Category Archives: Church Discipline

1 Timothy: An Introduction

Title: 1 Timothy: An Introduction

Text: 1 Timothy 1.1-3

Introduction: Erin Brockovich is now famous for her legal work against a giant company. She herself was not a lawyer, but rather a legal clerk who worked for a small law firm. Her story inspires most because she represents many of us – at least that is the way we see it.

She didn’t look the part. She wasn’t educated. She had made many mistakes when she was young. She was judged on her appearance and not on her work. The snobs with the money judged her incompetent because she didn’t dress like they did. She didn’t have the law degree they had. It was a modern-day David and Goliath story. Pacific Gas and Electric Company had been poisoning the land around Hinkley, California. Their reckless behavior made the people of Hinkley and the surrounding area sick – many even died.

Her story inspires because she stood up to the mammoth of a company that had money and lawyers to fight. But she never backed down. She spent countless hours learning the ins and outs of that company. She met and got to know the people of Hinkley. She knew the sick by name. She knew their spouses and what their spouse did for a living; she knew who their kids were and what grades they were in. She knew where they lived. She knew where they shopped; who their doctors were; the most intimate details about their lives. She knew the company was dumping hexavalent chromium and contaminating the water sources the people of Hinkley were drinking.

Her story inspires because she spoke out and defended the ones who could not stand up for themselves and won.

For me, the Pastoral Epistles inspire like that. Paul writes to these young men who are serving as pastors in their local churches and encourages them to speak out against those who are killing the people around them. He writes to Titus in Crete and to Timothy in Ephesus. Our focus this morning is on the church at Ephesus and this letter to Timothy. The Letter is entitled 1 Timothy. If you’re using a pew Bible, you’ll find the letter on page ???

Paul states his purpose quite clearly in 3.14-15; rd 3.14f; you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. What we’ll find as we work our way through this letter is that Sound Doctrine is vital to a church’s existence. Unhealthy doctrine destroys a church. Sound Doctrine teaches a church 1) how to behave, 2) it represents God, and 3) is a pillar and buttress of the Truth!

Over the next 4 months, our church will be looking at 1st Timothy. Our basic goal this morning is to look at the introduction of this letter. We find the introduction in 1 Timothy 1.1-3 or on page ??? if you’re using a pew Bible.

Basic Outline: First, we will look at the writer (who the letter is from), then the recipient (who the letter is to), and his purpose, which he alludes to in v 3;

  • From: Paul
  • To: Timothy (and the church at Ephesus)
  • Purpose: you may charge…

Transition: that outline looks short, but the truth is, there is so much here, so let’s get to it.

From: Paul

exp.: rd v 1; Paul wrote this letter somewhere around the years 62-66 AD. Consider the following

  • Paul was martyred by Nero in Rome. That is the historical tradition and has strong backing.
  • Nero died in 68 AD, so, we’ll start with that date.
  • Paul was near his death when he wrote 2 Timothy, his last book or letter that we have. If Nero put Paul to death, then Paul died before Nero. Make sense?
  • So, let’s put Paul’s death around 67 AD – that means 2 Timothy was written near that time.
  • There are at least two winters recorded in the Pastoral Epistles (Titus 3.12 and 2 Timothy 4.21).

Titus 3.12: When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.

2 Tim 4.21: 21 Do your best to come before winter. Another winter is fast approaching. Each reference is a different context. So: at least two different winters. They could be one year apart or more; winter of ’67; the winter of ‘65. So, that would put 1 Timothy somewhere around 62-64 AD. These are rough guesses, of course – give or take a few years on each side the largest span would be 62-66. You probably have a good guess at the introduction in your Study Bible at 1 Timothy.

Next, Paul is imprisoned in 2 Timothy, but in 1 Timothy, he appears to be writing after his imprisonment as mentioned in Acts 28. I tried to locate times and places mentioned in 1 Timothy with Acts and I can’t reconcile them. Allow me to show you what I mean:

1 & 2 Timothy place Timothy in Ephesus. I jokingly say that he is the pastor of the 1st Baptist Church in Ephesus. 1 Timothy has Paul going to Macedonia (1.3). In the book of Acts, Paul does travel to Macedonia from Ephesus (Acts 20.1), but Timothy has not been left behind in Ephesus. Instead, he is sent ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19.22). Added to this, Timothy accompanies Paul on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4). It is possible that Paul left Timothy in Miletus when he was meeting with the Ephesian elders; however, Paul’s journey was toward Jerusalem the opposite direction of Macedonia.

So, I can only conclude that Paul was released from prison after Acts 28. He ministered and wrote his letters (1 Timothy and Titus) between the dates of 62-66 AD. Then, at some point after those letters, he is thrown into prison again. According to 2 Timothy, he must have gone eastward after his Roman Imprisonment and not on to Spain, because he left his cloak and books at Troas. From his prison cell, during this 2nd Roman Imprisonment, he wrote his last letter, 2 Timothy. Paul has a sense (concerning himself) that the end is near there in 2 Timothy.

app.: He must be feeling that a bit as he writes his 1st letter to Timothy. Verse 1 tells us about his calling: apostle. That means he is a missionary, a church planter. His authority is from God, who has called him and commissioned him. But, as the years have gone by, he finds himself unable to keep up with his previous pace of planting churches and discipling new believers. Jail time has put a toll on his body. Long hours, long travel, persecution, stress, these all have aged him.

So, he has strategically placed younger men in places of service. 1.3: Timothy at Ephesus; Titus at Crete (1.5); He sends their replacements. 2 Tim 4.12: Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Before that, in Titus, Paul sent Tychicus to Crete – evidently to carry that particular letter. Paul mentions that Zenas, the Lawyer, and Apollos have been there with Titus and that Titus should send them on their way to Paul. Crescens is in Galatia; Titus served in Dalmatia, as well as in Crete. Mark is serving somewhere along the way between Ephesus and Rome. It would be a hard, but fun study to locate all of the names of these young men and see where Paul had located them for service – with both locations and dates.

