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January 10, 2021 6:00 pm
Today we return to our second Corinthians series from which we departed an early rock in early March because of the covert current interruptions and at that time for settling weeks. We did not meet at all with people present and we did not have any idea that we would still be dealing with this January year later. It's been almost a year, but at any rate, that is the circumstances which God has designed and appointed for us.
We did return briefly to chapter 9 where we had broken off in November for two sermons chapter 9 deals with the subject of giving and that fit perfectly into our missions month emphasis then we moved on to other things. But now we are returning the second Corinthians chapter 10 the Lord wills will just continue right here in second Corinthians. Until we complete this epistle by the apostle Paul directed by the Spirit of God, the holy come to chapter 10 we find there's a major shift in subject matter, Paul is going to defend himself to his critics affect the title of my sermon today is Paul confronts his critics and that title could apply pretty accurately to the remainder of the book because that's basically what Paul is dealing with. From chapter 10 to the conclusion of this epistle seems like a long section awful lot of material, but to be devoted to this one subject, but apparently it's important enough for the Holy Spirit of God to include that much material on this particular subject. There's something here that he wants us to learn now coming to the subject up while defending himself in front of his critics is not totally new. We sing scattered statements to this effect in both first and second Corinthians 9 the time Paul is made reference to critics and to his response to them. But now he's going to give this subject. A thorough treatment. It's like he's saying all right. I've dealt with everything else.
Now we come to the last matter, but it is an important matter. Let's get this matter settled once and for all, let's address these criticism.
Let's correct the record. Let's get things back in proper God ordained order and why does Paul address these criticisms that have been directed to him. Is it because Paul doesn't like to be criticized. I'm sure that's true, if I would say anybody here that likes to be criticized good. I see your hand. I don't think I will see very many hands in this Kelly perhaps would raise hers, but other than that we probably wouldn't see many hands raised in response to that. That's not Paul's concern. He's too Christlike for that. He knows the criticism as part of the life that God has appointed to you as an apostle of Jesus Christ, but also recognizes that people who are in the wrong relationship with Paul and apostle of Jesus Christ are not in a proper relationship with Christ himself, and he realizes therefore that for the health of the church and for the health of the individuals that he's addressing in this epistle. He needs to deal with this issue and so that's exactly what is going to do because a proper relationship to divinely ordered authority is important, even as he took two chapters, chapters 8 and nine to deal with the subject of giving because learning to give is very important to our spiritual health. Those who don't respond to the biblical way to instructions about giving are always going to be lagging behind in spiritual development but likewise those who are not rightly related to God ordained authority are always going to have defects in their Christian development that's going to be emphasized over the next several weeks now and looking at verses one through eight.
I have a three point outline so let's put that in front of you and then will move forward. We have number one.
An urgent appeal. Verses one and two, number two, an insightful explanation verses three through six.
Third, a defendant authority versus seven and eight FirstEnergy an appeal and I read again verses one and two. Now I call myself and pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ to them presence and lowly among you, but being absent and bold toward you, but I beg you the friend I am present. I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh and urgent appeal and what's his appeal about what we have in verse one. Paul's preferred approach and I'll explain that more in a moment, and we have in verse two. Paul's clear communication, not Paul's preferred approach as he makes clear in verse one is not have to forcefully exert his apostolic authority. He doesn't enjoy doing that he would prefer not to do that he would prefer that it not be necessary. That would be the preferred condition and he appeals to them to respond to his letter in such a way that he will not have to come in sternness in boldness in a confrontational approach. This is a very significant issue as indicated by those opening words worries is now. I Paul that expression I Paul is used only three time in his 13 epistles it's used in Galatians 5 to its use in first Thessalonians 218 which will not refer to directly at this time and then it's used here but every place it's used.
