Here we are, week two, chapter two, Paul is defending his ministry.  It must have been very difficult for so humble a man to make open defense and justification for his own ministry.  Maybe it was like Moses, who wrote about himself.  I can’t speculate, but we CAN examine Paul’s writings and see what it was that drove him, particularly in this letter.

Paul, you will recall, was put out to the extreme, I think to the point where it began to distract him in His service to Christ.  After his second visit to Corinth, he was so saddened and deflated that he simply quietly returned to Ephesus.  In Ephesus, he wrote the “angry” letter that he sent and then wished he hadn’t.  He began to be distracted here, I think – you know, that gnawing thing in your mind and gut that just makes you crazy to know what happened?  I wasn’t there, but Paul was one of us – human – and it seems reasonable that he would have human responses.

He was becoming so distracted, he left Ephesus and set out for Troas, where Titus was after his own trip to Corinth.  It is entirely reasonable that Paul was after news of what happened with that letter that might have been like a hand grenade in the wrong setting.  He didn’t find Titus, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, eventually finding him, and receiving a blessed report that at least a majority of the people there were with Paul and not the false teachers that were calling themselves “super apostles” and attacking Paul’s character.

So what is the first thing Paul chose to confront these “super apostles” with?  The idea of suffering, and how that suffering perfects the believer.  Compare if you will the modern “super apostles” of our day.  Ken Copeland, Bill Johnson, Chris Valloton, Joyce Meyer, their newest self-identified member Beth Moore, and many, many other shysters we won’t take the time to name.  Every single one of them tells us that God wants us to be comforted, and wealthy, and healthy.  Without the requisite suffering – and if you aren’t wealthy, or healthy, or what they call wise, then it’s your fault for not believing enough and not sending them enough of your seed money.  To tell you how successful these wolves are at getting peoples’ money, Ken Copeland last year has revealed that he made in the neighbourhood of $300 Million.  You heard that right.  $300 Million.  Folks, the man owns a private airport and flies his own planes, plural.  Paul, on the other hand, would not allow the Corinthians to support him while he was there.  Was Ken Copeland ever stoned for preaching his message (I can’t call it the gospel, even if I’m being charitable)?  Not ever.  Paul was.  Was Bill Johnson or Chris Valloton for Bethel ever beaten with rods for speaking publicly about Christ?  No, but Paul was, and he was even given 39 lashes on three different occasions.  (One more stoke is a death sentence, if you’re curious.)  Has any of them ever been shipwrecked and lost at sea?  Paul was, for a day and a night, for the sake of the work of Jesus on earth.  No, beloved, suffering perfects us – if we will cooperate with God and let it.

That brings us to chapter 2 this study, and I broke the chapter down as follows:

KV4:  Paul Talks About His Angry Letter

1-4:  Paul Wrote To Tell of His Love

5-11:  Paul Wrote to Test Their Obedience

12-13:  Paul Became Distracted By His Letter

14-17:  Paul Sees God Triumph in His Life

We spoke last week about that angry letter that Paul wrote that he afterward wished he could take back.  He speaks greatly here of his own motives in writing it, and what that meant to the work, his own state of mind, and the effect it had on the Corinthians.  This is more of the same.  It is a sort of apology in our modern sense, but also an explanation of why he wrote it.  Let’s dive in and see what the Lord teaches us in chapter 2 of this letter.

KV4:  Paul Talks About His Angry Letter

Remember what brought Paul to be writing this.  Paul was visiting Corinth, and was confronted by a man that wanted the Corinthian flock for his own (probably nefarious) purposes.  Said individual perhaps confronted Paul publicly from the pulpit so to speak, and it got to Paul , who is after all, one of us humans, with emotions, and all of the baggage that comes with just being one of us.  This made him sad, and he left Corinth and returned to Ephesus where Timothy was involved in pastoring the flock.  Paul likely was depressed (and yes, it happens, and yes, it’s okay, as long as we cast our cares on the Lord), and this began to form the letter in his mind that he wrote, pouring all of his heart into it, showing the reasoning for his departure, what he thought of these impostors, or rather “impastors,” who were mere pretenders and wolves wanting to fleece the flock and not care for it (why does that sound SO much like all of the heretics I named before?  Oh yeah…)  So He wrote it, and he gave it to Titus to deliver to the Corinthians.  It is difficult to say how long Titus had been gone with the letter before it began to gnaw at Paul’s insides (I prefer a sooner version of that thought), but it must have, and it was intense enough that Paul was becoming distracted in the work.

