2 Corinthians: Be Unified with Me in Ministry
Open your Bibles, if you would, to the book of Second Corinthians. I’ve been preaching a series of sermons since last January, on every book of the Bible. And we started in Genesis and we're all the way up to Second Corinthians. So, if you want to hear a sermon on any book of the Bible between Genesis and Second Corinthians, they're online. The title of the message is: “Be Unified with Me in Ministry.” Be Unified with me in Ministry.”
Let me ask you a question, Why do some pastors stay in the ministry and others leave? Before I became a pastor, I heard many stories good and bad. And as most of you know, my father was a pastor for 46 years. And so, I got sermons at home all week long and at church. I heard many stories of pastors being blessed by the kindness of their churches. Of loving them, of sending them cards and sharing kind words, of sometimes even throwing banquets for them, and just going above and beyond. Yet nothing makes a pastor more happy than to see his people, his sheep, as an under-shepherd of Christ, to see his sheep growing in love for Jesus, and becoming strong lights in this world. I heard many stories about that and was blessed to see those things as I grew up.
Other pastors gave me warnings of dark days, of trials, of backstabbing, vast indifference, subtle attacks, and selfish living. “Do not meddle in their ways,” one said. “Oh, you can preach but do not meddle.” Another spoke of a vacation he went on, a friend of mine. And he had already been a pastor and I met him in seminary, a very gifted man, very caring shepherd. And he told me about a story of when he went on vacation one time. And there were some issues going at the church, he thought he'd just go clear his mind and come back and settle them. And when he came back, they had thrown his entire office in the dumpster and changed all the locks. True story. One of the most humble guys I know. Loves the church, is preaching strong, not at that church, but preaching strong, even to this day. Now don't get any ideas.
But one has to ask, “Why does a pastor stay in the ministry? Why does he stay serving the church in the capacities God has given to him?” And what I often marveled at, I've only been preaching for 10 years, what I often marvel at is Paul's attitude through his entire ministry. Second Corinthians is just his emotional pouring out to these people. If Romans be the pinnacle of salvation theology in the New Testament, Second Corinthians is just this, this ripping open his heart and pouring it out on them.
Let me ask you a question just to jog your memories a little bit, when Paul first became a Christian, what's the first thing God did to him? He made him blind! Then God said, “I will…” – he said through one prophet that he sent to him to open his eyes – he said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” You see, Paul had incredible trials and incredible resolve. Those go hand in hand in life, though we would like to separate them. We would like the resolve without the trial. In Second Corinthians 11, he goes over this incredible series of events that has happened in his life, as though boasting. As he's refuting false apostles, false teachers, in his beloved church, which he planted on his second missionary journey. He recounts for them some of the things that he's gone through to prove his love for them.
Countless beatings. I mean, I think if I got smacked one time, I'd leave the ministry. Again, do not get any ideas. He was often near death. We think, “Ah, maybe once or twice,” often near death. Scourged five times. If you dare look up what that means, to be scourged. Often without food, we obviously do not struggle with that. You know, what's amazing about this list, though, something we kind of overlook, is that most of his trials that he lists are outside the church. And most of the trials that make pastors leave are inside the church. 99% of what he mentions there, he does mention a few things in that passage, in Second Corinthians 11, of inside. But most pastors don't quit because they lack food or are attacked from outside the church. No, it's because they are attacked from inside the church. But somehow, some way, in all of this incredible life that he lived, his attitude was rock solid. He did not complain of these things.
This is the fourth letter he's written to them. Okay, the fourth letter. We call it Second Corinthians. I kind of went over that in my message last week of how we get to that, but this is the fourth letter. He's visited them in person twice. Once on his second missionary journey. They wrote him a letter, he wrote back, he visited, sent them a severe letter, if you think this one’s severe. He sent them a severe letter, that caused them to respond in wonderful ways, actually. And now this is the fourth letter and he continues to pour out his heart for them. He loves them with unending love. He's not asking them for sympathy. He's asking them to continue their partnership in ministry with him as he defends his right to preach Christ. He says in 2 Corinthians 11:30, after he lists all of the things that he went through, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” If you want to put something new on Twitter, try that.
