The Epistle of Second Corinthians
Lesson Number 36
TRANSLATION LEGEND: AMPLIFIED or AMP = Amplified Bible, (1965), ASV=American Standard Version (1901), BBE=Bible in Basic English (1949), DRA=Douay-Rheims (1899), ESV=English Stand Version (2001), IE = International English, ISV = International Standard Version (1967), JPS = Jewish Publicatrion Society (1917), KJV=King James Version (1611), LIVING = Living Bible (1971), MONTGOMERY = Montgomery’s New Testament (2001), MRD = Peshitta-James Murdock Translation (1852), NAB=New American Bible (2002), NASB=New American Standard Bible (1977), NAU=New American Standard Bible (1995), NIB=New International Bible, NIV=New International Version (1984), NJB=New Jerusalem Bible (1985), NKJV=New King James Version (1979), NLT=New Living Translation (1996), NRSV=New Revised Standard Version (1989), PHILLIPS = J B Phillips New Testament (1962), PNT = BISHOP’S New Testament (1595), RSV=Revised Standard Version (1952), TNK=JPS Tanakj (1985), Webster=The Webster Bible (1833),WEYMOUTH=Weymouth’s New Testament (1903), WILLIAMS = William’s New Testament (1937), TNK = JPS Tanakh (1985), TYNDALE= Tyndale’s Bible (1526), WYCLIFFE= Wycliffe New Testament (1382), YLT=Young’s Literal Translation (1862).
LEXICON LEGEND: FRIEBERG=Friberg Lexicon, UBS=UBS Lexicon, LOUW-NIDA=Louw-Nida Lexicon, LIDDELL SCOTT=Liddell Scott Lexicon, THAYER=Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
THE PROOF OF YOUR LOVE
“ 8:16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. 17 For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. 18 And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; 19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: 20 Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: 21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. 23 Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 24 Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” (2 Cor 8:16-24)
Why is Paul making so much of this collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem? He mentions it in his first epistle (1 Cor 16:1-2), and deals extensively with it in this second epistle (2 Cor 8:1-24; 9:1-15). What has driven this insightful man of God to speak so extensively on this matter?
It is this: that there is a direct correlation between the profession of the faith (or the lack thereof) of the people and what they say and do. If it is true that in Christ Jesus we are “born again” (John 3:3,5), become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27), are “begotten again” (1 Pet 1:3), and are “born of God” (1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18), then we should expect a change in our conduct. If we have been “reconciled to God” (Col 1:21), are “made partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14), and are described as having been “enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Heb 6:4-5), how is it possible that it would have no effect upon the way we live out lives? How is it possible to be “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:10), or possess a “new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24), and yet remain fundamentally unchanged? Can a person remain in the darkness after they have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1:13)? Or, is it true that “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
Mind you, this is not intended to move us to become judges of others, ruling them out of the Kingdom. Rather, it is to assist us in properly evaluating the source of the various influences in our lives. If it is true that “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit” (Matt 7:17), then the “new creature,” or “the new man,” is not capable of producing words or works that are not acceptable to God. All works of that order are related to “the old man,” which is to be “put off” (Eph 4:22; Col 3:9), for, from the very beginning of “the newness of life,” it “is crucified with” Christ (Rom 6:6). Yet, believers are solemnly warned, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12).
This possibility is owing to the fact that we do not live in a moral or spiritual vacuum. We occupy a “vile body” (Phil 3:21), are living in a corrupt world that lies under the influence of the “wicked one” (1 John 5:19), and are hounded by a fierce and cunning “adversary” (1 Pet 5:8-9). While we do have a “treasure” from heaven, it is presently in an “earthen vessel” (2 Cor 4:7), and thus requires constant attention and renewal. Add to this scenario the fact that everything we have from God is presently held “by faith,” and you should see why this sort of epistle is necessary. Faith does not subsist on its own. The believer must “fight” to maintain it (1 Tim 6:12), be built up in the faith (Jude 1:20), and increase and advance in faith (2 Thess 1:3).
Where men imagine that faith can be neglected, and yet maintain all of its essential properties, benefits, and power, they have only been deluded – all fanciful theologies notwithstanding. Satan has risen to new levels of craftiness in seducing professed believers into thinking they are impervious to his attacks. By simply going through a seemingly religious ceremony, identifying with the right group, or embracing a static and impotent theology, some believe they have done enough. But they are not right. If Corinth, who, had been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” (1 Cor 6:11), and came behind in “no gift” (1 Cor 1:7), required such extensive correction, what can be said of the religious institutions of our day, who do not appear to have approximated those benefits? Or, is it possible to be “washed” and yet remain defiled, “sanctified” and yet remain attached to the world, “justified” and yet remain dominated by sin?
When fornication surfaced in the Corinthian assembly, they had to do something about it (1 Cor 5:1-5). When they conducted themselves unbecomingly at the table of the Lord, they were chastened by God – some becoming sick, and some suffering death (1 Cor 11:29-30). In the passage we are reviewing, they had been lethargic in the matter of gathering a collection which they themselves had pledged to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
In all of this you sense that sin is by no means tolerated among the people of God. There is no blanket of mercy that will move God to ignore transgression, unwillingness, or a hesitancy to do what He Himself has moved His people to do. Jesus Himself is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15), but has no tolerance for sin among His people. He still remains “the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY him” (Heb 5:9). When He appears “the second time” He will, in fact, be “taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:8).
A life that is fundamentally at variance with the “eternal purpose of God” is one that is being lived in vain, and under the cloud of Divine wrath. In such a posture, the soul drifts from God, and the mind and heart of man is not capable of imagining how far such a person can drift. No individual is in any sense safe who insists on wallowing in the mire from which Jesus once delivered him. The soul who once again takes hold of the world to which salvation made him a “stranger and a pilgrim” has committed the ultimate blunder.
The knowledge of these things, together with his familiarity with the mind and purpose of God, moved Paul to write this rather lengthy discourse about the collection the Corinthian brethren had determined to send to Jerusalem. As one might expect, he masterfully integrates this matter with God’s will.
THE LOVE OF THE BRETHREN
In the New Covenant, there is a marked emphasis on the love of the brethren – loving the people of God. Whereas “the second” great commandment under the Law was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39), the New Covenant directive is even more pointed. “And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23). Jesus called this a “new commandment” – “new” in its nature. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). Again He said, “This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). And again, “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). He also affirmed this was a telling mark of His followers: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). John wrote, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
There can, then, be no question about this matter of loving the brethren, for they are the brethren of Jesus (Rom 8:29; Heb 2:11,12,17), as well as our own.
John says the following of those who do not love the brethren,
☛ THEY ARE IN DARKNESS. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).
☛ THEY DO NOT KNOW WHERE THEY ARE GOING, BUT ARE BLINDED. “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).
☛ THEY ARE NOT OF GOD. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10).
☛ THEY ARE MURDERERS, AND DO NOT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
☛ THEY ABIDE IN DEATH. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
☛ THEY DO NOT KNOW GOD. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
☛ THEY ARE LIARS. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
The “love of the brethren,” which is an appointed objective of “obeying the truth” (1 Pet 1:22), is the issue with which Paul is dealing. As it is written, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17). Therefore, much more is at stake than the care of the needy saints in Jerusalem. The attestation of the validity of the Corinthian’s profession of faith was also being made known in this occasion.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Paul speaks with such candor and firmness concerning the collection the Corinthian brethren had planned to gather, but had not yet completed.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF CONDUCT
A word should be said about the proper, or spiritual, philosophy of conduct. I am using the word “philosophy” in its purest sense of a core of logic that attends a domain of thought. There is such a thing as philosophy that is “after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8). I do not speak of that kind of philosophy.
In Christ Jesus there is a certain core of logic – a manner of reasoning that is to be resident in all believers. It is this. Through Adam, the entirety of humanity and of its environment came under the curse of God. Mortality was imposed upon every living thing, and the inanimate creation as well (Rom 8:21-22). That judgment rendered the world and everything associated with it unsalvageable. The totality of creation had been corrupted by the sin of man, as well as mankind itself. It is for this reason that God declared, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 5). The environment itself – the whole creation – is groaning in travail this very day, anticipating the manifestation of the sons of God, at which time it will be delivered from the blight of corruption. Those who have been reconciled to God are also looking forward to their own deliverance from mortality, and to a new environment as well. As it is written, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet 3:13).
With these facts before us, it ought to be apparent that we needed to be delivered from the cursed realm. It is also clear that nothing from that defiled realm can transfer into the world to come, for the realm and everything associated with it is corrupt.
The complicating factor is this: while we are in this world, although we have been regenerated and delivered from this present evil world (Gal 1:4), neither the regeneration nor the deliverance is complete. We remain in a corruptible body in which “another law” is resident, that wars against the law of our mind (Rom 7:23). Words and deeds that are prompted by this wayward “law,” or principle, are in no way acceptable to God. God receives only what comes from “the new man,” which has been “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col 3:10). Therefore, we are admonished to “put off the old man,” refusing him to be the governor of our conduct. We are also to “put on the new man,” permitting him to be the prominent part of our persons.
