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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Ministry in the Meekness and Gentleness of Christ
Text:2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-04-15
Updated:2020-04-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Ministry in the Meekness and Gentleness of Christ”
2 Corinthians 10:1-11
 
Friends of ours used to take summer vacations at a large lake in Kentucky. On Sundays they would look for a church to attend and since they were in the “Bible Belt” they had quite a variety of churches to choose from. However, as they looked around at what church to attend they were amused to see that one of the churches was called the “True Corinthian Church”. They were amused because although all the New Testament churches faced problems and divisions, few churches in the first century faced the amount of division, rivalry and rancor as the church at Corinth.
 
We see that in verse 1. From this verse we see that the false teachers characterized the apostle Paul as being two-faced. They said that when he was away in other towns he wrote powerful letters calling the Corinthians to repentance, and challenging them to turn from sinful lifestyles. But when he was there in person he came across as being timid and weak. One commentator, Philip Hughes, points out, “They had been saying that when present he was mild and timid, but when absent full of boldness, like a... dog that barks loudly at a safe distance.” That is hardly a complementary comparison!
 
(Years ago, we had a neighbor who had a yappy little dog. Whenever someone walked by their yard, the dog would run to the fence and bark at them. But one day, as an elderly lady was walking by and the neighbor’s dog was barking away, the lady turned to the dog and sternly asked, “Why do you always bark at me?”
 
The dog stopped in his tracks, turned and ran as fast as he could to the back door, begging to be let in! You see, he was really bold until someone spoke up, and then he turned tail and ran. And many of the religious leaders characterized the apostle Paul that way. They said, in effect, “He is just like that scared dog. He barks really loud when he is in Macedonia writing a letter, but when he comes here and meets us in person he's like a scared dog with his tail between his legs.”)
 
In addition, as verse 2 points out, some of the Corinthians accused him of living by the standards of the world – living according to the flesh, the sinful nature.
 
So how did the apostle respond? Would he vindicate himself, arguing point by point against those who ridiculed him? Not at all! Instead he compared himself to someone else who faced incessant ridicule, persecution and hatred. He compared himself to the Lord Jesus Christ. We see that in the first verse where he writes, “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you – I, Paul, who am ‘timid’ when face to face with you, but ‘bold’ toward you when away!”
 
It was an excellent way to begin the defense of his ministry, and it harmonizes with what he had written before to them in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
 
The Gentleness and Meekness of Christ
 
Consider the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He was slandered far more than the apostle Paul would be slandered. Nobody took the abuse that Jesus took. He is the sinless, eternally begotten Son of God who was ridiculed, mocked and crucified for sinners. Yet His life was a life of compassion as He sought out sinners, calling them to repentance.
 
Consider His gentleness with the Samaritan woman whom He met at the well (as recorded in John 4). She had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet the Lord was gentle with her explaining to her the heart of the gospel – that He is the living water and that all who believe in Him with saving faith will have a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
 
He explained to her what true worship is. He explained that God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and truth. He revealed to her that He is the Messiah. He was gentle and compassionate, just as He was with the woman caught in the act of adultery.
 
When the Pharisees brought that woman to Jesus they asked whether they should have her stoned to death as the Old Testament law required. Jesus gave them the famous answer, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He knelt on the ground and, one by one, the accusing Pharisees left until just the woman and Jesus remained. He said to her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:7, 11)
 
Do you see how compassionate Jesus was as He sought out sinners, calling them to repentance? As Jesus says in Luke 5:31-32, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
 
The apostle Paul did not try to vindicate himself point by point. Instead, he pointed to the meekness and gentleness of Christ and appealed to the Corinthians on that same basis.  Just as meekness and gentleness marked the ministry of Jesus Christ, so also it marked the ministry of the apostle Paul. And in the same way, that gentleness and meekness is to mark your ministry and mine. For each one of us has a ministry to those around us.
 
A second characteristic of Jesus Christ, which the apostle Paul sought to emulate, is care for hurting Christians. Even though the church at Corinth was a divided church with many problems, the apostle was gentle with those believers within the church who were hurting. In that way he followed the example of Jesus who, while on earth, was gentle with His followers who were hurting. And Christ continues to be so caring and encouraging to hurting Christians today.
 
One of the mis-characterizations of our Lord is that He is just waiting for someone to stumble, and when they stumble they will incur the righteous wrath of God Almighty. There is a time of righteous wrath for those who do not repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. But until that time, the Lord is so very patient. Matthew 12:20 quotes from Isaiah 42:3 describing how Jesus will not break a bruised reed; He will not snuff out a smoldering wick.
 