[2 Corinthians 11:31] “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” When have we ever listed all of the trials in our lives and come to the conclusion that God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is blessed? That I will bless the name of the Lord. The Lord has taken, the Lord has given, blessed be the name of the Lord. This is the attitude, that it just astounds me, as I'm thinking through this book. And this was maybe one of the hardest outlines to put together so far. Just how does he get there? God is blessed forever. Can we not learn from a man like that? Far surpassing trials, but blessed be the name of the Lord. Can we not learn from a man who speaks, the very last verse in the book [2 Cor. 13:14], he speaks of the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit….” We use that for closing benedictions when we're worshiping. He uses that to reconcile an entire church steeped in Corinthian culture, with false apostles making false claims about him, throwing darts at him; and he pours out his love and he says, “the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit…” that's what's on his mind.
How can we get there? Well, if you want to know, we can dive into this book and learn. Learn from a man who has been through much, and who trusts God greatly. Turn to 2 Corinthians 1:1 with me, if you would. If you need a Bible, there's probably one under a seat nearby. It's on page 964 of that Bible. You're welcome to have that Bible if you don't have one. Paul says this [2 Corinthians 1:1-2], “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is writing with Timothy, Timothy is now with him. As you know, he already sent Timothy ahead to minister to these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. And now he is coming with him writing this letter, they are back in the Macedonian area. And he is not just writing to a people who gather in one location, he says, “To the people of the whole area.” And as you study Second Corinthians, as Paul is pouring out his heart, (we'll cover a couple of these today) but he pours out his heart not just for them, not just for the gospel to be solid and firm among them, but for the gospel to advance and for grace to abound upon grace.
He writes this particular letter, about a year after he wrote what we call First Corinthians, this is around AD 56. That would put it around 23 years after our Lord ascended. The recipients are, indeed, the Corinthian church and those in the area. They're on this isthmus that is a piece of land that goes out from the mainland, it's connected by a thin strip about four miles wide. The area is ruled by immorality, the worship of pagan gods. Every Greek city had an acropolis. This one happened to be on a 2,000-foot mound, high above the city, which you can still see if you look up ancient Corinth on Google Maps. I love doing this kind of thing. And you can literally do a panorama of the whole area. Up on the hill was a temple to the goddess Venus. And so, looming over everything they did was literally the pagan temple full of all kinds of immorality, which descended, as I said last week, every night into the city.
But the people of Corinth were strengthened by God. So, you know who they are. Remember in 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul describes them as being filled with every spiritual gift. Right? Why is that? Well, they needed it to survive in that area. And they were filled with all knowledge and speech. So, if they wanted to communicate the truth of God, Paul didn't have to worry that they were ill equipped for that they were equipped, they just needed to be directed a little bit. And this is his final letter to them. And he had just written a severe letter to them, instead of visiting them. And this was one of the charges that they will bring up against him is that, “You said you'd visit but you didn't, you just wrote a letter. Why don't you keep your word?” That was something that was lobbed against him, and he answers that.
So, as we look at Second Corinthians, now that you know he's going to pour out his heart, now that you have been reminded of the Corinthian culture and who they were. They weren't just, you know, ignorant heathens. They were very, very, gifted people who still went wrong. They had false apostles, there among them, false teachers. You can see that this is a complicated issue. As you consider all of Second Corinthians, you can look in your Bible Journal. You can see this the picture on the front, you know, bald guy hanging out in the ocean. It just symbolizes the trials that he went through, being shipwrecked three times. But if you look in the middle of that Bible Journal, you'll see there in the Chapter Overview section: Chapters 1-7 are really Paul describing his character as he weaves in the theology of the comfort of God. Chapters 8 and 9, Paul gives them an opportunity to show their love for God to be genuine. So, he is taking up a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, not just the poor in general. That's those two chapters, we like to kind of helicopter in and pull out a couple of verses that talk about being generous givers. That's that section. And then Chapters 10-13, are a little surprising, as he talks about his credentials. And I'll tell you why in a little bit.