It introduces an especially significant issue so that very line which tells you this is important lesson similar. I suppose in some respects to Christ, verily, verily, I say or do you Paul says I Paul say unto you, is an urgent matter. The urgency of it is also indicated when he tells us. I am pleading with you is a very urgent matter. I'm begging you to hear what I'm saying to respond properly. Paul tells us that what he prefers to do is to employ a Christlike demeanor I Paul, myself and pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. That may seem like a strange thing to insert at this point but is very important to understand what's going on is one reason I read the entire chapter so we could get have some additional verses than the ones that we are examining this morning, but as we read the chapter becomes clear that one of the things that Paul's critics were were harping on was the fact that Paul was so meek Paul was so mild. Paul was so gentle.
Paul was not forceful all you see sounds forceful enough in his epistles those letters he writes they shoot out lightning and thunder. Paul himself becomes just a quiet, mild-mannered, meek sort of guy doesn't seem like much of a leader fencing like a very strong personality doesn't seem like a very effective minister, Paul says I am coming in meekness and gentleness, not because I can't do it the other way that you seem to prefer, but because I'm following the example of Christ, you who where you getting your ideas of what my demeanor should be like where you getting your ideas of how a leader ought to act. There's never been a greater leader than Jesus Christ and he is characteristic demeanor, not his universal always employed Demeter but is characteristic. Demeter was one of meekness and loneliness as we know, there were times when he could scold he could skate he could denounce. He could be forceful when the situation required, but he is general approach was meekness and gentleness he's known for that.
And Paul says that's mine preferred approach because that's the most Christlike approach and so that's how I'm coming to you on pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence. Speaking of himself. Now, and lowly among you being absent and bold toward you and what's that last phrase in verse one all about. Well, he is simply repeating what is critics are saying I'm coming to you in the meekness and gentleness of Christ dying who, as some of the critics say some of you are saying come very meekly quietly gentlemanly in presence, but in my letters. I'm very bold to you and Paul is really in the last part of verse one using a sarcastic rejoinder. He's using the words that are spoken by his critics to reveal what's what's wrong with their thinking and what they're saying.
It is a legitimate use of sarcasm. Sarcasm has to be used carefully and sparingly, and that is often used sinfully but it is not automatically an illegitimate tool in the arsenal of propagating a defending truth. That's what Paul is saying last part of verse one. Who and here's what the critics say Saul accepted who when I present time lowly among you when I'm absent. I'm bold toward you is going to go on to say that's not actually correct in all cases but that's what you say.
So let's run with that for the moment. My preferred approach is to be gentle, meek and lowly, like Christ, but he clearly communicates some very important information verse two, but I beg you that when I am present. I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. Paul's request is please don't make me assert my authority when I come to you, but his resolve is when and if it is necessary I will be bold in person.
If you make me I'll only do it if you don't submit to truth, I'll only do it if you don't cooperate. I'll only do it you don't respond to what I tell you, as you, in which case when I come, I will boldly confront those who fail to submit any basically categorizes the members of the church into two different classes in verse two, number one, those who will submit to his divinely given apostolic authority and those who don't. Those who will not, I beg you that when I am present. I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. Those who think that Paul is just like them.
They think Paul walks. According to the flesh because they walk according to the flesh, they seem to be judging Paul by themselves later in the chapter he says those who compare themselves by themselves, are not wise but was going on here. They think Paul asked like they do they think Paul thinks like they do because they have certain concepts that are wrong, and Paul doesn't seem to reflect those but they think he should and they think he does but somehow just is able to carry them out the way they do then they judge him defective because he doesn't act the way they think you should according to the flesh deposit is what this does is really reveals their lack of spiritual discernment, so when I come if they are some of you who have not corrected yourselves. You'll find out. I can be bold I can be strong I can be confrontational. I can be authoritative. I can be a disciplinarian.
I prefer not to be any of those things. Please don't make me that's my appeal. Please don't make me rather submit to divine authority, and divinely appointed human authority aligned yourselves with truth or I will be forced to take unwelcome action when I come your choice what you want from me when I go say I'm not bold. You'll find out when I use my boldness to correct and chasten those of you who will not submit to truth that is an urgent appeal, but then in verses three through six. He explains this more fully. We find an insightful explanation, and he begins with this important distinction verse three for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. We walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
We walk in the flesh. Why, because we are the flesh we walk in the flesh. Why, because we are human beings.
