God has spoken to us. We have His Word.

Click here to listen to the entire sermon.

I began a series in our Sunday evening service February 15 about the Bible.  In the opening message, I identified the following questions we will address:

Has God spoken?

What has He said?

Do we have His Word?

If so, in what form?

How do we know?


I also outlined the subjects we would cover concerning God’s Word including:

How it came from God:  Revelation, Inspiration, Canonization

How it came to us:  Preservation, Transmission, Translation

How it profits us:  Illumination, Interpretation, Application


We covered the first step, Revelation, in the first two messages.  You can download the audio and outlines of these messages here.

I asked last night for your help in suggesting a title for this series.  I welcome your input.  Click on Comments below and give me your ideas.  I will take them into consideration and hopefully together we can produce a good title.

Every idea will be considered.  Obviously I can’t use every one, and may end up with a combination of several of the ideas that are submitted.  I hope that you will be blessed and will benefit from thinking about and discussing the topics above in order to share your ideas.  Thank you!

Confronting the Competition

From sermon preached at Calvary Baptist Church Sunday morning, February 22, 2009

Click here to listen to the entire sermon.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

This verse contains one of the most beautiful and eloquent phrases in scripture: the simplicity that is in Christ.

I studied and savored this phrase last week. Let me share some of what I learned. I’ve divided the following into three sections (word definitions, context, commentaries) in order to help you understand how I arrived at my interpretation of this phrase.

Word definitions
Simplicity means “singleness.” It means to be whole or undivided. Paul used it in Ephesians 6:5 when he challenged servants to obey their masters and do their master’s will “in singleness of heart.” He said servants should have no divided loyalty and no hidden agenda. He used it in Romans 12 and also in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where he talks about giving, encouraging people who give to do it “with simplicity,” that is, sincerely, without a selfish motive, and openly and generously. “Simplicity” is the quality of being single-minded, whole-hearted, undivided and without dual loyalty or hidden agenda.

Then Paul said, “that is in Christ.” The Greek preposition translated “in” is eis; it means unto, toward. He is not talking about a simplicity that belongs to Christ. He is talking about a simplicity toward Christ or with respect to Jesus Christ.

So, this simplicity that is in Christ or that we have toward Christ involves a condition of being single or sincere and whole and undivided and without an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda, a simplicity toward, with respect to Jesus Christ.

Is he talking about simple, childlike faith in Christ for salvation? We know that is how we are saved, by simply believing in and trusting like a child would do, simply, in the finished work of Jesus Christ for our salvation. He could be including that. Is he talking about faith alone in Christ alone? It is possible that he is including this important principle. But I think what he says goes further. I think what he is describing goes much deeper than that.

Context
Notice the illustration that Paul used in verse 2, For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. He was calling himself the “father of the bride.” He was saying that he was like the father of a young woman who is a virgin and who is betrothed. She has been promised formally and legally to a man and she is awaiting and preparing for the marriage ceremony, the consummation of the relationship, and the life that she will spend together with him. It is normal and right for her to be single-minded about her betrothed bridegroom, her husband-to-be. She should be wholehearted and fully devoted to “one husband” (v. 2). There should be no other suitor. She should never entertain or give the impression that she is open to someone else coming into her life and stealing her heart from that one man. There should be no seducer who has a chance to steal her away or even raise a doubt in anyone’s mind about her loyalty and her devotion to her husband-to-be. She should be totally and exclusively devoted to her future husband. So, Paul is emphasizing here total, exclusive loyalty and devotion.

Commentaries
Here is how some writers have described the meaning of this phrase, “the simplicity that is in Christ.” One calls it “single-minded faithfulness to Christ” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). Another identifies it as, “exclusive devotion to Christ” (Walvoord & Zuck). Another says that it is “freedom from duplicity toward Christ” (F. F. Bruce).  And, here is my favorite, by Alan Redpath from his commentary on 2 Corinthians called Blessings Out of Buffetings: “It is a faith that is exclusively resting in and centered upon Jesus Christ alone and a love that is clear from every competing affection.”

The word definitions, the context, and how other students of the Word interpret this beautiful, profound phrase have helped me arrive at this conclusion: “The simplicity that is in Christ” equals faith in Christ alone and love for Christ above all. Paul said, “Here is what I want for you, what I am concerned about for you, what I am on guard to protect in your lives – your faith in Christ alone and your love for Christ above all. It should be absolute; it should be supreme; it should be unconditional; it should be unquestionable.

Paul’s use of the analogy of betrothal and marriage shows that we as believers should reject any interest, any advance by another suitor or seducer. We should remain steadfast and faithful to our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, as we wait for Him to come and as we anticipate the ceremony, the consummation, and being united to Him, as the Bride of Christ with our Bridegroom, to be with Him forever.

There was a threat, influences and people who were stealing the Corinthian Christians’ hearts and minds away from all that Paul had taught them and the truth about Jesus Christ. Paul fulfilled the responsibility of an authentic Christian minister as he confronted that threat. He was aggressive, forceful, and did not hold back. He confronted the competition.

Outline of Sunday AM Sermon

Confronting the Competition

2 Corinthians 11:1-4

 

There are several dynamics at work in a person who is willing to confront the competition, to guard his or another’s faith in Christ alone and love for Christ above all.

  1. Experience the Force of Jealousy (1-3)
  2. Recognize the Importance of Purity (2)
  3. Identify the Place of Vulnerability (3-4)

A Rare Opportunity

What Paul relates in 2 Corinthians is fascinating to me. It is intensely, uncomfortably personal. The preacher bares his soul. Paul is saying, “Here is what hurts inside of me. Here is what some of you have done to me. Here is what I have wrestled with. Here is what gets me down.” He also declares the source of His hope, courage, and resolve to steadfastly serve His Savior and Lord. His transparency gives you and me a rare opportunity to understand the minister and the ministry.

