Today in God’s Word
2 Samuel 13; 2 Corinthians 6; Ezekiel 20; Psalm 66-67
Paul outlines a church growth plan here in 2 Corinthians 6. He reveals his method of removing obstacles and making it easier for others to come to faith. He give a simple three step plan for this that we should observe and utilize in order to build the church.
1. Suffer for the Gospel (v4-5)
2. Live holy lives that display genuine love (v6)
3. Speak the truth of the Gospel (v7-8a)
This might not be very similar to church growth recommendations we find today, but this was the Apostle Paul’s admonition. He first makes the point that our suffering and acceptance of difficulties for the sake of the Gospel would validate our ministry and would evidence the truth of our claims. We will not convince someone to give their life to the Lord by a show of prosperity. Grit and endurance and sustaining grace is what will get their attention. How we live in the hard times means more to anyone than how we live in the easy times (though the easy times can be just as telling). So in the first, we evidence the sincerity of our transformation and the work of God in our hearts by our grit.
Next he calls us to holy living. We are to love God and love others and this should be evident in our actions, speech, and attitudes. They should see in us a sincere devotion to Jesus and genuine love for others. He speaks of the fruit of the Spirit here being evident in our lives. This is no doubt an attraction. So second, we attract others by the presence of visible and tasty fruit produced by the Spirit of God in us.
Finally, he concludes with an honest word. We are to speak the truth and to use the weapons of righteousness in offense. We are to tell of the Word of God and we are to not be ashamed of the message despite dishonor or slander. We are to keep the focus on God and recognize that it is his power that changes hearts and not ours, despite honor or praise we may receive. So thirdly we are to commend others to God with the truth of the Gospel spoken with real words.
Paul also warns us that the world will not recognize us. The world will not see us as we are and we must maintain an eternal perspective in the face of opposition. In verses 8b-10 he makes this clear and he urges us to know our identity and to not be fooled by the lies of the enemy or the reactions of the world. We are to know that we are giving truth, that God knows us, that we live though we die, that we face hardship but not destruction, that we have the greatest gift in the world to offer, and that we have everything we could ever need in Jesus. These are reminders to strengthen battered troops…we can expect that this encouragement will be needed.
If we live this way then we can say with Paul that our hearts are wide open and we have done nothing to hinder the reach of the Gospel. Paul says that when we live like this it will only be because of the unholy desires of others that they will not be drawn to God. We will have clean hands and we will have loved well. Now it is up to us to search out in the scriptures how one lives this way successfully. Perhaps Psalm 1 is a starting place…
May we live gritty, holy, Gospel advancing lives with open hearts and may we watch the Spirit of God work in our midst with resurrection power!
Soli Deo Gloria!