Members of the human race.
We are fleshly we walk in the flesh. Why, because we live in this present world were not in heaven yet and so yes we walk in the flesh, but we do not war according to the flesh, something strange. Now we use to Saul the Pharisee Ward according to the flesh, all how he warned, according to the flesh well how use the arsenal of fleshly weapons against Christian how he harassed them how he jailed them how he even brought about the deaths of some of the seat carried out his warfare in those days, according to the flesh because of course he was in the flesh. He was of the flesh. He had not yet been changed by the Spirit of God but we do not war according to the flesh because we have become children of the light, we are no more walking in darkness. We bought war, not according the flesh because we no longer belong to this world. We are in the world but not of the world.
As Jesus said in John chapter 17. That's an important distinction, and therefore necessary understanding follows in verse four.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds are weapons tools, the weapons we use to engage in spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged are not carnal, they're not fleshly they're not worldly.
What would that be liberty suggested several extreme ones. As Paul went about arresting people, putting them in prison. Putting them to death. In other words, forcing them to renounce Christ forcing them to embrace Moses in the way that he understood it, but even short of that kind of coercion we see fleshly weapons being employed all the time. They could be a number of things we could be talking about emotional persuasion where we we persuade people to do things not based upon their response to truth, but based upon emotional manipulation.
I learned many years ago to understand the altar call in that category because that basically is what it is.
It is a fleshly tech try to enlist spiritual decisions that aren't made that way.
Why don't people who were saved in an old-fashioned altar. Maybe some of you work yet, but it's not because of the altar was because of the work of the Spirit of God in your heart and you would heaven sake sitting in Matthew by the work of God's Spirit in your heart. It wasn't coming forward. That sealed the deal. It wasn't coming forward that made you make the right decision. What happens in about who knows. 90% of the cases are so was the people make false professions and are then harder to deal with. After all, because they think they have responded to truth because they responded physically to altar call to appeal emotional persuasion. That's a carnal weapon. Personality is its carried out in various ways is a carnal weapon reliance upon visible impressions. The way we we impress people with what we see, that's a great temptation.
It's a great danger, but it's a great carnality that was one of the issues. One of the huge issues in the Protestant Reformation was to get out of the churches in reliance upon visible manifestations of all kind times in order to aid people and their worship all of the statute. All these symbol all of this ceremony. All of this pageantry, all designed ostensibly to teach truth turns out to be a barrier to truth because it keeps trying to impress people and to to persuade people and to move people by what they see and what they feel in their emotions rather than by the truth of God's word operating in there so fleshly carnal weapons pulses are weapons are like that are weapons are powerful and what are our weapons. He doesn't spell them out here but basically two things the word of God in prayer.
That's what accomplishes God's work. Word of God in prayer proclaim the word undergirded by the prayers of God's people that will accomplish eternal victories as Paul goes on to explain the word of God and prayer, but, of God's people are just not convinced that that's enough. It takes something more heartache something bar yes yes we we understand that it takes the God in prayer but the addition of that we got him there is submissiveness in this and if were going to succeed.
And Paul is saying until we are willing to get rid of all the other things so that it's clear that we are relying only on that which God has given, then in effect were not relying at all of that which is God's given you want to mix it together with and rely upon the word of God in prayer go the whole list of other things we used to do to help word of God and prayer along so that it will become effective.
And Paul is saying until you are willing to get rid of everything else, and rely only on spiritual weapons upon the word of God and prayer that you haven't really relied upon the word of God in prayer. It's like salvation is by faith, by grace through faith in Christ right. But what we don't leave out the word alone because if you understand that to me. It's by God's grace. With our help edits by faith, with our help, and every it's by Christ with our additions to it, then you spoil the whole thing.
You can't mix those two things and have anything left of the reality.
