2 Corinthians 1:18-24
Greetings, everybody! Grace, mercy, and peace to you in our Lord Jesus, and welcome to Monday’s edition of EDiBS. Thank you for joining in today as we come together to study God’s Word; I pray that you’ll both learn and grow in your faith over these next few minutes in the Scriptures, and that more than anything, you’ll be moved by God’s Spirit to put your trust in Him in a fresh, new way. It’s a great new week, and I’m glad you’re here! Let’s pray as we go to our Bibles.
Heavenly Father, we are greatly blessed to be called your children; what a wonderful gift to be part of your family through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. We ask that you would speak to us through Your Word today, and that you would send your Spirit to help us as we study. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Paul finishes up this first chapter of his letter to Corinth by explaining to the congregation there why he hasn’t returned to them since his last visit. Before that, however, we have some wonderful words about the promises of God. Our focus: a guarantee of what’s to come!
2 Corinthians 1:18-24
18But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." 19For 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." 20For 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. 21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 23I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
In our culture, being a yes-man is generally not considered a positive character trait. It marks you as a follower; a person who takes orders, a person who fearfully and slavishly submits to a superior or blindly obeys orders without thought. Many people liken it to being under someone’s thumb. And yet in another sense, from a different perspective, being a person who says yes can also be a very good thing. In our cultural vernacular, the phrase we use to signify that trait is being a go-to person. “If you want something done right start to finish, Joe is your go-to guy.” “Jenny will make sure you get what you need on this project. She’s your go-to, your contact, the one who’s going to ensure that you end up with a yes instead of a no.”
In our reading today here at the end of 2 Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul continues his line of defense against those who have belittled and denigrated his ministry in Corinth. If you’ll briefly recall our session from Friday, Paul is in the midst of stressing the integrity of all that he has done in Corinth from the very beginning of his relationship with the people there right up to the present time. In these last several verses of the chapter, he now begins a crescendo that will ultimately carry him right to the apex of his argument in chapter 2. What’s the point of what we see today? That Paul is a man who can be trusted. He doesn’t speak out of both sides of his mouth. He’s not a yes-man and a no-man at the same time. In fact, far from being a yes-man, he’s actually a go-to guy; there is no duplicity present in his life and ministry.
Verse 18: To make sure everybody understands this fact, Paul kicks things off with a bang by asserting these things with an oath in verse 18. “As God is faithful,” he says, “our word to you was not yes and no.”
Verses 19-20: The reason he can say that? It’s in verses 19-20. Paul, Timothy and Silas — and the work they’ve done among the believers in Corinth — is founded on the trustworthiness of the message of Jesus Christ, not on any message of their own making. And since they’ve preached a Jesus who is completely reliable and worthy of trust, in whom the promises of God are always a “yes,” how then can they as messengers of that truth be so quickly considered unreliable and untrustworthy?
Verses 21-22: Since he’s using such a great example to get his point across, Paul goes ahead and finishes the theological thought in verses 21-22, and I especially love this, because even in the midst of defending himself and his companions against false accusations, he finds a way to be a servant of the gospel at the same time. Do you see it? “It is God who makes us stand firm in Christ...just like it is God who makes you stand firm in Christ.” Paul goes on to fill that out with a clear reference to the work of the Trinity: God makes us stand firm in Christ; He anointed us and set His seal of ownership on us; and He put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. In other words, God not only establishes our footsteps in Christ and gives us a firm foundation, but He also equips and empowers us for service (anointing), identifies us as His own and protects us (sealing), and gives us the pledge or deposit, the assurance of what is to come in our heavenly inheritance through the indwelling of His Spirit. It’s our guarantee!
Verses 23-24: Now — having made clear once and for all that he is surely trustworthy as a minister of the gospel and that there is no need to second-guess him, Paul finally says in verses 23-24 why he did not made the earlier visit as he had originally intended, and it comes down to something very simple: essentially, he wanted to spare them another heartache. We’ll talk about this more in the opening verses of chapter 2, but Paul wanted the Corinthian church to have time to repent and to correct its sinful behavior. He wanted, if at all possible, for his next face-to-face meeting to be one of joy rather than confrontation — so he waited. As he says in verse 24, his goal was not to lord anything over the people of Corinth, but to work with them for their joy so that they would be able to stand firm by their faith. It was better to refrain for their sake than to arbitrarily go and perhaps slow their progress.
As we wrap things up for the day, how should we summarize here? We might say this: Paul does not preach a duplicitous God who is wishy-washy in the keeping of His promises; he instead preaches the good news of a God who always keeps His promises, and who can always be trusted to come through. In other words, God is a go-to God. As the messenger of that go-to God, Paul’s point is that he is of the same make-up: he is also not duplicitous, but rather a go-to guy who can always be trusted to come through as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ loves His church, Paul also loves the church, and Paul wants his brothers and sisters in Corinth to understand that he is always looking out for their good in all that he does. Again, we’ll get into this a bit more next time, so do be sure and join in. I’ll look forward to seeing you then; in the meantime, Christ’s peace, take care, and have a super day!