After this ate at him for some time, He said enough is enough, and he got up and travelled to Troas, where Titus was based.  And not finding Titus there, he went looking for him in Macedonia, because he HAD to know how that letter was received, and if he had driven the Corinthian believers away from him, and away from their salvation in Christ.  Yes, we know that can’t happen, and we know that Paul knew that, but have YOU ever tried to think straight under emotional pressure?  It isn’t easy, speaking from some experience here, without going into details that would take up our time this evening.  Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you the whole story, but we’ll need a couple of hours.  You think you’re thinking clearly, but you have blind spots, you miss things – critical things – in your decisions, and you’re so distracted dealing with the emotional pressure, you can’t help but stop doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing.  The earlier you realize this and that it isn’t working out for you the way you planned, the better off you will be.  Paul came to that realization at some point, and just HAD to hear from Titus.  He speaks of this in the chapter this evening, so we’ll say more about it in the study.

1-4:  Paul Wrote To Tell of His Love

One of the things that drove Paul to write the letter that caused all of his personal heartache was his love for the people in Corinth.  We will see it in verse 4, but he was driven by God’s love within him.  Love, especially God’s love for everyone, can drive you to do some fairly unexpected things.  I’m not saying “crazy” like Francis Chan because I don’t think he’s driven by that anymore, if he ever was.  He’s headed off the deep end and straight into the deception that is Roman Catholicism.  If ever there was a cult that preyed upon people in the name of controlling religion and money-grubbing hierarchy, this is it, let me tell you.  I say this in love for you, and for anyone that is trapped in that.  Come out of it!  There is freedom from that kind of religious tyranny!

Love is an incredibly powerful motivator.  It is this love that drove Jesus to the cross to die as a substitute for us, making atonement for all that would ever turn to Him in faith!  This is the love that drove Paul.  And it isn’t all nicey, lovey, squishy.  Sometimes it’s pointy, and preachy, and unpleasant to sit through.  Paul still loved the Corinthian believers.  So He wrote them the letter.  He speaks about his motive in the text, so we’ll get into it here.

1:  But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.

  • The very first thing we need to see here is that first word.  It is the conjunction “but,” and the rules for conjunctions are the same in any language, they join adjacent thoughts.  The thought that this is joined to is 1:24, which says, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.”  That’s important, because no verse of scripture is without context, and that sets it for this verse.
  • The previous visit to Corinth is historically known as “the painful visit,” and it led to the “angry letter.”  Paul was purposing in his heart that He would not cause that kind of pain in Corinth ever again, he wanted to reinforce their faith and increase their joy going forward, and not keep disciplining them needlessly.  He would not come in sorrow again and do that, bringing that rod of correction that a shepherd can become known for if it is overused.

2:  For if I cause you sorrow, who then makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful?

  • Paul is now coming to explaining the purpose for the use of that heavy rod of correction and the bringing of sorrow to a person’s life by a shepherd.  This needs to be done with great compassion for the person being disciplined.  If you can’t do it with compassion, don’t do it at all.  You all know me, and you’ve seen me do this for real, and you know I don’t like to do it.  It’s hard for everyone.  But in the end, hasn’t it always produced joy in your walks with the Lord?  As I’ve seen that, it has brought me joy, Beloved.
  • OK – apply that to Paul, who was instrumental in the establishing of the church at Corinth.  Paul was in close and personal contact with the saints there.  That would be part of pastoring the flock.  Sure, he supported himself in the ministry there, or others like the church at Philippi sent him support (money, but not just money).  Beloved, that’s what the church is supposed to do.  This brings joy to your overseer and makes your pastor smile.  Hear the instruction, sometimes having to forgive how it is delivered, because we are all imperfect, and take it to heart and be sanctified in the suffering.

3:  This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all.