It's by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
If it's not that, then you are not relying upon God's grace are not relying upon faith alone. You're not relying upon Christ alone. You are relying upon other thing and here, in this instance it's the same. If you are not relying upon spiritual weapons alone then you are not really relying upon spiritual weapons at all know how easy it is for us to mix these things up when a church is only about probably less than a year old.
We have a love number of people back in those days who loved gospel quartet, southern gospel music and I'm sure some of you still do. In fact for me to raise hands of people who like it will put mine up.
I like it is the final run across a Gaither concert on the television in the home, sit there take that in. I can enjoy that okay so don't misunderstand what I'm saying here.
But we have people come to me and said pass department. If we get some gospel portraits and here we could really make this church grow and I said yes we could were not going to do it. Why not because working rely on the word of God. Prayer well that'll be slow.
I know that will work as fast. I know, but if we set relying on other things and were going to lose God's blessing upon his word were going to lose that which really does produce eternal results and were going to accept counterfeit evidences of success in the place of genuine true spiritual success and were going to really make a mess of this thing so you go off to your Gaither all night gospel singer. The Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday night if you want to just be sure your back in time for church on Sunday morning and were not to have it here were just going to sing the old hymns to preach the word of God. Sorry wow, because that's the way I decided it needs to be who made you the one to decide who else got me any alternative suggestions of what you think this ought to be done. I think because God placed me in the position of spiritual leadership, a kind of respect for authority to Paul is talking about here.
What makes your decision the right one may not be but it's the one that God's appointed for this time because paths of righteousness. As I understand that's what were going to do by God's help and grace our weapons are not carnal their spiritual or spiritual. It's a necessary understanding and that employee will bring a victorious strategy success verse five actually is a continuation verse four the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds and casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God in bringing every thought of the captivity to the obedience of Christ. The word of God and prayer is all that is needed to destroy defective arguments casting down arguments against the truth, the word of God and prayer is all that is needed to defeat ungodly reasoning every high thing that exalts itself against God word of God and prayer is all that is needed to capture disobedient rebels bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. That is, every thought of the person who is captured by the grace of God changes our thinking the battles in the mind the battles and in our thinking are our thoughts are wrong.
They need to be changed. I need to be corrected.
What's going to do that the word of God is going to get done when God does it, it gets done thoroughly. It's a victorious strategy will just rely upon it, but sometimes in the pursuit of this kind of ministry. We read in verse six. There is an unwelcome necessity, and in addition to employing the weapons of spiritual warfare and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled in unwelcome necessity. May it be rare, may it be occasional. May it be never.
But unwelcome necessity in this world is punishing unyielding disobedience in the church being ready to punish all disobedience. After sufficient time has been given for self correction when your obedience is fulfilled. In other words, when you've all heard this thought about and considered it and lined yourselves up according to it one way or the other. When you've all had time to take sides.
We hope everybody will be on the side of truth. Nobody will still be on the side of defending error but if there are still those who are unwilling to yield. The truth then when I come. I'm going to employ not carnal means of chastening and discipline. This will be this will be church discipline. This would be spiritual discipline. That's what's been given to the church, but it needs to be employed sparingly. Hopefully never, but realistically, yes there are times so you gotta be willing to do that as well.
It ain't all positive. There are some negative then brings us finally to a defendant authority in verses seven and eight you look at things according to the outward appearance, if anyone is convincing himself that he is Christ, let him again consider that in himself. Consider this rather in himself the justice he is Christ. Even so, we are Christ's four even if I should I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction shall not be ashamed.
We see a mistaken perspective.
In verse seven, the fleshly confidence in verse seven and ungodly authority. In verse eight in the mistaken mistaken perspective is to look on things according to outward appearance was already touched on that people make very clear here.