So, he starts in Chapters 1-7, kind of, defending his character. So, this is about Paul's character. In 2 Corinthians 2:1, he says, “For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.” I mean, he just kind of lays it out there: “I know, when I showed up last time, it was painful.” Right? This is not, you're happy go lucky, everything's going great. God has blessed you. Obviously, you have a lot of money, you have a lot of gifts, what else could we ask for? Paul's not that guy. You need some other guy if that's what you want. He's not that. 2 Corinthians 2:3-4, “And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”
In other words, “The first visit was painful. And I knew that if I came again, in person, because of the things that have developed, it would be even more painful. So instead of having that in person, though, you should be the ones who cause me to rejoice and I should be the ones who cause you to rejoice. Out of my love, I decided to write a letter instead.” And theologians call this “the severe letter.” So whatever Paul wrote, this one was more, because he's couching this whole reason for not coming in person at that time, in the fact that he caused them pain, and wrote out of anguish and tears. Paul also had to write, to get rid of the false teachers, and he really lays into them again in chapters 10 through 13. False teachers are not just out there somewhere, they are in the church. Paul warned Timothy, that those would rise up from among you. False teachers. Satan roams around looking for whom he can devour. The forces are against the church to not be successful. That’s why you can tell when you walk into a church if they take the Word of God seriously or not. There will be this air of incredible love and grace and mercy. Yet a seriousness that the world is on their way to hell, and there are attacks on every true church. And their church was no different.
I just love telling you guys the story. I can't remember how many times it is so far, but I'm going to tell it again. When I was in seminary and preached at this little church north of LA, up in the woods… – it is by far my favorite story, but it is also gut wrenching. Went to preach to this church, they had about 20 to 30 people or so. I think one out of three people was up front playing some kind of instrument. There was all kinds, they played instruments so old that I hadn't seen them in a long time. Those kinds, you know, accordions and all kinds of stuff. But before the service this older gentleman came up and you know, you're supposed to treat an older man with great respect and much differently than a peer or a younger person. And so, I was like, “How are you doing, sir?” And he came up and started to tell me his theology and about a paper he had written and about how Jesus was a created being. Hugh? Jesus is a created being? He's not eternal? “Oh, no.” “Oh, Okay,” you know, so I'm listening to this. And he was obviously a heretic. And what I later learned was that everybody in the church already knew he was a heretic, and they welcomed him.
So, as I stood there with my sweet wife, and she saw the hair on my neck beginning to rise and knew that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, and she rubbed my back a little bit, and my blood pressure started to return to normal. I calmly just told him, “God's Word disagrees.” When the church fails to rid itself of false teachers, they become part of the image of the church. And they will take over. This man was so kind in his demeanor, so nice, appropriate, he had on the uniform and everything. But his false teaching was screaming from the hills. It didn't just tell me about him. It told me about the church and every single person in that church, including all of the leaders. All 30 people. When I got back from church that day, no idea what I even taught on, I was a visiting preacher. I sent a few emails to move the process along. And if any other seminary preacher was going to go up there, they had to know that the church welcomed heretics before they went. See, this is what makes church membership vital, not optional. That we surround ourselves around a unified doctrine. That if we have a secondary belief that is different, we will not promote it. But we are unified in the essentials of the gospel and who Jesus is, which he wasn't. And they will tear down churches. And just like we are dealing with in our own country. No nation can ruin our country, we can do that all on our own from the inside. Right? Same thing with the church. The greatest attacks on the church come from within. And Paul was going to drop the hammer a little bit later. But what you need to know is that he was not willing to let this church fail.
And I ask you in your own life, where are you at with our Lord Jesus Christ? Are you willing to just coast a little bit? You know, that that highway gear where you barely need to hit the gas. “Look, things are going great. If I if I start hitting the gas, it's going to be problems. I just want to cruise along a little bit.” Did not Paul have that right? How many hundreds of miles had he traveled? How many arguments had he had? How many shipwrecks? How many beatings, how many times without food? How many times did he not earn the right to just say, “Okay, I'm out”? But he would not let Satan have the Lord's church. And I ask you, is that where you're at? We cannot let Satan have the Lord's church. And it starts with our own heart and our own attitude before God. And friends, this is just such an amazing letter. And Paul is calling them to repentance, as you'll soon see. He wasn't alone, he sent them Timothy. Titus was sent. He worked with Silvanus and Sosthenes. The name we can barely say, the leader of the Jewish synagogue, next to where Paul was. He lived next to the synagogue, and he was beaten, under Paul's preaching earlier. And now he's working with Paul.
