Christ is the head of his church
Our faith is dependent upon Christ not men. When we have God’s Word and are faithful to
listen and yield to the Spirit’s voice, God is faithful to conform us into Christ’s image and maturity. Godly men come into play to encourage and teach and train us to know God better. I am sick as I am sure that you are too, of clergy who strive for control or power and prestige. Verses 12 – 14 help me to know that my salvation is not bound by a bunch of “religious leaders”, and that Paul was not interested in those things but genuinely concerned for the flock. Everyone needs accountability to their spiritual elders in this life to remain faithful, but spiritual leaders cross the line into error when they put themselves as a “mediator” between us and God. Paul is careful not to do this as indicated in verse 24. “Our conscience testifies” –“conducted ourselves in holiness and sincerity. Not according to worldly wisdom…” Heavenly wisdom is understandable. You don’t need a lawyers credential to understand that which Christ did for you. God does not make heavenly knowledge unattainable to children and the simple minded. We do need to be taught God’s Word correctly but God’s Spirit can lead all men unto the truth of salvation by reading his Word. You should not rely on middle men such as “saints”, angels or even Mary or Peter to pray to in your stead before God. Jesus is our only mediator between man and God. He has pardoned and removed our sin debt before God, thus we have peace with God and direct access to the Father as his true children by faith.
Paul’s Change of Plans
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, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to 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. (verses 15-19 removed for brevity)
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 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.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the Lord of my church and the Lord who is responsible to grow your faith. I AM the one who makes you stand firm. I AM the one who anoints you with my holiness. Not Paul, and not your pastor, priest, bishop, prophet, or even angel (they can lead you to the truth, but you have the responsibility to know it and own it personally). Men can be used in correcting the problems in the church, (as Paul had the right to rebuke them as an apostle and a type of father in the faith) but my children must know how to stand by faith in me alone. Hardships will come. You will suffer for your faith to grow. That is the whole point of this life, to learn how to grow because of them by trusting me and clinging to me through them.
I AM the God of all your circumstances. In all things I am at work for the good of those who love me and are called according to my purposes that you might be conformed to the image of my son. This means that even when your plans get disrupted; I use those disruptions to make you more like Jesus in some fashion that you are probably not conscious of. In the nurturing the faith of my church, it is important to remember that disruptions to your plans are not necessarily bad things. Let them bring you back to seeking me and my plans first.
Church planting principles 101
In the Jungles of New Guinea, church planting procedures mandate that the missionary step out of the tribe after it has been established in the faith, and having translated many of the New Testament books, so that they can grow in dependence upon God instead of always leaning on the missionary to fix their difficulties. It is more important to teach people how to trust God through their trials by teaching them God’s Word in relation to those problems than to always try to fix them (we as parents tend to fix our kids problems rather than teach them how to grow as a result of them). Twice Paul says that he originally wanted to go to Corinth after his first letter to them. He would have done so in godly wisdom, with pure motives, and in love. However in this letter, Paul has to defend his not coming to certain accusers for “not following through” on his promises. The point being, he did not want to be the lord of their faith as some kind of spiritual dictator by taking over the situation from them. He lets the Corinthians work out their problems together in faith. Only God is the one who makes us stand firm as we trust, yield and follow him.
Salvation guaranteed, but not a life of ease
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.” These verses bear posting again. When we believe, He promises to make us stand firm until his return and by giving us his Holy Spirit, guarantees our salvation to come. Compare Eph 1:13, 14 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” So regardless of how bad you feel in regard to your spiritual condition, keep trusting the author and perfecter of your faith. It is through trials, hardships, and even your failures that your faith is purified and perfected. Nobody deserves God’s favor as sinners. We all deserve hell. Therefore, any blessing we receive is by his mercy and grace not because of anything you have done. As his true children of faith, some hardships are brought on by our wrong behavior see Heb 12. But know that all hardships are to teach us to keep at Jesus’ feet. Each success and each failure should drive you to your knees in praise and thanks for his mercy and grace and show you how much you are not worthy, but are privileged to receive such an amazing gift of grace.
More to come,