Do you look at things. Verse seven. According to outward appearance is that the way you evaluate is that how you decide what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, what is effective and what is not effective in the work of God. Now interestingly, the statement translated in my Bible. Do you look at things according to the outward appearance is a question the statement can be according to the Greek form either indicative imperative or interrogative reports can be a statement it can be a command or can be a question and overthrow the possibilities and how he would be translated and apply, but each one of those brings a little bit different nuance to this statement, but the basics remain the same and what Paul is saying is the most common way by which people evaluate things is outward appearance. Why because that's the way the world evaluates things. Why because that's the only way the world can't evaluate things. What else if they got the problem. Is there way too many Christians who think like the world evaluate like the world they evaluate. According to outward appearance in their entirely wrong. The proper way to evaluate is according to the word of God, not according to outward appearance, I'd be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me over the years where they must be doing something right. Look at the way they're growing some particular church that seems to be growing and growing and waited were not most churches are not, they must be doing something right. Look at the way they're growing right. Mormons must be doing something right. Look at the way they're growing right. Jehovah's Witnesses must be doing something right. Look at the way they're growing right is that really a biblical way. Evaluate there a lot of reasons why churches, groups may grow, it may be true spiritual work of God blessing of God upon it. But in many cases it is something else again. In many cases it is a fleshly, a carnal appeal.
The people are drawn to. You do know what is the largest church in the United States. Don't you see in Texas, Dallas, Dallas, Texas. You see, you see it on television.
Occasionally, I suppose it church meets Stadium at six 25,000 people in its full every time and the pastor has written books about your best life now and things like that that church is growing like crazy is that evidence that this is a church that centers upon truth. No, actually it's a church that is for with heresy appeals to people who prefer deception to truth.
They prefer an emphasis upon health and wealth and prosperity, rather than upon the true gospel of Jesus Christ and more that appeals to people or groups so that the proper way to evaluate absolutely not. But it's the only way that the world can evaluate and it's the way that too many Christians evaluate, but it's not a proper way to evaluate that's a mistaken perspective to look on things according to outward appearance.
You gotta look deeper than that.
Now the text goes on to talk about fleshly confidence. People who are convinced that they are Christ's, if anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, that they that he belongs to Christ or that he belongs to a superior group of Christians.
If anybody is convinced about that Paul is going to go on and say something about it but the truth of the matter is that this could be a misplaced confidence just like you can be wrong about how to evaluate what's going on in the ministry. If you're not using applicable standards so you can be wrong about what's going on in your own life you think you belong to Christ because of XX and X, but it's not it's not biblical evaluation think you belong to a group that is the best group of Christians why because a biblical standards of evaluation because of something you is a misplaced confidence. Paul goes on to talk about a properly placed the confidence that is in his belonging to Christ.
It's again kind of a live I would call this with sarcasm or just irony but it's the same sort of thing again, if anyone is convincing himself that he is Christ led him again. Consider this in himself the justice he is Christ.
Even so, are we so even so, we are Christ. In other words, do you think that your claim to being belonging to Christ is stronger than mine. Do you think your claim to being a proper representative of Jesus Christ is stronger than mine. Paul the apostle for the time being. He just says you think you belong to Christ. Just realize I do to leave it at that for the moment, but he saying that he has belonging to Christ should be apparent to everyone and he ate his claim to that is certainly equal to layers. In fact it's far superior as we know, and then he goes on in verse eight to talk about godly authority and give three marks for proper godly authority for even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction shall not be ashamed.
What does he tell us about godly authority, number one, it is reluctantly asserted is already made that clear earlier in the passage true godly authority is not something that is being wielded and exercised constantly. It doesn't need to be.
And furthermore the person who's truly placed by Christ in a position of authority does not want to do that does not delight in that none of their godly see people who are constantly reminding others of our authoritarian demanding that they be given authority in asserting their authority, you are probably looking at someone who has usurped authority that was not God-given. That's a carnal exercise but the first mark of true godly authority is that it is reluctantly asserted number two. It is productively exercised, the authority which the Lord gave us for what for edification, not for your destruction. The whole purpose for God-given authority is to build people up there needs to be authority structures in this world.
You do realize that don't you. Some people have a hard time with that there is equal but according to God's design.
