2 Corinthians 12B (vv.14-21)
Remember, Paul, in the larger context of this letter here, is speaking to believers. This is important, because he is discussing salvation in a way that is largely ignored in Christendom, and seems poorly understood by all except the faithful, and that is sanctification, the act of God imparting His holiness to us through His work and our cooperation.
We should contrast this with justification, the act of God declaring us righteous in the first place. This is why Christ died in our place according to the Gospel. He became human, he lived for between 33 and 34 years as a human, in perfect obedience to God under the Law of Moses, and then deliberately and knowingly gave up that life as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us vicariously on the cross. All those big words are chosen and precise in their definition, but the basically mean that Christ died for OUR sins as a substitute (vicariously), atoning for them (propitiation), with God then declaring us righteous in Christ (expiation), which pronounces us as faultless before God (justification). This is a sole work of our triune God, as opposed to sanctification, which God allows His new creations in Christ to learn to CHOOSE to do His will, and instead of simply imputing His righteousness (giving us the righteousness of another, Christ) monergistically (alone by Himself), He imparts His righteousness to our changed natures by teaching us to choose His will and live according to His Word. This is defined as sanctification, the process whereby He makes us holy, and it is said to by synergistic, that is we are allowed by God to participate in the act by our choices, that will move out into our works. However, it is still mostly His work – and none of what we do to become holy is worth two cents if we have not been born again, or saved, or converted, or justified, or redeemed, or regenerated – whatever term you want to choose for justification.
Paul is speaking of sanctification here to believers, and when justification does come up (as it does in 4:15, for example), it is mentioned as happening as a result of Christians that have said yes to sanctification and are choosing to live as God commands. If you read carefully, Paul is using this kind of sanctification as evidence of justification before God and all of His gifts to men, including His own Apostleship.
I normally give a great big review of how we have gotten to the point we are in the book, but at this point, I’m tired of repeating myself, and there are only two more studies including this one in the series, and in all of the Pauline Epistles that we have yet to cover. Most of it is on video, and you can find it, at least right now, on the Berean Nation YouTube channel, so check it out, and subscribe while you’re at it. I need 987 more subscribers to get the really fun toys. Meaning I have 13 subscribers on YouTube. That’s okay, I’ve never said the message was popular.
At this point, I would rather just give a short summary of why we are where we are. We are at this point in 2 Corinthians because Paul, the humble, and self-effacing servant of God, was forced by events and people to give a defense of his service to Christ, and so he has chosen to address the false teachers, who have called themselves “super apostles,” on their own level in their own fashion, but then set his own goalposts in concrete and dared them to take a shot on net by simply using their terms of what it means to be an Apostle of Christ, but in a way no sane person would ever wish on another human being, let alone knowingly put themselves through unless they had a worthwhile enough cause, in Paul’s (and hopefully our) case, that of Christ, who has the right to expect us to do what we can do to bring glory and honour to His name and never worry about our own ease or comfort.
Think about this for a minute. Paul was beat up, hit with sticks, whipped, lied to and about, been on ships that had sunk and spent a day and a night in the sea, And who knows what other craziness–all to bring the word of Christ’s death and resurrection to the world. None of these “super apostles” could say the same. All they could do is a) make stuff up, and b) attack and malign Paul’s character so that he had to respond…and respond he did with the third of four letters that we know about, often called the “angry letter,” which has been lost to history, but may in fact have been preserved in some form in chapters 10-13 of this letter. That is why we are studying it: To see what information WE can glean so we do not fall into the same issues that the Corinthians.
You also need to recall that the Corinthian believers were a part of the most issue-ridden church of the day. The regions around Corinth had turned the name of the city into a verb, to Corinthianize. That meant to completely debauch or debase any person, place, or thing to a very low degree by shameful and licentious behaviour. How would you like your city’s name to have that done to it? Although “to Ottawize” has more of the connotation of taxing something to death these days [chuckle].
So with all of that as an understanding, what we can say is that a humble servant of God is called upon to do a little bragging about himself–and he does, but not in a way you would expect. Oh, he bragged about his achievements to be sure, but it is what he defined as achievements that would have most of us gritting our teeth. I know mine were clenched…but in a whoa, that’s quite a ride kind of way. Paul knew something–that anything this world would give him was skubalon compared to the riches of the knowledge of the greatness of Christ. That greatness of Christ certainly had a greater cost. For those of you that did not follow when I said the word “skubalon,” that the semi-liquid putrescence that comes out the back-end of a bovine animal, and growing up on a farm, I certainly dealt with enough of it to know.