Now, added to their placement as overseers in their respective churches, Paul has given them instructions about how a church should look and act. Now, this is so important! Don’t miss that! That is what these letters, 1 Timothy and Titus, are all about; more on that in a moment.

t.s.: For now, let’s turn our attention to Timothy

To: Timothy

exp.: rd v 2; he uses the same language with Titus; my true child in the faith. The Gk word here means legitimate. I think this conveys the idea that Paul had a hand in their conversion to Christ and their foundation in discipleship. My guess is that Timothy was converted to Christ on Paul’s 1st MJ. We first meet Timothy in the book of Acts (16.1). Paul and Barnabas had finished their 1st MJ and had returned to Antioch to report their mission work. After some days and some disagreement about how they should handle things, Paul and Silas take off on Paul’s 2nd MJ. Their first stop is in Galatia, at Derbe and on to a small town called Lystra. This is where they meet a young Timothy, who has impressed the people of Lystra and Iconium – and Paul, too. Paul immediately recognizes his potential and wants Timothy to accompany them on their journey. And so begins a mentoring relationship between the two men that will last for the next 15 years or more. So great is this relationship, greater even than any other relationship Paul will have with many men, that Timothy appears in all but three of Paul’s letters. Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus. An interesting side note about that: Timothy was from Galatia and he was the pastor at Ephesus.

The rest of v 2 is a typical salutation – if there is such a thing. Paul has worked at refining his introduction through the years to reflect a high Christology. And, built upon that Christology is the authority given to Paul. It is typical in nature to other letters, but of course, reflects the change and growth in his faith. Listen to Gordon Knight:

This form of salutation reflects three factors: first, the teachings of the Christian faith have molded Paul’s adaptation of the standard form. Second, there is a great uniformity in this molding, especially in the grading section, which reflects a certain crystallization of his manner of expression of the essential Christian truths in these salutations. Third, there are certain variations that either reflect the recipients’ situation and need or anticipate and emphasize that which will be presented in the letter proper.

In all of his letters except the letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul refers to the recipients’ relationship to Christ (i.e.: to all the saints in Christ Jesus, as here – my true child in the faith, etc).

ill.: but here is where we can’t see the bond and what has forged it. As you read through acts you see Timothy right there with Silas and others, learning how to stand for Christ, learning that persecution will come. He is watching Paul as he suffers: in Philippi, in Thessalonica, in Berea as he watched Paul sail away alone – alone for his own safety; he is there in Corinth when the city erupted and wanted Paul’s head. Timothy was at Ephesus the first time Paul spoke there. He probably heard Paul’s promise to return if the Lord willed it. And the Lord did and Paul returned and stayed for two years. He watched as the people jumped up and down, screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” He watched as Paul begged to address the thousands of people who wanted him dead. Paul saw a crowd where he could preach Christ. I’m sure Timothy was one of the men who begged him not to do that. The crowd yelled for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

We have a bunch of material from Acts where Timothy watched and learned from Paul. But what about the “so much more” that we don’t have. What was it like in those prison cells as they had time for some one-on-one discipleship? What was it like for Timothy to listen to this brilliant man who knew the Scriptures and how to apply them? What was it like to watch as the man went from reading the Scriptures to quoting them because his eyes were failing him? What was it like to hear the story of Paul’s conversion and calling – to hear him tell it – the story we read about in Acts Chapter 9 without the inflection, without the emotion of Paul’s voice?

app.: As a pastor, I’m in awe of this relationship. Paul loves the people of Ephesus. He detests false teachers coming and leading people astray. He trusts Timothy to serve those folks – to teach sound doctrine and protect them from the foolishness that others try to bring into a church.

t.s.: which brings us to this last section… it deals with what I touched on at the end of the 1st section… the purpose of these letters.

Part II:

Introduction: Love Does, Bob Goff; rd pg 94-95; eating Lard instead of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

That’s the problem with religion: people package it in attractive ways, but always leave a person wanting. The problem with it all is that what most people are selling isn’t what Christ is offering.

Review of Part 1: From; To; Dates;

Purpose: charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine

exp.: rd v 3; Paul gets straight to the point. This is why I left you there in Ephesus. This is why I’m writing to you! Paul deals with false teaching repeated through his ministry. We see it in just about every letter of Paul’s.

  1. We see it in Acts 20, as Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus. Rd Acts 20.17; 25-32;
  2. We’ll see it in this letter, so you’re going to see it again and again (1.3-11; 13-20; 4.1-7; 6.3-10; 20-21).
  • Myths (1.4; 4.7)
  • Genealogies (1.4)
  • Concern with the Jewish Law and its application (1.7)
  • Empty sounds and contradictions referred to as ‘knowledge’ (6.20)
  • Deception (4.1-3)
  • Immorality (1.19-20)
  • Financial Gain (6.5)
  • Harsh Asceticism (4.1-5) through denying the self what God has blessed us with; rd; 4.1-5

ill.: false teaching is alive and well in the church today. Consider the following for us:

  • For the first 1500 years of the Church’s existence – teaching came only through hearing the Word. Very few people could read it and very few people had access to it. Consider it was in Latin! The Word of God was spread only through copies and oftentimes, those copies were chained to the altar at the church. Regular people did not have their own copies. The only time they got God’s Word was through the preaching.
  • Along comes Johannes Guttenberg and his printing press in 1450, making it possible to have a copy of God’s Word. And that is what he wanted. “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams… Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men”
  • Here is the irony in it all. Even after the Printing Press comes along, the church doesn’t want common people to have the Word of God in common hands. They saw that as a danger. They outlawed Scripture that was translated into common languages. Latin was the ‘Authorized’ version for those folks. I think of the modern-day movement of KJV Only folks.
  • So, for the next few hundred years, the word of God could then be spread by reading it and the public preaching and teaching of it. As the Word of God became more and more prevalent, it was outlawed in certain countries. The Church didn’t want it in the hands of normal people because they might teach falsely. I think it was more about control.
  • The Advent of Radio and Recording makes it much easier to access the preaching part. But today, with the internet and TV, with its 557 channels and nothing on, you can hear multiple preachers in any given hour. You can stream your favorite preacher or teacher into your home any hour of any day. False teaching can be pumped into your homes and into your head anytime you want to listen to anyone who tickles your ears.

app.: For me, it is a scary time.

  • Consider Mayor Pete Buttigieg: the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, IN. He’s the next big thing for liberals because he is gay and he is married to a man. And, he is a very nice young man. He’s intelligent and articulate. He went to Notre Dame, Harvard and Oxford. Ok, so far not too very different from most liberals. But, here’s the thing: he spouts his faith and declares his Christianity unashamedly. And this is where I think Sound Doctrine is of great importance to us. Just look at our text, down in v 8-11. Now, there are some, probably more on the internet than here in this room, who would say it is wrong from me to ‘judge’ him and his faith. I think to some degree that would be true. But this is where we need to be very careful. Scripture is clear on this issue. He may be sincere, but he is sincerely wrong according to Scripture. What is scary for me is that there is a group of young, progressive Christians who are pushing and supporting his rise through the Democratic party.
  • This past year, an article came out in the New York Times questioning the foundational doctrines of our faith (I read about it in Dr. Albert Mohler’s daily briefings): the Trinity, The Virgin birth, The Resurrection of Christ. I’m guessing it was Easter and all – and that’s the perfect time to attack Christians. Nicholas Kristoph interviewed a Seminary president: Dr. Serene Jones. She is the president of Union Theological Seminary. And the article basically boils down to throwing out the main tenets of our faith. Serene Jones doesn’t believe in a resurrection. She says the empty tomb illustrates that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.” She says there isn’t a resurrection in Mark – only an empty tomb. Kristoph challenges her, not really, but just so she can expand on her thoughts: But without a resurrection, aren’t we left with just the crucifixion? She answers: “Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me,” she said, “the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope? Well, according to Paul – No! If all we have is the crucifixion, if Christ is not raised, then we are to be pitied above all men. If Christ is not raised, then we are hopeless and our faith is futile.
  • Joel Osteen is a motivational speaker who masquerades around as a preacher. I’ve chosen not to slam other preachers, but I don’t think Osteen lands in this category: a preacher. Joel Osteen’s teaching revolves around the self. There is no guilt and shame – those things don’t belong at his church. He will not talk about sin – that is so degrading. What he focuses on is making you feel better about yourself when you walk out those doors.
  • The following is from CBSNews.com this past Spring:

Rachel Held Evans, a popular, progressive Christian writer who challenged the traditional evangelical views, died Saturday, her husband confirmed in a blog post. She was 37.

Evans was hospitalized in April for what she described in a tweet as a “a flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics they gave me.” Her husband, Daniel Evans, had been updating on her blog about her health, writing that she had been placed in a medically-induced coma.

On Saturday, he wrote that she had been weaned from coma medication, but seizures had continued and severe swelling of her brain had been found, which he wrote caused severe damage that “ultimately was not survivable.”

“This entire experience is surreal,” Daniel Evans wrote. “I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story.”

Evans was the author of several books, including “Faith Unraveled,” “The Year of Biblical Womanhood,” “Searching for Sunday” and “Inspired.” She spent more than a decade writing about what she described as “faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt” on her blog. 

Her popular writing and views on Christianity often enraged traditional evangelicals. In 2015, The Washington Post called her the “most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She was an advocate for LGBT membership in the church, urged fellow pro-life Christians to vote for Hillary Clinton and wrestled with the role of the patriarchy in the church. She served on former President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

She eventually left the evangelical church, writing in 2016 that “church universal is so much bigger than white American evangelicalism, and that’s going to become ever more apparent in the months and years to come.” 

I’m sad that this young woman died.

But the saddest part of her story is that so much of her ‘ministry’ was much like Hymenaeus and Philetus. She rejected the hard parts of the Bible and followed how she felt. Many have been led astray. She had a great point. I too have been sickened at the organized church; the power plays of individuals; the segregation that is most evident on Sunday mornings.

t.s.: So, how do we handle this? Well, a guilty man should feel guilty. Sin is what separates us from a holy God and we have to deal with our sin. Most people just don’t want to change. But God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. Most people want to hold on to their sin and to religion. But what they end up selling you is much like a tub of lard wrapped in a Cream Cheese package.

Conclusion: We must act and respond like Paul, who is being very clear that Sound, Healthy Doctrine is vital. It is what should guide the church. It isn’t enough to just to babble on and place your focus on things outside of Scripture, like how you feel. We must be clear about what is in Scripture. And that is the whole purpose behind 1 Timothy.

Application:

  1. The Charge: someone has to confront those who are teaching something other than sound doctrine. Someone has to cry out that the water has been poisoned. Don’t drink that water, but rather, come to the life-giving water.
  2. The Word of God is our Standard: It has to be the standard. Culture changes; laws change; emotions change; The Word of God is unchanging! For Timothy, he had the letter to the Ephesians, and he had this letter. This letter closes with a plural “you” – that is ‘the church’, so it appears that Paul had the intention for this letter to go to the church, too.
  3. The goal of this charge is love… v. 5; it isn’t to win arguments, but people. I’ll expound on this next week, but how can we say we love someone, but don’t love them enough to tell them the Truth.

