Not Putting Any Unnecessary Obstacles In Anyone’s Way By Responding Well To Every Situation; The Corinthians Needed To Have A Close Relationship To Paul And Timothy And Limit Their Relationships To Unbelievers; They Needed To Keep Themselves Holy
Even though the Rabbi from Tarsus was one of the greatest men who ever lived – not only an apostle, but a very special apostle, the apostle to the Gentiles, the Jewish man entrusted to reach the peoples other than the people of Israel, and teach them, and help them apply the truth about the Jewish Messiah to their cultures; and even though Paul was one of the greatest theologians who ever lived; and even though he wrote a good portion of the Word of God; and even though the Lord used Paul to start communities of Messiah’s followers in the province of Asia and in Greece, which influenced the direction of western civilization – the Rabbi frequently was opposed by people outside Messiah’s Community of Salvation, and opposed by people within the Community of Salvation. It was important for him to defend himself and his ministry, especially from the criticisms of those within the community, so that all of Messiah’s followers could benefit from him and his extremely important ministry.
Paul and Timothy and their team understood they were God’s ambassadors, God’s co-workers and God’s servants and needed to conduct themselves in such a way so as to not offend anyone unnecessarily. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. The Gospel, the message about the only way of salvation, the only way to live forever, is a stumbling block for most people. It’s difficult enough for people to believe that the purpose of life is to be reconciled to the Creator by becoming loyal to a Jewish carpenter who was despised and rejected by the leaders of His nation and died a humiliating and painful death. God’s servants didn’t want to put any unnecessary obstacles in anyone’s way by not handling every situation the right way.
Paul and his team wanted their response to every situation they experienced, whether good or bad, positive or negative, to reflect well on them and their ministry and the God they served. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses: in spite of all of the problems, difficulties, hardships, trials and suffering they experienced; in spite of the beatings, imprisonments and riots – they never abandon their faith or their Lord or their ministry. They never quit. They never gave up. They endured.
In hard work: There were times when they had to work hard to support themselves; work hard by traveling long distances; work hard at proclaiming the Good News; work hard by teaching and correcting those who responded to the message.
In sleepless nights: They encountered difficult situations that prevented them from sleeping.
In hunger: They experienced times when they didn’t have enough to eat.
Most people would become impatient, angry or resentful if they experienced troubles, hardships and distresses; beatings, imprisonments and riots; hard work, sleepless nights and hunger but these men didn’t. They were characterized by understanding, patience and kindness. They did not discredit their Lord and their ministry.
They were characterized by purity. In an impure world, they kept themselves pure. They didn’t yield to sin; didn’t give into temptation.
They were characterized by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God was in them and filling them with wisdom and working through them in powerful ways and doing all the amazing things that the Holy Spirit does in God’s people who yield to Him.
Sincere love characterized them and their ministry. They had a genuine desire to do good for others, especially for their fellow believers, but also for those who opposed them.
Truthful speech characterized them and their ministry. They didn’t lie. They didn’t deceive. They proclaimed the truth. They taught the truth.
The power of God characterized them and their ministry. They had the ability to do extraordinary things; the ability to do miracles; the ability to live in an extraordinary way; the ability to declare the truth in a powerful way.
Weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left characterized them and their ministry. Like courageous soldiers with weapons in both hands, these men were equipped to help others get right with God and overcome wrong thinking and wrong actions so that they believed the right things and did the right things.
People can respond to bad reports about them and being dishonored by becoming vindictive; and people can respond to good reports about them and being honored by becoming proud. These servants of God responded in the right way to glory and dishonor, bad report and good report. When people spoke well about them and honored them, they responded with humility and grace. When people spoke badly about them and dishonored them (they’re in it for the money; they’re arrogant; most of the stories you’ve heard about their accomplishments aren’t true; they’ve done bad things you don’t know about) – they responded in a godly way.
Genuine, yet regarded as impostors: Even though they were genuine servants of God, when Paul was accused of not being a true apostle; when he and his co-workers were accused of being false teachers; fakes, phonies, insincere – they responded in a God-honoring way.
Known, yet regarded as unknown: People like to be known. They get resentful if they aren’t. Even though they were known in the throne room of Heaven; known by the heavenly court; known by God the Father and Messiah the Son; known by the good angels; known by the true servants of God – many considered them to be insignificant and unimportant. When slighted in that way, they responded with grace.
Dying, and yet we live on: In spite of experiencing many life-threatening situations, the Lord protected them. He enabled them to continue their valuable ministry.
Beaten, and yet not killed: Paul was whipped, beaten with rods and pelted with stones. I’m sure other members of his team were beaten. Yet, the Lord prevented the Rabbi and his team members from being killed.
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: Sorrow was a frequent companion. In spite of experiencing a lot of sorrow, these men were able to experience happiness that didn’t depend on their circumstances. They were able to always rejoice, knowing their sorrows were temporary and their future joys eternal.
