This is the fourth letter of a four-letter corrective series that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Interestingly, this letter, of all his letters, is uncontested in authorship, because this is his defence and justification for his ministry. That’s of interest, because Paul, believe it or not, was a most humble person. For him to have to defend what he was doing to people that were being pulled astray by “super apostles,” must have been difficult without really putting himself out there in pride, and pride in a bad sense. I suppose it is testimony to the Lord’s changing of his character that he did this so gracefully.
As it turns out, the letter is fairly easy to date also. You may recall that Paul had to stand before the Proconsul Gallio in Corinth. Most Scholars put that trial in A.D. 52, as Gallio’s proconsulship began in A.D. 51. These sources are extrabiblical, but you can read about this in Acts 18, about v.12. Anyway, After this trial in Corinth, Paul sailed for Syria (Acts 18:18) and concluded his second missionary journey. Now at the close of that time period, he wrote his send letter to Corinth from Ephesus (that’s the book we’ve just completed studying) in about A.D. 55. His next letter, the angry one that he wished he could take back was also presumably written from there, and not a long time passed before he received word from the brothers that had visited Corinth. He received word after he had left Ephesus, and that caused him to writhe his fourth letter, this one, in either late A.D. 55 or early A.D. 56.
Remember, this is taking place after Paul spent 18 months serving Christ in Corinth. He has written three letters (possibly a fourth, but that is disputed) before now. The backdrop for this letter is what was then going on in Corinth at the time. Several new faces had arrived at the church in Corinth, claiming also to be apostles, and these self-styled apostles began to teach false doctrine immediately. To backstop their false teachings, the easiest way for them to attempt to undo what Paul had done was to assault his character with false claims about him, and about how they were more important apostles than Paul was, in fact they were “super apostles.” And like today, people believed them. Who has more general and vocal popularity? John MacArthur or Beth Moore? Anyway, that’s just an example.
Returning to topic, Paul was troubled by this, and actually interrupted what he was doing in Ephesus and went to Corinth in what he called (2:1) the painful visit, and was insulted to his face, by someone, we don’t know who, but an intelligent guess would place this insult as coming from the mouth of one of these false prophets. Paul was underwhelmed at the lack of support he had from the Corinthian believers at the time, and basically just left and returned to Ephesus, from where he wrote what has become known as the “angry letter,” the third corrective epistle.
Have you ever said or written something that you wished you could take back as soon as you said it or pressed the publish button? I know I have. I think that’s how Paul must have felt about this angry letter he sent to the Corinthian believers. It probably ate at him, not knowing how they would receive the harsh words he wrote. Naturally, I was curious as to the contents as to what was actually in that third letter, and I encountered in my research two theories. The first theory is the simplest – the third letter was lost in the same way as was the first. It makes some sense from a “we were embarrassed and would rather not remember that” point of view. The letter was “accidentally” misplaced. The second is more interesting to me personally, and I lean this way – that letter is preserved in 2 Corinthians 10-13. It may have been rewritten and expanded on by Paul, and here is why.
Paul eventually received word from Titus that the Corinthians had responded positively to basically the written rebuke of Paul, where he called out those false teachers, perhaps even by name, though we do not know that for certain. There is some story worth noting here. Upon Paul’s return to Ephesus, he was in such as state that he wrote that letter and sent it. Then it began to eat at him, as we discussed before. It began to distract him from the work, so he left Ephesus and travelled to Troas to look for Titus, who had delivered and probably read the letter to the Corinthian gathering. He mentions this in 2:12-13, and again in 7:5-9, and together, these verses tell a bit of a story that we will look at here.
- Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.
- For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
Is it me, or does that sound to you like a the story of a fellow that absolutely HAD to get word about something? I know I’ve been in that situation. It sounds like he didn’t find Titus in Troas, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, and then rejoiced, relieved that his letter was so appropriately received. Look at the text from chapter 7. Especially the part that says he did not regret it, although he did regret it previously. Paul saw the repentance that caused sorrow at the offence and then the zeal to make it right, something we should take note of as indicators if we are in leadership, as things we can use to measure a person when they say they are sorry and want to change. Are the in fact changing? But I am in danger of wandering from the topic again.
