(A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 11-19-06 2 Corinthians 1:12-22
Proposition: The God who establishes, anoints us and seals us, gives us the Holy Spirit as a pledge that we can plan and live our lives in confidence.
- THE Apostle Paul was being hammered by the Christians in the Corinthian church….even though he was the one who planted that church in the city.
* False teachers had infiltrated the church and were throwing serious questions over Paul’s message and style of ministry.
* Some mistrusted his real intentions were for the money he had asked them to raise for relief work in Jerusalem.
* Other Corinthian believers were saying, “Paul sure sounds bold in his letters, but in person he is not very forceful…in fact he comes across as kind of weak.”
* Some didn’t think that Paul’s preaching or writing held the same impressive kind of wisdom they were accustomed to in their culture.
* Others felt like Paul was just going through too much affliction, to much opposition, and too much sickness….to be a bold, authoritative apostle.
* Some people in Corinth were just waiting for any reason they could find to discredit Paul and his message.
* And the last and most biting criticism leveled against Paul by the Corinthian believers was that his word just couldn’t be trusted.
- LET me explain.
* In Paul’s first letter to Corinth, he had promised them he would come to spend time with him.
“I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing…” (1 Corinthians 4:19)
“After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” (1 Corinthians 16:5-7)
* Then, in some correspondence between Paul and Corinth, that has been lost, Paul must have changed his plans and told them that he was going to come first to them, and then go up to Macedonia.
“I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.” (2 Corinthians 1:15b-16)
- SO, in 1 Corinthians he said he would come to them by way of Macedonia.
- THEN, in some subsequent letter, he said he would come to them first, and then go to Macedonia.
- ONLY now, he had not come to them at all, but was writing to them from somewhere in Macedonia, after running for his life from Ephesus.
- SOUNDS pretty simple to me.
- MOST of us in this room have traveled enough that we all know when you are on a road trip…things can change.
- HOWEVER, the disgruntled saints in Corinth took offense at what they identified as duplicity in Paul….and for them the changes in his travel plans became the last straw.
- THEY added offense to all of the other problems they had with Paul….and the net result was that he got word they were on the verge of throwing out everything he taught and believed in.
- EVEN those in Corinth who supported him were puzzled by how weak he seemed to be.
- HE was beginning to look too much like a loser; a little too battered, bruised and sick to be leading them in the ways of God’s kingdom.
- FROM the previous verses in 2 Corinthians 1, we have found out that all of this has shaken Paul.
- IN verse 8, he says that he despaired even of life, and in verse 9 he confesses that he had the sentence of death within him.
- PAUL has had his confidence shaken.
- THE Puritans called it the dark night of the soul, when everything we have come to lean on for security gets pulled out from underneath us.
- BUT even though Paul has endured more than most of us in this room, and was shaken by the attitudes of the Corinthian believers towards him, he refuses to languish in the grave of self-pity.
- THE writer of Hebrews puts it this way…
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)
- SO, Paul answers his critics in Corinth….NOT in order to defend himself personally, but in order to reclaim a position from which to build the church in Corinth.
- IT wasn’t about him, personally, it was all about the Corinthians believers, the church.
- IN fact, the theological foundation for Paul’s defense is found in 2 Corinthians 5:12,
“We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” (2 Corinthians 5:12)
- SO, Paul is responding to the charges against him, and in 2 Corinthians 1:12-22, he teaches us three important lessons about confident living.
ii. CONFIDENT IN CONscience
- SEE if you can spot the first lesson about confident living in verses 12-14,
“For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience…” (2 Corinthians 1:12a)
- PAUL tells us in Romans 2:15 that our conscience is the law of God written on our hearts…that sometimes accuses us and sometimes defends us.
- OUR human conscience was that part of the image of God in us that was lost in the fall…John Wesley says it was marred in the fall, and partially restored in our salvation.
- YOUR conscience and mine is not the only basis of our confidence….but it is one measure of a godly life.
- WHAT is the testimony of Paul’s conscience?
- LET’S read on in verse 12,
“…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. “ (2 Corinthians 1:12)
- PAUL’S conscience is clear that whether in the world or the church of Corinth, he has acted…
1. In holiness…separated from the conduct of the world that is set against God.
2. In godly sincerity…examined in the light of the sun and found to be pure.
3. In the grace of God…the strength for living day to day that come from God in the context of an intimate relationship with Him.
