2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 6
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Today we want to look at what a pure testimony is and hopefully as we do this you’ll be examining yourself because we’re getting ready to take the Lord’s Supper this morning. I want you to think about what a pure testimony is. I want you to think about your life and let God speak to your heart.When Our Walk Matches Our Talk – Part 1|
The Ingredients of a Pure Testimony
I don’t know if you know who Vance Hapner is, he’s in heaven. If you don’t know him you’ll get to know him one day. Vance Hapner said one day, “You know what’s wrong with Christianity today? We’ve lost the wonder of our salvation.” Think about it. What a wonderful time of the year to celebrate the wonder of our salvation. Well, if you’d turn with me to 2 Corinthians 1. The Lord is so awesome in putting verse 12 right where He put it: right after verse 11. The last time we were together we looked at verses 8-11 and I had no idea, didn’t plan it, how verse 12 was going to fit with Palm Sunday, the day that the Lord Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Today we’re going to take the Lord’s Supper. And you know the Lord’s Supper does not talk about His resurrection like baptism does, it brings out His death.
The Lord’s Supper helps us understand what it cost God for us to have what we have in Christ Jesus. And of course 1 Corinthians 11:28 says we are to examine ourselves before we ever partake of this Supper. And the verse that we’re going to look at today, which is in the flow of what we’ve been teaching causes us to be able to examine ourselves. Let me just get you in to it. It’s 2 Corinthians 1:12. Let me get you into it today by helping you to understand a word that’s going to come up in the text.
God has give to every man whether he’s a believer or an unbeliever, a built-in alarm system that lets us know if we’re choosing to do what is morally right. It’s an inner witness. It’s called the conscience. We don’t talk about it much, but it’s very important. The Greek word is the word suneidesis. It’s the moral inner witness to one’s conduct when it comes to doing right or wrong. Now there’s a difference however, in the programming of the believer’s conscience and the unbeliever’s conscience. The unbeliever’s conscience is trained and programmed by the moral degradation of the world in which a person lives. It only knows right and wrong, which is defined, by the way, in the vocabulary of the world that’s around it.
Let me give you an illustration of that. Recently I was in another state staying in a motel, I was speaking there, and it was almost a brand new one. It was very new, I don’t know if it was brand new or not, but it was pretty new. And so when I checked out, the little lady behind the desk there, she was young and just full of life it seemed like, and when I came out she said, “How did you like our motel? How did you like it?” And I said, “Well, I’ve stayed in a lot of motels but the one thing I liked about it was your shower heads.” Don’t you hate to be in a motel somewhere and you get in the shower and there’s about four drops every 30 seconds that fall? There’s just no water that comes out. This was one of those great big round ones and, I mean, water just gushed out. Oh, and it was above my head. Now how many times have I ever stayed in a motel that had a shower head above my head? You short people, I’m telling you. You don’t have a clue. Discrimination in our country is not black and white, it’s short people against tall people. I want a shower over my head.
And I was telling her how much I liked that shower, and she said, “You know what? I’m glad you told me that. My roommate”—and I kept thinking she was going to say “she;” I mean, if you’ve got a roommate certainly it’s a “she” —and she said, “My roommate, when he gets in the shower,” and she went on and on. And I’m thinking here I am, a total stranger to her and in the vocabulary of the world in which she lives, her conscience has been trained by a false set of standards that said you can live with one another long before you ever get married, even if you don’t get married. And so it’s socially acceptable. And so her conscience did not in any way condemn her that she was doing what was morally wrong.
So you have to be real careful. You see, a person who is an unbeliever doesn’t understand that right and wrong is relative. In other words, what is right and wrong at home when you’re bringing up your children doesn’t become right and wrong when they go to the university. And if you don’t understand that, wake up and smell the roses. The mores of society change all the time. Right and wrong is so relative to so many different people. But a believer, however, has his conscience trained by the Spirit of God and enlightened by the Word of God. We know the difference between good and evil, not just right and wrong, and there’s a huge difference in that.