As I think about Ms. Rachel Evans, I’m reminded that her passion was for those who were being rejected by the church. Something has got to change! But what must not change, is the Word of God on which we stand. What must change – is us. Love must drive us to understand God’s Word and use it as the standard for our faith.

 

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Mark 4.21-34

Title: Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God

Text: Mark 4.21-34

Introduction: Farmers have always amazed me. I must say Farmers and Ranchers. My grandpa was a farmer – a share cropper. Mr. Wade owned the property and my grandpa would farm his land. The produce paid his rent, helped him make a living. As far as I know, my grandpa worked the land until he died at the age of 75 in 1978. Farmers are hard working people. They rise early and work all day. I suppose there might be lazy farmers out there, but I’m guessing they don’t remain farmers.

I think it is the work ethic that amazes me. Usually there is always something to be done. When that work is done, attention is put somewhere else. Something needs tending. Something else needs repair. There are errands to run, equipment to maintain, etc. etc. etc.

The life of a farmer is hard. He must work like all of the everything depends on him, but in the end, he must pray like everything depends on God. The farmer has no power or control over the weather. He can’t make it rain; He can’t cool off the hot summer days; he can’t stop a freeze from hitting. He works, He prays, He waits.

I think often times the Christian life compares to the life of a farmer. For sure, the life of a pastor does. We works the soil of the soul, but we cannot produce a single convert. There are so many adversities we face – and we have no power or control over them. We simply work like it all depends on us, and pray like it all depends on God.

It is William Carey who said: Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. He was an amazing man, the father of the modern missionary movement. He did just what he preached: He expected God to do great things and he attempted to do great things for God.

You have a survey in your bulletin today. I’m asking you to fill that out. Circle three areas of passion or giftedness that you’d like to serve. It fits well with the message today. God has brought you here and placed you here in this body to function. The deacons are tasked with the responsibility of service in the church and they’re always looking for people to help them on their committees and teams. You don’t have to be a member to work. You can wipe tables and vacuum floors and mow and sweep and paint and not have to be a member. There are so many areas of service and we need workers to expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

We’re in Mark 4 this morning. Mark 4 contains three parables concerning the Kingdom of God. I call them: the soils, the seed, and the size. The three parables deal with seed in some context. This seed is the Word of God as brought by Jesus, the sower. More specifically, the 1st parable is about the responses to the Kingdom of God as seen in the soils. The hard heart never receives it. The rocky ground and the thorny plants never allow it to take root and it easily gets chocked out. The 4th type of soil is receptive and fertile. It produces fruit some 30, 60 and 100 fold. These next two parables deal with the nature of the Kingdom of God. Having covered the 1st parable already, we’ll cover the next two in this section.

A Note about triplets: Mark seems to like them. There are three types of soil that are non-receptive and non-productive; and, there are the three results of the fertile soil. There are three parables concerning the seed. In chapter five, there are three miraculous healings. And the list goes on…

Our focal passage (4.21-34) is broken down into three parts: Part one has two sayings by Jesus, analogies, if you will (21-25) and parts two and three contain two parables concerning the seed (4.26-34). The two parables are a continuation of what he started up in 4.1. The three parables are the seed being sown, the seed being grown and the results being shown.

There are two different audiences being addressed in chapter 4. The chapter moves between the public speaking by the sea to a huge crowd and the small, more intimate conversations of Christ with his disciples (cf.: 4.1a, 10; 21-25 is still in this small group; v 26 and following are back to the larger crowd by the sea. Note v 11, 13, 21, 24 – And he said to them. However, in v 26, it changes.

What we have when we break this passage down is a word of encouragement – an exhortation. The Light of Christ isn’t to be hidden. God himself, will bring the growth and that growth will be exponential in degree. Let’s look first at the analogies he offers his disciples in v 21 and v 24 and find encouragement as we work toward building God’s Kingdom. #1:

I.     The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. (21-25)

Exp. Jesus is continuing his private teaching with his disciples. Their work will be to carry on what he has begun. In chapters 1-3 we see Christ is the sower, sowing the seed, the word of God. Some receive it and some reject it. He makes that clear for us in the 1st parable. However, when Christ is gone, these disciples will be given the same task and they will see similar results. They’re watching their master be rejected by the religious leaders – they will receive much of the same treatment.

Now, in this analogy, he’s telling them that his message isn’t to be hidden. That’s not the purpose. It isn’t the purpose of this message to remain hidden anymore than a light is to be hidden when it comes into a darkened room.

The beauty of this passage is seen in its original language. V 21 literally reads: The lamp does not come in order that it might be set under the bushel. That is odd, isn’t it? The English has been changed in order to work, but it isn’t so in the Gk. A lamp doesn’t come into a room; it is brought into a room. A lamp is simply passive to the will of another. But, in our case, the Lamp is a person. The lamp is Jesus. Note:

  • The lamp isn’t passive.
  • The lamp has a definite article.

Remember, and be encouraged: The Light of Christ is not to be hidden.

A word of caution: if you’re hiding the light of Christ, you’re not using it the right way. A lamp isn’t hidden under a basket, or under a bed. No, it is to be set upon a stand.

Notice what the lamp does in the next verse: it reveals. Rd v 22; fut. Tense: there may be a brief time where this light is concealed by some; however, in the future, all will see.

Now, if you don’t understand the analogy, Christ offers a 2nd analogy to heighten and strengthen his teaching. And he links them with this call to hear. He ends with it in v 23 and begins with it in v 24; If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And v 24, lit.: Watch out to what you hear! Lets keep reading: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. The word measure is used three times in the Gk; the measure with which you measure will be measured to you. Rd v 25;

Ill.: When I was a Youth pastor our kids had a skit they would do for whatever activity we were involved in…i.e.: youth camp, revivals, retreats, choir tour, etc.

