September 13, 2020 Loyalty

Loyalty

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 10:7-18.

 

In chapter 10 Paul is defending his ministry. There were some who had come to Corinth from Jerusalem and criticized Paul and Timothy. These were the Judaizers. Paul and Timothy’s apostolic authority was being denied by these Judaizers. Some of the members at Corinth had been listening to these criticisms and some had believed them. So, Paul is addressing this problem.

 

In verses three through five he refers to the divine weapons of warfare that have been given to them for tearing down strongholds and destroying those arguments against the knowledge of God. These weapons are primarily to be used against unbelieving thought. But, in verse 6, Paul writes:

 

being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. [1]

 

This shows that, when false notions creep into the church, they too must be exposed and dealt with by divine power.

 

10:7 You are looking at outward appearances. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should reflect on this again: Just as he himself belongs to Christ, so too do we.[2]

 

The Corinthians, at least some of them, had departed from being loyal to Paul. They had listened to the opposers, the Judaizers, and were seemingly influenced by the appearance of these Judaizers. These men kept the trappings of Judaism which may have impressed some of the Corinthians. Jesus spoke of outward appearance not too long before Paul:

 

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,[3]

 

Even the clothing that the Judaizers wore impressed some Corinthians. These traditional trappings combined with the claim that they followed Christ influenced some to abandon their loyalty to Paul. He begins his defense by stating the obvious: he and Timothy belong to Christ. He then moves on to the authority he has been given by Christ:

 

For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.[4]

 

Paul had the authority of Christ Himself. Because he did, this gave him confidence to deal with the opposers at Corinth. But the reason that Paul was given this authority was to build them up. We should recognize that, in the church, there is such a thing as spiritual authority. This authority is for building people up. If you do not recognize or even reject this authority, then you only harm yourself. Because you will not be built up. You may fall into all kinds of dangerous situations that will erode your faith if you do not heed the advice of those who the Lord has placed in your life.

 

The erosion or weakening of our faith does not happen overnight. It is a slow process that begins with the entertaining of sin. Then the sin becomes more frequent. Then we begin to doubt God’s word because we have become accustomed to living in a way that is contrary to his word.

 

I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present[5]

 

Whenever the subject of authority comes up, some are frightened by it. Why? Because we do not like to be under authority. We know that authority restricts us and we want to be free to do as we please. But God’s authority is for our good. His restrictions keep us in a safe place.

 

We looked at verse 10 last week. Some were saying that Paul’s presence was weak. This may have caused some to doubt his authority. But he had it. And Paul affirms that he would be bold if he had to be when he comes again.

 

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. [6]

 

The Judaizers were comparing themselves to other people. They were telling the Corinthians something to the effect of, “Look how God has blessed us compared to how he has blessed Paul. We have more. We have done more. This shows that God is with us.”

 

You here similar things from the Prosperity gospel proponents on television today. A few weeks ago, in our Sunday night fellowship, we viewed the excellent documentary, American Gospel – Christ Alone. In it they played a clip of one of the popular TV evangelists boasting, and I do mean boasting, of how much money he had. He was implying that, because he had so much money, this showed that he was God’s instrument.

 

But Paul did not compare himself with other people. Don’t compare yourself to other people. It is a losing proposition. You will either think too much of yourself or you will feel worthless. Just keep looking to Christ. He accepts you as you are and he is gently transforming you.

 

But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.[7]

 

Paul refers to limits. Limits in boasting and limits of influence. The Lord limits us. The New English Translation does well with this verse:

 

But we will not boast beyond certain limits, but will confine our boasting according to the limits of the work to which God has appointed us, that reaches even as far as you.[8]

 

What the ESV calls “limits of influence” the NET terms “limits of work.” The Lord appoints certain work to us. Each one of us has a work to do and the Lord grants influence to us in this work. For Paul, this work included the Corinthian church.

 

For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.[9]

 

Paul and Timothy brought the gospel to Corinth. This was their work on behalf of the Lord and the bringing of the gospel defined their limitation. In other words, when we bring the gospel, we have a positive influence upon the ones who receive the gospel and we should continue to minister to them, that is, to disciple them. This Paul was faithful to do.

