Title: A Random Check: Scan your files!
Text: 2 Corinthians 10.1-11
CIT: Paul is giving them ample warning: He is coming so they need to deal with these problems.
CIS: Church discipline is a necessary tool to keep the church pure in it’s doctrine.
Introduction: We’re in 2 Corinthians 10.1-11
John Huffman, Jr. tells the following story: Over lunch, several friends were discussing a church that had been so decimated by internal strife that it had become common knowledge in that community. Some members had no stomach for the fight and were drifting into neighboring churches. Those who remained were being pushed by the opposing groups to take sides. The whole affair was becoming very unpleasant.
What was the issue that had precipitated such a furor? Believe it or not, the whole upheaval was over the changing of the job description of the organist. She had been there for years and had built a small empire in her area. She had developed great skill in using a loyal following as a power base for budget, program and calendar advantages. So when a special Lay committee brought a report to the congregation suggesting a slight change in her duties, she took it as a personal rebuke and declared war.
None of the friends who were discussing this at lunch were members of that church. Therefore, they didn’t have to deal with the situation. They quickly agreed with one who said, “That doesn’t sound like a big enough problem over which to split a church!” Then one of the group reminded the others of a truth that is too easily forgotten, “Any problem that has to be dealt with by people who are spiritually immature can divide a church, no matter how small a matter it may appear to be.”
Think back to the issues you have experienced that have torn apart brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. It’s often the little matters that divide-issues over the color of the walls or the carpet in the sanctuary. I knew a church that split over the size of a door being put into the fellowship hall. The lady leading the fight won and got her 4-foot door. Her reason was so that her daughter, who was getting married soon after the fellowship hall was finished, would be able to wear her wedding dress out of the door when she and her new husband left. What’s more is that when the day of her reception came, the young bride chose to use a different exit! Added to this, the mother quit coming to church after her daughter’s wedding.
So, what actually divides churches? I think the lady in the conversation mentioned above got it right: Spiritual immaturity divides churches.
In Corinth, we find a church that is divided: 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” That’s a bad split. Now, it appears, as we get to our text today (2 Cor 10.1), that Paul is still dealing with the issues of Corinth that divide them.
So, Paul issues a warning to them: our text illustrates this with bookends. Rd v 2; 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. And again at the end; read v 11; Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.
There are two words that appear in both v 2 and in v 11; the 1st is translated count on and understand; the 2nd word is translated when I am present and again, when present. So, the emphasis here being made by Paul is: count on my action when I am present.
In the rest of the text, Paul will make this plea while explaining the reality of the situation to the Corinthians and issuing them a stern warning.
- The Plea
- The Reality
- The Warning
1. The Plea: Deal with this matter before I come. (1)
exp.: rd v 1-2a; I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— and again in v 2 – I beg of you;
- His Authority: 4x’s when you consider the vb, too. I, Paul, myself I encourage;
- His Humility: His power is presented in meekness and gentleness; his speech isn’t harsh and the volume of his voice isn’t loud. The tone is even: the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
Q.: Why? Why is Paul using his Apostolic Authority to warn the Corinthians? Because their regard for Paul had been undermined by those who twisted his words and made wrongful comparisons of Paul to themselves. They need to take care of their church body. They need to protect the body from those who would lead them astray.
app.: It’s called Church Discipline; Really, for us – you trust the elders to take care of you in spiritual matters. To ensure that false doctrine isn’t being spread; that people aren’t trying to worm their way into positions of power or prestige. And we take that calling serious.
t.s.: So, just how is that done;
2. The Reality: We walk in the flesh, but we wage a spiritual war. (2-6)
exp.: Paul is distressed at their disregard of the Truth. They’ve cast it aside to follow these ‘super-apostles’ who have wowed them with clever and articulate speech. They appear so strong:
- Their sermons entertain
- The numbers are there to support their success.
ill.: While on the other hand, Paul isn’t much to look at and not very articulate like some other polished orators. He’s already said as much in his letters to them: 2 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. As for his appearance…
I’m not sure how accurate it is, nor the extent to which the NT played in the following writing; but, there is a 2nd Century apocryphal text entitled: The Acts of Paul and Thecla. 1:4 And a certain man named Onesiphorus, hearing that Paul was come to Iconium, went out speedily to meet him, together with his wife Lectra, and his sons Simmia and Xeno, to invite him to their house. 1:5 For Titus had given them a description of Paul’s personage, they as yet not knowing him in person, but only being acquainted with his character. 1:6 They went in the king’s highway to Lystra, and stood there waiting for him, comparing all who passed by, with that description which Titus had given them. 1:7 At length they saw a man coming (namely Paul), of a low stature, bald on the head, crooked thighs, handsome legs, hollow-eyed; had a crooked nose; full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man, sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. And Paul saw Onesiphorus, and was glad. I think a more modern translation might read: He was short, bald, bow-legged, hollowed eyes and a crooked nose. I get the idea he wasn’t much to look at!