  • This is the whole reason he was driven to write the “angry letter.”  He loved them, and he needed to set the church on the right path, not following after the wolf super apostle that was trying to fleece the sheep or worse.  Because Paul knew he would be coming back, and he wanted the Corinthians to see ho much joy they gave him, and not how sad they made him.
  • If you’ve ever tried to mentor somebody or raise children into adulthood, you know a little of this.  They should know how happy they make you, and how much joy they bring to your life, and if they have made you sad, they should know that too, but the reasons for your sadness and how they can make you happy again.  Not like a guilt trip, my paternal grandma was Catholic, and really good with the guilt trips.  No, they need to know regardless that you love them, but they need to know with no uncertainty your expectations from them.

4:  For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.

  • I have been where Paul was, though maybe not to the degree he was.  Sometimes, you just have to speak, or write, or text (please do something other than text, it’s a really bad format for this) to get out the concern for your beloved brother or sister.  Not to make them “feel bad,” though it might do that (trying to get action out of them by manipulation is very bad, by the way).  It isn’t about that, and never should be.  It should be about how much you love them and don’t want to see them mess up their lives.
  • S why Paul wrote his letter to Corinth.  Was he angry?  Probably.  They called it the “angry letter” for a reason, to be sure.  But his motive wasn’t to guilt the Corinthians into compliance, it was to make them see the error they were falling into, and to stir them to get back on the right road.

Paul used this example of how he did a hasty thing and didn’t perhaps think it through as an example of why to do things.  Think about this.  Some could justifiably accuse Paul of trying to guilt the Corinthians into compliance with the order that he wanted established in Corinth.  The results are exactly the same in this case – but not the motive.  And that is what the enemy and his servants fail to understand, and don’t seem to be able to distinguish.  It is the MOTIVE that matters, not the result, which in this case would have looked very similar.

The reasons that false converts can be difficult to detect.  Some people have natural giftings in doing things in an orderly manner and by something like Robert’s Rules of Order.  They are good at putting on a show.  They are good at compliance and doing things in order, and that is how God wants us to live as Christians.  Yes, some of us struggle with that, and that’s okay.  I’m talking about the people that think that they will be saved because they did things the right way, and they will rely on their church membership and all the good things they have done over time to determine that they are indeed a Christian.  And God never regenerated them, and they never turned from their sin, they never repented – because they never had the faith/belief complex quite worked out, that the redeemed are saved by faith alone through grace alone, in Christ alone.  And Beloved, that means that though they were with us through the years, in the end, they will not be saved.  Because they did not ever quite turn to Christ, and maybe were only ever persuaded intellectually and never made that commitment to Christ, they will hear the most horrifying words ever spoken on the day when it will really matter that is coming for everyone.  “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Luke 25:41)  We need to make our own calling and election sure, Beloved.  Look to yourselves.  Examine yourself and see if you are really in the faith.  (2 Cor. 13:5)  Paul’s motive was to see that they were in the faith.  We’ll see this as we go on.

5-11:  Paul Wrote to Test Their Obedience

Beloved, there is one way that will FOR SURE tell people that know this trick what is motivating you.  They will test your obedience.  If you obey, you are on the side of Christ.  If you don’t, you are a friend of the world, and therefore and enemy to God.  Hey, don’t get mad at me, I didn’t invent the test, and I didn’t invent human behaviour or the fact that people will only live what they REALLY believe.  You want to know who the faithful are these days?  Just show up on a Sunday morning and see who has the faith to be in the building.  You can look around and see the faces that always show up regardless of the virus alerts or scaremongering the mainstream media engages in (to sell advertising mostly).  Let’s see what Paul said.

5:  But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.

