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A closer look at how to preach the Word faithfully.
For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:17).
Paul was aghast at the multitude of false teachers attempting to influence the church at Corinth.
Many of them had led a revolt against Paul’s apostolic authority during his absence in an attempt to get rich and popular.
Due to this pitiful context, one of the key theological factors at work in 2 Corinthians is the contrast the apostle draws between genuine God-ordained ministers and false man-made ‘super’ apostles that boast in human strength, wisdom and eloquence.
One such passage that refers to this sad state of affairs is the verse quoted above. Let’s break it down into five brief points.
1.- For we are not as many which corrupt the Word of God
The Word of God is corrupted when we replace the preaching of Scripture with our dreams, projects, revelations, strategies and visions. The super apostles of Paul’s day invented a new message that spelt doom to the apostle’s Christ-centred theology of the cross.
Today we are witnessing a widespread tendency to do away with systematic exposition of the Bible in favour of happy-go messages that only serve to give us an ego-trip and improve our self esteem.
The root of this phenomenon is found in love for self. The almighty sovereign Christ of Scripture is watered down into a teddy bear-like figure that only exists to grant our every wish. To twist the Scriptures in such a manner is to do damage to the revelation of God and to corrupt the holy Word of God.
2.- But as of sincerity
Rather than preaching for popular applause, Paul felt the doctrine he preached blazing within his heart.
He had convictions, strong convictions; and all of God’s heralds are called to experience the same passion.
There is nothing quite like listening to a man who preaches exactly what he believes. Sparks are seen and flames are felt.
The problem with false prophets is that they don’t preach moved by the Holy Spirit, but by the deceitful ideals of grandeur inspired by the human spirit. A man of God is serious and sober because he feels the force of the theology he proclaims.
3.- As of God
Paul was conscious that he had been commissioned by God. If he hadn’t, he couldn’t have cared less about the super apostles who majored upon new revelations. The fear of God drove Paul to cry out when others made a mockery of the New Covenant.
The impulse of the Spirit within him never left him alone. He couldn’t remain silent. That’s why Paul spoke out.
He didn’t smooth over theological differences in the name of a false love and unity but he pronounced clearly the decrees of God in accordance with the truth of the Good News.
4.- In the sight of God
Not only did Paul speak commissioned by God- “as of God”- but also in the presence of God. Perhaps there is nothing more important for this in a preacher. To know that God is attentive to every word we speak in His name! Surely that must strike a chord with any child truly birthed of the Lord.
I recall an example used by J.C. Ryle. Hugh Latimer was called to preach before Henry VIII and he opened the sermon thus, “Latimer! Latimer! Do you remember you are speaking before the high and mighty King Henry VIII; before him who has power to command you to be sent to prison; before him who can have your head struck off, if it pleases him?
Will you not take care to say nothing that will offend royal ears?” Then he continued, “Latimer! Latimer! Do you not remember that you are speaking before the King of kings and Lord of lords; before Him, at whose bar Henry VIII will stand; before Him, to whom one day you will have to give account yourself? Latimer! Latimer! Be faithful to your Master and declare all of God’s Word.” If only we felt the force of this reality that dwelt in Latimer’s heart! If only we preached as “in the sight of God”!
5.- Speak we in Christ
The final comment is the most precious and comforting of all. If God left us to our own strength, we would have infinitesimal reasons to feel miserably downcast and afraid. But as we preach and testify of our Lord Jesus, we realize that it is He Himself who is working in and through us. Could there be any joy greater than this?
To know that Jesus is fulfilling His wondrous purpose by means of weak vessels than us! Blessed be God!
No false prophet could ever taste such heavenly sweetness. Yes, there are enemies and insults and slander and lies, but with Jesus in the boat we can smile at the storm.
So saints of God: keep smiling, keep preaching and keep pressing on! For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.