The Epistle of Second Corinthians
Lesson Number 42
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
PAUL’S PREACHING POSTURE
“ 10:14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: 15 Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, 16 To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. 17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” (2 Cor 10:14-18)
I have come to regard Paul’s defense of his apostleship, and the manner in which it was carried out, with a different mindset. I have found that the extended exposure of the heart and mind to Paul’s defense sheds light on our contemporary religious situation. I am astounded that I did not see this relationship with greater clarity before this. But now I have seen it, and must declare it as best I can. I do this knowing that I may very well be misunderstood.
A number of the situations of the early church have been remarkably duplicated in the church of our time.
☛ There are churches that have left their “first love” like the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:4).
☛ There are churches who tolerate false and damaging teaching like the church at Pergamos (Rev 2:14-15).
☛ There are churches who, like Thyatira, permit false teachers to flourish among their people, like Thyatira (Rev 2:20-23).
☛ There are churches who have a name that they are alive, yet they are really dead, Like Sardis (Rev 3:1).
☛ There are churches who boast themselves of having everything, yet they are lukewarm, have nothing, and are on the verge of being vomited out of Christ’s mouth, like Laodicea (Rev 3:16-17).
☛ There are churches who have an inveterate tendency to Law, like the Galatians (Gal 3:2-24; 5:4).
☛ There are churches who, like Thessalonica, have an inadequate understanding of the second coming of Christ (1 Thess 4:13-18).
☛ There are churches who, like Colossae, are being disrupted by philosophy, deceit, and the tradition of men (Col 2:8).
It is possible to view these, and similar, conditions and consider them to be the normal state of the church. In fact, that is precisely how they are often viewed. Thus, the wayward conditions found in them actually become a convenient explanation for similar things found within the modern church. There is no sense of their absolute seriousness, and their utter abhorrence by the God of heaven. Owing to my past institutional associations, I myself was afflicted from time to time with this completely erroneous view.
The fact that these flawed conditions are dealt with forthrightly is confirmation that they are totally unacceptable. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus did not make Jesus more tolerant of sin, imperfection, and general spiritual insensitivity. Who is the person who would dare to defend such a view? Yet this misconception is subtly being perpetrated among believers with remarkable consistency.
Many are the times I have heard, what men thought to be, sterling defenses of the miserable state of the church. Their presentations would go something like this. “Even though the Corinthians had a lot of failures among themselves, Paul still addressed them as ‘saints,’ ‘the church of God,’ and being ‘in Christ Jesus.’” Precisely what is intended by such explanations is not clear to me, nor have I ever heard an extended exposition of them. Statements like this are rarely, if ever, attended by any sound explanation or reasoning. They are affirmed as though they were self-evident.
However, there are other ways of looking at these things. Perhaps Paul was really writing to those who were in Christ, then, through his various reproofs and corrections, encouraging the people to assure themselves that they were actually in that number. Of course, that is his precise approach to the Corinthians themselves. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor 13:5). There you have two differing conditions: (1) Jesus Christ being in you, and (2) being a reprobate, or a reject. Speaking by inspiration, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to engage in an effort to determine which category describes them.
I do not believe it is possible to defend the presence of carnality among the people of God. Rather than explaining the presence of unacceptable conditions, we are engage in an effort to rid ourselves of them. That, of course, is the reason for the following exhortations.
☛ “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).
☛ “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7).
☛ “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor 6:17).
☛ “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph 5:14).
☛ “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).
☛ “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet 2:1).
While it is evident that these conditions surfaced within the church, it is not true that they were in any way acceptable. The church was to rid themselves of their presence, and in Christ they were provided with the resources to do precisely that. The church who fails to carry out these mandates is disobedient. The “standing” of such people with God is not to be taken for granted. While it is not our prerogative to consign them to perdition, neither is it within our rights to assume they are “in Christ” while they bear marks of not being in him. We are, therefore, to do precisely what Paul is doing with the Corinthians – pressing them to rid themselves of traits that contradict the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.
THE ACCEPTANCE OF PAUL
I have also come to see that Corinth was not the last church that questioned Paul’s ministry even twisting his teachings. In our day, the rejection of Paul is more subtle. Officially, he is recognized by the professing church, and his epistles are acknowledged as inspired, and part of the Scriptures. However, when it comes to practicality, the modern church is conducting itself as though Paul was not the apostle to the Gentiles, was not inspired, and was not sent by Christ to expound the great mysteries formerly hidden to the sons of men.
There are several matters that Paul expounded in a most unique manner. Yet, on these subjects there remains an astounding measure of ignorance within the professed church. Were you to ask the average church member, and even a great number of “Christian” teachers and leaders, what Paul taught on the following subjects, you would be met with glassy-eyed stares and speechlessness.
☛ The totally corrupt state of men (Rom 1:10-3:19).
☛ The imputation of righteousness (Rom 1:16-18; 3:21-26; 4:1-22; 5:17-18,21; 2 Cor 5:21).
☛ Justification (Rom 3:24; 4:2,25; 5:1,9; 8:30; Gal 2:16-17; 3:11,24).
☛ The comparison of Christ with Adam, and the effect they have upon all their progeny (Rom 5:12-19).
☛ The conflict between good and evil that rages within the believer (Rom 7:14-25).
☛ The role of the Holy Spirit in redemption (Rom 8:1-27).
☛ The role of Israel, and God’s commitment to them (Rom 9-11).
☛ The resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection body (1 Cor 15:20-56; 2 Cor 5:1-5).
☛ The necessity of personal purity and separation (2 Cor 6:14-7:1; Eph 5:11; 2 Tim 3:1-5).
☛ What was involved in the Savior coming into the world, and its bearing upon how we think (Phil 2:5-13).
☛ The true motive for living unto the Lord (Phil 3:7-17).
☛ What happened when Jesus took away the sins of the world (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13).
☛ The difference between being justified by works and justified by faith (Rom 3:28; 4:2; Gal 2:16; 3:11,24).
☛ What it means to be “dead with Christ” (Rom 6:1-8; Col 2:20-23).
☛ What it means to be “risen with Christ” (Rom 6:4; Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1-3).
☛ What God is doing in salvation (Rom 8:29-30; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:10; 2:7; 3:10-11; 5:26-27).
☛ What is to take place within the church (Eph 1:15-20; 3:15-20; 4:11-16; Col 1:9-11).
This will suffice to establish the point I am making, although many additional things could be cited that were opened by Paul. My point is that there is a prevailing ignorance concerning these things within the professed church. The matters with which they are concerned bear no similarity to these. Their attention has been diverted to things relating to this world, time, and our experiences in the body. Earthly relationships have been exalted above spiritual ones. Worldly possessions have been emphasized rather than those residing in the heart.
However, in order to engage in such emphases, you must neglect Paul – and remember, he is the appointed Apostle to the Gentiles. You cannot subject your mind to the expressions of Paul and arrive at the prevailing conclusions that are being perpetrated within the modern American church.
Take, for example, the heath and wealth movement. You cannot buttress this line of teaching with the writings of Paul. You must go to the writings of Moses to do so – and even then, you must ignore WHY such promises were made to Israel, as well as the fact that they never experienced them. Consider the “great commission” thrust that is found in preaching addressed to the church. Can you establish this emphasis with Paul’s writings? And remember, all of his epistles were addressed to those who are in Christ Jesus. What of the emphasis on family relationships, or the centrality of the family unit. Can you use Paul’s writings to establish this as an emphasis, or major point?
Understand, I am not saying that Paul is the only one through whom God has spoken to us, for that is emphatically NOT the case. However, he is one of the primary individuals through whom He has spoken to the church. Yet, his writings are virtually unknown within the modern church. If you doubt that this is the case, indulge yourself in an effort to confirm that his writings are well known among believers, and document your findings.
I have come from a background where, on the subject of justification, men preferred what James said to what Paul said – even though they did not have the faintest understanding of either man. Both were inspired, but they were not both addressing justification from the same perspective. James was rebuking people who said they were saved, yet whose lives contradicted their claim. Paul was anchoring believers in the truth and verity of justification. Yet, those with whom I had companied chose to base their theology upon James and ignore the affirmations of Paul – even though James was rebuking and Paul was establishing.
Now, all of this is intended to show that Paul is being treated today just as he was in Corinth. Further, it is just as serious for him to be ignored now as it was then. Therefore, as we view his words, let us think of them as being addressed to people who have ignored what he has said. Consider them as being written to people who have access to his writings, yet pay no heed to them. Think about his words as being written to people who say they are saved, yet have the marks of the world upon them, are ignorant of the deep things of God, and are basically unacquainted with the things God revealed to Paul.
I will tell you that it will significantly alter the way you read his letters – whether to Corinth, Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, or the Thessalonians.
WE STRETCH NOT OURSELVES
Paul will now buttress what he has said about the total inappropriateness of ministers commending themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves. Although these are regularly practiced among men, they are by no means acceptable to God. Further what is not accepted by God will finally be exposed by Him. Such things done by those who “walk in darkness” (John 8:12; 12:35). Such things cannot be dignified, for they contract the nature of God Himself, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and the thrust of salvation. God has ruled them out of all of His work, and there is no way that they can be brought into it. As soon as men engage in such activities, they are exempted from Divine service.