You can go to the Lord with any kind of problem. You can go to the Lord with a confession of sin that others might ridicule you for, or look down upon you for. You might have sin so embarrassing that you are afraid that if you confess that sin to some others, even in the church, they might look at you with disdain. But not the Lord. He knows that we are bruised reeds, fragile, so easily broken, yet He is gentle and compassionate with us. We can cast all our care – and our tremendous burden of sin – upon Him. He understands our fragility and weakness, and He bears our burdens for us.
 
And when our faith waivers, when our faith is like a smoldering wick, He doesn’t snuff it out. He remembers that we are dust; He knows how we are formed. He has compassion on us just as He had compassion on His disciples when their faith so frequently wavered.
 
Do you see how wise Paul was as he countered his detractors and the false teachers in Corinth?  He didn’t try to defend himself point for point. Instead he sought to live up to the example that he told others to follow, the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Peter pointed out, “…When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously… (1 Peter 2:20b-23)
 
And in your life and in my life we are to follow that same example, not only with those who oppose us, but also with the bruised reeds among us. With Christ-like compassion we are to fan into the flame the smoldering wicks of those around us, seeking to encourage others in their faith. As Paul notes in verse 8, "...the authority the Lord gave us (is) for building you up rather than pulling you down..."
 
But as the Apostle Paul followed the example of Jesus Christ he also warned of judgement, for meekness is not weakness. Meekness is not a word that we use often. I noticed the newest translation of the NIV uses the word “humility” instead of "meekness". But the word "humility" doesn’t convey the true meaning of what it is to be meek. The word translated “meek” means to have strength under control. It could perhaps be used to describe the foreign policy of President Theodore Roosevelt. He is well known for his foreign policy strategy summarized by the quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” It is a similar concept that is woven into the word translated as “meekness”.
 
Both Moses and Jesus are described as meek, but neither one – neither Moses nor Jesus – would be considered weak. And the same goes for the apostle Paul. As he appealed to the Corinthians with the meekness and gentleness of Christ he also gave a serious warning. We see it in verse 2, I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh – according to the standards of the world.” And we read of his boldness again in verse 6 where where he speaks about being ready to punish every form of disobedience.
 
In that way he is once again following the example of Jesus. Jesus is humble, kind, compassionate and gentle. But He also has the strength – and the power and authority – to pronounce judgment. And He will pronounce that judgment on all who do not believe in Him with saving faith.
 
After all, He is the one who cleared the temple and pronounced judgment on the unbelieving Pharisees. As He said in John 5:22, “…The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son...”– And again, a few verses later, in John 5:26-27, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.  And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.”
 
Since we are to follow the example of Christ just as Paul did, we too must be forceful in addressing those who do not respond to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. For those who do not respond in saving faith to Jesus Christ will be judged for their sin with eternal condemnation. As Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
 
Gentle and Meek, Yet Waging War
 
Having appealed to the Corinthians with the gentleness and meekness of Christ, the Apostle goes on to show the importance of his appeal to them. In verse 3 he writes,For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.”
 
That verse reminds us that we are in a great spiritual battle. We have false teachers in the church today, just as the Corinthian church had so long ago. We live in an incredibly immoral society, just as the Corinthians did. And we have within us the sinful nature that rebels against the Holy Spirit within us, giving an inner conflict to every true child of God. As the Heidelberg Catechism teaches, “Our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – never stop attacking us.” (Q&A 127)
 
And in this spiritual warfare, which is a reality for every Christian, we do not wage war as the world does, for our weapons are spiritual. In Ephesians 6:12 we are told to put on the full armor of God, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
 
Spiritual weapons, which include prayer and the faithful study of Scripture, are given to us because by the power of God’s Spirit only those weapons have power to destroy the strongholds of evil. In verse 4, Paul writes, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” The strongholds which verse 4 refers to include the will and intellect of fallen humanity. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, all humanity rejects the Lord and ridicules – and persecutes – His people. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, all humanity rejects the obvious truth of God’s existence.
 
Psalm 19 describes how “the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”  The Corinthians witnessed that truth with every sunrise and sunset, just as today it is self-evident who God is. We see the reality of who God is when we look at the cosmos and the way the world has been formed. And we see that reality when we look at our own selves. We see that we are created in the image of the truly awesome God; we see that “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
 
God’s identity is clear, leaving us without excuse. As Romans 1:20 puts it: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that man is without excuse.” Yet humanity, apart from God’s grace through faith in Christ, builds a stronghold against the obvious truths of who God is. The world takes every opportunity to shred the word of God, desiring to destroy that word, just as King Jehoiakim did, back in Jeremiah’s day. 
 