This good news caused Paul to pen another letter to Corinth, most likely from Philippi, as several ancient manuscripts seem to indicate, and is at least generally accepted by the majority of scholarship. Compare 11:9 with Phil. 4:15 on your own and you’ll see what I’m thinking about. This letter really fits in well with the details recorded in Acts and 1 Corinthians and contains a great deal of biographical information on what we know of Paul in the present. It is a very personal communication to a church, but one must acknowledge that this was a letter written by an Apostle (capital A) in the heat of battle against those false teachers that were attacking his credibility. As such, it will contain several theological themes that we can see in the way we break the book into thought units. I broke it down as follows:
KV 10:4 – We Do Not Fight in the Flesh
10:4 – for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
1:1-7 – Greeting
1:8-3:18 – We Do Not Commend Ourselves
4:1-6:18 – We Do Not Preach Ourselves
7:1-9:15 – We Do Not Serve Ourselves
10:1-13:10 – We Do Not Glorify Ourselves
13:11-14 – Closing
This is a more challenging letter from a personal perspective for me. I have occasionally been accused of not thinking enough of myself, and not thinking I deserve success or a good life, and that’s why I am perpetually poor, depressed a lot, and have things wrong with me, my marriage, my children, my business, my house, you get the picture. I know where it comes from, it comes from a business perspective, which is incredibly charismatic in some ways, but without the emphasis on tongues. However, anyone that has ever had me sell them something has either left satisfied, or had a no-hassle return because that’s just part of good service. This past week, I had a contact from that world that I will call Peter (not even close to his real name) who informed me that by preaching the gospel and believing that I am a worthless sinner is not being realistic and too hard on myself. I’ll give Peter the benefit of the doubt and think that it is concern for me as a person that motivated his comments, but I have to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I am not alone in this particular belief, in fact, I am not the first or the best example of it – the Apostle Paul himself had this same issue in Corinth. We’ll hop in to the book here.
KV 10:4 – We Do Not Fight in the Flesh
10:4 – for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
I suspect that part of Peter’s issue with some of the things that I was saying is a difficulty that all good sales people will have with the statement of the Apostle Paul from Romans 3:23, which tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” I can freely admit that I am in that category, and when I am sharing Christ, I will fully admit that I too have “missed the mark,” (the Greek word is hamartia, to miss the mark) on any of the 10 commandments that you may wish to engage here. It is a simple reality – I have sinned personally, and have come short of the glory of a holy God! Theologian Dr. R. C. Sproul rightly equates this disobedience to God’s commands as “cosmic treason.” And the Apostle in the passage in Romans actually belabours the point, summarizing in verse 23 that ALL have committed this cosmic treason. As a result of this capital crime, we ALL deserve the just punishment that God has pronounced on the human race Himself – Death. An eternity in the damned depths of eternal hell of fire. Now, if I left off the story there, people would have reason to worry about me. But it doesn’t end there.
You see, God actually loves the world, and ALL of the people in it. He knows and understands that we are all lost to this condemnation without His direct intervention. So He acted – He intervened. God the Eternal Son became a human being, one that His earthly parents named Yeshua in Hebrew, but who we call Jesus in English. That infant we celebrate the birth of every Christmas (or at least are supposed to) grew up and became a Rabbi (teacher) in Israel in the days that it was under Roman occupation. He lived a life or perfect obedience to God under the Law of Moses (the Old Covenant or Testament) and then allowed Himself to be arrested, tried in three different illegal trials, and then beaten by Pontius Pilate (who was trying to save His life with that act I think), and finally crucified to death on a Roman cross by the demands of the Jewish religious intelligentsia. But in that death on the cross, Jesus took the punishment that we were owed by God’s justice. He paid the penalty for us vicariously, or “in our place as if by proxy.” And the moment He died on that cross for us, the Scriptures say that the temple veil (that heavy and high curtain that separated the Holiest Place from the rest of the Jewish Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (In other words, GOD did the tearing.) He made the way open for any who would see themselves in reality, in all of their imperfection, having missed that mark of perfection that God set, and then step through in humility. God would SAVE them from that otherwise guaranteed eternal suffering in hell if they would simply turn from their sin and believe.