app.: but Paul’s argument is quite simply that these folks are not seeing reality. For, the reality of the situation is that, as preachers, we don’t do what we do in the flesh. Oh, sure (rd v 3); though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. rd v 4 – For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power… It’s a spiritual battle. Look at his remarks in v 4ff: 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power
- to destroy strongholds – Now, this word only appears here in the NT; however, appears 69x’s in the OT! A stronghold is:
1: a fortified place
2a: a place of security or survival
2b: a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic; I think this is the closest definition to the context of v4;
- 5to destroy arguments – the word used here means reasoning powers – that is what people are thinking. Which, then, matches this next phrase…
- every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God – This deals with reasoning thoughts; All of these working and running together, look at the rest of v 5;
- take every thought captive to obey Christ, look at v 6;
- 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
exp.: many think that Paul is going to go off on these people – Like Nehemiah who in chapter 13 goes all Chuck Norris on the people – 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.
app.: But I don’t think Paul is threatening like that. No, the texts makes it clear that it has to do with thoughts and reasoning.
t.s.: it really becomes clearer as he continues in his warning…
3. The Warning: Take care of this now, or I’ll deal with it when I come. (7-11)
exp.: rd v 7a; I love the Gk; it’s more descriptive, like: Watch out for what’s in your face. Rd 7; And then, Paul identifies for us just what’s at stake: rd v 8; Barrett, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians writes: It is the nature of the apostolic Gospel, and the apostolic authority behind it, that are at stake. Paul can’t let this slide, and he must confront the church on this issue. I think he’s meek and gentle still as we read v 9-10;
app.: who can understand the passion a pastor has for his congregation? How can anyone other than a pastor comprehend this great calling and the earnest desire to keep the church he’s planted remain pure and unmolested? He let’s them know in v 11 – 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.
Conclusion: Now you might be wondering to yourself if there is trouble at Calvary. Not that I know of! I’ve just been making my way through 2 Corinthians and have come to this passage. What a great reminder for us to visit this practice of church discipline. We must be diligent to keep the doctrines of the church strong and healthy.
So, how does this apply to us? Application:
- If someone has hurt you – go talk to that person.
- Most grievances are unintended. That’s what is so beautiful about the model in Matthew 18. So many misunderstandings have gone unchecked and people get hurt. Most of the time that’s all it is: a misunderstanding. Most brothers and sisters just want to serve – they’re not out to hurt anyone. If they knew they had hurt you, they would do anything they could to fix it. That wasn’t their intent.
- One on one protects the person from embarrassment. When we’re caught in our sin, we’re embarrassed! To save face, we get defensive; we try getting the attention off of us and on to someone else. The fight or flight instinct kicks in and neither one are beneficial for the church.
- Some grievances are intentional. When a person has been hurt they will begin to find validation for their hurt. Hurt comes in so many ways. The best way to fix this is to go talk with the person who has hurt you. Someone can’t fix what they don’t know is wrong.
- Trust – Trust is foundational to the church. It’s how we become believers. It’s how we work and do ministry. Some people feel like you don’t trust them or maybe they don’t trust you. No ministry can flourish without trust.
Think about the implications here. A church is only as strong as it’s weakest link. We could have dozens of trusted ministries; however, if we are found negligible in one area, we lose trust. And, the whole body suffers.
If trust is lost between members of a team, a breakdown will occur – that ministry within the church suffers. Let me just say we’ve got to build trust between members and teams. Anyone who refuses to confront this hurts the whole body. We could stay here, but let’s move on.
- Often times, the reason people are fighting isn’t the real reason. There’s an issue deeper down that isn’t being discussed.
- If you see a brother or sister in sin – confront them. The road that leads to destruction is smooth, paved and downhill. Sinking deep into sin is a quick, easy process. The sooner you deal with sin, the quicker a person can be restored. Again – ALONE!
- Don’t go to the pastor – go to that person!
- Don’t go to the elders – go to that person!
- Don’t go seek counsel from a friend – go to that person!
Why can’t we learn this one? Do you not comprehend that he who brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
- Let’s take a personal inventory. Pretty much across the board, most of us feel we’re in the right and others are in the wrong. But that isn’t always the case. Is the ministry you’re involved in becoming too much of you? Is it your puppy, your pet? Do you have too much responsibility for money and budget and people? Would you pray about giving that ministry to someone else? Would you step down and let someone else do that ministry or lead that ministry. If the answer is, “no,” then you need to do a personal inventory.
I wonder what would have happened to that church I was talking about in the beginning – the story from that pastor – I wonder what would have happened if those folks would have practiced some of these principles. What could have saved that church? Maybe someone should have approached that organist a long time ago? It sounds like she was in sin. Maybe, not. Why didn’t one of her friends talk to her in private as she began to wage this war on those who sought to get the ministry under control.