Paul was not alone. But he was the voice to steer the church back on course. And when it gets on course, it's unstoppable. Why? Because it is the Lord's church. Well as he's going through these chapters, and you can see a little bit more breakdown of what the chapters reveal in the outline there, under the chapter themes. He gets to the fifth chapter here. And he wants to bring them into, I guess, the heart of the matter. Second Corinthians chapter five, verse 12. Turn there with me, if you would. 2 Corinthians 5:12-15, he says, “We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us so that,” remember, that's the purpose clause, “so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
His preaching to them came because he was controlled by the love of Christ. Is that what controls you? Is that what motivates you? Is that what enables you to just press on for Jesus? To say, “Yeah, I bear the scars of this world on my back. I bear the scars of teaching Christ to people and getting rejected. But it's the love of Christ that controls me and nothing else.” Love for Jesus is the motivation to serve. It's that simple. Love for Jesus is the motivation to serve. And of course, he doesn't just say it's his love for Christ. This love for Christ controls him. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, “Therefore,” because of this theology of why he's doing what he's doing, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
God thought it was wise, to make his appeal to the believers in the church and to the world, through you. God making his appeal through us. Let me ask you then, “How then are we different from the world?” As we love our spouse, do we love our spouse differently than the world loves? As we love our children, do we love them differently than those who are in the world? Moms, is there any difference? Dads, grandparents? 63% of the United States claims to be Christian, or whatever their high percentage is this week. But how do true Christians live? If false apostles, false teachers, can get in the church, then the lines for true Christianity had been blurred. And if he wrote First Corinthians a year later, and a severe letter somewhere in between, at a maximum there's less than 12 months between his last letter, and maybe even only a few months, between his last letter and this one. What is making the church distinct? How were the Christians in the church recognizing true Christians? Because we want non-believers to come in and hear the gospel. We want people who are unsure of their faith to come in and hear the gospel. To see us worship a true and living God. To give allegiance to Christ and Christ alone. To be known as someone who lives for Jesus. But I ask you in your life, are you known for Jesus or something else?
I mean, how could we even think we can represent Christ? Isn't that arrogant? It’s one of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In him, in Christ. How do we get through the week? It's in Christ. How do we transform our minds, as Scripture talks about? It's in Christ. In Christ we live and have our being. In Christ we shine as lights in the world. We don't cower, we don't hide at home, we don't hide from anyone. The light doesn't hide from the darkness, it shines forth. And because of these things, because it's Christ in us. Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5:12, “we don't boast about outward appearances: our house, our clothing, our speech, our knowledge, our commitment to anything of the world, or even boast about the use of our gifts.” They could boast. They had all the gifts; they weren't lacking a single one. But we do not boast about outward things. But as 2 Corinthians 5:12 says, we boast about what is in the heart, because Jesus has transformed us. He has changed us, friends. And Paul is just constantly forcing them to look at the heart of the matter.
These first seven chapters are just a wonderful, continual thought from Paul. Why he changed his plans, why he wrote a letter. He mentions amazing things, being new creations in Christ. And then he gets to chapters eight and nine. You see a heart that's transformed by the Lord desires opportunity to show itself, to serve the Lord. We don't get this amazing heart for the Lord and then just not put it into practice. It's like studying music, and just practicing every single day for hours and hours and hours. And, you know, I used to practice a lot at my trumpet, which used to be called the dead elephant at times, as it filled the whole house with noise. Eventually, it stopped being called that and was able to practice not without the, “Hey, how long is your practice?” But at least you continue to practice. And then it's like, what do you do with that? Do you never play it for anyone? Do you never join with others? No, the practice leads to using the gifts, using your heart for God, in opportunities that he provides. And so, Paul in chapters eight and nine, this is his collection for the church, he gives them an opportunity to use their gifts for God's glory. And I know this is your favorite, these are your two favorite chapters in all of Scripture, because it talks about giving. You don't even laugh anymore when I say that. Look in chapter eight, I'm going to read nine verses because I know we love this so much.
