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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
When the calendar reveals there’s only two weeks before Christmas, then you can expect an announcement from me letting you know this will be the last Bible lesson of 2016. As per our custom, the next lesson will be published on the first Friday of 2017.
HBS voluntarily “steps back” during the Christmas holiday so that y’all can focus your attention on your families, your friends, and the reason for the season, Jesus Christ. Without a doubt Santa and his reindeer get all the air-time from Thanksgiving onward, but Truth-be-told, a Child born in a manger in Bethlehem, Ephrathah changed the world forever (Micah 5:2)!
Christmas time is a special time of year, i.e. love is in the air! HBS wants everyone to take advantage of the opportunities this presents; spread some cheer.
If you know someone who is alone this holiday, invite them over for a meal, or just spend some time with them; comfort them in their hour of need.
Carrying a grudge against someone? Let go of your resentment toward them; forgive them and break free of the prison of animosity you’re building for yourself.
Know someone who needs Jesus? Invite them to attend church with you this week or next; they may accept your invitation. God performs miracles year-round but especially at Christmas time. I’m a miracle for once I was blind but now I see.
We wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas, June & Gary
The section we are about to study this week begins with Paul defending his integrity. Paul’s change in plans about visiting Corinth caused even more discord amongst the Believers there; some of them brought charges of irresponsibility and cowardice against him. A minority of the Corinthians were going around saying Paul wouldn’t dare come to Corinth to face those who questioned his apostleship. Then the Petrine Jewish representatives were saying harmful things about his character and reputation, hinting at fraud where the Judean collection was concerned. They questioned his sincerity, when he refused to accept compensation from the Believers for his service. They even attacked him personally noting his “humble” appearance and his simplicity of speech (2 Corinthians 10:10). They went so far as to question his sanity at one point (2 Corinthians 5:13).
Now Paul was already overwhelmed with the concerns of this church, the other churches he ministered to, and the issues he was dealing with in Ephesus, so rather than harass him further with more bad news, Titus chose to reveal the bad news in Corinth to our Apostle Paul gradually. This may account for the lack of definite arrangement or outline in this letter. As I pointed out in the introductory lesson, this letter from Paul responds to a variety of important topics, but lacks the formal arrangement we’ve grown accustomed to. 2 Corinthians comes across as “disorganized” in its response to these subjects. However, one fact stands tall 2 Corinthians is unique in that you won’t find Paul pouring out his heart in love or so many touching passages to any other church as we have here.
People ask, “Was the church in Corinth worth it?” I respond to this question with a question of my own. “When Jesus Christ chose to die on the Cross for the sins of all were we worth it?” The answer is undeniably, “Yes.”
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 1:12
Our Apostle Paul’s Integrity
Starting with verses 12-14, we’re looking at three things primarily: Paul’s conscience, his godly sincerity, and the grace of God.
2 Corinthians 1
12: For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
13: For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;
14: just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are yours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
This isn’t the only place in Paul’s writings where he mentions how he strove to have a clear conscience. You may be able to discern how important this was in his ministry. He could look members of the Sanhedrin in the eye and with conviction say, Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day (Acts 23:1).
Paul’s comment didn’t sit well with the Jewish high priest whose conscience had already been “seared with a hot iron” that he commanded those standing beside him (i.e. Paul) to strike him on the mouth (Acts 23:2; 1 Timothy 4:2).
What does this mean for you and me? Each and every Believer’s conscience (and not just some) needs to be more and more formed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God and not by the opinions of man or the world (1 Timothy 3:9). It’s not the responsibility of your church leader to enlighten you; this task rests upon your shoulders. God will judge Believers by the light they have, but all Believers need to be increasingly open to what the Scriptures say (and I contend, “What the Bible does not say”) and the Spirit for more and more light in order to continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In last week’s lesson I tried to point out in this life we’ll never reach a point where we know all there is to know about the Lord – or this book we call the Bible. If you ever hear someone say they do know it all. Turn around and move away from that individual because he or she is trying to sell you something you don’t need… In this context, the end time judgment is in view, i.e. the Bema Seat Judgment (2 Corinthians 1:13-14). Paul’s motives and actions were severely criticized by a minority of false teachers at Corinth (chapters 10-13). One group of opponents was localized with expressed divided loyalties (1 Corinthians 1:12). The other group was likely made up of Petrine, Jewish false teachers from out of town, meddling in his affairs.
If you’ll recall, back in 1 Corinthians 4:1-3 Paul had this to say about being judged by men: …it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court… The marks of Paul’s good conscience and of his spiritual integrity were his simplicity and godly sincerity. Paul was blessed with a keen intellect, yet his preaching was not “with earthly wisdom” but “by the grace of God.” This is how he conducted himself not only in the world, but more abundantly toward them (v12).
The Greek word for sincerity (v1) is Eilikrineis, (pronounced: i-lik-ree-nace’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek # 1506, meaning, Pure, uncontaminated; literally, to judge in the sunlight. It’s interesting how this phrase-in-a-word became one of the four Greek terms used for sincerity.