The Relevance of this to Our Text
All of this does have to do with our text. The willingness of the Corinthians to gather a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem was an expression of “the new man.” The failure to complete that collection was an expression of “the old man,” and was therefore unacceptable.
This circumstance required some extensive elaboration, for there is no guarantee that the occupation of the cursed domain will not, in fact, result in condemnation. I hardly see that it is possible for a salvation that brings deliverance from the cursed realm to be maintained while one remains willingly in that domain. I understand that men have concocted religious dogmas and creeds that allow them to think they can remain “in the flesh” and still be well pleasing to God. However, such teachings contract both the revelation and the nature of God’s “great salvation.” It is still true that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). It is also true that “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:6-7).
If, as some suppose, there is such a thing as a “carnal Christian” – a phrase nowhere employed by the Spirit – then the following is possible.
☛ A Christian can safely remain in the domain from which he was delivered.
☛ A person can be accepted by God, even though he is fundamentally displeasing to Him.
☛ They that are in the flesh can please God, even though He has affirmed they cannot.
☛ God has fellowship with those who have minds that are “enmity against” Him.
☛ A person can remain alive unto God, even though he is dead due to being “carnally minded.”
Only a person who has, like the ostrich, been “deprived of wisdom” (Job 39:17) could possibly affirm such foolish things. Yet, the Christian community is plagued with preachers and teachers that are either actually affirming such things, or are delivering a message that leads their hearers to come to that conclusion.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Thus, Paul labors to bring the Corinthians into a right way of thinking. Their thoughts had become muddled due to their carnality. That is why they had not followed through with the resolve they made a year ago. Subtly, the Tempter had lured them into a forbidden way of thinking – thinking without the affection being set on things above. Knowing this dreadful propensity among them, Paul later writes, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). He wrote much the same thing to the Thessalonians: “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain” (1 Thess 3:5).
When Paul pondered the sluggardly response of the Corinthians, he knew the direction of their thinking. He then resorted to spiritual weaponry to thrown down imaginations, and thoughts that were exalting themselves above the knowledge of God. He was fulfilling a word he would give expression to later: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor 10:4-6).
In my judgement, we are living in a time when there is a dearth of insightful men and women – those who can read the times and tell the people what to do. Oh, that a host of men would arise who bear the traits of the children of Issachar: “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment” (1 Chron 12:32). Such men are of great value, and will be used by God to build up and establish His people in the faith. After all, when Jesus comes again, He will be looking for faith on the earth (Lk 18:8). Blessed is the person who is laboring with that truth in mind.
THANKS BE TO GOD
“ 8:16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.”
We are apprised by the Spirit that God is presently working “all things together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). In this text we are exposed to some of that behind-the-scenes working that is essential to the fulfillment of God’s will.
THE PLACE OF THANKSGIVING
“But thanks be to God . . . ” This is the expression of a God-conscious person. Such an one has seen the hand of the Lord, been blessed by it, and expresses thanksgiving for it.
Although this is very obvious, we give thanks to God for His own working, and not the working of men. The scope and magnitude of thanksgiving is seen several Pauline expressions.
☛ ALL OF THE TIME. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20).
☛ AS ASPECT OF PRAISE. Elsewhere thanksgiving is referred to as the sacrifice of praise: “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15).
☛ ACCOMPANYING REQUESTS. We are also reminded that when we make our requests known to God by prayer and supplication, they are to be accompanied with thanksgiving: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil 4:6).
☛ PART OF BEING ROOTED. Thanksgiving is also an integral part of being rooted and built up in Christ: “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col 2:7).
☛ A PRIMARY PART OF SPEECH. We are further told that the giving of thanks is to be a prominent part of our speech: “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5:4).
☛ ACCOMPANYING OUR DEEDS. Our conduct is also to be thoroughly committed to the Lord, and is to be accompanied with thanksgiving: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:17).
☛ IN EVERYTHING. In fact, we are told that thanksgiving in every circumstance of life is God’s will for us: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess 5:18).
Proper thanksgiving cannot be offered mechanically, or by means of a mere procedure. The insight of faith is required in order to acceptable thanksgiving. That is, thanksgiving cannot flow from the well of ignorance or be produced where there is a lack of spiritual insight and understanding.
Thanksgiving is, in a sense, an obligation. Yet obligation itself cannot birth a thankful spirit or words of praise. Paul is therefore giving thanks because of what he has seen, perceived, and discerned. God was not only at work, Paul was, by faith, able to see it, and acted consistently with that vision.
THE MARVEL OF EARNEST CARE
“ . . . earnest care . . .” Other versions read “earnestness,” NASB “concern,” NIV “eagerness,” NRSV “diligent zeal,” DARBY “sincere concern,” NJB “same enthusiasm,” NLT “good mind,” PNT “real concern,” LIVING “deep interest,” WEYMOUTH “dedication,” ISV and “earnest zeal and care.” AMPLIFIED
In fulfillment of the word given to holy prophets, in Christ Jesus, men receive a “new heart” and “a new spirit” (Ezek 36:26). This new capacity enables the individual to have deeper feelings, greater thoughts, and more zealous interests. Even a casual familiarity with the religion of our day will confirm the near-total absence of this kind of spirit within the churches. Men have invented a whole host of programs to gender interest and enthusiasm in the people. Some religious leaders are subjected to professional motivators who supposedly have expertise in getting people to be aggressive about needful things. Some religious services bear more resemblance to high school pep rallies in which an effort is made to pump up zeal, and get the people out of the doldrums of mediocrity.
All of these circumstances reveal a fundamental deficiency among the churches. The emotional capacity of the people for the things of God is more like that of the recalcitrant Israelites than of those who have been reconciled to God. In order to address the problem, the religious leaders have consulted with men, not God. In so doing, they have committed transgression, for it is totally wrong to seek from men what only God can give.
“Earnest care” involves perception, personal interest, godly sincerity, and dedication. It is an activity of the heart that has overflowed into the mind, thereby impacting upon the decision-making capabilities of the individual. In the text before us, it involves a genuine and aggressive interest in the people of God. It is profoundly deep, and does not simply lie upon the surface of the human personality. There is nothing contrived or artificial about it. How marvelous is this godly trait – “earnest care,”
GOD WORKS WITH THE HEART
“ . . . which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.” Other versions read, “who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus,” NKJV “who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus,” NASB “who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you,” and “Who planted the same earnest zeal and care for you in the heart of Titus.” AMPLIFIED
Now, Paul is giving thanks to God for something He has done. God Himself, who not only knows, but has access to the hearts of men, has done something in Titus – and Paul has seen it. Titus has something that cannot be obtained from the course of nature. It cannot be produced by human ingenuity. The arm of the Law cannot bring this quality to a person. It is God who has “put” this “earnest care” for the Corinthians into the heart of Titus. He has caused Titus to have God’s own affection for the Corinthians. In this matter, Titus has become a “partaker of the Divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). This is proof that he has, in fact, been made a “partaker of Christ” (Heb 3:14).
God Has Access to the Heart
This is a wonderful truth – that God has access to the hearts of men. While some choose to philosophize and even argue about this matter, I choose to delight in it, for it opens the door of hope concerning many situations. Nor, indeed, are we without an abundance of revelation on this matter. This thought has been sanctified by revelation, and we do well to be acquainted with it.
☛ TABERNACLE BUILDERS. “And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee” (Ex 31:6).
☛ BEZALEEL. “And He hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan” (Ex 35:34).
☛ BEZALEEL AND AHOLIAB. “And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it” (Ex 36:2).
☛ SOLOMON. “And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (1 Kgs 10:24; 2 Chron 9:23).
☛ ARTAXERXES. “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:27).
☛ NEHEMIAH. “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon” (Neh 2:12).
☛ NEHEMIAH. “And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein” (Neh 7:5).
☛ JOB’S OBSERVATION. “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?” (Job 38:36).
☛ DAVID. “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased” (Psa 4:7).
☛ NEW COVENANT. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33).
☛ FEAR OF GOD. “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer 32:40).
☛ WORK OF GOD. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10:16).
☛ THOSE WHO GIVE HEED TO THE BEAST. “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (Rev 17:17).
There can be no question about God working in the hearts of men, who are His own creation. The notion of a God who has no access to those whom He has made is a very foolish one. God “raised up the spirit” of the chief men of Judah and Benjamin to “build the house of the Lord which was at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:5). He “raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes” against Babylon, to destroy it (Jer 51:11). The Lord “stirred up an advesary unto Solomon” (1 Kgs 11:14). He “stirred up” the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabians “against Jehoram” (2 Chron 21:16). The Lord “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” to make a proclamation declaring that God had charged him to build the house of God in Jerusalem (2 Chron 36:22; Ezra 1:1). He also “stirred up the spirit of Zerubbael,” “the spirit of Joshua the high priest,” and “the spirit of all the remnant of the people” to do “work in the house of the Lord” (Hag 1:14).
No person should count it a strange thing, therefore, that God put into the heart of Titus an earnest and zealous care for the weakened church in Corinth. If they were to be recovered so that they advanced toward the “mark for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil 3:14), someone must certainly obtain an unwavering interest in them.