  • Paul begins this thought unit with a statement that if you don’t understand the context of what has been going on, is quite confusing.  He’s talking about his “super apostle” challenger/mocker.  This person mocked Paul, potentially to his face, and cause him to quietly withdraw from Corinth the last time he was there.  He was the reason for the “painful visit.”  Paul isn’t saying that this individual caused him pain.  He’s saying he caused sorrow – not so much for Paul – but for the believers in Corinth.  He is studiously NOT giving the details, but if you know what happened, it’s very easy to fill in.  And beloved, it fits.
  • Why would Paul say that the sorrow would be caused to the believers in Corinth?  Well, we may not have talked about it, but in that second letter he wrote to Corinth, the one we identify as 1 Corinthians, in about chapters 10 and 11, Paul makes it the responsibility of the gathering, specifically of the leadership of the gathering, to know who is breaking bread with them.  And even then, false brethren sneak in unawares, and we don’t always go looking for them.  I know guys that do that, and most of them end up as pariahs, because they are trying to warn the body of Christ about the wolves that if you have any discernment at all, you can see coming plainly.  If they are allowing a wolf, it is their pain and they are inflicting it upon themselves.

6:  Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,

  • Now this is interesting.  Some have made a case here that Paul is advocating democracy.  I don’t think he is, but I still need to state the argument because of the school of thought.  The argument is based on a majority infliction of punishment by vote.  Although there is a democratic flavour to that, this is a majority that is being influence and controlled by the Holy Spirit, so I’m not sure that’s actually a democracy.  It’s one being steering the hearts of those who are His.  We are not actually democratically inclined in the kingdom of God.  We are monarchists in support of the One True King of all kings.
  • So who is Paul speaking about?  It’s difficult to tell because he is never referred to, but what is actually pictured here is a look at church discipline.  We see this most clearly in Matt. 18:15-20, so we’ll look at that.
    • “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
    • “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
  • The whole congregation need not meet, but everyone who is there gets a say.  If there is any democracy here, it is that each believer gets to express his or her desire to have a fellowship free of gross sin.  Notice that there is a mechanism for reconciliation all the way through this, even after the sinning one is cast out.  At any point, that individual may repent and return to the fellowship of the saints.  None of the cases that I have ever seen of church discipline have ended well for the offenders, but that does not mean it is not possible.  And in every case, the servants of the Lord were so very gracious in their manner and speech.  The anger that the people came away with was theirs and not deserved by God’s servants.

7:  so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

  • This is an apparent example of a time where it did actually work out for the better, and in my opinion for everyone.  Paul was saying that the congregation should forgive the individual, and reach out to him in compassion to comfort and heal the broken and now-mended relationship with God and with the saints.  Otherwise there are consequences, one of which is that there is no conclusion to the sorrow that could overwhelm such a one.  Think for a moment about a disciple named Judas Iscariot.  Although it is true that he left and he betrayed the Christ of God, and he felt sorrowful for it, think of what it might have meant for him if he could have turned to a compassionate body of believers who would have preached repentance to him?  Oh to be sure, he chose his own bed and will have to lie in it, but it seems so clear that if he could have simply repented, he would have found grace in the action.  I do not think he would have, but his remorse led to self-pity, and then to self-destruction.  Do we really want believers to go through that?  In fact, I view it as my calling to help believers go through those rough times and come out the other side in one piece, and sanctified by God.

8:  Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

  • Beloved, excommunication, and that is what we are talking about here, does not mean that individual has been removed from the church entirely and is now confutatis maeledictus.  [Consigned to flames of woe, or in other words, hell.]  Excommunication has a reason, and it is restoration, not punishment.  The removal from the kingdom of God is actually a Romish idea that has no basis in Scripture.  Repentance is always a possibility for the believers.  Beloved, you don’t know.  I am a sinner.  I am burdened with sinful thoughts and sometimes actions.  I am petty, I am spiteful, I am hateful, and if I thought I could get away with it, I would allow my actions to move in those directions but for Christ.  I am repenting to God all the time for those things, and others.  Repentance is always an option for the believer.  And if they are in a church, we have to think that with some notable exceptions, they have at least a hunger to learn to be right with God.  (Those notable exceptions are false teachers, incidentally, and that means this cannot be speaking about the individual that mocked Paul in an attempt to discredit him.  I would rather think this is either the brother that brought this “super apostle” to the meeting the first time, or it is the reconciliation of the man that was sleeping with his own (step?)mother.  I tend to think the former and not the latter these days after my inspection of the text this time through.  In either case, excommunication doesn’t even mean that such an individual is to be barred from attending the gathering, necessarily.  If he can bear it, let him sit there quietly and hear the gospel preached repeatedly so that he has every opportunity to turn.  You never know, it might work.