The Greeks produced many beautiful urns, vases, bowls, and pitchers with colored designs that would glisten from the coats of lacquer that covered them. Every now and then, however, the lacquer, or even the vessel itself, would develop a flaw. You can call this a crack too either word works. Now a cracked urn won’t hold wine or olive oil very well, so it isn’t worth much if anything at all. But instead of discarding these flawed items some unprincipled dealers would fill the crack with colored wax to match the surrounding color. The defect would become virtually undetectable – unless you held the vessel up to the sunlight! Thus Eilikrinei became one of the Greek words for sincerity, for knowledgeable buyers would hold any vessel up to the sunlight to ensure that it was flawless or sincere.
But there is more to this passage. Paul solemnly declares here that he had lived in the world and among the Corinthian Believers “not in fleshly wisdom,” but in “godly sincerity.” Paul must mean to be judged “in the sunlight of God’s scrutiny.” How appropriate then for the Believers who live in this world, and especially amongst other Believers, in simplicity and godly sincerity” or “without wax,” “until the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart…” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
In verse 13, Paul is saying he meant what he said; he was referring to what he wrote to them in his first letter when he declared, “For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand.” Obviously, they had read what he had written and that was exactly what he had meant. Paul doesn’t alter his message like the men who study worldly wisdom. There was no “craftiness” in his writings – no hidden meanings. The letter had been one of rebuke and warning, but it had also been written out of much “affection and anguish of his heart,” and “with many tears,” and with an “abundance of love” (2 Corinthians 2:4).
Some of the members of the church in Corinth had accepted his letter as written and they began to make changes straight away, but some others were offended at his reproof and perverted its meaning. Some even charged him with loose talk, declaring that his expressed desire to visit them was all a bluff and a deceit, that he had no intention of coming, but had merely threatened them to gain their obedience. But, how wrong they were! A careful study of 1 Corinthians reveals Paul as writing with the calm confidence of one who lived and labored in the presence of God.
Moving down to verse 14a, I note a touch of sadness in these words, “just as you also partially did understand us… For those of you who use the KJV Bible the passage reads: As also ye have acknowledged us in part. Now when you only have a part of something, no matter what it is, what’s missing? The other part, right? The entire assembly at Corinth had received the same message from Paul, but it’s clear from the Corinthian letters that not all the Believers acknowledged Paul as God’s called and appointed apostle of grace. What’s even sadder is that this is typical of God’s church in the 21st century which also only “in part” acknowledges Paul’s distinctive ministry as God’s apostle for the present dispensation of grace. But, even though he was only acknowledged partially, he says of that part: that we are your reason to be proud as you also are yours in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If he was their rejoicing, they were certainly his. It was Paul’s deep and constant joy that when finally called to be with Christ at the Rapture, these Believers would be right there alongside him, as demonstration of the riches of God’s Grace.
Let’s go to verses 15-20:
2 Corinthians 1
15: In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing;
16: that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea.
17: Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I? Or what I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes and no, no at the same time?
18: But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no.
19: For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silvanus (a.k.a. Silas) and Timothy – was not yes and no, but is yes in Him.
20: For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
In verse 15, we see Paul acknowledging that he previously had planned to “visit” the saints in Corinth before going into Macedonia, so that they might twice receive a blessing. Now, as to the ruckus Paul’s change of plans brought about in Corinth, did Paul make his plans “”according to the flesh,” did he appear to be “indecisive,” or “did he make light” of his decision to change his travel plans? Was Paul guilty of any of these things as some of the folks in Corinth claimed? I’m not seeing it. What I do see is his yes means yes and his no means no (v17).
What the Corinthians aren’t acknowledging is the important circumstances, including their sad spiritual state, which prevented Paul from coming to them sooner (1 Corinthians 4:21). Again, he said he did not make his plans “according to the flesh,” which meant he would not come to them to stand beside them just to prove his own integrity. He sought God’s will, for He alone knows the end from the beginning and leads His children one step at a time. God never needs to change His mind, but His children may want to.
Paul named Silas and Timothy in this passage for they had faithfully labored among them, and declares that he and they had not preached to them a yes and no gospel, but a very positive one, one that was centered in Christ Jesus, who is the yes and Amen, i.e. so be it of all God’s promises (v20).
Let’s go to verses 21-24:
2 Corinthians 1
21: Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,
22: who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
23: But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.
24: Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
In verse 21 Paul is saying the One who establishes us (every Believer) in Christ, is God. It is He who anoints us or consecrates us to His Service (Romans 12:1-2). Furthermore, God also has sealed us by giving the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge or down payment on the heavenly promises that are to come. God has placed His stamp of approval, His seal of acceptance on every Believer, our faults notwithstanding, so that we all may join with our Apostle Paul in saying, “God is the one that justifies; who is the one that condemns?” (Romans 8:1, 33-34; Ephesians 1:13-14)
It is against this backdrop that Paul makes this statement, “But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth (v23). Paul wasn’t seeking retribution against those who smeared his good name and character in Corinth, clearly. Instead of taking the fleshly approach to problem solving, Paul calls upon God in a prayer to confirm to these Corinthians the validity of his defense.
Careful study of this section will reveal that Paul had chosen not to exercise his apostolic authority over this church, but to promote their greatest welfare instead. Had the former been the case, he would have arrived on the scene wielding a disciplinary rod as required. But it was by faith (alone) that they must stand, not by apostolic decree. For you see standing for God and His expressed will, His revealed truths, by faith (alone), does indeed bring with it the greatest spiritual blessing.
(To be continued)
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