February 9, 2014

A Duplicate of The Divine - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 2 Corinthians Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:15– 2:4


A Duplicate of The Divine-Part One

2 Corinthians 1:15-2:4
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith


Back in the pagan days, I used to be a bouncer at several different night clubs. The experience has helped to turn me off to bars, alcohol and fighting based upon my many awful encounters with these items. If it were possible, most of the guys I worked with were even more pagan than I was. Instead of being there to break up fights, they oftentimes searched for blood in the water to start them.

I'll never forget the young man that walked out one day. Under his breath he said to one of our bigger bouncers, "You wanna fight?" His goal was to say it just loud enough to impress his buddies, but just soft enough so the bouncer wouldn't hear it. Lance heard it. Lance responded with a, "As a matter of fact I do." The guy took off running for his life, and Lance chased him through the entire parking lot.

The reason I shared this story is because it's the first thing that came to my mind when I considered how the false teachers treated the apostle Paul in Corinth. When Paul wasn't around, they made all kinds of nasty and unfounded accusations behind the man's back hoping Paul would not hear them. They picked a fight with their careless words, but those words made it back to Paul's ears. And instead of ignoring them, Paul chased them down and attacked all their baseless claims. It wasn't because Paul was insecure. It was because Paul knew that if they discredited his character, they could discredit his ministry. And if they discredited his ministry, they would in effect quarantine themselves from God's truth. Paul defended himself because he loved them and the glory of God was on the line.

Now we don't have any of the opponents' writings to know what they said nor can we interview people that were there two thousand years ago, but we can rather simply reconstruct what the opponent's said based on the responses from Paul contained in 2 Corinthians.

A few weeks ago we learned that they claimed Paul was a phony because he suffered too much. "God would never allow a choice servant of His to go through so much agony." To which Paul basically replied, "God uses suffering to get our affections off the worthless things of the world. He uses suffering to pull away all our idolatrous props so we might depend upon Him alone. He uses suffering to show us His sufficient comfort, a comfort that I received and gladly passed on to you."

Last week we witnessed Paul take on the general attack that he was an ungodly man who lacked moral integrity. To which Paul basically replied, "I can appeal to my own lifestyle with a clear conscience that I am innocent of the charges you bring against me. Furthermore, I was with you for 18 months and you know no one can speak a word that bears witness to these false allegations. I anticipate God's final judgment with total confidence. By the grace of God, not fleshly wisdom, I conduct myself in holiness and godly sincerity (eilikrineia).

Can you say these things about yourself?

Today we'll learn of another one of their specific accusations on his character that Paul attacks head-on with a masterful stroke of wisdom and humility. This morning I want you to see how Paul defends himself by appealing to the greatness of God and Paul's grace-driven desire and ability to be like Him. I'm calling this sermon, "A Duplicate of the Divine."

If we analyze verses 15 and 16 we are able to easily put together the specific critique leveled against Paul. Let's read those two verses together: "In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing; 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."

In the final chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul mentioned that he was planning to visit them. In 16:5-7 he wrote, "But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits." In addition to looking forward to spending extended time with this church he loved, he also wished to collect money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor. 16:1-4).

After further thought, Paul rearranged his travel arrangements. As verses 15 and 16 of 2 Corinthians 1 indicate, Paul (verse 15) wanted to doubly bless them (literally, doubly grace them) not only with the time they could spend together with two visits, but also with the second opportunity it would provide the church to contribute financially to the fund he was collecting. Now most in today's church don't associate giving financially with grace, but as we'll see when we enter chapter 8, giving is always synonymous with grace as it demonstrates God has met your needs, and He has softened your heart to meet the needs of others, especially others without the ability to repay. So Paul, as he says in verse 15, intends to see them on his way into Macedonia (as he traveled north) and then visit them again as he returns south on his trip back to Jerusalem (Judea).

Yet something happened that required Paul to alter his plans once again. Paul's traveling companion, Timothy, arrived from Corinth and informed Paul how bad the situation over in the Corinthian church really was. As a good shepherd, Paul makes an immediate emergency visit to Corinth in an effort to remedy the dysfunctional church. It's known as the "painful visit." He speaks of it in 2:1: "But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again." The opponents had won over the hearts in the church, and the very people Paul loved and poured his life into turned their back on him. There was a total mutiny of the ship. It was horrible. Paul leaves depressed. He returns to Ephesus. He cancels the double visit that he had planned for the reasons he will explain in chapter 2.