In Jeremiah 36 we read how it was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.”
  
Why is that? Why does fallen humanity build a stronghold against the obvious truth of who God is? Why does fallen humanity have a hatred for Jesus Christ, who is meek, compassionate, loving and kind? Why does fallen humanity ridicule the followers of Christ, persecuting many, and putting many to death? The reason is written in John 3:19 where Jesus declares: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” And the only way to penetrate that spiritual darkness which has blinded humanity is by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the spiritual weapons revealed in God’s Word.
 
Do you remember when David went out to fight Goliath, how Saul gave him armor to wear? Saul was encouraging David to fight as the world fights. But David removed the armor and said to Saul, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
 
When Goliath – who represents the strongholds of this world – saw David, he despised him and ridiculed him, saying, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?”
 
     David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45, 47)
 
A more contemporary example of spiritual warfare, where the power of the Holy Spirit demolishes the strongholds of evil, is seen in the transformation of some of the greatest skeptics of Christianity. Consider Lee Strobel, a writer for the Chicago Tribune who as an atheist sought to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in the process Strobel was convicted by the Holy Spirit through his study of the word of God. Lee Strobel, like many other skeptics, came to see that the resurrected Lord Jesus truly is the eternal Son of God, the Savior of all who believe in Him, the judge of the living and the dead.
 
Did that just come from his study of history? Did that conclusion come from human wisdom as he examined historical evidence recorded in the Bible? God graciously used those studies, but from human wisdom, and from the depths of his heart, came only antagonism against the truth of the gospel. It was by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit that he was transformed. The stronghold of the devil, the stronghold of the world, and the stronghold of his own sinful nature were demolished by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit working through the word. Lee Strobel has now written more than twenty Christian books, including The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator.
 
By God’s grace, Lee Strobel was taken out of his bondage to sin and given the glorious freedom that comes by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The truth of verse 5 unfolded in his life, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It is only when we submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of life that we have true liberation.
 
Often Christianity is portrayed as a binding religion. Doesn’t the apostle Paul speak of himself as being a bondservant to Christ? Doesn’t he describe being bound in chains because of the gospel? He does indeed, but it is only when we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ that we find true freedom.
 
By God’s grace we receive the forgiveness of our sins which is the greatest burden that anyone bears. And because Jesus bore the burden of sin on the cross for all who believe in Him, we find freedom from judgment. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8:31-32, we read how “to the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
 
Has that truth set you free? Have you experienced the meekness and gentleness of Christ? By God’s sanctifying Spirit do you strive to follow the example of Christ as Paul did? And do you know with a joyful certainty that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin on the cross of Calvary?
 
If so, you find yourself in a great spiritual battle. The devil has you as a target, the world disdains you, you still struggle with the sinful nature we were all born with. But you and I are not to lose heart. We do not despair! God the Father has given us His Son to be our Savior and Lord. And the Father and the Son have given us the Holy Spirit and His spiritual armor. He works through the word which He inspired, so that by God’s grace we may demolish the strongholds around us, and take every thought captive to Christ – for His glory and our good! Amen!
 
 
                                     - bulletin outline -
 
 
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ I appeal to you —I, Paul,  who am “timid”
when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! - 2 Corinthians 10:1
 
         “Ministry in the Meekness and Gentleness of Christ”
                                 2 Corinthians 10:1-11
 
I.  Paul ministered with the meekness and gentleness of Christ (1) who:
     1) Compassionately sought out sinners, calling them to repentance
         (Luke 5:31-32; John 4:4-26 ; 8:1-11)
 
     
 
     2) Is gentle with hurting Christians (Mathew 12:20)
 
 
 
 
     3) Warned of judgement, for meekness is not weakness (2, 6; John 
          2:13-17; 5:22, 26-29)
 
 
 
II.  Following Christ involves ministering to others with His meekness and
     gentleness, but also fighting the spiritual warfare that attacks every
     believer, just as Satan attacked Christ. In this warfare: 
      1) We do not by wage war as the world does for our weapons are
           spiritual (3-4a; 1 Samuel 17:45, 47; Ephesians 6:10-20)
 
 
 
       2)  Our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds (4b), but we must
             actively use the spiritual weapons, including prayer  (Ephesians 6:18-20)
             and the systematic study of Scripture (Hebrews 4:12)
 
 
 
        3) Our strategy includes taking every thought captive to make it
             obedient to Christ (5), which is the only strategy that brings true
             liberation (John 8:31-32)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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