- ONE more thing that Paul has to say about his conscience before them in verses 13 and 14,
“For we write nothing else to you than what you read and 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 ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 1:13-14)
- THERE is nothing else in Paul’s agenda or letters than what they have already read and understood.
- PAUL is not hiding anything, or leaving anything unsaid.
- HE hopes that they will hold to his teaching to the end….and that they will continue to be confident in each other until the day of the Lord.
- PAUL is living the confident life, because his conscience is clear before the Lord regarding his personal life, the integrity of his message, and the hope of mutual trust between him and the Corinthians until the day of the Lord.
- YOU say, “Pastor, my conscience is not clear!”
- WELL, that explains the lack of confidence you have in living, planning, making decisions.
- CONFESS your sins to God and repent….receiving forgiveness and times of refreshing.
- MAKE restitution where you need to for the times you wronged someone.
- ASK for forgiveness.
- GIVE forgiveness.
- BE filled with the Holy Spirit….so you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh in the future.
- AND live with confidence…because you have a clean conscience.
iii. CONFIDENT IN PLANNING
- THE next few verses are very interesting to me, because I believe that they teach how you and I can have confidence in our plans.
- LISTEN carefully to Paul in verses 15-17,
“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?” (2 Corinthians 1:15-17)
- IN Paul’s first plans for the trip, he was going to go to Macedonia first and then down to Corinth (This primarily would be an overland trip).
- THEN, in his second communication with them, for whatever reason, he changed his plans to go to them first, and then up to Macedonia (This would have been a sailing trip across the Aegean Sea).
- BUT in the end, the riot at Ephesus caused him to leave Ephesus on the run…which necessitated a land trip.
- THEN, he got violently ill somewhere between Ephesus and Macedonia.
- AND now, his trip to Corinth significantly delayed, he is writing 2 Corinthians from Macedonia after hearing how he was being discredited.
- LISTEN carefully.
- THE Corinthians, because they were looking for some way to discredit Paul, used the changes in his plans as a way to accuse him of saying yes, yes and no, and no…..all at the same time.
- CORINTH thought that the changes in Paul’s plans were a sign of duplicity.
- ON the contrary, Paul plans his life with confidence and accepts the circumstances he finds himself in with no second guessing because….
1. Paul is always actively submitted to the will of God. He told Corinth that, back in 1 Corinthians 4:19, that his coming to them would be “the Lord willing.”
2. Paul’s agenda is the building of the Church of Jesus Christ in everything he does.
3. Paul actively follows the Holy Spirit’s leadership in his life….e.g. God’s call to him to go west, to Macedonia, when Paul wanted to go east (Acts 16:9).
- SO, Paul plans his life with confidence, and when the Holy Spirit changes the plans….Paul follows, also with confidence.
- JUDGING on the outside, it looks like Paul is flip flopping, but not when you know what is going on in Paul’s heart.
- HE plans his life with confidence.
- YOU can too, if you follow Paul’s example.
iv. CONFIDENT IN GOD
- THEN, finally, Paul teaches us in verses 18-22 about the source of his confidence for living.
“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 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. 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.”
- WHAT an amazing five verses!
- YOU have the promises of a faithful God, who anoints you for living.
- YOU are established in Christ together with His family of other believers.
- AND you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
- TALK about a basis for confident living!
- THERE it is. It is God….and your relationship in Him and with Him by the Holy Spirit.
- THAT is the basis of your confidence, not your health, not your bank balance, not your education, not your circle of friends.
- SO, let me review with you for a moment.
- PAUL is being criticized, ostracized, and rejected by the believers in Corinth, because they cannot accept his authority….based on his afflictions and changing plans.
- PAUL answers saying three things:
1. My confidence is this; the testimony of my conscience before the world, but especially towards you.
2. I am confident in my planning, regardless of how they turn out because I am submitted to God’s will, seeking first the kingdom of God, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
3. My confidence is God, period….His promises, faithfulness, anointing, Jesus in me, and Holy Spirit.
- THERE it is for you!
- THERE is the mirror of God’s Word, held up to show you and me what confident living looks like.
- WHO wants in?