So what happened? You can guess it for yourself as wolves in God's church are very predictable. "Here we go again. Do we need to give you more evidence that Paul is a phony? Why are you listening to a man that can't keep his word? First it's one visit. Then it's two visits. Now it's no visits. If you can't trust his travel plans, how can you trust his preaching? Where's his honesty? Where's his integrity?" All of this was done in an effort to discredit him and totally take over this church.

We'll analyze Paul's two-part defense to this attack (although I believe we might not get past the first defense today). It appears this one has Paul up against the ropes, but once again he comes out swinging with wise, loving, God-honoring remarks that will silence the baseless attacks from his critics. He's not defeated. He's confident (as he says in verse 15) because of the purity of his motives (verses 12-14) in the decisions he made and the character he demonstrated because everything he did (as we should do) was to glorify God by emulating God's character.

1. Following God's Integrity (1:17-22)

Let's first see how Paul followed God's integrity (our first of two points).

Look with me at verse 17. Paul begins his defense with two rhetorical questions. "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?"

While Paul changed his plans because of the influence of God's grace in his life, the accusation against him was that he vacillated, that he planned like an unbeliever based upon his mood at the moment. As the verse 17 says, they said he purposed "according to the flesh." Furthermore the double emphasis of the yes and no's were in line with the ancient way of taking oaths. They claimed Paul would make an oath, enforce it with a double use of yes or no, and then do just the opposite. He breaks his oaths. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. In other words, you can't trust the guy! He's ungodly!

I always find it fascinating how God's enemies use righteousness to defend their case. This June will make thirteen years that I have been here in New Jersey. I've seen a lot of you thrive and grow tremendously in your walk with the Lord. Sadly I've seen others, thankfully only a few, that have not done very well at all - a refusal to follow Scripture and in these cases in very significant ways. Yet what I find so interesting is that when they leave the church, we (oftentimes I and or the leaders) are the sinners, and they are the righteous ones. They convince themselves and then tell others that they sadly need to move on because we didn't meet their standard of holiness. Oftentimes they start attending another church and within a year or so they are not going anywhere.

I mean people can seek to split the church, teach heresy, leave their spouses, exasperate their children, live with their girlfriend and abuse drugs, yet they are never the bad guys. And I mean never! They hang their hat on the overused blanket statements (the church is unloving or judgmental or legalistic) or they find some nit-picky issue and stretch it to the worst possible conclusion (we'll come back to that). In a sense, I would love to hear one person say, "I see the commands in Scripture, and I'm not planning on repenting because I simply don't want to honor the Lord with my decisions." Isn't the Christian paradox funny? The biggest sinners see themselves as the biggest "saints" and the biggest "saints" see themselves as the biggest sinners!

So here is why I say that. Here you have these false teachers seeking to take over this church, destroy God's people and lead the others to hell with their instruction. Additionally, they have the audacity to accuse Paul (God's apostle!) of being double-minded and untrustworthy because of some nit-picky issue like the change in his travel plans!

In verse 18 Paul says, "But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no." They said Paul was unfaithful (you don't keep your word) so Paul appeals to the faithfulness of God (who always keeps His word). As God is trustworthy, so were Paul and his traveling companions. Verse 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."

I love what Paul does here. Not only does he claim to model the same integrity as God, but he uses this situation to get the focus off himself and onto Jesus Christ. You see, false teachers use Jesus to preach themselves. Paul, even while standing before the firing squad, used himself to preach Jesus (2 Cor. 4:5).

The beginning of verse 20, "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes." An attack on Paul transitions to one of the most cherished verses in Scripture. Jesus is everything! Everything is yes in Jesus! That through Christ, the climatic Individual of God's redemptive plan, "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 21:6), we see the fulfillment through Him of all God's promises. As Jesus Himself said, everything in the Old Testament pointed to Him (Lk. 24:44). That is why we need to read our Old Testament's through the lens of Jesus. That's why we are bondslaves to Jesus. That's why we cherish marriage between one woman and one man because marriage is intended to mirror the marriage between the church and Jesus. That's why we pray in the name of Jesus. That why we do all things for the exaltation of Jesus. Every promise of God is yes in Jesus. Do you understand that through Him and only through Him we receive not only salvation, but also every spiritual blessing that God has promised throughout all of history!