Summary of 02.15.09 am Sermon

Click here to listen to 02.15.09 am Sermon

Paul the Apostle defended, not himself personally, but his ministry, against the critics and attackers who were influential in the Corinthian church. This defense is outlined in 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13. Twenty-six times in 2 Corinthians and 22 times in the last four chapters Paul uses the word kaucaomai (kauchaomai), translated “boast,” “glory,”, and “rejoice.” He speaks positively, not pridefully, about the ministry in order to identify for his friends in Corinth characteristics of authentic Christian ministry.

2 Corinthians 10:7-18 includes Four Criteria for Authentic Christian Ministry. The qualities Paul highlighted in his own ministry can be used as criteria for determining what is authentic Christian ministry today. What is true of the minister is usually reflected in characteristics of his ministry.

An authentic Christian minister:

  • Is secure in his calling from Christ (7-8b)
  • Uses his position for the benefit of the church (8b-11)
  • Measures himself by God-given standards (12)
  • Operates in his God-appointed sphere (13-16)

Paul concludes by directing the attention where it belongs (17-18). Our boasting is in the Lord, not ourselves or our ministry accomplishments. The approval that matters comes from God.

Focus on verses 8-11

An authentic Christian minister uses his position for the benefit of the church.

Some ministers use their positions to develop a power base or personality cult. Paul used his position to strengthen others (“for edification” cf. 13:10; Eph. 4:12). He also used it to handle problems (vv. 10-11). The false teachers in Corinth denigrated Paul’s speaking ability and physical appearance. Paul was painfully aware of these problems. He recognized that they were not merely attacking his personality or performance; they were attacking the God-ordained position that he represented.

Paul had a position of leadership and authority as an apostle, but he did not use that position for himself; he used it for the benefit of the church. First, he used his position to strengthen others. Notice in verse 8 he says, “the Lord hath given us this authority for edification.” He is saying, “This authority is not for my own personal benefit; it is to help you, to build your lives and your ministry.” He restated this point at the end of the letter (13:10): “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness according to the power (exousia, authority) which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.”

His point about using authority relates to what he said in Ephesians 4:12 “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” God has not given evangelists and pastor-teachers to the church today to be entertainers. But to fit with and be attractive to the ideas of many people, that is what pastors or preachers are supposed to do. You have to be a standup comedian to draw a crowd. God has not given them to the church to expand the church like a CEO takes on an assignment to follow a business model and expand that company. God has given ministers to the church to build, to strengthen, to construct the people and the body. God will take care of the expansion in His way and in His time.

Some ministers use their position to develop a powerbase. Some take advantage of their influence to develop a personality cult. But Paul here is identifying that an authentic Christian minister uses his position to strengthen the people with whom God has placed him.

Second, he used his position to handle problems. Verse 10 is one place where we know he is directly quoting his attackers in Corinth. “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful;” The accusers said, “From a safe distance, he lets it fly. He really gives it to you.” “But his bodily presence” when he is around and speaking, “is weak, and his speech contemptible.” They were denigrating his appearance and his speaking ability. They were saying “his stage presence is weak, his oratory skills leave a lot to be desired. Who told him he was a public speaker anyway?” Now, if you are a public speaker, that hurts. We know that Paul probably wasn’t the greatest orator. Remember, he put Eutychus to sleep (Acts 20:29). Maybe he was unprofessional. He might have been unpolished. Oratory skills were highly esteemed in the Greek culture of his day. He may have been a better writer than he was a public speaker. We see from what Paul said in other places that he was very self-conscious about his disability, weakness, health problem, vision problem, whatever it was.

From Vincent’s Word Studies in the NT

“No one can even cursorily read St. Paul’s epistles without observing that he was aware of something in his aspect or his personality which distressed him with an agony of humiliation – something which seems to force him, against every natural instinct of his disposition, into language which sounds to himself like a boastfulness which was abhorrent to him, but which he finds to be more necessary to himself than to other men. It is as though he felt that his appearance was against him…. His language leaves on us the impression of one who was acutely sensitive, and whose sensitiveness of temperament has been aggravated by a meanness of presence which is indeed forgotten by the friends who know him, but which raises in strangers a prejudice not always overcome” (Farrar).

Paul appreciated people who listened to him regardless of his limitations. He gave this testimony of the people in Galatia in Galatians 4:13-14 “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” He was grateful for their interest and their willingness to listen to him and not say a word and not notice or reject him because of his physical limitations. He really appreciated that.

Impressive appearance and polished delivery are not necessarily advantages for someone in ministry. God may bless a minister with these gifts. But just because someone doesn’t speak well or doesn’t impress you with their appearance, does not mean that you should disregard what that person says. In fact, many times the opposite is true. God uses the message and the content of a person who isn’t impressive in their delivery or their presentation to reach and penetrate the heart and do the work of God.

Why do you listen to preachers? What impresses you? “Wow, what a speaker!” “Boy, he was funny!” “He just kept my attention.” Do you turn a preacher off because he doesn’t necessarily grab your attention with his presentation of himself or his content? Paul says, “Do not focus on my personality; do not regard or disregard my message based on my physical appearance.”

Understand that Paul was not just reacting to hurtful personal attacks. The divisive leaders in Corinth threatened the congregation’s loyalty, not merely to Paul, but to Christ. Paul confronted the problem people in Corinth from a distance, and planned to do so in person if necessary (v. 11). He used his position for the good of the church, not to advance his own cause. This is a mark of an authentic Christian minister.