Paul will show that he has zealously avoided the fleshly tendency to commend self, measure ones person, and compare one’s effectiveness, to mere human standards. These traits are the offspring of sectarianism, which thrives on corrupt commendation, meager measurements, and capricious comparisons. He has already said he did not “dare” to make himself of “the number” who do such things. He refused to be a part of the clique. But what did he actually DO? How did he go about his ministry? We will see that his spiritual approach to the good work of the Lord simply made no provisions for the vain practices to which he alluded. He knew that as soon as he indulged in those worldly practices, his ministry would come to a grinding halt. God does not allow His servants to borrow from the cursed realm to do a blessed work. Those who imagine that they have successfully done such a thing have only been deceived. It is not possible to mix righteousness with unrighteousness, light with darkness, Christ with Belial, a believer with an infidel, or the temple of God with idols (2 Cor 6:14-16). It is not that such things should not be done, but that they cannot possibly be done.
WE STRETCH NOT OURSELVES
“ 10:14a For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure . . . ” Other versions read, “not overextending ourselves.” NKJV “not going too far in our boasting,” NIV “not overstepping our limits,” NRSV “stretch not ourselves overmuch,” ASV “have no need to make ourselves seem more than we are,” BBE “not going too far, NLT “no undue stretch of authority on our part,” WEYMOUTH “not overstepping the limits of our province and stretching beyond our ability to reach,” AMPLIFIED and “do not exceed our duty.” PHILLIPS
The limit that is imposed upon us is the ministry we have been assigned, or the position into which God has placed us (1 Cor 12:18). The general responsibility of man is to seek the Lord, striving to know Him and be aware of His good and acceptable will. Thus it is proclaimed, “And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes), So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us” AMPLIFIED (Acts 17:26-17).
Those who set themselves to fulfill any other priority have, by that very activity, stretched themselves beyond their limits. Every other vocation must be made subordinate to this primary aim, else life will be lived in vain, regardless of appearance.
Once the Lord is found, the finder moves up higher, to a class of activity that has eternal ramifications. Once a person has been “added to the church” (Acts 2:47), and has been “joined to the Lord” (2 Cor 6:17), the individual is to mature in the assignment made to him. For Paul, that was being a “preacher, and an apostle,” and “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim 2:7). For Timothy, it was doing “the work of an evangelist,” and fulfilling his “ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). For men like Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, it was using use “the office of a deacon well” and to “purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith” (Acts 6:5; 1 Tim 3:13). There were men who were exhorters (Rom 12:8a), comforters (Acts 4:36), those who can oversee (Rom 12:8b), and those who wisely and effectively administer mercy (Rom 12:8c).
Divine placement in the body of Christ is not an experiment. Further, there is no allowance for one extending himself beyond the perimeter assigned to him. That is why Paul wrote, “We will not dare to speak of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me” (Rom 15:18),“We will not boast of things without our measure” (2 Cor 10:13), and now, “we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure.” He strictly confined himself to those things for which He had Divine enablement.
HOW CAN WE TELL?
Tender souls wonder how they are able to tell, or discern, the sphere of activity to which the Lord has assigned them. At this point great care must be taken to avoid carnal systemization. We are living in a time when men tend to drift toward methodizing and organizing after the manner of the world. In such a case, great stock is placed on the method itself, as though there was some inherent power in a routine that can discover Divine assignments and heavenly intentions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Experience alone will confirm that God’s ways and will are not discovered by means of lifeless routines and monotonous performance.
The Knowledge of God
We know by revelation that “the knowledge of God” is the framework within which personal experience and awareness are ministered to the individual. This is a knowledge that comes from exposure to and involvement with the living God, both of which are accomplished by faith. Some statements regarding this knowledge are as follows.
☛ THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph 1:17)
☛ GRACE AND PEACE BROUGHT TO US. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet 1:2).
☛ EVERYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH LIFE AND GODLINESS. “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet 1:3).
☛ ESCAPING THE POLLUTIONS OF THE WORLD. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet 2:20).
Spiritual intelligence, and the ability to grasp the things of God cannot be experienced while being fundamentally ignorant of God. It is not possible to live in aloofness from the Lord and obtain copious measures of grace and peace. The Divine supplies that are necessary to maintain spiritual life and live after a godly manner cannot be obtained where there is no basic familiarity with God. It is impossible to avoid being drawn into this present evil and condemned world where one remains ignorant of God and Christ. Those who imagine that these things are not so, will themselves become a living commentary on their truth.
Permit me to state this as succinctly as I can, all the while acknowledging that this is a most difficult thing to elucidate academically.
As you become more knowledgeable of the Lord, acquainted with His purpose, and able to discern His will, He will show you aspects of His purpose that particularly relate to you. You will perceive yourself being drawn into activities that minister to the saints, and will be encouraged to personally engage in them.
The Lord directs His people from within the framework of Divine fellowship. It is as we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7), maintain “fellowship” with the Son (1 Cor 1:9), and “live in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25), that we will become aware of our position in, and ministry to, the body of Christ. In such a posture, you will be drawn toward certain kingdom activities, being inclined to do and say things among the saints. These will always be things in which you feel spiritually comfortable and fulfilled.
As you are experiencing the possession of things pertaining to life and godliness (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, strength, etc.), you will be drawn into activities related to your position in the body of Christ. The various graces that are brought to you through your faith will give you a sense of spiritual competence in certain activities.
Your experiential deliverance from this present evil world, hatred for sin, and longing for moral and spiritual purity will tune your inner man. You will become aware of things that need to be done, and will feel compelled to enter joyfully into the doing of them.
Faith is the sensitizing reality, and a holy walk is the domain in which the knowledge of reference will be ministered. It is found while in diligent pursuit of things that are above (Col 3:1,2) and a quest to “win Christ” (Phil 3:8). Paul himself is a sterling example of such a person (Phil 3:5-10). It is that circumstance that made him so keenly aware of his role in the body of Christ, moving him to stay within the boundaries that had been established for him. It ought to be apparent that those boundaries in no way restricted him. They were rather areas of liberty. He did not consider himself to be excluded from ministries into which he longed to enter.
Suffice it to say, it will be no different for you. In your measure, you will be directed by God in refreshing ways – ways that bring profit to the saints.
AS THOUGH WE REACHED NOT UNTO YOU
“ 14b . . . as though we reached not unto you . . . ” Other versions read, “as though our authority did not extend to you,” NKJV “as if we did not reach to you,” NASB “as would be the case if we did not come to you,” NIV “when we reached you,” NRSV “”as if our authority did not come as far as to you,” BBE “as though we have not attained unto you,” GENEVA “as though it did not extend to you,” WEYMOUTH and “as though we reached not (had no legitimate mission) to you,” AMPLIFIED and “when we embrace your interests.” PHILLIPS
Paul is saying that his keen interest in their spiritual welfare and progress, together with his forthright judgment of their condition, was not an over extension of what Jesus had called him to do. The general commission of Jesus to Paul involved being sent to the Gentiles.
Paul’s General Commission
☛ “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
☛ “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
☛ “And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).
☛ “And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee” (Acts 26:15-17).
☛ “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Rom 11:13).
☛ “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom 15:16).
☛ “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Gal 2:9).
☛ “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8).
☛ “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim 2:7).
☛ “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear . . . ” (2 Tim 4:17).
The commission of Paul to go to the Gentiles was thus made exceedingly plain. Jesus Himself appointed him to go to the Gentiles. The leading men of the early church (James, Cephas (Peter), and John, confirmed this was the case. His own conscience, bearing witness in the Holy Spirit, testified to the truth of his call. Therefore he submitted to it.
The Details of Paul’s Commission
The particulars of Paul’s call also mandated that he go to the Gentiles.
☛ “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).
☛ “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
☛ “But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20).
☛ “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23).
☛ “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28).
☛ “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy . . .” (Rom 15:9).
☛ “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom 15:16).
☛ “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed” (Rom 15:18).
☛ “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph 3:4-6).
☛ “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
☛ “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim 1:11).
☛ “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Tim 4:17).
Paul’s Success Among the Gentiles Confirmed This Was His Work
Paul’s success among the Gentiles also confirmed that he was, in fact, sent by Jesus Christ to them.
☛ “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12).
☛ “And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry” (Acts 21:19).
☛ “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor 9:1).
☛ “For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thess 2:20).
☛ “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col 1:5-6).
Everything Paul said and wrote was well within the boundaries of his general calling, and his specific commission. He had not departed one whit from what Jesus had sent him to do.
It seems to me that it requires an enormous amount of carnality and dulness of heart to even imagine Paul was extending himself beyond his appointed role in the Kingdom of God. Those who charged him with such folly could not possibly have been honest or sincere. Those who reject obvious evidence are wholly lacking of integrity, all of their claims notwithstanding.
In the flesh, man’s tendency is to overstate his imagined freedom, as though he was under no obligation to anything outside of his own carnal opinion. But this is not true – not even in the most minuscule sense. No person, regardless of seeming attainments, is at liberty to reject a word from God, or a messenger that has been sent by him. Also, no person is free to ignore the position in which God has placed him, or bury the talent that has been given to him. I do not believe these things are generally acknowledged by the professing church. A lot of what I see, much to my own heartbreak, is nothing more than self and flesh parading itself while wearing tattered and profitless religious garb.
COMING PREACHING THE GOSPEL
“ 14c . . . for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ.” Other versions read, “For it was to you that we came with the Gospel of Christ,” NKJV “for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ,” NASB “for we did get as far as you with the Gospel of Christ,” NIV “we were the first to come all the way to you with the good news of Christ,” NRSV “we were the first to travel all the way to you with the Good News of Christ,” NLT and “for it was our preaching of the Gospel that brought us into contact with you.” PHILLIPS
Luke provides the account of Paul first coming to Corinth. He was not on a sight-seeing tour, but was engaged in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Following his experience in Athens, where he was “mocked” when he spoke of “the resurrection of the dead,” Paul had “departed from among them.” A few noble souls joined him and believed, including “Dionysius the Areopagite” (a member of the court held on Mars Hill), “a woman named Damaris, and others” (Acts 17:32-34). The general lack of reception, however, did not justify remaining there. Thus, he “departed from Athens and came to Corinth” (Acts 18:1).