Some of those blessings mediated by the Holy Spirit are mentioned in verses 21 and 22. "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." First, like Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, all Christians are anointed. We are set apart and equipped and commissioned by the Holy Spirit for God's special work. Second, all Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit. That is God stamping His ownership on us. It is God declaring that we are His, never to be taken away from His possession. And third, as a promise of the sealing, God has given us the down payment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the initial installment, the pledge that guarantees us the full blessings of our salvation still yet to come.

Convinced by Paul's defense?

I come back now to the end of verse 20, "Therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us." We say Amen after a prayer. Some of you like to say it aloud in church after a particular point of encouragement in the sermon. That's good too. Amen is simply the Hebrew equivalent of today's "yes." It means I joyfully agree with what was just said.

So Paul ends this wonderful theological masterpiece of the greatness of the Christian's salvation in Jesus Christ - delivered from hell, forgiven from all sin, adopted into God's family, set apart for God's service, protected forever in God's care, given the Holy Spirit and assured of future glory. And to all of that we say, "Amen!" Paul does the same at the end of verse 20.

Yet Paul's point in the context? Say I preach on the need to live a pure life and you are living with someone you are not married to. Will you say "Amen" and really mean it? Say I preach on the need to save babies and you are doing nothing to help their cause. Will you say "Amen" and really mean it? Say I preach on the need to share your faith and you never speak out for Christ. Will you say "Amen" and really mean it?

Through God's work in Jesus Christ, Paul just gave the greatest argument for the faithfulness of God. He concluded by saying "Amen." The conclusion we draw? Paul says, I am acting like God. I am a duplicate of the Divine. Despite the accusations over my untrustworthiness, as God is faithful so am I! And the same applies to you, Grace Tabernacle. If you are "Amening" the faithfulness of God, it stands to reason that if you are a self-respecting individual of integrity, you too are living a life of devout faithfulness to God and others yourself! So God is faithful to keep His word to bring forth all His promises in Jesus Christ and we too as a followers of Him, emulate His character and can be trusted as well. Paul followed God's integrity. Next week we will see how Paul followed God's heart.

The attacks on Paul came. They come on all who desire to live righteous lives. But Paul defended himself for the Lord's glory by saying he is a duplicate of the Divine. He intimately knew his God. He "Amened" God's faithfulness. He followed God's faithfulness in his own life. By God's grace, that is what Paul did. By God's grace, that is what all Christians do.

Yet it has to start with this. Do you know this God? Have you come to Him through Jesus Christ? If not, these wonderful promises I spoke of today are not for you. If not, you will never be empowered to live a faithful life. Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?

A few months ago, I was asked by my daughter to proofread a letter that she left on the computer. Here is what it said:

Dear President Obama,

I am hoping right now that you are reading this letter personally, because what I'm about to tell you is vitally important. I am sure that you may have heard this life saving news before, but I feel led to tell you again.

There is a God; a wonderful, powerful King of the Universe. He's there. He is in fact, with you right now. He is everywhere. He made you. He made me. He made everyone. He's perfect. Look at your wife and girls and tell me they were created by chance. It's just not logical.

Everyone is a sinner. You don't believe me? Have you ever lied to some one? Have you ever stolen something? Have you have looked upon someone with lust, or hated someone in your heart? We are all guilty of breaking at least one of God's standards multiple times a day. Since we are sinners and unclean in the sight of a holy God, we deserve hell; the place of eternal suffering. This is not a punishment. It is simply what we deserve.

Here is the good news: God loves us. He sent his son, Jesus, to be in our place and to take the sins of those who believe in Him on His shoulders. He lived a perfect life on earth and then, though He had done nothing wrong, was nailed to the cross with a crown of thorns.

On the third day, however, Jesus rose again. He beat death. He is alive now, sitting on the right side of His Father's throne in heaven. Jesus gave us the free gift of grace. All we have to do is believe. That's it. Jesus paid it all so we don't have to. He canceled the debt of sin so that someday, if we believe, we can spend eternity praising God with the angels in heaven.

Please consider this message. It says in the Bible that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For many it will be too late. Will you today, Mr. President?

I'm praying for you.

If you haven't, will you today, my friend, receive Jesus Christ?


other sermons in this series

Mar 8


Optimistic Admonitions

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Series: 2 Corinthians

Mar 1


Severity In Weakness

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13:1–10 Series: 2 Corinthians

Feb 22


Signs, Sacrifice, and Sorrow

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:11–21 Series: 2 Corinthians