NOTES II Corinthians
1:12-24 (click here for study)
After Paul opened his second surviving letter to the Corinthians with a statement about how suffering and comfort are intertwined and declared his hope in them and his confidence in God, he moved to an explanation of why he had to change his plans to visit them. The false apostles who had moved into the church were undercutting him and casting doubts on his integrity. Paul recalls his history with the people in this church as a way of reminding them that just as he dealt with them "in the holiness and sincerity that are from God" when he first brought them the gospel, he still deals with them the same way, and they can trust him.
The false teachers had impugned Paul's apostleship, saying he was not a true apostle, merely a self-proclaimed one. They were also causing the Corinthians to doubt his authority as a mentor and leader to them, suggesting that he promised things he never planned to deliver and that they could not trust his word. Now, when he has to change his plans to visit them as a means of preserving his relationship with them and granting them space from him so they won't be overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow and shame, he finds it necessary to defend his integrity. He reminds them that he has always acted in sincerity and in holiness from God when he dealt with them.
We can get some idea of what this holiness and sincerity would have looked like to the Corinthians from other passages from Paul's writing. Later in this same letter, 2 Corinthians 2:17, he reminds them that he has not peddled "the word for profit" unlike many others have done. He also reminds them that he has spoken to them with sincerity, like a man sent from God. In his first letter to them Paul explained that sincerity left no room for malice, wickedness, and boasting. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
In another epistle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that he had been righteous and blameless in his dealings with them. He had dealt with them as a Father deals with his children, and he had been encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
No Worldly Wisdom
Further, Paul says, he has always related to them "not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." In his first letter to them, Paul detailed the differences between worldly wisdom and God's wisdom. Man's wisdom is based on the intellect, knowledge, logic and philosophy. The wisdom of God is "our righteousness, holiness, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30)
Spiritual wisdom and truth come from the Holy Spirit. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discernedBut we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:14, 16b)
Paul is making the point to the Corinthians that he didn't change his plans because of human preference or selfishness. His decision not to visit them at the time he had planned came from his spiritual insight and understanding that resulted from his taking the question to God in prayer. Paul had been consistent in praying for and about the Corinthians, and, he stressed, this change of plans did not come from a worldly way of thinking. He was not merely seeking to avoid a confrontation with the church at Corinth. He was delaying his visit because, with the insight from the Holy Spirit, he realized he would spare their feelings and give them a chance to complete the things he had asked them to do before he came again.
Paul assures them of their place in his heart by saying he hopes they will come to realize they can boast of him just as he can boast of them on the day of the Lord. Paul explains this boasting in more detail in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6. What Paul will boast about regarding the Corinthians is their new birth in Christ. After the 18 months he spent in Corinth establishing the church there, after the energy he spent writing and exhorting them, nothing makes him more deeply joyful than knowing they belong to Jesus. The are no longer slaves to their paganism. They are his brothers in Christ-saints-and he can boast of this fact to the Lord Jesus.
"Yes" in Christ
Paul continues emphasizing his trustworthiness by pointing out that the message he preached to them with the help of Silas and Timothy (see Acts 18:1-18) was always the message of Christ. Just as Jesus does not say "Yes" and mean "No," neither does Paul. He says in verse 18, "But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." God's faithfulness was an absolute, something completely reliable, and Paul referred to God's faithfulness to explain his own, since his own came from his relationship with Christ.
The nature of God's faithfulness helps explain Paul's statement, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ." (v.20) Isaiah 49:7 expresses the bedrock of God's faithfulness: "The Lord who is faithful has chosen you." The God of the universe has CHOSEN us to belong to him! We aren't left floundering, searching vainly for an elusive God. He chooses us, and he is faithful to us.
Paul frequently refers to God's faithfulness and what that implies. In 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 he says that God will keep us strong to the end; he will keep us blameless. The God who called us into fellowship with his son, Paul says, is faithful. Again he pairs God's faithfulness with God's choice of us and declares that God will protect and strengthen us.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he stated that "He who began a good work in you will complete it." (Phil. 1:4-6) God calls us to himself and begins to work changes in us. He does not abandon us part way through the job; he stays with us throughout our lives, continuing to work out his righteousness in us. Paul enlarges on this point in his first letter to the Thessalonians. God, Paul wrote, will sanctify us. He will keep our spirits, bodies, and souls blameless. The One who calls us is faithful; "he will do it." (1 Thess. 5:23-25) Further, in his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote that God will strengthen and protect us from the evil one. (2 Thess. 3:3)
Perhaps one of the most astonishing declaration of God's faithfulness is found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. These words may have been an early Christian hymn which Paul quoted in his letter: "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."