Upon arriving in Corinth, he found “Aquila” and “his wife Priscilla,” who were in that area because Claudius “had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome” (Acts 18:2). Being themselves believers, Paul remained with them, working together with them in the making of tents, which was now his “craft,” or trade. Each Sabbath day he reasoned in the synagogues, persuading “the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4). It was almost always Paul’s manner to go into the synagogues, beginning his ministry among the Jews (Acts 9:20; 13:5,14,15,42; 14:1; 17:1,10,17; 18:4,7,19, 26; 19:8). I have often wondered why so very little is said of this particular manner of Paul.
After reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath, Silas and Timothy finally joined Paul from Macedonia. At that point, Paul was “pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” His message was not received by the Jews, but they “opposed him and blasphemed.” NKJV In response to their conduct, Paul “shook his raiment, and said unto them, ‘Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” He then departed and “entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus,” who “worshiped God” and lived “next door to the synagogue.” NKJV It was at that point that “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all of his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.”
It was at this juncture that the Lord spoke to Paul “in the night by a vision,” saying: “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Paul then “continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:5-11).
Thus, Paul’s contact with the Corinthians centered exclusively around his proclamation of the Gospel – “preaching the gospel of Christ.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “PREACH THE GOSPEL”
Paul does not say that he preached the Gospel only at the first, but affirms that he was doing that same thing in his letters. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:2). Other versions read, “I make known to you,” NASB “I want to remind you,” NIV “Now I am going to make clear to you,” BBE and “I am reminding you.” NAB
The Greek word translated “declare” is Gnwri,zw (gno-rid-zo), and means “to make known,” THAYER “make known, reveal, declare,” FRIBERG “disclose,” UBS “to make known, point out, explain . . . make acquaintance with” LIDDELL-SCOTT Thus Paul “declared,” or “made known,” what he had before “preached” (euvhggelisa,mhn – yoo-ang-ghel-is-am-aan). It was not a different message, but the same one. In summary, it was the fact of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor 15:3-8). However, both the preaching of the Gospel and its declaration involved more than the mere iteration of the facts. That declaration involved making known that Christ, took away the sins of the world (John 1:29), reconciled the world to God (2 Cor 5:18-20), made peace (Col 1:20), destroyed the devil (Heb 2:14), plundered principalities and powers (Col 2:15), ever lives to make intercession for the saints (Heb 7:25), and has ended the Law as a means to righteousness (Rom 10:4). That is not to mention the fact that He was “made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21), and was “made a curse for us” in order that “the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles” (Gal 3:13-14). These facts are what cause the Gospel to be “good news.” What is more, they are facts that cannot be concluded by human reasoning. They must be declared, or affirmed, else they will not be known. Those who allege such proclamations are only for the unconverted are foolish, and do not know what they are talking about. They are caught up in profitless semantics, which bring no glory to God or edification to the saints.
The modern church has managed to muddy the waters concerning the involvements of “preaching the Gospel of Christ.” Some with whom I have been associated have gone so far as to say the Gospel is preached only to the lost, while the church is “taught.” Is this a proper assessment of the case?
When sin and indifference erupts in the church, it is because the Gospel has been forgotten, and is no longer “known” in a beneficial way. That is why the Gospel had to be declared again to the Corinthians. In their condition, the Gospel no longer had any relevance. That is why they felt at liberty to examine and even doubt the one who had first brought the Gospel to them.
Now, Paul affirms that the “measure” of grace and faith that had been given to him had very much to do with his present writing to the Corinthians. He had not left the role of a preacher to deal with them, but again proclaimed with great power the Gospel of Christ.
FAITH COMES BY HEARING
Solemnly we are told, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). And precisely what is the “word” that is heard? Does faith come to us through the Law of Moses, hearing the Levitical Law, or the ceremonial law? Does it come when we hear the words of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the Song of Solomon? There is certainly a sense in which these are surely all included in the term “the word of God.” Does faith “come” to us as we read the prophets upbraiding Israel for their waywardness. Or, perhaps, it comes to us through the various corrective teachings of the apostles. Is that really what the phrase means, “faith cometh by hearing?”
“Hearing,” in this case, has to do with an affirmation – a proclamation of settled realities. There are a variety of expressions in Scripture, and all of them are essential. Some of them are as follows.
☛ Affirmations. These are statements of verity, particularly regarding the Gospel, and what God has done in Christ for the salvation of the world.
☛ Exposition. This is the opening of the affirmations, showing their implications, and how they bear upon our participation in the grace of God.
☛ Exhortations. These are words designed to compel people to act upon the truth, bringing their lives into conformity with the will of God.
☛ Correction. This is designed to get people back into the area where they can hear Christ, be directed by the Spirit, and resume living into the Lord, who gave Himself for them.
☛ Instruction in righteousness. This is teaching particularly designed for babes. Through it the implications of truth are further delineated, defining proper human conduct in light of the salvation of God.
☛ Things written for our admonition. In this, things that occurred to others – particularly Israel – are held forth as an example of how God deals with men.
Faith comes through the affirmations, and edification through the exposition of the Gospel. All of the other forms of communication are designed to get people to the point where they can receive the word through which faith “comes.” Once that objective is achieved, edification can occur, and not until then.
In the passage declaring that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:4-17), Paul is speaking of the Gospel of Christ. That is the subject of preaching, and the message that is embraced by faith. Thus Paul speaks of believing on Christ, who is “the end of the law for righteousness” (10:4). This is the message that has to do with Christ coming down from above, going down into “the deep,” and rising again to ascend into heaven, from whence He came (10:6-8). This is the word that moved one to confess Christ with his mouth, and believe on Him in the heart (10:9-10). It is the word that moved Paul to add, “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom 10:11). It is the message that moved men to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Rom 12-13). This is the message that men must hear if they are to “believe” (10:14). It is the message that must be preached by one who is sent by God – “the gospel of peace,” and “glad tidings of good things” (10:15). When men respond in faith to this message, they are said to “obey the Gospel” and “believe the report.” If they do not respond appropriately to it, they are said to not “obey the Gospel,” or “believe the report” (10:16). Thus Paul concludes, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” NIV (Rom 10:17).
Who is it that does not know that the Gospel is the means by which faith comes to men? Who will dare to affirm that any other message is the means through which “faith comes?” We should consider such a person to be beside himself, and devoid of all understanding, for it is the Gospel of Christ, and the Gospel of Christ alone, that is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16).
What do you do when someone’s faith has waned, or they have cast it off (1 Tim 5:12), or made shipwreck of it (1 Tim 1:19)? What kind of message do you deliver to someone who has “denied the faith” (1 Tim 5:8), or has “departed from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1), or has “erred from the faith” (1 Tim 6:10)? Do you deliver some Solomonic proverbs to them, or cite the Law of Moses? Do you send them to one of the miserable counselors that have invaded the church? What do you do?
You do exactly what Paul did. You declare the Gospel to them again, for that is what they have forgotten! They have not remembered Jesus, and that is why they have sinned. They have ceased to ponder the “glorious Gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim 1:11). That is why they have fallen into sin. That is why they can speak against the person God sends, and conduct their lives as though there will be no end of time, or day of judgment!
Let us not be naive about such things! Men cannot look Jesus in the eye and keep on sinning, any more than Peter could do it keep on denying that he knew Jesus (Lk 22:61-62). If men insist in living in sin, yet “profess that they know God” (Tit 1:16), and love Christ (1 Cor 16:12), they have lied, and do not the truth. They have actually “forgotten” they were “purged” from their “old sins” (2 Pet 1:9), and have ceased to listen to Christ, for such conduct is never the result of learning Christ (Eph 4:20).
Paul was not sent out by Jesus to solve problems, organize churches, and teach the details of holy living. He was rather sent to “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith”that is in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18). And how is it that all of this would be accomplished? Paul said he was sent to “preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 1:17-18), for that is the means through which God has appointed to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:21-23). Paul told believers in Rome, where he had not been, that he was “ready to preach the Gospel” to them (Rom 1:15).
Paul was well within the boundary established for him when he preached the Gospel again to the Corinthians. They had drifted from it, and needed to hear the message again. Ponder how Paul has opened the Gospel, effectively expounding it in this Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
☛ The nature of the New Covenant that is sanctified by the blood of Jesus – 2 Cor 3:6-11.
☛ His forwardness to deliver the Gospel with clarity because of its nature and purpose – 2 Cor 3:11-16.
☛ The liberty that is realized through the belief of the Gospel – 2 Cor 3:17.
☛ The change that is wrought through believing the Gospel – 2 Cor 3:18.
☛ The new birth that is realized through Jesus Christ – 2 Cor 3:6.
☛ The constraining effects of Christ’s death – 2 Cor 5:14.
☛ The purpose for Christ’s death – 2 Cor 5:15.
☛ Christ’s reconciliation of the world through His death – 2 Cor 5:18-20.
☛ What actually occurred when Jesus died – 2 Cor 5:21a.
☛ The purposed effects of Christ’s death – 2 Cor 5:21b.