For those that have seen this truth for themselves and turned to God (that is repented of their sinful life) and believed that Jesus paid that penalty for sin in His vicarious death on the cross, these old paradigms no longer apply. It is nothing to acknowledge the truth about yourself – you ARE a sinner. But Christ died for my sins. In and of myself, I do NOT deserve anything good. But because Christ now lives in me (see Gal. 2:20, Eph. 3:17), I have already inherited everything in Christ. Go ahead and top that, or try. You can’t. As a child of the King of the Universe, it is already all mine, and it is being held in trust for me by the God Himself – and He has even given me His Holy Spirit that lives inside me to guide and comfort me when I need it. Like the old song says, “We are the princes of the universe…” Now before I get all carried away in the glory of all that, let me bring this back to the main topic here.
We do not any longer look at things in our old ways, also known as “after the flesh” in Scripture. These “you’re being too hard on yourself” kind of phrases no longer have actual meaning in our new frames of reference. It is this life on earth that means nothing, successful or not. Anyone who actually hangs around with me knows that I happen to love myself. Probably too much, and I mean that in a biblical love your neighbour kind of way. Also, the last guy named Peter (who also wasn’t really originally named Peter) that said that to the Lord Jesus when He informed His disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die a painful death. Peter said to Jesus (in my rough paraphrase) that He was being too hard on Himself, this couldn’t happen to Him, He was the Son of God! As I recall, Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Not Peter, Satan. Peter had unconsciously taken up the position of the enemy, because, Jesus said, he was thinking in human terms, not God’s terms. I mean, that seems a little harsh, right? But it isn’t in the light of the New Testament. All of God’s sons and daughters are told to walk in a worthy manner, after the manner of the Spirit, not in the flesh, the old ways. It is in this way that WE, as children of the King, are actually warring against the world system that is under the influence of that great deceiver and Satan, Lucifer himself. We must not war after the flesh, because IT is the very thing that is vulnerable to the evil one. We must actually deny the flesh and live in the Spirit. This is what John Owen called mortifying the flesh, by dying to it, we live to the Spirit, capital S, that is the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And in case you still think this is just me being all down on myself, that Holy Spirit that lives inside me as a kind of down payment of God Himself was placed there BY God Himself when HE regenerated me. It is true that I had no part in that. HE chose ME (and YOU if you’re a believer) from before the world began to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. Folks, that can’t POSSIBLY be bad. I don’t even claim to understand that, but God says it in Romans 8:29-30 and in Ephesians 1:5. I can still believe that I will someday understand all of the details even if I am not capable now (and I think I have a decent handle on it). No, beloved, we must not war after the flesh, we must now live by and walk in the Holy Spirit of God that He gave us as a down payment of even greater things to come. More on THAT subject as we go through the book itself.
1:1-7 – Greeting
For those of you who have not joined us through one of these studies before, Paul wrote or dictated all of his letters according to a common formula used in those days. It is a greeting that includes the name of the author (and not the scribe) and any co-authors (like for example Timothy) that were with Paul. After this, Paul usually credentials himself, not without purpose, either. The locale of the church or person addressed is always in there, and then a blessing from Paul in the name of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That continues in this case through verse 7, and we will look at it in detail next week when we go through chapter 1.
1:8-3:18 – We Do Not Commend Ourselves
Paul had to be a humble man. He was honest in self-assessment, and he was very humble in the application of the knowledge of himself, even when he used strong words in connection with the discussion. Paul does not seem to be given to boasting about himself or his accomplishments. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for him to have to defend himself, his actions, his statements, and even his credentials. I have simply never been put in the place. My thought-unit title here comes from 3:1, which reads: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?”
Despite many people that attempt to point out the contrary, Paul was not big on selling himself. He stated a number of times that his job was to preach Christ as His chosen representative to the believers among the Gentiles. That word “commend” is the adverb and noun form of the Greek word sunestemi (n.) or sustatikos (adv.), which more or less means “to place together with” or “to represent as worthy.” I think I can see what he was driving at. The false teachers that were attacking him were attacking his credibility and his walk with the Lord slanderously. They certainly weren’t saying he was worthy of good words. Paul, as THE chosen Apostle to the Gentiles, could not simply let that go, he had to answer it for the sake of posterity, and for the sake of the gospel.
