Summary: This message begins by considering how Paul dealt with the tension between evangelism (Reaching the lost)and pastoral care (looking after those who are now saved)and how we might apply it to ourselves, plus an application of this long Bible passage.
2 Corinthians 2: 12 to end of Chapter 3
In this letter to the church in Corinth Paul began by greeting the church, and by praying that Jesus would be kind to them and bless them with peace. He then went on to praise God, and to explain his apparently inconsistent behaviour. Inconsistent in the eyes of some in Corinth, possibly egged on by false teachers who have been preaching there.
Paul gives an account of the sufferings that he has faced; the fact that he just recently came extremely close to death. However, Paul tells the Corinthians that he stopped trusting in himself and places his trust in God.
Have we done that? Chapter 1 verse 9 have we stopped trusting in ourselves, and instead have we begun to trust God who raises the dead to life. Have we surrendered everything to Him so that he gets the glory, not us?
Well, Paul then went on to ask the Corinthian church to pray for him. They’ve been criticising him and he asks them to pray for him. Next time a brother or sister in Christ criticises you will you humbly ask them to pray for you?
Paul then explained that the change in his plans were for the benefit of the Corinthians themselves. Paul had promised to visit them but he has not turned up and they are not happy. However, Paul had good reason: He stayed away so that he would not be too hard on the church in Corinth. Paul the evangelist also had a pastor’s heart!
A friend quite rightly points out that in ministry I suffer from something of a split personality. God has called me first and foremost to be an evangelist, calling people to faith in Jesus, reaching the lost for him. However, God has also called me to be a pastor and that means that I am also very touchy feely, not wanting to upset people, wanting to make sure they’re OK. At times, the two callings do not sit together easily. Paul, I believe, shows some similar tension. He has a burning desire to evangelise the lost, but he cared very much about the state of the Corinthian Christians.
Paul goes on to ask the church to exercise Total Forgiveness towards repentant sinners in particular. Paul asked the Corinthians to outwit Satan by offering complete forgiveness to all repentant sinners, without exception.
…and so we arrive at 2 Corinthians 2:12- 3:18. It is a long piece of scripture to cover in one evening, but it has wonderful God given wisdom for us!
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.
Here we sense something of Paul’s dilemma. A wonderful door of opportunity stands open in the Lord and yet Paul has no peace of mind. First of all to the Corinthians who were feeling ‘miffed’ because Paul had not showed up, it’s clear that Paul was not being fickle! He had gone to Troas to preach. He was not flitting randomly from place to place, changing his plans ‘willy-nilly’. No, he went to Troas to preach. God had moved him.
Next time we get miffed when a Christian friend or a Christian leader snubs us or blanks us completely, because they have sniffed an evangelistic opportunity, let’s thank God that he moved them. [Troas was on the West coast of Asia Minor, now the Western coast of Turkey, and Troas was the place where Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16: 6 to 10). ]
A marvellous evangelistic opportunity was happening. Other translations put it like this: (NRSV) Paul’s “mind could not rest”, (CEV) Paul “was worried”, (Phillips) he “was on edge the whole time.”
Why: Two reasons:
1. He was supposed to meet up with Titus but he could not find him. (Paul’s pastoral heart!).
2. He knew about his promise to the Corinthians, and they were on his heart and in his prayers all the time. This letter leaves us in no doubt that Pastor Paul loved the Corinthian church.
Just in case anyone is smarting from my comment about friends or leaders who have snubbed us or blanked us completely due to an evangelistic opportunity, a question: Do we sometimes plough on with a project regardless, without any thought or concern for those people that the Lord has already given to us? It’s the Achilles heel of the evangelist, but Paul knows he cannot ignore the needs of his brothers and sisters who are already in Christ. Neither must we (neither must I) ignore them!