September 27, 2020 Paying the Price

Paying the Price

 

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.

 

The apostle Paul continues to defend his ministry against the Judaizers. He began doing this in chapter 10 and will continue to do this in chapter 12. Paul desired that the Corinthians be loyal to him. Loyalty is highly regarded in the Scriptures. We are called to be loyal to:

 

  • Our employer
  • Our President
  • Our country
  • Our spouse
  • Our church
  • Our spiritual mentor (this was Paul’s position in relation to the Corinthians)
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ (above all).

 

The more loyal you are to those whom God has placed in your life, the greater will be your blessing.

 

In this passage of Scripture, the apostle is comparing the Judaizers with himself. They were Hebrews. They were Israelites, belonging to the nation and heirs to the promise, so they claimed. They were descendants of Abraham. But Paul was all these things, too. Therefore, their claims gave them no superiority over the apostle.

 

Paul’s critics claimed to be servants of Christ (vs. 23) but Paul has already stated that they proclaimed another Jesus. The Jesus that the Judaizers proclaimed was the Messiah but they failed to recognize him as God incarnate. Because they taught that he was only a man, it wasn’t the true Jesus that they proclaimed. We still have groups today that have another Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses have another Jesus. Iglesio Ni Christo have another Jesus. The Mormons have another Jesus. The New Age Movement has another Jesus.

 

Earlier in this chapter (vs. 13-15), Paul identifies them as servants of Satan, not servants of the true Christ. Do not think that the only way that Satan deceives is through drug abuse, drunkenness, sexual sin, greed, and other obvious sins. Paul said that he disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (vs. 15). It is the same today. I think that most of the time the proponents of these false gospels and false Christs, sincerely think that they are doing what is right and that they have the truth. And that is what makes it all the more persuasive – their sincerity is evident. But, Satan is behind it all.

 

It is interesting that those cults that promote a false gospel (faith plus your own good works) are usually the same ones that have a false Jesus (One who is not divine).

 

Then Paul begins to reveal what he has experienced on behalf of Christ:

 

 

…far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.[1]

 

Paul labored greatly on behalf of the Lord. To what sort of labor is he referring? It wasn’t his mundane activities such as his daily work to earn a living (tent making). There are duties that we have that require our attention, such as our job, our families, and civic involvement. In one sense, when we do these things well, we are serving the Lord. For example, being a good parent glorifies God and, in a way, is serving Him. But that kind of labor (being a good parent or a good worker) is not what Paul means. He is writing about the spread of the gospel. He means the proclamation of the only truth that can save a person from their sins and the penalty of their sins. This is the labor!

 

Brothers and sisters, this needs to be our labor as well. It is not a labor for only an apostle or an evangelist or an elder. We have all been called to this labor!

 

I cannot say that my labors are great. I hope one day I can say it. I know some today whose labors are great. Jed Smock, a campus evangelist who we support, puts forth great labors. He has been going to the college campuses five days per week, nine months every year, and has been doing so for over 35 years. When you are out at a campus talking for hours on end, it is a labor. It wears you out. I have gone out with Jed several time over the years. When I have gone, he talks three times as much as I do. Yet, when the day is over, I feel as if I have really worked. It drains you to be arguing with these college kids. Frankly, I do not know how he does it! I believe his rewards in the coming kingdom will be great! Because his labors are great!

 

Paul had great labors!

 

Paul was imprisoned. He was in prison many times! Some of his letters were written from prison.

 

Do you know what Paul is describing in these verses? He is telling the Corinthians the price that he has paid for following Christ. The gospel is free. In order to be saved from the justice of God that is coming upon the whole world, one only has to have faith in Christ! There is no price to be paid because the price for our salvation has already been paid by Christ. To have faith means to trust in Him as both our Savior and Lord. We begin, then, to follow Him.

 

Once we begin to follow Him there will be a price to pay if we follow Him faithfully. There is work to be done. Living and serving Jesus does not contribute one iota to our salvation. Our salvation is a free gift from our loving Father! But, we were not saved so that we just sit around, living a life of ease. God has called us to express our love to the Lord Jesus. God is calling us to pay a price. How much we pay is up to us. The more we labor on behalf of our Lord, the greater will be our rewards.

 

Paul was in prison many times. Some street preachers here in the U.S. have gone to jail for simply preaching. Most often, the charges are dropped. Sometimes the municipality is then sued and some large settlements have gone to some proclaimers of the gospel and rightly so. This is because free speech is guaranteed by our Constitution. But there are brothers and sisters in prison in China and Muslim nations for simply proclaiming the gospel. Watchman Nee was in prison for decades for his faith and died in prison.

 

Would you be willing to go to jail for Christ? Many of you would answer affirmatively, but are you doing anything that might put you there?

 

Just a few days ago an evangelical church in Moscow, Idaho, called Christ’s Church, was gathered at the City Hall parking lot, singing psalms peacefully, and members were arrested for “not social distancing.” They were taken to jail! Persecution is not happening in our own land. By the way, Idaho is one of the most conservative states in our Union. It is not just California now. If it can happen in Idaho it can happen anywhere.

Are you ready to go to jail for Christ?

Paul continues, “…with countless beatings.” Once, at a festival in a city park in Washington state, when I was proclaiming the gospel and had a group of about a half dozen people listening, I was punched in the face and the man who did it ran off. When you are bold to proclaim the truth you will suffer persecution. I was only struck once. But Paul was beaten countless times!