I broke this section into two paragraphs as follows:
KV15: I will gladly expend and be expended for your souls…
I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
14-18: No one is trying to take advantage of you…
19-21: We are trying to build you up!!!
What Paul is saying in this chapter should come as no surprise if you have been following along with us. Paul has only been “boasting” about things for the benefit of the Corinthians as it turns out. Let’s just get right into that.
KV15: I will gladly expend and be expended for your souls…
I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
If you will remember what I said around chapter 5 about making applications personal like we ourselves were called to gospel ministry like Paul was (and make no mistake we–we are)? Here is another opportunity for this kind of thing. Beloved, given that everything Paul was saying and doing was aimed at building up the church, the New Testament people of God, individually and corporately, should we not also do likewise? Paul sank to the level of his detractors and then redefined what a good goal was as a talking point. This culminating statement really reflects how WE ought to be with the other believers and even professed believers, because this is the real battle.
We should be willing, as Paul put it here, to spend and be spent in the service of God’s New Testament people. We should be willing to do what it takes to see that these beloved and holy brethren continue to be sanctified until the day of Jesus Christ, whenever that comes for us individually or collectively. My brother needs help? If it is within my power, I will give it. As a pastor, God even tells me the best form of help to give in Paul’s words to Timothy and even the rationale:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
My brother needs some strong encouragement? Then I must lift my brother up from the depths of his despair. My brother has some wrong ideas? Then I need to faithfully reprove the brother and teach him the right way in Christ. My brother has done something wrong? I need to rebuke my brother to make him see his error and help him correct his own course. And my best tool for doing that? In all three cases, it is my words that God speaks through me. I have no money, or I would give it. However, as Peter said to the lame man in the temple, “Silver and gold, I have none, but such as I have, I give to you.” These bible studies, and book studies, and Movie watch parties, and songs we sing, and discussions we have…I will gladly do all of that with and for you, until I can no longer stand up, and even then if I can stay awake.
We should be willing to both spend our resources and talents for others like this, and be poured out until the last drop is gone. How do I know this is true? The same way Paul knew–Jesus our Lord and Christ did the same for us, and we are to follow Him. Let’s get into the text.
14-18: No one is trying to take advantage of you…
I have actually been party to conversations like this. A situation arose several years ago when we were still running Vacation Bible Schools in the summer time. One of the older sisters looked at my wife, who was then the church’s paid youth worker, and berated her and Vacation Bible Schools because all of the parents were, and I quote the lady involved, “…just using us for free daycare for a week.” As you can imagine, I had an instant response for the lady: “So?”
What I had to point out was that in offering this valuable community service, we were able to present the gospel to these children. Although it is true that many did not listen, some did, and those in my estimation were the ones that Christ was using us to reach. And that data will not be fully seen until the Lord shows it to us in His kingdom anyway. I was not able to placate our dear lady with that, but I was able to placate the rest of the council, who saw the wisdom of it, and that lady did eventually come around before she passed away, I think.
In offering services, we are NOT trying to take advantage of people. We want to help them. When they ask us why, we can then explain that it is because Christ saved us and gave us the desire to help others, and if they want to learn more, we have an open and non-hostile opportunity to share the gospel. No one is trying to take advantage of anybody. If people don’t want to hear about Him, no one forces this on them, as we are so often falsely accused. Jesus told us not to cast pearls before swine, and I think that’s a part of His meaning. Don’t put the glories of the kingdom in front of people that do not want to hear it. That’s just failed demagoguery. Don’t be like that. Let’s see what Paul is talking about.
14: Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.
- I think Paul is giving us all the ammunition we need to shoot back at the critics of real Christianity with this verse. We are often falsely accused of telling the story over and over again to gain converts into our tithing scheme to make more money. Beloved, there are some that ARE in it for that reason. Like a certain large global organization that has a hippie named “Frankie” for its head. Their clergy are not allowed to marry, which Scripture calls the doctrine of demons, and originally, that was a wealth grab, and it worked. Medieval people began leaving stuff to other people that would not enter the priesthood as a kind of reaction in my opinion, but that’s tangential to our study this evening. This should NEVER–repeat NEVER–be about money. Take your hand out of your pocket, your wallet is safe, Beloved. The Lord loves a give that is WILLING, and NEVER forced, as we saw in an earlier chapter.
