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The Importance of Genuine Sincerity and Faithfulness (2 Corinthians 1:12-22)

Series: 2 Corinthians (Power In Weakness)

Being able to trust someone is genuine, has pure motives, and no agenda is a big deal.

  • Ishbosheth, son of King Saul, learned this the hard way. Though King David meant no harm to him, it was custom in the nations for new kings to establish their rule by killing all rivals to the throne. Ishbosheth had two captains he trusted. When David started taking power, these two captains thought they could avoid getting killed, so they deceived Ishbosheth. They came into Ishbosheth’s house as trusted captains acting like they were getting wheat, and they killed Ishbosheth on his own bed.
  • Being able to trust someone is a big deal. If we trust the wrong person, we know it could hurt us in the end. Because of this, if we don’t trust someone’s motives are pure or if we simply don’t think we can rely on someone, it places a huge wedge in our relationships.
  • It seems the Corinthians started thinking they couldn’t trust Paul. 
    • Paul had said he wanted to visit Corinth for a long time, but he recently came, left, and didn’t come back.
    • Paul always seems like a gentle guy in person, but he had been blowing them up in his letters recently.
    • Paul had said he didn’t need any money, but now he was asking them to contribute “to help needy saints in Jerusalem.”
    • *They started thinking: maybe he isn’t trustworthy or reliable. Maybe he has some ulterior motives. Maybe he was trying to get the better of them.
  • And so in our text today Paul addresses some of these concerns and assures them of his genuine sincerity and faithfulness. This text ultimately shows us why being genuine and faithful matters a lot. We will talk about why it matters and how we can live among each other with a better appreciation for this.

 

2 Corinthians 1:12–22 NIV11, 12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.

 

15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?

 

18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

 

We Are Faithful As God Is Faithful (2 Corinthians 1:12-22)

Notice how Paul goes about trying to restore trust here.

 

  • (vs. 12-14) He assures them: our consciences are clear. We have dealt with you Corinthians with integrity. There is nothing hidden in between the lines of my letters or of my relationship with you.
  • (vs. 15-17) He explains his change in plans. Yes, he wanted to make a long visit before, but he changed his mind and decided he would rather visit them twice. Whatever happened in all this, Paul assures them this: I wasn’t making my plans in a fickle way like worldly people do. I wasn’t saying “yes” while I actually thought “no.” 
  • (vs. 18-22) Why wouldn’t Paul do that? 
  • Paul says: we don’t act that way because that’s not what God does to us. The longer I live, the more my responsibilities grow, the more I see darkness in the world, the more I read Scripture - especially the prophets - and I see God’s promise that he is going to deal with all this darkness, the more I am forced to place all my concerns in God’s hands. 
    • We sing a song that goes like this: “Are you weighed down with cares of life? Weak in temptation faint in strife? … Are you afraid of coming years? Filled with uncertain joys and tears?” I am. The message of this song is: “Lean on the Lord to help you through; Almighty God will strengthen you.”
    • The longer I live and the more I lean on the Lord’s crazy huge promises - about the world, sin, death, life, Satan, redemption, renewal - the more I realize how much of a fool I will be made out to be if God is not faithful to his promises. I don’t have a backup plan. I’ve hung everything on him. Everything.
    • BUT, Paul says that in Jesus Christ all the promises of God are “yes.” He’s not being duplicitous. Everything God promised is “yes” in Jesus. That’s why we are always saying “amen” - we believe that through Jesus God is being and will be faithful to his promises, so we give glory to God and say, “amen,” “yes,” “God will make it so.”
  • Why does Paul say all this about God’s faithfulness? He wants them to fully understand him: when God says “yes” in Jesus, he means it; so, when we preach a message, we mean it. The implication: when we make plans and share a relationship with you - we are as genuine, sincere, and faithful as God is. We aren’t like worldly people - making promises  just to make you feel good. As surely as God is faithful, we are faithful. Can we say the same thing about ourselves? Don’t answer that question too quickly. We’ll return to that.
  • Why does Paul explain all this to make sure Corinthians don’t misjudge him? After all, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 that it is a light thing for them to judge him. We may tend to think the same thing. God is our judge, not people. Who cares what other Christians think of me? And there is a truth there. God is our judge. If you misjudge me, that doesn’t affect God’s judgment of me. And yet, that’s not the whole picture. Notice verses 13b-14. On the day of our Lord Jesus, we will be able to boast of one another. Me of you, you of me, us of each other.
    • Boasting is a dominant theme in 1/2 Corinthians - the word is used 42 times. Usually, it is used in a negative sense. One reoccurring idea is that Paul wants his boasting about the Corinthians to be accurate. No fluff. In turn, he wants the Corinthians to be able to boast about him. So, he explains himself here.
    • Why? In the day of our Lord everything will be revealed clearly. They will see who  Paul really is, he will see who they really are, and they will boast of each other then… but he’s hoping they don’t have to wait to understand each other or boast of each other until then.
  • How comfortable are we with that idea? Boasting of and being proud of one another in the day of the Lord. Are we ready for that? Can we imagine doing that? If not, why?
    • We might not feel comfortable with that because some of us may be rather shocked - “What? You’re here?!” Maybe we saw someone’s weakness and allowed that to color our perception of them as rebellious, unloving, or faithless.
    • We might not feel comfortable because maybe we’ve only been thinking about ourselves. We haven’t thought about what others have done because we’ve been busy trying to make sure everyone knows how great we are.