9:  For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.

  • Now we need to review a little grammar for this verse.  “For” indicates a conclusion or summary of past statements of some kind.  “To this end” may be rephrased as “for this reason,” and if we do so, we can interpret the whole thought to be Paul’s instructions about what to do with an excommunicated individual and what would happen upon his repentance.  Paul used the occasion to test the Corinthians to see if they were being obedient to the faith as he had taught it to them.  Beloved, any pastor will always take stock of how his sheep are faring in the pasture.  Some are growing, and some will struggle.  But the shepherd’s job is care for them ALL.  That means he needs to know if you will be a lead animal, or if you are going to be one of those resource-demanding hardcases that struggles to do the right thing.  God forbid such a one becomes a leader through stupidity and neglect.  That usually leads to the needless suffering of everyone.

10:  But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,

  • And Paul took this opportunity to let the Corinthians know that whatever they decided, Paul would stand with them.  And Paul would do so for the sake of the Corinthians in the presence of Christ.  The “if I have forgiven anything” phrase is Paul downplaying the offence that the “super apostle” and his “friends” may have caused him.  You have to understand, Paul lived always in the presence of Christ.  The longer I live, the more I see this is true.  Christ always has his eyes on each of His chosen saints.  Can I assume that we all want to please Him by walking in a worthy manner?  I think that’s what Paul knew, and it caused him to minimize wrongs that were done to him.  More importantly, I think we should go and do likewise.

11:  so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

  • And here is why.  We have an enemy, Beloved.  That enemy will stop at nothing to see us fail and to have us separated from the One that saved us.  We need to recognize that.  In fact, it at least to me, is becoming much more obvious today.  Don’t stick your head in the sand about it, know the enemy and how he operates to attack us.  Don’t be ignorant of his schemes.

You see, a true shepherd doesn’t ever ignore his flock.  In fact, a true shepherd will often watch how his flock responds to trials and difficulties they encounter and allow it to test them to teach them to be stronger.  Why?  Well, would you want to have to do everything for someone else?  Isn’t it hard enough to do it just for yourself?  And yet you know that you have to do it for yourself or no one will do it for you.  How did you learn that?  Well, life taught you by making you do it.  And it can be hard.  In fact it can royally suck.  But in the end when we see Jesus, it will all have been worth it.

12-13:  Paul Became Distracted By His Letter

In fact, some of those tactics are on display in the life of Paul here.  Distraction, guilt, depression, and more, all of them affect Paul and take his mind off the work, and his eye off the prize temporarily.  Paul explains, so let’s just jump right in.

12:  Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord,

  • I think Paul is telling the story, so I’m going to let him.  He says that he left Ephesus for Troas for the gospel of Christ, and I will simply agree.  He expects to find Titus in Troas, and this is important.  Titus is who carried the “angry letter” to the Corinthian congregation.  It was therefore likely Titus who read the letter to them, or if not, he was in the congregation to hear the reactions and gauge how it was received.  Paul was looking for him so that Paul could have a quick end to his mental anguish over that letter.  That’s is my opinion, and I am stating it as an opinion, but I do think that the historical record and the text support it.  It was like a door opening for Paul to step through to preach the gospel, the very thing he was about.  He did it as a matter of course.  There was one little wrinkle in his plan, though.  The gospel he preached was and is real.  The door, that opportunity for Paul to preach it was real.

13:  I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.

