INTEGRITY IN MINISTRY LEADS TO THE TESTIMONY OF A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
Key passage in Paul’s defense against attacks on his integrity as a minister of the Gospel. (cf. my thesis from college on Sincerity in the writings of John Bunyan)
I. (1:12 – 7:13) PERSONAL INADEQUACY PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY FOR THE GLORY OF THE NEW COVENANT MINISTRY TO BE DISPLAYED IN MINISTRY INTEGRITY AND RECONCILED RELATIONSHIPS
(PAUL’S CONFIDENCE IN HIS MINISTRY INTEGRITY AND HIS COMMITMENT TO RECONCILED RELATIONSHIPS)
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (4:7)
I. (:12) CONFIDENCE OF INTEGRITY —
HE HAS BEEN SINCERE IN HIS DEALINGS WITH THEM
A. The Value of a Good Conscience
“For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience”
Guzik: In this section, Paul defends himself against the accusation that he is fickle and unreliable. Here, he simply states that he has a clear conscience before God, and trusts that the Corinthian Christians will understand.
B. The Vital Components of Integrity of Ministry
1. Looked at Positively
a. “in holiness”
b. “and godly sincerity”
2. Looked at in Contrast
a. “not in fleshly wisdom”
b. “but in the grace of God”
C. The Fishbowl of Spiritual Ministry
1. On Display Before the World
“we have conducted ourselves in the world”
2. Critically Examined By the Church
“and especially toward you”
II. (:13-14) TRANSPARENCY OF INTEGRITY —
THE MORE THEY KNOW HIM, THE MORE THEY WILL SEE HIS SINCERITY
A. (:13) Open Book
“For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end.”
B. (:14) Mutual Appreciation / Boasting
“just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.”
* * * * * * * * * *
1) Carrying out ministry (as well as living our whole life) “in the grace of God” requires that we repudiate any confidence in the flesh (in our own wisdom and strength and righteousness) and fall completely at the foot of the cross where we see the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
2) The integrity of Christ during His earthly ministry is the best example of what Paul is testifying to here: look at His holiness, His godly sincerity, His avoidance of fleshly wisdom as He wrestled with Satan in the desert, the testimony of His conscience when unjustly accused, the consistency and transparency of His life lived out in truly a fishbowl environment.
3) The goal of Christian ministry is to disciple others … to grow them up into Christlikeness so that both the discipler and the disciple end up looking more like the Master. As this is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit there will be cause to be proud when we stand together before our Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly we do not want there to be any unresolved problems of reconciliation between our Christian brothers.
4) The “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is not here yet, but is fast approaching. Any suffering or affliction on account of the gospel is very brief. There is an urgency to conduct our ministry in a manner that will be applauded by Jesus Christ Himself. At that day everything (including our motives in ministry) will be made manifest before Him who knows us all intimately right now.