- Paul is worthy of emulation here. Let me rephrase him into my own words. “I do not want your stuff! I want YOU! Not for your money, or even for your so-called ability–but because Christ loves you, and YOU should want HIM too. This is a matter for all mature believers to remember. Paul is calling the Corinthians his own children in a spiritual sense, and they were, just as we are his spiritual descendants. Beloved, that Paul wanted OUR STUFF is a ridiculous thought, and anyone that suggests it SHOULD be mocked and laughed at for such moronic thought. Paul never knew we would even exist. How COULD He want OUR stuff? And PAUL’S teaching was that we shouldn’t want your stuff either. Anyone that IS after your stuff is no follower of Paul’s or Christ’s, and is not a real Christian. Take note, people of Hillsong, or Bethel, Redding, or of Kenneth Copeland and others like them. You are part of a huge money-making scheme, and you need to get out of it now while you still have your stuff.
- You see, if you look at what happens naturally, it is not the children who save up for the parents. It is the other way around. In a limited sense, you are my spiritual children if you are here and enjoying this study. I am privileged to be a parent spiritually speaking. I give stuff to my kids in the natural, they don’t give it to me. I’d like it to be the same way here. I give you my stuff, in this case the Word, and its exposition, so that YOU may benefit spiritually.
- Paul is also telling the Corinthians that this is a third time that he is coming to them. And he is (from the context last week) STILL not going to let them give him their money! As much as we need financial assistance for BereanNation.com, I don’t want your money if you don’t want to give it, and even then, please make sure you are regularly giving to your local biblical gathering first. You will also notice that there isn’t really a mechanism to give money to us. That is by design, Beloved. I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say this should NEVER be about making money.
15: I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
- And here it is in plain words. I will give my time, my resources, my talents, I will give everything I have to gain your souls for Christ. To see them grow in the light of His knowledge and truth. Although I have no wish to die, I am also ready to be poured out for you. It IS painful. Agonizing sometimes. And not just physically. But I see a spiritual benefit to you by that, then I will do it GLADLY. That was Paul’s attitude, and it is the one I try to take, though I am not Paul, and I sometimes fail at it.
- But also notice, Paul is now turning the tale on the Corinthians, and so must I on you. Beloved, if I love you all this way, should you love me any less than I love you? I give freely. Just take it. But don’t try to steal it. That’s in the Law. Thou shalt not steal, it says. Don’t love me less by continuing one moment more in your sin, Beloved. Repent. He waits with open arms! Oh, come to Him!
16: But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit.
- However, Paul is moving in a different direction. It seems pretty clear from the text to me and to others (including Lawson, MacArthur, Sproul, et al.) that Paul did not expect such love to be returned. In fact, he at this third coming to Corinth, he still had no intention of taking their money!
- But then again, according to the “super apostles,” he was a crafty fellow, taking them by deceit. The word the we translate “crafty fellow” is the Greek panourgos, and means “ready to do anything, crafty, skillful,” according to my lexicon. The word for “deceit” is dolos, literally the bait one uses for fish. Paul, through his sarcasm here, is making one thing abundantly clear–there was absolutely no evidence of his cunning deceit upon the Corinthians, because he was not trying to take advantage of the Corinthians. The evidence was lacking because there was no evidence, and anyone who said otherwise was lying. That is what Paul is implying here.
17: Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?
- Look here! See what Paul says. It’s almost like, or maybe it is an unveiled challenge to the fake apostles to show the proof. Habeus corpus, if you know Latin legal terms. It literally means “produce the body.” It is actually required in a case for court that one reveals ALL of their evidence of the charge. There was none, and Paul was pointing that out. Otherwise, there would be people lined up around the block with bad stories about how Paul robbed them and etcetera. They couldn’t produce proof of a crime that had not actually been committed. Instead, Paul had all of the evidence that the false teachers were actually false teachers and intending harm to the souls of the believers in Corinth. And Beloved, to lay a hand on the Elect of God is a VERY serious business indeed. We WILL have our ultimate day in court, and we WILL be vindicated by our Loving God and Saviour by His own works and proofs.
18: I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?
- And Paul further calls out these false teachers. He points out in his now clearly demonstrated way that neither he nor any of his compatriots have ever taken advantage, using his now very familiar technique of asking rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question, for those unfamiliar with the definition, is a question that either answers itself, or has an answer so obvious that no answer is actually required.
- I sent you two other guys! Did either of THEM take advantage of you? And with the question in the last part of the verse, Paul is saying, NO, we did NOT. In fact, he tells the Corinthians, that they all treated the Corinthians the same way, and each of them behaved the same way also.