 

We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged,[10]

 

When Paul writes, “we do not boast beyond limit in the labor of others,” he is subtly referring to the Judaizers. Even though Paul was the one who brought the gospel to the Corinthians, opposers had come and criticized Paul and some saints at Corinth were believing the criticism. They criticized Paul and boasted in themselves.

 

Paul desired that the limits of God for him would even include the areas around Corinth so the gospel would go forth even further.

 

The Judaizers were boasting about themselves. So, in verse 17 Paul states that, if someone were to boast, they should boast “in the Lord.” In context, this includes what the Lord is doing through a person. Paul has been telling what the Lord had done through him and Timothy. But the credit goes to the Lord Himself.

 

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. [11]

 

Paul is saying that the Lord has commended him. He is tactfully and subtly communicating that, because the Lord has commended him, the Corinthians should demonstrate loyalty to him. If a person is living and working within the limits of God, as Paul was, then loyalty to that person is a virtue that is highly regarded in Scripture. In fact, a lack of loyalty is seen as a weakness and a venality.

 

The Lord loves and honors loyalty.

 

I wish for us to briefly consider the domains of loyalty. And, I wish to review them in order of importance, from least to greatest.

 

[1] The Bible speaks positively of loyalty to masters. In modern parlance, that would be loyalty to our bosses.

 

The one who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,

and whoever takes care of his master will be honored. [12]

 

In the same way that a person can enjoy fruits or vegetables from a garden that they tend, so too will they receive honor and promotion if they are loyal to their boss. Every boss has some virtues and has some vices. Don’t be that person who talks behind your boss’s back. Besides being an expression of disloyalty, it might just get back to him or her. It is best to overlook the vices and focus on the positive qualities of your boss

 

I’ll never forget when I was in what we called “Phase 2” of my training in the Air Force in my specialty, which was as a clinical lab technician. “Phase 1” was for three months and was all classwork and supervised lab work. “Phase 2” was nine months of closely supervised work in a hospital laboratory with only a couple of classes per week. In this phase we had both military and civilian supervisors and trainers. One of the civilian supervisors was a skinny woman who was very strict and rather abrupt and rude in her demeanor. No one liked her, but all the airmen gave her great deference because she had the authority to pass you or fail you. If you didn’t pass you would likely be kicked out of the program and be assigned to a lesser job.

 

One time, when we were at lunch, I was sitting at a table with two other airman and one of them started talking about this woman and he was expressing in no uncertain terms, which were quite uncomplimentary, of how much he detested her. He made comments about her scrawniness, her scratchy voice, and her attitude. While he was talking, she had walked up and was standing right behind him. She heard everything that he said. I tried to warn him by pointing with my eyes, but it was too late. He finally realized something was up and he turned around and saw her standing right behind him. He turned the deepest shade of red I think I have ever seen. He passed anyway, but he didn’t do himself any favors by his disloyalty. For one thing, he had to see her and talk to her for many more months knowing that knew his opinion of her. That in itself must have been miserable.

 

Be loyal to your boss.

 

[2] The Bible has a great deal to say about loyalty to the king. It portrays loyalty to the king as a reflection of loyalty to God. This is even true when the king of Israel was not a good king. Think of David’s loyalty to Saul when Saul was trying to murder him. It portrays a lack of loyalty to the king as something to be disdained. When an Amalekite (part of Israel’s army) came across Saul who was fatally wounded and was asked to slay him, did so, he was executed by David (2 Samuel 1:1-16).

 

In modern times, the king represents our governing officials: from the President all the way down to a mayor. Yet, the kind of loyalty to the king that the Bible upholds as a virtue is applicable to every sphere of loyalty. Let us keep that in mind.

 

After Moses died, Joshua was given the leadership of God’s people as the sought to take the good land. The loyalty that the children of Abraham expressed to him is portrayed favorably. After Joshua gave them commands, we read:

 

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” [13]

 

One of the most interesting characters in the Old Testament is Joab, King David’s general throughout his tenure as king and even when he was cast down from the throne by Absalom.

 

He was a mixture of virtues and vices. Two of his vices were that he loved violence and sought vengeance when vengeance belongs to the Lord. These vices met together when he murdered Abner, who had come to King David in peace after serving David’s rival, Ish-bosheth.