  • There was one, tiny, teeny, weeny, little problem.  Titus wasn’t there.
  • And now the skunk is out of the bag, as once put into words by Harry Morgan, as that lovable character Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H.  See the first phrase of the verse for what it is – a unit.  I could well rewrite that sentence to read, “Because I did not find Titus my brother, I had no rest for my spirit.”  I know that isn’t how Paul wrote it, but it is a very powerful way to make sense of WHY Paul had no rest in his spirit.  He wanted Titus to tell him what had transpired in Corinth.  Anything was better than not knowing at all.  We’ve all been there.  I remember when Susan and I were getting more serious about our relationship.  I had to know how she felt, even if it meant we would not be together.  Anything was better than not knowing.  Looking back on it now, I think I know how Paul by the time this was written felt – a little sheepish, a great deal relieved, and that the whole thing was real comedy, because you just can’t make stuff like this up!  God is a divine comedian at times, and we are great dupes for the gags.  It’s how we learn, Beloved.  And we may as well laugh when we get to this point.  Everyone else is.  What happened next confirms that Paul was really looking for that info from Titus.
  • Paul didn’t find Titus, and so he left for Macedonia.  Why?  Because that’s where Titus had gone!  So Paul followed him onto the mission field, probably preaching the gospel as he went, because – well, it is Paul – and Paul was just preaching the gospel like we breathe air.  And under this guise, and I think it a poor one now that I know Paul was looking for Titus and why, Paul proceeded into Macedonia.
  • You know, a thought occurred to me while I was studying this.  I wonder how many times things like this happen to us.  Here he was, ostensibly out to preach the gospel to Macedonia, all while looking for Titus to get some answers.  He doesn’t tell us, but I wonder how many people heard the gospel because God worked it all out this way?  I’m not nearly smart enough or observant enough to know for myself, either.  But God is always sovereign, and He was here too.

Paul was distracted by his own circumstances.  Some might go so far as to say that his pain and anguish here were somewhat self-inflicted.  But were they?  I’m not sure they were entirely because of the next and final thought unit.

14-17:  Paul Sees God Triumph in His Life

You see, God led Paul in triumph.  The Lord led and showed Paul that it was He who was in charge of the ministry, and not Paul.  Regardless of Paul’s sorrow, or anger, or even a basic need to know, God already knew the outcome, just like He always knows ours.  He knew from before the foundation of the world which one of His chosen that Nero would use as a human torch to light his garden, and God knew those ones by NAME, beloved.  He knew intimately each child of His that would die in the Coliseum of Rome when lions or tigers were released on crowds of children.  He knew that I would suffer and how.  He knows how I will meet my end on this planet, and in his mercy He hasn’t told me.  I would probably spend all my time trying to avoid it.  Instead, I just serve Him because He knows and that is enough for me.  And I think it was enough for Paul, because Paul started to see things work out for the sake of the gospel.  So do I, Beloved.  And I’m not even close to Paul.  See what Paul means.

14:  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

  • Paul began to see God’s glorious victory as he himself was led from place to place.  He saw the gospel preached and sinners turn from their sin and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by faith!  For an Apostle, what greater victory could there be than to see people saved, knit into a godly community of light and life in the midst of a larger community of death and darkness.  That’s Christ’s triumph, by the way, and not ours.  But hey, if he wants to involve us, we should ride the wave, to use surfing terms.
  • Every place that Paul went, he saw people respond to Jesus’ invitation of salvation through repentance and faith.  That sweet aroma of the gospel to a believer will always encourage us, no matter how anxious we are about our own circumstances, or even the circumstances of others.  Why?  Because it is the knowledge of Christ that sets us free, beloved.  To know that a loving and perfect and holy God saw that we had no way out from either our own sin or the sin of our first parents, and that such a sovereign God would become a human being and suffer all the same indignities of the world system that we do, for the specific purpose of becoming the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all those who will turn to Him.  To know that when He died, WE died with Him.  And to know that when He rose from the grave, WE rose with Him by His will.  I know it’s a little early, but chapter 5 and verse 21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  And in that great exchange, He triumphed over sin and death, and then set us free from the penalty, the power, and eventually, the presence of sin in our lives.  Beloved, that’s what that means for God to lead us in triumph in Christ. 
  • This was a critical realization for Paul, who had been very downcast, distressed, and depressed about things because of the circumstances in which he found Himself.  There are many preachers that have been there, and I include myself.  There is a paragraph from a letter I once read that resonates here:
    • I am tired; I am tired of being the only one in the church from whom real sacrifice is expected; tired of straining and tugging to get Christian people to live like Christians; tired of planning work for my people and then being compelled to do it myself or see it left undone; tired of dodging my creditors when I would not need to if I had what is due me; tired of the affrighting vision of penniless old age.  I am not leaving Christ.  I love Him.  I shall still try to serve Him.
  • The above paragraph was written by a man I only know as “William.”  Like William, Paul knew that this meant.  So do I in some measure.  But unlike William, Paul persevered.  He stuck it through, or perhaps we should better say that Paul was kept by the power of God and preserved to the end of his ministry.  I do not think that William was a bad man or a hireling.  I know what he means.  People can disappoint you – and will, every time.  But Paul persevered because he recognized that it wasn’t his job to do all that stuff.  It was his job to tell the truth to people, and then to let them respond to God’s call – or not.  And EVERYONE is free to make that choice, for whatever reason they arrive at.  I can’t do it all, and I shouldn’t try.  I need to be faithful, not burned out.  I need to cling to Christ, and so do all those that are His.  For as much as I need to care for the flock of stinky, stubborn sheep, I don’t actually work for them.  I work for the King of kings, and he is the one to whom I own my fealty, loyalty, and fidelity.