2 Corinthians 8:1–9
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [This is chapter 8, beginning in verse one, now we’re on verse 2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. [Well, they must be wealthy, right? No, keep reading.] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly [that’s the right attitude] for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. [What is giving called in the New Testament? An act of grace.] But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. [Hmm… just gives it to them] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Paul didn't just say they were partners in ministry. He gave them an opportunity to show their partnership in ministry. And Paul explains this wasn't a collection for himself. He was a tentmaker. So, he provided for himself. But also, as you read through these two chapters, he also says, “I did accept money from other churches.” So, Paul didn't just provide for his own needs 100%, he did accept money from other churches. But for the Corinthians, to make sure they were perfectly clear, this money was going to go back to the poor in Jerusalem, the believers who were in need there. And he wanted to give them an opportunity to give, just like the poor in Macedonia gave. Who begged to give. Paul reminded them that as they excelled and other Christian graces, to excel in this grace as well. It's not really hard to see where we're at with God. As we always say, God doesn't need our money. He also doesn't need us to share the gospel either, he could do that all on his own. Right? But these are indeed the ways that he has orchestrated his providence to come about. That we would give as an act of grace, earnestly desiring it. That we would use our mouths to share the gospel with the world and with those in the church.
And 2 Corinthians 8:8, says he wasn't commanding it, but giving them an opportunity to prove their genuine love. Paul's trying to say, “talk is cheap.” And he repeats it in 2 Corinthians 8:24, “So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.” Listen, what we have to remember, as Paul makes clear in this verse, is that he spoke very highly of the Corinthian church. We are boasting about you to these people, those people who need your resources. He uses the argument too of comparison to say, “They gave you what you needed, the gospel. You give them what they need, the finances. Should they not be blessed by you, though you be blessed by them?” The application is not hidden here, dear church. That we should excel at giving from our heart, out of our love for God.
Well, those were the exciting, fun chapters. Then there's chapters 10 through 13, where Paul goes over his credentials. And, you know, when he's writing these letters, we think, “Oh, he just probably sits down and dictates the whole thing or he sits down and writes the whole thing.” But scholars tend to think that Second Corinthians was written over at least a little period of time where, you know, as he's sending people to go back and forth to report and to help them and to, you know, when he writes a letter, somebody's got to take it. And so, when they come back, they bring a report. So, it seems like there's a shift here that happens. And maybe he stopped at chapter nine and was going to finish. And then his tone changes a little bit, almost as though they were starting to slide again. It seemed like they had repented in the ways that they should and he was calling them to join in ministry. But he seems to go from a tone of motivating, to a tone of warning. And Paul goes over his credentials in these chapters and warns them to be faithful.
Look in 2 Corinthians 10:1-2, “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away! – I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.” Paul has gone above and beyond. And if you ever wonder why he ever wrote the chapter in 11, boasting of all the things that he has gone through, it was just to separate himself from the false apostles. See, they thought they were doing the same ministry as he was, but they were trying to gather the attention from Paul and put it on themselves. So that they could be the ones to lead, and inevitably, probably to enjoy the financial benefits of it.
But he's begging them, let's not have another painful visit. And he promises that he's going to visit a third time as well. But he describes what his authority is to be used for. Look in 2 Corinthians 10:8, “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.’”
Do you ever think of seeing Paul and going, ‘Wow, that must not be him!”? Like when Samuel was bringing all the sons across trying to pick the next king. And it's like, nope, nope, you know, the six brothers. Nope. Isn't there anyone else? “Well, there is this one guy. You know, David, but it can't be him.” The little runt with pretty eyes. Right? It can't be that guy. And Paul was nothing impressive. We probably would have thought he was the opening act and not the main act. His speech was of no account. He doesn't refute that. Paul agrees, I mean elsewhere he says, “I determined to know nothing among you, but Christ and Christ crucified.” Right? He did go on to say, “That we do impart the wisdom of Christ.” But Paul is not this grand figure. You know, those guys, those people when they walk in the room. It's like, someone important has just walked in. I've seen this happen before. With national leaders, world leaders, they walk into a room and it's like, there's something that everybody there knows. “Ah, there he is. I wonder what he's got to say.” That wasn't Paul. Paul's like, keep moving along, nothing to see here. But he was telling them that his authority, that God gave, was to build them up, not to destroy them. Everything, in other words, God gave Paul, was for their benefit.
That's a really hard lesson for us to learn. That whatever God has given us, is not just for us, it’s for the benefit of others. You don't have the life that you have, for you. We're ambassadors for Christ. We don't have the lives that we have just to raise nice kids. It's for all of the kids who are out there. All of the singles, all of the people who need to hear about Jesus. God has raised up an army to build up others. And Paul says here, specifically in the church, that he is building them up with his authority. He lavishes praise on them time and time again, “I've boasted about you to other cities.” And those were godly people. He is separating himself from the false teachers.