Poor, yet making many rich: Many people judge their success by their wealth – but not these men. They were poor, but that didn’t upset them because they knew they were enriching many with the true wealth – salvation; eternal life; a great inheritance in Heaven.
Having nothing, and yet possessing everything: They weren’t bothered by having no earthly possessions because they knew they were God’s sons who will inherit all things.
These men lived in such a way that, in every situation, good and bad, positive and negative, they responded like Messiah would have responded in that situation. They didn’t do anything that made it more difficult for others to get closer to God. They didn’t do anything to discredit themselves, their very important ministry, or the God they served.
Knowing these were the kind of men Paul and Timothy were, Messiah’s followers in Corinth should love them and trust them.
Paul and Timothy had open wide their hearts to Messiah’s people in Corinth. They shared their thoughts, feelings and experiences with them. They loved them. They wanted the Corinthians to reciprocate. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also. What a wonderful thing – God’s people and great leaders of God’s people relating to each other the way they should, yoked together and serving the Lord together.
The Corinthians needed to have a close relationship to Paul and Timothy and other sincere believers. That would influence them in the right direction. They needed to guard themselves from having close relationships with unbelievers which would influence them in the wrong direction. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. We can’t avoid associating with unbelievers – nor should we – but we can and should limit our association; limit our friendships; our partnerships in business; our choice of life-partners. Just as Moses commanded Israel not to plow with a donkey and ox yoked together, we don’t want to have relationships with unbelievers which will prevent us from serving the Lord the way we should or pull us in the wrong direction.
Paul and Timothy asked five questions to reinforce this truth.
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? They have nothing in common.
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? There is no sharing of the most important things between light and darkness.
What harmony is there between Messiah and Belial? Belial refers to a worthless person, or perhaps a worthless angel. There is no harmony between Messiah, who is supremely worthy, and Belial who is worthless. In life’s orchestra, they’re not playing the same music. They’re not singing the same song. There’s no harmony possible between them.
Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? Someone who has the true beliefs, shares very little in common with one who denies the true beliefs. They don’t share the same values; the same priorities; the same destiny.
We are to guard ourselves from having relationships with those who prevent us from serving the Lord the way we should or pull us in the wrong direction.
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? There is no agreement between the temple of God and the temple of idols. The temple of God demands exclusive devotion. The temple of God abhors the temples of idols.
And because of Messiah Yeshua, God’s people had become the greater temple of God, the place where God lives on Earth by means of His Spirit. For we are the temple of the living God.
And as he does so often, the Rabbi reinforces this truth with truth from the Word of God, in this case truth based on quotes from Moses, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God’s promises to the Jewish people are fulfilled in us. God, living with human beings who were alienated from Him, making them into His people, and walking among them in close relationship to them, being their protector and provider.
And since the Corinthians were the temple of the living God, who is holy, they needed to be separate themselves from anything that would make them unholy. Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Just as the Lord, speaking through Isaiah, told the Jewish people who were living in captivity among the idolaters of Babylon to leave Babylon and return to Israel, so God’s people in Corinth needed to come out of the idolatry and the moral pollution of Corinth. Separation from sin – sinful beliefs and sinful practices and sinful people – leads to closeness to God. Makes me want to come out from a world of sinful people and be separate, and not be involved in any unclean activities – how about you?
Holiness, purity, separation, spiritually and morally clean living help us become the sons and daughters of God we need to be. And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” This is a quote from 2 Samuel 7. Just as God promised David that He would be a father to his son, so the Corinthians had become the sons and daughters of God. Now they needed to live in a way that was consistent with that reality. And so do we. Amen?
I conclude this message with Paul and Timothy’s conclusion to this section, found in 7:1. Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends: promises of God living with us and walking among us – reconciliation to God, closeness to God; God being our God, which means our strong provider and protector; being not just our provider and protector, but our loving Father – let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. Let’s eliminate everything impure from every area of our lives, inward and outward, our thought life and our physical life. Because we know God is to be feared, respected, reverenced and obeyed, let’s consistently work on pure living, resisting temptation living, holy living. Amen?
Heavenly Father, just and Paul and Timothy, those two great Messianic Jews, were Your ambassadors, Your representatives, Your co-workers, so are we. You have entrusted us with the message of salvation. Help us proclaim the Good News the way we should and help each one of us live in such a way that we do not put any unnecessary obstacles in anyone’s way.
Help us to respond well to every situation – good and bad, positive and negative.
I pray that You would help our relationships at Shema be what they should be, especially that the members of the congregation would have good and close relationships with the leaders of the congregation, and vice-versa.
I pray that You would help us not have inappropriate relationships with those who would pull us in the wrong direction, influence us to not serve You the way we should.
I pray that since You live in us by means of Your Spirit, we would, out of reverence for You, pursue holiness and purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit.