2 Corinthians 6:11-13 ~ 20190428 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/28_2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190428_2cor6_11-13.mp3
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul commends his ministry; he gives us his resume, but not as anyone would expect. He highlights his ministry as a ministry that reflects the great Shepherd. Jesus said:
Authentic ministry is patterned after Jesus; authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry.
In verses 4-5 Paul lists his endurance in the midst of the hardships of ministry as evidence of his authenticity. He experienced general troubles: in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities; specific persecution: in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots; voluntary hardships: in labors, in sleeplessness, in hungers. Then he lists God's grace in action in his life producing the fruit of character: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; and he points us to the source: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.
He goes on in verses 7-8 with the means of authentic ministry; through the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, through glory and shame, through slander and praise. Ministry is war, and he is thoroughly equipped to glorify God even when he is put to open shame; even when slandered to offer a life of praise.
Verses 8-10 he points to the paradoxical nature of gospel ministry;
We are not what we seem to be. Inward (or should I say Godward) reality often differs greatly from outward appearances.
Paul is building a case for authentic ministry, gospel ministry that is shaped by the gospel, ministry that follows Jesus, even becoming like him in his suffering.
Remember, he is writing to a church that he planted, in a city where he preached the gospel, as he said in 1 Corinthians 15
In 1 Corinthians he was fighting for the gospel, and the issue was primarily doctrinal or theological. They were doubting the resurrection, and he was bringing them back to the gospel, lest they had believed in vain.
In 2 Corinthians, no less, he is fighting for the gospel. He pleads in
Be reconciled to God. The implication is that there is a fracture in their relationship that needs to be healed. He goes on in chapter 6:
Paul is again fighting for the gospel, urging them to be reconciled to God. Where the issue in 1 Corinthians was theological; some were questioning the resurrection, here in 2 Corinthians the issue is relational; their relationship with the apostle Paul was strained and tenuous, and as we learn in chapter 11, they were developing relationships with false apostles. They were in danger of being led astray from the simplicity of the cross to a different gospel, and this was happening as they began to distance themselves from Paul.
This is no less a danger today. It is a danger for us to fit the gospel to our culture, rather than allowing the gospel to transform our thinking and shape our culture.
There are some even today who are rejecting Paul, leading people back into bondage under the law. They are rejecting the true gospel of grace. Beware of those today who undermine Paul and the gospel he preached.
Be Reconciled to Paul; Open Mouths
After painting a picture of his character in the midst of sufferings, a picture of cross-shaped ministry, after calling them to be reconciled to God, he calls them now to reconcile with him.
This is direct. Paul addresses them affectionately only here as 'Corinthians.' He says literally 'our mouths are open to you Corinthians.' Our mouths are open.
Now for most of us, that's not a good thing. Our mouths are open too much. The wisdom books, especially Psalms and Proverbs have much to say about the dangers of the tongue, as does James. Psalm 64 speaks of enemies,
Does that describe much of what we see on social media today? Many of us have a Peter problem; in Mark 9 he spoke, because he did not know what to say. He opened his mouth just to stop the silence.
There is wisdom in knowing when to keep silent, when not to answer. Jesus, when he was falsely accused 'opened not his mouth' (Is.53:7; Mk.14:61).
Some have taken Paul to be saying that he has said too much. But the context makes it clear that this is an expression of affection.
Words can do great harm, or they can bring great healing. Isaiah says:
Paul's mouth is wide open in the sense that he will not withhold good any good from them. As he said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:
'I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.'
In verse 32 he says:
The word of his grace is able to build you up. Paul is confident in God and his word. He told them in Ephesians 4:
What comes out of our mouths can be corrosive, or it can build up. Your words, what comes out of your mouths, can give grace to those who hear. What you say can actually convey God's grace.
Paul says 'our mouths are open to you.' We are holding nothing back that would be good for you.
Not only are our mouths open to you, but our hearts are widened or enlarged. This is in contrast to constricted or restricted in verse 12. That word means a tight narrow place. Back in 4:8 he used this same word 'restricted;' 'We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed'. Crushed or in a tight narrow place with no way out. Our hearts are not narrow or constricted with no room for you; they are wide; we have plenty of room for you in our hearts.
If there is any narrowness, any constriction of affections, it is on your side; you are not squeezed out by us; rather you are squeezed out in your own affections. He changes words here from 'heart' to 'affections;' literally bowels or intestines, the seat of intense emotion. We might say 'he experienced gut-wrenching sorrow' or 'I had knots in the pit of my stomach'. When we read in the gospels that Jesus was 'moved with compassion' (Mt.9:36), it is the verb form of this word 'affections' or 'bowels'.
The point is he is talking about emotions, affections. The Corinthians had begun to squeeze him out of their affections. He is asking for a fair exchange, as to his own beloved children, you also make room.
How To Enlarge Affections
I want to end today with a very practical question: How do you make room in your heart? How do you enlarge your affections?
You hear of married couples saying 'The flame is gone, I just don't think I love him anymore.'
Or you have someone who has been hurt so badly, so deeply, that they could never love, never open themselves up.
Or there is someone in your life, maybe someone in the church, maybe someone in the community, that you find difficult to love. The Bible says I have to love them, but that doesn't mean I have to like them, right?
This is imperative; it is a command. Make room in your heart, in your affections. How do we do that? Can we do that? Can we obey a command to feel differently about someone? The biblical answer is 'yes'. Yes, by the transforming power of God and the help of his Spirit we can obey this command. And he tells us how.
Cut Off All Inappropriate Affections
In the next verses we find that there are inappropriate affections going in other directions. The Corinthians are enamored with the false apostles. They don't have room for Paul in their hearts because he has been squeezed out by others. They have given their affections to others, to false apostles, to a false gospel. We will plan to look at these verses next time. That is often the case. When love grows cold, the affections are being channeled in a different direction, an inappropriate direction. Something else is competing for your heart. Stop giving your heart to another. You are cheating yourself; you are constricting your own affections. Cut off all inappropriate affections.
Drink in God's Love
But how can our heart be enlarged? Psalm 119 says:
It is God who enlarges a heart.
Our love is a response to being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. Jesus said:
We are to love others as we have been loved by Jesus. We our enabled to love others because we have been loved by Jesus.
We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are kind and tenderhearted to others, because God has been abundantly kind and tenderhearted to us when we didn't deserve it. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. All our affections flow out of this love that we have experienced.
That's where the love comes from.
Do you feel your affections are drying up? Go to the unquenchable fountain and drink in God's unwavering love. Saturate your shriveled soul in Christ's sacrificial love for you, his enemy. Let God's love in the gospel fill your heart to bursting. We love because he first loved us.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org