What and How We Preach – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Series: 2 Corinthians
This weekend is the anniversary of a great work of God in salvation that began about 1517 and spread across Europe and eventually to its few pioneer villages in North America. It is called the Reformation, and it should remind us that God can do unexpected and remarkable things through people and events that seem most unlikely.
Yet my concern this morning is not to talk about that time, but about God’s message in our time—the twenty-first century. The same God still works through the same good news that changed all history in the first century and the sixteenth century. All around the world the Lord is saving people. In this text, we hear one of Christ’s first spokesmen, a man called Paul, talk about what and how new covenant ministers preach and what God is able to do through that message. Let’s think about what is written for our benefit.
I.          The glory of the new covenant ministry prompts perseverance and openness (4:1-2).
A.        A gospel minister must face temptations to disabling discouragement. If anyone had an opportunity to give up, it was Paul (cf. 6:4-10; 11:23-29). However, Paul did not give in to discouragement. He explains this to his readers.

1.         Meaning of “lose heart” and examples of how this can happen. The word used can be translated “not despair”. It carries the idea of behaving badly by getting into such a condition. Despair is the spirit of our age, and people try desperately to escape it by pleasure of some sort. But gradually there is no pleasure that can overcome the damp chill of hopelessness. The Christian is to have no part with this attitude.

2.         There are sufficient resources to overcome this temptation. The apostle mentions two: the character of new covenant ministry, which is surpassing, enduring, and transforming glory, and the mercy of God. You see, if we would not give up, we must remember what God is doing. He has placed us in a ministry of glory. And God’s mercy is on us (cf. Ps 23:6). Whatever happens, we must view our situation through gospel eyes. “Everything is going to be all right,” as a contemporary Christian songs says.

B.        A gospel minister must serve according to gospel principles. This influences the mode of ministry in three ways.

1.         We renounce secret and shameful ways. The gospel has no room for ways that are underhanded and disgraceful, because the gospel’s very character is openness.

2.         We do not use deception nor distort God’s word. Our walk (“use”) or way of life is not unscrupulous, cunning, or sly. We do not stoop to anything to accomplish our goals. Nor do we distort God’s Word. The great cry of our age is “tell people what they want to hear.” Christ’s true ministers will not do that. As unpleasant as it may be for speaker or listener, we must tell you what the Lord has said.

3.         We set forth the truth to every conscience. The conscience refers to that faculty of the inner person that recognizes right and wrong moral norms and either accuses or excuses the person on the basis of that norm. Certainly, a person can have wrong moral norms; such as supposing that it is all right to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage or assuming that “the one with the most toys wins”. But that is precisely the reason Paul aimed the truth at the conscience. It takes the truth that is in Jesus to produce godly norms in a human conscience.

II.        The glory of the gospel is hidden to minds blinded by Satan (4:3-4).
Although the glory of God is clearly revealed in this new covenant age, many do not see this glory. Why?
Comment: At this point in our time, many are very eager to blame the church. “If the church were ______________, then people would come.” And so they run off on a wild hunt to find something to attract the young, the hip, the influential, the wealthy, or the whatever. Paul avoids such traps and points his readers to the real reason. The problem is not in the message, but it is in the people apart from Christ.
A.        Those who fail to see this glory are perishing. This fact should gain our attention!

1.         They are in the process of perishing right now. Ruin has seized them and they are in danger of eternal destruction.

2.         We ought to understand the nature of their problem. It seems the longer that you walk with the Lord; it can be easy to forget how you used to think. What do the perishing see when they hear the gospel? They hear a message that is contrary to their world and life view. As Paul earlier wrote, to the Greeks the gospel is foolishness and to the Jews it is a stumbling-block (1 Cor 1:22-23). The gospel offends everyone who wants a message that says “you are not that bad, you can help solve your problems, and you only need to know and follow such and such a procedure.”

B.        Those who fail to see this glory have their minds blinded.

1.         The agent of this blinding is Satan, who is here called “the god of this age” (cf. Jn 12:31).  The term “this age” in the NTS refers to the present course of evil, so “god” in this context does not refer to the true God. The true God is the “King of the ages” (1 Tm 1:17). Though under the ultimate rule of the living God, Satan can cause all sorts of evil. The evil one can destroy the flesh (1 Cor 5:5), masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), snatch away the gospel message (Mk 4:15), empower his servants to work miraculous signs (2 Th 2:9), give thorns in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7), tempt (1 Cor 7:5), scheme (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11), trap (2 Tm 2:26), and oppose the spread of the gospel (1 Th 2:18).