☛ The grace of Christ displayed in Him humbling Himself – 2 Cor 8:9
All of these references involved reasoning with the Corinthians concerning things they should have understood. Yet, because they had drifted from Christ, they were not able to think in concert with the Gospel. Therefore, their conduct was actually at variance with the Gospel they said they had embraced. They were living in contradiction of the New Covenant now being administered by Jesus. They had allowed sin in their assembly, even though it was the cause for Christ’s death. They had divisions among themselves, even though Christ died to bring them together. They had defiled the Lord’s table by failing to remember Him, and allowing themselves to be contaminated by the world. Christ was sacrificed to save them, but they were not sacrificing themselves for the brethren. Jesus had humbled Himself, but they had become proud, questioning the ambassador of Christ, and neglecting Christ’s brethren.
Thus Paul had to again minister to them, fulfilling his appointed office. He had to open their eyes, turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, It was again necessary for him to bring them to a point where they could receive forgiveness of sins, and the inheritance reserved for those who are sanctified by faith (2 Cor 6:15-7:1).
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
The Corinthian church provides an example of what can happen to a body of people when their eyes are turned inward, seeking their own will. It is possible for a people to end up allowing the very thing they once fled to Jesus to avoid. They can end up opposing the very person who brought the Gospel to them, and neglect the brethren into whose fellowship they were brought by grace. They can become factious, having divisions among themselves, even though it is strictly forbidden by the Head of the church, who is the Savior of the body.
The Gospel of Christ is of such magnitude that men never reach a point where it is no longer necessary to hear it. It is the means of bringing us to Christ in the first place. It is the means of recovering the ground that has been lost through sloven living. It is also the only consistently proper subject of exposition.
Should any other subject become the preferred basis of exposition, faith will at once begin to wane, for it can only be fed with a diet of the Gospel. If, for example, men choose to expound and emphasize the church, the family, how men are to live, or some other subject of preference, all of the ministrations of the grace of God will be reduced, and may even disappear altogether.
This ought to be very obvious. If God has chosen to speak to us through His Son, and if everything He gives to us comes through Him, then any message that does not have Christ as its center cannot possibly be used to God to save, edify, stabilize, comfort, or strengthen. If this is not exceedingly apparent, then time must be spent exposing the heart to the unvarnished declarations of the person, accomplishments, and ministry of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Only when the Gospel is expounded will sin be seen for what it is, becoming totally unreasonable and offensive. Only then will the world be seen for what it really it. Only then will exhortations to holiness make sense, and Divine provisions be seen as essential.
NOT BOASTING WITHOUT OUR MEASURE
“ 15a Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labors . . . ” Other versions read, “Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others,” NIV “Not taking credit to ourselves for what is not our business, that is, for the work of others,” BBE “not boasting out of measure in other people's labors,” DARBY “Nor do we claim credit for the work someone else has done,” NLT “It is not as though we were trying to claim credit for the work of someone else,” LIVING and “which brought us into contact with you.” PHILLIPS
This word is calculated to expose Paul’s critics. He is contrasting their conduct with his own. Paul did not intrude into other men’s legitimate labors. Elsewhere, he makes a point of this.
☛ “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation” (Rom 15:20).
☛ “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Cor 3:10).
☛ “But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you” (2 Cor 10:13).
This does not mean that Paul avoided ministering the truth of God in churches that were not the result of his own labors. He sent a lengthy epistle to the brethren in Rome, even though he had not been there at the time (Rom 1:7-13). He also wrote a telling epistle to the brethren in Colossae, who had never seen him, warning them of the suffocating effects of human philosophy and regimens (Col 2:1). Thus Paul did not avoid teaching those who were believers prior to the contact he made with them.
Paul’s sphere of labor involved opening men’s eyes, and turning them from unacceptable ways that gendered bondage. Wherever there were souls who required this kind of ministry, he was well within the circumference of his ministry to instruct and correct them. Therefore, he says here that he does not “boast of things without his measure.” That is, he will not take credit for something he did not do, or labors that he did not expend.
What had happened in Corinth was this: other professed teachers had entered the scene. They found a church already established and flourishing – the direct result of Paul’s labors. Yet, these intruders claimed the church for their own, as though it belonged to them. Before they were through, there were divisions among the Corinthians, with some identifying with Paul, others with Cephas, and still others with Apollos. Some had simply separated from all of the others, saying they were “of Christ” (1 Cor 1:12). These teachers had introduced doctrines that allowed for such things – perhaps even required them. Apparently, they had also allowed the entrance of people into the church that were actually of the world, and even promoted or encouraged the unequal yoking of believers with unbelievers.
It is often, if not always, the manner of false teachers and leaders to heap disciples to themselves (Acts 20:30). Most of the time, their efforts are directed toward professing Christians, There is a reason for this. All false teachers are operating under the auspices of the devil himself, for he is a liar and the father of lies. As Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). We know that Satan particularly targets those who are in Christ. He has launched a war against them. As it is written , “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 12:17). The perpetration of false doctrines within the Christian community is one of the chief ways in which this diabolical objective is fulfilled.
In this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul confirms that he is, in fact, addressing matters that had been caused by false teachers. Because we will deal with this passage at length, it will, suffice to only mention it here. “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. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor 11:5).
Paul is, therefore, not simply relating how he conducted his ministry. He is rather comparing his manner with that of the false teachers who had corrupted the Corinthian assembly. We know that Paul did not make a practice of preaching and teaching only those who had not been converted. All of his writings – all of them – are addressed to professed believers, and that without a single exception. We have numerous examples of him initiating his work within cities by beginning in synagogues, where there was belief in God, and often the solid expectation of a coming Messiah (Acts 9:20; 13:5,14,15,42; 14:1; 17:1,10, 17; 18:4,7-8; 18:19; 19:8). As mentioned before, he also had desires to minister among believers whom he had not yet met (Rom 1:11-12; Col 1:24-25). His purpose, however, was always to labor within the sphere of his commission – “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Eph 3:9-12). In this, he distinguished himself from those charlatans who corrupted the church with their defiling teachings.
No one who believed and embraced the message of Paul was led into a faction. Nor, indeed, were they made vulnerable to the devices of the devil, allowing immorality disinterest, or ill-treatment of the brethren to creep into their lives. The message and commission delivered to Paul did not produce such effects. His teaching and exhortations were always built upon the firm Foundation of Christ Jesus Himself.
If defections occurred in the people, it was because of the minimization of the message of the Gospel, or even a total departure from it. It was never the result of believing.
HAVING HOPE IN LABOR
“ 15b . . . but having hope. . . ” Other versions read, “but with the hope that,” NASB “”Our hope is that,” NIV “yet our hope is that,” NAB “Instead, we hope,” LIVING “but we entertain the hope,” WEYMOUTH “One the contrary, we cherish the hope,” ISV and “but we have the hope and confident expectation.” AMPLIFIED
When the laborer is working together with God (2 Cor 6:2), fellowshipping with Christ in his activities (1 Cor 1:9), and ministering the good news of the Gospel (Rom 15:16), the labor is attended by hope, or optimistic expectation. It is said of “charity,” which is one of the greatest abiding qualities in the Kingdom, that it “hopeth all things” (1 Cor 13:7). There is also a constraining persuasion that good things will come when the Gospel of Christ is believed, obtaining preeminence in the heart. Thus Paul said of glory of the New Covenant, “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor 3:9-12).
Frequently Paul expressed this kingdom optimism – the optimism of faith and hope. This was produced by a persuasion of the effectiveness of the Gospel. It is, in fact, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16) – salvation from its beginning to its conclusion, in its inception and in its advancement.
☛ “And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all” (2 Cor 2:3).
☛ “I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things” (2 Cor 7:16).
☛ “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” (2 Cor 8:22).
☛ “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be” (Gal 5:10).
☛ “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you” (2 Thess 3:4).
☛ “Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say” (Phile 1:21).
This confidence was not in the flesh – either that of Paul or those to whom he wrote. Elsewhere it is written, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). Paul knew that if the Corinthians embraced what he preached to them, they would fully recover from any setbacks they had experienced, and go on to perfection, as believers are admonished to do (Heb 6:1-6).
No such confidence can be stimulated by a mere routine. Close friendship cannot produce this kind of hope. It stems from the powerful Gospel that has been delivered to us, together with the New Covenant, which tends to increase in glory, through the Spirit producing an upward change in all who are within its glory (2 Cor 3:18). Couple that with the fact of the sweetness of the Gospel, and its transcendent message of Divine grace and glory, and you have every reason to hope for the best in those who receive it.
When, therefore, any degree of recalcitrance is found within the people, it is wholly owing to their failure to embrace the Gospel by faith. If it is true that the person who inevitably overcomes the world is “he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5), then the person who does not overcome the world, in some sense, does not believe that pivotal truth – a truth that can only be established by the Gospel. The Corinthian condition, therefore, involved much more than simply questioning the validity of Paul’s apostleship, and failing to gather the offering for the saints that they pledged.
WHEN YOUR FAITH IS INCREASED
“ 15c . . . when your faith is increased . . . ” Other versions read, “as your faith is increased,” NKJV “as your faith grows,” NASB “as your faith continues to grow,” NIV “as your faith increases,” NRSV “with the growth of your faith,” BBE “your faith increasing,” DARBY “your increasing faith,” DOUAY “when your faith shall increase,” GENEVA “your faith is increased among you,” TNT and “as your faith goes on increasing among yourselves.” MONTGOMERY
WHEN FAITH IS INCREASED
There are those who affirm that faith cannot increase. For them, faith is something static – like knowing that one and one is two. For such, faith is nothing more than the intellectual acceptance of a fact, and they cannot conceive of anything like that growing, advancing, or increasing. They are wrong in their persuasion – if, indeed, their view can even be dignified with the word “persuasion.”
What Is Faith?