 

But he also had good qualities. He was a very brave man. When Jerusalem was still held by the wicked Jebusites as a fortress, Joab went in first and fought them, ultimately defeating them, giving the city to David (I Chron. 11:4-7). He was responsible in a good way. After Jerusalem was conquered, he repaired the city from the damage that had been done to it.

 

His greatest quality, though, was his fierce loyalty to David. When you read of all the dangers that were posed against the king, there was Joab defending him and supporting him time and time again. Thus, he should have been held accountable for the murder of Abner by being put to death. But, because he was so loyal to David, David spared him. David knew that justice still had to be administered. David was not unjust. So, on his deathbed, he gave instructions to Solomon to bring Joab to justice. It was his loyalty to David that spared his life for many years.

 

Loyalty has its rewards.

 

[3] Loyalty to the king also signifies a greater loyalty – loyalty to one’s nation. We call it patriotism. To be patriotic reflects an appreciation for what one’s nation has done for them. Those who demand more, and are unsatisfied with the opportunities that have been given to them, speak despairingly of their country. It seems that there are many today who have no loyalty to their own country.

 

[4] We are called by God to be loyal to our spouse. It becomes difficult to remain loyal if one’s spouse is not loyal to them. When one is not loved and cherished (those were the vows) then the temptation arises to not love in return. But this is not an option for the Christian. We are called to love even if we are not loved. Loyalty to our husband or wife is held, by the Lord, in the highest regard.

 

[5] We ought to be loyal to our church. It seems that the trend in modern times is that, if there is anything that is in the least bit unsatisfactory in a local church, then members are prone to find another. There is no loyalty. Those who move on to another church soon find something wrong with that one. This problem seems to be more acute with men than with women. We have had some couples who came to this church for a few months and then were gone. After speaking to the wives they revealed to me that this was a pattern. For years, they would go to a church for a few months and then, as soon as ladies were making friends, they had to leave.

 

You will never find a church that agrees with you on every doctrine nor every practice. If you do, you just didn’t look carefully enough. There are over a hundred doctrines in the Bible. There will almost always be some that a church teaches that you will not agree with. Loyalty to a local church is a virtue.

 

[6] The apostle Paul was seeking to stir up the loyalty of the Corinthians to his ministry. He knew that the Lord hand commended him and he sought to help them see that. When someone has brought you the gospel and labors on your behalf, grant them a measure of loyalty. I think back on three men of God who invested time in my life when I was a young Christian. I think of them with great fondness and appreciation. One has passed. One I have lost touch with. And one has recently moved, so I need to find him again. But, especially when I was learning from them, I gave them respect and honor for how the Lord was using them to minister to me.

 

Loyalty to one’s spiritual mentors is a blessing to both the mentor and the one being mentored.

 

[7] Last, and most important, is loyalty to Christ Himself. We must be loyal to our King. When King David was cast off the throne by Absalom and had to flee the kingdom, he was passing the last house in the vicinity of Jerusalem. There he was saying goodbye to many of his servants who would stay and serve the new king, Absalom.

 

The Philistines were enemies of God’s people. Goliath, you will remember, was from the city of Gath, the Philistine capital. Well, as David was escaping Israel to go into the wilderness there was a man who wished to go with him. He was a Gittite, meaning he was from Gath. His name was Ittai.

 

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 22 And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.[14]

 

Ittai was willing to go into the wilderness, even with his little children, because of his loyalty. We are all like Ittai in one way. That is, we were enemies of God and his people. Each one of us was a spiritual Philistine. But we came into the kingdom because we saw that Christ’s kingdom was better than Gath.

 

Will we be like Ittai in a better way? Will we remain loyal to our King? Are you ready to go into the wilderness with the King? Are you ready to go into the wilderness of poverty? Are you ready to go into the wilderness of poor health? Are you ready to go into the wilderness of uncertainty? When David was in the wilderness, it was temporary. He regained the kingdom. We may be called into the wilderness for a time. Will you be loyal to Christ in the wilderness?

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (2 Co 10:7). Biblical Studies Press.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 23:2–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:9–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (2 Co 10:13). Biblical Studies Press.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Pr 27:18). Biblical Studies Press.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jos 1:16–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Sa 15:19–22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.