Good and evil comes from God’s Word and it’s absolute and it never changes from the home to the school to the workplace, no matter what age you are and no matter the century in which you live. And when we live controlled by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, our conscience then bears witness to us and it does not condemn us, it doesn’t accuse us: it defends us. So the conscience, the inner witness to the fact that good is being done, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, it will defend us. It will defend us.
And this is the way you and I want to live. We want to live with our conscience defending us, not accusing us. Because you see, it works in tandem with the Holy Spirit of God. You see, those that would accuse us are a dime a dozen. Folks, they’re everywhere. So what are we going to do when we’re accused? Paul addressed the fact that people just want to accuse and examine in their own light of what is moral and what isn’t. In 1 Corinthians 4:3 he says, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court.” And the idea is that when people criticize us they get in little groups and they form a courtroom and the pronounce sentence upon us, right there, wherever it is. And Paul said if you want to do that it’s fine with me. That doesn’t bother me. He says, “in fact, I do not even examine myself. I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” That’s right.
Boy, when you can live a life that’s being examined by the Lord, then your conscience will not condemn you; it will defend you. The apostle Paul is a great example to all believers. He says in 2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did.” That word ‘clear’ is the word for ‘cleansed’. A cleansed conscience, cleansed of any soulishness of my heart. I’m thankful that I can say I serve Him with a clear conscience.
You see, the Corinthians had attacked his credibility. They had attacked him even being an apostle, and the apostle Paul had to live in the midst of this kind of thing: people accusing him on the right and accusing him on the left. But the thing that did not accuse the apostle Paul was his conscience. He had a pure testimony. He was what he said he was. His walk matched his talk. And that’s what we’re talking about today: a pure testimony. When our walk matches our talk.
I want you to listen in 2 Corinthians 1:12 as to how a man with a pure, clear conscience can speak. Let’s just listen to what he said. He said, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” When our walk matches our talk our conscience will bear witness that we have a pure testimony. And we can be at rest. Even when others accuse us, we can be at rest because our conscience defends us.
Today we want to look at what a pure testimony is and hopefully as we do this you’ll be examining yourself because we’re getting ready to take the Lord’s Supper this morning. I want you to think about what a pure testimony is. I want you to think about your life and let God speak to your heart.
The heart of a pure testimony
First of all I want you to see the heart of a pure testimony. Verse 12 again, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” Now, let’s dissect that first part of it. He says, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness,” and then let’s skip those next few words; we’ll pick them up later, “we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”
Now the words ‘proud confidence’, we have two English words, which is one Greek word. It’s the word kauchesis. Here it means “the cause for boasting;” actually it means “the cause for rejoicing, for glorying in something.” Most of the time when you see boasting, it’s in a wrong light, but this one is in a right light. This is the right kind of boasting: it’s a rejoicing. And Paul says, “We come to you with proud confidence.” He says, “Our proud confidence is this: the reason for our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.”
Now the word “testimony” is marturion. It’s the word that means the confession of a witness on the stand about something that is known. It’s somebody giving and bearing a witness, bearing a testimony. Paul says if our conscience, which we have discovered now is the moral witness within ourselves of whether we’re doing those things that are right, if our conscience could speak for us today, this is what it would say: “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience,” and here’s what the testimony of his conscience would be, “that in holiness we have conducted ourselves in the world and especially toward you.”
Now, that word “holiness” is a very special word. In fact, in some Greek texts it’s not even used here, but it’s the word that is found also in Hebrews 12:10. Only two places at the most do we find this particular word. It’s a special word. It’s the word hagiotes. Hagiotes is that which describes the purity of one’s heart. Now, it’s not what one does; holiness is another word. This is the heart from which he does whatever he does: it’s the purity of his heart. It’s the holiness that comes into the heart of a believer that has been refined by the tribulations of life. It’s a person that has been through it; it’s a person whose flesh has been stripped away and it’s down to just him and God. It’s a pure heart.