Paul began his argument and defense of the ministry by saying that he, nor any of his partners, did not proclaim their own worthiness to be message carriers of the King of the universe. Then he said that he and his partners did not get their worthiness from letters that were written by the Corinthians. He is referencing here the practice of writing a sealed letter to the leadership of another gathering. Well, we don’t know if those letters were sealed of not, but that practice is still reflected among the Closed Brethren assemblies today, and they seal them, so as to say, “the brother in question has not tampered with the letter.” The idea is that one’s own leadership gives you a good report card and that you have not messed with that. Notice they send kids’ report cards home in sealed envelopes. I always knew what was in mine before my parents saw it because the teachers I had were transparent about it. I once had an elder, Mr. Campbell from Arnprior, in the Closed Brethren offer to write me a letter like that to the elders at the Gospel Hall in Kenora where I’m from. As it turned out, I didn’t need it, as I didn’t get to take the trip, but it was nice to have the offer. Paul said that he didn’t need the elders in Corinth to write him such a letter. His assertion was that the Corinthians themselves WERE his letter of character in 3:2-3, going so far as to say that “letter” was written in their hearts, and was at least readable to all men.
Paul claimed that letter was “manifest.” It literally means to make “visible,” or “clear,” or in my paraphrase, obvious. Paul in fact says that this is a letter that is written not with ink, but instead on human hearts by the Holy Spirit, God Himself, and not on stone tablets. This is significant. Paul was not a legalist. He did not simply tell people the rules and then guilt or browbeat them into performing the rules. He preached the truth, and God awakened certain Corinthians to believing the good news of Jesus, and they followed after Him because they wanted to please the God that had saved them. Beloved, we are like they were. I’m not trying to browbeat things in or out of you, and I could, because I have the material. But I didn’t see Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, or John, or any of the other disciples, or church fathers doing that. I pray for you, that you’ll get it and start to respond in the Spirit, and praise the Lord, you have! I get what Paul is saying here.
Let me see if I can explain. It is a little embarrassing to my fleshly self, but bear with me while I try to articulate this. This is a shockingly small ministry. I have spiritual care over between six and eight people, and not all of them respond to spiritual instruction easily. That’s grown from basically me writing articles and things that interest me on BereanNation.com. I started BereanNation.com in something like 2012. It’s been around 9 years. At that time, I had been a Christian for more than 25 years, and I was so off in the weeds, I couldn’t even refute a JW guy that I worked with at the time. He was doing a better job of proselytizing than I was, that’s for sure. Oh, I can now, but that isn’t really the point. From 2016-2018 I went through the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec Leadership Training and Pastoral Training courses, akin to Bible College. I learned a fair bit of stuff that I already knew, and I learned a lot that I needed to know. You can even find on BereanNation.com some of the assignments I had to write. I did some pulpit supply (and continue to do that when I have opportunity), and I try to preach the gospel to people. Recently, I thought about trying to take advantage of the new YouTube Shorts feature to share Christ and Christianity with the world at large (fight the pandemic that way too). I had seen the stats of a YouTuber that my son follows and the actual scientific testing he had done with the format. I made sure I complied with everything I could to game the algorithm that governs YouTube Shorts, only to find out after 30 days of effort that it hasn’t been made available for content creators in Canada yet. So much for that. We’ll see what happens when it is.
In my activity to try to care for the spiritual and other needs of my little “flock” to use the appropriate word, I started to share the video content I created on social media, and for a week or so, I saw some YouTube views in low double digits, even gaining a subscriber to the channel, which now stands at 19. You need 1000 for monetization, interestingly, with some hours viewed qualification as well. I’d be better off making cat videos if I was trying to make a living from this, believe me. It isn’t about the money, just like it wasn’t for Paul. But I see absolutely ZERO REAL RESPONSE. I decided to try to run the videos through BereanNation.com using YouTube as the embedded site to see if a comparison of the statistics would give me any information as to what was actually going on. I will share the results with you now.
I chose as my actual test video the 2021 Mar 20 Gospel Vitamin (the name of the series). Over a three day period, it produced 6 recorded views on BereanNation.com. Those statistics are provided by WordPress on a per-post basis.
For a three-day run, given our content, that isn’t bad. Then I looked at the YouTube viewing Statistics.
There were ZERO views. A small handful of the people that saw it on social media (and I used Facebook, Twitter, Gab, MeWe, and Parler to test this). ALL of the traffic that I obtained was from Facebook, WordPress tracks all that. I was still unsure about the result, wondering if YouTube treated embedded videos from another website differently and didn’t count it. So I ran a test and watched the video. Here is the result.
