Friday, August 15, 2008
2 Corinthians 10:7-18 The Problem Of A Carnal Perspective.
There are two kinds of people described in this section, those who commend themselves and those whom the Lord commends. Both groups in Corinth were confident that they belonged to Christ (v.7), but one alone was. The first were a self-promotional crowd while the others were being promoted by the sovereign grace of God. The same two kinds of people are in this congregation today and these two categories alone, with everyone belonging to one class or the other. This is true for 'all people that on earth do dwell' - you are either commending yourselves, or you are commended by God.
"In what category am I? Do I belong to those who commend themselves to their fellow men and to God, or am I amongst those whom God himself commends to the angels of heaven?"
The apostle Paul is urging the Corinthian Baptist church to make some decisions about some people who had infiltrated their membership. These folks adopted worldly beliefs and patterns of thinking. What’s big is best. Strong personality is more important than truth. Charisma matters more than character.
10 For it is said, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable.”
These people, to secure their own position, decided they needed to supersede Paul’s position, and they did this by criticising Paul’s letters Paul’s looks and Paul’s language. Verse 10.
Phillips “I know my critics say, "His letters are impressive and moving but his actual presence is feeble and his speaking beneath contempt."
There is a fundamental problem with Paul’s critics; they didn’t understand a spiritual ministry. They were carnal in their thinking. They were fleshly, worldly, in the way that they assessed ministry.
They didn’t understand what the Lord Jesus said about spiritual leadership:
Mark 10:35-45 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Him and said, “Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You.” 36 “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked them. 37 They answered Him, “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We are able,” they told Him. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. 40 But to sit at My right or left is not Mine to give; instead, it is for those it has been prepared for.” 41 When the [other]10 [disciples]heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. 43 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be a • slave to all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
A Carnal Perspective Measures Character By Charisma
Those who commend themselves are too easily impressed by the natural talents of others. These men opposing Paul admired rhetoric and human eloquence (v.10): "Now that's true religion!" they said. "The orator, standing and declaiming till you get goose pimples! Poor old Paul..." Maybe the apostle's speaking amounted to nothing. Perhaps he didn't have the eloquence of a Peter or an Isaiah. Perhaps some complained because he didn’t write out his sermon in full manuscript? Or maybe these opponents whinged because he did use a manuscript when he spoke? We too have heard men who have surrendered much - a quality of directness and pointedness and verve and liveliness - because of the papers they read. Yet wherever and however Paul went and spoke to people many were converted to Christ, and then built up in the faith. Other details seem trifles in comparison with that. As the years have gone by we've become increasingly unimpressed with personalities who can strut their stuff, and hold an audience in the palm of their hands, and chat away with a big smile to a thousand people. We might think of a recent US President who strutted his stuff, and people admired him, but he was morally corrupt. People still admired him. Perhaps these people wanted someone like them, who would berate and abuse and stand over people. Perhaps these critics were wanting someone they could respect as a tyrant or someone sexy.
A Carnal Perspective Measures Fruitfulness By Favour
How favourable was Paul to the multitude? Men who commend themselves are very anxious to make a good impression. Like the Pharisees they are like vessels whose outside has been cleaned but inside are full of filth. They are hypocrites, wanting to create a good impression, refusing to face up to how God sees them. Those who commend themselves even take credit for what others have done. Paul was careful not to "go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others" (v. 15). He repeated that concern, "We do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory" (v. 17).
A Carnal Perspective Measures Ministry By Measures.
Did you notice what Paul says in 2 Cor 10: 12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
The issue of comparing ourselves with others is always a very dangerous issue. The reason is that God has given many many different sorts of Pastors. There is the Pastor who is gifted by God with great pastoral counselling gifts. He may be a lousey teacher or a ousey preacher or a lousey visitor, but he sure is a good counsellor. Or there is the fellow who is a good preacher but lousey counsellor. Or the good teacher , who is not so great a preacher. Or the preacher who is no good at teaching. Or the very good leader who is no good at pastoral matters. We are all such a mix of gifts and ministries and personalities that it is impossible to evaluate or compare one against another. Each pastor or teacher or preacher is gifted with the ministry that God intends for him to exercise in the place where he is located. Therefore its inappropriate to compare one with another. Particularly since we cannot measure each man by our own size. Do you remember the story of Prometheus? Prometheus had a bed by which he measure the right height of every person he captured. If they were too tall for his bed, he cut off a bit here and a bit here to make them the right size. And if they were too short he stretched them on the bed until they were right the size. It didn’t work for Prometheus, and it will not work for you or I.
But comparison becomes important for these folks. Those who commend themselves put down others. They can't stand any competition. They are ungenerous in their evaluation of other people.