And who is it that will experience this wondrous working of the Lord? Who will find himself drawn toward those who had, in a way, become offensive in their manner and conduct? It will be those who live close to the Lord Jesus, walking in the light “as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). It will be those who have made a willing and profitable investment in the Corinthian brethren – like Paul and Titus.
Something to be Noted
Right here there is something that ought to be noted. Those who live in a certain aloofness from the Lord are not apt to be used by Him in the accomplishment of His will. Such will not become resources for the people of God, because their heads are nailed to the earth. Those who do not walk with Jesus cannot work with Him. Only those who fellowship with Jesus (1 Cor 1:9) will be employed to work in His vineyard. His work requires new and tender hearts.
In a true ministry – ministering “as of the ability God giveth” (1 Pet 4:11) – several key factors are brought together.
☛ First, the minister himself must be “prepared” by godly separation to do the work (2 Tim 2:21).
☛ Second, he must be able to correctly handle God’s word, particularly as it touches upon the circumstances in which he is ministering (2 Tim 2:15).
☛ Third, God must have given him the aptitude required to do the work (Rom 12:3; 1 Pet 4:11).
☛ Fourth, he must have a heart for the work – an inclination to do what is required before God (Rom 15:14; 1 Thess 2:8).
All of these traits are found within the framework of faith in Christ and a love for the brethren, which are the two demanding qualities of anyone who walks and works with the Lord (1 John 3:23). There is no provision for chronic deficiency in these areas. Nor is there anything about salvation condoning it.
HE ACCEPTED THE EXHORTATION
“ 17 For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.”
The “earnest care” of Titus was made known in the nature and manner his response to Paul’s exhortation. At that time, what God had put into his heart surfaced, confirming that he was the person God had appointed for this good work.
HE ACCEPTED THE EXHORTATION
“For indeed he accepted the exhortation . . . ” Other versions read, “he not only accepted the exhortation,” NKJV “he not only accepted our appeal,” NASB “Titus not only welcomed our appeal,” NIV “he gladly gave ear to our request,” BBE “he received indeed our entreaty,” DARBY “He certainly took our urging to heart,” NJB “He welcomed our request that he visit you again,” NLT “When we asked Titus to help you, he welcomed it,” IE “For he not only consented to my request,” MONTGOMERY and “for he not only welcomed and responded to our appeal.” AMPLIFIED
Delivering an exhortation is one thing, but it is quite another thing when it is welcomed and yields a favorable response. The exhortation of reference was also mentioned in verse six: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also” (2 Cor 8:6). That is, Titus had originally been with the Corinthians when they initiated their collection for the “poor saints” in Jerusalem. Now Paul exhorts him to “complete” in the Corinthians “this gracious work as well,” NASB for an incomplete work brings no glory to God or advantage to His people.
What Is An “Exhortation?”
The importance of exhortation is seen in the fact that Christ has especially gifted some for this ministry. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; . . . or he that exhorteth, on exhortation . . . ” (Rom 12:6-8).
The word “exhort” comes from a word that means “a calling near . . . imploration, supplication, entreaty, admonition, encouragement,” THAYER “A strong and persistent request . . . an authoritative presentation of privileges and requirements,” FRIBERG and “requesting most insistently.” UBS
As used in the body of Christ, an exhortation is addressed to “the new man” – the part of us that has been “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:10), and is “joined to the Lord” (1 Cor 6:17). It is a call to do the will of the Lord – to become involved in what the Lord is doing. This is in strict accord with the will of the Lord, for we are created in Christ Jesus, among other things, in order to do the good works God has ordained and has prepared us to do. As it is written, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]” AMPLIFIED (Eph 2:10)
Although we have been “re-created” to do these foreordained works, we do not do them automatically. Often, we must be made aware of them in order that we might do them. In the case of the Corinthians, they had seen there was a work to do, and had determined to do it. However, with the passage of some time (one year), they had forgotten about the necessity of the work. Now they needed to be stirred up to actually do what they had once felt needed to be done. Thus Paul exhorted them to “perform the doing of it” (2 Cor 8:11). Now he also exhorts Titus to lead the Corinthians in the gathering of the collection.
Strictly speaking, an exhortation differs from a commandment contained in a Law. Under a system of Law, as the First Covenant, a commandment was given because of the wayward nature of the people. The commandment actually postulated a lack of desire within the people. There existed a certain hostility between man and God – even in the covenanted people of Israel. Thus they were commanded to do this or that, with the threat of death if they did not (Ex 30:20-21; 31:14,15; 35:2; Ezek 18:4,20).
However, in Christ Jesus, and within the framework of the New Covenant, a different set of circumstances exist. Now the people are “reconciled to God,” and are no longer enemies (Rom 5:10). Now the laws of God are written in their hearts and placed into their minds by God Himself, so that the people are in fundamental agreement with God (Heb 8:10; 10:16). An exhortation is a word addressed to the “new creature,” or “the new man.” The word assumes a basic affinity with God, and a foundational willingness, even though it may be obscured by the flesh. It is calling “newness of life” up to the surface, where it is more prominent.
My Own Experience
I have come from a legalistic background, where waywardness was assumed instead of new creatureship. With such a mindset I was inclined to consider exhortations to be commandments – like those that were given from Mount Sinai. For example, when I read “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb 10:25), I considered this to be a commandment. It was therefore my obligation to gather with the saints. However, it was a blessed day when I recognized that being “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:11) involved a willingness to be with fellow believers. Then, Hebrews 10:25 no longer sounded like a commandment. Now it was a holy reminder that “stirred up” my pure mind by way of remembrance (2 Pet 3:1). It spoke to my “new man,” and made perfect sense. It was similar to calling a hard working and hungry man to supper. There is no need to issue a commandment to eat to such a man. It is sufficient to remind him that everything is on the table, and it is time to come and eat. Such an invitation is not grievous.
BEING MORE FORWARD
“ . . . but being more forward . . .” Other versions read “being more diligent,” NKJV “but being himself more earnest,” NASB “but since he is more eager than ever,” NRSV “he was interested enough,” BBE “but, being full of zeal,” DARBY “but, being more careful,” DOUAY “but greater still was his own enthusiasm,” NJB “yea rather he was well willing,” PNT and “but was himself so keen in his enthusiasm and interest in you.” AMPLIFIED
This is an excellent example of what I have just stated. When Paul exhorted Titus to assist the brethren in Corinth in the matter of taking of the collection of reference, the word matched his own spirit. It was not contrary to his nature, but in perfect accord with it. By saying Titus was “more forward,” Paul means he was more compelled by his own desire on the matter than by Paul’s exhortation.
OF HIS OWN ACCORD
“ . . . of his own accord he went unto you.” Other versions read, “he is coming to you . . . on his own initiative,” NIV “from the impulse of his heart,” BBE “of his own will he went unto you,” DOUAY “he himself was eager to go and see you,” NLT “I think he would have come anyway, for he is very eager to see you,” LIVING “comes to you of his own free will,” WEYMOUTH and “in his enthusiasm comes to you personally at his own request.” PHILLIPS
Titus came to Corinth because he wanted to come. He saw the sense of coming, and had a fervent love for the welfare of the Corinthians. Thus he did not need to be prodded into going to them. For him, the exhortation of Paul confirmed the legitimacy of a desire he already possessed.
Anyone who has labored in the vineyard of the Lord knows how it grates upon our spirit to have to convince a person that they should do what is right. Armed with the wisdom of this world, men have taught us to grow accustomed to this circumstance. In fact, many suppose that it is actually normal for the people of God to NOT want to do what is right. They speak accommodatingly of such a condition as though God Himself thought nothing of it. Those who lead us to think in such a way are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have neither the mind nor the Spirit of Christ.
The Necessity of Willingness
In the kingdom of God, unwillingness, blindness, hesitancy, and dulness are all contrary to the very nature of the New Covenant. None of them can be expressed by the “new man.” They all contradict the new creation, and their presence suggests that the old remains dominant even after the new has come – which is a total misrepresentation.
Once “the new comes,” the old begins to go away. As it is written of the New Covenant, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13). The glory of the New Covenant is associated with certain changes that take place within the believer. This is seen in Paul’s poignant statement, “For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth” (2 Cor 3:10). That is, greater glory always overshadows lesser glory. That this is seen in the transformation that takes place in the individual is made clear in the eighteenth verse of the third chapter, from which the above quotations are taken. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
I will go so far as to say that in Christ Jesus, something that is not done of one’s “own accord” is not acceptable to God. Such a deed cannot be motivated by faith, for faith produces accord in the heart. Neither, indeed, can it possibly be an expression of “the new man.” That means it has no association with, what the Spirit calls, “newness of life.” Only expressions of the life that is imparted in Christ Jesus are acceptable to God.
The Lord will not receive something in which His own working is not the principle part. If it is God who works in us “both to will and to do of His own good pleasure,” then doing something for His glory of our “own accord” is nothing less than a revelation of that working.
That is precisely why Paul is making so much of the willingness of Titus.
“ 18 And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches ; 19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind.”