It counted my view of the embedded video as I expected it would, because it is an actual link to the web content on YouTube. So, nobody actually watched the video, meaning I cannot drive anyone to the website without playing the video automatically, which is something I am considering. I know how to do it, sort of. But come on, it’s ONE MOUSE CLICK. Or finger tap if you’re on a phone or tablet. And yet these people “like” it on Facebook or on the website, which you can do. I actually get notifications if someone likes it on the website. I assume it was Alex! (LOL)
Like I said, this is a shockingly small ministry. And the prospects of watching something spiritual happen are vanishingly small unless the Lord builds the ministry Himself, because one thing is clear from all this – I can’t. Not no-how. Psalm 129:1 says that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” And although I know how to sell stuff, I DO NOT DARE for that reason. The House of God is NOT a business, and should not be treated like a business, contrary to what some dear brothers believe, or believed. But this is all off topic. My point here is to say that I know how Paul must have felt at people just not responding spiritually. I was recently comforted by a friend who had the opportunity to have lunch with Justin Peters. Justin Peters runs a Bible Study at the church where he serves, and he has six people show up. So I don’t think it’s me. And I should not, as Paul did not, commend myself – that is a clear and sure method to bring disaster.
Paul made reference that these things were NOT written on stone tablets, but on tablets of the human heart. Of course that is a reference to the ten commandments, written on stone by the hand of God Himself, twice – it must be much more complicated to write it on the human heart, don’t you think? God created the earth in six literal and consecutive days. He’s been working on me now for more than 35 years. If God saw that all of what He made was VERY good, and that Old Covenant that He gave to Moses was filled with His glory, how much more Glory will the ones be that He has Himself written on our hearts? And what kind of sales job could anyone beat that with? Not a one, guaranteed. No sir, in the work of God, we do NOT commend OURSELVES. We DARE not.
4:1-6:18 – We Do Not Preach Ourselves
Paul’s first statement of note was that they did not put themselves forward as worthy of some kind of honour, and that dovetails right into what he said next. Not only did he not call attention to his own worthiness, he did not blow his own horn, so to speak. He wasn’t proclaiming that Paul could save you, just like we don’t proclaim that we can save anybody. That’s Christ’s job, and He has already finished that. I took the thought-unit title from 4:5 and it says, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” Several things can be said about this.
First, as I began to say a moment ago, Paul did not proclaim himself as the Lord. We shouldn’t either, and I have seen people mix up who is Lord before. Of course they don’t say it like that, but they certainly act like it. They make sweeping statements, sometimes defending what they say with out-of-context scripture, and act like they are some kind of ultimate authority on the topic. It usually starts with the phrase, “That’s YOUR interpretation,” by the way. Gee, have any of us heard that before?
That kind of a statement suffers from two basic problems in the way that it is stated. The first is that it is assuming that the Scriptures can be interpreted properly in more than one way. NO Scholar today actually believes that, they believe they are correct, to the exclusion over everyone else. Also, the statement itself betrays that they think YOUR interpretation is WRONG, doesn’t it? Not really a question. When it comes down to it, there are different lenses you can view the Bible through these days. Amillennialism, Post-millennialism, Premillennialism, and Dispensationalism are the four kinds of rosy-coloured glasses that we can view scripture through if we are not being careful or Berean-like in our approach, and it is easy to do. Each of these would interpret the Greek word harpazo in a different fashion. That’s the Greek word for rapture, incidentally. Premillennials would say that the harpazo event will actually occur, and it will signal the end of the world as we know it. Post-millennials would see this as the prelude to the final judgement seat in Revelation 20, and Amillennials would think that everyone is insane because there will be no literal rapture. Who is right? I can’t answer that because I do not know. To be transparent I will tell you I am in the premillennial camp because it is the only camp I can make intelligent sense out of, but I’m just a guy. Also, Premillennialism has the advantage of being what the early church believed historically. That’s another clue to bible interpretation, by the way.
