2 Corinthians 1:12-14 ~ 20171105 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/05 2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Mutual Boasting in Transforming Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171105_2cor1_12-14.mp3
Connections: Thanksgiving and Boasting
Paul has just finished saying that when the believers unite in working together with God by prayer on behalf of someone in need, thanksgiving is multiplied because many faces are turned toward God.
And now in verse 12 he brings up boasting. How do these things go together, thanksgiving and boasting? Thanksgiving is multiplied in response to God's grace extended to the needy in answer to the prayers of many. Verses 12 – 14 is a section that is marked off by boasting; that begins and ends with boasting.
He moves from suffering in verses 3-10 to thanksgiving in 11 to boasting in 12-14. In verses 6-7, he invites them into (koinonia) fellowship in suffering,
In verse 11 he invites them to labor together in prayer and thanksgiving for him.
Here in verses 12-14 he is inviting them to join him in his boasting; our boast in you and you in us. The relationship between Paul and the Corinthians is strained and tense. All of this is designed to encourage and highlight the Corinthians connection with Paul. They are to fellowship with him in his sufferings, to be co-laborers in prayer, and to mutually boast together in one another.
Boasting; Good or Bad
Paul talks about boasting more in 2 Corinthians than any other book. He even indulges himself in a little foolish boasting in chapters 11-12. But in Galatians 6 he says
How do we put this together, that Paul refuses to boast in anything but the cross of Christ, and here in 2 Corinthians he seems to let loose and boast, even inviting the Corinthians to boast in him?
We see at the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul says:
God saved us in the way he did in order to exclude human boasting. (see Judges 7:2; Eph.2:9) The only appropriate boasting for the believer is boasting in God.
Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9
We are not to boast in self; we are to boast only in God. Later in 2 Corinthians, he records that:
Paul's boasting is not boasting in his own abilities but in his weaknesses and the demonstration of God's power through his weaknesses. Paul glories in, exults in, boasts in God. So when Paul boasts, he is boasting not in himself, but in what Jesus has accomplished in him. We will see this clearly in this passage as we look more closely at it.
The Testimony of Conscience
Paul calls his conscience to testify to his conduct, his manner of life in the world and especially among the Corinthians.
What is the conscience? The conscience is the inner voice that bears witness, the inner awareness of the rightness or wrongness of actions, accusing or excusing (Rom.2:15). The conscience can be weak (1Cor.8:7-12), creating feelings of guilt where God's objective standard has not been violated. The conscience can be defiled, wounded, or seared (1Tim.4:2; Titus 1:5) so that it no longer functions as the warning system it was intended to be. Although the conscience is not an infallible guide (1Cor.4:4), it is a very valuable guide. As Luther said “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” [Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521].
Hebrews tells us that under the Old Testament “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Heb.9:9). Hebrews goes on to say:
The conscience can be purified by the blood of Christ. Purified from dead works to serve the living God. Our hearts can be “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb.10:22). We can “appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pet.3:21).
Conduct in the World; Simple and Transparent
What is the testimony of Paul's conscience and that of his co-workers?
His conduct in the world was in simplicity and sincerity of God. Paul's conduct was single, not duplicitous. He was not two-faced; no hidden agendas. With Paul, what you see is what you get. He was simple and he was sincere. This word literally means 'judged by the sun'. Expose something to the light of the sun to examine its genuineness. Paul's life was transparent, vulnerable, he lived out in the open; nothing hidden or secret. He demonstrated this in verses 8-10, where he informed them of his weakness and desperation in response to so great a trial.
Paul's simplicity and transparency was not due to his own strength of character or natural constitution. His simplicity and sincerity were godly, literally 'of God'. The source of his integrity was God. Paul was a messenger sent to communicate God's simplicity, God's transparency in the gospel. His clean conscience was a result of gospel cleansing that transformed a persecutor into a fellow-sufferer.
