February 9, 2020 Simplicity and Sincerity

Simplicity and Sincerity

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14.

We saw last time that the Corinthians were a weak church. Paul called them carnal in his first letter. In this letter he intends to encourage them and comfort them. One way he does this is by using himself and Timothy as examples for them. Paul, of course, was a vessel mightily used by the Lord. The Lord had gained so much of Paul’s life that Paul could even say that he had the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16)! 

The Corinthians needed examples like Paul and Timothy so that they could transform their lives from either carnality or mediocrity to one of victory. I think we may be more like the Corinthians than we are like Paul. So, Paul’s example is for us just as much as it is for the saints of old.

Paul gives three models of thought that he possessed in order to motivate the Corinthians to live for the Lord rather than for themselves. Oh! We need this kind of motivation! All of us are being pulled to live for self rather than for the Lord! It is evident in the way we live day to day. It is evident by the lack of discipleship among us. To be discipled and to disciple others is the normal Christian life. Yet, there are so few of us who are so involved. It is evident by the shortness in giving to the Lord’s work among us.

Paul begins verse 12 saying that he and Timothy have a boast. This is a good kind of boasting. It is a boasting about what God had worked into their lives. This boasting is nothing less than the testimony of their conscience. Their conscience knew that the Lord had done a work in them and that it was not just some kind of outward show.

Then he identifies two character traits that he possessed which directed his very living. I like to call these character traits “models of thought” because they represent the way Paul thought and he intends for them to be a model for others.

He says, “we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity,”1

[1.] In order to live a victorious life we must live in simplicity. The word that is translated simplicity in the original language is an interesting word. It is `?π????? (haplotes). It means singleness or simplicity. Literally, it means “without folds,” and was used to describe cloths that were not folded. As applied to human living it means a life without complications, a pattern of thought that is focused on one thing! And, that one thing is Christ and his kingdom (because Christ and his kingdom are one!).

Paul also applies the idea of singleness from himself to the Corinthians (“supremely so toward you”). Paul exercised simplicity towards God but also for the disciples in Corinth.

Simplicity, or singleness of purpose, is a living without distractions. How easy it is to become distracted! If we are easily distracted then we are not living in simplicity. How is it that we can hear a message on the importance of a particular aspect of the Christian life and we can recognize that we have a lack in that area, yet nothing changes in our own life? We live the same way that we did before we heard the message! The intention may be present to live more faithfully, but nothing comes of it! It is because we lack simplicity. We are distracted by the ways of the world.

The famous opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, relates: “When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song. He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ “‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book—whatever we choose—we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

How is it that Pavarotti can be so committed to singing and Christians are not so much focused on their own walk with the Lord? It is because of singleness of purpose, which is just another way of saying simplicity! 

When distractions arise to move us away from following the Lord in any area of our life where we know that we must change, we must affirm to ourselves, “Lord, I need simplicity in following you! I am for you! Grant me simplicity!”

More, we need simplicity in loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord. When you commit to help someone, just be simple! Paul told the Corinthians that he was not vacillating when he told them he was coming to visit them. When you purpose to help a brother or sister, be simple and carry it through.

Even though it is clear that the haplotes means simplicity or singleness, sometimes the word is translated as “generosity.” Not here in this verse, but elsewhere. The primary reason would be the context in which it is found. For example:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.2

The word generosity is from haplotes. And:

11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,3

Both of these words, generous and generosity, are translated from a form of haplotes.

It is more than just context, though. Do you remember what is the means of measuring love? Everyone thinks they love. None of us want to be thought of as an unloving person. However, what we feel and even what we think do not always line up with the way things really are. 

The way that you can know how much love you have for a person or, actually, anything is time. Where you spend your non-obligated time (because we all have to work) reflects your love. You will spend time on those things or persons whom you love.

Time is a measurement of love. 

There is also a means of measuring our singleness. That is our generosity. Do we pursue the Lord in simplicity? Are we single for God? Our generosity towards him and his kingdom will reflect how single we are for him. How much we place in the offering measures our simplicity.

Are we simple towards the brothers and sisters? Our generosity towards them will reflect whether we are. If we are not simple, but complicated in our thoughts, then we may be moved to help someone but we begin to think, “yes, but I may need so much money to do such and such or to pay such and such.” 

