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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)
I bid you welcome and I’m certainly pleased you decided to join us today.
I’m going to start with a quick lesson review before we pick up where we left off last week. The gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s apostleship were facing a three-prong attack from the false apostles, the stubborn, non-repentant Corinthian Believers, and Satan. This required Paul to defend his apostleship and the gospel, by speaking boldly or foolishly (11:16), matching his opponent’s boasts point-for-point with a couple of significant differences. Paul states, “…I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For If I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking (what) the truth…” (12:5-6a).
Paul’s foolish boasting continues on into chapter 12 where he states, “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable. I will go on to visions and revelations.” Since his antagonists had compelled him to boast, he would mention, in passing, the revelation event that occurred fourteen years ago. Paul recounts the time he was caught up to the third heaven and permitted to witness the wonders there. But here’s the thing, Paul doesn’t give us the “details” he only mentions while he was there he heard inexpressible words which a man is not is permitted to speak. Then to prevent him from becoming conceited, i.e. to keep Paul from exalting himself, God gave him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment him. This thorn was such a pain Paul prayed 3 times for it to be taken away. But God said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, the thorn remained, and Paul said he was well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (12:10; Philippians 4:13).
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 12:11.
2 Corinthians 12
11: I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been compelled by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.
Paul willingly became a fool in boasting, since his opponents had put him in the uncomfortable position of defending his apostolic authority and the gospel. He could have chosen to do nothing but this would have given the victory to Satan and the false apostles who were preaching another Jesus; another gospel, declaring his gospel null and void in the process. Thus, Paul’s choice was never in doubt.
Paul should have been commended by the Corinthians. The folks he ministered to in Corinth should have been eager to speak well of him for in no respect was he inferior to the most eminent apostles (i.e. Peter, James, John, etc.). In knowledge, in the working of signs, and wonders and miracles, the signs of a true apostle were performed among them with all perseverance (patience).
Our Apostle Paul lacked nothing and the Corinthians should have recognized this. Paul didn’t walk among them claiming to be eminent, a “super apostle,” as the false apostles were doing. On the contrary, as Paul ministered to this assembly, he did so exercising true humility, mimicking Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), and teaching them to be aware of the needs of others …do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).
Please don’t overlook this humble statement, “…though I am a nobody;” it’s part of Paul’s defense. You see, Paul, the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), understood better than most what it meant to be saved by God’s grace (alone). But it’s more than that for this nobody had been called and sent to preach the message of God’s grace to the Gentiles, by the will of God (Romans 1:5, 12:3, 15:15; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 1:1).
Let’s go to verse 12.
12: The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance (patience), by signs and wonders and miracles. Here Paul’s saying the power of God was evident in his ministry from the start (Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:2, 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). Paul also performed those works while suffering opposition which he met with all perseverance. As to these signs, wonders, and miracles Paul performed among the Corinthians the Bible is silent. I have no doubt they took place and were similar to other miracles he performed in other places, since it was one of the proofs of his divine calling as a true apostle (Acts 13:11-12, 14:3-4, 8:18, 16:18, 19:11-12, 20:8-12, 28:3-6, 8-9).
2 Corinthians 12
13: For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
I myself did not become a burden to you – even after Paul left this assembly of Believers he would not allow this factious church to help him financially. Now we know he did accept financial assistance from Philippi (Philippians 4:15) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6), but not while ministering to them, only after he had left their cities did he accept financial support. The situation in Corinth was remarkably different. Clearly, it had hurt the Corinthian’s feelings and damaged their relationship; however, Paul would not change his mind. Paul stood his ground because of the false accusations coming from his antagonists (2 Corinthians 11:8-20) and the false claims made by some of the carnal Believers who said he was not a “true apostle” because he would not accept their support.
Forgive me this wrong - this is nothing more than biting sarcasm.
Let’s go to verse 14.