-In fact, in Hebrews 12:10 it would be good if you’d just turn there and look at the context here. Let’s look at verses 9-11. It’s important to see the context of where this word “holiness” comes from and how does a person have a heart like this? Well, it says in Hebrews 12:9, “Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they [the earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good.” Now that word “discipline” is talking about the different tribulations we go through in life, the different trials we go through in life. They’re not accidental. God uses them as a spiritual quarry where He chips off the rough edges of our life. He says, “but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” And that’s the word right there. Then he says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” –
Now what he tells us here is that holiness is directly tied to Christ. It is His heart in us. He says in verse 10, “so that we may share His holiness.” And this is the word that he uses: hagiotes. And verse 11 says it’s equated “with the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” You see it’s when we have been purified through the trials of our life that there’s so much less of us and so much more of Him that this holiness is seen by others. It’s the divine well out of which we do everything we do: it’s Christ’s heart beating in and through us.
Paul says his walk was out of a refined, pure heart. I’ll tell you what, in our text in 2 Corinthians, the King James version does not use that word. It’s a different text, haplotes, and that’s translated “simplicity.” And the two thoughts put together are powerful. The word “simplicity” means that he’s not double-minded. And that’s Paul’s whole point. He says, “My conscience is bearing me witness: I’m not double-minded. Everything I’ve done among you has come out of the purity of a heart that has been refined over and over and over again through the difficulties of my life.” His heart was pure among the Corinthians and among the whole world. Everywhere he went he worked out of a heart that was pure. He said, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness… we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”
So when others sought just to tear him down—and he spends four chapters in 2 Corinthians defending his apostleship because the people he’s writing to, the church of Corinth didn’t like him being an apostle; they didn’t want to live up under the authority of anything. It’s like the book of Judges, “every man did what was right in his own eyes,” so he was constantly being attacked—But the thing that defended him was his conscience. His conscience bore witness to the fact that what he was doing, yes, it was morally right, it was good, it was out of the very heart of God.
So Paul was able to go right on living and being a vessel in the midst of all kinds of difficult circumstances because within himself he was at rest, he was at peace. Let me ask you this morning as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Is your heart pure before God today? Is your heart pure? And if it is, why is it bothering you when people accuse you? Why does it bother you if your heart is at rest? Why does it bother you? It wasn’t bothering Paul and Paul’s conscience was bearing witness to him, that he was coming out of a pure heart.
You know what happens to most of us when we’re accused, myself included? It’s because we probably have done something wrong and we automatically assume there’s guilt somewhere within us. Remember the Lord Jesus with the disciples there on that last night, speaking of this week and what it represents? And He looked at them and He said, “One of you will betray Me.” All of the heads did not turn to Judas. You know why? God knew that Judas would do that from day one, but He never let on. He loved Judas just like He loved the rest of them. They never understood that it was going to be Judas. That’s what real love does. But I’ll tell you what happened. Peter said, “Lord, is it me?” And John said, “Lord, is it me?” You know why? Because their conscience was accusing them. There had probably been situations in their life that they already had done that and we know that Simon Peter, just a few days later, he denies Jesus three times and the book of Mark says he cursed and said, “I don’t even know the man.” There was something within them that was accusing them, condemning them. They thought they were the ones.
Do you know how to live? The way Paul lived. To live with a clear conscience, so that even when you are accused, even when you are brought before others because of something they fabricated about you, you can stand in the midst and be at rest within because your conscience does not accuse you. It defends you because good has been done out of a pure heart in your life.
The motive of a pure testimony
Well, the second thing I want you to see today as we examine ourselves is the motive of a pure testimony. It’s very similar to the heart of it. He says, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness,” and then he adds, “and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom… we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” Now notice that phrase, “in godly sincerity.” He’s attaching it again to God. God is the only One Who can produce holiness; He’s the only One Who can produce this sincerity.
The word “sincerity” is the word heilikrineia. It’s that which is pure, that which is clear, that which is transparent. You know, bass fishing, you want cloudy, murky water. You know why? So the bass can’t see you and you can’t see the bass. And so therefore the lure is what attracts them and that’s a good day when you’ve got a murky river or lakes that have been fed by those murky rivers. You want to get around that water and get you a good black worm and start working that sucker, or get you a dark colored lure that works through there. I mean, it’s wonderful. But the thing you don’t want when you’re bass fishing, but really you do want when you’re trout fishing, is clear water; because in clear water everybody sees everything. The fish see you, you see the fish, and no fish get caught. That’s usually the way it works. Clear, you can see the bottom; you can see everything that you look at, it’s transparent.
