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God Sees All; We Don't

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Feb 10, 2019

by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:11–5:12
  1. Introduction
    A. 2Corinthians 5:11–12 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
      1. This gets us back to the heart of the reason Paul wrote 2Corinthians. Remember the situation.
      2. Paul had come to Corinth and preached the gospel, and a church was formed. He stayed there and ministered to them for a year and a half. 
      3. But after he left, some men who were Judaizers infiltrated the church and began trying to influence the Corinthian believers to reject Paul as their apostle. 
      4. When Paul got wind of this, he immediately went to Corinth for a visit which didn’t go at all well.
      5. Then he wrote a severe letter (a letter which Paul refers to in 2Corinthians 2:4, but which we don’t have) and after hearing it had a good effect, followed up with this letter. 
      6. He’s trying to undo the damage to his relationship with the Corinthians these men had caused. He’s trying to undo the damage to his reputation in their eyes these men had caused.
    II. (Title) In this passage Paul reminds us that God sees all, but that we humans don’t. 
     A. We know that God sees everything, as Paul says here in v.11. “What we are is known to God.”
      1. We may be able to fool men, we may even be able to fool ourselves, but God sees everything about us (see Psalm 139:1-4; Heb.4:13; Jer.16:17; Prov.5:21, 15:3). 
      2. He sees our thoughts; He sees our motivations; He sees our desires. He sees everything. 
     B. But humans don’t see everything. Sometimes we don’t see what’s there, and sometimes we think we see things which are not actually there. In other words, sometimes we think we see things in people which are not at all accurate, which are a misconstruing of what is actually there. 
     C. This is what is behind what Paul says at the end of v.11. ‘What we are is known to God, and I hope it is known to you as well.’ 
     D. Because Paul had been called directly by Christ and was never a part of the company of the twelve disciples while Jesus was on earth, he was vulnerable to questions about the authenticity of his apostleship. 
     E. And when the Corinthian church was infiltrated by men who were enemies of grace, who were trying to undermine the ministry of Paul, these men attacked the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship, using every argument they could think of. 
     F. And the saddest thing was that their arguments had begun to win over the Corinthian believers. This is why Paul had written what is called his severe letter, which had convicted many of the Corinthians that they had been wrong, that they had misjudged Paul. 
     G. Paul knew that wise, mature Christians are able to be discerning. He knew that if they knew him the way God knew him, they would change their unkind opinions of him and would not be so influenced by the enchanting deceptions of the false apostles. So Paul wrote these letters, hoping that the Corinthians would finally recognize that he was all about serving them, not serving himself,
      1. that he was striving to exalt them in Christ, not striving to exalt himself, 
      2. and that his bold reprimands were motivated by his love for them, and by his passion for them to experience full reconciliation with God through Christ.
      3. He wants them to be able to boast in him again, to be happy to have him as their friend & apostle.
     H. The great apostle should not have had to defend his apostleship. He should not have had to hope that the Corinthians could see how he was motivated by zeal for Christ and love for them. 
      1. Everything in his life and ministry sparkled with the truth of the authenticity of his apostleship. 
      2. “We behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” 2Corinthians 1:12 
      3. His opponents had no ground to stand on. He was the epitome of humility. In fact, his humility was one of the things which the false apostles criticized him about. 
     I. And yet Paul lovingly and willingly stooped to explain himself many times in his writings, especially in this epistle. Even when there was no basis for an accusation against him, in love he was willing to explain himself and not stomp off in a huff, offended that someone had the audacity to accuse him. 
     J. In some ways this is a pathetic sight. Here is the Apostle of Christ, the greatest missionary who ever lived and probably the greatest Christian in history, hoping (and almost begging) that these Corinthian believers would see his sincerity, when there wasn’t a shred of reason for them to doubt it.
     K. Paul had much more reason to be proud than any of us, but he was extraordinarily humble. He put aside any spirit of defensiveness or touchiness, clothing himself with love and forbearance and long-suffering instead. 
    III. Aren’t you thankful for Paul’s example of love and patience and humility? Isn’t this a precious gift from God to us? 
     A. It shows that no matter how godly you are, or how consistently you have proven himself over time, there will be those who will suspect your motives and even accuse you of malice. 
      1. This shouldn’t be surprising, for this is the way our Lord Jesus was treated. There couldn’t be a person more worthy of trust and respect, and yet they constantly accused and attacked Him. 
       a. And He says to us: "A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20) 
      2. And He tells us how to respond. Even if they’re our enemies, He says to treat them with love (Matt.5:44). 
      3. Even when we feel like we’ve been falsely accused, we must not pay back insult for insult but bless those who curse us (1Peter 3:8-12). 