Application – Moral: love isn’t love unless you give it away. And, if you don’t give it away, you don’t really have it. And these two analogies are teaching us that this message of light is something that isn’t to be hidden, but rather to be shared. If it isn’t shared, it isn’t really light. And, it must be shared in abundance. It matches the 1st parable. Where it isn’t sown, it isn’t grown; however, we’re commanded to go and sow, in order that we might reap 30, 60, even 100 fold!

Transition: So this 1st word of encouragement Jesus shares with his disciples is The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. Now Jesus moves back to the parables and to the larger crowd or audience. Here, Jesus offers us a 2nd word of encouragement:

II.   God Brings Growth to His Kingdom (26-29)

exp.: I’ll never forget traveling to the Shepherd’s Conference in California some years ago and hearing Dr. John MacArthur preach this text (v26-29). Did you know that this parable is contained in no other gospels? You’ll find it only here in Mark. In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the different types of soil the seed is sown in, among, or upon. That parable taught of the different types of soils and their receptivity to the seed. Here, Christ teaches of the seed and its innate ability to germinate and develop on its own.

The teaching is straightforward and simple: The Word of God (seed) has the ability all on its own to bring about growth and success. The Word of God is powerful and effective. It can accomplish so much on its own. It is the Word that is heard and it, all on it’s own, brings about the change, the growth, and the fruit. Two Truths we learn about the Kingdom’s growth.

Truth #1: There is a mystery to this growth. Only God knows what he is doing.

app.: We’re told a man scatters seed. Then, he works; night and day, he sleeps, he rises, he works, he sleeps, he rises – he goes about his life. The seed sprouts and grows – and the man knows not how. The man sows, he works – but what we learn here is that the results are not up to the man. There is a mystery surrounding the process. The results belong to God. And here we learn a 2nd Truth.

Truth #2: There is a certainty to this growth.

The 1st word in v 28 is the Gk word for which we get our English word automatic: αὐτομάτη. Lit.: Automatically the earth bears fruit. It isn’t up to you to make the seed germinate. It isn’t up to you to make it sprout. It isn’t up to you to produce a blade, a stalk, a stem, the grain. Your job is simply to sow the Word and let it do its work in the soil of another’s soul. And v 29 tells us that there will be a harvest: that sown seed will grow and bring about a tremendous harvest.

I think there is an apocalyptic feel to this verse. V 29 sounds very much like the book of Revelation. Revelation 14.15f: 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

I must stop here and say I believe this day is close. I also believe that many who are here will experience this in our lifetime. I know, I know, I must sound foolish to many. Thousands of years have past and it hasn’t happened. This past week, Israel celebrated it 68th birthday! It was in May of 1948 that Israel became a nation…again. After nearly 2000 years of non-existence, Israel came home and declared her independence. If I understand the Word correctly, within that generation, these things will come to fruition. If a generation is 70 years, then things will take place within the next two years. If a generation is 100 years – which I get from Genesis 15, then these things will take place in the next 32 years.

In one sense, yes, this sounds singular. You sow the seed of God into a person’s heart. They hear and all on it’s own, by its own work, the person is saved. The seed reaps fruit. But in another sense, the kingdom of God is sown among a people – and all on it’s own it grows. It starts with a man from Nazareth. He is homeless and simple. He picks a few followers – a rag tag group of men: a zealot, a tax collector, a traitor, a kid, and some fishermen. It grows – and we don’t know how, but it will grow into something tremendous and huge.

t.s.: And that really is the lesson of this last parable in v 30-33; Our 1st Word of encouragement is: To let the Light of Christ Shine. The 2nd word of encouragement is to know w/ certainty that God will bring the growth. #3…

III.   Growth of the Kingdom will be Exponentially Incomparable (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30; rd v 31-32; now, there are those who have said the Bible can be disclaimed at this point, the mustard seed, is not the smallest seed in the world. Let me note for you that Christ’s goal here isn’t botany. It isn’t to teach agricultural principles. Christ’s purpose here is to teach on the Kingdom and to illustrate these truths from what the people already know. Here, Christ takes a proverb that was very common to them. He takes them from where they are and what they know to where he wants them to be. That’s what every good teacher does. In their ancient sayings, in one of their own proverbs, they knew of this mustard seed and how small it was compared to the tree it would become. It was in many common gardens. It looks like shaking pepper into your hand. And yet it becomes this tree. Amazing! But don’t miss the point: a very little becomes tremendously huge.

We see that for the individual. We see that for the Kingdom.

When Christ came the 1st time, he taught and preached and healed. It was small at first, but his 2nd coming will be different by far. He will come in power and glory. One day, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, people group will be gathered around the throne. Myriads upon myriads of people will be worshipping around the throne of God. How small it once was. How magnificent it will be.

Conclusion: What a great word for us today. You may be struggling today in your walk, in your faith. You’ve worked long and hard and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. It may feel like you’ve failed even. Listen, don’t give up and don’t give in. I’m reminded of how Paul encouraged the Galatian believers:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Therefore, let your light shine before men. Don’t hide it! God will use it to bring growth and an eventual magnificent harvest. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

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2 Corinthians 13.1-14

Title: Closing Words

Text: 2 Corinthians 13.1-14

Introduction: (Turn on Recording) I ended my message last week with a challenge to keep the church pure. With all that is happening in America today, there is an even greater challenge before us. The once highly thought of church was influential in effecting its culture. Having napped away much of the last 50 years, it is time for us to get busy – and that busy-ness had better be the business of the Kingdom.