Paul says that, from those beatings, he was often near death! He was beaten severely! He was willing to the pay the price in order to carry the message of Christ to a lost world! Are you willing to suffer a little discomfort to share the message of God’s saving love? The events of Moscow, Idaho are still rare in this country. Most of the time we will be neither arrested nor beaten. Yet, few Christians are telling the good news to others!

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.[2]

Whereas the beatings were by his listeners, these whippings were by the Jewish governing authorities. According to God’s law (Deut. 25:3), no more than 40 lashes could be given for an offense. Forty lashed were permitted as the maximum penalty, but the Jews would only give 39 for fear of miscounting. If they miscounted and mistakenly gave 41 lashes then they would have disobeyed God.

Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;[3]

 

While whippings were the punishment administered by Hebrew courts, beatings with a rod was the common punishment in Gentile nations. Thus, Paul was beaten by the crowds, by the Jewish leaders, and by Gentile administrators. Stoning was the manner in which the death penalty was carried out among the Jews. Even though Rome forbade the Jews to carry out the death penalty, they were so incensed at

Paul’s preaching that they attempted to stone him to death anyway. But, the Lord still had a purpose for Paul. No one can take your life if the Lord has a task for you to do! God is sovereign over your life and your death!

Paul was in constant danger. How about you? Are you willing to be in danger? Or, are you a coward? Do you know what the Lord Jesus lists cowards with the faithless, liars, fornicators, and idolaters? He does! (Rev. 21:8) Don’t be a coward! Be willing to face danger on behalf of Christ! It is sad to say that not only do many avoid danger, but they will even forego sowing gospel seeds so they don’t miss a meal or so they can go shopping. What a shame to one who claims to follow Christ!

in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.[4]

Paul toiled. He lived in hardship. He was sleepless, hungry, and thirsty. At times, he did not have adequate clothing. This does not mean that we must live this way continually. But the way Paul lived, paying the price of being faithful to proclaim the gospel, should at the very least, stir us up to be willing to sacrifice our comforts in order to communicate the gospel! It means that we should be encouraged to pay the price on occasion. When might that occasion be? I will tell you when it isn’t. It isn’t “next time.” This is the temptation that we face. “Next time I will go out.” “Next week I will share the gospel.” Next week never comes! If there is an opportunity to proclaim the truth, take it!

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.[5]

Paul cared for the churches. He so desired to see them press on into the kingdom and that they would be healthy. How different Paul’s heart from so many so-called Christians today. Many today view the church as optional, as something to be built up if one has extra time or if one feels like it. How different from Paul and Jesus! Jesus is the One who is building his church. But how few are helping him to build! Paul is the one who had great concern, even anxiety, for the churches. How few care for the church as Paul did! Many seem to find every reason on earth to not build up and support the church. How we need Paul’s heart!

Maybe some are thinking, “I’m not like the apostle Paul. I am weak. I can’t do what he did.” So, you are weak? Paul says something to those who will use weakness as an excuse for not laboring for the gospel.

Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? [6]

Are you weak? So was Paul! Maybe you are not supporting the church because you observed sin within it. Someone fell. You are indignant. So was Paul! But he didn’t give up on the church.

I tell you, if you give up on the church, this is evidence that you have not been born again. This is what the apostle John says in his first letter. Those who left the church, he says, show that they were never truly part of God’s people (I John 2:19).

And, this may be why so many have forsaken the church – they have never been born again. They only said some kind of prayer and some misguided preacher told them that they were saved. If you are born again, you will care for the church as Paul did!

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.[7]

Maybe you are weak. Maybe you are timid. All the better! God will do amazing things through your words. Paul was actually weak! God uses weak vessels! God will use you if you will only step out in faith and be willing to pay the price.

We have been going out and talking to our neighbors…our extended neighbors. We are actually several miles from the church building now. There are days when I feel tired. There are days when I don’t feel motivated. But, I go out anyways (most of the time). Do you know what? After only reaching out for an hour or an hour and a half, I feel so blessed by God! Connie, Suzanne, and Angela have this same experience. There rewards even in this life.

How can we live as Paul did? How may we pay the price? It is truly just an expression of our love for the Lord Jesus. Living sacrificially comes naturally when we love the Lord. Maybe some are thinking, “Then I don’t love Jesus as much as I thought I did.” That could be true. But, love is so much more than a feeling. Love is commitment that is made known by action. Love is commitment! Therefore, how we love is under the control of our will. If it were not so, the Lord could not justly command us to love Him nor direct us to love one another. Because love is under our own control, the Lord commands us to love.

Family counselor, Dave Simmons tells the following story: I took Helen (eight years old) and Brandon (five years old) to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said, "Petting Zoo." The kids jumped up in a rush and asked, "Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?"

"Sure," I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away, and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.

A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware department to the petting zoo. Recognizing my error, I bent down and asked her what was wrong.

She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, "Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter." Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto. The family motto is in "Love is Action!"

She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched Sandy take my steak and say, "Love is Action!" She had watched both of us do and say "Love is Action!" for years around the house and Kings Arrow Ranch. She had heard and seen "Love is Action," and now she had incorporated it into her little lifestyle. It had become part of her.

What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. As soon as I finished my errands, I took Helen to the petting zoo. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.

Because she knew the whole family motto. It's not "Love is Action." It's "Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!" Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another's account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn't grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. She knew she had to taste the sacrifice. She wanted to experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action.

Let us love the Lord by being willing to pay the price. Let us not serve the Lord only half-way. Live for Him wholeheartedly.

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 11:30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.