2.         The consequence of this blinding is that they cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” As Rolfe Barnard, a preacher down south of another generation, said, “Satan puts all his eggs in one basket.” This is all he needs to do to keep people from turning to Christ. “Don’t let them see the glory of Christ.” You must understand that Satan does not care if we talk about people’s “needs”, such as having a better family or education or job or community. He is quite happy to let us exchange the gospel of Christ for a message of personal success or politics or morality or improving the family or social justice. But he does not want them to know that Christ is the image of God. Why? Once you see that Christ is the image of God, then you are confronted with the Mighty Creator who rules over all and to whom all people are responsible, yet amazingly this real living God did not use his Godhead for his own advantage but humbled himself, died on the cross to save sinners like you and me, and then rose again, victorious over death, and ascended to heaven to reign over all as Lord forever. [To Christ personal success is the cross, politics is the rule of God, morality is transformation into godliness, improving the family is joining God’s family, and social justice is each one denying oneself for the good of others. These things do not sell well to the proud.]

III.       The glory of the gospel is known in Jesus Christ as Lord (4:5-6).
A.        The message preached transforms the way a person looks at life. Too many assume that setting forth a moral code is the way to change people. “Make a law and enforce it.” Now if that were true, we would not have any of the destruction caused by drug and alcohol abuse in this country. No my friend, unless you preach the Lord Jesus Christ, you are left with an empty, powerless moralism.

1.         An acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is Lord. Here is the essence of Christian belief (cf. 1 Cor 12:3; Rm 10:9-10; Ph 2:6-11). The crucified Christ has been exalted through his resurrection as Lord over all. God’s rule and salvation come through him. He is Lord; that is, Yahweh, and everyone is under his authority.

2.         An acknowledgement that you are the slave of others, laboring for their good, because you are the slave of the Lord (Rm 6:16-22; 1 Cor 7:22b-23). Since you are in Christ, you model the character of the one who took the form of a slave. And you take this role on account of Jesus Christ. So Christ forms your interactions with others.

Point: This is very far removed from the self-serving spirit that is mainly interested in “what can we get out of this?” Instead, we ask, “What can I give for the good of others?”
B.        The message preached is made effective by God.

1.         God’s action in the old creation – He said, “Light will shine” (Gen 1:3-4). God commanded and light suddenly appeared throughout the universe he created. And he made the light before he made the sun and the other stars. This is awesome power; it is might that is able to change the basic circumstances of all that is!

2.         God’s action in the new creation – The same all-powerful, living God is responsible for spiritual light (cf. Ac 26:18; Eph 5:8; Col 1:12-13; 1 Th 5:4-5; 1 Pt 2:9). When God turns us to him, he floods our darkened hearts with light. Then we can see! What do we see? We see his glory in the face of Jesus Christ! Our conversion is Christ-focused.

Apply: Has this happened to you? Do you understand that God is known through the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ? Or are you still trying to light little candles for yourself by human philosophy, sociology, psychology, religion or spirituality? Your only hope is found outside of your resources and in the power of the true and living God. I have good news for you today. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

2 Samuel 24:1-24 James Hervey

II Samuel 24:10-24
James Hervey

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say Go number Israel and Judah. 2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people. 3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing? 4 Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel. 5 And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer: 6 Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon, 7 And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba. 8 So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. 10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly 11 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying 12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee 13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. 14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man. 15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men. 16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said Lo, I have sinned and I have done wickedly but these sheep, what have they done let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house. 18 And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. 19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded 20 And Araunah looked and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. 21 And Araunah said Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people. 22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. 23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. 24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

