2 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV)
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
This morning, I took time to read through the early chapters of 2 Corinthians, and to take notes on the flow of Paul’s argument. As we read this book, we see that there has been a rift between Paul and the Corinthians, and that has something to do with the expectations of the Corinthian church. It seems that the Corinthians wanted Paul to look and act like the well-respected communicators of their day. They wanted Paul to be like the celebrities who passed through cities and used clever rhetorical devices to inspire and move their audiences.
Paul, instead of being commended with all the fame and adulation of one of the celebrity speakers, suffered and went through hardships. Paul did not have a big following touting his praise. Instead, Paul was a guy who kept getting run out of towns, who kept getting arrested, who kept being beaten, and who basically looked, in comparison to the celebrities, like a nobody.
Paul was perhaps one of the most intelligent men ever to have lived. He most certainly could have matched wits with any celebrity orator of his day. But he refused to play that game. Why? Why would Paul not take advantage of the opportunity to make his name greater and to expand the influence of his ministry?
Above, we see Paul’s simple answer to the question. Paul writes, “
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Paul renounces what he calls disgraceful and underhanded ways. Paul is not going to do anything to appear to be something he is not. Instead, Paul ties himself completely to the Scripture. He will not mess with Scripture. He will not tamper with the word of God. Instead, Paul is going to hold high the word of God, to refuse to play the game of the celebrity communicator, and to let God commend his message to the hearts of the people.
Please note, this is not a man who did not contextualize. Paul said in 1 Corinthians that he was very willing to become all things to all men in order to see some saved (1 Cor 9:22). Paul was willing to put on and take off cultural practices in order to get the message of the gospel to the people. However, Paul was not willing to manipulate the people by playing the celebrity, nor was he willing to manipulate the message to make it more of what the modern man wanted to hear. When it came to the gospel, Paul preached only the one, true gospel that is clearly present in all Scripture.
Is there a lesson here for us? I hope so. Let us be a people who hold fast to the word of God no matter what. Let us not feel the pull to make ourselves into the slick celebrity culture’s mold. Let us hold high the word of God. Yes, let us communicate in ways that the lost can hear and understand. But we must never change the message. We must never tinker with the Scripture. We must let the word of God say what it says, and we must trust God to do the work of heart change for his glory.