Summary: The problem with being critical is that is what other other people do. When we are being critical we often call it being discerning, or perceptive, or astute, or sensitive. This is a sin that almost all of us struggle with to one degree or another. After
Purpose: To show the proofs of a faithful follower of Christ.
Aim: I want the listener to be slow to criticize in order to protect the Gospel.
INTRODUCTION: Paul was no stranger to criticism. One of the reasons Paul wrote first and second Corinthians was to answer his Christian critics. Including today's text, Paul saw the need to use the word COMMEND nine times in this letter alone.
Paul was forced to commend (literally, "recommend, or stand with") himself to these Christians. Why? Because other teachers had come into Corinth claiming to have the right human credentials from Jerusalem and they were criticizing Paul because he didn't have them. "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?" (2 Corinthians 3:1 NAU).
Paul asked them to look at his lifestyle rather than his papers: "but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:2 NAU).
The problem is that Paul's critics were more concerned about Paul's appearance than his heart. "We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart" (2 Corinthians 5:12 NAU).
Critics tend to evaluate other people by their own standards rather than evaluating themselves by God's standard. "For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding" (2 Corinthians 10:12 NAU). It is always easier to examine the faults of others than it is to examine our own faults. As Paul reminds us: "For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends" (2 Corinthians 10:18 NAU).
The last time Paul used the word COMMEND in 2 Corinthians he turned it around on the Corinthians: "I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Corinthians 12:11--12 NAU).
So, what were some of the things that Paul was criticized for? They said Paul (although the reference may be specifically about his co-worker Barnabas) did not have the right to be married (1 Corinthians 9:1-5). They insinuated that he was a bad leader by saying that he was only bold from a distance (2 Corinthians 10:1-2). They said that he wasn't good looking and that he was a terrible pubic speaker, they went so far as to say his speech was contemptible (2 Corinthians 10:10). They said that his ministry was not as important as theirs because he did secular work on the side (1 Corinthians 9:6 & 11:7-9). They said that he did a poor job of explaining the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). They said that the Corinthian church was inferior to the churches around them because of Paul's leadership (2 Corinthians 12:13). If that was not bad enough, they said that he was not even qualified to be an Apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5).
Now we can see why Paul was concerned that they needed to be "working together." The Book of Acts says six times that the Christians were "with one accord." Criticism destroys harmony.
Not only is criticism in the larger context of this book, it is also alluded to in three verses following this text where Paul begs them to open their hearts to him. [See verse 13]
It is a terrible thing to have a critical spirit. The problem is that being critical is only what other people do. When we are being critical we often call it being discerning, or perceptive, or astute, or sensitive. This is a sin that almost all of us struggle with to one degree or another. After all, criticizing is the easiest job in the world and we always feel empowered when we do it.
Vs.1-3 I. How to Avoid being Critical
Paul begins by giving us three principles that will guard us from a critical spirit.
Vs.1 A. Determine to live out the Gospel "not receive the grace of God in vain"
The phrase "not receive the grace of God in vain" means that you can have an empty faith in Christ--which of course means you don't have real faith at all. James put it this way: "... show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works...Can that faith save him?" (James 2:18, 14 NAU). Real faith produces real works.