Summary: Leading and following during uncertain eras of church life require us to keep a clear head. So does handling life. Paul rehearses some principles that can help us do that.
Keeping A Clear Head During Mixed-Up Times
1. I had a stressful weak; my sister is approaching death, and she and my brother-in-law had to talk about some painful decisions.
2. It is hard to keep a clear head when you are unsure, upset, and heart-broken.
3. But it is our choices during painful times that may be the most important.
4. Paul was experiencing great pain over the Corinthians; he was in the middle of conflict, controversy, and personal attack. It wore on him to the point that he could not longer minister. That’s pretty bad.
5. Two notable perspectives on the section beginning with Chapter 10; either Paul got some bad news about the Corinthians after he had penned chapter 9 or this is an edited version of his harsh letter. He leaned on 2 sections of the OT for this text, IMO
Jeremiah 9:8, 23-25 reads: Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—
Isaiah 2:12-17 passim For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low… against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall… And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Main Idea: Leading and following during uncertain eras of church life require us to keep a clear head. So does handling life. Paul rehearses some principles that can help us do that.
I. Unhappy People Will Find SOMETHING to Criticize (1-2)
A. Paul was criticized for being too MILD and too harsh
1. Jewish logic different than western logic; in Jewish logic, often two competing principles to consider, wisdom guides you which principle to apply to different situations… Western (our) logic, in contrast, is more confining.
2. The Corinthians were Greeks and the source of Western logic and philosophy, and this style of logic created an impossibility for Paul.
3. If he would bear down, he was considered not Christ-like (fleshly). If he let things pass, he was not Christ-like, but cowardly. No win. Polarization.
B. Choice: Let critics set the AGENDA or go forward confidently
• Choices in life: avoid loss or find gains; defense or offense; react or act; please unhappy people or advance the kingdom…
• The ability to ignore critics & go forward is a great ability, & Paul had it
Application: Woman in nursing home: “I want get up…” Clear-headed people know we are called to love people, even critical ones. But they also know we should not seek to gain their approval or appease them -- and thus empower them.
II. Our Controversies Are IDEAS Fought with Invisible WEAPONS (3-5)
“’Arguments…or speculations…is a technical term for rhetorical or philosophical reasonings...” (Craig Keener, Bible Backgrounds Commentary)
A. The TRUTH of God’s Word
Never put down the sword of the Spirit. Church history, fads, auras…
Stay on course by putting the emphasis on reading and interpreting the Word
B. The ARMOR of God
I Samuel 17:45, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
• Character, trust, knowledge….those all make up the armor…
III. Solid Leaders Wait for the Right TIME (6)
A. Paul had special Apostolic PUNISHING authority
1. He was patient because he did not want to punish
2. I Corinthians 4:21, “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
3. Similar to God’s patience in 2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
B. BEARING down is still a need at times, even today