15:  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;

  • And Beloved, Paul is recognizing this here.  Those servants of God are indeed a fragrance to the King, sprinkled on the fire in the world as it burns by Christ our Lord, and as the “parade” comes to an end, and it surely must be if you read the news and cross reference it with the eschatological passages in Scripture, that fragrance of Christ is reaching the nose of His Father, reminding Him that His Son and His chosen people are nearing full readiness for the end. 
  • Where does Paul say that savour is?  First, he says it is among the saved.  As we encourage each other on a daily basis by fellowshipping together as much as possible, that sweet aroma of Christ has an effect on us, and it encourages us and perfects us.  Then he says that we are a fragrance of Christ among those who are perishing.  That can mean a couple of things.  It can mean that we are a witness to them to turn them from their sin in repentance toward Christ.  It can also mean that to those who are perishing that hate Christ, we stink, and they will do all they can to get that stench of righteousness out of their nostrils.  That includes closing our churches for Public Safety during a so-called Pandemic.  Tell me, if this is really a pandemic, and these are CDC numbers I am quoting, why do 99.7 percent of everyone that gets it survive?  Now, clearly, there is a proportion of the population that DOES need to take precautions, and I am in it.  But I have had the first dose of vaccine.  Why am I, who the CDC swears up and down now cannot transmit the virus, still required to lock down with everyone else, and wear a mask in public?  Or is the CDC and WHO hiding something sinister?  And Health Canada seems clueless that there are alternate explanations for this.  How, for example, does one explain how the state of Texas, that one month ago ended their lockdowns and mask mandates, has an ever-decreasing rate of infection, while Michigan has the strictest lockdown measures in all the USA, and has the highest caseload of the same?  Why does Alberta Health services fail to close down an Edmonton church by jailing its pastor, so they show up in the middle of the night between Tuesday and Wednesday and put up a chain link fence around the property to keep people out?  ?and yet not a single case of COVID-19 transmission can be traced to that church – ever?  There is no super-spreader plant there.  Stop looking!  Or did someone get their feelings hurt and want revenge?  I think THAT scenario more likely.  Beloved, to those people that are run by fear and tormented by the idea of death, we stink, and they want and need to get away from that.  And they will, too.
  • As for what I think, I think about what Paul said to the Romans church and to the Corinthians about offending other people.  If what I am doing offends people (I mean reasonable and thinking people here), I can change my behaviour.  If a game I play, for example, offends a brother, out of compassion for that brother, I can change my behaviour.  The other side of this looks like this:  If what I am doing offends the public, I don’t care.  But if the public tries to impede me because of that, I will do what the early church did and take the whole thing underground.  It worked in the Soviet Block when it was around, it works today in Communist China, and it will work here.  So get ready, people.  Enough said.