“And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches . . . ” Other versions read, “And we have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches,” NASB “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel,” NIV “With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news,” NRSV and “But we are sending along with him that brother [Luke?] whose praise in the Gospel ministry [is spread] throughout all the churches.” AMPLIFIED
The importance of this collection is confirmed by the manner in which it is approached. Not only is Titus sent to lead out in this good work – a man described as Paul’s “partner and fellowhelper” (2 Cor 8:23) – but another brother is sent as well. This was to ensure that the work was initiated and maintained properly, and in order to establish that the gathered funds would be handled properly. It is not that Paul did not trust Titus, for he has established that he did, in fact, have a great deal of confidence in Titus. Rather, this reflected his knowledge of the Corinthians, who had not reacted to his ministry with any degree of consistency and thanksgiving.
We do not know the identify of this “brother,” even though he was well known to “all the churches.” Throughout history, several men have been suggested. Their names include Luke, Barnabas, Silas, John Mark, and Erastus. The burden of the commentators favor Luke or Barnabas, but there is no way to substantiate precisely who it was.
There is, however, something to be seen here that is vital to our understanding of the nature of kingdom work. This man was “praised” throughout all of the churches for his association with the Gospel of Christ. It is generally understood that this related to the preaching of that Gospel – a preaching that reflected an understanding of the Gospel itself. Others, who are of the opinion that this “brother” was Luke, see this as referring to the Gospel that he wrote. If the traditional dates of writing have credence, Second Corinthians was written around 57 A.D., and the Gospel of Luke was written between 58 and 65 A.D. If this is true, Paul could not be referring to the writing of Luke’s Gospel. It appears he is rather speaking of the insightful preaching of the Gospel.
The point is that the fame of this brother sprang out of his presentation of the Gospel. He was not well known for building a large congregation, or for his scholastic credentials, or for some specialized ministry among a select group of people. Rather, this “brother” was praised and lauded among all of the churches for his presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I find it exceedingly difficult to believe this “brother” could possibly be of note among the professing churches of our day. There are very few men within the professed church who are noted for what they say, or teach, or preach. Some are noted for the size of their church. Others are noted for some unique work they have done, or for their focus on a particular people group. Whoever this was, he was a seasoned worker in the Lord’s vineyard, having a grasp of the Gospel, and being able to communicate if effectively.
I must admit, if this was the criteria for selecting helpers for the work of the Lord, the pool of potential laborers would shrink considerably. However, let it be clear that this is how godly minds reason concerning the work of the Lord. This is confirmed by the words that follow.
CHOSEN BY THE CHURCHES
“And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace . . . ” Other versions read, “to travel with us with this gift,” NKJV “to travel with us in this gracious work,” NASB and “to accompany us as we carry this offering.” NIV
The “churches” did not select this “brother” because he showed a lot of potential, and traveling with Paul would constitute some excellent experience. The brother himself had to be insightful and trustworthy. He had to have been proved faithful in handling the things of God.
Here is an example of someone that was “approved of men” (Rom 14:18). Like the “elders” of old time, he had “obtained a good report” (Heb 11:2,39). It could be said of him, as was said of another faithful brother, “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself” (3 John 1:12).
You also see in this text that a certain harmony existed among the churches. They were all familiar with faithful kingdom laborers, and joined together in God-glorifying works.
The offering that is being gathered for the poor saints is here referred to as “this grace,” or “this gift,” NKJV “this gracious work,” NASB, or “this offering.” NIV The fact that Paul himself is administering this good work confirms its importance. This is also why he took great care to ensure that the gathering of the funds was done properly, and that due care was taken to ensure that they served their intended function.
MINISTERED BY THE GLORY OF THE SAME LORD
“ . . . which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, . . . ” Other versions read, “which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself,” NASB “while we are administering this gracious undertaking for the glory of the Lord Himself,” NRSV “which we are carrying on,” RSV “a service that glorifies the Lord.” NLT and “which we are administering for the glory of the Lord Himself.” AMPLIFIED
The fact that Paul himself is administering this good work confirms its importance. This is also why he took great care to ensure that the gathering of the funds was done properly, and that due care was taken to ensure that they served their intended function.
However, Paul was not administering these funds for their practical use alone, although that was important. Remember, the life that he was living, as he himself confessed, was lived “by faith in the Son of God, who lived” him “and gave Himself” for him (Gal 2:20). Fundamentally, he was not living for Himself, or even for those whom he loved, and to whom he ministered. He knew that the calculated effect of salvation is to live “unto Him who died for them and rose again” NKJV (2 Cor 5:15). Whatever is done is to be done for the glory of God. As it is written, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). That “glory” will be brought to the Lord in a variety of ways. Here are just a few of them,
☛ He himself will give thanks to God for the willing contributions of the saints.
☛ Believers everywhere will give thanks that God has cared for His people.
☛ The brethren receiving the offering will give thanks that their needs have been met.
☛ Believers who hear of this abundance will be encouraged to also do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith.
☛ God will be glorified when the world beholds the care the saints have for one another.
☛ The angels will praise God when they behold His marvelous workings among the sons of men.
Those who have a consistent mind to see God glorified by their actions have made considerable progress in the faith. They have, in fact, entered into the work of the Lord, and God will take due note of it. It is written, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).
THE DECLARATION OF YOUR READY MIND
“ . . . and declaration of your ready mind.” Other versions read, “to show your ready mind,” NKJV “and to show your readiness,” NASB “and to show your eagerness to help,” NIV “and to show your goodwill,” NRSV “and declaration of your prompt mind,” GENEVA “and to stir up your prompt mind,” TYNDALE and “to demonstrate the willingness of us Christians to help one another.” PHILLIPS
More recent versions of Scripture read as though Paul was speaking of himself: “and to show our eagerness to help,” NIV “and to show our goodwill,” NRSV “our eagerness fo help,” NLT and “of my readiness to serve.” WILLIAMS This view is wholly misleading, for Paul is not speaking of himself alone, but of true believers in general. He includes the Corinthians and other believers with himself, as though to confirm that this is the manner in which those who are in Christ care for one another. The academic mind can be too lifeless in its approach to Scripture, running through texts like a lifeless robot. While the technical rules of language may appear to justify such a lifeless approach, there is more to be considered that the stereotyped rules of language – all of which are of human origin. The text of Scripture also has a spirit, an aim, and a purpose that are to be properly communicated.
Paul uses the word “we” throughout Second Corinthians to denote all believers. A few examples will suffice to illustrate this point.
☛ “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor 1:4).
☛ “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor 1:22).
☛ “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
☛ “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor 4:7).
☛ “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:16-17).
☛ “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
☛ “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor 5:16).
The repository of grace was not for the Apostles alone. They had a special work to do that required special benefits. But the benefits were not their’s alone. They were themselves members of “the church,” being placed in it (1 Cor 12:28). God did not place the church in them, but put them into the church.
Thus Paul is accenting that the care that was being revealed in the collection that is being taken for the poor saints in Jerusalem, was actually a display of the kind of life that we have in Christ Jesus. It was a exhibit of the kind of life that brings glory to God, satisfying benefits to the saints, and joy to angels.
A Ready Mind
A certain “readiness of mind” was made known in the original willingness of the Corinthians to gather this collection (2 Cor 8:11). Now that readiness was being stirred up by Paul’s exhortation, and the help of Titus as well. That forwardness of mind was matched by Paul’s zeal and preparation to thankfully receive, safely transport, and distribute the offering, thereby glorifying God. Such is the manner of faithful laborers.
“ 20 Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us . . .”
“Avoiding this . . . ” Other versions read, “taking precaution,” NASB “We want to avoid,” NIV “We intend that no one,” NRSV “We take this course so that,” ESV “by traveling together we will guard against.” NLT and “For [we are on our guard, intending that.” AMPLIFIED
In making the arrangements for Titus and accompanying brethren gathering and transporting the offering, Paul as using his seasoned judgment. He was laboring to avoid anything that would place a blotch upon this whole matter.
In the work of the Lord, there is no room for childlike naivety. An awareness of looming dangers is as necessary as being alert to heaven-sent opportunities. It must ever be remembered that the work of the Lord is presently being carried out in a hostile environment. We dare not conduct the Lord’s affairs as though this circumstance did not exist. This is one reason why Paul exercised himself “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
NO MAN SHOULD BLAME US
“ . . . that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us . . .” Other versions read, “that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us,” NKJV “that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift,” NASB “to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift,” NIV and “[For] we are on our guard, intending that no one should find anything for which to blame us in regard to our administration of this large contribution.” AMPLIFIED
Operating under the auspices of the devil, there are evil men who are seeking to find an occasion against the Lord and His people. They want to cast reproach upon the work of the Lord as well. Knowing this, Paul was “wise as a serpent” (Matt 10:16), conducting his affairs so they could not be subverted or reproached by the enemy. Some of the things that might have been imagined include:
☛ That Paul himself was untrustworthy, and thus those who joined any cause he espoused were foolish.
☛ That others might see any hesitancy in the Corinthians to do what they had pledged themselves to do, and thus question their identity with Christ.