      4. And especially when they’re our fellow believers, we must be willing to fight for our relationship with them, just like Paul did with the Corinthians. 
      5. We need to follow this example of Paul. He pleads with them. He doesn’t get offended. He doesn’t attack. He reaches out to them. He keeps expressing love to them. 
     B. We must live in fear of treating anyone else this way! 
      1. We all have the potential of being arrogant and judgmental! 
      2. We have to be very careful about not just how we treat others, but how we think of others.
      3. It is very easy for us to jump to premature conclusions about people, instead of giving people a judgment of charity, thinking the best of them, giving them the benefit of the doubt.
      4. We don’t see everything. You know, there are different ways to interpret the same evidence.
      5. We need to be afraid of misinterpreting the evidence. We need to be afraid of making false judgments, of judging others on the basis of appearances, impressions or past experiences. 
      6. I’m a theory person: about how things work, about what must have happened, about what’s motivating people. But most of my theories prove to be wrong. So, I have to be careful about how seriously I take my own theories. 
      7. It’s very important for people who know God sees everything to remember that we don’t. 
      8. How much damage has been done in the church by people jumping to unfair conclusions about others! How much damage has been done in the church by people spreading their impressions of others around! 
       a. Person 1 has a jaded view of person 2. When person 1 speaks with person 3, his view of person 2 is obvious. And it’s very easy for person 3 to adopt the conclusions of person 1 about person 2.
       b. I can easily fall into the trap myself. 
       c. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an answer for the way we treated others, the way we thought of others, the way we talked about others to our family and friends. 
     C. Why does Paul care so much about what the Corinthians think of him? Aren’t Christians supposed to disregard what others think of them? 
      1. Paul is pleading with them to adjust their view of him because he knows he can do them no good if they think evil of him, if they constantly suspect his motives in his dealings with them. 
      2. He loves them; he wants to build them up in Christ. But he can’t if they won’t listen to Him. And he knows they won’t listen to him if they have no regard for him, if they reject his apostleship. 
      3. Think about parents. There is a sense in which you can’t parent well if you are afraid of your child’s disapproval. But when your children start thinking that you don’t care about them but just want to control their lives, you can’t just accept that. You’ve got to fight to try to convince them of your love. That’s a time when it is a sin to not care about what someone thinks of you. 
      4. This is why Paul very much wants the people in the Corinthians church to know that he ministers in sincerity, not using trickery or deception. 
     D. Paul refers to those trying to undermine him as “those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.” (v.12)
      1. Earlier in this sermon I said that one of the things Paul’s opponents were critical of Paul for was his humility. It’s amazing but true. They claimed that Paul’s style was too ordinary and not dynamic enough. They claimed he came across as weak when an apostle should be mighty and impressive and spellbinding.  
      2. Isn’t the way Paul describes these detractors eerily similar to the way many church leaders operate today? It’s all about marketing. It’s all about looking sharp. It’s all about entertainment. It’s all about giving customers a good experience so they keep coming back. It’s all about success. 
       a. They “boast about outward appearance” and don’t pay attention to “what is in the heart.”
      3. Christianity is regularly hijacked for all kinds of earthly advantage.
       a. For instance, we’ve seen that Christianity can be very useful for making lots of money.
       b. It can be very useful for gaining wise, kind, supportive friends — hard to find in the world.
       c. It can also be used to gain a name for oneself. 
        (1) Tower of Babel – man strives to make a name for himself, to leave his name on the earth
        (2) The church is supposed to be all about honoring the name of the one who’s name is above every name.
       d. I think some people accuse others of being insincere because they think EVERYONE is insincere. They don’t believe in sincerity. They don’t believe in sincere love. And the reason they don’t believe in sincere love is because they’ve never experienced it in their own hearts. They think it’s ALL just a game. They think it’s ALL a pursuit of your own pleasures. And for them to accept the existence of sincere love would involve a condemnation of their own hearts, so they don’t want to believe in love. 
       e. Woe to those who exploit Christ’s church for their own earthly appetites!  
      4. We are all susceptible to “boasting about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.” 
       a. We can all get wrapped up in how we look. 
       b. We can all care more about looking godly than we do about being godly.
      5. People judge based on outward appearance. God judges the heart. (1Samuel 16:7)