Sometimes, we run into the odd individual that really is trying to use you for their own advantage, and that is life. However, no real servant of Christ should. Paul removes that as a possible motive for the faithful minister–he should be more worried about your welfare than his own, and he doesn’t make any bones about it. You need something, he will do what he can to get it for you if it is in his power, or he will at least pray with you to see God’s will done regarding your needs.
No real servant of God Most High will EVER take advantage of you, despite false accusation to the contrary, and you will be able to see that from their behaviour, the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. In fact, it should tell you something…next paragraph!
19-21: We are trying to build you up!!!
Paul in fact had had enough of the false accusations, and your servants in Christ do tire of it. The difference between real servants and the ones that really ARE trying to use you for their own gain, whatever that is, is that REAL servants of God are only interested in YOUR benefits, not the resources you can supply them, but what YOU need that they can supply.
Remember, Paul said he would gladly spend and be expended for the Corinthians’ benefit in Christ. He meant what he said. This is what it really means to love your brethren: You are trying to benefit them.
19: All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved.
- And here, Paul reveals his strategy. We used to call this sandbagging, but that isn’t the current word used, I think that’s called subterfuge. I don’t know…but Paul says, and I’ve been saying all this stuff to you like I have been defending myself, but really, I have been doing something else instead. He has, all along, been speaking in Christ, as His Elect spokesman, and under His direct influence and guidance. He has been preaching to the gathered believers for their building up–he is speaking to the church, the very bride of Christ and caring for her with his words, which were inspired and anointed by the Holy Spirit, Beloved. And that is how we must see every line of the Scriptures–as men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, although it is they who speak. That is how a TRUE servant ALWAYS speaks.
- I had a phone conversation with a brother yesterday, and I knew before I answered the phone that this was going to be the content of the call. And I am perfectly okay with that, no matter HOW busy I am. Yes, I have to earn money to live and stay in a house, like that…but beloved, the Lord knows that. And when I give time like that to a believer, that is what God called me to do and be. I know not everyone understands that, or even agrees with me about that, but I am fulfilling, as was Paul, a divine mandate to do what He told me to do.
20: For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;
- And there is a reason we are so compelled, those of us that are called to the service of Christ and feeding and caring for His house. We want to present to Christ on that day, a pure spouse, one that is dressed in that fine linen, white and clean, those righteous acts of the saints that she makes herself ready with. See Revelation 19:7–“It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
- And all of us have the same fear as Paul, or at least should, that when we need to make that presentation, there will be sorrow because you did NOT make yourself ready. Look at what he says he fears that he will find! Strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances. If you will try to recall, isn’t that how 1 Corinthians actually started?
- More than that, I can think of examples of each of these things that are happening at present! Strife. The Greek word [eris] means quarrels. I have personally heard a few in the last couple of weeks. It isn’t what I would call easy listening. Some of them, individuals have even attempted to pick with me.
- Jealousy. The Greek here means “heat,” of the variety that one gets under the collar. Jealousy and strife are usually connected, but not always. The same word was used to describe Jesus and how the “zeal” for God’s house consumed Him. In this case, it has the negative connotation of jealous anger.
- Angry tempers. The Greek word here is thumos, and means burning anger or wrath. To give you some idea of this, the Greek word is used in Rev. 16:19 and 19:15 to describe the “wrath” of God against sinners that would not repent. It is the kind of anger that will move you to seek vengeance, and we aren’t supposed to do that.
- Disputes. The Greek here denotes a self-seeking rivalry, therefore the use of the english word dispute, but somehow there is a darker shade of meaning to the work. It is translated in the KJV as “factions,” or the making of parties in the political sense. There is also a selfishness that underlies all of this, and that makes it very nasty.
- Slanders. This isn’t the modern criminal kind of speaking falsehoods against someone, though it does include that. This would come under the broader category of backbiting, speaking evil of someone. And hey, that isn’t always false. There are things that could be said about me like this that are absolutely true, but that I have repented of. This often involves the idea of the spin you put on the event or circumstances.
- Gossip. This is the same idea as backbiting, but actually has the additional meaning of being whispered, or done in secret. Slander is often public. Gossip is ALWAYS at least at the beginning private.
- Arrogance. It means the same today as the Greek word meant, this is a great translation of the word. It involves pride to be sure, and it is always a barrier to spiritual growth. Another less well-known concept that is related is hubris, the pride you have about yourself and given situations and the like.