Regardless of the circumstances found in Verse One, a condition which we find hard to explain, David sinned in numbering Israel (Vs. 10).
After David saw his sin our Lord gave David a choice of three punishments:
(1) seven years of famine,
(2) three months of fleeing before his enemies, or
(3). three days of pestilence in the land (Vs. 12-13).
David refused to make a choice but rather said, “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; let me not fall into the hand of man” (Vs. 14).
The Lord then sent a pestilence upon Israel and destroyed 70,000 men (Vs. 15).
When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord said, “It is enough” (Vs. 16); and David was commanded to build an altar at the threshingfloor of Araunah, the Jebusite (Vs. 18-19).
When Araunah saw David and his servants coming to him, he bowed himself before the King and inquired of his mission.
David said, “I am come to buy your threshingfloor to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stopped” (Vs. 20-21).
Araunah replied, “Here is the threshingfloor, the wood, and the oxen; take them all without charge; they are yours” (Vs. 22-23). The King said, “No! but I will buy it of thee at a price; I will not offer burnt offerings unto the Lord of that WHICH COST ME NOTHING.”
The Thankful Heart
A thankful heart will not come to God bearing a gift which cost him nothing. If it is of no value to you, it will not be received nor blessed of God.
When the Apostle Paul taught the early church the grace of giving (II Cor. 8:7-9), he referred to the gift of Christ for us—CHRIST GAVE HIMSELF. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
It is for this reason our Lord commended the widow’s gift (Mark 12:41-44).
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance but she of her want did cast in all that she had even all her living. Mark 12:41-44

  • she gave what she needed and was of GREAT VALUE,
  • and she gave ALL SHE HAD! Like David, her love for God demanded a gift WORTHY OF HIM—her all!

Churches and professed Christians today insult God with many of their so called gifts and efforts to raise money for Christian causes. They give that which costs them nothing.
Bakery and candy sales, car washes, rummage sales, used clothing, furniture, and articles which no one needs are given. Bond sales, with high interest to the buyer, are conducted. One thing all of these projects have in common is that they cost the giver nothing. There is not in any of them the element of grace, self-denial, nor sacrifice.
Let us look at five lessons learned from David’s example.
1. OUR EXAMPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT IS THAT THE FIRST FRUITS BELONGED TO GOD, the firstling of the flock, the choice lamb, and the firstborn son.
God rebuked the priests of Israel for offering molded bread, lame and sick sheep upon the altar. He said, “Offer these kinds of gifts to your governor and see if it pleases him.” (Mal. 1:6-8).
2. A GIFT WHICH COSTS NOTHING REVEALS A LACK OF FAITH IN CHRIST, while gifts of true value and sacrifice reveal a genuine faith in the Lord’s power to supply our need (Phil. 4:19; Matt. 6:31-33).
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)
Therefore take no thought saying What shall we eat or, What shall we drink or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (MT. 6:31-33)
Abraham was willing to give his well-beloved son because he believed God (Gen. 22:12).
Many in the early church were so strong in faith that they sold their possessions and goods and divided them with poor believers (Acts 22: 44-45) .
No true gift of faith and sacrifice goes unnoticed by our God (Mark 10:28-30).
3. A GIFT WHICH COSTS NOTHING REVEALS A LACK OF LOVE FOR CHRIST, while true love considers no labor, no cost, no sacrifice too great. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but A FEW DAYS, for the love he had to her” (Gen. 29:20).
True love is always liberal and open-hearted; and when love is invested, what we then give is considered an investment, a charity, or a loss. “For GOD SO LOVED …. He gave His only Son.”
4. A GIFT WHICH COSTS ME NOTHING REVEALS A LACK OF REGARD FOR THE MAJESTY AND GLORY OF GOD. Dare we offer anything to the Lord of glory which is less than our best? The quality and value of our gifts depend largely on the esteem and respect we have for the recipient.
If you were selected to provide a gift for the President and one for the paperboy, would there be more thought and sacrifice in one than in the other? A gift given in the NAME OF GOD demands our best.
The man who found one pearl of great price sold all that he had and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46).
Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24-26).
Read about Elijah’s instructions to the widow who only had enough ingredients for one cake of bread. “MAKE ME A CAKE FIRST,” he said (I Kings 17:1-16). She did, and her blessings were multiplied.

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying 3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. 7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying 9 Arise get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die 13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste neither shall the cruse of oil fail until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. 15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. 16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

All who are in Christ, enjoy the gift of God. The Father gave His beloved Son as a sin offering to redeem the likes of us. We cost Him His Son! It was the most terrible price to pay so that we could know the Gift of God. God gave and He continues to give. He will never stop giving and we will never stop getting from His hand. But… what my dear Brethren, what have you given to your God of late? I know of one precious, very precious thing you may give to God. Something I know He will gladly receive.

And Samuel said Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1Sam 15:22)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Ps 51:17)

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. (Lu 3:9)

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Lu 6:43)

James Hervey was a friend of George Whitfield and the Wesleys.
More information about this writer can be found here.