We all need more simplicity and more faith!

[2.] Second, Paul says that he and Timothy were sincere. Sincerity is the second model of thought that we need.

Paul and Timothy behaved in the world with sincerity. To be sincere means to speak those things that are actually in our thoughts, not something else. Paul did not say things that did not represent what he was thinking. 

Sincerity is one step beyond truth. One can speak the truth to someone else and yet the truth that we speak doesn’t tell the whole story. Something can be technically true but still be misleading.

A couple of hunters chartered a plane to fly into the Canadian wilderness. Two weeks later when the pilot came to pick them up, he saw the two animals they had bagged and said, "I told you fellows I could only take you and one moose. You'll have to leave the other behind." 
"But we did it last year in a plane this size," protested one of the hunters, "and the other pilot let us take two moose." 
"Well, okay," said the pilot. "If you did it before I guess we can do it again." 
So the two moose and the hunters were loaded in and the plane took off. Because of the heavy weight, it rose with difficulty and was unable to clear an obstructing hill. After the crash, the men climbed out and looked around. 
One hunter said to the other, "Where are we, anyway?" 
His companion surveyed the scene. "I think we got about half a mile farther than we got last year."

It was true that a previous pilot had let them take two moose, but these hunters were not sincere in their representation of the facts. They were neither simple nor sincere.

We can all be tempted to be less than sincere because we have our own interests in mind besides those of others. It is hard to be sincere all of the time. We might be sincere most of the time, maybe 90% of the time. But, because we have our own interests in mind so often, it is not that easy to always be sincere. Paul was. Timothy was. And, we must be! It is not good enough to be sincere most of the time. We must be sincere as we live in this world.

The key to being sincere in all our dealings is found in the next chapter of 2 Corinthians.

 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 4

When Paul and Timothy spoke, they spoke “in the sight of God.” When they spoke, they spoke “in Christ!” This means that they were aware that God had both commissioned them and that he was watching and listening to what they were saying. This is how we must be. We must always be aware that the Lord is hearing our words. This will help us greatly to be sincere every time we speak. When we speak “in Christ” we speak being aware that we are truly one with Christ, representing him to others. We live, as it were, “before the face of God.”

To know that God is hearing our every word and that we are one with Christ is the second model of thought because it keeps us sincere.

In verse 13 and 14 of chapter one, the apostle writes that he is not writing anything new to them that they had not already read an partially understood. H only wishes that they would understand more fully. What is it, in particular, that he wishes they had a better understanding of? It is that there is a day coming, “the day of our Lord Jesus,” in which they (as well as Paul) will give an account for their lives. It will be a day of reward for those who are faithful. This is what Paul refers to when he writes, “you will boast of us and we will boast of you.” It will be a good kind of boasting, telling the Lord what good things that fellow believers we know have done or what they have become. 

The third model of thought that characterized Paul was that:

[3.] He had the coming judgment of Christ of his own people on his mind and in his heart.

This is not the final judgment of all mankind. The final judgment determines the final destiny of all. The judgment that occupied Paul’s thoughts was the one for those who belong to Christ already. It would be a judgment to determine rewards or discipline in the age to come.

Paul wrote at least 13 of the books in the New Testament. In all but two he writes about the coming judgment of Christ of his own people. Only in the short, little letter of Philemon and his letter to Titus is it absent. It was one great reason that motivated him to serve the Lord as he did.

Later in this letter he will have more to say about the judgment.

This was also on the mind and heart of our Lord Jesus. In the book of Matthew, when we consider the medium to long teachings of our Lord found there (passages of 6 or more verses), we discover that Jesus spoke about the coming judgment about 80% of the time.

If we would pattern our thinking after Jesus and Paul, we too will have our own judgment in our thoughts. It will motivate us to greater service and greater obedience.

Would you like to serve the Lord in a greater capacity? Would you enjoy a walk with him that brings peace and joy? Then model your thinking after Paul’s:

1. Live and speak in simplicity. Do not complicate your thoughts. And, let your simplicity be known by your generosity.
2. Live and speak in sincerity. For Paul, knowing that he was living and speaking with God watching, led him to be sincere.
3. Keep the judgment of Christ at the forefront of your mind.

If you will think these three things it will make a difference in your walk. 

1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 1:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 8:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 9:11–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.