Like many kingdom qualities, faith is difficult to define academically. It involves more than simple intellectual assent. In a classic statement concerning faith the Spirit witnesses, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Other versions read, “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” NASB “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” NIV “the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” DARBY and “NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, or the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” AMPLIFIED
Faith involves both the heart and the mind. It is not irrational, but impacts upon the realm of thought. Ponder the things that are used to describe or define faith. Substance, hope, evidence, assurance, NASB, conviction, NASB being sure, NIV being certain, NIV substantiating, DARBY confirmation, AMPLIFIED proof, AMPLIFIED perception, AMPLIFIED and reality. AMPLIFIED
The presence of faith presumes the individual has heard of wonderful things that cannot be seen. It postulates that those “things” are earnestly desired, and joyfully expected. There is a confidence of those things that cannot be shaken, accompanied by a fervent quest to obtain them. Faith involves some understanding of these things – a perception of their nature and reality.
When faith is initially received, there is a firm persuasion of the reality of God, Christ, and salvation. This is based upon the heralding of the message of the Gospel, which is seen as absolutely true. The reality of forgiveness, deliverance, and Divine acceptance is not questioned, even though they cannot be proved in the arena of flesh and blood.
By its very nature, faith compels a dramatic adjustment in the life of the one possessing it. There is a dominating conviction of the passing of this world and the soon appearing of the world to come. There is no doubt about the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the coming again of Christ, or our appearance before the throne of judgment. Whatever the degree of faith, or the amount of revelation, the soul who believes is moved to do something. If it is Noah, he is moved to “build an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb 11:7). If it is Abraham, he is moved to leave Ur of the Chaldees, head for the promised land, sojourn in it, and eventually take Isaac to offer him on a mountain in Moriah (Heb 11:8-9,17). If it is Moses, he will forsake Egypt, observe the Passover, lead the people out of Egypt, and through the Red Sea on dry land (Heb 11:27-29). If it is Joshua, he calls upon the people to walk around the walls of Jericho every day for six days, walk around them seven times on the seventh day, blow their trumpets, and shout (Heb 11:30; Josh 6:3-30).
You may be sure of this, faith always does something! It never does nothing! In order for faith to fail to move a person, it must be denied (1 Tim 5:8), departed from (1 Tim 4:1), cast off (1 Tim 5:12), or overthrown (2 Tim 2:18). If the work of faith is not found, it is only because faith is not present, for faith will not sit down, go to sleep, or quit. If it is kept, the person will be an overcomer – and that is without a single exception (1 John 5:4).
What Is Said About Faith
In the Word of God, there is a great emphasis placed on faith, and on the act of believing. Key responses are said to be “through faith.” These include the following:
☛ Being healed (Matt 9:22; Acts 3:16).
☛ Receiving the propitiation (Rom 3:35).
☛ Being justified (Rom 3:30; Gal 3:8).
☛ Receiving the promise of the Spirit (Gal 3:14).
☛ Being saved (Eph 2:8).
☛ Becoming wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15).
☛ Inheriting the promises (Heb 6:12).
☛ Understanding (Heb 11:3).
☛ Receiving strength (Heb 11:11).
☛ Keeping the passover (Heb 11:28).
☛ Subduing kingdoms (Heb 11:33).
☛ Obtaining a good report (Heb 11:39).
☛ Being kept by the power of God (1 Pet 1:5).
Considerable is also said to be “by faith.”
☛ Hearts purified (Acts 15:9).
☛ Sanctified (Acts 26:18).
☛ Living by (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38).
☛ Receiving the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22; Phil 3:9).
☛ Justified (Rom 3:22,30; 5:1; Gal 3:24).
☛ Having access into grace (Rom 5:2).
☛ Standing (Rom 11:20; 2 Cor 1:24).
☛ Walking (2 Cor 5:7).
☛ Receiving the promise (Gal 3:22).
☛ Being the children of God (Gal 3:26).
☛ Waiting for the hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5).
☛ Christ dwelling in the heart (Eph 3:17).
☛ Acceptable offerings (Heb 11:4).
☛ Enoch translated (Heb 11:5).
☛ Noah built the ark (Heb 11:7).
☛ Abraham went out when called (Heb 11:8).
☛ Abraham sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange land (Heb 11:9).
☛ Abraham offered up Isaac (Heb 11:17).
☛ Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau (Heb 11:20).
☛ Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph (Heb 11:22).
☛ Moses parents hid him, not fearing the king’s command (Heb 11:23).
☛ Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Heb 11:24).
☛ Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king (Heb 11:27).
☛ Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry land (Heb 11:29).
☛ The walls of Jericho fell (Heb 11:20).
☛ Rahab the harlot did not perish with Jericho (Heb 11:31).
There are also things said to be experienced “in faith.”
☛ Edifying (1 Tim 1:4).
☛ Teaching (1 Tim 2:7).
☛ Continuing (1 Tim 2:15).
☛ The young to be an example in (1 Tim 4:12).
☛ Holding fast the form of sound words (2 Tim 1:13).
☛ Being sound and uncorrupted (Tit 2:2).
☛ Dying (Heb 11:13).
☛ Praying (James 1:6).
Who can forget the manner of comments made about faith and its various levels.
☛ Strong in faith (Rom 4:20).
☛ Weak in the faith (Rom 14:1,19).
☛ Rich in faith (James 2:5).
☛ Little faith (Matt 6:30;8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Lk 12:28).
☛ Having great faith (Matt 8:10; Lk 7:9).
☛ Having no faith (Mk 4:40).
☛ Steadfast in the faith (1 Pet 5:9).
☛ Being full of faith (Acts 6:5,8; 11:24).
☛ Fully persuaded (Rom 4:21).
☛ Faith growing exceedingly (2 Thess 1:3).
☛ The law of faith (Rom 3:27).
☛ The spirit of faith (2 Cor 4:13).
☛ The hearing of faith (Gal 3:2,5).
☛ Joy of faith (Phil 1:25).
☛ The work of faith (1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:11).
☛ Breastplate of faith (1 Thess 5:8).
☛ Words of faith (1 Tim 4:6).
☛ Fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12).
☛ Full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22).
Things United with Faith
Ponder the things with which faith is united.
☛ Faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5).
☛ Faith and power (Acts 6:8).
☛ Faith and utterance, knowledge, diligence, and love (2 Cor 8:7).
☛ Work of faith and labor of love (1 Thess 1:3).
☛ Faith and charity (1 Thess 3:6).
☛ Faith and love (1 Thess 5:8; 1 Tim 1:14).
☛ Faith and a good conscience (1 Tim 1:19).
☛ Faith and verity, or truth (1 Tim 2:7).
☛ Faith and good doctrine (1 Tim 4:6).
☛ Faith and patience (Heb 6:12).
☛ Faith and being heirs (James 2:5).
☛ Faith and hope (1 Pet 1:21).
Anything of the magnitude of faith cannot possibly originate with man, or be something strictly and thoroughly controlled by the human will or any other created resource. That ought to be evident enough, yet, to many, it is not.
How could any perceptive person think of faith as a step in a procedural series of responses that are of equal value? What would lead any person to imagine that there was some deficiency in faith, so that it could be possessed without benefit? I understand that some are of the opinion that James does, in fact, affirm there is such a thing as profitless faith. Twice James states, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20,26). Does he mean that there is such a thing as “dead faith?” Indeed, this is not at all what James was saying. The point he is establishing is that faith invariably works, and that if a person says he has faith, yet does not do the works of God, that person have no faith at all. Their faith is no more faith than a dead body without a spirit is a person.
The Scriptures provide us with records and listings of people who were moved by faith to do this or that. However, they do not site a single person who had faith, yet was unpleasing to God, or did not obey Him.
Faith Comes to Men from God
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to establish that faith does “come” to us. It is not resident in us by nature, nor does it have its genesis in any human ability.
☛ Faith “comes” to us through the faculty of spiritual hearing, which also “comes” to us. As it is written, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). And again, “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Gal 3:23). And again, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal 3:25).
☛ God is said to “open” the door of faith, in order that men might believe. “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
☛ Men are said to believe through grace – which can only come from God. “And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27).
☛ It is “given” to men to be able to believe. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).
☛ We “obtain” faith – faith that is of the same kind as the Apostles themselves, though they obtained a different measure. “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:1). The NIV reads, “have received a faith as precious as ours.”
☛ The grace of God was abundant with faith. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:14).
☛ It is categorically stated that faith comes from God and Christ. “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 6:23).
INCREASING IN FAITH
Once it has been established that a person has faith (2 Cor 13:5), it is to be duly noted that it is to increase. A faith that does not increase cannot be sustained – it cannot remain static, or unchanged. This is because the New Covenant is one of continual upward change and transformation – “from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18), “strength to strength” (Psa 84:7), and “faith to faith” (Rom 1:17). Our minds are continually “renewed” (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23). The inward man is “renewed” day by day (2 Cor 4:16). The “new man” is “renewed in knowledge” (Col 3:10). Salvation itself is described as involving “the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5).
If it was possible for faith to remain in a fixed state, it would stand in contradiction of the thrust of the New Covenant and the nature of salvation. In such a case, the very means through which transformation is realized would contradict the salvation itself. Such things cannot be. Where there are people whose faith is not increasing, a most serious condition exists. Such a people are in conflict with the revealed purpose of God, which is to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). They stand in contradiction of the revealed work of the Spirit, which is to change us “from glory unto glory” (2 Cor 3:18). In such a case, many suppose that men grow by nature, but do not grow by grace. It is surmised that maturity is expected in the natural order, but not in the spiritual order. Suppositions like this, whether expressed or surmised, are utterly foolish – yea, more than that, they stand in opposition to what God has made known of His eternal purpose, and His great salvation by which men become involved in that purpose. The effects of salvation cannot contradict the salvation itself.