16:  to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

  • We’ve just covered all that death to death stuff and before that the life to life stuff.  We are ALWAYS some kind of example to people.  We need to pay attention to the kind of example we are to whom.  When a guy who is obviously trying to pick a fight says something utterly stupid like, “Christians are all losers!”  I find that fellow fairly easy to ignore for the most part.  I’ll pray for him, and if he comes closer to me and starts to pick on me, then I will use my people skills to attempt to share Christ with the gentleman.  Hey, he started it.  Isn’t that the better witness than me standing up , balling my fists, clenching my teeth, and spitting out, “You take that back!”  No Beloved, the servant of the Lord should not be a pugilist (a boxer, a striker, one who solves problems with his fists).  I used to be more than now.  The Lord is changing me.  Probably because my bark was a lot worse than my bite used to be.  I used to figure that my bravado would eventually get me killed.  Why give them what they want?  Remember, you belong to Christ.  He will tend to those that suffer this way for His sake.
  • But what if a brother in Christ is maligning another brother in Christ?  Should you not pause to say something?  If that is a real Christian you’re addressing, they will realize you are right, and they will repent, sometimes on the spot.  I’ve had that experience with some of you.  Beloved, your real witness as to whose you really are is showing.  Learn to read your own reflection.  I know it is difficult, but you can see it if you really try.
  • And who is really adequate for any of the stuff I’ve been talking about?  Not me, that’s for sure.  I have often stopped in the middle of what I was doing and thought to myself, “I can’t do this!”  I’m not capable!  I’m not equipped!  I’m not trained!  I’m not adequate!  I’m not being hard on myself!  I’m not any of those things!  And yet, here I am, right where God placed me.  I am completely inadequate – but He isn’t, and He is living inside me!  He MAKES me adequate.

17:  For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

  • Why do we need this kind of adequacy from outside ourselves?  Because we are not SELLING something.  If it were the case, it would be much easier in some ways, because I wouldn’t have to worry about where my next mortgage payment was coming from.  But There is a verse of Scripture I NEED to share with you.  It says, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”  (Proverbs 23:23)  It is one thing to buy what you have.  It is another thing to try to sell it and monetize the ministry.  We are not SELLING SALVATION!  The last guy that tried to buy a franchise to be able to bestow the Holy Spirit on people was Simon Magus in Acts 8, and tradition has it that he didn’t end so well.  We are not Gnostics out for political or religious power!  We do not want money from that!  Sure, we have bills to pay, and we wouldn’t mind the ad revenue a good YouTube or Twitch following would provide, but we don’t need it if God does not provide it.  Paul wouldn’t take a dime from the Corinthians for himself for this reason, and we’ll talk about that in a later chapter I think.  NO, Beloved, we are NOT selling salvation.  You can’t buy what God has freely given – and you sure as shooting can’t sell it.  You may rejoice at this! has gone ad-free for that kind of a reason.
  • No, our motives for preaching the word of God and reaching out with the good news of Jesus Christ and His coming kingdom MUST be in sincerity.  And if it is not, then you are no better than all of those clouds without water who promise rain and have no nourishing water to give the crops to produce growth.  We named a few earlier, and I have no burning need to do so again.  It helps to remember the last phrase of the chapter, too.  We speak in Christ in the sight of God, and Beloved, that means EXACTLY what it says.  I marvel at these false teachers and false brothers that claim to speak for God and are not.  They put words in the mouth of Almighty God that He did not speak.  They ascribe motives to Him that He does not have.  And they clearly do not have any real fear of Him.  I become afraid when I think of what Jude says: 
    • Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. (8)
    • But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. (10)
    • These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.(12, 13)
  • Do you think they will end well?  Neither do I.  But you know what?  Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, those ones will truly repent of their sins.  They WILL be saved from the wrath of eternal hell and torment.  They will speak and act with sincerity of motive that will not leave any of them disappointed.

Paul saw this grand triumph of God in his own life, and in the lives of the Corinthians that were real believers.  He was slowly, but effectively, teaching them how to tell the difference between the two groups with personal example.  And beloved, that victory was not his, and it is not ours.  It is Christ’s won on the cross, where He died vicariously for all of our sins, and demonstrated in power when He took up His own life again after his burial on the third day.

So Paul talked in some detail in this chapter about the “angry letter” he wrote, and the state of mind that it pushed him into, and how it was resolved when he understood that he wasn’t the one in control and wasn’t really the one working, but it was Christ all along.  May it be the same for us.

That’s what I saw in the chapter.

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