Paul concluded last week’s passage with the warning that he was coming soon. He will re-iterate that today. He says in 12.20f he has fears…rd 20-21; Now he says in 13.1a: This is the third time I am coming to you. There is this anticipation of his return.

Ill.: Pause for a moment and think about that. Do you know what it is like to anticipate someone coming to your house? What about family that hasn’t been in a couple of years? This year the Christmas party is at your house? Do you clean up a little? Decorate? I know of a lady who would change out pictures when she had family from another state come to visit. She took those family members and put them in strategic picture frames. After the family left, she put the pictures she wanted back in!

Paul says he’s coming – giving them fair warning; however, he does more than announce his coming –

  1. He makes a promise to them that when he gets there he is going to exercise some church discipline against those who are in sin and/or condoning such worldly behavior.
  2. He applies some pressure to the church membership to do some examination – a testing of itself to see if it is indeed in the faith.
  3. He tells them of his prayers for their restoration

Transition: let’s begin with this section – His promise.

1.     Paul’s Promise: to bring church discipline by Christ’s power to those who are still in sin (1-4)

exp.: rd v 1b; Deut. 19.15; here Paul quotes from the LXX; every word must be established by two or even three witnesses. He says simply here: I plan on doing just that! rd v 2; I’ve warned you before that when I come again – well, I’m coming again. Now know, when I get there – I will spare no one. Every charge laid against you will be done properly and in order. We’re going to exercise some church discipline, and for those who live like they don’t know Jesus, will be treated like that. rd v 3-4; You want some proof – I’m bringing it!

app.: sounds like a threat – uh-uh; it’s a promise!

t.s.: Now Paul plays off of a word he’s just used to apply some pressure… Let me show you what I mean…

2.     Paul’s Pressure: to the church to test and examine itself, to see if it is indeed in the faith (5-7)

exp.: rd v 5a; Two words – Examine & Test; I like Test for the first word; the NASB puts it this way. For the 2nd word, test here in our text, we see this same word in the verse above, verse 3; I like prove; Prove yourselves! Read the rest of v 5-6; he uses this word a 3rd time, with the negative alpha as a prefix; 6 lit.: I expect (8.5) you will know (γινώσκω) that we have not disproved; i.e.: failed the test; And as you take this test, It is my deepest desire that you’ll see we have passed that test! How is this? Actions prove you’re a believer and actions prove you’re not a believer. Paul is saying that love isn’t what you say, it’s what you do. This lines up with his preaching in Acts 26. 19-20: 19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Jesus taught the same message in Matthew 3.8 and Luke 3.8: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Paul’s saying the same thing here: you should be able to identify followers of Christ by the fruit of their lives.

ill.: Now, here is where you put part 1 and part 2 together. And the practice of these two is called Church Discipline: someone becomes a member of the church (any local congregation); they say they believe like we do; they get baptized and they begin serving in our local church. But then one day, they begin acting like the world: rd 12.20-21; Well, when you notice a Christian acting in a non-Christian way, then you approach them privately, so as not to embarrass them. This gives them a chance to repent. If they do, you set it aside and forgive them. Everything moves along, as it should. No one has to know.

Can I point something out to you? At this point, if you see a brother or sister living in sin and you don’t go to them, but rather go to other believers to seek advice – you are now in sin – you are the one acting like a non-believer. Rd 12.20; if you’re right about the brother in sin – you are now gossiping. Cf. 12.20; if you’re wrong – that’s called slander! Cf. 12.20;

Ill.: I broke down between Casper and Shoshone: a bar in the middle of nowhere. My transmission went out – only worked in 1st gear! My truck go me 10 miles to the next stop – a bar. True story.

Now, let’s say you do this right and the brother or sister likes their sin and doesn’t want to repent. Now we have a problem. Here is where Paul’s statement comes into play. You now go to the elders. Really that is where it should go. The elders then can confront the person with you. At this point, if they refuse to repent – that is, if they fail the test of faith, then the matter should be brought before the church.

app.: Jesus said in Mt 18.15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

t.s.: So, 12.19-13.6, give us a manual for church discipline. Paul moves now to his prayers for them.

3.     Paul’s Prayers: for the church is it’s full restoration. (7-10)

exp.: rd v 7-9; for their restoration; no matter how things appear, in weakness or in strength, Paul prays that they get this and are “restored”; in the literal sense, this word means training or When it’s used as a medical term in classical Gk literature, it means to set a broken bone; it’s a hard word to translate into English because of what it means;

ill.: When you read Matthew 4.21, you get a little idea of the meaning of this word: 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Mending; the NIV – preparing; In Eph 4.12 we read: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ; When you consider a broken bone being reset, restoration works; the same with mending nets – they’re restoring them, so to speak. It can mean completion or even perfection;

app.: Here’s the thing – they’re not where they need to be, like an axe that isn’t sharp, or a knife that has become dull, like nets that have been torn – someone has to work on these tools to make them useful again. That’s what Paul is praying for – their restoration.

t.s.: Finally, Paul winds down his letter with 6 commands…

Conclusion (11-14)

exp.: rd v 11-14; 6 commands – imperative verbs;

  1. Rejoice – (pres act imp)
  2. Be restored; perfected (pft pass imp) – complete; you remember, this is his prayer for them.
  3. Comfort (encourage) one another; one word in the Gk – παρακαλέω; (pres pass imp) – so it’s not so much that you are the catalyst for encouragement and comfort, but rather you’re comforted and encouraged by others. Footnote #2: listen to my appeal. Implies that the passivity on the part of the Corinthians is their encouragement from Paul.
  4. Agree with one another: Lit.: Have the same mind.
  5. Live in peace (be at peace);
  6. Greet one another with a holy kiss. Do you guys know Johnny Beard. I wish he was here today! (mid voice, imp) do this for yourself; How does greeting someone with a holy kiss, help you? This really helps you and your attitude toward one another. So, what would be the equivalent today? Praying for someone – daily.

