Jesus, the fulfilment of God's promises. 1:18-22
Our passage for study is part of a wider section where Paul defends himself against the charge that he is weak, vacillating and fickle. He knows he promised to visit the church in Corinth after his mission in Macedonia, but he wants them to know that he didn't come because he didn't want to cause them pain. In the passage before us, 1:18-22, Paul reminds his readers of the unchanging gospel proclaimed to them by his evangelistic team. In these "promises" both Paul and his readers are confirmed, consecrated, sealed and already enjoy the first fruits of the Spirit; all this through the will of God. It is therefore, unthinkable for Paul to be called a "yes no man."
v18. By itself, this verse is a little unclear. Paul is probably saying something like the following: "God is to be trusted, he does what he promises, he's reliable, and we, his servants, are similarly trustworthy. As far as our plans to visit you are concerned, they were made with the full intention to follow them through." Just as God does what he says he will do, so Paul and his apostolic team are not vacillating "yes no men."
v19. Paul's own reliability rests on the reliability of the gospel, a message from a reliable God. As to the content of the message, it concerns "Jesus Christ." Paul and his team preached Christ, the "Son of God". The term "Son of God" is most likely used as a messianic title rather than expressing a filial relationship between Jesus and the Father. So, they proclaimed the message of the coming messiah who through his life, death and resurrection, inaugurates the kingdom of heaven and opens its gates for all. Christ is God's divine "yes" to broken humanity.
v20. This gospel message, which reveals God's promised intentions for broken humanity, finds its completion, its fulfilment, in Christ. This "Yes", this "Amen" ("affirmation", same idea), this fulfilment of all things in Christ, is faithfully proclaimed by Paul and his apostolic team in their gospel preaching ("spoken by us") - a proclamation for God and to his glory.
v21. So, Paul's reliability rests on the reliability of God. God is doing what he promised he would do in the gospel, and he is doing it through Paul and his team. It is God himself who verifies, confirms (better than NIV "makes" - making firm) the standing of the apostolic team in Christ, as well as those ("you") who hear their message. Yet, not only has God confirmed Paul and his team, he has also "anointed" them, consecrated them, set them apart for service, or better, "makes us share in his (Christ's) anointing"
v22. As well as confirming the standing of Paul and his team (as well as all those who believe, "you") and consecrating them for service, God also sets "his seal of ownership on" them, i.e., God seals his servants as a person seals a document for authentication. And as well as this, the apostolic team (as well as "you") possess the "deposit", the earnest, or first deposit of the Spirit, the first deposit of our eternal inheritance (although, "guaranteeing what is to come", is not in the Greek). So, the suggestion that Paul and his team are vacillating "yes no men" is absurd.
An authentic word from God
During our Christian walk we will sit under the ministry of many clergy. The danger we face is that we may respond from a human perspective as the Corinthians did with Paul and his apostolic team. If we do this we will inevitably miss out on the Spirit's word-ministry, which is the means God uses to prepare us for eternity.
Alan Lad dropped a good line in a B grade cowboy movie once. He was accused of hypocrisy when lecturing a friend on some moral issue. His reply was, "who better to preach than a sinner." Indeed! Yet, from the sanctity of the pew it is sometimes hard to engage with the words of a flawed preacher.
It is very easy to approach the preached word negatively, yet the Spirit can speak to us through the worst sermon. Methodology and style are really not going to inhibit the Spirit's work. Only falsehood will do that and most preachers aren't into lying. In fact, the plain sermon has more potential to speak to us than its entertaining counterpart.
When Paul defends his integrity he does so by directing his readers to look beyond the mere man to the integrity of the word he preaches and the reliability of the God who empowers that word:
i] The preacher's message. The gospel of Jesus Christ declares God's wonderful intentions for those who believe. Its realization rests on the integrity of God, not on the capacity of the preacher. God's divine Word is self-empowering, self-authenticating, and needs only to be heard with an open heart to achieve its intended end.
ii] The preacher's role. The Word ministry is empowered by the Spirit, who confirms, consecrates, seals and who is a first-installment of glory. The significant involvement of God in the reliability of his Word, itself drives the preacher to deliver a reliable word.
It is therefore, our responsibility to give heed to the preached word.
1. In what sense is the preached word God's "Yes"?
2. Discuss the four descriptions of God's hand upon the apostolic team, v21, 22.
3. Discuss the state of preaching in the church today. Compare expository with topical. How can we get a good word from a badly presented sermon?
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