That is the word “sincerely,” that we’re transparent. There are no murky waters in what we do. There’s nothing hidden as an agenda somewhere over here and somebody finds out to late later on. And what Paul says is, “I have lived among you with a heart that is pure and with a sincerity with you about my life. There is nothing hidden in me.” He uses the word in 1 Corinthians when he told them in 5:8 to this very group of people, “Therefore let us -celebrate the feast.” And he’s talking about celebrating Christ, our Passover, but he uses Old Testament terms. He said, “Not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of [and he uses this word] sincerity and truth.” –
Now if you put those two together, what is he saying? When a person is sincere, there is no leaven in his life, in his motive, in his heart. You see, leaven is sin. Now, you ladies know what leaven is. You put leaven in certain things and it causes that to rise. You know what leaven is. As a matter of fact a doctor told me that cancer is similar to that. It’s something that causes a reaction to the things that are around it. The apostle Paul says leaven is sin. He said, “I’ve been among you and there’s not been any sinful motive in my life. There’s nothing hidden in me. My conduct was something that did not come out of the sinful flesh amongst you.” He was pure and it was out of God Himself; it was Christ living through Paul.
Godly sincerity is what Christ produces in us when we allow Him to live His life through us. Paul uses the word in 2 Corinthians 2, and it describes the motive of his preaching; but he also attaches it to the fact that it has to come from God. He says in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God,” and there are many people today who are doing that and people are buying it, “but as from sincerity,” and then he makes sure that everybody understands, “but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” He understands this because it was Christ living His life in Paul and living His life through Paul. Christ produced within Paul a pure heart, the very heart of God Himself, and his sincerity was something God produced in him. He had no fleshly motive whatsoever.
So he says again, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity,” and then he makes a contrast here, “not in fleshly wisdom.” Now there’s one thing you have to understand about Paul, and if you’ve studied 1 Corinthians you have seen it, because he spends the first four chapters describing how his wisdom did not come from man, which by the way they were enamored with. He said, “My wisdom comes from God.” And involved in that word “wisdom” is not only a man’s message, but it’s also a man’s methods. And he says, “I didn’t come in front of you with fleshly wisdom, I came in sincerity, the kind of sincerity that only God can produce. I have a pure testimony.”
And so when they question him as to who he was, they questioned his methods, they questioned his message, his conscience didn’t condemn him. He could stand and take it because he knew he was being examined by the Lord. It didn’t matter what people were saying about him; he knew that he was walking in a right relationship with God, his conscience bearing witness to him.
Now let me ask you a question today. What do people say about you? The people that are closest to you? Do you do what you do with God’s heart, with pure motives? Are you transparent? Are you who you are full of Jesus? Or are your message and your methods of the flesh? Do you say what you say with God’s heart, with pure motives? You know, we know one of the things over the years, 43 years now in the ministry, one thing I’ve noticed, there are a lot of people who can pray the stars down. They’ve got it down to an art. Prayer, like everything else, has become an art, rather than the heart of somebody responding to God. And yet, as soon as they finish praying they can walk outside and say some of the ugliest things you ever heard come out of a person’s mouth to somebody. This is what James is talking about. The book of James says how can bitter water come out of a sweet well? It can’t produce that kind of thing.
You see, when you live a life that is dominated by the Lordship of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God is in control of you and then your conscience is constantly going to defend you. Are we talking about perfection? Absolutely not, but we’re talking about predictability. A person whose heart has been touched and tenderized by God, his conscience is not his problem even though people would tend to accuse him. He knows in his relationship with God that he has a pure testimony.
The power of a pure testimony
Well, the heart of a pure testimony: only God can produce that; and the motive of a pure testimony; but the third thing is the power of a pure testimony. It’s as if Paul waited until the last to explain how it all happens; how God puts it together. Look what he says, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom,” and then he adds the little phrase that’s the catchall for everything, “but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” Note that little phrase, “but in the grace of God.”