Application:

  1. Nothing is more important than relationships. Relationships are the core foundation for the body. Worship (leave your gift at the altar – go and be reconciled to your brother); Evangelism (by this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another); discipleship is relationships;
  2. Church purity is vital. No church membership means no accountability.
  3. Church discipline is necessary. None of us is perfect and we all need each other to help us along.
  4. Jesus is coming soon. Paul has given them ample warning – he’s coming and he’s cleaning house. I think that is so apropos with regard to this present topic – Jesus is coming again, too. Are we ready?
    1. As a body?

As individuals?

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2 Corinthians 12.9-21

Title: Called Out to Be Different

Text: 2 Corinthians 12-11-21

CIT: Paul concludes this passage with a review of his apostolic superiority and the sacrifice he has made to bring them the gospel and establish them as a church. His biggest fear is returning to them to find they are still like the world.

CIS: We are reminded of those who serve and sacrifice as God has called. Furthermore, we are reminded that we’ve been called to be distinct and different from the world.

Introduction: In Acts 8.1, we see a young man named Saul who was quickly rising through the ranks of the Sanhedrin. Zealous for his faith and powerful in his position, he traveled near and far to persecute those who were creating a cult religion from his religion. Stamping her out and purifying his religion were his goals. He was faithful, loyal and dedicated. He was also wrong.

Then, something incredible happened to him: he met Jesus and everything about him changed. Faithfulness, loyalty and dedication still characterized his life; however, Jesus had changed his manner. It became most evident in the change of his name. Saul means demanded or desire. Paul means little or small. No longer would Saul make demands as a zealous leader. From now on, he goal for purification of the church would come through different means.

v 9-10; I am reminded this week that the church has been at its strongest when she was weakest in the world. When she has power in the world, when she has influence through numbers, she becomes weak and idle, napping away in the light of God’s love. She is arrogant and haughty. But, when she was reduced to numbers of people who felt the scorn and shame of bearing Christ’s name, then, she was weak and feeble in the eyes of the world, but powerful in her service and sacrifice to God. That is when she became most useful to him.

In today’s passage, Paul repeats much of what he’s said throughout his letter. It’s what you do when you come to the conclusion of your paper or message. Tell them what you are gonna tell them. Then tell them. Then, tell them what you’ve just told them. Here is his conclusion – his epilogue to his foolish speech:

  1. His Claim to Apostolic Superiority
  2. His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice
  3. His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity

1.     His Claim to Apostolic Superiority (11-13)

exp.: rd v 11a; forced means pressed; ‘between a rock and a hard place’; rd 11b; inferior; means to come up short; Romans 3.23; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 2 Cor 11.5 & 9; need; in v 11-13, there are two ways it looks like he comes up short compared with these super apostles:

  1. Is in comparison to their abilities and
  2. In comparison to their abundance provided by the church.

exp.: he then explains to them that they are wrong by both accounts; 1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds) – and 2. He wasn’t a burden to them;

  1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds); spiritual side (v 12); this is a clear indication that it is God who is working; we have an example in the Exodus (Deu. 26.8) God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; with great deeds of terror and signs and wonders. 6.27: 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” Paul is reminding them God has displayed his power through the Apostle Paul – and they were witnesses to it. 2ndly…
  2. He wasn’t a burden to them; physical side (v 13); Listen, to be in the ministry costs money. There is food, shelter, transportation costs; etc.

ill.: I’ve been blown away at the added expenditures we’ve incurred to send missionaries to our UUPG. What a great reminder that we have others on staff serving for us that we need to care for.

app.: Church, I’m done with this point, but don’t let this teaching moment flee from your minds. Let’s not be like the Corinthians who neglect Paul’s needs. Think of those who serve you and care for them. The UUPG missionaries: We don’t want them to be a burden to the people they serve. Kristin: she ministers to our children and many other children who aren’t members here.

t.s.: Paul opens this section with a reminder of his apostolic superiority, established through his work…2ndly,

2.     His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice (14-18)

exp.: rd v 13a; This is the third (time) I have prepared to come to you. Really? We actually have no record of this other visit in Acts. And this has led some scholars to say that what Paul means is that this is the 3rd time he has readied or prepared himself to come for another visit. But this doesn’t line up with 13.1-2; read; I can see how someone might take 12.14 and make it fit that way, but 13.1-2 takes too much work to change. I think it’s best understood as Paul wrote literally: This is the 3rd time I’m coming to you; as I did when present on my 2nd visit;

One more word about this: we don’t have to have a record of this 2nd visit outside of this letter. After all, we didn’t have many of the events Paul describes in chapter 11 – concerning his suffering. My guess is that Paul made a quick, painful visit to Corinth while he was serving in Ephesus on his 3rd MJ.

exp.: Then Paul gets to the heart of the matter; rd 14b: And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. The word burden has the connotation of weighing down; as in a beast of burden whose load is so heavy, it cannot carry it; however, the etymology of the this word shows that it eventually come to mean in Paul’s day, a financial burden – having such a debt to carry that it weighs one down. And You see this financial meaning illustrated as he continues in 14c; For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

He explains this more fully in v 15a; spend and be entirely spent; exhaust; then, he asks a series of rhetorical questions:

  1. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 15b
  2. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? v17
  3. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? v18

ill.: Its as if Paul is saying: I have sacrificed so much for you and will sacrifice more – how can you not see that? This is exactly what Paul says Christ did in 8.9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. He was spent out entirely on our behalf.

app.: Can we stop and rest on this truth for a moment? Apostolic Sacrifice is often overlooked. Those who have been called and commissioned to serve are often taken advantage of and then discarded when the church is done with them.