Increasing in faith
Paul reasons with the Corinthians upon the basis of the expectation that their faith will increase: “when your faith is increased.” The word “increased” is straightforward, and there should be no misunderstanding of its meaning. Academically, it means “to cause to grow, to augment . . . grow, increase, become greater,” THAYER “grow, spread, increase,” UBS “to increase, to grow, to spread, to extend,” LOUW-NIDA “to make large, increase, augment.” L,IDDELL-SCOTT
The word from which “increase” is translated is used numerous places in Scripture. Jesus spoke of the lilies of the field “growing” (Lk 12:27). John the Baptist said Jesus “must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Those in Christ are admonished to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). Jesus likened the Word of God to a “seed” which “increased” in the hearts of those who heard and understood it (Mark 4:8). Paul prayed that the church would be “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col; 1:10). This word is translated “bringeth forth fruit” in Colossians 1:6. First Corinthians 3:7 employs this word in declaring that it is “God that giveth the increase.”
Even in the English language, the meaning of the word “increase” is very apparent: “to become progressively greater (as in size, amount, number, or intensity).” MERRIAM-WEBSTER
Now, Paul refers to the expected increase, or growth, of the faith of the Corinthian brethren. In this, he is not expressing some unusual advance among them. He is rather seeking their restoration to a state of spiritual normalcy. That is one in which faith is increasing and growth is occurring. Spiritual life demands these traits, and cannot be sustained without them.
THE ENLARGEMENT OF THE MINISTER
“ 15d . . . that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly.”
In my judgment, this verse has been viewed with considerable difficulty. Many of the translations are very clumsy in their handling of the statement, and thus cause considerable confusion, making no sense at all. Not a few of the commentators, both from antiquity, as well as modern ages, have also glossed its meaning. I will consider this verse within the context of Divine purpose, and the manner in which the body of Christ is intended to function.
WE SHALL BE ENLARGED BY YOU
Other versions read, “we shall be greatly enlarged,” NKJV “we shall be . . . enlarged even more by you,” NASB “will greatly expand,” NIV “we shall be magnified in you,” ASV “we may get the credit for an increase,” BBE “to be magnified in you,” DOUAY “to be magnified by you,” GENEVA “our influence among you may be greatly enlarged,” NAB “we shall be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you,” NAU “our area of activity among you,” NIB “to grow greater and greater,” NJB “to be enlarged,” YLT “will increase,” IE “we shall gain promotion among you,” WEYMOUTH “enlarge our sphere of action among,” ISV “my work within my sphere may be so enlarged,” WILLIAMS and “our field among you may be greatly enlarged.” AMPLIFIED
The word “enlarged” is key to the understanding of this test. As is evident from some of the translations, some feel Paul is speaking of his reputation. Still others seem to say that he, particularly his teaching, will become more prominent among the Corinthians. Still others suggest Paul is saying that, when their faith is increased, he will be able to do more work among them. In my judgment, while there may be some element of truth in these views, they do not represent what Paul is saying.
The word “enlarged” does, indeed, mean to “magnify, make great, or make conspicuous.” STRONG’S Other lexical meanings are as follows: “enlarge . . . that his apostolic efficiency among the Corinthians may increase more and more and have more abundant results,” THAYER “to make great or powerful, to exalt, strength.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
Paul has already stated that his uniqueness does not lie in his natural abilities, eloquence, rhetorical skills, or fleshly leadership. That is why he did not come to them in such a manner. His approach was in accord with salvagion’s naure. He poignantly states the case in First Corinthians. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5).
In view of this, it is absurd to think that Paul was seeking to obtain a greater reputation among the Corinthians, for he had purposefully avoided speaking in a manner that would promote such a response. Why, then, would he now seek to be known in such a manner?
The conduct of the Corinthians had required that Paul deal with lesser matters – things that necessitated correction. While Paul did know how to perform this correction, he knew the power of God was not in a corrective message, but one of joyful affirmation. Let me remind you of what Paul had been commissioned to do. A declaration would be used to “open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18). Let me first state that corrective teaching such as had to be delivered to Corinth will not accomplish these objectives. It rather brings men back to the point where they can again profit from the Gospel message. Here is what Paul was given to see and commissioned to declare.
☛ “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor 1:17).
☛ “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8).
☛ “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9).
☛ “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10).
☛ “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Rom 11:13-14).
☛ “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom 15:16).
☛ “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:1-2).
☛ “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Gal 1:16).
☛ “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:28).
☛ “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Tim 1:11).
Are these the things that Paul was now free to declare to the Corinthians? Indeed, he was severely limited in what he could proclaim because of the condition of the Corinthians. Their state had actually restricted his ministry rather than enlarging it. They had drifted into a place where men cannot receive the good things Paul had been given to see. They had to be corrected, and led back within the circumference of hearing.
☛ 1 Corinthians 1:10-31 – The division in Corinth and how it contradicted the whole thrust of redemption.
☛ 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 – The folly of approaching the things of God through the wisdom of this world.
☛ 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 – The carnality of the Corinthians and how it clashed with the purpose of God.
☛ 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 – A defense of his apostleship to certain critics in Corinth.
☛ 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – Dealing with the fornicator in Corinth.
☛ 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 – Correcting the Corinthians for their involvement in taking their issues with one another before worldly judges.
☛ 1 Corinthians 6:8-20 – Showing the reason for the total unacceptability of fornication.
☛ 1 Corinthians 7:1-40 – Dealing with various issues relating to marriage.
☛ 1 Corinthians 8:1-10 – Dealing with issues that arose because some among them did not know God.
☛ 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 – Another defense of his apostleship.
☛ 1 Corinthians 10:1-33 – Teaching concerning the unacceptability of attempting to mingle the holy and the profane.
☛ 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 – Dealing with disorder and diversions in their assemblies.
☛ 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40 – Correction concerning the proper use of spiritual gifts, and the necessity and priority of edification.
☛ 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 – Correcting misconceptions concerning the resurrection of the dead.
☛ 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 – An exhortation to complete the gathering of the offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
Does anyone imagine that these are the things that Paul was sent to do?
To be sure, they did have to be done, but not because Jesus had commissioned Paul to do so. They were required because of the backward stance of the church in Corinth. Carnality within the church necessitated this kind of teaching and correction. In his teaching, Paul appealed to the Gospel itself, confirming that sin in all of its varied forms contradicts the Gospel, and excludes one from its benefits.
By being “enlarged,” Paul means he wants to get back to his real ministry, and open up the sanctifying elements of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. He had been shown things that made for edification, building up, spiritual growth, and conformity to the image of God’s Son. But there came a time when he was not able to deliver these nuggets to the Corinthians. Instead, he had to deal with the smallness of their faith, and the largeness of their flesh. He had to tell them not to be divided, be carnal, sue one another at the law, or be immoral!
Oh, there is a distracting nature in having to deal with problems among believers. Some people make a career of this sort of thing, but Paul was not seeking such a vocation! He was not sent to enable men to have a better life on earth, but to prepare them for ultimate life in the presence of the Lord! That is the thing Paul wanted to be “enlarged” – not his reputation or a high regard for himself, but the expansion of his ministry to declare Christ and the riches that are hidden in him.
ACCORDING TO OUR RULE ABUNDANTLY
Other versions read, “we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,” NKJV “enlarged even more by you,” NASB “will greatly expand,” NIV “may be greatly enlarged,” NRSV “unto further abundance,” ASV “the effect of our work,” BBE “according to our rule abundantly,” DOUAY “according to our line abundantly,” GENEVA “greatly enlarged, within our proper limits,” NAB “we shall be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you,” NAU “greater by this standard of ours,” NJB “according to our line – into abundance,” YLT “our work among you will be greatly enlarged,” LIVING “work among you will increase,” IE “still keeping within our own sphere – promotion to a larger field of labor,” WEYMOUTH “until it overflows,” ISV “be so enlarged as to run over,” WILLIAMS and “be greatly enlarged, still within the limits of our commission.” AMPLIFIED
ACCORDING TO OUR RULE
The phrase “according to our rule,” refers to the measure of faith Paul had received as the “apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13). He knew that when he stood before the Lord he was going to be judged as a steward of “the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1-2). He would be judged as one who was charged with opening men’s eyes, and turning them from the power of Satan unto God. His labors would be assessed from the viewpoint of what Jesus had called him to do. It is no different with you.
Paul’s overriding concern related to fulfilling his commission – to “make all men see” (Eph 3:9). If the Corinthians remained in their dreadful state, he would have wasted all of his labor there, for he was commissioned to “open men’s eyes.” If that did not happen, there was really no point to his ministry! If ignorance prevailed among those to whom he ministered, his ministry was an abysmal failure. The spiritually blind, and those who cannot see afar off bring no glory to Christ. They are a reproach to Him, for their condition contradicts the very nature of salvation and the reconciliation it effects.
The truth of the matter is that the church at Corinth was actually inhibiting the ministry of Paul – and he will confirm that in the next verse. Their carnality had forced him to deliver elementary teaching to them, all of which is easily seen when one believes the Gospel. It should not be necessary to instruct the church to be united, not be carnal, be considerate of one another, and not be immoral. Why should the church of the living God need to be told to conduct themselves properly at the Lord’s table, or to be considerate of believers who are babes? Why should it be necessary to declare and defend the fact that the dead will be raised, or that it is necessary to take up an offering for the saints that had already been pledged?