☛ That the hopes of the poor saints in Jerusalem would be frustrated, and thus their faith weakened at the report of any hesitancy in the Corinthians.
☛ That the churches distrusted Paul, and thus failed to rally behind the cause he had espoused.
It should not surprise us that the enemies of the faith seek an occasion against the people of God. The enemies of the Lord laid snares for Jesus, “to catch Him in His words” (Mk 12:13). It is written that the Pharisees “took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk” (Mat 22:15). Luke says they were “Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him” (Luke 11:54).
Jeremiah’s foes said, “Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah” (Jer 18:18). Some sought to “make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought” (Isa 29:21). David confessed, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” (Psa 140:5).
Godly men conduct their lives with such foes in mind, maintaining the strictest integrity in their affairs. They exercise themselves to avoid anything that can be interpreted as foolish, therefore giving an occasion for the enemies to blaspheme the word of the Lord, or cast reproach upon His work.
This circumstance demands a state of soundmindedness and alertness. A religion that leaves people in a naive, overly simplistic, and disarmed state is a dangerous one – both to those who possess it, and to others who are doing the Lord’s work. Who is the godly servant who has not found his work to be more difficult because of charlatans and religious opportunists living in his time? It is time for those who labor for Christ to do so discreetly and with great wisdom.
PROVIDING FOR HONEST THINGS
“ 21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
Here, we are being exposed to the thinking and reasoning of a godly man – a man in whom the Spirit of God was at work. When the Lord works in a man “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12), there is more being done than the work itself. Those who are employed by the Lord obtain a certain frame of mind – one that is consistent with “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2;16). You may remember that Jesus looked squarely into the face of His enemies, and before the people challenged them, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). He also told His disciples, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
The very first qualification for those who feed and care for the “flock of God” is that they be “blameless” (1 Tim 3:2). Such must also “have a good report of them which are without” (1 Tim 3:7). In delineating what makes our work for the Lord acceptable, the Spirit witnesses, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men” (Rom 14:17-18).
Coupled with his fellowship with Christ, a keen awareness of these things moved Paul to do the things he now mentions. He knew that the work is important, and that it must not allow for reproach to be cast upon the Lord, His Word, or His great salvation.
PROVIDING THINGS HONEST
“Providing for honest things . . . ” Other versions read, “providing honorable things,” NKJV “we have regard for what is honorable,” NASB “For we are taking pains to do what is right,” NIV “for we aim at what is honorable,” RSV ‘For business has been so ordered by us as to have the approval,” BBE and “For we take thought beforehand and aim to be honest and absolutely above suspicion.” AMPLIFIED
While God works within His people “both to will and to do,” this does not exclude the personal involvement of the saints in the process. Here the apostle states that something was “provided – not provided to them, but provided by them.
The word “provide” is a most interesting one, revealing certain aspects of the kingdom of God that underscore that something happens within those who are reconciled to God. The word “providing” comes from the Greek word pronoou/men (pron-o-sue-men), which has the lexical meaning, “to perceive before, forsee,to provide, think of beforehand,” THAYER “perceive ahead of time, forsee, provide for someone, take thought for. . . be concerned to show,” FRIBERG “have a mind to do,” UBS “to think about something ahead of time, with the implication that one can then respond appropriately . . . ‘to give attention to beforehand,” LOUW-NIDA and “to think of or plan beforehand . . . take measures of precaution.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
In the grand scheme of being willing and doing (Phil 2:12), this is more on the side of willing than doing. It is a preparatory action that precedes the actual doing of the thing. The act of “providing” determines not only what will be done, but how it will be done. In this case, the offering for the saints will be gathered, delivered, and distributed in such a way as not to provoke an erroneous conclusion. The whole project was calculated to avoid any kind of erroneous conclusion about God, Christ, the work of the Lord, or the kind of nature that is communicated to those who are “joined to the Lord.” That is, the work was approached with the Lord and His purpose in mind, and what associations men would make between them and the collection that was being gathered.
This kind of purposeful planning is one of the distinguishing marks of spiritual maturity. The novice, or those who are unlearned in the ways of the Lord and the manner of His kingdom, do not go about things in this way. Some, for example, might purpose to reach people for Christ by staging events that are much like that of the world. In their efforts to reach “the lost,” they might offer musical productions that are actually in a worldly format. Others might seek to raise funds for, what they conceive to be, noble causes. However, they go about it much like a manufacturer of liquor goes about marketing its product. To say that such approaches are unwise appears to me to be a great understatement, even though it is quite common for such approaches to be found within the Christian community. Invariably, and without exception, they are always evidence of spiritual obtuseness, and often of outright and unvarnished carnality.
There are a host of completely erroneous views of God, Christ, Scripture, the church, and salvation that are the direct result of how unthoughtful people have conducted the affairs of the church. Those who allowed for such conclusions, unlike Paul, did not make the proper provisions.
Precisely what are “things honest?” They are things that are obviously honest and honorable – things that give no appearance of corruption, dishonesty, or having ignoble motives. There is no apparent connection between “things honest” and things tainted with selfishness, reproachful gain, and the likes.
The expression “honest things” comes from a single Greek word: kala. (kaa-la). This is a most unique word meaning, “sound, whole . . . good; beautiful . . . distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, excellent in nature, and well adapted to its ends,” THAYER “a quality of freedom from defects,” FRIBERG “good, right, proper, fitting, better, honorable, honest, fine.” UBS “pertaining to positive moral quality, with the implication of being favorable valued,” LOUW-NIDA and “the decencies, proprieties, elegancies of life.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
A modern example of “things honest” is the aid that is being given to those who suffered in the recent hurricane and floods in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi (August/September, 2005). The outpouring of much needed supplies and assistance has drawn the attention of men, and is consistently seen as something good, honorable, and excellent in nature.
IN THE SIGHT OF GOD
“ . . . not only in the sight of the Lord, . . . ” Other versions read, “not only in the eyes of the Lord,” NIV and “to have the approval, not only of the Lord.” BBE
Here, the idea is that it is a foregone conclusion that the Lord sees what we do – beholding it thoroughly, from every perspective, and in all of its details. The truth of the matter is “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). As Samuel well said, “the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). David said, “the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1 Chron 28:9). Solomon confessed, “for Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men” (2 Chron 6:30). There can be no question about this. The Lord beholds, weighs, and will finally judge what we do, why we did it, and how we did it.
The point here is that Paul devised his plans with this reality in mind. Before he initiated the project, He thought of God and how He would view what he was doing. He considered how the project would be perceived in heaven, and how the Lord would evaluate how he went about the gathering of this collection, and the words he would use to stir up the people to respond in a comely manner. What would the Lord think of the individuals he chose to implement this purpose, and of the way they went about gathering the collection, transporting it to the saints, and making the distribution of it. Would the Lord consider it to be honest, wholesome, good, excellent in nature, and a respectable way to go about meeting the needs of the saints?
This is the way in which all godly purposes should be conceived and carried out, whatever they may be. Perhaps it is delivering a message, giving an exhortation, making an appeal to assist needy souls, or bestowing some gift of kindness upon any of the sons of men, especially those who are of the household of faith. In the end, God will give His evaluation of the effort, whatever it may be. Is it not wise to consider His thoughts on the matter now, and make the appropriate plans for giving an account of it before His throne? Is it not written, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Is it not on the part of wisdom to consider that fact IN our planning, purposing, words, and deeds?
In my judgment, many a sermon would never be preached, and many a religious deed would never be done if men first considered how it will appear “in the sight of God” – the One who will finally evaluate and judge the work, pronouncing before an assembled universe precisely how it appeared to Him. At that time, there will be no other view of the matter, for God is a “God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut 32:4). His view is THE view – all other perspectives will be trashed.
ALSO IN THE SIGHT OF MEN“ . . . but also in the sight of men.”
The word “also” is one of perspective. AFTER, and only after, we have pondered how the matter appears “in the sight of God,” may we properly consider how appears “in the sight of men.” Whereas God sees “all things,” man can only behold the outward appearance of things. As it is written, “man looketh on the outward appearance” (1 Sam 16:7). The deficiency of such a view is seen in the words of our blessed Lord: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). That is because the outward view is not a thorough view. There is more to any matter than what appears.
However, notwithstanding that circumstance, God does not allow for what appears outwardly to be in fundamental conflict with the truth. He does not allow a person to be pure within, but corrupt without. A righteous person is likened to a “good tree” that CANNOT bring forth “corrupt fruit” (Luke 6:43). God does not employ obviously contemptible manners to accomplish holy purposes. It is true that the wisdom of God is foolishness with men (1 Cor 1:21-25). However, that is not the view that is being expounded in this text.
Providing things that are honest “in the sight of men” was lived out by Jesus among men. He did not appear before men as an insurrectionist like Barabbas (Mk 15:7). He did not “devour widows houses” like the scribes and the Pharisees (Matt 23:14). He did not speak reproachfully of those who were infirm, like “the Jews” who questioned a blind man Jesus had healed (John 9:34). He did not call for the brutal crucifixion of a man, as did chief priests and the people they moved (Mk 15:13).