- Disturbances. The Greek word katastasia literally means “instability.” it is a terrible situation for all involved, and NO spiritual growth seems possible because there is no firm foundation. I find this often related to being double-minded, one foot in the Lord, one foot in the world. James puts it like this in James 1:5-8: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” It is because one is not focused on Christ the Lord that instability arises, plain and simple. I will not even hedge on that.
- All these things are what Paul is afraid he will find, as he says here in this verse.
21: I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
- I read this verse, and I asked why would PAUL be humiliated at the behavioural problems of people in Corinth? For a minute or two, it didn’t make sense to me…and then the Lord opened my eyes. Let me see if I can put it in the colloquial use. Paul had one job: The spiritual growth toward Christ of the believers in Corinth. If all of these things were present, it would be an unmitigated failure of his duty and his time there as pastor. That is not ever easy to swallow. You remember I once said that Pastors will have to give a report on each person in a gathering that God gave them responsibility for? Now think about what Paul first found in Corinth. How would you, as a Corinthian pastor, like to give THAT report? It would be humiliating, and that’s what Paul meant.
- And if Paul did find that, and had to present the Lord Jesus that poor report, there would be mourning involved over those who had sinned and had clearly NOT repented of those sins, and Paul names them here!
- Impurity. The Greek word here is one we have seen before, akatharsia, meaning uncleanness. Here, I believe that Paul was speaking in the spiritual sense, and that connotes morality. It has a further meaning also, and it connects in one word the ideas of sensuality and bad doctrine according to W. E. Vine, but I don’t know more than that.
- Immorality. This word we know. Porneia. We get our word “pornography” from it, but that isn’t the only meaning of the Greek word. It meant the sensual and illicit sexual activity for certain, but it was also used to describe the metaphorical pagan idolatry practices that were and still are and will always BE antithetical to Christianity. It is used of one that not only gives his personal being away in illicit sexual contact, but one that gives his mind and heart away in the same fashion. We looked at the is 1 Corinthians, you may recall.
- Sensuality. It has similar meanings, but the differences give some important information. Another way of translating this Greek word is “wantonness.” Not only are we describing just the act involved in porneia, but the motives behind it as well. You not only do it, but you WANT to do it. And that is not a fine distinction at all.
- All of these things are what Paul said these individuals that did not repent HAVE PRACTICED! This was deeds that he, and probably at least the Corinthian church leadership, and quite possibly the membership knew about…and even used to brag about! That’s not good!
Paul only brings this up because these are sins that need to be dealt with in Corinth once and for all before God, and you will recall that this was his God-given JOB! And it is also mine to help you with this kind of thing. I once had a man tell me that he was interested in little boys. No one here, no one you know. How do you counsel a fellow like that? You need to have the Holy Spirit living in you to deal with that. Particularly if you know boys who are now men that had to deal with the results of that kind of…activity.
I have even been a victim of physical abuse (non-sexual) by my main male role model, my father. Beloved, if you don’t think that skews your view of God then you don’t know anything at all. For a long time after the Lord made me a believer, even then I thought God was a cosmic killjoy that wanted to rain on all the fun I wanted to have. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it is true, beloved. But through time, godly counsel, and fellowshipping with the people of God, I learned and at least mostly got over it. And I realize that there are a lot of people that are out there that have not, and it is my job and calling to help where I can.
Now, in context with last week, we talked about needing to have a proper view about yourself. This is important before you can realize certain things, like the fact that you are a depraved sinner that is bound to face the wrath of God on the day when the God of the universe will judge the world. Now maybe you don’t think that’s true, or the prospect is funny to you, and I am okay with that. I’m not directing my comments toward you, please feel free to enjoy your life, just please keep your sinning out of my face.
To those of you that realize that you are a depraved sinner and that idea bothers you, I have good news. All of those wrong things that you hate doing and kick yourself for the next day were dealt with by Jesus Bar-Joseph, the Messiah, God the Son, who became a man for the express purpose for living the life you should have lived and died the death that belonged to you as a vicarious substitute–that’s right, he died in your place after living a perfect life of obedience to the Law of Moses before God His Father. He willingly and knowingly laid down His life to pay for your crimes against that Holy God, and He rose again on the third day to show that those sins could not hold Him there.
If you will repent of your wrongdoing and ask God your heavenly Father for forgiveness of those sins, He WILL forgive you. All who call upon the name of the Lord WILL be saved, and that’s His promise to you. Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and be saved, beloved. Come home.
That’s what I saw in the chapter.