Some people are given positions of authority that others are not different. It's all the way through human society as God structured it. I know it's very unpopular, very very unwelcome in our day to say that God made husbands to have authority over lives. Is he good hope that in shock. You God made parents have authority over children as he did that needs to be exercise properly in a godly way right back to the first mark, not something that gets exerted continually. It's not overbearing it's not something that is misused, but is something that must be properly God-given authority to civil authorities and government that we are to be in submission to a lot of I don't agree with them. Not if we don't like them real sore area. A lot of people in godly spiritual authority in the church according to his design and it's different for all of these are there for purpose and in the church a particular it's there for your edification.
This is for your goodness for your spiritual health is for your building up so that things can operate smoothly and without disruption, the way God intended for them to be so that the church can be ministering the word of God to God's people and building them up in the most holy faith, and equipping them to do the work of the ministry.
Paul said that's what this authority to Christ is given to me. As for this is how I exercise it I exercise it I exercise it for your edification for your destruction. So that's a second mark of godly authority does productively exercised number three. It is spiritually sustained to the last part of verse eight. When I do this when I exercise this authority to Christ is given to me, I shall not be ashamed phrase kind of gets lost in obscurity, but if you study that phrase the Bible you realize that has the idea of of that which will stand against assaults on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ were told, shall not be ashamed. Paul says when I properly exercise my God-given authority I shall not be ashamed. That is why authority is going to be sustained by Christ is nothing to be ashamed of, and my exercise of it. I'm not going to put myself in a position of being shamed because I'm doing quite Christ has appointed me to do and he's going to sustain me, he will see to it that I am sustained and that I will not be ashamed.
The defendant authority that will wrap it up by covering some lessons quickly. The first lesson I have of this passage is a lesson regarding spiritual authority spiritual authority when it's truly given by God being exercise properly is not asserted frequently or with the light but it is asserted when necessary to be true to Christ. Christ who gave it. It is exercised when Christ is attacked. It is exercised when vital truth is attacked.
It is exercised when souls are in danger in those occasions godly authority.
God ordained authority should be exercised and those who have been entrusted with the two are unwilling to exercise it at times like this are themselves being negligent or failing to carry out their assignment second lesson will we learn all this relates to ministry methods how the methods by which we carry out ministry or as some people prefer to call them ministry philosophy. What's our philosophy of ministry and I already told you this passage makes it clear that I philosophy of ministry basically is that ministry is carried out by the word of God and prayer that was your five-year plan ministries carried out by the word of God in prayer. Yeah what's your strategy and I'm not saying that is wrong to make any plans or have any strategies but you gotta keep coming back to this godly ministry is accomplished by the word of God in prayer.
If you relying on anything else and you not relying on that. That is our ministry method and what it all boils down to is, do you have confidence in God's word. When you keep adding things that you think are necessary to to help God's word do its work. What you're saying is God's word is not sufficient. God's word is not enough. God's word is not powerful God's word is not really like a living sword is the computers to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, you quote that, but you don't believe that you think it needs some help some help from you some help from others. God says that dishonors me. You do what I told you to do. And trust me to do what I said I would you do it the way I told you to do it. Relying upon the spiritual weapons that I have given to you and trust me to accomplish with that, but I intend ministry methods.
Number three I touch on this one quickly and lightly political methods.
While that's entirely different.
Is it for a Christian should be basically the same. We want to see accomplish in the political realm is going to be accomplished by the word of God in prayer works not to be successfully accomplished. It's not to be accomplished by storming Washington and breaking into offices and tearing things down. It's easy to get caught up in the Führer. The frenzy, the excitement better backup. Think about this long and hard weapons of our warfare for whatever organ accomplish for good in this world are not carnal they are spiritual spiritual weapons that will change thinking spiritual weapons will pull down Satan strongholds spiritual weapons that can actually accomplish change in this nation and if you are relying on anything else you're barking up the wrong tree.
This passage tells us something about how to advance truth politically with that close father, we thank you for your word, forgive us for not listening to it carefully, believing and applying it as we ought. Thank you father for your grace and mercy that you give us time to become obedient before you chasten us for our disobedience help us in the Lord.
All of us to hear your word with humility, with faith with surrender with obedience brings honor and glory to Christ in whose name we pray. Amen