It is written of Jesus that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mk 12:37). His message and His manner were good – especially to those who were seeking the Lord. The people saw no conflict between what Jesus said, what He did, and how He conducted Himself among them. On one occasion when Jesus’ enemies “sought to lay hold on Him,” they could not do so, for “they feared the people” who knew Jesus was not an evil man or a breaker of the law (Mk 12:12; Lk 20:19; 22:2).
On one occasion, Jesus challenged His enemies to point out anything He had done that justified their desire to stone Him. “Many good works have I showed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me?” (John 10:32). Another time He hurled this challenge at those who opposed Him: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:46). Later, Jesus pointed out to His disciples the reason for the inability of anyone to charge Him with doing wrong: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). It is written that He “DID no sin” (1 Pet 2:22). His conduct was so impeccably pure that His enemies had to seek “false witnesses against” Him in order justify Him being brought before their courts. Even then, it is written they “found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Mat 26:60-61). No one could point to anything Jesus had done and successfully affirm that it was wrong. When they found false witnesses who finally agreed on something, His words were misrepresented.
Jesus had provided things that were “honest,” not only in the sight of God the Father, whom He consistently pleased and obeyed (John 8:29), but even before men. This is the only acceptable way to live before God. God is not honored when those who profess to be His children do things that are even wrong in the eyes of men. This was one of the reasons for Paul upbraiding the Corinthians for the immorality found among them. Such sin was even recognized as repulsive to the Gentiles, who know not God. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife” (1 Cor 5:1).
In a day that is marked by all manner of religious marketing and promotion, this verse needs to be shouted from the housetops. Offering gifts for donations, and entertainment to lure the young, is not providing things that are honest in the sight of God, and “also in the sight of men.” This is plain enough, so no further explanation is required.
DILIGENCE THAT HAS BEEN PROVED
“ 22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.”
There are people within the body of Christ who have distinguished themselves in the service of the Lord. This is particularly important to consider in a day when distinction often lies in areas that have little or nothing to do with one’s identity with God through Christ Jesus. Such things as academic credentials, institutional success, and the likes, by no means qualify a person for Divine employment. It is true that men have created a religious context in which such things appear to be of great worth. However, it is only in the flesh that such delusions become appealing.
This by no means suggests that education, excellent organizational skills, and similar things, are wrong. No person of sound mind despises the culturing of the mind and diligence in doing things that are outwardly impressive. What I am saying is that these are not the areas in which the believer is “prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim 2:21). First, in this text we will find that the kind of work in which one engages is of primary importance. Second, the diligence, zeal, and spiritual industriousness with which the work is done is to be considered.
WE SENT OUR BROTHER
“And we have sent with them our brother . . .” Other versions read, “In addition, we are sending with them our brother,” NIV “Alone with these, we have sent a brother of ours,” NJB “And we are also sending with them another brother,” NLT and “Moreover, along with them we are sending our brother.” AMPLIFIED
The “them” is Titus and his companion – thought by some to have been Barnabas or Luke. Thus, a company of three have been sent to see to it that the Corinthian offering was gathered in a timely and acceptable manner.
We do not have the slightest idea concerning the identity of this “brother.” Some have conjectured it may have been Apollos, Silas, and even Timothy, but there is no basis for the opinion, as they themselves acknowledge. In the real work of the Lord names are not nearly as important as some imagine. There is a facet of modern religion in which the name of a person sanctifies the work, giving more credence to what is being done. Thus conventions, special promotions, etc, are supposedly validated by the names of successful people endorsing the work. By “successful,” I mean successful, or of note among men, and as judged by men. Spiritual qualities generally have no weight in such evaluations.
You will note the total absence of such criteria in the text that follows. Paul employs a wholly different standard of measurement in recommending this unnamed brother. The fact that the name of the individual is not supplied confirms that notoriety among men is not even the point. Such repute is of no value if the individual’s name is not mentioned. In Christ, however, what is done transcends the person who does it. With men, it is who does the work that is of preeminence.
A BROTHER WHO PROVED DILIGENT
“ . . . whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things . . . ” Other versions read, “whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things,” NASB “who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous,” NIV “we have often tested and found eager in many matters,” NRSV and “whom we have often put to the test and have found him zealous (devoted and earnest) in many matters.” AMPLIFIED
Faithfulness and diligence are proved in the crucible of responsibility and testing. Therefore those who serve as deacons are to “first be proved,” or shown to be faithful in kingdom matters: then (and only then) “let them use the office of deacon” (1 Tim 3:10).
This is the manner of the kingdom – to discover our true spiritual qualities in the area of responsibility. God tested the faithfulness of Israel at “the waters of Marah,” where they proved to be unfaithful (Ex 15:23-25; Psa 81:7). David was proved, or tested by the Lord, and found to be faithful (Psa 17:3). Our faithfulness is not something about which we can philosophize. Nor, indeed, will our verbal commitment to the Lord be found sufficient. Israel made such a commitment when they responded to the heavenly voice at Sinai, “And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD” (Ex 19:8). The words certainly sounded good, but time would discover that they were nothing more than mere words. Later God said to Moses, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deut 5:29). When they were tested, or proved, this words were found to be precisely true.
As used in this text, the word translated “diligent” means “active, diligent, zealous, very diligently,” THAYER “very earnest, more diligent,” FRIBERG “more earnest than ever,” UBS “pertaining to being earnest and diligent in undertaking an activity,” LOUW-NIDA and “earnest, serious, active, zealous, and excellent,” LIDDELL-SCOTT
The person who is “diligent” gladly receives a task, takes the fulfillment of it seriously, throws himself into the work, and carries it forward to completion for the glory of God. Such souls have always been exceedingly rare, even though the salvation of God is calculated to produce this type of person. Wherever this kind of spirit is lacking, the Spirit has been quenched, and some other competing interests have stifled the work of God within the individual.
Paul admonished Titus to conduct his affairs diligently: “When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them” (Titus 3:12,13). Peter admonishes believers to be diligent to be ready for the appearing of the Lord: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).
Kingdom labors must be characterized by a certain assiduity, or persistence. That is part of something being “done in truth,” and is a trait of the works of God Himself (Psa 33:4; 111:8). In creation, God brought order out of disorder and the chaotic deep, when the earth was “without form and void” (Gen 1:2). The earth, which was intended to be a stage upon which the drama of salvation would be wrought, could not remain in a disorderly state. God does not work for good in such an environment. The more a thing tends to disorder, the less God is in it. This is why His covenant is “ordered in all things” (2 Sam 23:5). It is why our assemblies are to be conducted “in decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40). That is the kind of environment in which the Lord works out His purpose. Those who imagine that confusion and disarray are evidences of the Lord’s presence are under the grip of delusion.
“Diligence” has to do with this orderly and persistent approach to the things of God. How can a God of precision be glorified by a work or effort that is inconsistent, sporadic, and without the qualities of faithfulness? It ought to be evident that such a work brings no glory to God. That is precisely why Paul is justifying the use of this unnamed brother because of his confirmed diligence. This is the kind of man uses in His work.
Not just theoretical
Here was a brother who was tested in a variety of kingdom matters (“in many things”), and was found to be diligent in them all. His approval was not theoretical – based upon something nebulous like his personality, looks, or organizational position. It is not because men were attracted to him, but because he was attracted to the Lord and His work. It is time for the church to cease and desist from its tendency to choose individuals to represent Christ who have not been shown to be diligent.
There are many erratic disciples – people who are like spiritual vagabonds, whose objective is never clear, and whose religious activities wax and wane. Such are not to be place in positions of leadership, regardless of their impressive credentials. Those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord must be diligent – persistent, trustworthy, and consistently zealous for the cause with which they are identified.
There is one other thing that ought to be noted. The area in which one is gifted is one that is to be characterized his personal diligence. That gift came from God, and it must be given back to Him with diligent commitment and activity. I have seen many a gifted person fall into the pit of distraction, where their God-given abilities were wasted. When the Lord appears in all of His glory, they will be found among those who were “wicked and slothful servants,” and their future will be a most dismal one.
I understand that this is a very sensitive area in which one believer cannot impose his will upon another. However, every person is obliged to make a personal assessment of his place in the body of Christ, and then apply himself with a determined zeal that brings glory to the Lord – diligence!
MUCH MORE DILIGENT
“ . . . but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.” Other versions read, “but who is now more [eagerly] earnest than ever because of [his] absolute confidence in you,” AMPLIFIED and “He is especially interested, as he looks forward to this trip, because I have told him all about your eagerness to help,” LIVING
Here there is a difference in the reading of various translations. Some versions ascribe the confidence to Paul himself – “the great confidence which I have in you,” KJV/GENEVA/PNT/RWB/WEB Some refer the confidence to Paul and those with him– “which we have in you.” NKJV Still others apply the confidence to the brother himself – “because of his great confidence in you.” NASB/NIV/NRSV/AMPLIFIED
Once again, some of the translators have thrown carnal confusion into the pot of learning. All three of these views are true. First, the original text does not particularly identify the ones with the desire, but literally reads, “upon the great confidence in you.” The brother himself did, indeed, have increased confidence in the Corinthians. He had it, however, because Paul and Titus had shared it with him. It was first found in them, and then in this brother.