These folks criticised Paul’s letters These folks criticised Paul’s looks These folks criticised Paul’s language. Paul says of them that "when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise" (v.12). This is the mark of the Pharisee.
“God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican" (Lk. 18:11).
How do you defend yourself against these sorts of criticisms?
The answer is you don’t. You look to what is really important in the apostle Paul’s life.
He was interested in the gospel
2 Cor 11:1 I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me.
2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!
For Paul, it was all about Christ.
It was preaching Jesus Christ as Lord.
2 Cor 4:5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
1 Cor 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
He was keen to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour and Lord. And he wanted everyone to know Him.
Paul was interested in marrying people to Christ.
This is why he was upset at the Corinthians. They were stopping him from getting on with the job.
"I would the precious time redeem, And longer live for this alone,
To spend and to be spent for them Who have not yet my Saviour known.
Fully on these my mission prove, And only breathe to breathe Thy love." (Charles Wesley) Wesley is passionately concerned to 'get to people with the gospel'. Those are Paul's actual words here: "we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ" (v.14). Let's get to men and women by every legitimate biblical means with the gospel.
Paul was interested in keeping people married to Christ.
This is why he was upset at the Corinthians. They were tying his hands up trying to sort out their problems when he should have been getting on with the job. And his greatest distress was that some who started out ok with Christ, had wandered off away from Christ. And this upset him more than anything else. Gal 1: 6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Paul was interested in extending the gospel to new regions.
Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in regions beyond you" (vv.15&16). So often our Lord commends those servants whom, when the Lord returns, he finds busy, involved in Christ's work. He told them that the fields were white unto harvest, but the labourers were few, and that they should pray that the Lord of the harvest would send labourers into the harvest field. "Go into all the world!" he told them. There are 'regions beyond' says Paul in this well known phrase which gave birth to the title of a missionary society. There are unreached people. Many will be modest and humble people, but one young person you might contact could become another Spurgeon or another Whitefield. This is why he was upset at the Corinthians. They weren’t interested in what they should have been interested in.
Are we? Are we interested in Geoff and Jo Shepley’s work in PNG.
Are we interested in the Harrison’s work in Sh island?
Ask yourself today “Am I where God wants me to be?” 13, 14
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field that God has assigned to us" (v.13). Then you see Paul speaks of not going "beyond our limits" (v.15), and of his own "area of activity" (v.15). So Paul was conscious that he had an assigned field of labour, and that that had certain limits, and it was a certain area of activity. He was sent to the Gentiles and so his field of labour was not Jerusalem. He left that to James. He didn't major in a ministry of mercy; he left that to the deacons. He didn't think of getting married and having children because he had a specialised area of activity as a church planter and evangelist and the pastor of new churches. He didn't build on another man's foundation or go into another man's territory. He was conscious of his own special calling and he stuck to it. It's a great theme of the apostles, especially to these excitable Corinthians. They wanted to neglect their duties and zoom off in all directions speaking about the gospel.
You have a field God has assigned to you, as a student, as a mother, as a deacon. You have some responsibility given to you in the church and that is your area of activity, and you give yourself to it without fail. That would make a tremendous contribution to the fellowship. How many men and women of God have been saved through the faithfulness of a Sunday School teacher a kids club worker or a brigade officer? I think of a fellow who as a child, went to a Vacation Bible School because he was invited by his friends. He began to attend the same church for the Sunday School. Each week one man in the congregation had the responsibility of driving the church bus and picking up the children for Sunday School. That man continued to do it year after year, and for over eight years he picked up teenager Alex and brought him to church. Week after week Alex attended morning Sunday School without any indication that he was believing the messages he was hearing. Finally, during his last year in High School, after being picked up for church over 400 times, he was converted. What if the man driving the bus had quit and there was no one else to drive it? What if he had given up after 395 times and claimed that that was pretty good record? What if the man had said, "This kid is going nowhere spiritually, why waste any more time on him?" He didn't say that. He got to the church bus at 8.30 a.m. sat in the driver's seat, started the engine and set off to get the kids - as he had done for so many years. In other words he stuck to the field God had assigned to him. If Alex hadn’t come to know the Lord, I would never have come to know the Lord. Alex was faithful as a Boys Brigade leader to keep after those kids on the fringe that would have dropped off into crime. He kept an eye out for me. And with years of persistence it paid off in my salvation.
Maybe your ministry is intercession, or perhaps you shyly say, "Well, I just can't help continuing to pray for some people." That's right. Those are your proper limits. Hang in there! One time George Mueller found himself praying for four or five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up. It was after Mueller's funeral the last one was saved.
