Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Some were accusing Paul and his group of being nuts. But if they were nuts, then they were nuts for God (crazy for Jesus…on fire!). But if they were sane, then they were sane for the Church. They’re basically saying ‘We try to persuade/convince people into pleasing God, versus pleasing themselves, and we do this in plain speech. We’re not trying to brag, as some are accusing us of doing; we’re giving you an opportunity to debate apologetics, witness, and evangelize.’
Some books on theology can be too difficult to read. For example, one of my favorite books is Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship”. I once sent it to my mom to read to help with her spiritual growth, but she had to send it back, for the reading was “over her head”. Another time, I was talking with a friend who’s currently attending seminary. There, he’s learning all those Theological terms, different ways of thinking and talking, etc. I assured him that I’ve often enjoyed a good theological discussion/verbal wrestling, but it’s not the type of speech you want to use when witnessing/evangelizing to people who don’t know Jesus or anything about Christianity, for they most likely will not know the terms. They’ll become confused and/or turn away. If you want regular people to understand you and your message, then you need to speak in regular speech.
Jesus also said that when praying, not to use big/fancy words, as the Pharisees and teachers of the Law did, but plain, everyday language. Similarly, in Paul’s time, Philosophers were known to speak in tall words, almost codes and in difficult speech. But like I said, that doesn’t help the listeners/students learn, especially not to share with others or understand. It also brings glory to the speaker as one with eloquent speech.
Verse 11: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”
In this verse, the word for fear (φόβος) means “Fear, terror, reverence (for God), respect (for persons)”.
The word for Persuade (πείθω) means “persuade, convince, win over”.
Plain (φανερόω) means “Make known, reveal, show; make/be evident or plain; appear, reveal oneself”
Paul’s sarcasm: ‘we’re not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that y’all can answer those who take pride in (earthly concern’).
Then there are books, such as those from Philip Yancey, that anybody can understand. They’re straight-forward and speak in plain language. This is what Paul claims he was doing. He’s not being like the church officials, philosophers, theologians or Pharisees who bring praises to themselves with fancy speech, but instead uses plain, simple, everyday speech, both with God and with them. He even says that he hopes he’s plain to them, for that’s his intention.
When I was serving as a Youth Pastor to Jr. High students. While talking with a mentor, I explained my struggle because I often felt like I had to water down the message for them to understand it. But he explained that it’s not watering it down, but “adapting” the message for the audience so that they can understand it. Paul’s purpose was so they would understand for themselves, so they could answer the questions being asked by non-believers and seekers. Why would they want to answer questions and witness? Because it’s part of trying to please God. People have questions about Jesus (:20, we’re Christ’s ambassadors) – God’s making His appeal through us.
:12 = To take pride in us and to help you answer questions
Among the many apologists I enjoy reading from, one of my favorites is Josh McDowell. I believe he’s done his research, knows what he’s talking about and that his evidence/findings will stand up in debates. Another is the late Rev. John Bray. I also have some favorite websites I like to visit for help and information. So when I discuss Christianity with non-believers and critics, I often use these sources to help me with my answers. I take pride in these sources as being correct, and if it’s a fact, I’ll tell it as a fact. If it’s an opinion, then I’ll introduce it as a notable suggestion. In the same way, Paul’s saying that by his plain speech, he’s hoping the Corinthians will take pride in him as their trustworthy, notable source when answering critics and non-believers of their time.
And finally, take pride in the things that are unseen, not seen. Here are some examples of things that are seen and unseen:
- Christ’s presence
- Passing judgment
Seen: (Cares of this world):
- Money/Financial wealth
- Material items
- Who are some of your favorite sources/resources in your Christian/Bible studies? Or, who do you look to (or take pride in) for answers about the Bible?
- What are some other things you can think of for each of these categories?
- How are some ways that you can take less focus off the things that are “seen”, and more focus onto the things that are “unseen”?