Here we are again. Do you see it? God’s grace, the same grace he talked about in verse 2 when he says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is God’s divine and transforming power. Maybe you’re here and you don’t seem to understand this. Christianity is not what you can do to make yourself sincere or what you can do to give yourself a holy heart. No, it’s what God does in you. And when you allow Him to work through you, then He will produce a pure testimony. He will produce a pure heart. He will produce pure motives.
Put the verses together that we have studied in chapter 1 and it will light your fire. When I was looking at the flow, this is a divine flow in this chapter. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1, God takes pleasure in using us. And He locates us where we can be useable the most. And He gives us His grace. We are to be able to be influential to people around us. It’s really not us influencing anybody. It’s Christ in us touching people around us. In verses 3-7, not everybody likes it. In fact, in the midst of the pain we need to understand the comfort of the One who is near us, the One Who is always there and He comes to us and we go to Him. We draw to Him, He draws near to us. And we walk through that valley being comforted by the Lord Jesus Himself.
And in verses 8-11 it tells us that no matter how bad it gets, persecution itself is beneficial to us because it purifies our hearts and our motives. And as we turn to God for His comfort, He stabilizes our hope, puts us back on our feet and He teaches us that even death can’t conquer us and then we saw that He even tenderizes us toward the people that have treated us wrongly. We start getting to the point of wanting to seek reconciliation.
And you say, “That’s a precious process.” Yes, it is, but what Paul is doing in verse 12 is showing you the result of it. He’s been there; he’s been through the tribulation. God has purified his heart, God has put his feet back on the ground, God has given him a heart to reconcile with people that have done him wrong. And so we see then what a pure testimony is, as to how it’s shaped and how it’s formed by God himself in the crucible of life.
It brings us to the point that there’s so much less of us and so much more of Him. And that’s what Christianity is all about. Paul said in Philippians that “I may gain Christ.” What he means is this right here: that there might be so much less of me and so much more of Him. Paul has beautifully shown us how the grace of God produces the heart of a pure testimony. It produces the motives of a pure testimony and the power of a pure testimony in the believer.
Now let me read it one more time and let’s just listen as we examine ourselves. What is your testimony this morning? Is your conscience accusing you or defending you? Now if you’ve not been in the Word of God you can’t really go that route, because, you see, you’ve already calloused your mind as to what God expects. But if you’re seeking to walk with God, how does your conscience handle what I’m talking about this morning? Verse 12, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”
What is your testimony this morning? Is our conscience accusing or defending us? In 1 Corinthians 11:27, this very same group of people that 2 Corinthians is written to, Paul has some things to say that are pretty tough. He talks about the Lord’s Supper which we’re about to enter into. And remember in verse 28 he says that every man examine himself. He says in verse 27, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”
I want us to take some time this morning and think about our testimony. What will our children say about us? What will our husband or wife say about us? What will our co-workers say about us? Can we say amongst them when we stand in front of them, “My testimony is clear and pure? My conscience bears witness. I’ve been with you in holiness, the very heart of God. I’ve been with you in sincerity. I’ve been transparent; there are no other motives whatsoever. I want nothing for myself.” Can we go there? Can we say what you see is a product of the grace of God working in our lives? That’s what a pure testimony is all about.
Many times I have preached in this place as much as any place else, and people have gotten angry with me, they have even left saying, “He knew something and he was bringing it out.” I was in a meeting just recently and I was preaching and a fellow was sitting right down front. I was doing an ordination and I looked down at him and I was telling him about all the things he would have to endure, and how people would hate the message he’s preaching and how they would come at him, and I was just loving on him really, using 1 Corinthians 4. I did not know seventeen feet to his right was the biggest problem he’d ever had in his life. And after the service was over somebody came to me and said, “Did you know that? Did he talk to you?”
Isn’t it interesting, your conscience will either defend you or it will accuse you. And right now it works in tandem with the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God is convicting you, that’s when it condemns and that’s when we need to run to the altar and receive the cleansing of His blood.