Notice in 2 Corinthians 10:15, he says, “We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence.” Paul was that guy, he was the pioneer. He was the lone guy, who would go out, whoever wanted to follow can follow and go with him. But he was forging untilled soil. And he wanted the Corinthians to be a place, remember their location. At that time, trade constantly flowed across that little four-mile channel, so they wouldn't have to go hundreds of miles around. They were constantly getting people from foreign lands, an influx of money, they had all the gifts. It's like, what more do you want? We don't want the gospel just to be stagnant with you. We want it to go to other lands too. Were the false apostles about that? Were they willing to travel and to give up their lives there in Corinth to go to other lands?
And then in 2 Corinthians 11:12, he doesn't speak in veiled speech anymore. He says, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.” “I'm taking no money from you, are they? I'm sharing the gospel with the world, are they? I'm an apostle, who has done works and signs and wonders among you, have they?” He goes through all of those things in this letter, and then he calls them out in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” You are allowing servants of Satan to masquerade among you. I mean, is it clear what he wants them to do here? Right, he wants them to purify the church. And they already know this is happening.
So, because they are allowing it, like the situation I described before, he gives them this charge in 2 Corinthians 12:20. He says, “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.”
It's not just the false apostles. You say, “We don't have any false apostles in here.” Really? Are you sure? Look at the person next to you and say, “Really?” Right. They will rise up from among you. Don't be skittish about everyone. Don't worry. But it's not just the false apostles there. Along with that, look at the list, specifically in verse 20, that he says, is possible to find among you. If there are false apostles there that you're tolerating, look at this other list that might be there. It's not simply that it's quarreling and jealousy and anger and hostility and slander and gossip and conceit, disorder. They already knew how to live, for they had all knowledge. They already knew Paul was relentless in calling them to holy living. They already knew Paul was a true apostle and saw his works among them. They already knew he was going to come again, he promised he was going to visit them a third time. And friends, let me ask you, are you ready when Jesus comes again? If Jesus showed up right now, with all the knowledge we have, with all the gifts you guys possess, with all the opportunities we have, would we cower in fear at his coming? Or would we be ready to bow down and worship him and be excited at his return?
Believers are those who are wrestling against the things of the world. Intolerant of gossip, living by faith in Christ, living joyfully, putting aside the things of the world to be in the church more. Continuing to live by grace, living out of this great love for God. And I just ask, may we put aside anything that keeps us from excelling in our love and our knowledge and service of God. I can't do this on my own. You know that. You serve joyfully, in various ways. But so were they and yet they tolerated these things. But I ask you, what are the things in your mind that you allow to be there that shouldn't be there? What are the things in your schedules that keep you from these things? What are the ways that you're working on your own, outside of the grace of God? So that it's actually hindering God's grace in your life and not allowing you to live a fruitful, joyful, abundant life in Christ? Together, our light is much, much brighter.
And as he finishes up here in chapter 13, he kind of slides in this amazing verse that says, it's not just about living for God, it's about living with God. Abiding in the love of God. Abiding means remain. To remain in the love of God, to remain in the peace of God. Do you want to live like that Grace Bible Church? Do you want to live with feeling this deep presence of God, and abiding with God, and his love, and his peace?
Look at 2 Corinthians 13:11, this is how he closes. This is what awaits those who put into practice the graces of Second Corinthians. “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace.” And look at this amazing promise: “and the God of love and peace will be with you.” God will be with you! That's a promise we can live with. Let's pray.
Father God, what an amazing letter you have preserved and sustained for us. Lord God, I pray that you teach us to comfort one another, to encourage one another. To agree and live at peace with one another. Thank you, Lord, for the joy that we enjoy right now as a church. Thank you for the blessings that we enjoy. And yet Father, I pray that you help us to excel still more. What a privilege it is to know you, Father? To call you, Father? To have our sins forgiven, as we put our faith in you, Lord? To live with the grace that cleanses all of our sin?
Friends, let's just take a moment right now to ask the Lord to show us how to live in unity with each other, and in his love and peace.
Lord God, thank you for the joy that we have together in Christ. May we know you and abide with you. In your precious, holy Name, Amen.
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