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Sam Storms on Paul the Pastor – Being Weak and Indignant

“Yes, Paul was an apostle, called and commissioned of Christ. Yes, he was a theologian of the highest possible caliber. But he was first and foremost a pastor, a lover of souls, a man consumed with care for the flock of God.” 

Dr. Sam Storms is a well-renowned author and Acts 29 pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. His website includes many theological articles he has written, and here we share an excerpt from his article on “Paul the Pastor: 2 Corinthians 11:28-29.” The full article is well worth the read for any pastor, and is available in PDF here

"And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?" – 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 

False Pastors are Consumed Solely with Personal Suffering, True Pastors are Burdened by the Spiritual Welfare of their People.

The way in which these two verses bring the list of [Paul’s] adversities (vv. 22-27) to a close suggests that what Paul is about to say constitutes the pinnacle of his apostolic burden. Floggings and hunger and shipwreck and imprisonment are far more tolerable, in his mind, than the weight of concern he feels for the spiritual welfare of his converts.

There are two specific concerns that weighed heavily and constantly on Paul's heart. 

False Pastors are Triumphalists, True Pastors Empathize with the Weak.

First, he asks, "who is weak, and I am not weak?" (v. 29a). This word translated "weak" is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament.

Carson is probably on the mark in arguing that "weakness" refers "to a lack of strength in any respect. Paul is talking about Christians who for some reason have been brought to a spiritual low point, and who seem to have no reserves of strength to overcome temptation, doubt, seduction, and opposition, or to get on with the business of discipleship" (124). Needless to say, the triumphalism of the false apostles would lead to the despising of such weakness and disqualify them from any meaningful pastoral empathy. 

False Pastors are Arrogant or Indifferent about Sin, True Pastors are Righteously Indignant with Sin.

Paul's second concern is with those who are "made to fall" (v. 29) or are led into sin. How different we are today. When we receive news of someone's lapse or moral failure or doctrinal error we quickly pass it along in a text message or post it on a blog or inwardly gloat over the fact that we wouldn't be "caught dead" doing any such thing.

Paul's reaction? Burning indignation! What was your response upon hearing that someone in a church other than your own had stumbled? "I-told-you-so" arrogance? Or "there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I" humility? How did you feel when news broke of a well-known pastor leaving his wife? Indifferent? Self-righteous? Disdainful? Or broken-hearted? To what did it lead? Gossip? Embarrassment? Or intercession?

This deeply felt and undeniably emotional rage in the apostle's heart probably had a two-fold focus. On the one hand was his personal sadness and distress that a fellow believer had tripped up. He undoubtedly thought of the individual's welfare as well as the dishonor that such sin would bring to the name of Christ. But his rage was no less directed at whoever was responsible for leading one of the Lord's "little ones" (Mt. 18:6) astray. He had previously issued stern warnings to those who might "put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother" (Rom. 14:13). 

Pastor: Are You an Anxiously Caring Shepherd, or Merely a Professional?

Yes, Paul was an apostle, called and commissioned of Christ. Yes, he was a theologian of the highest possible caliber. But he was first and foremost a pastor, a lover of souls, a man consumed with care for the flock of God. Carson pegs him:

"Here is no mere professional, running a superb organization from the comfort of a well-appointed, air-conditioned office, but a pastor attuned to the needs of even the least brother for whom Christ died … [His] apostolic ministry is not discharged with aloof detachment, but with flaming zeal, profound compassion, evangelistic fervor, and a father's heart… Such an approach bears fruit; but it takes its toll in energy consumed and in deep involvement with people" (124).

More Resources

  • The full "Paul the Pastor - 2 Corinthians 11:28-29" article is available in PDF here.
  • Scott Thomas' 7-minute video interview with Sam Storms on "The Spirit Led Pastor" is here.
  • Acts 29 pastor, Dave Bruskas, talks about pastors leading in repentance and exemplifies honesty, humility and transparency in his recent article here.

Sam Storms, Matt Chandler, Matt Carter and Bruce Wesley will all be speaking at the upcoming Dallas Boot Camp on March 10. Come hear all four for $25!