Ill.: Please allow me a bit of transparency and honesty here. When I took my 1st pastorate in Wyoming, my greatest fear in following this call was that I would give all of my life in service to the church – spending my strength and energy, the vitality of youth, only to be discarded when I was older and weaker. At times that still takes over my thoughts: that I would sacrifice for you in so many ways while I am younger and stronger – then, when my energy would get lower and my mind not as sharp; when the church would be strong and healthy, you would forget those years of service and cast me aside for some younger, smarter, more talented preacher.

App.: but I am reminded often of my hero: Jesus. Think about the Calling of Christ – Sent by the Father; He humbled himself and was obedient to the will of the Father; abandoned by the very ones who called him Lord, he died on a criminal’s cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb; He is the picture of sacrifice on so many levels. He is Paul’s hero, too – the man he has attempted to pattern his life after.

t.s.: His Claim to Apostolic Superiority; His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice; and finally

3.     His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity (19-21)

exp.: He genuinely loves them! He has sacrificed for them; He has demonstrated his calling and commission before them through signs and wonders. Now, he asks them another question: rd v 19a; Lit.: defense in the Gk is the word from which we get apology. Don’t confuse them – he’s not using apology like we think of as “I’m sorry”. An apology is a defense for why you believe what you believe. But he clarifies: that is not what I’m doing here! Rd 19b; κατέναντι θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν· Lit.: over and against (position or place) as in the opposite side; i.e: before God in Christ we speak. Rd 19c; and why? To build you up – like a house; οἰκοδομή – to build a house.

ill.: We’re not trying to defend ourselves for what we’ve done. No, we’ve done what we’ve done because we are building a house here – and you are that house. So we see his sincerity, now look at his concerns: rd v 20-21;

exp.: what a word for us today… my concern is that the church will be acting like the world! In

  • Quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder
  • Impurity
  • Sexual Immorality – πορνεία; All forms of sexual misconduct – adultery; Fornication; Incest – 1 Cor 5; And homosexuality.
  • Sensuality
  • Practice – same word we have for the Book of Acts: The Acts of the Apostles.

app.: The church is not to ACT like the World! We are to act – practice Christianity. We repent of murder and impurity and sexual immorality and sensuality. It does not matter if the 5 Supreme Court Justices make a law saying that marriage is contrary to God’s Law. We obey God’s law. I declare publicly that I will not perform nor sanction homosexual marriages. Nor will I condone the killing of unborn babies – even if it is the law of the land. And furthermore – I will continue to proclaim this Word – that we has a church have a responsibility to abide by it’s laws over and above the laws established by 5 misguided justices.

But let’s remember the context: Paul is talking to the church, telling them to act like Christians. And, for those who don’t act like Christians – they will not be accepted in the church. The world is going to act like the world. We, however, have been called to come out from among them and be different.

ill.: Friday, when the SCOTUS issued its decision on homosexual marriage, I felt strongly that I should make a statement as pastor and for my congregation. I cannot begin to fully express my deepest disappointment, in spite of the fact that I was already pretty sure it was coming, when 5 non-elected individuals decided to redefine what marriage has meant for 5,000 years. This is what I wrote:

As a disciple of Christ who has established God’s Word as my standard, I cannot agree with the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of United States. The marriage of a man and a woman was instituted and sanctioned by God in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither the state nor the nation has the right to redefine that standard of one man and one woman being joined together in holy matrimony. The marriage bond itself was created to be a picture of the gospel and of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.

It appears now that the law of the land will be to recognize homosexual unions as the new standard for marriage. However, as believers, we must obey God rather than mankind. Regardless of the SCOTUS redefinition of marriage, as followers of Christ, we should proclaim the traditional definition of marriage as given by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God endorse same-sex marriage. In fact, there are multiple passages that condemn homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

The message of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter how sin is redefined, it doesn’t take away the need for forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we would be doomed to live out our lives blindly – following our own passions and pleasures. But God, in his infinite mercy, was gracious to us and not only showed us our sin, but offered us a way to find forgiveness from our sin. If we remove the need for forgiveness, then there is no hope and no Good News in our message for a lost world.

Therefore, we will show the grace and love of God to others, while taking a stand for traditional marriage, by openly proclaiming His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. While it is true that we disagree with others about same-sex marriage, we understand they need to be shown the same unconditional love that Christ has given us.

Application:

  1. We don’t respond as the world does.
  2. We take care of those who take care of us.
  3. We make every attempt to keep the church pure.
  4. We show the love of Christ in all matters.
  5. We stand for the Truth and on God’s Word no matter what anyone else does. We’ve been called out to be different and to be distinct.

Conclusion:

How do we know if we’re doing this? Paul tells us in the next chapter, as he concludes this letter (and we’ll look at this in greater detail next week) to examine yourselves: see if you past the test. Are you in Christ, is Christ in you?

Invitation:

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2 Corinthians 10.1-11

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; 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.

  1. The Plea
  2. The Reality
  3. 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:

  • Handsome
  • Intelligent
  • Clever
  • Witty
  • 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: And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 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: For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power

  1. 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;

  1. 5to destroy arguments – the word used here means reasoning powers – that is what people are thinking. Which, then, matches this next phrase…
  2. 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;
  3. take every thought captive to obey Christ, look at v 6;
  4. 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:

  1. 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.

  1. Often times, the reason people are fighting isn’t the real reason. There’s an issue deeper down that isn’t being discussed.
  2. 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!
    1. Don’t go to the pastor – go to that person!
    2. Don’t go to the elders – go to that person!
    3. 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.

  1. 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.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Church Discipline, Sermons