All of these things become necessary when the church does not grow, making advancement in the faith! They are necessitated when men are not being changed from glory unto glory by the Spirit of God. There is nothing about spiritual life itself that leads to a requirement for such teaching. It is rather the result of men living close to the earth and far from heaven. It comes when men neglect the Gospel and take up the wisdom of men. It is required when men begin living unto themselves, and not unto Him who died for them and rose again. If people will live by faith, they will not retrogress! If they will walk in the Spirit, they will not require continual correction! If they will walk in the light as He is in the light, a steady flow of spiritual problems will not surface in their lives.
In the present American church culture, it is possible for ministers to become acclimated to carnal congregations. They may even envision themselves as being called to correct congregational disorders. In such an environment, should the absence of glaring troubles occur, that absence can even be interpreted as proof of growth. Actually, however, it may also be a sign of lukewarmness or spiritual death. If spiritual life is not evident, then there is reason to question whether or not it even exists.
I can also cite my own experience with being limited by the stunted capacity of the hearers. When ministering outside of the confines of our own fellowship, I have consistently encountered a low spiritual IQ. In such surroundings, there are severe limitations. Great kingdom realities that have charged my spirit, ministering comfort and strength to my heart, rarely can be shared. It was this condition that moved the writer of Hebrews to say, “Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec, of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11).
Insightful men may, owing to their discouragement with the situation, be tempted to become accustomed to this flawed condition, bottling up their insights. However, if it is true that men are stewards of the insights they receive, then a way must be sought for them to be declared. That, in fact, is what Paul is affirming in this text.
PREACHING IN REGIONS BEYOND YOU
“ 16a To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you . . . ” Other versions read, “So as to preach the Gospel even to the regions beyond you,” NASB “so that we can preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you,” NIV “so that we can proclaim the good news in lands beyond you,” NRSV “So that we may be able to go on and take the good news to countries still farther away,” BBE “Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places that are far beyond you,” NLT “After that, we will be able to preach the Good News to other cities that are far beyond you,” LIVING “We want to tell the Good News in areas beyond where you are,” IE and “so that before long we shall be preaching the Gospel in districts beyond you.” PHILLIPS
Paul had spent a lot of time in correcting the Corinthian’s thinking and manners. Of itself, that might have appeared most noble – and, indeed, it was good for them to have their feet put on the right way once again. The complicating factor is that their lingering needs had straitened the ministry of Paul. He had not been sent to Corinth alone, yet he had to spend an inordinate amount of time with them because of their carnality and consequent spiritual obtuseness.
There are at least two things to see here, and they have to do with the decided advantages of “mutual faith.” Being a faithful steward involves being advantaged by the body of Christ as well as ministering to it. There is a certain synergy within the body of Christ. And it is there by Divine purpose – each member assisting the other in their designated function.
CORINTH HELPED BY PAUL
Paul had a very real minister to the brethren in Corinth. That is why he was investing so much of himself in them. He wanted to leave them strong, and able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The insights that had been given to him were intended for all who are in Christ Jesus. For that reason, Corinth was the better for giving heed to Paul in the beginning. Thus Paul said to them, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Cor 3:2). Again he said, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Cor 9:1-2).
PAUL HELPED BY CORINTH
There is a mutuality in faith that brings advantages to the teacher as well as the taught. Thus Paul said to the brethren in Rome, whom he had not yet seen, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom 1:12).
There were some noble souls who brought joy to Paul every time he remembered them. Of the Philippian brethren he said, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil 1:3). He said of Philemon, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers” (Phile 1:4). He wrote to Timothy, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim 1:3). And again, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Tim 1:5). Of the Colossians Paul wrote, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col 2:5).
This was not, however, Paul’s experience regarding everyone he taught, and with whom he labored (2 Cor 2:1; Gal 4:11). One of the constant afflictions of Paul came upon him every day: “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” NASB (2 Cor 11:28). In the case of Corinth, Paul had even passed by an “open door” in Troas because of the weight of his concern for Corinth (2 Cor 2:12-13).
Now Paul tells them that as soon as their faith had increased, he could get to the business of expounding the Gospel in regions beyond them. If they had been advancing in the faith as they should have done, the Gospel could now have been opened to many others. However, their failure to move forward, as being reconciled to God allows, had only served to retard his ministry. We know he had desired to go to Italy (Rome), and even to Spain (Rom 15:24,28). The Corinthian condition, however, did not allow it, even though he earnestly desired it.
He knew that this was a matter of being a good steward – both of the message he received, and the people who had believed it. He must do his best to stabilize them, bringing them to a point where faith could increase. The teachers to whom they had been listening had eroded their faith and dulled their spiritual senses. That is why sin had broken out among them.
NOT BOASTING IN ANOTHER MAN’S LINE OF THINGS
“ 16b . . . and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.” Other versions read, “and not to boast in another man's sphere of accomplishment,” NKJV “and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another,” NASB “For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory,” NIV “without boasting of work already done in someone else's sphere of action,” NRSV “ boasting of work already done in another's field,” RSV “and not to glory in another's province in regard of things ready to our hand,” ASV “and not take credit for another man's work in making things ready to our hand,” BBE “not to be boasting in another's rule of things made ready to hand,” DARBY “not to glory in another man's rule, in those things that are made ready to our hand,” DOUAY “without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence,” ESV “not to rejoice in another man’s line, that is, in the things that are prepared already,” GENEVA “Then there will be no question about being in someone else's territory,” NLT and “without making a boast of work already done in another [man’s] sphere of activity [before we came on the scene],” AMPLIFIED
The phrase “another man’s line of things” refers to the particular dispensation of grace given to the individual – his “measure of faith” (Rom 12:3). Some versions refer to “another man’s territory,” NIV “another’s field,” RSV “another’s province,” ASV and “some else’s territory.” NLT This might seem to suggest that the reference is to a geographical territory, or some area of earthly expertise. This is not, however, the meaning of the text. The Kingdom of God is not divided into worldly provinces.
Paul is saying he does not intrude into the kingdom labors of others sent forth by Christ. He did not, for example, seeking to go into the church in Jerusalem and direct its affairs. That was a place where Peter, James the Lord’s brother, and John were “pillars” (Gal 2:9). He did not do as some of the teachers who had entered into his Corinthian labors, corrupting the people and introducing erroneous and damaging doctrines.
In the kingdom of God, there are differing ministries, and various fields of labor. However, none of them are contradictory, or compete with one another. Further, when men minister as stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4:10), they have no desire to take credit for work they have not done. They know there are spheres of labor to which every valid kingdom-worker is assigned.
It is never appropriate for men to enter into such labors, and arrogate to themselves credit that belongs to another. Every man will receive a reward “according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8). No man will receive the credit for another man’s labor. He will only be honored for his own assigned work.
Suffice it to say, there are ministers who withhold food from the sheep – as some in Corinth apparently did. If anyone is nourished in their congregations, they must go to some other place and obtain food. In our own assembly we have often entertained such poor souls as are deprived of spiritual nourishment where they regularly attend. Yet, even though these people are being nourished by others, the professionals where they attend love to take credit for them, and treat them as though they were caring well for them. In so doing, they boasting in another man’s line of things.
SECOND HAND SERMONS
At this point I must take great care not to leave the wrong impression. When the truth is perceived, it is always in order to share it with others, even though it has come to you through you may have obtained it from some other individual who saw it before you. Once you perceive it, however, it becomes your own. You have been a partaker of the fruit, and can therefore serve it up to others.
However, there are some who never do any mining in the field of truth themselves. They do not gather fruit from the fields of revelation, or drink from the wells of salvation. The only thing in their bags is what someone else has put into them. They are not personally instructed concerning kingdom of God, and therefore can only market second-hand portions. They do not fall into the category of which Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt 13:52). If these people are professed preachers and teachers, they have intruded into the labors of others, and are building on another man’s foundation.
“ 17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Other versions read, “But HE WHO BOASTS, LET HIM BOAST IN THE LORD,” NASB “But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord,” NIV “But whoever has a desire for glory, let his glory be in the Lord,” BBE “But let him that rejoiceth, rejoice in the Lord,” GENEVA “As the Scriptures say, "The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done,” NLT “As the Scriptures say, "The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done,” LIVING and “As the Scriptures say, ‘The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done.’” IE
There are all manners of boasting within the professed church. Some boast in their seeming scholastic advantage – the place where they attained their higher education. Others boast in their religious heritage, claiming to be part of something that had a premier beginning. Still others boast in their denominational name and that for which it stands. Some are even arrogant enough to boast of their own accomplishments. Lower still, some boast in the appearance of the building in which they meet, or the number of people that go there with them. Some even boast in what they do not do. Precisely what can be said of boasting? How does the Spirit of God address this subject.
The word “glorieth” means “rejoice in, glory in, boast in, boast about,” FRIBERG “take pride in, rejoice, be glad,” UBS and “to express an unusually high degree of confidence in someone or something being exceptionally noteworthy.” LOUW-NIDA
It seems to me that there are at least three elements that combine in boasting. Rejoicing, confidence, and exaltation. What we glory in becomes a source of joy. Our hearts are gladdened when we hear of that wherein we boast.
Through Jeremiah, God warned His people not to glory in wisdom, might, or riches: “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches” (Jer 9:23).
Through Paul, we are told not to glory in men – making our boast in our identity with them: “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor 3:21-23).
We are also warned of those who glory or boast in mere appearance – how things look to the human eye: “For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart” (2 Cor 5:12).
