Series on II Corinthians, 1:12-24. I Dedication of Paul to Ministry A Sincere, 2 Standing in the Gospel. Title: Heartfelt Service

Introduction


In Second Corinthians Paul characterizes his ministry, gives instructions for charity, and defends his apostleship. Actually the whole letter is a defense of his apostleship. Last time we saw the Apostle's sincerity revealed through his sufferings, and now we see it in relation to his stand for the gospel with a clear conscience. In fact he begins this section with the words, Now this is our boast. The Corinthian Christians were full of vainglory, carnal pride, and foolish boasting. Some thirty times Paul employs the word “glorying” or “boasting” in this letter just to make the point that he was sincere. That which characterized Paul's ministry ought to be true of each and every Christian. So let us look at Paul's conscience, conviction and confidence as he writes of them here. All of the beliefs we espouse and all of the deeds we do are nothing if they are not sincere. What really constitutes sincerity, first of all?

I Conscience


Paul writes, Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. The word conscience as Paul uses it means his understanding. He frequently speaks of his conscience being clear or without offense to God or man. He states in various places that he had a clear conscience with respect to his duty to God, his duty to the civil authorities, his love for his own people the Jews, and his commitment to Biblical truth. He says he is innocent of the blood of all men because he has faithfully preached the whole counsel of God. There comes a time in every man's life when he ought to be able to say I didn't have any ulterior motive. I did what I did sincerely, for God and for your good. The church has been plagued by lack of conscience. People in places of influence have agendas they know are not consistent with vows they have taken but they pursue them anyway, and in our daily lives it isn't just certain notable TV preachers who say one thing and do another.There is a crisis of conscience even among church members and married persons there is little concern for the vows that are taken. In Parade magazine which appears in many Sunday newspapers, I saw a question in the gossip column on page 2. Somebody wrote in and asked, "The Chandra Levy story makes me wonder: why doesn’t somebody do something about these deplorable affairs between congressmen and interns?" Walter Scott answered, "Somebody is: Rep. Scott McGinnis, R-Colo., proposed house regulations prohibiting relationships with interns." And then he added, "Frankly we’re skeptical, if their wedding vows don’t stop lawmakers from having improper relationships with interns, nothing will." Our nation is being tested at this moment, but as A. Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, "our greatest danger is not from some foreign aggressor but from within." We have been tested in other ways and failed miserably because we put such a low price tag on integrity. But Paul could boast of his sincerity, and he gives an example n verses 16 and 17, I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? Paul was accused of being fickle or undependable, but he despises that kind of duplicity that is so often found in the world around us where people don't mean what they say. The accusation was the petty product of vain people. Paul explains the reason for his change of mind in verses 15, 23 and 24, Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit. Actually the criticism was something like telling your children we're going on a picnic and then the car breaks down, and they say to you “But you promised,” It’s silly. The circumstances were beyond your control. But, then Paul had already pointed out in his first letter how immature they were. The first place we ought to look is in our own hearts. Is our conscience clear? We ought to do that because of our convictions.

II Convictions v.18-20


The Apostle has already stated in verse 12 that his conduct is not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace. Now he elaborates on that theme. It is the nature of the gospel of God's grace to be dependable. God is faithful he says in verses 18-20, But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. In other words, the message we brought from God concerning Jesus Christ the Son of God is the great affirmative of life. The message is that this Jesus is that Christ, He is the messiah, the promised one who came to save us. God promised and God fulfilled his promises, and he fulfilled them all in the Christ of the same gospel that you received from us. Christ is the horn of salvation raised up for us by God as he spoke by the mouth of His prophets who have been since the world began. In Christ all things that are written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms reach their fulfillment. The covenant promises addressed to Abraham and his seed, to David and his seed are all realized in Him alone. The whole Bible is a witness to God's dependability. Jesus is the evidence and He said  I am the truth. To this, Paul says, we say amen. The Hebrew contains the idea of firmness or reliability. When we say amen we are confessing confidence in God's faithfulness. The point is, how could Paul preach such a gospel and live in jeopardy everyday for the gospel and be insincere? And, we will not be sincere unless we share these convictions. The gospel properly understood and rightly believed makes us sincere. However, this is not the ultimate cause of Paul’s stand for the Gospel.

III Confidence v.13,14,21,22

Paul expresses confidence in the Corinthians that they will come to understand what he is saying in verses 13 and 14, For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus. However, that confidence is not in the flesh but in the Spirit, for in verse 21,22 he shows where his real confidence is, Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Ultimately sincerity can be traced back from a clear conscience to sound convictions to trust in the Lord. God is the one who has made Paul stand firm in the gospel, both in his preaching and in his life. To God be the glory, and for this same reason, if the Corinthians are genuine believers and they have the same God then they too must come to understand Paul's integrity. They will understand it because they see in him, and in the gospel he brought, the integrity of God Himself. Now this confidence in the work of God through His Spirit is explained by Paul in v.22. The work of the Holy Spirit is permanent in those who are true believers. Cleansed by the blood of Christ, believers become holy temples of the Lord. His residency is permanent. His occupation of the premises is forever. The Spirit's presence is his seal of ownership. Ultimately then we can claim no glory for ourselves. It is the mercy and grace of God that produces sincerity.

Conclusion

In a day when integrity is scarce it is vital that Christians display the kind of integrity that Paul had. Paul belonged to God, and the grace of God formed his convictions in the gospel. God was faithful, Paul realized, because He not only made promises, He kept them. He could only keep them by sending his only Son into this world to die for sinners and redeem them by his sufferings. He could only keep his promises by exposing himself in the person of his Son to all the temptations we face so that he might fulfill our obligations to God and become our righteousness. In this way Paul's convictions formed his conscience. His life was patterned by the gospel he preached. Anything else was unthinkable.