 

Preparing for Our Mutual Boasting on the Day of Our Lord

How can we be better prepared to be proud of and boast of one another in that day?

 

1. We should care what other Christians think of us, and what we think of them.

  • The whole nature of the text - Paul correcting false perceptions - shows this matters.
  • The individualism of the culture has certainly infiltrated churches. Individualism can even sound righteous at times, “I don’t care what you think because God is my judge.” This attitude can be out of balance. Let’s not misunderstand: other Christians aren’t our judge and we should do our righteous deeds to be seen by God, not by men.
  • We may be out of balance because of an incomplete story we can tell ourselves. We’ve been told that we are saved on the basis of individual faith, and that is true, but it is half of the story. We are saved on the basis of individual faith, but Paul shows us here that the day of our Lord will be more about celebrating the community than the individual. The day of the Lord will not be about me and Jesus, it will be about all of us together with the Lord - boasting in what he has done through all of us. And if I have spent my whole life saying, “It’s just me and Jesus, nobody else’s opinion matters,” we aren’t living as if our hope is vs. 14: “that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.”
  • A way we can show we care about this hope is by seeking to understand one another. If there is some disagreement between us, we shouldn’t quickly write one another off. Rather, we should do the harder thing: seek to understand. Maybe they will refuse this and show their true colors; maybe we will find that we made a hasty judgment, and we will gain a brother or sister. How often the latter is true! How often we may make hasty judgments because it is easier than the hard work of uncovering reality.
  • Another way we can show we care is to seek to be fully understood. Paul says in vs. 13: “I hope you will fully understand - just as you did partially understand us…” Don’t hide or be secretive. Eliminate behaviors or language that cause confusion about who you are. Instead of saying, “I don’t have to explain myself,” be willing to humbly explain yourself.

 

2. We should be genuine and faithful so others can rely on and boast of us.

  • Paul says in vs. 12 “we behaved… with simplicity and godly sincerity.” There was no hidden agenda. He didn’t say one thing when another was true. He didn’t hide under a false mask.
  • Furthermore, Paul rhetorically asks in vs. 17–18, “Do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”” Paul was concerned with being as faithful and reliable as God is faithful. He isn’t like worldly people who commit, but don’t mean it. 
  • Is that us? Someone who is as faithful and sincere as God? We hang a lot on God. If he proves to not be faithful, I will appear as a fool. The Corinthians hung a lot on Paul. We shouldn’t treat each other like God, but if we want anyone to boast of us on the day of our Lord, we need to be sincere, reliable, and trustworthy now. 
  • The bottom line is that others are nowhere near being able to boast of what the Lord has done in us if others can’t even rely on us now. How often do we say we will be somewhere, sign up for something, commit to this family… and not follow through? 
  • If we are feeling like we aren’t very close with people here and wondering why we don’t feel close with people or why people never entrust us with anything, let’s ask ourselves: have I shown myself to be reliable or faithful? Am I often a no show? As the story of Ishbosheth illustrates, everyone here knows that if we trust the wrong people, we will look foolish in the end. And so, we are wary for good reason. Let’s stop driving wedges in our relationships with people here by being unreliable. Let’s make commitments to each other and follow-through. When we have a responsibility, let’s be prepared to fill it. Be here. Be present. Be faithful. Then we will be able to easily trust each other and boast of what the Lord has done in each other now and in the day of the Lord.

 

3. We should make genuine boasts of each other now.

  • It will be challenging to boast of what the Lord has done in each other on the day of the Lord if it is not our regular practice now. If we don’t take pride in what God has done in others now, can we really say our hope is the same as Paul’s? So, we should “practice” this boasting now, spread good gossip about one another.
  • Why is this challenging to do now?
    • It may be we are looking too much to ourselves. We are concerned what others think of us, not of making much of how Christ lives in someone else (hint: let’s be intentional in focusing on others, not on causing others to see us in a good light).
    • Maybe our practice is to complain and criticize others. We need to recognize the truth of verses 21-22 - God makes all of us stand firm in Christ. We all have his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Is it really appropriate to constantly complain about and criticize others in the body?
    • It may be that we simply don’t know each other well enough to make genuine boasts of each other. This is an important aspect of boasting: Paul speaks in his letters to the Corinthians and Thessalonians of how he has boasted about them in different regions, but he started to become concerned that his boast about them was not going to turn out to be true. The point of this is to not just make each other feel good by spreading fluff about each other. That’s not helpful.

 

One day we will see the Lord and we will see each other as we really are. Our hope is to be all together with the Lord and celebrate not our individual faith but what God has accomplished through the community. Let’s be sincere, honest, and faithful now. Let’s be more watchful of each other now so we can both help each other grow and boast of each other’s growth and fruit in the Lord - now and in the age to come.

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