He makes this explicitly clear in the next phrase. He contrasts fleshly wisdom with the grace of God. His life operated not out of fleshly wisdom, the wisdom of this world. He didn't make his decisions based on what would be best for him. He lived in God's grace; everything he did was done in grace; he moved in the realm of God's undeserved favor. He made decisions based on God's grace. His filter was not 'what makes most human sense?' but rather 'what is an expression of God's grace? How has God treated me in Christ?'
His conscience bore him witness, that in the world, and superabundantly toward the Corinthian church, he conducted himself simply, transparently, graciously. All this was no credit to him, but all credit to the life transforming power of the gospel at work in him.
Writing and Understanding; Hermeneutics
Paul here writes about his writing. This is an incredibly helpful little verse on the subject of hermeneutics, how to understand or interpret the Bible. Paul applies what he said regarding his conscience not only to how he lives, but to what he writes. He writes with simplicity, with transparency. He communicates God's grace in Jesus, not fleshly wisdom. He does not hide his meaning, there is not some deeper truth encoded in his letters. He does not intend his readers to read between the lines and hear what he is not saying. His writing is simple, plain, straightforward. He is transparent. He means exactly what he says. We can take it at face value. We aren't writing anything other than what you read. Paul uses the root word 'to know or understand' four times in this sentence. The word for 'read' is a compound word literally meaning 'to know again'. The word for understand is 'to know upon' or 'recognize'. We don't write anything other that what you receive and perceive, and I hope you perceive completely just as you have even perceived us in part. Paul is partly understood. But he hopes they will completely understand him as they take what he says at face value and believe him.
Paul is not so concerned that they believe him as much as that they believe the gospel. But the gospel is the gospel he and the other apostles preached. To disbelieve or distrust him and his writing was to distrust the gospel.
Paul wants them to fully understand him, his heart, his motives, his simplicity and transparency, his integrity. He wants them to understand the simplicity of the gospel, the beauty of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Paul returns to the topic of boasting. His boast is the testimony of his conscience as to how he lived and what he wrote. Here he looks forward to the final outcome of their knowledge of him (and really their understanding of the gospel). Paul looks forward to the day of our Lord Jesus, the day when Jesus comes again to rule and reign. On that day there will be mutual boasting; not in the sense of 'wow, look at how great I am and all the great thing I did,' but rather 'look at God's grace on display in the life of our faithful Apostle!' Look at the magnificent grace of God who transformed the sinners in Corinth into saints through the foolishness of my preaching!'
Paul puts an eschatalogical (or end times) perspective on the tension in their relationship. They were questioning the integrity of their apostle. They were doubting the straightforwardness of his communication. Paul's soul was in turmoil over this wayward church. Harsh words had likely flown in both directions. Reconciliation needed to happen. Fellowship needed to be restored. Healing of a strained relationship. Paul asks 'what will our relationship look like for eternity?'
We are going to be mutually boasting in one another for eternity. There will be mutual exultation in God's grace evidenced in them and in their relationship with one another. I will be proud of you and you will be proud of me; what God has accomplished in me and through me for his glory. If that is what our relationship will be in glory, why not pursue that kind of relationship now? Why not enter in to the fellowship of suffering now, labor together now in prayer and rejoice together now in thanksgiving for God's gracious answer, why not overlook the faults and offenses and boast in one another now?
Just think, God used the weaknesses of the Apostle and the weakness and wandering of the Corinthian church to occasion the writing of a letter that has served to equip and encourage the saints through the centuries and even down to our church here in Ephraim Utah! What amazing riches of God's boundless grace in using our weakness, our brokenness, even our damaged relationships for his glory and our eternal good.
-How do you make decisions? Fleshly wisdom or gospel informed grace?
-How do you respond to criticism? When your character is undermined?
-Could you allow an eschatological perspective on your differences and conflicts to move you toward reconciliation and deeper fellowship? Can you boast in the evidence of God's grace in the life of someone who has hurt you?
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org