Don't give up! Think of William Carey, the father of modern missions. He waited seven years before he saw one Indian being converted. He said, "If, after my removal, anyone should think it is worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If the writer give me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly=85I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit." That is what Paul is speaking about here. Those commended by the Lord plod on in God’s Will.
Is God glorified in my ministry? 15-17
At the opening of a Christian school the glory and accolades were being given not to them man who had sacrificed so much financially and health wise to begin the school, but by the pastor of the church who had driven him to do it. I was concerned for this man who seemed so overlooked. John Howard was there, and there were many speeches, but this man seemed to be overlooked. Completely. Yet I knew he was the one that worked 22 hour days to make the school happen 7 days per week. I saw him and attempted to encourage him. He was cleaning out an area of garbage left by the folk that were there attending so that the program would flow smoothly. Oh as long as the Lord is glorified that’s all that matters.
Can the Lord commend the work?
"For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends" (v.18). There will be a day when each of us must given an account for how we have lived in this world. The Lord Jesus Christ confronted Saul of Tarsus and he said to him, "It is hard for you to go on like this kicking against the goads." He was aware that that was exactly what Saul was doing, defying his own screaming conscience in the case of every man or woman he had stoned to death or thrown into prison. "Why are you persecuting me?" he said to Saul. So the Saviour knew everything about Saul's life. But Jesus also speaks of those to whom he will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." He has seen our lives. He has noticed what we've done, especially that we've been servants. The cup of cold water given in Jesus' name to a thirsty person is going to receive a reward from him.
Those who commend themselves are motivated by self-effort. Those who are commended by God have a relationship with the indwelling Lord. Those who commend themselves are impressed with the "big deal." Those commended by God find it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service. Those who commend themselves do it for external rewards. Those commended by God are satisfied that one day they will hear his words of approval. Those who commend themselves are highly concerned about results. Those commended by God are free of the need to calculate results. Those who commend themselves pick and choose whom to serve, but the service of those commended by God is indiscriminate in its ministry. Those who commend themselves are affected by moods and whims. Those commended by God do so simply and faithfully because there is a need. Self-commenders give temporary service. The service of those commended by God is a life-style. Those who commend themselves lack spiritual sensitivity. Those who are commended by God insist on meeting the need even when to do so means a cross. Those who commend themselves can withhold their service as freely as perform it. Those who are commended by God are faithful until the end. Those who commend themselves fracture a congregation. Those commended by God build fellowship and community
Are you building up your fellow Christians and being built up yourself? Are you faithful in the sphere of service where God has placed you? Do you long to see the work of God expanded? Do you glory in the Lord? These are the marks of the people the Lord commends. He will say in that tremendous day, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”
Theodore Roosevelt "Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger." (1894)
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." "Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910 "...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." (1891)
But lets consider how Paul answers these critics.
D A Carson “All this presupposes that the church ahs the responsibility to make judgements, but the judgements should be based, not on powerful personalities capable of leading the church astray by the sheer energy of their will and personal attractiveness but by more objective criteria,, by obvious facts, by standards of Christian maturity.”
Some advocate the broadest the broadest tolerance and remind everyone that Jesus taught Matt 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.
But they overlook the fact that by advocating this stance they are passing judgement on those whom they judge to judge too harshly. Moreover Jesus’ teaching is I reality a condemnation of judgementalism, not an invitation to vacuous moral indecision; for He Himself elsewhere insists, John 7:24 24 Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
It is quite impossible for either an individual or a church to make no judgements; for even the failure to make decisions is in fact a decision based upon the implicit assumption that the circumstances are not weighty enough to force a judgement. If the Corinthian church in the situation before us decided to make no judgements, it would in fact be deciding to disobey the apostle. Neither an individual Christian nor a church can avoid responsibility by refusing to make judgements; for that very refusal is already a judgement , an evaluation of commitments, strategies priorities and competing truth claims.”
Advice for Handling Criticism
In his book Confessions of a Pastor, Craig Groeschel offers some advice on how to handle critics:
It's a fact that "hurt people hurt people." They usually dislike themselves and criticize others in a misguided effort to validate themselves. If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding. Part of considering the source is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through…
One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching. Eyes closed, focusing on God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand. I never saw who it was, but the note was marked "Personal." I thought to myself, Someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach. A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper. A moment later, I lost that loving feeling. Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off. She took offense at my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations. This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach. In that moment, I had a choice. I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged. Or I could ask myself, I wonder what she's experiencing that caused her to lash out? I chose compassion over depression. My heart hurt for her. I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn't take her note personally. Consider the source. And consider the possibility that the jab may have come from an injured heart. Dismiss it and move on. If you don't, you may become the very thing you despise.