I’m not just speaking to young people or unmarried people; these same principles apply to a myriad of relationships and circumstances. And the context here in 2 Corinthians is really much broader than marriage. It’s suffering (ok, no jokes from the husbands, please). How did Paul endure the suffering that came his way? By purity of character and remaining in the presence of God.

In our culture today, we’re keenly aware of the syncretism of religions, and the active push for pluralism. The world would have us water down the Gospel, to merge the lanes of the narrow road and the wide road and just make it one really big wide road. This is the idolatrous message of “Coexist” and “Tolerance” seen so often on bumper stickers, and amplified to 11 in recent years.

But of course:

There is no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness.

There is no fellowship between light and darkness.

There is no agreement between Christ and Belial.

There is nothing in common between a believer and an unbeliever.

There is no agreement between the temple of God and idols.

And who is the temple of God? You and I. And Paul says,

You are the righteousness of Christ, so keep free of lawlessness.

You are light, so outshine darkness.

You are in Christ, so stay out of worthlessness.

You are a believer, so beware of disbelief.

You are the temple of God, so rid yourself of idols.

If you want to withstand the afflictions (sufferings) of life, do yourself a favor and pursue purity. Seek the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of truth, sincere love, and the power of God.

Listen to Isaiah 52:11, which Paul quotes in v17: Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her (he’s referring to Babylon), purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.

Do you see it? We don’t regard worldliness from a worldly perspective because has God sets us apart.

Let’s bring our chart back up…

  • Rom. 5:3-4, Suffering produces endurance.
  • 2 Cor. 6:4-8a; Paul’s endurance
  • OT, Lev. 26:12 (v. 16b); God walks with us.

  • Rom. 5:3-4, Endurance produces character.
  • 2 Cor. 6:14-16a; Paul’s purity
  • OT, Is. 52:11 (v. 17); God sets us apart.

  • Rom. 5:3-4, Character produces hope.
  • 2 Cor. 6:8-13; Paul’s affection
  • OT, 2 Sa. 7:14a (v. 18); God is our Father.

Paul is building his resume, his legacy. The suffering he’s encountered has led to endurance, which produced character, which led to hope.

6:7b-8a—means of his ministry & paradoxical consequences

 Weapons of righteousness

 Glory and dishonor, slander and good report

6:8b-10—contrasts the worldly slanders to the Godly realities:

 Imposters but true

 Unknown but well-known

 Dying but living

 Punished but preserved

 Sorrowful but rejoicing

 Poor but making many rich

 Having nothing but having everything

Paul doesn’t just mention the slanders. That’s what we might expect today. He’s not being triggered here. He only mentions the slanders to highlight the Godly realities. He pushes through the slanders to the truths of living in of Christ. You could be tempted to say Paul is looking for the silver lining. But, as Jon and I discussed this passage this week, he rightly pointed out, it’s really a grace lining. Looking for a silver lining is an exercise in the power of positive thinking. But this is more concrete than that. Paul is keyed into grace here. He knows that it’s not on his own, but through the power of God in his life that he can make the boasts of vv8-10. Paul’s resume, his legacy, stands.

6:11-13—Paul says, “So there it is. I’ve laid it all out. Won’t you be as open and vulnerable with me as I have been with you?” Like a Father, Paul is pleading for his spiritual children to follow in his footsteps, to be open to the fruit that is produced through suffering and risk vulnerability by returning like-mannered affection.

Listen to 2 Samuel 7:14a, which Paul quotes in v18: I will be his father, and he will be my son.

Do you see it? We don’t regard reality from a worldly perspective because God is our Father.

The process of hope produced by character, produced by endurance, produced by suffering, prepared Paul for his ministry of the Gospel. And now we must ask, “So what?” What difference does it make in my life? I’m glad you asked.

First, I hope you can appreciate the beauty of Scripture. To be amazed at its miraculous unity. 1. Scripture is good and true, and it is also beautiful. Have confidence, not just in Paul’s consistency from one letter to the next, but in the entire breadth of Scripture from OT to NT. God’s written Word doesn’t deviate from itself, doesn’t waste anything, and it doesn’t breed confusion. Instead, it relentlessly testifies of the Gospel and wholistically points to Jesus Christ.

Second, I hope you can see how Paul’s legacy is your legacy… 2. The Christian’s legacy is that God walks with us, sets us apart, and is our Father. It’s not different for you and me than it was for Paul. We all face suffering. But will suffering be our legacy? No. Our legacy as Christians is in how we endure suffering. The world will see and take note.

Third, I hope you can see why Paul is making all this fuss: 3. Nothing is more important than saving the lost through the preaching of the Gospel. This section, 6:3-18, is a bookend to the argument Paul began in 5:11a: “Since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people.” And he concludes with 6:3-4b: “We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed. Instead, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything.”

Paul was wholly concerned with the importance of preaching the Gospel to save people. He took Jesus’ words to heart: Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Nothing is more important. No stumbling block could be tolerated. Paul was of singular mind and mission.

In July, 2005 I was travelling in a van full of friends to a baseball game in St. Louis from Columbia, MO. As we crossed over the Missouri River on the Daniel Boone Bridge, we noticed that traffic was suddenly coming to a crawl, and eventually stopped completely. There we sat, in the middle of the bridge, our lanes merged all the way over to the right, all traffic on our bridge eastbound as well as the westbound bridge been halted completely, for no reason that seemed immediately apparent to us. And we were getting anxious that we would miss the start of the game. But then we saw why... From the seats in our van, suspended on this make-shift parking lot over the Big Muddy—hundreds of cars, probably thousands of people in total—we looked directly out our left window to see that a man had climbed up onto the edge of the bridge, poised to jump to his death below. Police officers and rescue personnel had already converged on the scene and created a safe perimeter. It seemed like time itself had stopped. A negotiator pleaded with the man from a safe distance, clearly not wanting his words or body language to be perceived as a threat. Just as it seemed as though the man was going to jump, another office appeared, sneaking up from behind the would-be jumper, pulled him from the ledge, and tackled him to the ground, saving his life. Eventually, traffic resumed, and we were on our way. Speechless and in awe at what we had just witnessed. I don’t remember much else of that night. But I do remember thinking in those moments that followed, “Nothing is more important than saving a life.”

We live to save the world. That’s why we’re here. We are Christ’s agents on earth. May we leave a legacy for the sake of the world. Let’s pray…

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 6:3-18; Romans 5:3-7; Leviticus 26:12 Isaiah 52:11; 2 Samuel 7:14a

Worship Playlist

Only King Forever by Elevation Worship

Lord I Need You by Matt Mauer

Do It Again by Elevation Worship

Study Questions

  1. Why is our faithfulness critical as we minister to others? In what ways has Paul's faithfulness been tested? What about yours?
  2. You will leave some sort of legacy for or against Christ. What small or large decisions are you facing in this season of life? Will your life lead future generations to Christ?

Apply It!