Words of Faith 9-19-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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2 Corinthians 4
Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Evidently Paul had been accused of deceitful behavior and using the gospel to serve his own ends. Accusations against people who serve the Gospel are easy to make and hard to defend. In Paul's case, nothing could have been more untrue and nothing could be quite as hurtful. Unfounded accusations against any Christian are deeply wounding. Paul had to speak to it.
The word "deception" translates from Greek panourgia, which means "trickery" or "cunning"-- a word used to describe the activity of Satan. While his detractors did not call Paul "a Satan", they implied that he worked just like one. It must have been more than disquieting that those in Corinth had failed to defend him.
In the face of harsh accusations, Paul found it necessary to defend himself before people who should have trusted him implicitly and expected the best or at least given him the benefit of the doubt. Paul emphatically rejected these accusations, and, as awkward it was to do, he commended himself.
I love what Tevye’s daughter Hodel says in Fiddler on the Roof-- “The Rabbi who must commend himself has a congregation of one." Paul must have felt a little that way as he formed this part of the letter.
The truth was that the openness of the New Covenant had always been reflected in Paul's conduct. His tactics had never been secretive or deceptive, nor had he ever dishonestly manipulated the message of God entrusted to him. The source of the accusation was probably the fact that Paul did not insist that Gentiles comply with the Mosaic Law. For those who did not understand grace, this was an adulteration.
Paul pointed out that his team had renounced any secret or shameful ways, setting forth the truth plainly and with boldness. Unlike his opponents, he did not distort or "falsify" the Word of God. Thus he could commend himself before others and God.
In any self-defense, self-commendation must play some part. But Paul's self-commendation was distinctive. He commended himself, not by self-vindication at every point, but simply by the open declaration of the truth-- in particular, the gospel and its implications.
Paul's appeal was not directed to a partisan spirit or the prejudices of men but "to every man's conscience." His self-commendation was undertaken with God as onlooker. In doing so, Paul kept in mind that even the accusers he was responding to, were objects of God's plan. People were more important that winning an argument.
Sometimes we are put in a position of defending ourselves against innuendo or accusation. We wish that it were not so. But we can do well to learn from the example of Paul. There is no need for point-by-point vindication. An open declaration of the truth is sufficient. A clear allegiance to the Gospel should be evident. There is no need to appeal to the partisan nature of men or to their prejudices. There is no need for political maneuvering or "damage control". Rather, we "set forth the truth plainly and commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God".
Lord God, help me to set forth the truth of the Gospel plainly. Help me to conduct my life in a way that commends my walk to the consciences of men in the sight of God. Keep me close to You so that I may always commend You, Your mercy and Your grace. In Jesus' Name.