Here diligence was increased in other kingdom laborers, when the stability of the brethren had been confirmed. Together with Titus and his companion, this brother became even more zealous and earnest to go to Corinth and gather the required offering. His knowledge of their willingness and commitment made him more eager to do the work appointed to him.
Many a good work has suffered because of sluggardly disciples – people who were not devoted to the Lord’s work, or zealously involved in it. There is no way to reasonably estimate the adverse effects of half-heartedness within the professed body of Christ. While it is not really excusable, many mediocre messages and works are nothing more than the product of mediocrity within the church itself.
Those who go about the work of the Lord heartily and diligently have a great influence upon kingdom laborers. This is something of what is involved in the exhortation to the Hebrew believers. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25).
There are some who leave a trail of doubt behind them, a defiling wake that is discouraging. We are never really sure of where they stand. Their presence in the assembly is inconsistent. Their contributions to the faith of God’s people are spotty, only occurring here and there. They appear to have other interests that drain their strength, and employ most of their powers and abilities. We do not prefer that such leisurely and desultory souls effect us, but they do. Just as surely as faith emits a certain spirit of encouragement and exhortation, so a lack of it has a pull downward, effecting all who are within the sphere of its influence.
Here is a case in point. The Corinthians became zealous and devoted. The awareness of this brought encouragement and confidence to Paul and Titus, and their spiritual optimism had a favorable impact upon this unnamed brother. Now, in another region, there are four kingdom laborers whose hearts have been raised to a new level; because of the report of the willingness of the Corinthians: Paul, Titus, and two anonymous workers. Let no child of God doubt the remarkable influence they will have on their brethren if they themselves diligent and consistent in the Lord.
A WORD ABOUT TITUS
“ 23 Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.”
I have often thought of how, proportionately, very few people within the body of Christ are noted for anything of substance. It appears to me that the very structure and activities of the Western church are calculated to produce a sea of nobodies. The institution, called spiritual “Babylon,” has swallowed up its membership, drowning them in a sea of anonymity, or “namelessness.” Even though everyone in Christ Jesus has been strategically placed within the body of Christ by God Himself (1 Cor 1:30; 12:18), the framework of religion does not allow for them to function. They are like paralyzed arms, hands, fingers, feet, and toes. The modern church is filled with deaf and dumb, crippled and palsied people who have been given ears to hear, tongues to speak, feet to walk, and bodies to serve. But the agenda of the “great whore” (Rev 17:1; 19:2) does not allow for them to express themselves, and so little or nothing is known of them or the gifts that are resident in them. They are not praised for their work, or encouraged because of their faithfulness. The religious spotlight does not even turn their way.
In contradiction of this whole circumstance, Paul will now speak about Titus. He was not one of the twelve apostles (Lk 6:13-16). He was not a special apostle of Jesus like Paul (1 Cor 15:8). He was not one of the seventy that Jesus chose (Luke 10:1), or one of the seven servants who were appointed to serve in a special capacity in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:3-5). He was not one of the prophets from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27), or one of the “prophets and teachers” found in “the church that was at Antioch” (Acts 13:1). He is not mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts, and is only mentioned to the churches in Corinth and Galatia.(2 Cor 2:13; 7:6,13, 14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18; Gal 2:1), and the epistle addressed to him by Paul. There is absolutely nothing in all of Scripture that would qualify Titus to occupy a modern pulpit, or pastor a contemporary church. He is measured by a different standard – one that ought to be employed today in place of the miserable criterion that have been drawn up by men.
WHAT ABOUT TITUS AND OUR BRETHREN?
“Whether any do inquire of Titus . . . or our brethren be inquired of . . . ”
Paul anticipates that some will inquire about Titus and the brethren that are traveling with him. They will want to know about them, their qualifications, and if they can be trusted to carry this significant offering to the poor saints in Jerusalem. What will they want to know? What will he tell them? You may be sure that he will speak in accord with the revealed objectives of God, with absolutely no regard for the fickle interests of men.
“ . . . he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you . . .” Other versions read, “he is my partner and fellow worker,” NASB “partner and co-worker,” NRSV “companion and fellow laborer,” DOUAY and “he is my colleague and shares my work.” AMPLIFIED
My Partner and Fellowhelper
The word “partner” means “associate, comrade, companion . . . to be a partner of one doing something,” THAYER “as one who fellowships and shares something in common with another partner,” FRIBERG “sharer,” UBS and “one who participates with another in some enterprise or matter of joint concern.” LOUW-NIDA
This is not an organizational word, or descriptive of an official office. This has to do with being involved in something, sharing the burden of a ministry, and working together in a common objective. Titus was working together with Paul, involved in his prodigious labors. In particular, Titus was working together with Paul in bringing the Corinthians to maturity, and in the gathering of the offering they had pledged.
There are a couple of things that are seen in this expression. First, what Paul was doing was evident, else this word would have no significance. Second, the work of Paul was of such magnitude, and was characterized by such uniqueness, that anyone participating in it was to be sanctioned as a true servant of the Lord.
God be praised that there is a work in Christ that is so noble, so glorious, so thoroughly identified with God, that anyone engaged in that work becomes commendable because of it. It appears to me that there is a certain obligation laid upon every believer to become associated with a work that is bringing proper glory to the Lord. If the knowledge of that kind of involvement is sufficient to qualify and recommend a person, it is plain enough that we have a solemn obligation to become involved in some noble kingdom effort. It is thoroughly uncomely to become a part of a cold and lifeless institution or sterile religious movement.
It also ought to be noted that Paul’s explanation of Titus’ suitableness for the work would not be received by the modern church. That simply means the modern criteria for kingdom service is wrong.
“ . . . they are the messengers of the churches . . . ”
“Our brethren” are the two anonymous workers that are accompanying Titus. And how is it that Paul will answer those who inquire about them? Will he cite some of their institutional achievements, or perhaps their academic credentials?
Messengers of the Churches
Other versions read, “representatives of the churches,” NIV “deputed messengers of assemblies,” DARBY “apostles of the churches,” NAB “emissaries of the churches,” NJB “delegates from the churches,” WEYMOUTH and “the [special] messengers of the churches.” AMPLIFIED
The early churches chose godly men for godly tasks. In Acts 6:5, the church chose “seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). In Acts fifteen, it pleased “the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.” These were described as “men that have hazzarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:22,25). When Paul “chose Silas,” and embarked on a work, they were “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” (Acts 15:40).
Thus the body of Christ was obviously acquainted with what the Lord was doing, and the kind of men that were to be employed in that good work. It was therefore sufficient to cite the mind of the churches toward these two men, and how they were trusted to do God’s will.
The Glory of Christ
“ . . . and the glory of Christ.” Other versions read, “a glory to Christ,” an honor to Christ,” NIV “they are the glory of Christ,” ASV “Christ’s glory,” DARBY “They are splendid examples of those who bring glory to Christ,” NLT “men in whom Christ is glorified,” WEYMOUTH “will bring glory to Christ,” WILLIAMS and “a credit and glory to Christ (the Messiah).” AMPLIFIED
These men were not held forth as giving certain advantages to a human institution. They would not promote a sectarian cause. The result of their labors would be the glorification of Christ. That is, as a result of their work Christ Jesus was made more prominent in the eyes of men. His great salvation, and what it was intended to do, was perceived with greater clarity because of their efforts.
For some time I have noted with increasing concern that the modern church sheds very little light on the person of Christ. The result of its activities has done little more than throw the shroud of ignorance upon the people. Ponder how very little is known of Christ and His work within the average church. Here are some areas in which very little general knowledge exists within the common churches.
☛ The revealed objective of salvation (Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:17-20; 3:15-20; Col 1:9-11; Heb 13:21).
☛ The accomplishments of Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14,20,22; Heb 2:14; 10:14) .
☛ The glory of an “eternal inheritance” (Eph 1:11,14; Col 1:12; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4).
☛ What Jesus is presently doing (Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 4:15; 7:25; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).
☛ The nature and effectiveness of the New Covenant (Gal 3:17; 2 Cor 3:6-18; Heb 8:8-13). .
☛ God’s “eternal purpose” (Rom 8:28; 9:11; Eph 1:11; 3:11;; 2 Tim 1:9).
☛ The logic behind having the treasure of the knowledge of God in an earthen vessel (2 Cor 1:9-10; 3:5; 4:7-11; 2 Thess 1:5).
☛ How God goes about maturing His people (Eph 3:16-20; 4:11-16; Phil 2:12-13; Heb 13:21; 1 Pet 5:10).
☛ The role of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of men (Rom 5:5; 8:13; 2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:5, 22-25; 2 Tim 1:14; 1 Pet 1:22).
☛ The role and necessity of edification (Rom 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor 14:12,26; Eph 4:12,16,29; 1 Thess 5:11; 1 Tim, 1:4).
☛ The reasoning behind separation from the world (Acts 2:40; 2 Cor 6: 14-7:1; 1 Pet 2:11).
☛ The resurrection of the dead (Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 5:1-5; Eph 1:14; Phil 3:11).
Christ is not glorified by the efforts that have produced this situation! Any work claiming to be of God that results in this kind of ignorance cannot possibly be from Him, and therefore it can bring no glory to Christ. In order for Christ to be glorified as God intends, the people must become involved in what He is doing. Men must in some way be better prepared for the coming of the Lord and the day of judgment. If it is true that the Lord “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24), then our efforts must contribute to that end. If the Divine objective is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), and change us into His likeness from one increasing stage of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18), how can any work possibly be from God that does not contribute to this end?
For someone to be “a glory to Christ,” there must be some association between what they are doing and what Jesus is presently doing. You may also be sure of this, that Jesus is working in strict accord with the revealed purpose of God, which purpose relates specifically to where and how men will appear AFTER the passing of the present heavens and earth.
Those who contribute to Christ’s glory are doing a work that impacts upon the eternal destiny of men, and the eternal glory of Christ. For that cause the Lord supports them in their work, providing resources and strength.
SHOWING THE PROOF OF YOUR LOVE
“ 24 Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.”
Paul will now show that real kingdom laborers are to be received and loved by those to whom they minister. When men and women of God seek the welfare of His people, and bring certain advantages to them, it is to be duly recognized. If God “is not unrighteous to forget their work of faith and labor of love” (Heb 6:19), how can any mortal be justified in forgetting such activities? Will God really support and uphold someone who despises those whom He honors? Is there a thinking person in this world willing to support such an absurd postulate? And yet, this condition exists all around us, just as surely as it did in Paul’s day. There are people who are bringing glory to Christ in the presence of people who think little or nothing of them doing such a thing. It is no wonder that Paul admonished the church, “we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess 5:13).
Paul has acquainted the Corinthians with the spiritual caliber of the men he is sending to them. Now, he urges them to respond appropriately to them – in keeping with Christ’s agenda.
SHOW TO THEM AND BEFORE THE CHURCHES
“Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches . . . ” Other versions read, “Therefore openly before the churches,” NASB “show these men . . . so that the churches can see it,” NIV “show unto them in the face of the churches,” ASV “Make clear then to them, as representatives of the churches,” BBE and “So give proof before the churches.” NAB
There are two things to be accomplished here. First, there is something that is to be seen by the men being sent to Corinth. Second, there is to be a clear demonstration of genuine spiritual qualities before the churches. The primary reference to “the churches” is probably the ones who recommended these men, sending them forth to do the work of the Lord.
It is most essential in our day that professing believers take hold of this principle. Those who labor for the Lord are to behold in the people evidences of the life of God. It is also necessary that the churches perceive in other bodies of believers traits that tend to stir up thanksgiving, and provoke to love and good works.
This kind of thinking is not common in our time. This is largely owing to the dreadful effects of sectarianism and carnality. The church has become so identified with the world that scarcely a Divine trait can be found in it. For this reason men have invented their own approval-lists, and will only bestow honor upon those who serve that agenda. How numerous are servants of God who labor under the wave of neglect and even abuse from the very people to whom they have been sent! They must not allow such conditions to move them to imagine that their labor is vain in the Lord. God will duly recompense them for their faithfulness. Those who failed to appreciate them will be dealt with appropriately.
THE PROOF OF YOUR LOVE
“ . . . the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” Other versions read, “So give proof . . . of your love and of our boasting about you to these men,” RSV “Make clear then to them . . . the quality of your love, and that the things which we have said about you is true,” BBE and “the reality and plain truth of your love (your affection, goodwill, and benevolence) and what [good reasons] I had for boasting about and being proud of you.” AMPLIFIED
The Proof of Your Love
Real love for the brethren can be demonstrated, or clearly displayed. Thus John exhorted, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Love is not something that is confined to speaking, speculation, and some moral code. To hear some people talk, you would think it is enough to affirm we ought to love one another. But that is not enough. Knowing what we ought to do is, at the very best, a very meager beginning. In fact, if not translated into living, that is the kind of knowledge that will mandate severe judgment. That is why Jesus said, “And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). James adds, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
In this case, the “proof of your love” refers to the Corinthians’ love for Paul himself, Titus, and the two brethren with them. It also referred to their general love of the brethren, as would be made known by their generous contribution to the saints in Jerusalem. It would also confirm their love for the churches who had recommended these brethren. Additionally, and of primary importance, it would confirm their love for God and Christ, and for the causes in which They were employing believers.
Does love really need to be proved, or confirmed by our conduct? Indeed it does, for a love that cannot be shown is no love at all, but only pretense.
And Of Our Boasting
Paul had spoken in a becoming way of the advancement of the Corinthians. Titus and the brethren with him had received his words, and in his previous trip Titus had witnessed their growth himself. Paul had written of his boast of the Corinthians: “For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth” (2 Cor 7:14). However, boasting that is not supported by confirming conduct is only a source of shame.
It is to be expected that when a good word is spoken concerning God’s people, they themselves are to confirm that word in their conduct and manners. For example, I have often heard someone speak of an outstanding preacher. Upon hearing him, however, I saw nothing outstanding at all, but went away in great disappointment. The same is true of a report of someone who has a profound love for the brethren. That love should be very obvious to those who come in contact with them.
Some might imagine that Paul should not have been so concerned about his boasting of the Corinthians not being confirmed in their conduct. After all, some surmise, they were only men, and we should not be disappointed when they come short of noble expectations. But, is that really a sound way of thinking? If our sinful condition is described as “coming short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), precisely in what sense can coming short ever be condoned or overlooked as something innocent or unintentional? How important is it when someone showing evidence of new life, thus causing rejoicing in the saints, only to quickly lapse back into his own ways? What of godliness that is not sustained? What of good works that soon disappear? What about those who make fine starts and miserable finishes? Is there anyone who thinks God is honored by this?
It is very proper to exhort the people of God to measure up to the good things that are said of them – to live so as to justify comely reports of them. Believers are admonished to think upon things that “are of good report” (Phil 4:8). That includes words of commendation concerning the people of God. Such encouraging thoughts are not to be interrupted by the conflicting report of uncomely responses and manners among those concerning whom they have heard good things. Ponder how it has impacted upon the lives of millions of believers to read words like, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim 4:10). Or, consider how the heart is wrenched when it reads, “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry” (Acts 1:16-17). The names of such souls are written upon our hearts “with the point of a diamond” (Jer 17:1) – a solemn reminder that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). Such names become a reminder of what we do not want to be, and what we are to give diligence to avoid. It brings no glory to God to be noted as an example of what we are not to be!
Should you live long enough to have some good thing said about your life in Christ, see to it that you do not stain that report with a departure from the Lord and a zeal for His work. If some have noted your progress in the Lord, and have spoken of your diligence in a commendable way, do not disgrace the name of the Lord and discourage the hearts of God’s people by falling from your own steadfastness. Are we not told, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet 3:17). Why should you ever be noted for such a fall?
If someone has pointed out your renewed hunger for the Word, or obvious desire to be with the saints, or the loosing of your tongue for the glory of God, you are obligated to justify the report, and not bring shame upon those who gave it.
Do not think that this is all nothing more than pontificating, or voicing a private opinion. This is precisely why Paul has written to the Corinthians, admonishing them to carry through with their resolves. Good things have been said about them. Their zeal had even provoked many to engage in more hearty efforts for the Lord. Now, he has called upon them to see to it that these reports not be a source of reproach.
We have dealt with a very practical text – one that confirms that godly resolves are to be kept, and spiritual advances are to be maintained, and even increased. We are not to allow ourselves to be distracted from fulfilling holy resolutions, or bringing to a god-glorifying conclusion noble determinations. Nothing that is resolved for God is to be taken lightly, or treated as though it was only incidental. Determinations to do something for the glory of God are seriously viewed from heaven, and are to be assiduously entered into by those making them.
When some evidence of progress is perceived, we are not to allow it to die, or ourselves to lapse back into old and unprofitable manners. Our spiritual lives are not to be noted for brief and occasional involvements in the good and acceptable will of God. Our spiritual expressions are not to be unusual, infrequent, and surprising to those who hear them. There is far too much of this kind of thing among professing believers. Too many are noted for sputtering starts that soon fizzle and die out.
There is a reason for the frequency of such things. Unfortunately, there is a religious culture around us that leads people to believe this is normal. Very few “Christian” environments challenge the people to be consistent, persistent, increasing, and advancing in the faith. In fact, much of the agenda of the modern church is tailored to actually promote unfaithfulness – even though it is often done in ignorance. Precisely what godly virtues are promoted by infrequent and brief gatherings? What is the effect of shallow preaching, philosophical religious discussions, and the presentation of religious entertainment? What kind of impact is registered upon the human spirit when spiritual novices are in a place of leadership, dictating what and how we sing? Exactly what is cultured by the absence of edification? An environment in which Christ is not evident will not yield robust believers!
Also, all believers must show diligence to keep themselves out of the environment from which the Lord delivered them. It is thoroughly wrong to return to the domain from which one was delivered, asking the Lord to do some great work in it. Our reasoning must incorporate this perspective in order that the word of God not be blasphemed by our enemies. Our surroundings must be conducive to godliness.