Summary: Many times we as Christians live our lives in the dark. We think we are reasonably good people trying our best. But our past, our associations, the flesh, and the culture around us, conspire to blind us to many things that are not like the Lord going on i
The church today is in trouble. Two recent surveys show that church attendance, even among professing Christians, is way down. Many people today also feel that while they acknowledge faith in Jesus, also want a Burger King style religion—the “have it your way” mentality of spiritual potluck—pick a little from Jesus a little from Buddha, a little from nature-worship. While there are, as the experts say, multiple causalities for this behavior, I want to focus on something in particular: we have let the world’s values and methods infiltrate the church and thus have weakened the appeal to pre-Christians of a transformed life and have weakened the bonds of continued fellowship of believers by making the church in many ways indistinguishable from the world.
I believe that was what happened in Corinth. Corinth was a very “cool” city—hip and happening. Into that atmosphere came supposed “leaders” who looked, acted, and sounded like people who could be trusted, but their doctrine did not mirror the character of Jesus but of this age: external impressiveness, focus on power and position, a focus on monetary gain, and a lethargy when it came to the transformation of character that each disciple should experience in Jesus. That was because they didn’t represent Jesus at all, but Lucifer, whose chief aim is to emasculate the believer and make them unusable to the King to help spread the gospel.
What better way to do that than make the church look just like the world around it. Sadly, we see this today too in slick marketing, the promotion of relative truth, of attracting attenders instead of building disciples, and of abandoning anything that makes people feel uncomfortable. Now, those of you who know me know that I’m not advocating some legalistic return to a bunch of rules and regulations, but if there is no transformation of character going on—and if the people of God act just like the people of this age we have to ask the question: what’s missing? Let’s see how Paul addresses this as we finish chapter 12:
Paul shouldn’t have had to defend himself against the con-men preachers that had come into Corinth. They had tried to show how much better they were than Paul. He should have counted on the church he founded to defend him, but they didn’t. This drove Paul to have to “boast” about his credentials. Interestingly, he chose to boast about weakness and difficulty because it is then that real strength comes out—from reliance on Jesus Christ and His power. The “super apostles” boasted about their external strengths and impressiveness while inside they were filled with evil motives. Paul boasts about external weakness and internal power by the Holy Spirit toward new life in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul may have considered himself “nothing” but “nothing” in Christ is so much more than “everything” in this age.
To be an apostle you had to have seen the Lord Jesus personally, been commissioned by Him, and performed miracles to attest to that commission (Acts 2:22 ). Paul was clearly an apostle by that definition. Paul says he performed the signs “with great endurance.” This word is also translated “patience.” Paul didn’t ride into town with his miracle-guns blazing, showing off his power in a Holy Spirit magic show designed to impress. He used the power of God to change lives on an as-needed basis. Jesus never performed miracles to impress, only to heal and show that He was of God.
We should never seek to impress others by our wisdom, knowledge, power, or abilities in the Spirit. This is where I part company with many of our more Pentecostal brothers and sisters. You are a tool in the Holy Spirit’s hands—not the other way around. The Spirit should work through you mightily but invisibly most of the time, at least not in a public show-offy way – even in a church service. The goal is to heal and show Jesus is the Messiah, not take you on some magical mystery tour of being “in the Spirit” or be a show-off.
Churches have always been in competition. It’s a natural human thing, but not a Jesus thing. Apparently the Corinthians thought they had a “second-rate” apostle because Paul didn’t demand big speaking fees like the “super-apostles.” Paul was bi-vocational among them. He earned his own money by working or getting support from other churches. He sarcastically says “forgive me!” But Paul’s message and methods were the same wherever he went. The problem with the Corinthians, and many times us today is that we fall back into wanting to be impressed by a big show, rather than focus on becoming better servants.
14 – 15
Paul founded the church on his first visit (Acts 18:1 ). He came again for what he called a “painful visit” (2 Corinthians 2:1 ) to correct people who persisted in sin. He had planned a third visit but postponed it when he discovered continued problems in the church, especially about their loyalty to their spiritual father. So now he’s coming again and he will still refuse to take money from the Corinthians. He doesn’t want their money; he wants their friendship, love, and loyalty. It was common in the first century for parents to save up an inheritance for their children. Paul, by not taking their money and working with his hands to earn his way while with them, was spending his time, labor, money—and himself to help the Corinthians, while avoiding any controversy around taking money caused by the behavior of the false apostles.