The best way to deal with the person that says, “That’s your interpretation” is this: Point out to them that yes, it IS your interpretation, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong as you are suggesting. Because if you’re suggesting I’m wrong, by default, you’re suggesting that you’re right. Let’s hear your interpretation and then find out what the Scriptures say, if necessary in the original language, and not some silly paraphrase like the Message, please. (Give me the ESV or the NASB95, or the new LSB. Save your Living Bible for the Vice Principal from an 1980s high school to read over the PA. The one that calls Peter and Andrew with James and John “commercial fisherman.” The one that waters down the gospel so that God has to wait for someone to make a decision before He can save them. Let me ask you, did John the Baptist make that decision for himself? How about Enoch or Moses or Elijah? I think not.) And then, if the individual is forthcoming, LISTEN to them, and then handle the Word accurately, and speak the truth to them. Most often, however, you will have them defer the discussion, so if you’re bold or something important is at stake, press the issue. You see, it isn’t just YOUR interpretation most times, it’s a lot of other very smart and gifted theologians’ interpretation. Maybe that includes Augustine of Hippo or Polycarp. It is okay to appeal to historical interpretations to defend your position. Here’s why –
Because it isn’t about YOU. We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord. There is an objective truth, and an objective source for that truth that is outside of your or their influence or control. If they are being honest, they’ll agree with that, and the worst that will happen is that you will agree to disagree agreeably. If they aren’t, be prepared, I’ve seen people become very angry and even vindictive at this kind of personal challenge. I know you aren’t really offering one, but I’ve had people take it that way – to the point that I was verbally maligned by said individual behind my back (though they did not know I was in earshot and heard every word). If the individual had been objective about the truth of the situation, he would have simply given the glory to God. That’s another tip to good bible interpretation and exposition, by the way – the glory goes to God and not man. But again, I digress.
Who are we? We are servants [doulos] of Jesus for His sake, not ours, not yours, not anyone other than Jesus’ own sake, and that’s what Paul said here. So Paul was saying here that we don’t blow our own horns, and we aren’t really serving you when we serve you – He told us to do it, so we’re really serving Him. There is no self-serving in any of this. Remember – it isn’t about you. Instead it is all about HIM. Christ. The One who took my place on that Roman cross where I personally should have died as the penalty for my own cosmic treason, a capital crime against my Creator. We should not preach ourselves. We must not. We DARE not.
7:1-9:15 – We Do Not Serve Ourselves
And that thought dovetails into yet the next thing Paul says. We do not declare ourselves as worthy, and we do not preach ourselves as Lord(s), because we do not serve ourselves or our own interests. I’m getting that from two verses in this section:
7:12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.
8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
In the first verse, Paul is pointing out that he is not serving himself or his own interests, but those of the believers in Corinth. This is a reference to the harsh letter that he wrote and wished he could have back for a period of time – until he saw the fruit of it. He did not write that letter for sake or the interests of the offender, he did not write the letter for the sake of the one offended (that would be himself, because this is in reference to the main false teacher that was attacking his ministry, remember), but rather he wrote it to make the Corinthians respond, and respond they did in godly fashion!
The second passage is to show that not even the Lord Jesus acted from the place of His own interests, but EVERYONE else’s. Anyone that tries to say that we are His interests would also be correct, but in trying to argue that point, you’re more concerned about being right – which is just a demonstration of what I’m saying – because that is in your own prideful interests.
Well, Ger, if we do not serve our own interests, then whose do we serve? The obvious answer here is that we serve the Lord’s interests, but we do so by looking out for and meeting the needs of others in our sphere of influence and ability. You should recall that this text speaks primarily to the financial gift that Corinth was in the process of collecting to send to the disenfranchised believers in Jerusalem, whom Paul and all the other churches of the day were interested in supporting. That’s unusual today. I can barely get someone to go and like a free YouTube channel, and it costs nothing, and all we are after is to share our content like the Lord told us to do. And I’m okay with that, because the Lord told me to do it, and I will be faithful to Him.
You see, our service is not dependent on results. I CAN be influenced by things like health, as anyone who has been through one of our bible study delays knows, if I’m sick, I can’t focus. It doesn’t depend on help or lack of it, though help is desired and nice to receive. God is the one doing the work, beloved, not us. If we end up cancelled or deleted because we are doing the will of God and trying to bring the Gospel to the nations by any means possible, we are not being rejected by ourselves, beloved. They are really rejecting God who wants to save them from His coming wrath, and although that can be painful or even in some cases (like Stephen, the first Christian Martyr) bring about severe misfortune or death, we are still to be faithful to God. If the world system goes through with the insanity of a socialist “great reset,” if we are still here, then we must serve Christ. Because we do not serve ourselves. We MUST not serve ourselves. We DARE not serve ourselves.