Take the Corinthians as an example of what NOT to be. They gloried, boasting in the various things that were occurring in their assembly. In assessing their situation, however, Paul said, “Your glorying is not good” (1 Cor 5:6). There were things among them that were causes of shame and reproach (1 Cor 6:5; 15:34). The only proper subject of glory is the Lord, for He is the Author of all good that we possess. How often this is stated.
☛ “My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad” (Psa 34:2)
☛ “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory” (Psa 64:10).
☛ “Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa 41:16).
☛ “In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa 45:25).
Those who see things as they really are cannot boast of their own attainments, endowments, wisdom, knowledge, learning, or eloquence. They cannot glory in their circumstances, their power, their possessions, or even their heritage. They know they have nothing that they have not received (1 Cor 4:7). Any legitimate difference, or things achieved by them, is owing to the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10). For them, a religious movement is, at the very best, secondary. There is no real power in it. Jesus did not die for a movement, or a denomination, or a particular line of religious thought. Whatever value that may be found in such things, they must not be allowed to be the cause or object of glory.
It is the Lord in whom our boast must be found. He sent ministers to us (1 Cor 3:5). He opened our hearts (Acts 16:14). He granted us repentance (Acts 11:18). He quickened us, raising us from death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-2). He washed us from our sins, sanctified us, and justified us (1 Cor 6:11). He put us into Christ (1 Cor 1:30). He set us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6). He wrote our names in heaven (Heb 12:23). We “obtained like precious faith” from Him (2 Pet 1:1). He sent His Spirit into our hearts (Gal 4:6). He made us “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). He is the one who “destroyed the devil” (Heb 2:14), “spoiled principalities and powers” (Col 2:15), and brought an end to the Law as a means to righteousness (Rom 10:4). He is the One who has reconciled us to God, having “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20).
What possible reason can anyone present for glorying or boasting in anyone or anything other than the Lord? If you want to boast, or glory, then do so properly, and with understanding!
THE ONE WHO IS REALLY COMMENDED
“ 18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”
Just who is it that is approved, commended, sanctioned, or endorsed to do the work of the Lord? Judging from the differing criterion that are afoot in the religious world, it is obvious that there is not a lot of understanding on this point. There are institutions who claim they have the right to commend someone to the work of the Lord.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “COMMENDED?”
The word “commend” literally means “to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together . . . to stand with . . . to set one with another,” THAYER “commend, recommend . . . stand together, stand with or by,” FRIBERG “give approval to . . . stand with or beside,” UBS and “indicate approval of a person, with the implication that others adopt the same attitude.” LOUW-NIDA
The picture is of the Originator of a message declaring that His messenger is working together with Him: i.e. “He is with Me, and I am sending him.” In our text, this is the person that is sanctioned and empowered by the Lord Himself. It is the laborer that He recognizes, whose message He supports, and whose person He blesses. This is the person who represents the Lord, delivering an accurate word concerning His Person and purpose.
Now the question is put before the Corinthians. Does the Lord “commend” or approve, of those who are opposing Paul? Or, perhaps some might imagine that He approves both Paul and his critics. Paul will now briefly address this subject.
THE ONE WHO IS NOT COMMENDED
“For not he that commendeth himself is approved . . . ” Other versions read, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved,” NIV “For it is not the man who commends himself that is accepted,” RSV “For he that praiseth himself is not allowed,” GENEVA “For it is not through self-commendation that recognition is won,” NJB “When people boast about themselves, it doesn't count for much,” NLT “Who is approved? It is not the one who pats himself on the back,” IE “For [it is] not [the man] who praises and commends himself who is approved and accepted,” AMPLIFIED and “It is not self-commendation that matters. PHILLIPS
First, who is excluded from the Lord’s commendation? Who is it that He does not accept to do His work? Who is the imposter? Who is it through whom the Lord does not work, and who does not deliver a message from Him? That is the question.
It is the person who speaks of himself – who offers no more than his own opinion of himself, or his own fleshly accomplishments. These are people like Theudas, who “boasted himself to be somebody,” to whom “about four hundred men joined themselves,” and lost their lives in the process (Acts 5:36). They are men like Simon, who “used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one” (Acts 8:9). Such are fond of citing their accomplishments, credentials, and the likes.
Whatever men like this may say, they are not approved by God. He did not send them, and they do not carry His message. Whatever they may know, it is not the right thing. Their message cannot do the work of God – it cannot bring faith, liberty, or edification. As our text affirms, “it is not the one who commends himself who is approved.” NIV
Those who say they have abilities, yet cannot edify the saints, are not approved. They are not from God. Those who say they are learned, yet cannot or do not teach the whole counsel of God are not from God, and He does not approve of them.
THE ONE WHO IS COMMENDED
“ . . . but whom the Lord commendeth.” Other versions read, “but the one whom the Lord commends,” NIV “but on the Lord's opinion of him,” BBE “but he whom the Lord praiseth,” GENEVA “but through commendation,” NJB “But when the Lord commends someone, that's different!” NLT “It is the one whom God pats on the back,” IE “but [it is the person] whom the Lord accredits and commends,” AMPLIFIED and “it is winning the approval of God.” PHILLIPS
First, the approval of God is to be earnestly sought by everyone who labors in His vineyard. As it is written, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Here, the word “study” has nothing whatsoever to do with books and other pedantic forms. Other versions use the expression, “Be diligent,” NKJV “Do your best,” NIV “Be eager,” NAB “Make every effort,” NJB and “Study and be eager to do your utmost.” AMPLIFIED Even in our English language, one of the meanings of “study” is “purpose and intent.” MERRIAM-WEBSTER In the Greek language (spou,dason), it has an even stronger meaning. “To exert oneself, endeavor, give difference,” THAYER “to do one’s best, spare no effort, work hard,” UBS “to do something hurriedly, with the implication of associated energy,” LOUW-NIDA and “To make haste . . . to be busy, eager, zealous, and earnest to do a thing.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
Thus, the person who studies to show himself approved unto God earnestly and zealously seeks the approval of God as quickly as it can be obtained. He will not rest until this is accomplished, for to be without Divine approval makes everything else in vain.
A person seeking the Lord’s approval will pray as David, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psa 19:14). They will have a kind mindset that affirms, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). They will be in quest of a “better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:16).
Make no mistake about this, there are kingdom laborers appropriately described as those “whom the Lord commends.” Their words are blessed by the Lord, and so they “minister grace to the hearers” (Eph 4:29). They have a proper focus, and do not become diverted to the fads and fashions of the day. It is evident that they “live by every word of God” (Lk 4:4), having “received the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2:10).
The Lord commends the person who meets His criteria: “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2). Such can “ascend into the hill of God,” and “stand in His holy place.” They “have clean hands, and a pure heart,” and “have not lifted up their soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Psa 24:4). They are seeking the “things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God,” and have set their “affection on things above, and not on things on the earth” (Col 3:1-2) – and it is apparent.
The one “whom the Lord commends” becomes evident by the fruit that he bears. His words tend to stabilize the saints, edifying and encouraging them. He brings a message through which the Lord works on and within the hearts of the hearers. His ministry tends to clarify the things of the Spirit of God. He assists the saints in seeing the world as it really is.
The one “whom the Lord commends” has “the mind of Christ,” and is not mystified by the things of God. This is the person who walks with God, and is looking for the coming of the Lord. This is not something that is seen only in the manner of his life. It is also woven throughout the fabric of his preaching and teaching. That is the one the Lord commends, and any contradicting opinions are simply not true. Such a one enjoys the blessing of the Lord, being constrained by an insatiable hunger and thirst for righteousness, and a consistent quest to obtain the prize. Blessed is the one who finds such a person!
God places the members in the body “as it has pleased Him” (1 Cor 12:18). Each is endowed with a measure of faith (Rom 12:3), and a dispensation of the “manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10). The intention of these measure and dispensations is to minister to the body of Christ – to “profit withal” (1 Cor 12:7).
From another vantage point, this is the means employed by the King to minister edification and needed resources to His body. He works through the “joints and bands,” of the different members of the body, bringing precious nourishment to them, and sustaining then in a cursed and fading world (Col 2:19).
The whole matter is marvelously described in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:11-16).
Behold, how marvelous it is! The “whole body” is “compacted together” into a powerful working unit, and it is accomplished through the various members through which Jesus works. Each member is used to sharpen and mature the other, until the whole of the body is brought to maturity.
Every person in Christ has a certain boundary within which to operate. It is defined by his faith and the knowledge of the Lord, or understanding of the Lord and His purpose. Within that sphere, the person is free to move, ministering in the name of the Lord, and enjoying His presence. It is a domain of great freedom, and must never be associated with restriction or limitation.
In Christ Jesus there is provision for fulness of expression and thorough satisfaction of heart and mind. Any frustration that is experienced is strictly owing to the flesh – either in oneself or in those among whom he labors. In either case, it can be overcome by faith.
From the higher vantage point, all trials really have to do with our role in the body of Christ. They are God’s way of tuning us to accomplish what He has purposed for us. As soon as we begin to become absorbed by this world and the duties relating to it, we begin to move into forbidden territory, for the call of God does not relate to this world. We have been called unto “His kingdom and glory” – and both of those are eternal. As it is written, “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess 2:12).
If there are areas of God’s revealed purpose to which you are drawn, make sure that the drawing takes place when you are in fellowship with Christ and the truth is clear in your mind and heart. If this is the case, then pursue those interests, all the while looking for doors of opportunity. Earnestly seek God’s approval of YOU – of you in your labors as a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” Remember, the person who is commended by God is approved to do His work. There is no reason why this cannot be you. You have been put into Christ for a purpose. Seek to know it, then labor with all of your might to be a workman that has no need of shame.