As many of you know, the fourth of my five sons was married in the last year and has moved with his new wife to begin an exciting life in Colorado, even buying a new house a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I want to visit with them and see their new home and the lives they have established in that place. But so far, every attempted plan has fallen through for one reason or another. I’m pretty sure they don’t think we’re trying to avoid seeing them!
Plans fall through; things happen. Paul had said he was going to come and visit the Corinthians, but it did not eventuate as he had hoped. And now there were people in the church there – likely in the category of false teachers – who were using this story as an opportunity to impugn the apostle and his motives.
We live in a time of great political and philosophical division. It is the regular and daily experience to hear people in leadership vilified in awful ways. A person does not actually need to have done something terribly wrong to be effectually wounded, all he has to have happen is to be accused of the deed and a certain number of people will believe it. This was the stratagem of Paul’s opponents – they were helped as his reputation was tarnished and thrown into doubt.
So Paul is on the defensive, as he will be through much of this letter. Here at the beginning he tells them essentially, “what you see is what you get, I ain’t very complicated!” He was simply serving God by speaking the truth with integrity and sincerity. There was no personal gain in it. And he hoped that over time they could become fully convinced of this.
The inference of his opponents was that this fellow who spoke out of both sides of his mouth about visitation was also a person whose message could not be trusted as truthful. And to that charge Paul spoke strongly that there was no vacillation going on. This was a certain message of the gospel.
The certainty of the gospel is illustrated in three truths about the believer’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
First, there is an anointing of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. The picture looks back to the anointing of priests at the time of their induction into ministry.
Secondly is the seal of ownership. In ancient times, a seal on a document specified the owner of it and granted that document its authority and veracity.
Thirdly is the deposit of the Holy Spirit. This banking/financial term spoke of a down payment that affirmed the necessity of full and final payment to come.
These are three awesome pictures that give us confidence in a broken and messed-up world. We possess stuff that is so much greater and more lasting than the vicissitudes of this material age.
(Here is an update on the friend I mentioned yesterday as a prayer item: Dave has survived a 12-hour surgery, with the doctor reporting that it went well. Some of the vein / blood supply complications that were the issues of greatest concern and threat apparently were successfully managed. I am not sure it can be said at this juncture that he is “cured,” but it is certainly a report well on the positive side of the ledger. I would remain thankful for your continued prayers.)
2 Corinthians 1:12 – Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?
18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.