This hymn declares that we will live and reign with Christ is we embrace his suffering and sacrifice. If we disown him, if we renounce all relationship with him, he will disown us, because we've removed ourselves from him. If, however, we are faithless-if we continue to claim our relationship with him but behave unfaithfully to him-he will still be faithful to us. God will remain faithful because he has no shred of disloyalty in himself. If we behave faithlessly even though we are his, God's faithfulness continues for us. God could not do otherwise; he cannot be faithless because he "cannot disown himself." He cannot be unfaithful because he is faithful. He cannot be unfaithful to his people because they are his body.
God's commitment to us is absolute. He keeps his promises; he holds us safely in his hands and heart no matter what happens. Because of this unswerving faithfulness of God, all of God's promises have come true in Christ. God does not promise things to us and then change his mind. He does not say "Yes" and "No" capriciously. When God says he will do something; he does it. And in the history of humanity, God's promises have all come to fruition in and because of Jesus.
The Bible is full of God's promises to mankind. A quick look at some of them will shed light on the depth and breadth of meaning in Paul's declaration, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ."
God's promises begin at the beginning of the Bible. He cursed the serpent in Eden and promised that Eve's seed would crush his head while he would merely bruise her descendant's heel. (Gen. 3:15) He promised Abraham that all nations of the earth would be blessed through him. (Gen. 12:2-3) Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born whose kingdom and reign of peace on David's throne would have no end. (Is.9:6-7) Isaiah also said a king would reign in righteousness and each person in the kingdom would be a shelter from the wind and a refuge from storms. (Is.32:1-2) Further, he said the Lord would guide his people always, satisfy their needs, and strengthen them. (Is.58:11) Isaiah further prophesied that "you will be called priests of the Lord" and "ministers of God." (Is.61:6) God also promised that he would reveal himself to those who did not ask or seek him. (Is.65:1)
Jeremiah uttered the prophecy that most clearly foretold the promise of how God's new covenant with mankind would look. "I will put my law in their minds" and "write it on their hearts," God said. He also promised to make a covenant with his people, and he said, "they will know me." (Jer. 31:32-34)
The New Testament continues the promises and begins to show their fulfillment. Those who believe in Jesus, John said, have "the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) He further clarifies this promise in John 3:17-18 where he says Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it. He promises everlasting life to anyone who hears Jesus and believes God who sent him. Such a believer, John says, "has already crossed over from death to life." These believers will live, even if they die. (John 5:24) John further states the promise that we receive anything we ask because we obey his commands to believe in Jesus. (1 John 3:21-24)
In Acts Luke records that Jesus is the one God appointed to judge all the living and the dead. All the prophets testify of him. (Acts 11:42-45) Paul emphasizes the fact that the Gentiles, as promised to Abraham, were included in Christ. (Eph. 1:13) He also stressed that we are saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8-10)
The Bible ends with a promise still to be fulfilled-Jesus is coming back!
Every promise God made to mankind he fulfilled through Jesus. In Christ, all God's promises are "Yes." We never have to fear his not following through on his word. Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God in the beginning, and he still is now. God's word is sovereign, and his promises are absolutely certain. Through Jesus all nations on earth have access to God. Through Jesus all mankind may receive eternal life. Through Jesus sin is defeated and evil is doomed. Through Jesus we live in peace and rest with hope and a future.
We, the recipients of God's promised blessings, speak the "Amen" through Christ to the glory of God. "Amen" means "it is true" or "so be it." The miracle of God fulfilling his promises to us through Jesus, his own Son, and the further miracle of our participating intimately in Christ's life and power, put us in the position of declaring to the universe the "Yes!" of God's faithfulness. God made promises; Jesus came and fulfilled them through his obedience to his Father. We experience the new life and the eternal blessings that these promises and this obedience provide. We become part of the eternal reality that God planned before the creation of the world. We have the unique privilege of declaring "Amen" to God's faithfulness.
Paul ends this passage with the declaration that "it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Chrst. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."
Standing firm in the faith implies courage, strength, and acting in love. (1Corinthians 16:13) As God's children, equipped by Him to say the "Amen" to his faithfulness, we have God himself to hold us firm. He has anointed us and set his seal on us. He has connected us to himself by sending the Holy Spirit to live in us.