10:1-13:10 – We Do Not Glorify Ourselves
And as you would expect, this dovetails into the very next thought paragraph. If we do not commend ourselves (declare ourselves worthy of all the attention), and then will not proclaim our selves or our own agendas because we should be busy proclaiming His message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how he died to atone for all our sins, and we do not serve ourselves, our own agendas or ends, then we need not take any of the credit for any of that, that is, we do not glorify ourselves.
Speaking of his own proverbial thorn in the flesh, Paul said (12:9), “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Paul here reveals in his statement about asking the Lord to remove his own personal thorn in the flesh what his true priority was. It is my weaknesses and shortcomings where God displays His strength through me. Sure, humans boast. Paul was no different. Where He was different from the rest of the world, though, is where the source of his bragging came from – it was all about Christ and how His strength overcame Paul’s weaknesses. Paul was walking in the Spirit and moment by moment yielding to the reign of Christ in his life. So God worked through all the areas that Paul had that were weak to display how strong He is, not as an example, but to show that He does this for any who will walk in the Spirit.
Sometimes, we get on our high horses, because we have these abilities. (Yes, God gave them to us, but we forget that.) We think that through our own practice that we have refined our skills and abilities so that we can effort our goals and agendas through them. Nothing is further from the truth. Recently, a gent that I will call Peter (not even close to his real name for security, both his and mine) took me to task for identifying myself as an absolute sinner, like the rest of the human race, and in his “concern” for me (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here), he basically upbraided me for being so hard on myself. He instructed me (publicly on Facebook I will add) that I had to be easier on myself, and get off of this “dangerous” downward path he feels that I am on.
Apparently, he has never read the statement of John the Baptist here: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) The Lord Jesus Christ referred to John the Baptist as there being no one greater having been born human. John still understood that he had been born in sin, and preached repentance in order that one may escape the wrath of God for such cosmic treason. It is a good thing I did not actually follow “Peter’s” advice. I must also decrease while He increases in my own life and walk with Him. It doesn’t mean I will stop being me, it means that I will fulfil my calling for who God created me to be. Please pray for “Peter.” It seems evident that he is a false convert that needs to be saved from God’s coming wrath. I pray that God will see fit to save him in just such a way.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer the Catechism gives to that question is, “To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” In the world today, by my own limited observation, that does not seem possible. People who are out of work have to sell themselves, and build themselves up just to get the job, or the contract, or what have you. How does one resolve that conflict? Well, you have to realize that isn’t what this is saying. We glorify God by using the talents that He gave us to do well at whatever we do, realizing that we are not really working for our employer, or for our contract provider, or whoever, but everything we do is for the Lord Jesus Christ. When we give Him, the glory, we are actually DOING our very best. Anyone that tells you different is not looking after your best interests. When another fellow named Peter said to Christ that He needed to take it easier on Himself because He was the Son of God and Messiah, Jesus responded to Peter by saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” (Matt. 16:23, Mark 8:33). Did you realize that passage in Matthew gives us a timeline reference? Jesus said that to Peter immediately after Peter had made his great confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Sometimes, WE as BELIEVERS don’t get it, Beloved. We need to take great care that we also are not looking after our own interests and taking the glory that is intended for God. We should not glorify ourselves. We MUST not glorify ourselves. We DARE not glorify ourselves.
13:11-14 – Closing
As with all his other letters, Paul adds a closing. What makes this one a bit different is that it is shorter than some. He gives some final instructions, which we will detail a bit better when we get there, and then we will look at what that meant to the Corinthian believers, and what it could mean to us here and now.
So what can we take away from the book as a grand overview? We saw Paul called on to defend his ministry to the Corinthians, which he has done for two consecutive letters now. Can you imagine, humble as he was, to have to explain why he was doing what he was doing? So may we all be in those ways. We should not commend ourselves, we should not preach ourselves, we certainly should not serve ourselves, and we should get none of the credit to glorify ourselves! We must not! We DARE not!
And that’s what I saw in the book generally this time through.