2 Corinthians 12
14: Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
Here for this third time I am ready to come to you - once again, the book of Acts is an incomplete record of Paul’s missionary work for it only records two visits to Corinth (Acts 18:1, 20:2-3, 2 Corinthians 1:15, 13:1-2). I want to make sure you’re aware the book of Acts is not a complete history of the early church and I really don’t see how it could be, but it clearly reveals the transition from Judaism (the Law), which is being phased out, to grace (alone); God’s new program.
On Paul’s first visit to Corinth, he planted the church and remained there for eighteen months (Acts 18:11). His second visit is not recorded. This was the brief, painful visit in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. Now Paul is saying he is prepared to come for the third time.
And I will not be a burden to you – Paul wants the Corinthians to know when he arrives, he will gladly receive a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8), however, he will not accept money from them for his personal support (1 Corinthians 9:12, 18; 2 Corinthians 11:9). He will continue to support himself as he has done before.
For I do not seek what is yours, but you – unlike the false apostles, Paul wasn’t interested in their money he was interested in saving some of them and he didn’t want money getting in the way of this (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Although Paul said people who minister for the gospel are entitled to financial support that should not be their motivation for ministering. Their main purpose should be the nobler reason or the higher calling of winning souls for the Lord. Our Apostle Paul put it this way: “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes” (Acts 20:33).
For children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children – here Paul uses a family analogy. Remember, he considered himself their spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). Basically Paul’s saying, “It’s unnatural for children to make provisions for their parents.” It’s the parent’s responsibility to provide for their children’s needs. Therefore, as their spiritual father he would take the necessary steps to provide for their spiritual needs.
By referring to the Corinthians as children Paul is in effect saying “You are spiritually immature, carnal infants in Christ Jesus, still” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). So, refusing their financial support is hardly a compliment and the Corinthians obviously took his refusal as a personal affront. We don’t know if this church knew Paul was being supported by the churches at Philippi and Thessalonica (Philippians 4:10-19). But we do know based on his standards, these factious Corinthians just weren’t spiritually mature enough to support Paul yet. Until that day arrived, Paul would continue to support himself.
15: I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? The Greek word for spend is Dapanao (dap-an-ah’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1159, meaning: incur expense, expend, spend. The word can be understood in two ways. 1) Literally, “to pay out money” (Acts 21:24). 2) Figuratively, “to spend entirely,” i.e. “pay everything or anything” (Mark 5:26). Paul’s telling the Corinthians he’s ready to give all his assets and/or all of himself for the cause of Christ in order to save some of them.
If I love you more, am I to be loved less? This is a gentle reproof from a gentle man. Paul gave all he had, and more, to this church and the end result of his labor and toil was a lack of appreciation and feelings of resentment from some of these Believers, yet Paul did not resent them for it. He said, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.”
16: But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. Here is more biting sarcasm from Paul in response to those folks in Corinth who accused him of being crafty and deceitful. They spread vicious rumors about Paul, in effect saying he was deceiving the church. Their false accusations probably went like this, “Paul won’t take our financial support, but that’s just a trick. He’s really planning on stealing the collection that supposed to go to the Jerusalem saints.” Paul responded to this sarcastically saying, “Nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. Obviously, I fooled you.”
Paul mentioned the eminent apostles were in the ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11, and he pointed out in 11:20 for other reasons than saving souls. They were taking advantage of the Corinthians. The false apostles knew there was money to be made by “working the churches.” They could not bear the fact that Paul wasn’t interested in the money that could be made in the ministry, so they assigned their false motives to him.
17: Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?
Here Paul proves the charge he is crafty is false. He reminds the Corinthians that neither he nor any of his coworkers had ever behaved inappropriately in regard to finances or in any other way while they were with them.
18: I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?
Paul charged Titus with the task of completing the collection which the Corinthians had commenced and sent the brother with him (2 Corinthians 8:6, 18).
Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? This was one of those questions from Paul where the expected answer was “No” and truthfully there could be no other response. The Corinthians were aware Titus did not take advantage of them when he was with them. According to Paul, they received him kindheartedly. They treated him affectionately and comforted him (2 Corinthians 7:7). With an outpouring of kindness such as this, how could they possibly now say Titus defrauded them?
Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps? Paul’s saying, “Didn’t Titus’ actions and words resemble mine? Did he not show you the same honesty, love, and sincerity which I have shown you?” This is an important statement from Paul for these Believers would have to admit while Paul was with them he never attempted to obtain money from them and certainly not by improper means. Their charge against him was attempting to obtain their money by using others to do his “dirty work.” With this statement, Paul appeals to them asking whether Titus and he had not in fact behaved exactly alike exhibiting the same spirit and walk free from deceit and covetousness.
19: All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved.
All this time – Paul’s referring to this entire letter.
You have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you – this is a sarcastic remark; Paul knew this church group very well. They had an inflated opinion of themselves and of their spirituality. Let’s go back to what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:12: We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in (what) heart. So, the sense of this statement is Paul’s not trying to obtain their favor and he’s not offering excuses; he has no reason to.
Instead, Paul said, “It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ.” In short, Paul spoke the truth before God. He’s not making excuses to the Corinthians. Once Paul laid the foundation in Corinth, everything he did afterwards was for this church’s upbuilding in the Lord. Every letter he wrote, every visit he made, every prayer he prayed was with one goal in mind: to build up the Corinthian Church in Jesus Christ. His heart was for them and not for himself; Paul wasn’t interested in making his name known or building up his own kingdom on earth. Could the same be said for the false apostles?
20: For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;
For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish - Paul is concerned when he comes to Corinth for the third time he will find the same old unrepentant Corinthian Christians doing the same old, un-Christ like things. Just so there is no misunderstanding Paul reminds them what some of these things are: there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, and disturbances. These certainly are not examples of the fruit of the Spirit, but they are examples of the fruit of worldly behavior, i.e. deeds of the flesh, which the Corinthian Christians practiced routinely (Galatians 5:19-21). Paul is serving them notice changes must be made before he visits Corinth (v20).
If this is what I find when I arrive, (I) may be found by you to be not what you wish. If you’ll turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 4:21, I believe Paul expresses the meaning of this verse quite well right here: What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? I think that’s plainly spoken. This reminds me of the times when I misbehaved as a youngster and my mother would take me by the arm and say, “I’ve told you not to do that… Why don’t you listen to me? I’m through talking. Wait until your father gets home.” Well, who wants that? My father worked hard. When he came home, I’d rather our time together be spent on enjoyable things and not devoted to disciplinary actions. The other thing was my father wasn’t a talker he was a man of few words; in other words, he was a paddler.
Paul’s saying, “Shall I be compelled to administer discipline upon my arrival, thus making my visit an unpleasant one? Paul desired for these “hold-outs” to repent; to experience a true change of heart, so that their time together would be an enjoyable one, when that time came. But if not, he had a paddle!
21: I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you (v21a) – Paul’s saying, “If I visit you again and find this group is still unrepentant; if they’re stubbornly stuck in their worldly ways, I must not be a very good apostle.” Of course, Paul would be saying this, “tongue-in-cheek,” because there wasn’t anything wrong with him or his apostolic methods. He wasn’t the cause for the lack of spiritual fruit in these Believer’s lives.
In the next line we once again see the heart of our apostle. The worldliness of these Believers who would not repent grieved Paul and, as he put it, made him mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced (v21).
The sins of impurity, immorality, and sensuality were the most prominent sins this corrupt city was particularly known for (1 Corinthians 5:1, 6:18). We must remember these Believers were not that far removed from the godless, lustful culture from which they were raised and still lived in. Some had made progress in moving beyond these sinful distractions; others had not. They continued to “dance with devil, “as it were, which is why Paul mentions them here.
Let’s be sure we understand a couple of things. Paul’s righteous anger would not be directed toward those who had sinned, excuse me, but we’re all sinners saved by grace. We don’t stop sinning just because we’re saved. I don’t see that written anywhere in this book. To be specific, his anger would be directed towards those who have sinned in the past and not repented. Paul never asked for perfection once in any of his letters, but he did ask that Believers repent. Faith and repentance are both initial and ongoing experiences in every Believer’s life.
(To be continued)
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