Anointing carries the connotation of being equipped for service. The Holy Spirit is our anointing when we become Christ-followers. 1 John 2:20, 27 suggest that our anointing by the Holy Spirit includes God teaching us what is true. "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth." (v.20) "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him." (v.27)
When we are anointed by the Holy Spirit, or when we are born again, God himself becomes responsible for our spiritual growth. We no longer have an external law to show us how to live; we have an internal awakening from God himself shining the light of truth into our hearts and minds. God's presence in us equips us for service and reveals to us the truth in the Bible and the truth about Jesus and our new lives in him.
God's seal of ownership is also the Holy Spirit. "Having believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
The Holy Spirit is not just our anointing to equip us for service; it is also the mark of God on us, declaring to all around us as well as to the spiritual realm that we belong to Him. We are no longer our own. Satan can no longer claim us as his because we are no longer spiritually dead. When we accept Jesus we become spiritually alive by the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit connecting us directly to God. This life, this presence of God in us, makes us new and completely different people. Those we live with notice the difference. The beings in the spiritual realm can see God's claim on us. The Holy Spirit is God's seal of ownership, and he takes responsibility for us.
In addition, the Holy Spirit in us is our guarantee that we will finally physically be with Jesus where he is, and our spirits will be with him without the encumbrance of our mortal bodies. When we are born again, we know it. We experience a new reality; we know Jesus claims and changes us. That new birth, the presence of God in us, also teaches and promises us through the faithful words of scripture that after we die, we will still be with him. Further, he will resurrect us and change us when he creates a new heaven and a new earth, and he will physically live with us for eternity.
In 2 Corinthians 5:4-8 Paul talks further about this guarantee. "For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
"Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the LordWe are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
The Spirit in us guarantees not only that our spirits will be forever with Jesus but that he will transform our bodies also and keep us physically in his presence. "And we eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)
The Holy Spirit convinces us-makes us certain-that these promises of God are true. The change, the life we experience when we are born again is convincing evidence that our future also will be eternally with God.
The new birth is not figurative or metaphorical. It is literal. God's Spirit in us both creates and confirms that new life. He equips us for and reveals to us our calling-he anoints us for his work and brings that work to us. He gives us a new identity, child of God, and seals us with Himself so the physical realm as well as the spiritual realm can see that we belong to Him. His life in us convinces us and guarantees to us that we will spend eternity with Him, both spiritually and physically. When we accept Jesus, we receive complete redemption. Our souls and our bodies now belong to God and are his to transform. The presence of his Spirit in us guarantees our eternity in his presence and our ultimate physical transformation.
God wants us to live fully in the reality of our status as his children, born anew by the Spirit into eternal life. Because we belong to Him, every promise God made to his people is ours through Jesus. He wants our hearts to embrace our calling, our new identity, and our certain hope of eternity.
God is asking you to trust him enough to let him direct your plans and to keep your promises. He wants your word to be a reliable "Yes" to people, a "Yes" that keeps commitments, that is truthful, that honors Jesus. As a Christ-follower, your words must have the reliability of Jesus' words. They are to carry the love and insight and healing and honesty of Jesus, and they can have these things because you belong to Him. The Holy Spirit lives in you and gives you His words.
God also wants you to realize his grace and gifts in your life. Because you have accepted Jesus, his promises are "Yes" for you. Eternal life is "Yes" for you; a changed heart is "Yes." God's comfort and security and peace are "Yes," and his healing in your heart and relationships is "Yes." In order to experience God's "Yes" to these things in your life, he asks you to be willing not to run away from what he brings to your attention. He wants you to face the truth about yourself, even the dark habits and coping mechanisms you may have developed in order to survive a difficult past. Jesus is your guardian now; the people who hurt you no longer have the power to destroy you. Jesus has put his seal on you, and you belong to him. He is now taking responsibility for you.
God is asking you to give to him the habits and escapes behind which you have been hiding, and he's asking you to be willing to stand in the light. He wants his anointing of you with his Spirit to fill those aching places in your heart so he can remove your need for those binding habits. He wants you to be free in his love. God wants to make his promises "Yes" in your life through the victory of Christ to whom you belong.
Open your heart to God's "Yes." Let him give you the freedom and victory that is your inheritance in him. Open your heart when he shows you how he wants to heal you. Admit your deep emptiness and your helpless addictions and your habitual sin. Be willing to say "yes" to the truth about yourself. Your honest "yes" will make it possible for the "Yes" of God to enter your heart with its healing power.
As you allow the "Yes" of God's promises to change your reality, you will, through the reality of Christ in you, say "Amen" to all of creation. God will glorify himself through your life, and your "Amen" will be part of the universal shout of praise that will exalt God for eternity.
Praise God for his unimaginable gifts to us!
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CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted February 2, 2002.